Phil-Tone Orion Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today I am reviewing another great tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by Phil Engleman at Phil-Tone mouthpieces.  I have reviewed quite a few Phil-Tone sax mouthpieces on the site already and am always interested when Phil announces a new Phil-Tone saxophone mouthpiece model.

A couple of months ago he announced that he had a new tenor sax mouthpiece model called the Orion model that was based off of the old Brilhart  tenor saxophone mouthpieces like the one Gene Ammons used to play.  I have always loved Gene Ammons’ tenor sax sound so I was immediately interested in trying out this Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here’s a quote from Phil about the new Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece from his website:

The Phil-Tone Orion Alto and Tenor Mouthpiece: These mouthpieces are inspired by the early Brilly pieces played by Charlie Parker and Gene Ammons. They are handmade and play tested mouthpieces like all Phil-Tone mouthpieces. In addition they are professional level precision mouthpieces offered at a price resembling out of the box factory made mouthpieces. Machines don’t make music! Try the Phil-Tone Orion today. Sold only direct through Phil-Tone. -Phil Engleman 

Gene Ammons (on right) with a Brilhart Tenor Sax Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece I received to review is made of resin. The look and feel of the outside of the mouthpiece resembles hard rubber in my opinion.  I actually wasn’t sure if it was hard rubber or resin and had to email Phil to ask him what it was made of.  The clue for me that it was perhaps resin, was that the inside bore of the mouthpiece was super shiny.  I have never seen a hard rubber mouthpiece with a chamber and bore that shiny before so guessed that it was a resin material.  Phil confirmed this for me via email.

The exterior of the Orion tenor sax mouthpiece is pretty plain looking.  There is no engraving on it except “Phil-Tone” hand engraved on the top of the body of the mouthpiece.   The mouthpiece is a .105 tip opening or a 7* tip opening.  It’s diameter is a standard hard rubber tenor mouthpiece diameter and I used a generic metal tenor sax ligature on it.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Orion mouthpiece tip rail is very close in shape to all of my tenor sax reeds and the table and rails look even and well made as they are on all of the Phil-Tone mouthpieces I have reviewed to date.

The baffle has a nice rollover to it and then the baffle heads down at a curve into the chamber area.  After the baffle rolls over, the descending slope of the baffle looks to have a side to side curve to it where the outside edges are a little higher than the center. The sidewalls are straight and look to angle inward slightly as they approach the chamber area. I would consider the baffle to be a low to medium low baffle just because the rollover happens pretty quickly.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece (with my dog Lily in the background)

The Phil-Tone Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece has a unique shaped chamber that I am told is the same as the old Brilhart tenor saxophone mouthpiece chambers.  The straight sidewalls give the chamber sides a straight edge and the bottom of the chamber looks slightly lower and wider than the top of the chamber.  Like I mentioned above, the inside of the chamber and bore are incredibly shiny and smooth looking.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece seemed to want a harder saxophone reed than I usually play on 7* tenor sax mouthpieces.  Usually I can get by with a 2 1/2 Strong or 3 Light Rigotti Gold saxophone reed on a 7* mouthpiece but the Phil-Tone Orion made these reeds feel too soft for me especially in the upper register.  I tried using Rigotti Gold 3 Medium, 3 Strong and even 3 1/2 Lights and these saxophone reeds played much better for me on the Orion tenor sax mouthpiece.  I ended up recording the sound clip with a Rigotti Gold 3 Medium saxophone reed.

The beak of the Phil-Tone Orion tenor mouthpiece looked and felt higher to me than my other hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces I have in my collection.  I compared it visually to a couple hard rubber Otto Link mouthpieces I have and it does look and feel higher than a typical hard rubber Otto Link beak to my eyes.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The .105 tip opening felt very comfortable to me and the mouthpiece had an overtone rich tone that is thick and full sounding in my opinion. The tone leans to the darker side of a tenor saxophone tone in my opinion.  The low notes are lush and thick sounding with lots of character.  The high notes are also full and round sounding.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed playing the Phil-Tone Orion tenor sax mouthpiece.  I am listening back to the sound clips even as I type these thoughts, and I think the Orion has a unique tone and richness of character that makes it a joy to play as well as listen to in my mind.

Like the Orion alto sax mouthpiece, the Orion tenor sax mouthpiece seemed to have a lightness of tone to me.  I am not sure why I get that impression but I just feel like the tone is more light sounding than heavy sounding to my ears.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Chamber

The Phil-Tone Orion’s chamber and straight sidewalls seems to give it a rich focus of tone that isn’t as spread sounding as some hard rubber Otto Links I have played throughout the years.  My experience has been that the added focus in a sax tone can really add to the definition of the sound when played in a big room or into a microphone.

The Orion tenor sax mouthpiece played smoothly and evenly throughout the range of the horn and the intonation was excellent.  The articulation was clean and efficient also.

I would say the Orion tenor sax mouthpiece was similar in volume to the Orion alto sax mouthpiece in that I would rate at about a 7 if I was to rate it 1-10 as far as volume. It does get a little brighter when really pushed but, as you can hear in the sound clips, I tended to lay back a bit and stick to jazz lines and melodies. I did play my usually Moose the Mooche and Donna Lee melodies so you can hear how the Orion might compare to my other tenor mouthpiece clips.

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As is my habit, I have included a sound clip below of the Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece recorded dry with no effects, as well as the same sound clip with reverb added so you can hear how it might sound with reverb.

Phil has told me that he has created the Phil-Tone Orion to be a great playing tenor saxophone mouthpiece at a great price.  I would have no reservations in suggesting this mouthpiece to a tenor sax student, whether young or old, who was looking to step up to a more professional mouthpiece.  In the past, I have suggested Otto Link mouthpieces for tenor sax students but the Orion is in that same price range while giving the student a different direction and unique sound in my opinion.

If you like the clips below and the Phil-Tone Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece interests you, contact Phil Engleman via his website at Phil-tone.com.   Phil is very knowledgeable about sax mouthpieces and will answer any questions you might have about the Orion or any of his other mouthpiece models.  Thanks for letting me try the Orion tenor saxophone mouthpiece Phil!

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed-No Effects Added

Phil-Tone Orion 7* Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed-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. 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. Of the two I definitely prefer the tenor version to the alto, but both are great. I get a nice Gene Ammons sound (with a strong hint of Dexter) on mine with a Fibracell and a Rovner Dark. Great pieces, and great reviews!

  2. Avatar Giuseppe C. says

    I went on you tube to listen to Ammons and Stitt: truly this mouthpiece recalls the sound of Ammons.
    Very good mouthpiece!
    Giuseppe.

  3. Avatar Dan Hitchcock says

    I love the sound you are getting on this one! Very full and balanced. One thing I have noticed for myself with smaller/medium chamber type pieces (selmer soloist or brilhart) is that they record very well with a close mic, but sometimes the sound isn’t as big in person or doesn’t fill up the room the same way an otto link-type piece does… any thoughts on this? I think this may be what you are talking about with the “focus” thing.

  4. Dan, Yeah, I agree with you. That’s why I described it as a 7 for volume. I also feel that when I have played a Meyer tenor mouthpiece in the past. They don’t have as big a sound as an Otto Link can have because they have a more medium chamber. I feel like with a focused piece the sound comes out of the bell and takes a straight line to the corner of the room I’m facing. An Otto Link with a big sound feels like the sound comes out of the sax and just disperses to every corner of the room at the same time. Many times, in a big room, that dispersion of sound kind of lacks clarity or definition to my ears. I tend to like a more focused tenor sound I think, so I tend to lean towards Otto Links with the ability to be more focused.

  5. Avatar Bob Rockwell says

    I might have to go there Steve. I have played several Brilharts on Conn tenors and really enjoyed the results. The only reason I stopped was because the sound while fantastic, was dictating my ideas. But I am really tempted. I sold all of the Brilharts for a lot of money. This is affordable and I am sure of the quality. I think maybe the resin is closer to the material of the Brilharts with the exception of the ebonite pieces like Zoot played. Thank you again for your wonderful contribution the world of saxophone playing!

  6. I might have to go there Steve. I have played several Brilharts on Conn tenors and really enjoyed the results. The only reason I stopped was because the sound while fantastic, was dictating my ideas. But I am really tempted. I sold all of the Brilharts for a lot of money. This is affordable and I am sure of the quality. I think maybe the resin is closer to the material of the Brilharts with the exception of the ebonite pieces like Zoot played. Thank you again for your wonderful contribution the world of saxophone playing!

    I have felt the same way about Selmer Soloist tenor sax mouthpieces. I have loved the way they played and the tone but I always felt like once I was playing one, that I was trapped into that certain sound and vibe. I have ended up selling every one I have owned even though I have loved the sound very much. I don’t like to feel trapped into a corner especially when sound is concerned……

  7. Avatar Bob Rockwell says

    Hi Steve, I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has had that feeling.

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