Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Today, I am reviewing another new mouthpiece made by Phil Engleman at Phil-Tone mouthpieces. Phil Engleman is the founder of Phil-Tone mouthpieces and I have reviewed a number of his mouthpieces in the past.  The Equinox, the Eclipse, the Solstice and most recently the Tribute.  When Phil contacted me a couple of months ago about trying the new Tribute tenor mouthpiece he also told me that he had a new hard rubber tenor mouthpiece he was working on.  Phil had been communicating and working with JJ Babbitt on producing a high quality blank that he could work on by hand.  His goal was to create a great hard rubber piece similar to the vintage Late Florida-Early Babbitt Otto Links that you see on E-bay these days.

Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As you can see from the pictures, the Sapphire looks a bit different than a typical hard rubber Otto Link blank.  The hard rubber looks good to me and has that authentic “hard rubber” smell.  (Those of you that have played many hard rubber mouthpieces know what I am talking about………)  The table, rails and tip look great.  The baffle slopes down smoothly into a large chamber.  The sidewalls are scooped out and the roof of the chamber is nice and thin.

Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Sapphire mouthpiece I have received is a 7 tip opening (.100 tip opening)  Usually, this feels a bit small for me but this mouthpiece feels and blows more like a 7* for me.  The facing length on this mouthpiece is a 48.  Most of the mouthpieces I review have around a 50 facing length.  If you read my blog article on facing lengths you will see that many times a shorter facing length will give a bit more volume and brightness to the sound. I’m not sure if that is true in every circumstance but this mouthpiece certainly has some nice power and zing to it for a 7 tip opening that is for sure.

The chamber of the mouthpiece looks to be the same size as a typical hard rubber link chamber although Phil tells me it is about 8-10% bigger than an Early Babbitt chamber size.  The roof of the chamber under the table is nice and thin also which I have heard can make a mouthpiece more free blowing and easier to get a ton of air through.

Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

A Rigotti Gold 3 Light reed was perfect on it.  A 3 medium might be great also but I ran out of those last week.  (I have to order some more……)  The diameter of the body is similar in size to a typical hard rubber Otto Link.

Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Sapphire played great for me.  It blew like a great hard rubber link although I will say that I have played very few over the years that had this kind of power in them……….  It has a nice resistance to it that I could blow against and use to shape and mold the sound.  I could get some nice volume and brightness out of it when I pushed it which you can hear on the recording.   It is very smooth and even throughout the range of the horn.  I love it when a mouthpiece is like that because it really seems to effect my technique and help me to play faster.  The mouthpiece sub-toned great and got a nice lush sound on the low notes.  When I listen back to the clip below, the tone is rich and thick.  It has a nice depth and complexity to it.

Phil says that the Sapphire is a mouthpiece that is inspired by the Early Babbitt Otto Links and I can hear that when I am playing the mouthpiece.  The Early Babbitts were known for having more brightness and power than the Slant model Otto Links.  As you can hear from this recording, this mouthpiece leans in that direction also.  Although it was inspired by the Early Babbitt mouthpieces,  the core and mold for it were not cast directly from any vintage link.  Phil says he was aiming for a hard rubber mouthpiece that has that late Florida to Early Babbitt type tone and vibe.

Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone Sapphire was a complete joy to play. If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then give it a try. You can contact Phil on his website at www.phil-tone.com.   Phil has told me that because these mouthpieces are hand finished they can be dialed in to be darker or brighter for each players tastes.  Tell him Steve sent you………….Great work Phil!!

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks, Steve

Phil-Tone Sapphire Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

 

 

 

 

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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. That is one FAT sounding piece!

  2. Hey Steve,

    You mention that this piece has some power and edge. Do you think it would perform in rock/rnb situation if mic’d? Is there enough buzz to cut thru?

  3. Bob, It does have a nice power and edge. Would I take it on a R&B gig…………that’s a hard call. It is border line if you know what I mean. I think it is the kind of piece that could pull through or not. I didn’t take it on a gig so it is hard to say. Usually the only piece that pass the test on a really loud R&B gig are over the top loud piece that you can’t stand to play when practicing. Guardala, RPC, etc………… I wish I could be more definitive for you but I have taken all sorts of loud pieces out on the gig only to find out they don’t make it………..You don’t know until it passes the test!

  4. not to knock on Phil but i doubt that the babbitt blank is anything like the nice pure stuff guys like Eric Falcon, Rafael Navarro, Ted Klum, Morgan Fry and Ishimori are getting in germany.

  5. Jack Li,
    Do all those guys use the same blanks? I didn’t know the Navarro pieces were the same blanks as the 10mFan pieces and Ishimori pieces. I have played all those and they seem very different to me.

  6. Steve, thanks for the review. Based on it and the reviews at SOTW, I got a Sapphire for my 37xxx Buesher True Tone. Phil suggested a 6*, and said the turnaround would be about 2 weeks. 17 days later it arrived (along with the Marc Jean lig he also suggested), and I love it. It’s just as you describe it: rich sound, good brightness, subtones beautifully, plays evenly,… and Phil was great to deal with. I’m glad I got it.

  7. That’s great news Tom. I’m glad the reviews helped you find the Sapphire. I hope you enjoy it and grow with it for years to come. Steve

  8. Avatar Birdology says

    Steve,

    You sound GREAT with the Sapphire!
    If you had to buy one for yourself, which tip opening would you choose?
    7, like the passaround? (You say in the review it feels like a 7*) Or a tad more open, like you usually play? (7* or 8)

    Thanks for your great website

  9. Birdology,
    I would be curious to play a more open Sapphire but to be honest, I was very happy with the tip opening of the one I reviewed. If Phil had an extra laying around that was a 7* or 8 I would ask to try it though just to compare………..

  10. Hey Steve, great site. So much good thoughtful knowledge and insight here. I wonder how you might compare the Sapphire to the Navarro Mintzer Bebop Special in terms of response, darkness in tone, and power? Thanks.

  11. Mark, I have to go from my memory here as it has been a while since I played both of these pieces. They are both great. I think the Sapphire was a little brighter. The Bebop Special had more resistance for me and had a very unique and full tone. I could get more volume out of the Bebop Special. I talked to Rafael about the Bebop Special at one point and he told me that Mintzer loves the facing curve and resistance on the Bebop Special but it might not be for everyone. I myself really liked it but I do see a bunch of them for sale here and there so I wonder if maybe some don’t prefer that type of response and curve. I guess the only way to know is to try one for yourself. The Sapphire has a more traditional curve and response. Hope this helps, Steve

  12. Lately, I’ve been going from a Vandoren HR V16 T7 to a 1950’s Berg Larsen HR 100/0.
    First and foremost I need to play loud, so for me this has the loudness of the Berg with the Link like qualities of the V16. As Steve says it blows like a great hard rubber Link only with more power. I play on a 7* which has medium resistance with V16 reeds and use a Rovner Light Ligature. I’ve also ordered some Rigotti Gold reeds to try on it so that should be interesting but the V16’s certainly give it some bite.

  13. I found this review very helpful. I ended up buying one and it’s exactly what I was looking for. I have an old so-called Early Babbitt hard rubber Otto Link which is a great mpc but I wanted something similar but a little more focused, like the sound Sonny Rollins had back in the fifties, his Strode Rode recording for example.So thanks for the review, it saved me a lot of time and angst. Trying out mpcs can make you crazy.

  14. Rob, I love hearing when my reviews help someone narrow down their choices and find the right mouthpiece for them. Take care and thanks for posting, Steve

  15. Well, I’ve had the Sapphire some time now and I can say the honeymoon never ended. It’s still the best tenor mpc for my needs. I was so happy with it I decided to try the Rift alto mpc and it’s exactly how you described it. I was using a Master Gregory Hollywood alto mpc which is a very good mpc, better for me than the NY Meyer I also have, but the Rift is better for me than both. Of course everyone is different with a different oral cavity and a different concept of the sound they want so what works for me won’t work with everyone. But your reviews were very helpful indeed because I don’t have to work nearly so hard to get the sound I want with these Phil-Tone mpcs.

  16. Rob, That is great to hear! Very encouraging to know that my review helped. Thanks, Steve

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