Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing the Durga 5 gold tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by Theo Wanne.  Last year, I reviewed Theo Wanne’s darkest tenor saxophone mouthpiece which is the Ambika 3 (Ambika 3 Review), as well as Theo Wanne’s brightest tenor saxophone mouthpiece called the Shiva 3 (Shiva 3 Review).

The Durga 5 is ranked second in brightness next to the Shiva 3 tenor sax mouthpiece but being second in this case does not imply that it is in any way inferior to the Shiva 3 because, as Theo describes it,  “No other mouthpiece in history has been designed like this; it will blow you away since it can both scream and play a soft ballad. It is so much fun to play! Its huge sound makes everything before it sound thin and/or stuffy by comparison.” 

Granted, Theo Wanne is probably a bit biased about his own mouthpieces, but I’m looking forward to playing this Durga 5 and forming my own opinion about it……….

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Durga 5 tenor sax mouthpiece was shipped with the usual high standards of the Theo Wanne mouthpiece company.  Each sax mouthpiece comes in a perfectly designed box with stylish gold printing on it with all the details about the sax mouthpiece inside.  Inside the box is a beautiful black leatherette Theo Wanne mouthpiece case with the Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece well protected inside. The Durga 5 tenor sax mouthpiece I am reviewing today has an 8 tip opening which is measured at .110.

The Durga 5 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 Durga 5  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 Durga 5 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 in the future.

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As you can see above, the Liberty ligature on the Gold Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is connected to the mouthpiece through screws on the ligature that tighten into holes on the sides of the Durga 5 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.

The Durga 5 tenor sax mouthpiece has five positions (holes) that can be used to adjust the ligature.  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.

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Even before you look at the Theo Wanne Durga 5 mouthpiece itself, 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 Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece:

“The DURGA 5 tenor mouthpiece has a fuller, richer, and more expressive sound. It is powerful and warm sounding simultaneously with an added core and thickness to the sound.  The sound is just downright sexy!

The DURGA 5 mouthpiece does everything the DURGA 4 mouthpiece did, just better.  Indeed this was our intention, as the DURGA has become a classic in the saxophone world and we didn’t want to change the base sound signature. We just refined it by adding a fullness/core to the sound.   

The secret to the DURGA 5 comes from Theo’s latest research and development, which has centered around updating the unique DURGA baffle with a very special chamber called the Medium-Stadium-Chamber™. This new chamber is completely new, and works with the physics principle of ‘boundary layer effect’ much like a golf ball’s dimples. This allows the mouthpiece to get all the benefits of our True Large Chamber AND the extra core of a smaller chamber at the same time.

No other mouthpiece in history has been designed like this; it will blow you away since it can both scream and play a soft ballad. It is so much fun to play! Its huge sound makes everything before it sound thin and/or stuffy by comparison.”-Theo Wanne Website

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The DURGA tenor is also being used on tour with Marcus Anderson (Prince), Adrian Crutchfield (Bette Midler), Tim Izo Orindgreff (Black Eyed Peas), Mark Douthit (Elton John) and by such Superstars such as Dino Soldo!  The DURGA 5 has evolved from the DURGA 1, 2, 3 and 4 with more fullness and core to the sound, extending the dynamic range of your horn, and a greater sense of ‘freedom of expression’.

SOUND

  • Great for Jazz, R&B, and Rock & Roll.
  • Projects a sensual tone that is flirtatious and erotic. It makes everyone want to dance!
  • It is so unique; it really has to be played to be understood and believed.

DESIGN

  • Radical proprietary Medium-Stadium-Chamber™.
  • Rounded inner side walls all the way to the tip. Uniquely shaped long step 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! Like the case?  See our other Mouthpiece and Reed Cases here!
  • Serial Number: Includes serial number showing care given to your mouthpiece.
  • Plating: Reticulated 24K Gold plating with highlights on logo.
  • Ligature: The metal DURGA 5 includes our integrated two-point contact 24K Gold Plated Liberty Ligature and Alive Gold pressure plate.  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 Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Durga 5 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.  On the top of the body of the Durga 5 is engraved the face of perhaps a mouthpiece “god” of some sort or maybe a person that Theo is especially fond of? (he does describe the Durga 5 as sexy, flirtatious and erotic in the descriptions above) Only Theo knows the answer to that……

Each Theo Wanne 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 of the Durga 5 tenor sax mouthpiece are scooped out a little more than the Shiva 3 (the Shiva 3 sidewalls were straight until the end of the 1 inch baffle and then were scooped out after that) as they head towards what I would describe as a medium sized chamber.

The mouthpiece chamber is slightly bigger in diameter than the bore of the mouthpiece and the bottom floor of the chamber looks to be scooped out to make it a little bit lower than the bore.  Although the end of the chamber is lower than the bore, the floor of the chamber is a continuation of the baffle traveling through the chamber at an angle which is part of what makes this more of a medium chambered tenor sax mouthpiece.   The roof of the chamber is nice and thin.

The Durga 5 mouthpiece baffle is a high baffle as you can see in the photos above.  The first 7/8 inch of shelf baffle (the Shiva 3 shelf baffle is 1/8 of an inch longer) is high, slightly angled and flat.  I don’t see any rollover or curve to the baffle at all.  After the high shelf baffle, the baffle meets a straight edge and then descends at a greater angle until it reaches a scooped out edge where the chamber starts.

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Theo Wanne Durga 5 played incredibly well with the first tenor reed I put on it.  That was a Vandoren Green Java 2 1/2 tenor saxophone reed.

The first detail that struck me as I blew some air into the Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece was how powerful the Durga 5 mouthpiece was.  I was blowing a fraction of the air I usually play with and the Durga 5 was already playing at a substantial volume level.  Like the Shiva 3 review where I said that that mouthpiece went to 14 on the volume scale of 1-10, the Durga 5 is in that ballpark as well.  This mouthpiece just wails when you push it!  You do not have to be afraid of not being heard or noticed with this Durga 5 sax mouthpiece on your tenor saxophone that is for sure!

As you can already probably tell from the photos of the baffle, the Durga 5 tenor mouthpiece comes with some built in brightness thanks to that high baffle in it.  This brightness of tone is most easily heard in the upper register of the saxophone when I listen to the clips.    From the very first note, it just had a very “in your face” bright and powerful sound.  The tone is focused, concentrated and on the bright side of the tenor saxophone sound while still having a fat roundness to the tone.   Definitely in that category of Michael Brecker, Bob Berg and Tom Scott type of wailin’ tenor saxophone tone.

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Durga 5 tenor sax mouthpiece was fatter and rounder in tone compared to the Shiva 3 sax mouthpiece which had more brightness and edge to the tone.  The tone of the Durga 5 still was smooth and even through the range of the saxophone but where I described the Shiva 3 as being like a laserbeam of brightness and edge, the Durga 5 has more of a fatness to the tone that evens out the brightness and lessens the edge.

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The intonation on the Theo Wanne Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece was great in my opinion.   I make sure to check intonation with any high baffle mouthpieces I try because sometimes they can throw the different octaves of the saxophone way out of wack with the upper register being really sharp.  The Durga 5 tenor mouthpiece was within normal limits and expectations as far as intonation.

I will say that to play in tune on the Durga 5 tenor mouthpiece, the mouthpiece had to sit a bit further out on the cork (about 3/4 inch to 1 inch on the cork) than most mouthpiece I have reviewed.

The low notes were thick and full and sounded great when subtoned.  The altissimo range was easy to produce and the notes in that higher range of the saxophone just popped out really easily while still being fat and round sounding. This ease of altissimo playing made it easier to try some different lines up in that register than I usually play.

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Mouthpiece (Right) Next to a Shiva 3 Mouthpiece (Left)

On the two 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 Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece performs in different styles with two different reeds (Vandoren Green Java 2 1/2 reed and BSS 2 1/2 reed).  I demonstrate the sound of the Durga 5 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.

Each sound clip was recorded dry (without effects) but I also posted each clip with reverb added to the recording.  I personally like the clips with reverb just because of how it fattens up the tone a bit but even if you listen to the dry clips (no reverb) I think you will agree that the tone sounds fat, full and thick. This fullness of tone is so important on brighter mouthpieces to allow them to still sound beautiful and nice to listen to.  At least that is my opinion.  On a gig, I would certainly add some reverb to the sax depending on what kind of room I was playing in.

Three Theo Wanne Mouthpieces Side by Side. From Left to Right-Gaia 4, Durga 5 and Shiva 3

In my opinion, the Theo Wanne Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is a terrific metal tenor saxophone mouthpiece for those looking for a modern, bright, focused, incredibly powerful tenor sax tone along the lines of a Michael Brecker & Lenny Pickett kind of vibe.  Although the tone is bright and powerful, it still sounds fat and full sounding throughout the range of the saxophone.

On the Theo Wanne Shiva 3 tenor sax mouthpiece review I stated that I probably wouldn’t use the Shiva 3 mouthpiece on a straight ahead jazz gig, cocktail hour or private lesson because of it’s brightness and sheer volume and power when pushed.  The Durga 5 scales back that brightness, volume and edge just enough that I might actually use this mouthpiece on a jazz gig.  It would be more of a Michael Brecker playing Confirmation, ‘Round Midnight and Impression kind of  saxophone tone on that gig but sometimes, that is cool in my opinion.

On a funk gig or Top 40 gig, the Durga 5 would totally smoke.  I really dug this mouthpiece.  It nails the whole “focused but fat” brighter tenor sound that I was chasing after back in the 90’s and could never find a mouthpiece to give me.  I think Theo hit it out of the park with the design for this Durga 5 tenor mouthpiece.  Well done Theo Wanne!

Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the sound and look of the Durga 5 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 Durga 5 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, articles and transcriptions coming to you…..).

If you are lucky enough to play a Theo Wanne Durga 5 tenor saxophone mouthpiece or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Thanks,   Steve

Clip 1-Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Vandoren Green Java 2 1/2 Reed-Reverb Added

Clip 1-Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Vandoren Green Java 2 1/2 Reed-Dry Recording (No Reverb)

Clip 2-Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-BSS (Boston Sax Shop) 2 1/2 Reed-Reverb Added

Clip 2-Theo Wanne Durga 5 Gold Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-BSS (Boston Sax Shop) 2 1/2 Reed-Dry Recording (No Reverb)

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. Avatar Mark Rybiski says

    The names of Theo Wanne mouthpieces are derived from Hindu deities, Indian based. Durga, the wife of Shiva is a warrior goddess who represents the empowering and protective nature of motherhood. In Hinduism, Durga (Parvati) represents both the feminine aspect and the shakti (energy/power) of the One God (The Brahman) as well as the empowering and protective nature of motherhood. From her forehead sprang Kali, a goddess whose name translates to the feminine form of Mahakal, meaning time; a more literal translation of her name being “the creator or doer of time.” Gaia has another face. It has been revealed most fully in India. It is there given the name of Kali-Durga, consort of Shiva, the goddess who both gives and destroys life.

  2. Really love your tenor tone on this mouthpiece. If I played more tenor, I’d pick one up. K

  3. Avatar Svend pedersen says

    I wonder what the differences are between the Durga3 and the Durga5?

    Svend

    • I don’t know, I don’t think I have tried any of the previous Durga models as I don’t see any past reviews on my site.

    • The Durga 3 is a little darker than the 5, but the biggest difference is the amount of core in the tone. This comes in the change of the chamber shape from a large chamber design they Theo called a power ring to the newer stadium chamber. The new chamber found in the Gaia 4 and Durga 5 gives both pieces more core than their predecessors. The change from the Durga 3 to 4 was basically refining of the design, but the Durga 5 is a massive change that is way more noticeable.

      • Thanks for the information Jacob. I’m sure this will help those who are wondering about the differences between the various versions.

  4. Avatar Mats Granath says

    Great review! And also a great sounding mouthpiece. But I’m very curious on the Gaia 4.. is it coming up soon?

    • I am planning on doing it soon but I also have a ton of other pieces to do. I got a little burned out on the tenor reviews and am switching it up with a few soprano and alto mouthpiece reviews and then I plan on jumping back into the tenor reviews.

  5. Avatar Phuong Nguyen says

    FYI. Ambika, Durga and Shiva (as well as Brahma, Datta, Amma – discontinued models) are all Hindu gods and goddesses. Theo Wanne has a great love for Hiduism I believe. Even his company’s logo is a Sanskrit word (I don’t know/can’t remember what it means).

    The invincible Durga is the wife of lord Shiva. She has 108 names in Hinduism and Ambika is also one of that (very confusing).

  6. I’m trialing a DURGA 5 7*, so far I’m digging it a bunch. I’m resigning myself to going with more baffle since most of my gigs are horn section commercial gigs. My days of trying to be a straight ahead jazz guy are waining. The GAIA 3 is still great but so far the Durga is just all around easier to play.

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