Theo Wanne Gaia 3 Hard Rubber Tenor Mouthpiece Review

I was excited to hear that Theo Wanne was releasing a new tenor saxophone mouthpiece called the Gaia 3 a few months ago and asked Theo if I could review it.  I had reviewed the original Gaia tenor saxophone mouthpiece back in 2009 and it was one of  the best tenor saxophone mouthpieces I had reviewed in my opinion. Original Gaia Tenor Mouthpiece Review  It had a beautiful lush, smooth as butter tone that I absolutely loved, but at the end of my time with the original Gaia tenor mouthpiece, I decided to send it back rather than purchase it because I felt like the original Gaia didn’t have the brightness and power I needed as a working sax player.

Years later, Theo came out with a Gaia 2 tenor sax mouthpiece which I tried also.  Unfortunately, I didn’t review that tenor sax mouthpiece, but I remember the Gaia 2 sax mouthpiece was brighter and had more power than the original Gaia but I felt it had lost the round, fat, lush character in the tone that I loved about the original Gaia tenor sax mouthpiece.   I ended up returning the Gaia 2 mouthpiece also………

Last week, I reviewed the metal Gaia 3 and absolutely loved it! Theo Wanne Gaia 3 Metal Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review  Because this review is of the same model of the Gaia 3 in hard rubber, I will be keeping much of the review the same as the metal Gaia 3 review as my observations were similar.  Any changes or differences will be highlighted in red violet for this review.

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Theo Wanne sent me a gold plated Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpieces as well as a hard rubber Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpiece to check out.  Both saxophone mouthpieces are 7* tip openings which is my preferred tip opening on tenor sax mouthpieces with low to medium height baffles these days.

The mouthpieces were shipped with the usual high standards of the Theo Wanne company.  Each mouthpiece comes in a perfectly designed box with stylish gold printing on it with all the details of the mouthpiece inside.  Inside the box is a beautiful leather looking mouthpiece case. Each mouthpiece has a ligature included with it as well as a high quality perfectly designed card with specific direction on how to adjust the ligatures, the affects on the saxophone tone when the ligature is in different positions and directions on how to change the pressure plates on the ligatures.

The mouthpieces come with a reed replacer cap which is on the mouthpiece where the reed goes and the ligature is tightened down on the reed replacer cap to protect the mouthpiece in shipping and when you are not playing it.  Although the reed replacer cap is a cool idea, the Gaia 3 mouthpiece does not come with a “regular” mouthpiece cap that you slide on the mouthpiece over the reed and around the ligature.  This is a bit surprising as Theo has dialed in every detail pertaining to his mouthpieces and yet there is no mouthpiece cap for these mouthpieces as of yet!  (*I did find that a Vandoren leather mouthpiece cap for metal mouthpieces I have fit on the Gaia 3 and around the ligature perfectly so that is what I have been using with this mouthpiece over the last month.)

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Gaia 3 hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece comes with a Theo Wanne Enlightened Ligature to use with the mouthpiece. I have a general rule to always check the inside of metal ligatures before using them on sax mouthpieces but have to confess that I didn’t follow my ligature rule for this mouthpiece trial.  Unfortunately, the Enlightened ligature that came with the mouthpiece had some roughness on the inside edges that put some scratches on the hard rubber mouthpiece before I realized it.  I would suggest checking the ligature before using it by running your fingers over the inside of the ligature.  If you feel any rough or sharp areas, do not use it!

After I noticed the roughness on the inside of the ligature I switched over to a Selmer 404 silver metal ligature which I used for the rest of my time playing the Gaia 3 mouthpiece as well as on the sound clips.

I have used the Theo Wanne Enlightened ligature for my Gaia soprano sax mouthpiece and I have an Enlightened alto ligature also that I sometimes use.  The Enlightened ligature works well but you have to be careful when moving a sax mouthpiece that is tight on the cork as the ligature can move on the mouthpiece and scratch the hard rubber.  If I am using an Enlightened ligature and need to move the mouthpiece I try to grab the mouthpiece in areas where I don’t touch the ligature.

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Even before you look at the mouthpieces themselves, everything about the Theo Wanne packaging and presentation just speaks to quality and high standards.  Just the process of opening the package and unpacking the mouthpiece brings about an excitement and anticipation that this mouthpiece you are about to play is going to be amazing!

Here is how the Theo Wanne website describes the new Gaia 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece:

The GAIA 3 lends itself well to a traditional Jazz taste, but due to its amazing flexibility, it is at home in any style of playing.   It comes in 24K gold plated or a unique thin-body premium hard rubber which has amazing vibratory qualities.

The GAIA 3 has a medium roll-over Shark Gill™ baffle, precision-sculpted inner sidewalls, and our True-Large-Chamber™  which is similar to the vintage mouthpieces of the 1940s but more evolved in design. Take a close look at our baffles, rails, and True-Large-Chambers™, you will see they are manufactured with a quality and accuracy higher than any other mouthpiece ever made, vintage or new!

SOUND

  • Built to outplay Theo’s very best Vintage Florida Otto Link. Theo succeeded!!!
  • Inspired by the genius of Dexter Gordon.
  • Full, rich, and fat traditional sound with a big projection and plenty of edge.

DESIGN

  • Includes our True Large Chamber! Rounded inner side walls all the way to the tip. Perfectly sculpted roll-over baffle.
  • Crafted to the highest accuracy in the history of saxophone mouthpieces.
  • Designed by Theo Wanne, the foremost expert on the design and manufacturing of vintage and new mouthpieces.

DETAILS

  • Case: Beautiful Leatherette Case! 
  • Serial Number: Includes serial number showing care given to your mouthpiece.
  • Plating: Reticulated 24K Gold plating with highlights on globe logo on metal mouthpiece.
  • Premium Hard Rubber: The Hard Rubber GAIA 3 uses the finest vintage style hard rubber on the planet!
  • Ligature: The metal GAIA 3 includes our integrated two-point contact 24K Gold Plated Liberty Ligature and Alive Gold pressure plate. The Hard Rubber GAIA 3 includes the Enlightened Ligaturerated #1 ligature in the world. To truly individualize your sound, try our premium Pressure Plates, which fit all of our mouthpieces and ligatures!.
  • Cap: Patented Reed Replacer Cap. The most secure cap in the world.
  • Bite Pad: User Replaceable Bite Pads allow you to peel and stick on new bite pads. Try our varying hardness bite pads to personalize the feel.

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece itself is beautifully made and has a perfect looking symmetry and balance to it.  The mouthpiece engraving is as perfect as can be.  Not a flaw or mistake anywhere.  Each mouthpiece has a unique serial number on it which I really love as I know which mouthpiece is mine and if I decide to sell a mouthpiece everyone knows from the serial number that this is the mouthpiece I reviewed on my site.

The tip, rails, baffle, table and chamber all look perfect as well. Smooth, even, symmetrical…….flawless.  The sidewalls are scooped out and the baffle is a medium height long rollover baffle that ends at a scooped out curve where the large chamber begins. To give you an idea of the size of the chamber, it is larger than a typical Otto Link chamber.  Of all my mouthpieces, I think the chamber is closest in size to a NY Otto Link tenor mouthpiece I have in my collection but might be even bigger with the scooped out section at the chambers entrance.

The new Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpiece has a new baffle design with what Theo calls a “Shark Gill baffle”.  You can see these lines in the picture below.  Matt Ambrose at Theo Wanne mouthpieces describes the new Gaia 3 mouthpiece like this on a SOTW (Sax on the Web) post about the mouthpiece:

The Gaia 3 is the culmination of a LOT of experimentation, prototypes, and trial and error. Theo figured out kind of a break-through in rollover baffle design that is really significant. I’m usually pretty conservative when talking about our mouthpieces and new features and designs because I’m sensitive to the fact that too much sensationalism can be seen as hype—this is not hype. More projection, more complex tone, super quick response, the Gaia 3 is a significant step forward in my opinion. There are some chamber geometry changes as well, and also notable are the precision grooves in the baffle (see picture below). We have experimented with acoustics and airflow for many years and developed this design to augment the efficiency of the mouthpiece. We are really proud of the Gaia 3.

Here is Theo’s take on the Gaia 3 tenor mouthpiece in his own words from the same post on SOTW (Sax on the Web):

In many ways I consider the GAIA 3 to be my crown jewel of mouthpiece design to date. It has a large chamber with a roll-over baffle mouthpiece like an Otto Link. But the similarities actually end there; it is otherwise a very different mouthpiece. It has a very uniquely shaped large chamber, the window is much wider and longer, the baffle is an all-together new design too. I’m not talking about the obvious shark-gill baffle lines, but the shape of the baffle both side to side and lengthwise. A lot of research and development went into this mouthpiece, and as a company we are very proud of it. 

I know the shark-gill baffle is the obvious visible feature, so I’ll mention that it works with boundary layer effect similar to how a sharks rough skin helps it glide faster through water, or how the dimples on a golf ball help it travel with less resistance through the air. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with this principle as many of the effect of it are counter intuitive, which makes experimenting fun  

We launched the GAIA 3 at the NAMM show and have gotten just great feedback since. Often I wonder if others will like a new design as much as I do when designing it, however, the GAIA 3 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Just now got an email about the GAIA 3 from Jan Garbarek, so figure I’d share: “The GAIA 3 played perfectly right from the very first note. A little bit like coming home, really. Once in a while it happens. Its simply a great piece, congratulations! A leap forward from my point of view. Sometimes I get all excited about a piece, but then, when I play it in an actual concert, I recognize weaknesses, and I realize it will take too much work and no guarantees to try to overcome the problem areas. That hasn’t happened here. All I find so far are possible areas to explore and develop. Kind of inspiring, actually….”. 

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

One thing I forgot to mention in my review of the metal Gaia 3 is that the Theo Wanne mouthpieces come with built in bite plate that protect the mouthpiece and are easy to replace.  The pad can be peeled off if you bite through it and replaced with a new one in the same area.

I play tested the Theo Wanne Gaia 3 tenor mouthpiece with some Rigotti Gold 3 Light tenor saxophone reeds as well as some Boston Sax Shop 2 1/2 saxophone reeds that I have been using over the last few months also.  Both brands of reeds lined up perfectly with the tip rail of the Gaia 3 and played great.

I provided four sound clips with two different reeds below as I think the tone was slightly different when using the different reeds.

  • The 1st clip was with a Rigotti Gold 3 Light reed. (I used one of these on the metal Gaia 3 review also)
  • The 2nd clip is the same as the first but with a little reverb added.
  • The 3rd clip is with a BSS (Boston Sax Shop) 2 1/2 reed (I used one of these on the metal Gaia 3 review also…….)
  • The 4th clip is the same as the 4th clip but with reverb added just for the heck of it.

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

So, what did I think of the new Gaia 3 hard rubber tenor sax mouthpiece?  I thought it played incredibly well.  At a soft volume,  the Gaia 3 mouthpiece has a smooth lushness that reminds me of the original Gaia mouthpiece that I absolutely loved.  When pushed,  the Gaia 3 tenor mouthpiece can play with much more volume than the original Gaia.  Although the extra volume can be substantial,  the Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpiece doesn’t get overly bright or edgy like many mouthpieces do when you push them.  It seems to me that the more I pushed it, the more focused and in your face it would get which is what you want in a working sax players mouthpiece.

I felt like the Gaia 3 mouthpiece also had a great balance between being focused in tone but also a tone that is fat in character and substance.  The softer reeds gave it a more smooth, fat and lush tone and the harder reeds gave it a more complex and overtone full tone with more highs to my ear.

There was a quality to the sound that is hard for me to put into words also. The richness and character made me feel like I was listening to something original, authentic and real. The tone seemed like it had multiple layers to it perhaps.  I’m not even sure what all this means but this is how I felt listening back to different parts of the clips.

The tone was even throughout the range of the horn which made faster lines sound really even and smooth.  The altissimo was easy to play and the intonation was excellent.

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I really think Theo Wanne hit a home run with this new Gaia 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece.  There was a round smoothness to the original Gaia that I absolutely loved but I felt like it didn’t have the power I wanted.   The Gaia 2 had more of the power but I felt like it lost the round smoothness I loved with the original.  With the Gaia 3 mouthpiece, I hear the smoothness and lushness in the tone that I loved with the original but also the power that is easily available when it is pushed.

I felt like the Rigotti Gold reeds gave the Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpiece a little more brightness and edge while the Boston Sax Shop reeds gave it a bit of a darker huskier tone.    Listen to the sound clips below and decide for yourself.

The coolest thing I love about the Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpiece is that I feel like there is a lot of exploration to do with it.  Many mouthpieces that I review, I play them and feel like I have them figured out.  How they sound, what they can do, etc……. I feel like if I played the mouthpiece for years it would still be pretty much the same result.

Even though I have been playing the Gaia 3 for a month, I feel like there is a lot of exploration still to do with it.  This is exciting for me because I feel like if I keep playing it and working with it that new avenues and pathways will be opened up.  I think part of that feeling stems from the fact that it is so reed friendly.  I still don’t know which reed is the best because so many reeds play so well on it.  This is exciting for me because I have a feeling I won’t get bored with it.

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The design of the hard rubber Gaia 3 mouthpiece is the same as the metal Gaia 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece. The hard rubber Gaia 3 feels pretty light in comparison to the metal Gaia 3 as would be expected.  I found that both mouthpieces played very similarly.  I did feel at times that the hard rubber Gaia 3 had a dryer tone than the metal Gaia 3.  I am not sure what this feeling could be attributed to though.  The tone seemed just as rich and resonant as the metal Gaia 3 to my ears. 

While playing the hard rubber Gaia 3, I felt like it was darker than the metal Gaia 3 but when I listen to the sound clips the hard rubber Gaia 3 seems just as bright to me as the metal Gaia 3 (especially in the upper register and at louder volumes) and at times when listening it seems more resonant in tone to me than the metal Gaia 3 mouthpiece but this might just be a case of a more resonant reed for this recording.  I know I did feel like I could feel more of a transfer in sound between the mouthpiece, my teeth and into my head but again, I am not sure if this was a real experience or just something I am thinking I feel because of the lightness of the hard rubber.  I hope to do a side by side comparison with sound clips and the same reeds to see what differences if any can be heard in the near future as I am very curious about the differences these two mouthpieces might have.

One of the big positives to the Gaia 3 tenor mouthpiece is how much volume I could get out of it.  Even though I would consider the tone to be comparable to a great Otto Link tone as far as where it sits in the dark to bright spectrum, when I pushed the Gaia 3 tenor mouthpiece, I was able to get a lot more power and volume out of the Gaia 3 than I can usually get out of a typical Otto Link type saxophone mouthpiece.  This power and volume would come in handy in live playing situations that is for sure.

If you like the sound and look of the new Gaia 3 tenor sax mouthpiece by Theo Wanne, you can find them at Theowanne.com. I have agreed to be an affiliate for Theo Wanne as of this review so if you purchase a Gaia 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece from this link, neffmusic.com will receive a small commission on the sale. (This helps to support my site and keep the saxophone related reviews and articles coming to you…..).

If you are lucky enough to play a Gaia 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.   Thanks,   Steve

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed-Same Clip as Above with Reverb Added

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-BSS 2 1/2 Light Reed

Theo Wanne Gaia 3 7* Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-BSS 2 1/2 Reed-Same Clip as Above with Reverb Added

Disclosure:  I received the sample mouthpiece reviewed above in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog.  If you purchase a mouthpiece through the link I provided in the review, I will also receive a small commission on any Theo Wanne mouthpieces sold through the link provided.  Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     Steve
Share : Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on GooglePlusShare on LinkedinShare on Pinterest
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. Avatar Simon peat says

    So which did you prefer… the metal or the HR?

  2. I really liked both but if I had to go with one I think it would be the metal. I hope to do a side by side comparison with sound clips and the same reeds and see if I can nail down and differences between the two for me. Steve

  3. Avatar Jerrold Pritchard says

    Very nice demo, Steve. You sound good on almost any mouthpiece. And, of course, you always sound like yourself. On the Theo Wanne Gaia 3 you sounded significantly better focused, plenty of edge and power, and the altissimo seemed to be popping out effortlessly.

    Thanks for sharing this demo.

  4. Thanks Jerrold. Are you talking about this review or the metal Gaia 3 review or both? I’m just curious. Thanks, Steve

  5. Avatar Ron Bull says

    Awesome sound – but then again you sound terrific no matter the mp or reed combination IMO – Is the metal Gaia 3 the same physical outer dimension as the Otto Link metal? If not, I would go for the HR.

  6. Ron, A Selmer 404 fits perfectly on the Gaia 3 and that is what I use on Metal Otto Links so I think it is a similar size. The HR model is the same size as the metal Gaia 3.

  7. Avatar Kevin Ledbetter says

    Hey Steve, this mouthpiece is just a bit warmer than the Gaia 3 metal. The metal Gaia 3 has more highs…. both are great, but the metal one is the one I’m going to give a try. Although almost every clip I hear everyone is using the 7*, I’m going to get an 8. Something about that 110 opening just works for me.

  8. Hi Kevin, I’m glad you heard that. That is what I perceived while playing. It’s like the metal had more highs in the tone. I’m glad you hear it too. Hope you love the Gaia 3 8 tip opening. Steve

  9. Avatar Kevin Ledbetter says

    Steve, I’ll let you know my impressions of the 8 Gaia 3 when it comes in. With almost any mouthpiece there are things you can do to make it brighter, or darker, depending on your choice of reed and ligature, and just how you blow into it. A lot of color changes can be made to almost any mouthpiece. I have wanted a metal mouthpiece for my tenor that was versatile enough for many settings and I hope this mouthpiece will provide that. My main piece right now is the 10mfan 8* and its good for almost anything!

  10. Which 10mFan 8* model? I agree with you on the things you can do to make a mouthpiece brighter or darker. The true test is playing a live gig. It’s so funny because I will play a mouthpiece on gigs that I think is too bright but then make a small change like a Rovner ligature to darken it up. I love it at home but then get on the gig and because of that one small change I can’t hear myself like I used to on the previous gigs. Everything matters but the true test is always the gig for me……..

  11. Avatar Kevin Ledbetter says

    Its the 10mfan Black Widow 8*. I usually use a Rigotti Gold 2.5 strong reed. I can do so much with this mouthpiece just by the way I use my airstream. Subtones to altissimo with a bright sound or a mellow one I have found all tones are possible. I have gigged on this mouthpiece since the day I got it and it works great. I’ll see how the Gaia 3 does in the same settings.

  12. Steve, I really like the sound you get out of the Hard Rubber GALA 3………….In my opinion, it is the best sound clip that you have ever done ( Especially with the 2.5 reed. I use a 2.5 Rigotti Gold) The metal mouthpiece sounds too much like a metal mouthpiece. The hard rubber really puts the silk back into the sound. I currently own a GALA 2 in both metal and Hard rubber……..I love the hard rubber, but I agree with you that the extra power and smoothness of the GALA 3 Hard rubber is worth adding it to the arsenal. Thanks for your insight…..

Speak Your Mind

*

Visit us on FacebookVisit us on TwitterVisit us on YouTubeVisit us on Linkedin