Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Last year,  I posted a review of a couple new saxophone mouthpieces from Liu Shizhao out of China.  He sent me a tenor saxophone mouthpiece prototype MB Prototype , an alto prototype and the Pilgrimage tenor sax mouthpiece that I was very impressed with and wrote reviews on.   This review is on another Liu Shizhao mouthpiece for the alto saxophone called the “Pearls” model.

Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Shizhao Pearls alto sax model has a tip opening of .085.  It has a high baffle and small chamber in it that immediately reminds me of a Dukoff type mouthpiece design.  Of course, any of you sax players that were around in the 70’s and 80’s will probably immediately think of Dave Sanborn when you hear the words “alto sax” and “Dukoff”. He had that very individual “Sanborn” high baffle alto saxophone sound of that era.

The Shizhao Pearls alto sax mouthpiece looks well made and feels heavy in your hand like it is a solid piece of brass.  The model I have today has some mark and scratches on the table and chamber so I think this has gotten some playing time before i received it.

The table, rails, tip and baffle look well made and symmetrical.  The tip rail matches my Rigotti reeds perfectly.  The baffle looks to be straight and comes off of the tip rail at a steady angle until half way down the window where it hits an edge and then drops off more rapidly into the small chamber.  The chamber entrance has a bit of a squeeze to it and then opens up to the back of the chamber which is the same diameter as the bore.

Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Shizhao Pearls model mouthpiece doesn’t have a bite plate but is all metal where the bite plate would be.  I have heard people complain about this because they like bite plates but I am indifferent to it.  Just put a mouthpiece pad on that area and you have an instant bite plate that you can change out any time you want or need to.

The mouthpiece is hand engraved with “Liu Shizhao” and “Pearls” handwritten on the shank with the number “014” on the bottom of the shank.  If years from now you are playing a Shizhao Pearls alto sax mouthpiece and it has “014” on the shank then you know it is the same mouthpiece from this review.  I personally like serial numbers on mouthpieces so you can know which mouthpiece is which very specifically.

Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I first tried the Shizhao Pearls mouthpiece with Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 medium saxophone reeds and they were way too soft, I then tried a 2 1/2 Strong and a 3 Light which were also both too soft.  I then tried a 3 Medium which felt too hard.  Lastly I tried another 3 Light and this one was perfect.  That is the one I used on the sound clip below.

Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Shizhao Pearls alto sax mouthpiece played great for me.  It is a much brighter sound than I usually have on alto but is indeed reminiscent of that classic “Sanborn” sound for me.

As well as being bright, it is also very focused.  The tone is powerful and concentrated if that makes sense.  It does have some edge when pushed also.  I felt the notes could be bent easily which made expression easier.  The altissimo was easier for me than on many other alto mouthpieces but I don’t play up there too much on alto so take that for what it’s worth.

The intonation on this mouthpiece was terrific in my opinion and the mouthpiece played really smoothly and evenly throughout the range of the horn also.   At the end I play some faster bebop type lines and the notes are smooth and flowing in my opinion.

Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I’ve provided two samples of the same clip below.  One is a clip with added reverb and the other is a dry clip in a moderate sized room.  I think it’s important to add the reverb clip just so people can get a sense of what the sound is like with a little bit of that added affect since most studio recordings of Sanborn have some reverb added I believe.

I’m a little rusty on my Sanborn influenced licks but I threw a bunch of them into the sound clip as well as a few straight ahead lines at the end.

The Shizhao Pearls alto saxophone mouthpiece is right up there with some of the best high baffle alto mouthpieces I have played on.   To order one you can contact Liu Shizhao by email at or you can usually also find these mouthpiece for sale on Ebay or on Liu Shizhao’s Facebook page.

Congratulations to Mr. Shizhao for making another excellent well crafted mouthpiece!  Great Job!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you get a Shizhao Pearls alto saxophone mouthpiece be sure to come back and let us know what you think below……..Thanks!!


Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Added Reverb


Liu Shizhao Pearls Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Dry

Disclosure: I received the sample mouthpiece mentioned above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.    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. Give em what they want is how I see it.

  2. Avatar Don Gutheil says

    Sanborn on steroids…

  3. Steve, what is the beak height and width feel like compared to a modern metal Otto Link STM alto mouthpiece or a modern Meyer hard rubber?

    • Mark, The beak height feels similar to me. It is more narrow than a Meyer HR alto piece. It’s been years since I tried a metal Otto Link on alto so I’m not sure how it compares to that as far as width. Steve

  4. Avatar Robert Stutchbury says

    Sounds nice what alto are you playing thanks Rob

  5. Wonderful!

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