Sax Mouthpiece Reviews and Morality

Ok,  so this might seem like a strange title for a blog post but I have an issue that I need some insight and input on from my Neffmusic readers.  Here’s the issue and then I will pose some questions at the end.

Mouthpiece Reviews and Morality:   Nine years ago I started what is now    It started innocently enough.    I had a Barone tenor sax mouthpiece and was describing how it sounded and played on SOTW (Sax on the Web) when the idea occurred to me to record it and try to figure out a way to post it so everyone could hear what the mouthpiece sounded like.  I immediately got a lot of positive feedback and people seemed to appreciate my short review of the mouthpiece and what I played on the sound clip.


I had a bunch of people email me asking about certain parts of the clip and what I was playing so I came up with the idea of recording a short audio lesson on the subject instead of trying to answer everyone’s emails separately.   There was a great response to that short audio lesson and a bunch of players said that I should do more and they would be happy to buy them.   So I did more and put a price on them and the site took off………..

I was searching for a mouthpiece during this time so I started posting more reviews and sound clips to get feedback about what people thought about each mouthpiece and sound clip.    I actually learned a lot from the feedback and responses I received back.   Soon, I was reviewing more mouthpieces but it was getting a bit expensive.  I’m sure many of you have been there.  I kept having to find ways to afford the next mouthpiece to be reviewed and many times I wasn’t ready to let go of the last one…….You know how it is………

Soon, I started having mouthpiece makers contacting me asking if I would review their mouthpieces also.   I was excited!    I get to try all these expensive mouthpiece for free! Send away.  I was in heaven!   Pretty soon however I had a dozen mouthpiece on my desk with more coming in.   I was getting better at the reviews and adding more details but that was also adding to how long it took to do a review.   There were many weeks where I spent all week on reviews.   40-50 hours just doing review after review and then sending the mouthpieces back.

So let’s get to the crux of the matter, after awhile I started getting sick of doing mouthpiece reviews.  I’d spend half my week working on reviews and I’d see a lot of traffic to my site to read the reviews but I wouldn’t see much profit from a review of a mouthpiece besides maybe selling a few books on the side.   Many times I would hear back from the maker about how many pieces they sold after my review or how busy they were because of my review.   Meanwhile,   I just spent 10-20 hours working on these reviews but had nothing to show for it.

One day I was discussing this with my wife and she was surprised that I didn’t keep the mouthpieces.   She told me that it was common in the review site world of the internet for top review sites to get free products sent to them just to get a review on their popular websites.   I did some searches on Google and found that this was indeed very common and most review sites were run this way. (Amazon even sends free products to people for reviews actually)

At around the same time, I started having different mouthpiece makers offering to send me a free mouthpiece so that I could review it.  This was their idea and they were surprised every mouthpiece maker didn’t do it.  They felt it was just respectful of my time and supportive of my work.  I was thankful for their support and encouragement.   I always made it clear that I appreciated it but it in no way was a guarantee of a review and that I might send it back if I didn’t like it. My policy has always been to do positive reviews that help the saxophone community to find the right mouthpiece for them.   I always felt that I wasn’t interested in doing negative reviews.   You might ask why?

1.) Reviewing mouthpieces and their playability and sound is mostly subjective. I’m talking about my experience, my feelings, my opinions, etc…..It isn’t like I’m reviewing an iPhone and talking about facts like processor speed or screen pixels.   Here I am talking about what I perceive for the most part. Although I might believe something strongly, it can never be defined as a fact. So writing negative reviews based on opinion is already a gray area in my mind…….On the other hand, writing a positive review based on my opinion is something I’m happy to do………..

2.)  I have played mouthpieces that I absolutely hated that another player has loved and sounded killer on.   How many times have you heard a great player and asked if you could try their mouthpiece only to find that you hated it.   It has happened to me a number of times.   Is it fair to write a negative review that might hurt a business forever when my subjective experience might not be true for everyone?

3.) Writing a negative review will be on the internet forever.  Many times, my site comes up on the first page of a google search when you search for any of the mouthpieces I have reviewed. Sometimes my site comes up before the manufacturer’s site even does.   Writing a negative review based on my subjective experience would forever hurt someone’s business.   I don’t want to do that!

4.)   Some of these mouthpieces that I receive are from young mouthpiece makers trying to figure out their craft and pathway.  They are experimenting and learning as they work on their craft.   Is it right for me to write a scathing review that destroys any chance they have to succeed before they even  figure out their niche or hit their stride.   I think it is better to send the mouthpiece back to them and say it didn’t work for me and maybe a few reasons why so they can try again………

5.)   I hate playing a mouthpiece that doesn’t work for me.   I hate it so much that if I had to review mouthpieces that were bad I would quit doing this immediately!   It is too painful!   You have all been there and no what it is like if you have a horrible reed.  It’s the worst!   A bad mouthpiece that doesn’t work for you is the same thing.   It’s just painful.    I want that thing off my horn and out of my house as fast as possible.

So, what is my policy on reviews?    I only write reviews of mouthpieces that I think are good.  These are mouthpieces that I can play and they work for me.   They might be darker or brighter than I like but if they play well and I feel like I can really play and get around the horn then I will do a review.

Now, back to the topic at hand, what soon started happening is that I started getting requests from mouthpiece makers I had never heard of before.  When these guys  started contacting me asking for a review I would say  “Sure, send me a free sample and I’ll check it out”.   I figured, if they are bad I can just send them back, if they are good or great then I just discovered a great mouthpiece.  This is how I found out about great new mouthpiece guys like Liu Shizhao, Benjamin Allen, Ken Okutsu and Lawrence Waldron for example.   They would send me a mouthpiece or sometimes mouthpieces and if I liked them I would review them. If I couldn’t play them then I would send them back.

Asking for a free sample mouthpiece had two affects,  it would help me be more excited about the review because if the mouthpiece was awesome I could keep it for myself. Secondly,   it would allow me to perhaps sell it at a later date and get some income for my labor which I could use to pay some bills and feed my family.   This was a much better system and I was much happier because I had something to show for my hard work.   I could keep paying my bills, eating and continue to do mouthpiece reviews.  I always joke with my wife that my mouthpiece stash will eventually pay for a few years of our retirement hopefully.

Getting a free mouthpiece was not in any way affecting the results of the review because in my mind I was still only reviewing the mouthpieces that played for me and I thought were good.   Any others,  I would send back to the maker.    I don’t know the exact count but this year I have sent back close to 20-25 mouthpieces to different makers.  Many of these were mouthpieces I could have kept and sold if I was unethical but I could not do that.   I’m not saying these were bad but that they just didn’t work for me.    I couldn’t find a good reed, the tip opening felt too small, the tip opening felt too wide, I just didn’t feel comfortable on it, etc……….

Anyways,   I say all this because a few weeks ago a certain mouthpiece maker wanted me to do a review on my site.   I said what I have been saying for awhile now.   “Sure, send me a free sample and I’ll check it out”.    This person responded that there was no way that they could do that to which I said I understood and I wished him well.   I thought the subject was over and assumed we were on good terms but then he started sending more emails and posting on Facebook publicly saying I was unethical, that my reviews were bogus, that it was outrageous to ask for a free mouthpiece and implying that I was getting paid to write good reviews and my site was a farce. He told me that the only way to do impartial reviews was to not accept any mouthpiece nor money in exchange.  That would be ethical and right in his opinion. (That would also get him a free review at no cost to him so I wasn’t totally clear what his  true motives were…….)

Just to be clear, most of the reviews on my site have been done for free. In the last month I did a review of the Bill Evans mouthpiece, the Retro Revival New Yorker and the Ted Klum London model, The Navarro Bop Boy and the Lamberson J7 1920 all on my own time and dime because I was interested in those mouthpieces.  No mouthpieces were given for these reviews. They were either bought or borrowed by me because I was interested in these mouthpieces.

Other mouthpieces I have reviewed in the last month were at the request of the mouthpiece makers and I accepted a free mouthpiece for those.  I would say 80% of the mouthpieces on my site were reviewed with no mouthpieces given in exchange.   I have never ever accepted any money for a review and never will.

So at the end of the day, I guess my questions to all of you is:

  • Is it unethical to take free mouthpieces to review on my site?
  • Is it ok to ask that of makers who want a review?
  • Does my accepting of a free mouthpiece affect your view of the review?
  • If one review is of a mouthpiece I received for free and one isn’t would you weigh the reviews differently?
  • Is not doing negative reviews ok?  Or is that unethical also?

I honestly have not seen the conflict of interest here but maybe that’s because I feel I am being honest in my reviews.   The reason I am posting this is similar to when I posted my first mouthpiece clip.  I want to get your opinions and other perspectives.

I am very open to any and all opinions you all might have on this.  If what I am doing is wrong or unethical  I would like to know.    I’m actually perfectly happy not doing reviews and just working on transcriptions and teaching as that is what I love most.  Let me know what you think…….in the comments below.    Thanks, 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


  1. Now I’ve read your post in full… 🙂

    I think it’s a good thing that you don’t write about the mpcs that don’t work for you. As you write it can totally ruin somebody’s business. Not everybod knows that what not works for you might the bomb for someone else.

    If a compay contact you to write a review, you are in charge and you do it by your rules. If it was me I would be keeping the mpc and have them to pay the return shipping if I for some reason decide not to write a review. If you’re the one taking the initiative, then it’s up for negotiation.

    There should of course be a “full disclosure” to each review.

  2. Steve, We all dig what you’re doing. Sorry there has to be that “one”….

  3. I’ve thought about these things a lot in the past. I think that’s part of the reason I’m not a natural when it comes to business.

    I’ve always believed that honesty is the best policy, and that lying for the sake of being profitable is scummy and downright low. For that reason I think it’s ludicrous that any mouthpiece maker (Or entrepreneur in general) would be against an honest review of their product. No entrepreneur should be willing to sell a product that they have not put a lot of honest work and thought into and that they believe is anything less than phenomenal. There’s also the issue of people irrationally taking all criticism personally, especially in the supremely subjective business of mouthpiece making.

    I believe that if you were to put a disclaimer on your website that states how your reviews should always be taken with a grain of salt, then you wouldn’t have a problem with giving 100% honest reviews (Assuming you’re respectful about it and not flat-out insulting, which you absolutely have been in every review of yours I’ve checked out).

    As far as I’m concerned, you’ve put a ton of time and effort into your reviews and they are a great resource that truly helps people narrow their choices down. We all know that in the end we must choose whatever works for us, but hearing your sound and how the nuances change with every mouthpiece you review really helps to bring a sense of clarity to such an ambiguous quest. I think you deserve every free mouthpiece they send you, and you shouldn’t feel any shame in asking makers to do so. I mean, it’s not like you’re blackmailing them with a dishonest and terrible review or something… And no, the fact that you got them for free doesn’t sway my opinion at all.

    I hope this helps you out somehow. For what it’s worth, I hope that you keep doing this!

  4. Steve, thank you upfront for doing your reviews. I have actually used your reviews myself as part of shaping my decision on purchasing a mouthpiece. I think I understand your sound so the clips are valuable in hearing how these work for you. Your analysis is great basis, and it helps with a decision on if I am going to invest the time and money to check a piece out. There is too much negativity on the internet and I respect you approach of dealing with a mouthpiece that does not work for you. It fosters improvement and does not destroy someone’s brand. I think I can answer all of your questions with a no, Keep up the great work.

  5. Avatar Michael Angelle Sr. says

    You are doing a find job sir. I have used your reviews to help me find a mouthpiece that works for me. That’s all I wanted as I am very new to the instrument and I appreciate that.
    You saved me tons of time and money because before I found your site and reviews I had already spent over $900 on mouthpieces and was still looking for the one that worked well for me. It’s crazy money but a rookie doesn’t know any better. So I needed someone who knew the instrument and the mouthpieces to help me a little. Thank you.

  6. Avatar Stanley Cheng says

    Dear Steve,

    Let me firstly answer to your questions:
    – Is it unethical to take free mouthpieces to review on my site?
    Ans: It is ethical to do so.
    – Is it ok to ask that of makers who want a review?
    Ans: Absolutely. So as to give them an informed option.
    – Does my accepting of a free mouthpiece affect your view of the review?
    Ans: So far, no, it does not.
    – If one review is of a mouthpiece I received for free and one isn’t would you weigh the reviews differently?
    Ans: So far, no, it does not.
    – Is not doing negative reviews ok? Or is that unethical also?
    Ans: OK. IMHO, an unethical situation is that you make positive comment when it is actually not, and vice versa. Besides, personally, I am interested more on good mouthpieces.

    Further, please allow me to express my support to you on this. We don’t know each other, in particular I don’t know your personality as to whether you are a truly trustworthy person or not. But it does not matter. It’s because it takes time for reputation and integrity to be built up but they can be destroyed in a fraction of time. I browsed your website since around 2007. I bought your lessons, I think, more than 40+. I purchased 15+ mouthpieces because I read your reviews. I have to stress that among those lessons I purchased, I just have watched around 20% of them. Among those mouthpieces that I purchased, I still have around 8 not yet tried (which all are in my backpack carrying around with me to work with a hope to try them on one leisure day).

    The above side information is the ground for me to say the following:
    1. Your lessons show that you are a true saxophone player/master/teacher who is willing to share your techniques to others and indeed you really possess these techniques. So I purchased the lessons to, on one hand, try to learn from them, and on the other hand, to support your works, effort and sharing. [The price is really really reasonable, IMHO]
    2. Your mouthpieces reviews do attract others, at least myself, to buy mouthpiece from the makers. Therefore, due to your reputation built up, the makers should appreciate your review which could help their businesses. If they just want a reputable person to write positive comment for free, in which they could have much monetary return, I can guarantee that their mouthpieces are bad due to bad spirit in them.
    3. Please don’t be discouraged for such bad guys in the world. They are all over. In my city, I heard a case that a shopping mall marketing PR requested a dancing school teacher to let his students to perform in the mall for an event for free, claiming that the shopping mall has already provided a platform for them to perform. The worst thing is, the dancing school teacher should even be grateful of this because the mall does not charge them for performing in it. Ar…..such non-sense.

    Anyway, my comments may be too long. Please forgive me.
    Hope you and your family have good health and life!!

    Best regards,

    • Stanley, Thanks so much for your feedback and support. I’m glad you like the lessons and find the mouthpiece reviews useful. (Now I’m curious what 8 mouthpieces you have in your backpack every day……..) Steve

  7. Avatar Craig Horsman says

    Your ethics are on very solid ground. Do what is right, listen to your wife and try not to get hung up on the static in the background. Thank you for your site and your reviews. Your contribution is valued and appreciated.

  8. Avatar James Adams says

    Hey Steve.
    I’m sorry to hear about your recent experience – especially given the positive spirit in which you create your reviews.
    I always come to your site to read the reviews – you give the reader such a good insight into the mouthpieces and their creators.
    I understand your conundrum. You are not a paid critic but are someone who is passionate about music and looking to enlighten the sax community and support and encourage some mpc makers out there.
    We trust you and whatever you feel is the best way to maintain your integrity is the way forward.
    My personal belief is that you should be rewarded in some way for your time- and keeping mpcs is perfectly acceptable imo. Perhaps if you feel that a mouthpiece you plan to review is not working for you then you can offer your opinions to the mpc maker privately or send to another player for their feedback if you choose. Equally maybe only reviewing mpc’s you dig is the way forward- though I feel this would be a shame.
    Everything I have read from you is extremely thorough and well rounded and fair and it is your honest opinion. You are my go to guy for finding out a little more about the sax mpcs out there and I think I can speak for everyone when we say thank you and we appreciate your passion and expertise. All the best

  9. Avatar Darrell S. Keighley says

    There are obviously already a high number of mouthpieces for players to choose from. Adding more new offerings to that number only muddies the waters, even more.
    How many new pieces are actually innovative and offer something new? How many are just the same old thing, repackaged and renamed?
    Those are my questions.
    I feel that your struggle with the question of the ethics in what you’re doing is an honorable one. To go further, welcoming criticism or support from the general public is stepping even more in an honest direction. Not many would probably go that far, so I have to applaud you, for that.
    Still, I’m left with my questions, concerning the industry, in itself. At the costs being levied for some of these mouthpieces, is there really a need for more?

  10. You are a just and honest man. I’m honored to associate with you. What you believe is correct, comes from your heart. Bless you Mr. Steve Neff. Anthony Ferro

  11. Steve,
    You provide a great service to the saxophone community. In the past you have willingly provided free advice to me regarding mouthpieces, and you even responded to my emails on Christmas Day!
    I think your integrity is beyond question.
    In my opinion those who expect a free review are no different to those who expect professional musicians to play for free. We all need to feed our families!
    To avoid any doubt You could consider posting a one liner at the foot of a review, disclosing that you received the mouthpiece as a free sample for review purposes.
    Please don’t allow this bad experience to deter you from continuing a service that so many of us value.

    • Thanks David! I appreciate the support. I have decided to disclose if I have received a sample mouthpiece or other product for free like I did in my last Just Joe’s Neck Strap review. I think that is the right thing to do. Now plan on going back and adding disclaimers to the past reviews as I go. I hope my advice helped! I can’t tell you the number of times my wife has gotten mad at me for responding to emails on family holidays………….Hahaha!

  12. Avatar Steve Johnson (JfW on SOTW) says

    You plowed the field of pitfalls I think one would face doing what you do. I myself do some reviews on a blog, but only review things I’ve bought myself, for myself. Some reviews I have given have been glowing, others have been unfavorable towards the subjects being reviewed. In any event I have never not had a free hand in my reviews, so I’m not in the same position as you are.

    I put some tens of hours a year into what I do. You put some tens of hours a week in. Mine is a labor of love and a hobby while yours is at the very least a side-gig deserving some measurable compensation.

    Personally, I think you’ve found your own answer: do only positive reviews and keep the mouthpieces you like and have given your own approval of. Send the rest back citing any objective concerns you have along with the article you’ve printed above. This way, you avoid the pitfalls of conflicts of interest.

    my 2 cents…

  13. Avatar Howard Leveque says

    Hi Steve,
    1, Of course it is unethical to take free mouthpieces and keep them in exchange for a review. Kinda like Hillary taking donations for State Dept access. And giving 15% to charity, lol. Noone believes her, and they won’t believe you fully either.
    2. Yes, quit trying to con the makers into something free for you. I notice you don’t fret about how to make sure they send you their typical quality mouthpiece for an accurate review (you know, the one I likely would get if I take your advice and order one from them.)
    3. My My, I sure hope you know the answer is yes. It has to, not all of us just fell off the turnip truck. How many car salesmen does it take to ….
    4. I am surprised you would ask this question. I mean it’s not like we know you personally.
    5. Negative reviews are your only way out. Those give us reason to believe your positive reviews.
    Think about consumer reports. They buy their test objects. They give both positive and negative reviews of each object, as is appropriate. You read their review on a stove, you get the good with the bad, which is what you want before you buy. AND CUSTOMERS SUBSCRIBE FOR THIS.

  14. Avatar Stanley Cheng says

    Hi Steve, oh sorry…after careful counting, it should be 7 mouthpieces in my backpack.
    They are,
    -Lebayle LRIII
    -Saxquest The Core
    -Lamberson 1920
    -Macsax Bob Sheppard
    -Tenor Madness
    -Chris Potter (Legends Series)
    -Francois Louis T260 Signature(seems not in your reviews)
    Wish you have a great week!

  15. Hi Steve, I haven’t visited your Site for about two Years because I’m happy with my Setup (so no need to keep looking for the next mouthpiece) But now my wife needs a new mouthpiece and as a part of the research I came back to your Website. Because your reviews are good, and very worth to hear and read!

    Is it unethical to take free mouthpieces to review on my site?
    No, You are a Freelancer and so you get “Paid” to do a Job
    Is it ok to ask that of makers who want a review?
    Yes, (even if the Company were too small that they couldn’t afford doing it, then they could not afford any other way of Publicity either)
    Does my accepting of a free mouthpiece affect your view of the review?
    If one review is of a mouthpiece I received for free and one isn’t would you weigh the reviews differently?
    Is not doing negative reviews ok? Or is that unethical also?
    A Difficult One. But in the end it is your house, your Rules

  16. Steve, you may have noted a guy from Austria going forth and back on your site, specifically among those pages reviewing soprano mouthpieces. It was me and I spent so much time because I found the information and the clips you offer extremely helpful now that I decided to go for a new soprano mouthpiece. Furthermore, in your reviews you mention again that this and that works well FOR YOU and not that the mouthpiece IS so. Also the discussion on morality shows how hard you try to be impartial and correct.
    Thank you for all the support and help and please keep on doing it!
    And keep the review items!

  17. Avatar Frank Zona says

    Steve, you’re on solid ground. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  18. Steve, I’ve always found your reviews informative AND entertaining. You post clips of each one, and hearing the sound alone is a service to the sax community. In my opinion your approach to reviewing is totally ethical. That you’ve chosen to only post positive reviews ad send back the ones that don’t work is a very decent, human thing to do (and might not be a practice followed by others so readily, especially when good negative review can be sexy and draw more attention to your site). Keep up the great work. The sax community appreciates it, both from the player and mouthpiece maker point of view.

  19. Steve, you are absolutely correct in handling your testing. I think it is a very fair way to handle things. So yes, you are very ethical. Better than selling ad space like other sites do. Keep the good work up.

  20. Avatar John Kotches says

    In a former life I was a reviewer for online Audio/Video site and a print magazine. Ok, not a past life it just seems like it was a past life 🙂 I got paid to write my reviews by the publication, but on an hourly basis it wasn’t all that much 😉

    In the high end A/V world you generally got a generous discount if you wanted to purchase the product. At times, you would also get an item on long term loan. However, the items I’m mentioning sell anywhere from 1K up into 10s of thousands of dollars.

    You’re being up front and honest, and given what I’ve read in your reviews you aren’t pulling punches. You mention what works, and what doesn’t. You talk about what you consider to be strengths and weaknesses. Then you post a clip demonstrating the qualities you write about.

    I don’t think there’s a conflict of interest for a few reasons. There’s no expectation of a review, no input to your conclusions and no editing by the manufacturer.

    You’re on the good side of the line 🙂

  21. Hi Steve, I have always found your reviews to be honest genuine and unbiased, of the few mouthpieces I have tried that you have reviewed I would agree more often than not, so to answer some of your questions.
    It is not unethical to be paid either in kind or in cash to do a review provided you keep to your ethics and post truthful honest views and opinions be they positive or negative, I have been lucky enough to be asked to play test instruments in the past not for public review but for the manufacturers benefit and I was paid the feedback was not always positive.
    I would like you to list the mouthpieces you have declined to review as this would also be helpful, if people find your reviews to match their own opinions they will also be interested in knowing what might also not work for them. This can be done with a caveat that simply states that at the time of you playing the piece the mouthpiece did not perform to a required level for many possible reasons and in no way should be considered as a negative of the mouthpiece.
    I enjoy reading your reviews and listening to the examples and it would be a shame if you let this individual preclude you from doing further reviews.
    I would also add that regardless of payment or not mouthpiece makers may take extra special care over a piece they are sending you over a stock sale piece and we all know just as sax’s can very between two consecutive instruments so can mouthpieces. So the bottom line is your reviews are great and useful and should encourage us all to go and try for ourselves.

    So thank you for the past 9 years and lets hope there will be another 9

    Kindest Regards


  22. Well,,,,,,,most of the mouthpieces sound a little too edgy for my taste….I really did like the old double ring Otto Link from a couple of months ago. I think the bad word is “all around” good sound.

    When I am playing rock or want just want to be heard in church or a gig, I use a Runyon Quantum 12. That rascal will peal paint. But,,, When I am playing nice soft warm music or in our Big band I use a mouthpiece made by Gary Sugal called the Kirk Whalum 8. Just have to use a mic.

    I would love to get your opinion of the Gary Sugal mouthpiece. I looks very rough on the inside. But I like the smooth sound.

    Last week I was able to hear Kirk Whalum in a live concert an he sounded great as ever………But, he was using a Vandorem T 8 mouthpiece. I really think it boils down to the player.
    So many, many thanks for all your hard work. You are a great inspiration.
    Ed Cain

  23. Avatar Courtney Nero says

    I found this post very instructive. Have to admit I have thought to myself in the past, “Steve must never have played a mpc he didn’t like because all his reviews are positive.” Your reasons for not posting “negative” reviews are very sound (no pun intended). Your reviews have always been a great starting point for me, sometimes to introduce me to mpc makers I had never heard of. Sending you a free mpc, in my opinion, is totally reasonable. A free mpc would be a small investment, especially if the maker gets a sale “bump” from your review. Best. Keep doing great things.

  24. To me, it’s unethical.

    Consider this: if you were sent mouthpieces with the full knowledge that you had to send them back (with or without writing a review) and there would be no compensation of any form, would this issue even arise in your mind? Would there be any question about the integrity of your review?

    The issue of spending a large amount of your time and talent, which produces sales for the mouthpiece manufacturer, is a separate issue.

    The question of potential bias in reviews has appeared in other areas as well, such as in photography or car magazines.

    The only “fair” way of doing these reviews would be that the readers of your site contribute to you – not the mouthpiece manufacturers. After all, your readers are the ones you are really serving.

  25. Avatar William Martin says

    “Unethical” means they paid you to write a positive review which you haven’t done. An ethical reviewing process has nothing to do with whether you keep the product or not after the review. If this was a “foodie” website that test tasted various packaged food products you’d be getting those products for free and wouldn’t be returning them (I hope). Plus you’d be saving something on your food bill. I was looking for new running shoes and started reading reviews. Eventually I discovered that many of the reviewers received free shoes from the manufacturer. It’s the way mainstream companies do business. The key is to put a disclosure at the bottom of your reviews and a link to the article that you just posted here. Most reasonable people would understand. In my mind the only other way around this is to charge a flat fee upfront for your time to execute the complete review. I suspect the mouth piece manufacturers would rather give you a piece instead. So keep on doing what you’re doing. You’re far more transparent about what and why you’re doing than many bloggers are.

  26. Avatar Paul Adenote says

    I’m just commenting now because I’m just reading this for the first time. I usually come here mostly for mpc reviews. I have all your books and least 240 of your lessons. I don’t see anything unethical in what you stated above as your new terms after many years of free reviews. It doesn’t affect the value I place on your excellent mpc reviews. I prefer/trust your more experienced reviews compared to what I find on YouTube or other websites (even of mpc makers).

    I don’t see any conflict of interest (please google “conflict of interest” for detailed explanation of the term) here. I think this disclaimer is not even needed. How many people do pro bono work? I would have thought you got at least a free mouthpiece sample for your reviewing time, effort and for keeping your website running. All these translate to money. If you can’t keep paying for your website to be up and running, I (I’m not into IT) suppose all the mouthpiece reviews will go down with it. So what is a single mouthpiece compared to that? I dare say that if there is a mouthpiece review (especially those sent to you by the maker) on this website and you don’t have a personal free copy of it, shame on that/those maker(s). I suggest all the past free (unintentional) ‘loaders’ or benefactors/ mpc makers should henceforth pay in arrears by immediately sending you a free copy of the piece you reviewed.

    I listen to your near object ( I say objective because you play the same thing on most mpcs so that one can easily compare them) review-playing before I even read what you wrote about the piece many times. I trust my ears first for unbiased listening first, then I read what you said preceding the recording(s). I have bought more and continue to buy mpcs based on your recodings than what I listen to on YouTube or makers site. I have also bought by play testing in shops but I have a wider exposure/opportunity (for increased number of mpcs) through your website.

    Keep up the good work Steve. You are an upstanding person. Don’t let some bad example of human being brother you. It’s good you wrote about this though….no one can say in future ‘so he’s been keeping mpcs before he reviewed them’. Your terms are clear to all mpc makers now. They either abide by it or poke a mike in their endorsers (who don’t even play their piece exclusively anyway) face, go to YouTube or wherever. We trust your objective and ethical reviews here!

    • Thanks Paul. I appreciate the support and input! The disclosure is actually needed according to the law. If you review products on a site you have to disclose if you received any products or payments for the review. I think the law was passed awhile ago but I had never heard of it before and am trying to keep to it now. I read an article the other day about a mattress reviewer was saying one mattress was the best out of all mattresses made. He has one of the top mattress review sites and the company was selling a ton of mattresses because of his reviews. Turns out that the company was paying him like 100,000 bucks a year. That just seems wrong to me. I have never taken a payment for a review but I have no problem accepting a free product or a discount on a product that I really like. Thanks again for taking the time to write. Steve

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