Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing the Ambika 3 7* gold tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by Theo Wanne.  I reviewed the first version of the hard rubber Theo Wanne Ambika tenor saxophone mouthpiece over ten years ago when it first came out and am excited to be able to now review this new third version of the Theo Wanne Ambika 3 metal tenor saxophone mouthpiece for you as well. (I can’t believe I have been reviewing saxophone mouthpieces for 15 years now! Wow!)

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Ambika line of Theo Wanne mouthpieces are advertised as Theo Wanne’s darkest and warmest metal tenor saxophone mouthpieces.  I reviewed the Theo Wanne Gaia 3 metal tenor saxophone mouthpiece in 2019 which I really loved also and have been curious about this metal Ambika 3 model tenor saxophone mouthpiece as well since it is described as being darker than the Gaia 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece.

The Theo Wanne Ambika 3 tenor sax mouthpiece was 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 about the mouthpiece inside.  Inside the box is a beautiful leatherette Theo Wanne mouthpiece case with the Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece well protected inside.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Ambika 3 metal tenor sax mouthpiece has a built in ligature included called the “Liberty Ligature” that is already attached to the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece comes with a detailed information card with specific directions on how to adjust the built in ligature, the affects on the saxophone tone when the ligature is in different positions and directions on how to change the pressure plates on the ligature.

The Ambika 3 tenor mouthpiece comes 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 Ambika 3 tenor mouthpiece does not come with a “regular” mouthpiece cap that you slide on the mouthpiece over the reed and around the ligature. At the time of this review, there is a page on the Theo Wanne website that has new Theo Wanne mouthpiece caps for sale so hopefully he will start including these with his mouthpieces.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As you can see above, the Liberty ligature on the Gold Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is connected to the mouthpiece through screws on the ligature that tighten into holes on the sides of the Ambika 3 mouthpiece.  The mouthpiece comes with a hex screwdriver that can be used to loosen these screws and move the ligature forward or backwards in relation to the reed and mouthpiece table.

I personally liked the ligature in the middle hole setting as it puts the ligature plate towards the rear of the saxophone reed allowing the reed to vibrate and flex freely but not so far back that I feel it might not put enough pressure on the reed to seal.  I did experiment with the ligature up closer towards the reed tip but felt like the middle hole placement was the best for me.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Even before you look at the Theo Wanne 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 Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece:

The AMBIKA 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is our darkest mouthpiece. It has a deep, hauntingly gorgeous tone that only poetry can describe.

“The AMBIKA is WAY beyond the vintage mouthpieces.  I was playing a vintage link for 20 years, but no more!” – Pat Rizzo (WAR, Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Sinatra)

“The AMBIKA is the only mouthpiece I’ll now use!  I can approximate an ol’ school Coleman Hawkins/ Sam Butera sound AND a modern Michael Brecker/ Lenny Pickett sound by just by adjusting my embouchure.” – Karl Hunter (Big Bad Voodoo Daddy)

The AMBIKA 3 has a full bodied sound reminiscent of the vintage 1940’s mouthpieces, but with much improved projection, ease of play, and dynamics.

The Shark Gill Baffle™ works on the physics principle of ‘boundary layer effect’ pulling the airstream closer to the floor.   This allows one to ‘fill’ the mouthpiece more, resulting in increased dynamics.  The True Large Chamber is far more accurately produced than any other vintage and new mouthpieces due to our superior machining, which means the design is EXACTLY what Theo intended it to be, not just an approximation.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Metal AMBIKA 3 is plated with 24K gold with Vintified Ligature.  The Hard Rubber AMBIKA uses real vintage style hard rubber just like the vintage mouthpieces of the 1940s-50s, and its new thin body allows the premium hard rubber to fully resonate, giving quite a fantastic sound.  If you like the vintage sound, you will love the AMBIKA 3.  The AMBIKA 3 has an even bigger, fuller sound than the AMBIKA 1 or 2, and greatly increased dynamics and sense of expression.

SOUND 

  • Built to outplay Theo’s very best Vintage New York Tone Master  and Master Link Otto Link. Theo succeeded!!!
  • A deep and haunting sound best left to poetry. Hauntingly dark!
  • Revolutionary in improving upon the true vintage sound!

DESIGN

  • Revolutionary Extra Large True Large Chamber, NO baffle, and rounded inner side walls.
  • 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! Like the case?  See our other Mouthpiece and Reed Cases here!
  • Finish: Reticulated 24K Gold with highlights on logo (standard), and Vintified (special order).
  • Serial Number: Includes specific serial number showing care given to your mouthpiece.
  • Premium Hard Rubber:  The Hard Rubber AMBIKA 3 uses the finest vintage style hard rubber on the planet!
  • Ligatures: The metal AMBIKA 3 includes our integrated two-point contact 24K Gold Plated Liberty Ligature and Alive Gold pressure plate.   We recommend the Enlightened Ligature for the Hard Rubber AMBIKA.  To truly individualize your sound, try our Premium Pressure Plates, which fit all of our mouthpieces and ligatures!
  • Cap: Reed Replacer Cap. The most secure cap in the world.
  • Bite Pad: Our 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 Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece 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 as they head towards what I would describe as an extra large chamber although the very beginning of the sidewalls are straight and form a triangle before the scoop starts.  (You can see this “straight sidewall triangle” near the tip in the photo below).

The mouthpiece chamber is bigger in diameter than the bore of the mouthpiece and the bottom floor of the chamber looks to be scooped out starting where the baffle terminates.

The Ambika 3 mouthpiece baffle is described as “no baffle” by Theo Wanne in his description but I wouldn’t describe it as “no baffle” just because the height of it could be lowered.  I guess I would describe it as a “low baffle”.   There is no rollover baffle at the tip that I can see with my eye and the baffle looks to head straight down to where it terminates with a curve at the beginning of the extra large mouthpiece chamber.  The baffle looks to have a slight side to side curve to it.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The new Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece has a new baffle design with what Theo Wanne calls a “Shark Gill Baffle”.  You can see these lines in the picture above.

Here is Theo Wanne’s take on the Ambika 3 Shark Gill Baffle in his own words on SOTW (Sax on the Web):

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  

Note:  I have no idea what Theo is talking about in his description of the shark-gill baffle above but I have enough respect for his knowledge that I will trust his opinion of this feature even though I am a bit skeptical by nature.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Ambika 3 played great with an Ishimori Woodstone 3 1/2 tenor saxophone reed.  Actually, I liked the way it played so much with the Woodstone tenor reed, that I didn’t try any other reeds on the Ambika 3 tenor sax mouthpiece.  The tip shape of the Ambika 3 mouthpiece matched the tip shape of the Woodstone reed perfectly and the 3 1/2 reed was the perfect strength for the 7* (.105) tip opening in my opinion.

The Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece was indeed on the darker side of the tenor saxophone tone spectrum.  From the very first note it just had a very warm, dark and full bodied tenor saxophone sound to it.  I loved the thick richness of the husky tenor sax tone which was very even and full from the bottom of the saxophone and up into the palm keys.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Ambika 3 tenor sax mouthpiece also had a nice core focus to the dark tone.  I find that many darker tenor saxophone mouthpieces have a more spread and diffused tone to them but the Ambika still has a nice focused roundness to it’s tone that I really loved.

The Ambika 3 tenor sax mouthpiece is probably a 7-8 on my 1-10 volume scale.  It gets a descent amount of volume but because the tone lacks the brightness and volume of a higher baffled mouthpiece I would give it a 7-8.  Also keep in mind that the mouthpiece I played before the Ambika 3 mouthpiece was the Theo Wanne Shiva 3 which is probably one of the loudest most powerful mouthpieces I have ever played.  That review will be following shortly……..

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The intonation on the Theo Wanne Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is excellent.  Many of the notes that I find sharp on my Selmer SBA tenor saxophone were close to perfectly in-tune when I looked down at my tuner while warming up with the Ambika 3 mouthpiece.  I was quite surprised by how in-tune it was.

The low notes were thick and lush and so beautiful sounding that I really didn’t want to even use the subtone effect to soften them.  The altissimo range was easy to produce and the notes in that higher range of the saxophone were round and sweet sounding.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

On the sound clip below, I try to give a good range and variety of saxophone sounds and textures so that you can hear how the Theo Wanne Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece performs in different styles.  I find the clip below interesting to listen to just because of the absence of brightness and edge in the recording as you listen.  Of course, it is not 100% absent but it struck me as I listened to the recording how much reduced the brightness is compared to other saxophone sound clips I have recorded.

I demonstrate the sound of the Ambika 3 tenor mouthpiece with all my usual lines and melodies so if you want to compare it to my other sound clips and reviews, you should be able to find many of the same lines to compare this sound clip to.

Theo Wanne Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

In my opinion, the Theo Wanne Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is a great metal tenor saxophone mouthpiece for those looking for a warm, dark mouthpiece for jazz playing.  In one of the quotes above, Karl Hunter writes that he can morph into a Michael Brecker/Lenny Pickett vibe on the Ambika 3 tenor sax mouthpiece.  I personally found the Ambika 3 too dark for the Brecker/Pickett vibe for me, but I did get a cool Dexter Gordon kind of vibe at times which I totally dug.

If you like the sound and look of the Ambika 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece by Theo Wanne, you can find them at Theo Wanne’s website. I have agreed to be an affiliate for Theo Wanne so if you purchase a Ambika 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 Theo Wanne Ambika 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 Ambika 3 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Ishimori Woodstone 3 1/2 Reed-No Effects

Disclosure:  I borrowed the sample mouthpiece reviewed above in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. I will be sending it back after this review.  If you purchase a Theo Wanne mouthpiece through the link I provided in the review, I will receive a small commission that helps to support my work here at neffmusic.com.  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 Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Very Detxer indeed. Masculine and big. Sound great as usual!

  2. Nice warm sound and good intonation! Very Linkish. I have Wanne Mindi Abair alto 8 piece which has got excellent intonation, but is a bit too shrill and thin so I’ll probably sell it. I really don’t like this 3 point lig system Wanne uses. He could easily make it a long gully so you have the option to set the lig anywhere instead of locking you into 3 fixed positions which you can’t change while you’re on the gig. It’s a pretty stupid system in my experience with the piece. I hope he reads this and tries my concept.

    • “a long gully?” You mean like Lawton and Sugal mouthpieces have? That is a good idea. Then you could slide it and adjust it much easier………

      • Avatar Jacob Deaven says

        Theo talks a little bit about why he chose holes instead of rails like a link in this video, https://youtu.be/O706_QisQ3k. What it boils down to is with the holes you know what your getting every time at the loss of a little flexibility. It’s a personal choice, but that’s why he does it. Sorry Steve if I’m being too much of a mouthpiece for Theo. I just really dig what they have going on.

    • I play a Shiva 3 on my alto. I wouldn’t say it’s thin or shrill. It reminds me of a much better Vandoren Jumbo Java. It’s bright, but not paint peeling, very thick and has a surprisingly rich low end. I don’t know how Theo does it. It also comes in hard rubber so you can place the ligature anywhere you want. It is my favorite alto piece, and I would suggest giving it a try if you give up on the Mindi.

  3. I’m a bit of a collector when it comes to Ambikas. I have 5 of them for tenor in various materials and generations. I find the earlier versions to be darker and give almost a hollow sound that I really enjoy, but they come at a loss of projection and refinement you find in the later versions. I can tell you as someone who played just about all of them, the current model 3 will be most people’s piece of cake who like dark mouthpieces. The tuning is spot on, dynamics are fantastic at any tip opening, the projection stands up well to other modern pieces, but it still maintains a really dark rich sound. I think for someone who wants that NY Link sound will be really happy on this piece. I will also say, there is usually a tendency to go with smaller tip openings on darker pieces. I personally really like these at an 8 or 8*. I find that the larger tip really helps with the projection but also really unlocks some really nice dynamics. If you have an older Ambika it may be worth having them opened. I have a Gen 1 metal Ambika that was opened from a 7* to an 8* by Freddie Gregory, it’s a real treasure in my collection. Theo also makes an Ambika for Clarinet and Soprano. The soprano one is really something special, it made me rethink my entire soprano sound and finally take the soloist out of my case. Great review Steve!

    • Jacob, Thanks for sharing! Your knowledge as a Ambika aficionado is invaluable. I didn’t even know they had a Ambika soprano mouthpiece! I will have to check that one out as well! Thanks again. Steve

  4. Avatar Giuseppe C. says

    Hi Steve, I compared the sound of this model with that of your review of August 3, 2010, relating to the Ambika Theo Wanne in Hard Rubber first edition and, for the little that matters, I must say that, listening, I prefer the first model.
    A side by side comparison between Ambika HR 1 and HR 3 and Ambika Metal 1 and Metal 3 would still be interesting, for me!
    Giuseppe.

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