SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing the Michael Wilbur signature model 8* tenor saxophone mouthpiece from SYOS mouthpieces in France.  This is my third SYOS tenor saxophone mouthpiece I will be reviewing today.  I have already reviewed the Chad LB SYOS Signature model mouthpiece for tenor sax and the Tivon Pennicott Signature model mouthpiece for  tenor sax and I thought both of these mouthpieces played excellently so I was excited to review this Michael Wilbur signature tenor sax mouthpiece as well.

This SYOS company hit the saxophone mouthpiece scene not too long ago and immediately caught the world’s attention by producing these really bright colored 3D printed saxophone mouthpieces made of plastic.  I remember thinking they were strange looking and looked like something one of my fourth grade saxophone students might have walked into their sax lesson with.

I must admit, that at first, I was very skeptical when I received my first SYOS mouthpiece months ago.  First, these bright colored sax mouthpieces looked like Legos to me.  Like something I might give my nephew, who just turned one year old, as a toy he could play with.  Secondly, they look like plastic.  I have been reviewing mouthpieces for about 14 years now and if it’s one thing I know, it’s that sax players like their sax mouthpieces made of costly materials like hard rubber, gold plated brass, stainless steel, ebony, silver plated brass and sterling silver.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you haven’t heard of Michael Wilbur before this, you can learn more about him by checking out the website of his band Moon Hooch.  There are also a bunch of interesting musical videos of Michael Wilbur creating some layered saxophone soundscapes on Youtube such as this one:

I have had a bunch of requests over the last few months to review other SYOS mouthpieces but with the whole COVID-19 pandemic going on, I decided to take a break from mouthpiece reviews.  I took about four months off and then couldn’t take it any longer!  I emailed SYOS and asked if I could review the Steve Kortyka alto mouthpiece (Steve is a burnin’ sax player with Lady Gaga that I first encountered on Facebook), a Michael Wilbur tenor mouthpiece, a Lorenzo Ferrero tenor mouthpiece and this Dayna Stephens soprano mouthpiece.   SYOS also sent a Knoel Scott alto mouthpiece to try as well.  I will be reviewing all of these mouthpieces in future reviews.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The reason I was interested in trying the SYOS Michael Wilbur signature model tenor sax mouthpiece was because I had already reviewed the Chad LB signature mouthpiece.  The Chad LB mouthpiece is rated as a 7.8 for brightness and a 6.8 for volume on the SYOS scale on their website.  The Michael Wilbur signature mouthpiece is rated at a 5.7 for brightness and a 6.1 for volume.

By looking at these numbers you can see that the Wilbur model is a bit darker than the Chad LB model and has slightly less volume to it.  The Tivon Pennicott mouthpiece that I also already reviewed, was rated at a 2.4 for brightness and a 2.7 for volume.  Which is quite different than the Chad LB model.  I was curious how the Michael Wilbur would play and sound for me as it sits between the Chad LB and Tivon Pennicott mouthpieces I have already reviewed. (I also have a SYOS Lorenzo Ferrero tenor mouthpiece here that I will review that is rated a 3.7 for brightness and 4.2 for volume)

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Before we get to the playing of the SYOS Michael Wilbur tenor saxophone mouthpiece, let me share  a few tidbits of info from the SYOS website on these sax mouthpieces.

First of all, you have two choices when you visit the SYOS website and order a sax mouthpiece.  You can order a “SYOS Signature Mouthpiece” which is basically what the mouthpiece that the player whose name is on the mouthpiece plays.

If, however, you want to be unique and are on a quest to find your own unique sound, you might want to pick the second choice of ordering a custom mouthpiece from SYOS which I have to say looks like a pretty cool process.  Here’s what you do on the SYOS website:

  1. First, you choose what saxophone you play. Soprano, Alto, Tenor or Bari Sax
  2. Second, you choose whether you are a beginner, intermediate or professional sax player
  3. Third, you choose what type of music you play (you can pick more than one category)
  4. Fourth, this is the coolest part, you choose your sound preferences.  There is a slider for tone that goes from very dark to very bright.  You can choose where in that tone spectrum you feel you would like to be.  There is also a slider to choose how powerful you want to be.  The slider goes from soft to powerful.   Now here’s the coolest part because as you are reading this you might be confused about how you might choose what you want or you might be confused about what your preferences are.  SYOS gives you a bunch of examples with sound clips!   How cool is that?  The following list of player are listed and rated for tone and power. Ben Webster, Chris Potter, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz and Wayne Shorter. (Can I just point out at this point,  how awesome Chris Potter must feel about being included in this list!)
  5. You click “Submit” and wait by your mailbox for your custom mouthpiece that will answer all your dreams to be delivered.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is a quote from the SYOS mouthpiece website on the specifics of ordering a custom mouthpiece from SYOS:

SYOS is the first custom mouthpiece maker to use a high-tech process to design its products. It is different from all the other brands who only make standard series of mouthpiece models. SYOS gives you the possibility to have your custom mouthpiece created on-demand according to your needs and preferences.

  • You are helped by an acoustic expert who will help guide you in your sound research.
  • You can test the mouthpiece(s) at home or in rehearsal without having to go in to a shop.
  • You can try your custom mouthpiece for 30 days, with the possibility of requesting adjustments on its shape to modify the sound, to get it even closer to your need.

Simply fill out the customization form on our online shop: you tell us about your saxophone level, the music you like, your favorite sound, which kind of sound you are looking for (bright? Dark? Powerful? Warm…) and we design your mouthpiece based on that. With SYOS, satisfaction is guaranteed. If you have any question, we can answer you on the mouthpiece chat, or you can give us a call: we will help you define your requirements.

Here is a few comments about the material SYOS mouthpieces are made from in case you are curious:

We use ABS plastic to craft our mouthpieces: this material allows us to get the highest degree of precision, with an improved resistance and durability. And you can get that in 18 colors to build a perfect style on stage!

The plastic we use to make SYOS mouthpieces has been certified non-toxic in laboratory (EN 71 and CE 1907/2006 standards). In fact, the same kind of plastic is used to make toys for children, which can be put in mouth without any risks. At the opposite, with the “ebonite” plastic, some sulfuric acid releases are observed when the mouthpiece is old, which gives it a yellow-green color.

And finally, here is a quote about the manufacturing process and how the minute details affect your tone which I found interesting:

For wind instruments, it’s the internal geometry of the bore that gives all the acoustic properties. We work at 1/100th millimeter to adjust the shape and the length of the baffle, the chamber section and size, the tip opening, the facing length… We study and compute the effect of all these parameters on the sound, to predict the timbre of each combination of them.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Ok, so let’s get to the saxophone mouthpieces I received form SYOS. The five sax mouthpieces came in a package and inside were five drawstring bags.  Each has a mouthpiece, ligature and rubber mouthpiece cap inside the bag.

I checked the mouthpieces each very closely and saw no signs of damage, nicks or abrasions.  They looked good to go. The Michael Wilbur 8* tenor mouthpiece had an ocean blue color to it that I thought was cool and unique.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece felt really light as you would expect a plastic mouthpiece to feel.  The table had some texture to it that I could feel with my fingers.  Whatever process they use to make these sax mouthpieces does leave some texture marks on the mouthpiece.  You can see fine lines going across the table and fine lines going down the baffle as if the machine that cut the mouthpieces left these lines on the plastic.

The mouthpiece looks pretty well made.  The table, rails and tip look well made and conventional.   The baffle is a straight shelf baffle that is high and straight until it hits a curved edge.  After that curved edge, the baffle heads in a straight diagonal line through the chamber and terminates at the rear of the chamber where the bore starts.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I would describe the chamber as a large chamber for a tenor sax mouthpiece.  The baffle through the chamber most certainly takes some of the size out of the chamber but it looks to be about the size of a typical hard rubber Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece chamber to me.

The side walls are scooped out nicely.  Everything looks neat and tidy.  There is also a nicely engraved S on the top of the sax mouthpiece and a signature on the side of the saxophone mouthpiece which reads “Michael Wilbur”.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The SYOS tenor sax mouthpiece comes with a SYOS ligature which fits the mouthpiece nicely when it has a reed on it.  I was a bit skeptical of this ligature but it actually holds the reed on the mouthpiece pretty firmly when the ligature is slid all the way down and is tight around the reed. I recorded the sound clip with this ligature.  I didn’t try any other ligatures on this mouthpiece as the SYOS ligature seemed to do the trick for me.

I will warn you that the ligature can move when you have to adjust the mouthpiece on the cork so if you need to adjust the sax mouthpiece for tuning,  it is best to grab it around the shank of the mouthpiece to move it on the cork.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The first tenor sax reed I tried on the SYOS Michael Wilbur tenor sax mouthpiece played incredibly well and is the reed I used for the sound clip.  It was a Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong reed. I have not tried any other reeds on it so far butam curious how a BSS (Boston Sax Shop) 2 1/2 would sound also.

As I expected, the Michael Wilbur model mouthpiece was not as bright as the Chad LB model mouthpiece that I have reviewed already.   So far, my experience has been that SYOS has really nailed these number ratings for brightness and volume.  The volume seemed well rated also as I remember the Chad LB as being louder to me.

The mouthpiece sits more in the middle frequencies to my ear.  It has a nice thick tone but it doesn’t have as many of the higher brighter overtones that the Chad LB had when I played it.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

One of the high points of the SYOS Michael Wilbur tenor mouthpiece, in my mind, was the altissimo range.  The notes in that upper octave were round, full and fat.  They were not as bright and edgy as they were on the Chad LB mouthpiece that is for sure.  I liked that because they seemed prettier and more squarely locked in to me. Check out 3:48-4:06 in the clip. That high A at 3:50 just sounds so fat to me!!

Although the mouthpiece has a nice focus and core to the sound, the 8* tip seems to give the tone a little more spread and width.  I would think a 7* or 8 would be even more focused although probably a bit brighter also. (*Mike Wilbur plays a 9 tip opening)

The intonation and articulation were great and I didn’t notice any issues at all. The mouthpiece was easy to sub-tone on.  The low notes weren’t as rich and fat as the Tivon Pennicott mouthpiece as I remember but they did sound thick and full to me.

As is my habit, I provided the clip without effects (dry) and one clip with added reverb just so you can hear how it might sound with some effects added.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the sound and look of the Michael Wilbur signature tenor sax mouthpiece by SYOS, you can find them at  the SYOS website.  SYOS HAS AGREED TO GIVE READER’S OF THIS REVIEW 5% OFF THE PURCHASE OF A MOUTHPIECE IF YOU USE THE COUPON CODE NEFFSYOS WHEN YOU CHECKOUT ON THEIR WEBSITE. (Neffmusic also gets a small commission from each sale using this coupon which helps support this website).

The SYOS website has a ton of artists and signature models available so if the Michael Wilbur model isn’t your cup of tea, there are a ton of other sax mouthpieces  to choose from including the Chad LB and Tivon Pennicott signature model for tenor sax that I have already reviewed.

Or, you can be courageous and go for a custom sax mouthpiece made specifically for you.  The amazing thing is that SYOS has a 30 day return policy which is unheard of in the sax mouthpiece industry.

The other great thing about the SYOS saxophone mouthpieces is the price point.  As of today, the signature model sax mouthpieces are at about 165.83 EUROS (Approximately 189 USD as of today), which in my mind is a great price for a sax mouthpiece that plays this well.  The custom model sax mouthpieces are 249.17 EUROS (Approximately 284 USD), which is still a great deal for a custom sax mouthpiece that is made to your preferences.  From what I read on the SYOS website,  you can send your custom sax mouthpiece back for adjustments if you want tweaks made to it also which is amazing.

If you have played or end up buying a SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature Tenor Saxophone mouthpiece make sure to use the promo code NEFFSYOS to save 5% and please come back here to tell us what you think.

If you have any other thoughts or comments about this review, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Thanks,   Steve

*For best results, it is best to listen to these clips with good speakers or headphones.

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature 8* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong Reed-No Effects Added

SYOS Michael Wilbur Signature 8* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 Strong Reed-Slight Reverb Added

Disclosure:  I received the sample mouthpiece reviewed above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog.  I also receive a small commission when you purchase from the SYOS website using the 5% off coupon code NEFFSYOS above that helps to support this site.  Regardless, I only review sax mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     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. Avatar Donny Silverman says

    The SYOS mpcs are pretty cool, I got a grab bag of 3 last year. The ligs however, are absolutely awful.

  2. Avatar Peter Nguyen says

    Wow sounds so Breckerish to me. How does this mouthpiece compare to the Guardala MB?

  3. Wow sounds so Breckerish to me. How does this mouthpiece compare to the Guardala MB?

    It’s definitely a shade or two darker than any Guardala MB mouthpiece I have played but it is not so dark that it can’t pull off that kind of vibe. I also found Guardala MB piece a lot more edgy than this mouthpiece. I never really held on to a Guardala for very long because I always found the ones I played as too bright and edgy for my tastes. They were ok on a gig but in the practice room they were a bit too much for the sound I like.

  4. Peter Nguyen,

    I’m not sure you will see this comment, but as someone who plays on the Syos MW piece and a MB 2, I thought I may be able to answer your question. Steve is right when he says that the MB are brighter and edgier. This feels like a link to me, somewhere in between a NY and FL model in terms of darkness. I feel it has a little more edge than both of those though. I think that it also takes a lot of air better than any link I have played. It is very much targeted at MW style of playing.

  5. Avatar Mats Granath says

    That’s a nice sound! I’m so thankful for all your mouthpiece reviews Steve!! Been following them for years now and had so much help in the search for my own sound. My “Steve-Neff-story” is this: I started out buying a Liu Shizhauo Pilgrimage which I still like a lot. However I started to think it was just a shade too bright, this became more apparent when I switched horns from a SBA to a Mark VI. So I heard you on the Gottsu Jazz Sepia Tone and thought, “Wow that’s sounds nice!” So that’s my mouthpiece today, and I really like it. But hearing this SYOS I’m thinkin: maybe this is just somewhere in between the two??
    I have listened a lot trying to compare them, but would love if you could give a comment on my thoughts!

  6. Hi Mats, Thanks so much! I’m glad you like the site and find it so helpful. I actually still have my Liu Shizhao Pilgrimage and the Gottsu Sepia Tone. Both great mouthpieces in my opinion. I would agree that the Pilgrimage can be a tad too bright also, the Gottsu is a great piece to go to if that is your opinion. The SYOS Wibur piece is in a similar sound category I think. I haven’t compared them side by side but my gut feeling without trying them next to each other is that Wilbur piece is still a bit brighter than the Gottsu but not as bright as the Pilgrimage. More power than the Gottsu also I think. I have another SYOS piece I have to review that is even a little bit darker (the Lorenzo Ferrero) that might be even closer to the Gottsu. I personally prefer the feel and playability of metal mouthpieces because of the way they warm up when playing. It seems like once they are warmed up they can get in this magical place for me with their tone and playing. Let me know if you try one! Thanks, Steve

  7. Mats, Another thought is to try different reed brands on your pieces. I am really digging the BSS reeds (Boston Sax Shop) They have a darker sound in my opinion but are just as vibrant and playable. I haven’t tried them on the Pilgrimage yet…… Steve

  8. Thanks for comments Steve!
    Interesting thoughts, and they sort of confirm what I hear from you’re sound clips. So I might order a SYOS MW in the future..
    Haven’t tried any plastic mp’s, and even though I had about 5-7 mouthpieces over the last 20 years of playing, they had all been metal. And even if I can’t HEAR any difference on you’re “material- sound clips“ of the Theo Wanne Gaia 3, I still have a different FEEL as a player depending on the material, and I always favor metal. So I’m a bit suspicious about those SYOS.. but as you say, more and more really good players use them nowadays. And SYOS seem to have a really unique labeling system with a very wide range of mp’s, tempting!!
    Also thanks for the reed tips! Unfortunately the BSS reeds aren’t available in Sweden, and to order them online would mean added cost to a already expensive reed in form of taxes and toll fees. It would make a box of BSS reeds insanely expensive. Been experimenting with different strength of Vandoren ZZ, D’addario SJ and Rigotti Gold and I can’t say I hear any tonal difference between brands other than the fact that harder reeds makes warmer, darker sound and softer reeds a bit brighter. My problem there is that I gravitate towards softer and softer reeds because I feel I get much more control and playability. Currently on D’addario SJ 2Soft.
    Thinking about moving to a smaller tip opening, 7* or 8( currently on Gottsu 9 .112) and then move up to a stiffer reed..That might also make some difference in you’re sound I guess?

  9. Avatar Mike Hutchings says

    Hi Steve, You may remember that after playing on a Guardala MBII for many years and trying lots of other well known “Name” ‘pieces, I tried a SYOS Chad L/B tenor ‘piece after you reviewed it and also found it a bit too bright for me on a gig. Syos kindly exchanged it for a Lorenzo Ferrero but that was a bit too dark, so exchanged again for a Michael Wilbur 8* which is exactly what I was looking for. I tried all these on the same regular gig using the same sound system, so a level playing field, so to speak. I should mention that my criteria for selecting these ‘pieces was not what these players sounded like, but based on my own experiences of trying all sorts of ‘pieces over the last 20 years and the resulting knowledge acquired of types of baffle, chamber etc. The charts that Syos have of baffle, brightness and power are invaluable in helping to choose a ‘piece.
    I don’t know what facing curve or length of lay that Syos use but Syos are the first mouthpieces I have EVER had that I can play low notes and subtone down to low Bb with ease. I’ve used Rigotti Gold, JazzSelect, La Voz, Marca, Gonzalez, but so far the best has been Vandoren Java Red, all in 2 1/2 strength. I’ve just ordered a Legere tenor and soprano in 2 1/2 to try out. Speaking of Soprano, I was so impressed with Syos that on Pauline’s recommendation I ordered a Scott Paddock 8 soprano ‘piece and and love it.
    A final point for everyone who rates the “suction test” highly. Due to the manufacturing process the surface finish may not be conducive to giving a good suction test. If this is what you want, I found that by carefully smoothing the surface of the table and rails just enough to take the manufacturing marks away with very fine 600 grit body shop paper, I now have a perfect suction test. It also gives a fraction more brightness and power, probably due to increased efficiency.
    Thanks again Steve for all your good work, All the Best from Spain, Mike Hutchings.

  10. Avatar Bob Rockwell says

    Yes 600 grit works well for me also!

  11. Avatar Anders Franzén says

    From Syos I first bought a Scott Paddock mp, which I found too bright. So I tried Tivon mp, which was too dull for me. After discussions with Syos I chose Lorenzo mp as I was afraid Chad LB mp would be too close in brightness to Scott Paddock mp. Since November I have played nearly all gigs on Lorenzo, which has been great, but I miss some brightness, so I was going to order a Chad LB when I noticed this review. Maybe Micheal Wibur mp could be the best choice for me, as it was for Mike Hutching above. So I am very much looking forward to your Lorenzo Ferrero review.
    Thank you Steve. All the best from Sweden

  12. Steve: Sounds good. Btw – The Rigotti gold, BSS, Queens and RW reeds are all made by Rigotti. The cut is different but the cane is supposed to be the same.

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