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

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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. Hi Gerry,
    I haven’t tried an Aizen GR yet. Maybe I can review it later this year. Thanks, Steve

  2. Avatar Gerry Smith says

    Thanks Steve. I’ll probably try one in the next few weeks but it’s very hard to find a Solstice here in UK so I won’t be able to make that comparison.
    Gerry

  3. Hola Steve,
    Just playing again after a few years. Back with my old 1960 The Martin Alto with my original Martin mouthpiece and 2 1/2 Ricos. I also have a mid 60’s (I think) Vandoren Paris, not numbers on it so not sure of the type. Very dark and kind of thin sound. What reeds and horn are you playing with these mouthpieces? Looking for a new mouthpiece for swing and jazz. My reeds are not holding up like they use to. Have you used any of the plastic reeds? Great info on your site, thanks much for your insight.

  4. Avatar Seif Karim says

    what mouthpiece would you say is really good for mellowing and really darkening up and rounding you sound

  5. I tend to go for a more medium alto tone as I like some sparkle and highs in the sound. For a more mellow and darker sound you could try a classical type mouthpiece. I got a pretty dark sound out of a Vandoren AL3 Optimum Series Alto mouthpiece that a student of mine had at one time. Steve

  6. Malko, I use a Selmer reference alto and usually use Rigotti Gold reeds. i have a whole bunch of different sizes from 2 1/2 medium up to 3 1/2 light. The ones I use depend on what mouthpiece I am using. I don’t use plastic reeds in general although I did a review of Forestone Hinoki reeds which I thought were pretty good. I have a couple of the alto reeds in my desk but haven’t tried them as of yet. Steve

  7. Avatar Gerry Smith says

    I ended up buying a Navarro Maestra 6 for alto. I found I could get the warm mellow sound I was looking for but it has plenty of punch when you push it – quite a brassy sound on my Yani 902, which I needed badly for projecting over a loud band. I did try the Aizen GR, but I didn’t like it so much, seemed a bit resistant and I didn’t get as rich a sound. For me the Maestra’s not very forgiving, it’s taking some work to get used it (not necessarily a bad thing, I’m having to improve my technique), and on Raphael’s recommendation I changed to a Rico H ligature. It really stood out against all the pieces I tried, I’m really enjoying it. Getting a lot of good comments from other players too. Looking forward to seeing what the tenor Maestra will do sometime.
    – Gerry

  8. Avatar Axel Senge says

    Hi Steve, very nice overview of the different mpc-sounds. Thanks for that. My first impression is, the V16 sounds best for me…..It has an very open sound with a little edge in it which I like a lot…..the Aizen NY sounds a little similar to me, but the openess of the V16 is the best to me….I play the V16´s for years now and have also tried nearly every great alto mpc on the market….but I always returned to the V16, 5 with small chamber. And the price is very very low in comparison high-price “handmade” mpcs…and also I stick with my old Meyer Bros. mpc….but thanks for the interesting sound overview!!…..
    best wishes–Axel

  9. how do you rate the meyer Richie Cole to these others

  10. I’m just in love with Gaia so much, but it’s so expensive! I’m nowhere near to be a pro, but I’m in love with the dark old vintage sound. I think it’s too late, I’ll be dreaming of this one… I’m also curious on how a size 7 would sound. I also preferred the 8 on the reviews you made Steve. I just sync with me so much, like a big comfortable blanket or comfort food. It’s my “comfort sound”.

  11. My daughter’s high school band director has asked her by a better mouthpiece for her alto sax and to change her reed brand to vandoran. Can you please give me some advice what would be considered a better mouthpiece for her alto sax? She purchased the alto sax through her school music program back in 5th grade and is still currently using it in her freshman year of high school

  12. Avatar Mr Theys van Rooyen says

    I AM A SAXOPHONIST PLAYING TENOR AND SOPRANO B FLAT AND ALTO E FLAT.
    I HAVE TRIED VARIOUS MOUTHPIECES LIKE THE VANDOREN JUMBO, THE MEYER, BERG LARSEN BUT I FIND IT DIFFICULT WITH BERG LARSEN AND ALL OTHER METAL MOUTHPIECES EXCEPT THE OTTO LINK. THE SOUND I LIKE IS A DARK ROUND MELLOW SOUND AND BRIGHT SOUND OF WHICH I GET FROM THE FIRST TWO THE VANDOREN AND MEYER BUT TELL ME IS IT NOT SOMETIMES THAT MY EMBOUCHER IS NOT SUITABLE FOR SOME OF THE MOUTHPIECES THAT I MENTIONED I LIKE TO PLAY WITH A TWO AND HALF REED I PLAY WITH MK VI , BEUCHER ELKHART TRUE TONE BUT IT IS STRANGE, I am very much impressed with an old chinese alto horn name parrit of which I GET THE SOUND WHICH I DONT GET WITH EXPENSIVE HORNS

  13. THANK YOU FOR YOUR RESPONSE ON MY COMMENT AND WHAT I READ REGARDING THE MEYER AND VANDOREN MOUTHPIECES THEY ARE THE MOUTHPIECES THAT I GET THE SOUND I LIKE . I ALSO AGREE WITH YOU I HAVE PLAYED ON VARIUOS MOUTHPIECES BUT DONT LIKE BRIGHT SOUNDS . I ALSO DISCOVERED THAT IF MY TEETH REST ON THE TOP OF THE MOUTHPIECE THEN IT CAUSES A VIBRATION THAT TEND TO SOUND BRIGHT BUT IF I PUT A RUBBER STICKER ON IT AND USE A LEATHER LIGATURE RATHER THEN A METAL LIGATURE THEN I GET THE DARK SOUND I WANT WITH THE TWO MOUTHPIECES I AM REFERRING TO PLEASE GIVE SOME MORE ADVICE I FORGOT TO SAY THAT I AM A SOUTH AFRICAN LIVING IN JOHANNESBURG

  14. Avatar Angelyn C. Dorn says

    Played a Meyer 5 and 7. Currently playing a Selmer CS 90 because it seems more versatile for what I play, but reeds of course make so much difference as well. Want to invest in a new jazz mouthpiece. Thanks for sound clips. I seem to prefer the Theo Wanne Gaia 6. So many choices, but really it is more about what is between your ears and of course how you “voice” your sound.

  15. Avatar Ian P Murphy says

    Holy crap, i can’t tell the difference to any of them despite listening to each one 5x

    🙁

  16. Ian, Do you have good computer speakers? I know that on my laptop I can barely hear a difference but on my desktop that is connected to pretty good speakers I can hear the differences pretty distinctly. Steve

  17. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi there Steve. I was looking for a mouthpiece that offers a lively (but not thin sounding) alto mouthpiece. I acquired a Yamaha YAS-480 and I’m trying to find a good match for the lively setup. I can do classical with Yamaha 4C and Selmer C* but I’m trying to have a R&B, Jazz, etc. covered for later on. Since I was a tenor player for a few years, I try to avoid the mid-range spike since alto already has a lot of that naturally. I got a metal Berg Larsen 85/1 but I think it is a tad too open for me. It works Ok with 2 1/2 reed but I’m trying to pick one that works with #3 reed. Also that one is not the best responding mpc (needs a bit of refacing I think). So far from the sound, V16 has that kind of middle scooped frequency (has the low and low mid frequency i.e. the fatness but also has the buzz (high frequency) so it’s a good complement and to balance out the alto. What is your alto sax? Yamaha YAS-480 is vibrant but in a slightly dark and tame way. A lot of Yamaha saxes I’ve tried have that kind of tendency (not too in the face) as far as body resonation goes. So what do you think could be possible balancing act mouthpieces? Something lively and exciting but not thin and piercing.
    Thanks a lot, Arya.

  18. Avatar Andres Gonzalez says

    Looking to play some funk, liked the LAW MCB the best 🙂 Thanks for the demos!

  19. Andres, Good luck finding one. He doesn’t make them anymore so you would have to find one used……..

  20. Hi I am after a easy blowing mouth piece that has a sweet soft tone when playing the high notes nothing to sharp but also packs a punch for the low notes. Any recommendations? And what reed would you pair it up with?

  21. Matthew, The first that come to mind are the Phil-Tone Solstice or Novella? Maybe check out those sound clips. I think of those when you say “sweet”. They have a kind of Paul Desmond type vibe to them. As far as reeds, I think you just have to experiment after you get the mouthpiece. A lot depends on the tip opening and how you play. Steve

  22. Avatar John Smith says

    Hi Steve, I’m looking for a really ‘fuzzy’ sounding mouthpiece. The type of sound you might associate more with tenor saxes than alto. Any suggestions?

  23. John, Sorry, I can’t think of any I have tried that make an alto sound like a tenor. Steve

  24. First: modern Meyer, second: Cafe resin, third: Aizen ny jazz.
    For my taste in the last place the Vandoren

  25. I prefer first modern Meyer, second Cafe resin, third Aizen Ny jazz!
    For my taste in last place Vandoren.

  26. Sorry, I did not see the comment appear and so, by mistake, I posted it again!

  27. Avatar Glaucia Gondin says

    Hi, did you try the Aizen GR Mouthpiece? I’m curious about it!

  28. Glaucia, No, I have not tried the Aizen GR mouthpiece yet. Steve

  29. Aizen SO 7

    loved it!

    does SO stand for “super open?”

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