9 Great Alto Saxophone Mouthpieces to Compare

The most common question I get asked on this blog and in emails is  “Steve, which mouthpiece is the best?”  “Which one should I buy”.   I probably get 3-4 emails a week asking that question.   I always feel bad because I wish there was a simple answer to that.  The truth is that many of the mouthpieces I review are great.  Any of them would sound amazing if I played them for awhile.  I haven’t found one that blows the others away.  Even if I did……….each person is different and one I think is the best for me, you might totally hate.  As an example, all 9 of the mouthpieces below are great playing alto mouthpieces.  I would have no problem playing any of them.  All of them are different in there own way but all of them play well and are in tune.  Some are brighter, some are darker, some are louder, some prettier sounding, some are fatter sounding, some are more focused,  some remind me of Cannonball, some of Phil Woods, some of Sanborn……………  The mouthpiece you like the sound of best and that you can play comfortably is the best one for you.

The mouthpieces I like the best are the ones that I form a connection with.  It’s more than just feeling comfortable with it.  It’s like I feel like the mouthpiece is just an extension of me.  What ever I think of and try to play just happens on the mouthpiece.  When I have that kind of connection I love it.  I feel like I can play 10 times better than I usually do.  That connection very rarely happens the minute I play a mouthpiece (Although once in awhile it does……) but it can happen hours or days later as I play it over and over.

OK,  So here is a side by side clip comparison of 9 alto mouthpieces that I have on my shelf right now.  I have a V16 refaced by Brian Powell with a super long 23 MM facing curve, an Aizen Jazz Master 6, a Ted Klum Acoustimax .080, an Aizen NY Jazz 6, a Mouthpiece Cafe NYC 6,  a modern Meyer refaced by the late Jon Van Wie,  a Theo Wanne Gaia 6 and a Aizen SO 6.  I have played all of these mouthpieces for many hours.  The Aizens are the latest that I just received last week.

In each clip, I’m playing a similar idea.  The D Major scale, a little blues riff and some bebop lines from my “Mastering the Dominant Bebop Scale” book.  Nothing fancy just a simple line so perhaps you can hear better how the mouthpieces sound next to each other.  I’m using a 2 1/2 Ishimori Woodstone reed on all the mouthpieces and a Vandoren Optimum ligature.  I’m trying really hard to play the same from clip to clip so you can judge by the sound and not just by what I’m playing.

I’m hoping this series of clips will help some of you better decide which mouthpiece is for you.   Of course……..you never know until you get it and try it.  I’ve written some of my initial thought below each mouthpiece.  I will add to those or change them as I listen to the clips more.   Please feel free to write any comments or questions you might have below.   Thanks,   Steve

Vandoren V16 .080 refaced by Brian Powell

Fat spread sound with smooth articulation. Kind of fuzzy around the edges of the tone.

Modern Meyer .075 refaced by JVW

Clear and brighter with a hollowness to the sound. Has a sharpness and clarity to the sound.

LAW MCB Alto Mouthpiece .080 tip

Brighter very centered sound. Laserbeam type focus to the tone.

Aizen Jazz Master 7

A little darker fatter more spread sound with smooth articulation. A round full  somewhat smokey tone.

Aizen NY Jazz 7

Nice lively bright bebop type of sound. Nice resistance and dryness to the sound.

Aizen SO 7

A little darker super compact clear and focused sound. Super free blowing.

Mouthpiece Cafe Resin NYC 6

Bright but with a nice roundness and soft edges to the tone. Free blowing.

Ted Klum Acoustimax .080 tip

Thick medium bright sound with character to the tone. Nice resistance to blow against.

Theo Wanne Gaia 6

Brighter tone with a nice character and evenness throughout the horn. Some resistance when blowing.

Let me know what you think below.  I am always very interested to hear others views and opinions.  If you have any questions feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer…………(just don’t ask me which is the best one that is right for you)     Steve

Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Aizen SO 7

    loved it!

    does SO stand for “super open?”

  2. Avatar Alonzo Arredondo says

    Hi Steve,
    I enjoy your reviews.

    I play a YAS 82Z with a V16 6M with a Rigotti 3 Strong reed and rovner dark lig…That is my regular setup. I’m able a get great mellow tones at the bottom and strong octave notes with this mp. The YAS is very free blowing and i enjoy that. A bit week on altissimo because of the softer reed, but i can live with that… its great for bebop and acoustic settings with a trio.

    I recently tried a V16 8s+ mp with same reed setup and horn. Bottom notes were not round and mellow… i have more resistance… If i blow harder the tone breaks on right stack (low E).. i also get more annoying horn vibration on the upper stack.. Any ideas why this is happening on the 82Z?

    FYI- I also used the V16 8s+ with same reed/lig… setup on my new YAS 875EXll and it works well on all ranges and gives me the tone i was looking especially on the upper register – i’m looking for a tone simular to that of the 82Z.

    Also, On the 875EXll the V16 6m enables nice bottom round tones, but the upper register is a bit too focused and lacks the color/overtones i am looking for.

    … i’m thinking i need to keep the 8s+ for the 875Ex and to go a lower size mp opening for the 82Z…

    Thank you!

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