Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing the new Otto Link Early Babbitt remake connoisseur series tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by JJ Babbitt.  The Connoisseur EB (Early Babbitt) tenor saxophone mouthpieces are advertised as being from the same molds as the original hard rubber Otto Link Early Babbitt tenor sax mouthpieces as described in this quote from the JJ Babbitt website:

“This EB (Early Babbitt) model is not redesigned, not retooled, and not reimagined in any way. Made from our own original compounded rubber, molded in the original molds and cores, vulcanized to the original specifications and manually machined and hand finished just as they were from 1975 to 1979, these are true Early Babbitt tenors. Your search is over…….”

I have played quite a few hard rubber Early Babbitt tenor saxophone mouthpieces over the years and am very excited to try one of these new hard rubber Otto Link Connoisseur Early Babbitt tenor saxophone mouthpieces out!

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The hard rubber Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt mouthpieces that were made in the 70’s were known for having a bit more baffle than the previous Otto Link Slant Signature hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpieces.  I have heard people say that this extra rollover baffle was added to compete with the electronic instruments being used in the 70’s.  The added baffle in the original Early Babbitt tenor sax mouthpieces gave more brightness and power to the sound so that you could perhaps hear yourself and be heard over the many electronic instruments being played in the 70’s.

The Otto Link Early Babbitt tenor saxophone mouthpieces I have played have indeed been louder and brighter than the Otto Link Slant Signature models and replicas I have tried over the years.  Usually, I have found these Early Babbitt tenor mouthpieces to be great examples of hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces that could sound great on a jazz gig but also rip a respectable solo on a pop or funk gig when pushed because of their added power and brightness.

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I received the 7* Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor saxophone mouthpiece directly from JJ Babbitt along with two of the NY Meyer Brothers Connoisseur alto saxophone mouthpieces in a 7 and 8 tip opening.  All the mouthpieces were packaged well and came with metal ligatures and mouthpiece caps.

The Otto Link EB Connoisseur tenor sax mouthpiece looked like you would expect a hard rubber Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece to look.  There is a scroll band that circles the body of the mouthpiece and the top of the mouthpiece has “Otto Link” and “Tone Edge EB” engraved into the hard rubber. The lettering is painted white but the white coloring on the “Otto Link” is not perfect and parts of the engraving were either not painted or the white paint flaked off somehow.  You can see this in the first photo of the review as well as the last photo.  The rest of the engraving and painting looks fine.

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is how the JJ Babbitt website describes the new Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series tenor saxophone mouthpiece:

A quick internet search tells you all you need to know about the popularity and the almost desperate desire for Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt tenor saxophone mouthpieces. If you can find them in decent, playable condition they sell for hundreds and some for well over a thousand dollars and more. The sound, personality and unmistakable performance characteristics of this incredible sax mouthpiece have been carefully studied with numerous attempts by competitors to copy it for decades. So now, let the artisans of JJ Babbitt show you how it’s done.

This EB model is not redesigned, not retooled, and not reimagined in any way. Made from our own original compounded rubber, molded in the original molds and cores, vulcanized to the original specifications and manually machined and hand finished just as they were from 1975 to 1979, these are true Early Babbitt tenors. Your search is over…

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Otto Link EB connoisseur tenor sax mouthpiece looks well made and the table, side rails and tip rail look within normal parameters to the eye.  The side rails and tip rail do look a bit wider when compared side by side with some of the other modern hand faced hard rubber mouthpieces on the market.

The tip rail is close to the shape of my Rigotti cane reeds that I use (BSS, Rigotti Gold, Roberto’s Winds, Syos reeds are all Rigotti cane reeds) but the Rigotti cane reed shape curves at a sharper decline on the outside edges than the curve of the tip rail on the Otto Link EB Connoisseur tenor sax mouthpieces. All the reeds I used for this review sealed well when performing the suction test and played great for me.

As you can see in the photo below, the baffle of the Otto Link EB Connoisseur tenor mouthpiece looks to be a bit lopsided in shape.  I have to believe this is either part of the original mold or something to do with the manufacturing process. My original Otto Link Early Babbitt tenor mouthpiece from the 70’s also has a similar lopsided baffle and many of the Otto Link EB hard rubber mouthpieces I have seen and played through the years have had lopsided baffle shapes also.  In my mind, this is really no big deal as my main focus is how a mouthpiece plays.  I have played many mouthpieces with lopsided baffles and irregular chambers that have played great and many other mouthpieces that looked as perfectly balanced and symmetrical as can be, that didn’t work for me at all.  For me, the most important aspect of any mouthpiece, is how it plays!!!

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The baffle of the Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor sax mouthpiece is what I would consider a medium baffle height.  It travels a little less than 1/4 of an inch and then hits that lopsided curved lake in the baffle where the baffle then proceeds to head at a greater angle towards the rear of the mouthpiece chamber. The entire run of the baffle after the curved lake is curved from side to side.  The mouthpiece side walls are scooped out as they head towards the chamber as well.

The mouthpiece chamber is what I would consider a large chamber and the bottom floor of the chamber looks to be scooped out slightly when the light hits it at the right angle.   The chamber is a little bit larger than the diameter of the bore of the mouthpiece.  The roof of the chamber is a medium thickness.

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur 7* tenor saxophone mouthpiece played great with a variety of reeds.   For the sound clips below, I used a Rigotti Gold 3 medium reed, a Roberto’s Winds 3 soft reed and a Roberto’s Winds 2 1/2 hard reed.  My favorite reed for this mouthpiece was the Rigotti Gold 3 medium reed which just had the perfect balance of being comfortable to blow yet with a perfect resistance but I have to say that after listening to the sound clips, that the Roberto’s Winds reed sound clips sound pretty darn good as well.

I have posted one long clip of the Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur mouthpiece with the Rigotti Gold 3 medium reed and then posted three altissimo clips with all three reeds just because I found the difference between the different reeds interesting.

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor mouthpiece played with a thick depth of tone that I loved.  When pushed, it got considerably brighter and at time edgy but the tone still remained thick and full in my opinion.  I have included altissimo clips with each reed I used and although I was pushing the Otto Link EB Connoisseur mouthpiece quite a bit, I was no where near pushing it to full volume.

This new Otto Link EB tenor mouthpiece has tons of power when pushed in my opinion.  I really feel like JJ Babbitt did a great job with the baffle height and profile because this new EB tenor mouthpiece really can straddle that line between a respectable jazz tenor sound and a in your face Brecker kind of sound when really pushed.

The intonation on the Otto Link EB Connoisseur tenor mouthpiece was very good. The altissimo range of the saxophone was easy to achieve and get around in.  I think the higher baffle really does make it easier to get the altissimo notes as I surprised myself by playing some lines and licks up in that range that I normally don’t play.

The biggest surprise was how much easier altissimo G was with this mouthpiece.  Usually, I have to work a little harder for that G to speak clearly and this Otto Link EB Connoisseur mouthpiece just helped me get around that altissimo G with much less work on my part, which was nice.

The low notes were full and thick and sub-toned beautifully.  At full volume, the low notes sounded thick and full of character and while sub-toning they had a beautiful velvety quality to the thick tone that was so lush.

The one other important aspect that I want to write about is “focus”.  I have found over the years that if a mouthpiece is too spread in tone then it won’t work for me in a loud pop or funky kind of gig.  It could be the loudest and brightest saxophone tone to ever exist, but if it isn’t focused in tone, I will have trouble.  Even with a microphone and monitor, I have always had trouble with mouthpieces with a spread sounding tone in those environments. I need a certain amount of focus to the tone for it to get back to my ear as a distinct focused sound that I can hear clearly through the mix of the band.

I can’t say definitively without playing this mouthpiece on a live gig, but the Otto Link EB Connoisseur series mouthpiece seems to have enough focus when pushed in my opinion.  It felt like the more I pushed the EB Connoisseur mouthpiece, the brighter and more focused the tone would become.  Again,  I can’t say for sure without playing it on a gig but my subjective opinion playing it here in my house is that the Otto Link Tone Edge EB tenor sax mouthpiece could hold it’s own on one of those incredibly loud gigs……….

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

In my opinion, the Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor saxophone mouthpiece is a great hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece for those looking for a classic Early Babbitt Otto Link kind of tenor sax sound that can be full and thick with character but pushed to be pretty darn bright and powerful when needed.

I will say that as I tried the Otto Link EB Connoisseur tenor mouthpiece for this review, I imagined being able to try this mouthpiece back in the 90’s when I was searching for a tenor sax mouthpiece.   I would have been incredibly excited to try an Otto Link hard rubber mouthpiece like this back then!  This mouthpiece is very different than the many Otto Link hard rubber tenor sax mouthpieces I tried out in the 90’s and 2000’s that is for sure.  Otto Link did a great job with this new Connoisseur series Early Babbitt tenor saxophone mouthpiece!

If you like the sound and look of the Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor saxophone mouthpiece by JJ Babbitt, you can find them for sale at Sweetwater. I have agreed to be an affiliate for Sweetwater so if you purchase an Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor 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…..). Sweetwater even offers the option to pay in three installments as well which is nice.

If you are lucky enough to play an Otto Link Early Babbitt Connoisseur tenor saxophone mouthpiece or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.  Thanks,   Steve

Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed 

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece – Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed

 

Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed-Altissimo with Reverb

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece – Rigotti Gold 3 Medium Reed-Altissimo with Reverb

 

Roberto’s Winds 3 Soft Reed-Altissimo with Reverb 

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece – Roberto’s Winds 3 Soft Reed-Altissimo Reverb

 

Roberto’s Winds 2 1/2 Hard Reed-Altissimo with Reverb 

Otto Link Tone Edge Early Babbitt Connoisseur Series Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece – Roberto’s Winds 2 1/2 Hard Reed-Altissimo with Reverb

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 link provided in this review 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
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 Benjamin Allen says

    Steve,
    You find a way to bring out the best qualities of each mouthpiece you review. It’s really nice to hear. Your playing and ability to control a piece are amazing.
    Best,
    Ben

    • Thanks, Ben. I appreciate that. Truth is, I work very hard at trying to get the best I can out of each mouthpiece I review. I usually don’t just slap a reed on it and record but try to spend a good amount of time with each mouthpiece. I always appreciate you encouraging posts and comments.

  2. Avatar Marjorie L. Black says

    Obvious question (perhaps too obvious): how does this new “original” mouthpiece compare to your ORIGINAL ORIGINAL version?

    • When I wrote “original”, I meant an Early Babbitt mouthpiece from the 70’s. BUT, my Otto Link EB mouthpiece has been refaced 4 times so I can’t claim it as original anymore…..

  3. It’s great that it sounds like JJ Babbitt is making the effort to bring back well-crafted mouthpieces. Makes me happy since those old Links and Meyers set the standard so many years ago. Nice review of this Link, look forward to your write-up of the Meyers.

  4. Avatar Douglas Schmidt says

    I don’t understand why a reputable mouthpiece (Otto Link) manufacturer would send a piece with uneven finishing for public review. Maybe they didn’t notice the inconsistency in the baffle shape. At least it didn’t have an impact on your performance. Very nice tone quality. Thanks for all of your work, it’s really encouraging.

    • Douglas, I can’t answer for Otto Link, but my guess is that the unevenness of the baffle doesn’t matter. I just looked through all of my favorite hard rubber mouthpieces with rollover baffles and they are all a little lopsided and some are a lot lopsided. When you are making a mouthpiece with CNC and it has a shelf or bullet baffle that can be exactly measured, that is one thing, but a rollover baffle that is hand faced is so subjective. I asked a mouthpiece maker about a crooked baffle on a mouthpiece he sent me once and he replied that he stops working on a mouthpiece when he plays it and it plays great. He doesn’t want to mess with it after that because often he will lose the greatness by trying to make it visually perfect. I agree with that. I have had great mouthpieces refaced to be made perfect looking and according to measurements and gotten them back to find they had lost the great quality I had loved about it in the beginning. Now, if a mouthpiece plays great but is the wrong tip opening, I don’t mess with it. I will either learn to adjust to it or sell it to another player who will love how great it plays.

  5. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Thanks Steve. It’s great to know an affordable current production Babbitt could be trust worthy for both tone and also performance. You sound great on that especially I loved the tone with Roberto reeds even 2 1/2 hard but my favourite was 3 soft. I think the added mid-range tone authority on that 3 reed really balances out the highs of short rollover baffle and deep lows of Tone Edge. You are right about the tone being a perfect mix of classic jazz and modern flavour. Really liked the tone which is quite outstanding for a mass produced mouthpiece. Do you know if these are all done by machine (no human final touch, etc.)? If so, one would think if there is enough accuracy in machining (like Theo Wanne’s all computerized machining), it’s great to just pick one off the shelf and trust it to perform exactly same as any another one on the shelf!! Thanks again!

    • Thanks, Arya. The Otto Link site says:

      This EB model is not redesigned, not retooled, and not reimagined in any way. Made from our own original compounded rubber, molded in the original molds and cores, vulcanized to the original specifications and manually machined and hand finished just as they were from 1975 to 1979

      So it sounds like there is some hand finishing involved with them.

  6. Avatar Giuseppe C. says

    Hi Steve,
    a question: this model also has a smaller bore and can be pretty tight on a modern saxophone neck cork, as you wrote in your review of the New Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model, or this model is of the normal size of modern saxophone neck cork?
    Is the measurement of the tip opening indicated, from the information collected by the shopkeeper, correct for all pieces or is there a risk that it could vary, as I read in a user comment to your review of the New “Vintage” Slant Otto Link Tenor?
    Giuseppe.

    • It is tight on the neck but not excessively so in my opinion. As far as variation with tip openings go, I can’t answer that because I don’t have a bunch of these pieces come through my possession. A shop owner who tries a ton of these and measures them would be better to answer that question. The new JJ Babbitt mouthpieces I have tried have seemed within the range of what the tip opening is advertised as.

      • Avatar Giuseppe C. says

        Thanks for the information,
        it would be nice if JJ Babbitt built the Meyer Bros New York Connoisseur Series also for tenor, as for the base model, which I find very good.
        I note that, for the Connoisser series, unlike the basic series, neither the size of the chamber nor the size of the facing are indicated (for example: M6M, or medium chamber tip opening 6 medium facing), as it was reported long ago …
        On the website; now, even for the basic series, I only see indicated, for example, 6M (I don’t know if M is for medium chamber or for medium facing).
        This is a question to ask JJ, you will answer me.
        However, I am happy that my Meyer for tenor has now become a rarity, at least for how classified (M6M); my Dukoff “S”, tip opening 7, 1980s has also become a rarity: I can no longer find the S model on the Dukoff website.
        Giuseppe.

  7. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi Steve, whenever you praise a hard rubber mouthpiece with this sort of combination of warmth and focus / tone definition / core, etc. I ask myself how well this would do in comparison with the Lamberson J7. For me that mouthpiece is like a reference although I never played it but by the sound samples and also the feedback from the players (you and others) for the feel of playing it. I remember I asked the same question in my head when I heard 10mFan’s Celebration and a few other new designs. I appreciate if you comment on this comparison. Thanks a lot.

  8. Avatar Alan Klingaman says

    Hey Steve, another great review as always. I purchased several mouthpieces over the years and find your reviews helpful. My favorite piece I play now, and for a while, is a Retro Revival NY 8. It has all the volume I need and a great “hard” sound (only way to describe) and great response. Sometimes, for a back up hard rubber piece I wouldn’t mind a slightly darker sound with the same response. I’ve gone through many but they all miss that husky tone the RR delivers. Think this might be an option since you’ve played both? Thanks again. Alan

  9. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi Steve, I was thinking of your comment about tone focus and just came across the tone of Walt Weiskopf on “My Old Flame” https://open.spotify.com/track/4RdAczDZreD6n7jB64bbIe?si=mLiYyqGdRM-CFQgM2AMK3A&context=spotify%3Aplaylist%3A37i9dQZEVXbeWlRSEeIyhm
    It is really focused while I found to be actually nice too!
    He uses Otto Link STM 5* with rather a hard reed. The focus is amazing and it has similarities to the tone of John Coltrane. I was wondering have you ever deliberately used a closed tip mouthpiece with a hard reed long enough to see if you end up liking the feel and of course the focus of the tone?

    • I have tried more closed tips with harder reeds but I always feel like it is not my sound. Walt sounds great on this recording but for me, when I hear that tone in the mid-range, and the hardness of the reed, I just think it is not my sound. This is just my preference. Lot’s of guys like Bergonzi, Coltrane and Walt (there are many others, Rich Perry, Harry Allen, Ralph Moore, etc….), love playing with harder reeds and getting this type of sound. I always find it to be focused but the edges of the sound are spread if that makes sense. I picture it like the round circle of tone has a tight core but as you get to the outside perimeter of the sound you don’t have a solid line where the tone ends but a more diffused area where it fades or disperses. That’s how I hear it. I hear guys like Eric Alexander, Ralph Bowen and Michael Brecker (among others……) as having a solid line at the outside perimeter of the circle of tone. Other players have even more spread where more of the circle of tone is diffused. When I play on a harder reed, I feel like I am leaning into that type of tone with more diffused edges. I also hear more of a tone change in the middle of the saxophone around that middle D with harder reeds. I hear it on this recordings as well as with Coltrane recordings and Bergonzi recordings. Again, it’s just different and I think it sounds great, I just have never gravitated to that side of the tone spectrum. Those types of players will listen to me play and most likely think, “His reed is way too soft.” It’s funny, because every once in a while I will post a clip with a harder reed that I really don’t prefer the sound of, and I’ll get some people that totally love it where as I didn’t really dig it when I was playing or when I listened back to it. It just doesn’t feel like my sound if that makes sense but tons of people dig it.

      I will say that I use to use 3 1/2 and 4 reeds with a 7* or 8 tip opening in the 90’s. It wasn’t until after my brain tumor surgery that I started feeling like I couldn’t blow with that all out, neck puffed and face red intensity without probably hurting myself in some way. That is when I started scaling back to softer reeds………

  10. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Thanks Steve for this great spot-on explanation. I am still fan of defined boundaries like the sound of Garbarek or Brecker but also for some more laid back and slower tempo compositions found out that a bit harder reed and adding reverb creates a more mysterious character, creating almost a flute like tone. I listen to a lot of ECM Records works so I think that kind of tone is found frequently there. Sorry I totally didn’t think about relating the head pressure created by the hard reed with your head situation. I should have remembered. That totally makes sense to not use small tip and hard reed combination.

  11. Avatar Bob Rockwell says

    Super demo Steve. I bought one from Thomann, Germany, because I am in Denmark. The one I received ( 7*) had wide rails but the baffle was perfect. Played really well but i have been there already aesthetic wise in the 70´s. I also could not stop comparing the price to what i payed back then LOL. You sounded great on this.

    Bright Moments, Bob

  12. Avatar Lincoln Apeland says

    I’ve played and owned a good number of Otto Links over the years, both hard rubber and metal Super Tone Master mouthpieces. Some were vintage, a few were right out of the box. I’ve been fairly disappointed in the production and finish work in the modern Otto Links. When the NY Tenor pieces came out, I thought they were better than the standard STMs right out of the box, but not outstanding. I never tried the 100th Anniversary, but the reviews I read kind of told the same story. Same with a few other special edition Otto Links. It’s the same with other companies too. They will say they put special attention to each piece and charge more, but they never compare to pieces that you know were custom hand finished.

    But I would say this is the first time they got it right. These are not cheap, but everything has gotten more expensive. And they are less expensive than most fully hand made mouthpieces. I tried an 8, and right out of the box this is definitely in the same category as the custom hand finished pieces I’ve played. Will they all? Doubt it, but I’m impressed. I would say Steve’s description is dead accurate. It’s bright when you push it, but still had body, and plays great.

  13. Steve: The mpc sounds really nice. Personally I think you sound best on the RW 2.5H reed. The other reeds seem to hard.

    So every few years Babbitt comes out w/the latest and greatest. I wonder how the New EB compares to the “New” Vintage HR Link? That was supposed to be just like the original Slant Sig Links. Also how do the new EB HR Links compare to the Original EB Links?

    I have a 60’s vintage metal Otto Link 8* that I love. Back in those days they did not have so any sub-brands of Link.You either bought a HR Link or a metal Link and that was it.

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