Vintage Olympian Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece

After that Carney sound? Maybe your vintage horn just hasn’t given you the sound you expected. Giant chamber, steep beak profile, and closed tip. What more could you want from a vintage mouthpiece as big as two modern metal pieces. This piece is an experience all its own and surprisingly not at all as horrible as I expected.

When it comes to baseline mouthpieces I usually go hard rubber and close tip openings for students new to the baritone. Usually a Yamaha 5C with a 2 to 3 1/2 reed depending on brand and student experience levels. I feel that the 5C offers enough variety that the player can reasonably cover most school genres of music all the way into college if needed. In fact I keep a 5C along with some Vandoren 4’s just in case I need to play in a holiday ensemble, though I don’t get those call as often as I used to. On a whim I bought this vintage piece of rubber.

The first thing that caught my attention when it arrived was how heavy it was. It weighed a few ounces more than my rubber Berg and Link. This was not a surprise as the piece is over 2.5″ in diameter. On close examination I identified a decidedly older design. The piece had: wide rails, scooped side walls, a deep baffle opening to a monster chamber, and a smallish shank. The internal volume of this piece looked to be 25% larger than that of my Berg but only 10 – 15% larger than the 5C.

This large volume made itself readily heard when I strapped a hard reed to the piece and began to play. On my YBS-61 I had to push piece nearly a centimeter beyond when I would place the 5C on the neck to make the piece play in tune. As you may have guessed, the large internal volume made the piece play very flat. After warming the horn up and tuning again I was able to get pretty close to in tune but I had a hard time keeping from falling flat on low notes in soft passages.

The tone was very much what I expected when I bought it. It has a warm, introspective tone that gets thin in the upper registers. The close tip opening didn’t help em either as the tip felt closer than my C*. If I had to guess it would be in the .70 – .85″ range. This piece is hard to put a lot of air through. Projection? As they say in New York, “Forget about it!” Perhaps for a very small venue this would work but on a modern horn and for modern uses its quiet limited.

TAKE AWAY:  Short of amplifying this piece the only way you can get it to the back of the audience is if you threw it. On a vintage Conn or Buescher this mouthpiece would likely be an amazing piece but on a modern horn it’s poorly suited and visually intimidating.

Sound samples on the way

That scrap reed is to keep ligature in lace


Rico Metalite Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece


Metalite? Is it metal? Is it metal-like? What it is, is a whole  lot of mouthpiece in a small grey form.

I bought this piece because it is the most highly recommended baritone mouthpiece for people who see loud and inexpensive as a must haves in a baritone mouthpiece. I bought this one to find out what the hype was about.

First Impressions: The mouthpiece is oddly cheap feeling. If you are used to hard rubber or brass pieces then this one will feel like a child’s toy.

Ligature: I used the stock two screw ligature and a Chinese made Rovner-like ligature. I couldn’t tell the difference in tone between them.

Reed friendliness: Reeds used in play test: Rico Brancher Jazz 2.5’s, Rico Orange Box 3, Hemke (3, 2.5), Fibracell (2.5, 4), LaVoz Medium Hard, Legere 2 1/4. This piece prefered the softer Medium/2.5 – 3 reeds.

Response: With the Brancher reeds the response was immediate and percussive. Sadly the tone was buzzy with the Branchers. The Hemke’s gave a good balance between buzz, response, and tone but was not perfect. It also didn’t help that I had a rather “wet” mouth today and had to drain the horn often.

Tonal/Dynamic Flexibility: I fought this piece from the get-go to get a restrained tone. This thing wants to wail and it’s a bit of a bucking bronco to rein in. I had to be very focused on where my tongue was and of how much mouthpiece to take into my mouth. This piece can have a broad dynamic range but it is not as easy as with a Link or S-80.

Other: Give this piece an arena and it will strive to fill it with sound but if you take it into a small intimate jazz jam you may be asked to leave.

Intonation: On my modern horn it played in tune as well as my other pieces but tended to blow flat into the palm keys. I have noticed this tendency on pieces with high baffles when used on my saxophone. It may be specific to my instrument.

Take Away: This piece has the potential to ruin a quiet soiree or to give a sonic shiv to the ear drum of a volume obsessed guitar player. The choice is up to the player, but as a tool of auditory projection this mouthpiece can’t be beaten for the money. It’s cheap, loud, and not for the faint of heart. For the bari player playing mostly un-mic’d gigs this piece is just what they need.

*** UPDATE ***
After spending more time with the mouthpiece  I think it can be played with more control and at volumes slightly less annoying than a 747 at takeoff. With that said the tone and timbre of this piece isn’t as nuanced at lower volumes as you would get from a lower or more rollover type baffle. I still think it is a must have in the case of every bari player who plays live un-mic’d gigs.

Please feel free to share your comments on my post or your opinion the piece being reviewed.

*** UPDATE #2 ***

I recently got a chance to spend a lot more time with a new Metalite M9. What a difference the M9 is when compared to the M7. Reeds that played well on the M7 played great on the M9. The tone was better on the M9 and the responsive was also considerably better. All in all it’s a better piece than either M7 I had tried. Arguably the newer vintage of the M9 could mean that Rico had improved the overall quality of the mouthpiece since my last M7.  I recommend owning an M9 over the M7 if you can adapt to the larger tip opening.

Hemke reeds

I’ve read over and over again that natural reeds are failing in quality and are inconsistent within a box let alone between boxes. To test this I purchased some Hemke #4 reeds to use on my Yamaha 5C mouthpiece. This piece is my go to piece for classical practice and chamber work. I really like how dark the tone gets as well as how locked in the intonation is when pared with my YBS-61.

On first examination I found that the heel of each reed is not symmetrical. The left and right sides of the heel end have a wide amount of variability. If you look closely you can see that the individual heels are different thicknesses. This could be due to the reed blank shifting or not secured as tightly as it should have been on the planing machine  Effect on the reed?

My second point of consideration is the file mark and the shoulder. As seen below the file marks are all straight and are the same height. The shoulders are quite the telling characteristic. The shoulders are not cut evenly. The desired rounded “V” or “U” shape made by reed profiler is not centered an any reed but the center one. Some reeds are cut slightly left or right of the center line.

The offset shoulder cut directly effects the shape of the vamp; the area from the file mark to the reed tip. i marked in the image below the point at which the reeds shoulder cut ends at the rails. Ideally this would be even left to right on each reed even if not even between reeds.  As you can see below, the rails begin in very different areas on the same reed.  Will this effect playability?

The next thing I examine is the heart’s shape. Does it have that familiar chevron shape? Unfortunately I was unable to take pictures that would show the heart shapes but the reeds with the best defined heart which terminated before the end of the reed was reed 3 and 5. This I know will effect playability.

Lastly I inspect the reeds tip for warping, splits, or any other damage. Unfortunately I did not have my calipers available to measure the tips for comparison.All reeds had well formed tips with no raggedness or obvious imperfections.

Reeds 3 and 5 played very well after 2, 5 minute soaks with drying time in between. The tone was traditional warm and woody tone you would expect from Hemke’s. They are a perfect fit for the 5C and were lively and responsive. They also resisted chirping no matter how hard I slap tongued them. Reeds 1, 2,  and 4 needed some balancing to speak cleanly. Actually the tone from reed 1 was so unlike the others I had to play it on several other mouthpieces to be sure the reed was the culprit. The heart on reed one was poorly defined and the reed felt slightly dead in the mouth. 
I love these reeds and have used them for years when I played more classical stuff. They are easy to control and when paired with the right mouthpiece produce an amazingly pure tone. Are these reeds perfect? No. Am I happy to have 1 in 5 reeds requiring surgery to be confidently playable? No. Will I buy another box? Maybe. 
PS. Of course as in all things opinion based, Your Mileage May Vary. i would love to hear about your cane reed woes. Please feel free to comment.

Berg Larsen Hard Rubber Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece

As a charter member of the GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) crew I have purchased, traded, and found many mouthpieces over the years. I have always found my way back to a Otto Link Tone Edge for my Baritone needs. I’ve always loved the tone I heard in recordings but hated the over feel of the mouthpiece. In my head the tone was stuffy and constrained to the horn but wow did it work well in the studio.

Well after a recent stint with the Otto Link Super Tone Master I had enough and decided to get a Berg Larsen and see what the hype was all about. I had my reservations about choosing a Berg. My fear was that it was a chops in a box type piece that would have me two shades from Pepper Adams and a far cry from my desired, dark with edge, tonal concept. Boy was I in for a surprise when she came in from the interwebs.

I waited for 2 months before I found the exact Berg that I was looking for on ebay. The piece is 110/1 SMS. I choose the medium opening of 110 because I have always liked how focused the tone is on more closed mouthpieces. For the baffle I choose a 1 because it is the 2nd lowest baffle and as expected was the 2nd darkest tone. The mouth feel is very neutral for a hard rubber piece, neither too big nor too small for my embouchure. These factors lead to a piece which can be pushed hard before the tone spreads too wide and thins out.

The tone of the piece is what pushed my Link into the drawer. This piece has power in part because of its bullet chamber, medium low baffle, and slight cliff baffle. But power is not all it has in it arsenal. When paired with a full bodied reed this piece has a depth of tone which is reminiscent of an Otto Link Tone Edge but with more flexibility. The combination of power, tone, and a bit of edge (or buzz depending on your favorite nomenclature), fulfills my criteria for a great mouthpiece.

The only con to choosing a mass produced mouthpiece let alone a used one is that you can’t be sure that the facing will be even and that the rails will be even. In my case I lucked out and got one that is quite even and the facing seems compatible with all of my reeds.

Take Away: For the money i couldn’t go wrong. Hard rubber Berg Larsen pieces sell for less than $160. Choosing one with a baffle height and tip opening which suits your playing style and personal tastes can help you sound anywhere from an Adams like roar to a Chaloff  haunting whisper.

Brancher Jazz Reeds

Generally I would not review a reed because of the inherent variability that comes from natural products. This variability can make one box of reeds a winner while the next box could be filled with duds. Not to mention that some reeds match and perform better with some mouthpieces.   Lastly, depending on your sound concept the same reed can be too thin sounding or to tubby sounding to different people.  With these caveats in mind I will touch on the quantifiable aspects of these reeds.

Reed Strength: 2.5
Reed Cut: Jazz

ManufacturerTip in thousands of Inch
Brancher0.005 – 0.007
Hemke0.006 – 0.008
La Voz0.0045 – 0.005
Fibracell0.0085 – 0.010
Rico V30.005 – 0.0065
Rico Royal0.0055 – 0.007

**** I measured these thickness at the very edge of the reed and at a point where my probes point is just behind the tip. ****

Unfortunately measuring at the heart is more difficult due to the difference in cuts and my inability to accurately locate the center of the heart as some of the reeds are cut off center. I also found it difficult to accurately measure the side rails of the reeds as well. I am currently working on a multi-point chart for measuring reed rails  and will update this posting when complete.

My sound concept leans towards the center to darker end of the spectrum with enough buzz to be heard. I also prefer a very focused tone with medium spread.   Denis DiBlasio (Vandoren V16), Bruce Johnstone (Drake Ceramic Mpc), and Alex Harding (RIA) just to name a few. I find that these reeds match pretty well to my Yamaha 5C mouthpiece and really gives the buzz to be heard. On my Otto Link STM it’s not a good match. The mouthpiece does need to be worked on to even the rails

TAKE AWAY: These reeds behave and give a similar mouth feel to Rico Orange Box V3’s. To my non-musician mate there was only the slightest of differences in tone between reeds.  For the money I would continue to use Rico Orange Box V3’s but at a price point of sub $10 a box it is worth it to buy Branchers.

Neotech Soft Harness Review

Ladies and gentlemen, before you I present one of the best means of supporting your heavy saxophone yet devised. It is the Neotech Soft Harness. Finally, a harness to take the weight of my Low-A Yamaha.

This harness is made of 100% better materials than the ebay harness I previously reviewed. This harness has wide shoulder straps and a horizontal link behind the back which mirrors the cross link in the front. In the front the shoulder straps meet at a “K” shaped junction. The hook is a non-marring swivel hook.


  • The weight of the horn is carried on the shoulders and not the neck. 
  • The shoulder pads are flat neoprene which are easy to hide under garments with minimal bulge
  • The hook is non marring and quite sturdy feeling
  • When sized right, the strap places the horn in near perfect playing position.
  • This strap works well for women of greater endowment as well as men with greater than average belly circumference.


  • Despite optimal embouchure placement the harness places the horn a bit too close to my body.
  • Comes in more than one size and the XL is considerably large.
  • If this piece keeps to my previous Neotech experience then the neoprene will stretch and will eventually stop supporting the instrument. For the record my previous Neotech strap lasted 3 years before the stretch became to great.

Take away: I love this harness and recommend bari players try one. I think you will like it too.

Ebay Saxophone Harness

I bought this strap on a whim because I wanted to take some of the load off of my neck. This was not the best way to spend $10+shipping.

Comfort: Due to the lack of shoulder padding i find this unit to be less comfortable than a proper padded neck strap. But if  you are coming from a traditional leather strap or basic nylon style neck strap this unit will be many times more comfortable.

Ease of Use: I rate this one low because unlike the Neotech the generic Chinese shoulder straps are not distinguishable from the waist straps. This makes it possible for you to wear the strap upside down.
Fit: This proved to be too small for my 6’1″ & 225lbs. This cross strap fell just below my nipples. Far to high to breath comfortably while keeping the horn at a sensible height.  
Hook: The hook arrived painted black and with a small 1cm piece or tube rubber to protect the strap eye on the horn. Within 1 hour of use the plastic had split allowing the clip to contact the neck strap eye. This quickly wore away the metal of the clip. By hour 5 the clip had a 0.5mm indentation due to metal wear. By hour 8 the clip had been worn half way through and the thumb activated clip no longer functioned properly. 
Take Away: For smaller musicians playing on smaller horns this will work quite well. For larger musicians, females or players of larger horns this will likely be uncomfortable. Aside from comfort the lackluster clip material could lead to a damaging fall from waist height for your horn.  On the other hand it does fit underneath a jacket for those formal occasions. Buy cheap and toss when it becomes a danger to the horn.

Please feel free to share your comments on my post or your opinion the equipment being reviewed.

Brilhart Levelair Baritone Mouthpiece

1970’s American craftsmanship meets 2012 tonal concepts, the results? An in your face, no holds barred baritone sound that will hold its own against just about anything in a modern band.
First Impressions:  This piece dates back to 1974 and the bite plate shows it. Despite this the rails and table are true and in near perfect condition. The person I bought it from was the original owner and had played for decades. This piece has a very slim mouth feel.
Ligature:  The stock Brilhart 2 screw ligature was slightly stretched and could not tighten as much as I prefer. Instead of the stock ligature I swapped on a generic 2 screw soprano ligature. The act of tightening a reed to the mouthpiece gently formed the soprano ligature to the mouthpiece replicating the original.
Reed friendliness: This piece loved every reed at my disposal and played well with a 2.5 – 3 reed on every brand I tried. After my debacle with an internet ordered Otto link its nice to have a mouthpiece that wants to play on just about any reed available.
Response:  This thing really barks when asked to. It seems to lack some of the subtleties you get from a lower baffle piece. This is not a bad thing per se. Articulation is easy up and down the horn with only a slight bit of resistance. Just enough to push against while playing.
Tonal/Dynamic Flexibility:  Depending on the reed choice this mouthpiece is either a sledge hammer or rock hammer. I can with great concentration and relaxation coax out subtone but this piece feels like it wants to rock. As a long time Ronnie Cuber fan I love the “Cuberish” tone I can generate with this piece. Of course I don’t think that is a product of the mouthpiece alone but this piece combined with my physical make up and tonal concept can really make this howl. 
Other: This mouthpiece has a very slender body and would great for a tenor player making the leap to baritone. The players embouchure will make a natural leap from metal tenor mouthpiece to this piece.
IntonationThis piece plays well in tune, when I’m in tune that is.
Take Away: This is my second Brilhart Level Air piece but my first on baritone. This piece is my new go to mouthpiece when I am playing with amplified instruments. Compared to my Rico Metalite this piece has more depth to the tone. The best part is that these vintage mouthpieces can be had a very reasonable prices on ebay and at local music shops. 

Please feel free to share your comments on my post or your opinion the piece being reviewed.

Otto Link Super Tone Master Baritone Mouthpiece

I bought this piece because my Tone Edge Hard Rubber Link just didn’t have the gutsy sound I was looking for. Even though I know better than to order a Otto Link or Berg Larsen from the net without playing it first, I was was sure that I would get lucky and get a gem of a piece.

First Impressions: The mouthpiece is heavy. It weighs in at 5.9oz. For comparison my hard rubber Yamaha 5C piece I use for classical/ensemble work is 2.13oz and my Vintage steel Brilhart Level Air piece weighs in 3.3oz. I am not sure if the weight effect the tone but I like the extra weight of the piece.

Ligature: I used the stock one screw ligature and a Rovner Dark. I couldn’t tell the difference in tone between them. The Rovner did secure the reed much better than the stock ligature.

Reed friendliness: Reeds used in play test: Rico Orange Box 3, Hemke (3, 2.5), Fibracell (2.5, 4), LaVoz Medium Hard, Legere 2 1/4. This piece did not like any of the reeds.

Response: I had issues with reed compatibility on this piece. I played around 20 different reeds and all of them played slightly poorly with this mouthpiece. I then played the same reeds on the Rousseau, A Level Air, HR Tone Edge link and they played with various levels or success. It would seem that this Link suffers from some issue related with its facing. This piece has a date with Eric Falcon over at Warburton for a reface later this month.

Tonal/Dynamic Flexibility: The best performing reed at my disposal was a Fibracell, which is not my favorite reed for Otto Links but provided a way to experience the playing characteristics of the piece. The piece has a very “Link” like tone. What I mean by that is that the sound can be modified by the player and his/her preferences in reeds and embouchure. I have been a Baritone Link player for the last 12 years and still consider them a great overall piece.

Other: The stock ligature did not hold the reed very securely and allowed it to move around. I have since paired it with a Rovner Dark ligature.

Intonation: This piece will be a great piece after being cleaned up at the refacer. My YBS-61 played exceptionally well in tune with this piece although the altissimo was weak sounding. I suspect it could be an issue with the reed.

Take Away: This piece has the potential to be grand but until it’s worked over it is a bit of a dud. In the future I will purchase Links only if they have been worked over by a known pro or I have played it before purchasing. I do get the impression that it will be fantastic when complete.

Please feel free to share your comments on my post or your opinion the piece being reviewed.

E. Rousseau JDX7 Baritone Mouthpiece


I bought this piece on the recommendation of a friend. I had expressed my discontent with the projection I was getting from my modern hard rubber Otto Link. I’ve been a baritone link player for the last 10 years and hadn’t needed more projection until I began playing venues without enough mic inputs for my wired microphone.
First Impressions: The mouthpiece is slightly shorter than a HR link. Just about 1/4″ shorter at the shank. The table lengths seem to be the same. The rubber feels great and has a handsome gold inlaid engraving. The table seems flat and has a slight denim pattern.
Reed friendliness: Reeds used in play test (Rico Orange Box 3, Hemke 2.5, Fibracell Medium, LaVoz Medium Hard, Legere 2 1/4) It is friendly to the reeds at my disposal but prefers a reed slightly softer due to the larger tip opening. The legere is wider than the mouthpiece so placement is tricky with the Rovner Dark Tenor Ligature I use.
Response: The reed I settled in on was the Fibracell and the response was was quick at all volume levels. In fact i discovered that my horn had a ever so slight leak at the octave vent when I found articulating a low B difficult. Quick repair and the mouthpiece speaks well throughout the range. There is slight resistance to it but not too much so that you have something to push against.
Tonal/Dynamic Flexibility: The piece has a very focused and centered tone. Easily modified with reed choice and embouchure. With the fibracell the tone is edgy and projects whereas with the cane reeds (rico, lavoz, hemke) the sound is woodier and warmer. This is the first mouthpiece that I have been able to subtone easily. The tone with the fibracell is similar to an Otto link but with lots more edge. It’s not as much edge as you’d find with a Berg but it really speaks. It reminds me of the edge you can get with a V5 but with more tonal flexibility. YMMV
Other: I will be trying it with a few different ligatures to really help fine tune this piece. I will also be moving to some softer Fibracells as well. This mouthpiece has an interesting baffle, walls, and chamber shape.  The walls squeeze in towards the center of the piece, focusing to a tight medium to small chamber.
Intonation: This piece is best on a modern horn the chamber is medium/small and would be tough to keep intune on a vintage horn.
Take Away: This piece offers the projection of a squeeze chamber and the tonal depth of a medium baffle. I would recommend trying this piece before you pop for a hard rubber Berg Larsen. You might find yourself liking the tone and the wad of cash you just saved.
Please feel free to share your comments on my post or your opinion the piece being reviewed.