Vandoren V16 Mouthpiece Review

What do you get when you take one part Otto Link, one part Selmer Soloist, and mix in a bit of Berg Larsen? A Vandoren V16 of course. Not familiar? Pro bari performers all over the musical world have found the love of these pieces. Denis DiBlasio and Gary Smulyan are just two of the players use this piece to express themselves.

Vandoren has upped its game with this piece. If you are a fan of the V5 series, and I know there are a few of you out there, then you may find this piece a bit too open and free blowing. But if you’ve never tried a Vandoren baritone mouthpiece then you are in for a pleasant experience.

Construction: This piece is crafted from hard rubber, ebonite, and features a stylish but purely decorative gold band at the bottom. The craftsmanship is typical Vandoren with crisp sharp stampings and a smooth polished exterior. the mouthpiece features a long shank, thin for a rubber mouthpiece profile, and low angled beak. The tip and side rails are thin and even. This coupled with the flat table leads to quick articulation and sharp attacks.

The mouth feel of this piece is more like that of a quality metal mouthpiece. Rather than have a steep angled beak to accommodate the amount of rubber needed to make the beak area stronger on most hard rubber mouthpieces they chose to keep it slim. This slimness means that the mouth feel is similar to a metal mouthpiece. For those with smaller mouths or double on different horns throughout a set this will make the transition much easier.

Ligature: This is where the mouthpieces off size is a disadvantage. I keep a few ligatures in my collection and only one fit the mouthpiece, a one screw leather one for a hard rubber tenor mouthpiece. This ligature was not a perfect fit but would secure the reed without marring the mouthpiece. I played the piece for a week until the recommended ligature arrived, a Vandoren Optimum. Supplied with the correct ligature this mouthpiece really showed its personality. It was
was much easier to secure the reed and there is nearly no chance of marring the mouthpiece. The additional pressure plates do not make a difference to me but they are nice to have.

Sound: This is what you came for.  This mouthpiece has depth and a strong core to the tone. Depending on your physiological makeup, horn, and reed combo you can make this piece do almost anything. From warm and lush sub-tones to bright and punchy, this piece can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Currently I am using this piece in an 18 piece big band with no problems blending with the section. But when it’s time to stand and be counted I can add the edge needed to project to the back of the room just by changing my airflow.

Reed friendliness: This mouthpiece did well with every reed I threw at it within  a certain range for me. The piece I chose to play is the B9 tip opening. This features a long facing with a tip opening of around .122″. If I stay in the 2.5 hardness range then the piece is perfect but if I stray down to a 2 or up to a 3 hardness the mouthpiece makes me work for the sound. This is more a function of my chops rather than the mouthpiece construction. Recently I’ve settled in on a Légère synthetic reed for more warmth and buzz

TAKE AWAY: This is the mouthpiece which has halted my search. After spending the last 4 months with this piece I feel it offers the best bang for the buck for a production mouthpiece.

Sound sample: Here is Gary Smulyan and Denis Diblasio showing off the sound of this mouthpiece on two different horns. Gary’s vintage Conn 12m and Denis’s Yamaha YBS-62? really change the color of the tone and offer a great A/B of the mouthpiece. Both players are playing Vandorem V16 B9 mouthpieces. Coincidentally I have the same models of each of their horns, different years though.