Adventures in Mouthpiece Hunting Part 2
Since writing a review on the MACSAX FJ III metal tenor saxophone mouthpiece and the MACSAX D-Jazz alto saxophone mouthpiece, I wanted to write a review on a hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece that I found to be unique and truly one of the best hard rubber mouthpieces I have ever played.
When I attended the 2012 NAMM show, I had the opportunity to try out the Bob Sheppard Signature Edition hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is made from pure hard rubber and was designed and manufactured based on the partnership between monster tenor saxophonist Bob Sheppard and well known mouthpiece maker and re-facer Eric Falcon.
Improving Upon a Classic
This mouthpiece was based on a “classic slant Otto Link” (which I currently use) but with the added features of, as described by Eric, a “large round chamber, open throat, and an extremely gentle roll over baffle.” Eric was nice enough to let me try the first production piece at the show and told me that this mouthpiece will remind players of a great slant Otto Link, but with a richer and more colorful tone. He told me this piece differs from the classic slant Links because he believes it will allow more control from the low Bb of the horn to the highest altissimo note at any dynamic level.
I compared this Bob Sheppard model to my slant Otto Link 7 tip opening. Going back and forth between the pieces, I noticed that they were almost identical in terms of producing a great colorful tone that had a wide dynamic range. However, what I did notice on the new Bob Sheppard model compared to my slant was that it was a bit more free-blowing, and when I played it in the upper register of the horn, I noticed I was able to get a cleaner and more robust sound than on the Link.
A Force to Be Reckoned With
Overall, I would say this mouthpiece could compete with any classic hard rubber slant Link that I have played to this day. It comes with a Rovner Platinum ligature which works quite well in this configuration. The piece comes in facings 6*, 7, 7*, 8, 8*.
I would recommend this mouthpiece to any saxophonist who has been searching for a great hard rubber Link, because it shares all the great characteristics of the vintage slant Links and more, but at a reasonable price.
For more information, check out www.macsax.com where you can learn more about this mouthpiece, and even contact Eric Falcon with any questions.
Here is a video of Bob Sheppard testing out his new piece.
March 12, 2012 @ 8:21 am
Thanks for the review! I’ve had my eye on this piece.
March 12, 2012 @ 5:38 pm
It’s a really good hard rubber mouthpiece. What are you playing on right now?
April 13, 2012 @ 7:27 pm
I was at Bob’s a few days ago and played this piece for an hour or so. It is FANTASTIC, and in a lot of ways blew away my vintage links. Really big, dark, and with a lot of projection.
April 13, 2012 @ 7:33 pm
I’m glad you liked the piece. It is def a great alternative or replacement for many of the vintage otto link’s.
April 13, 2012 @ 9:51 pm
I have been playing this piece for a month or so. Its really good. Like John says, thats what i noticed off the bat as well, as It projects really nice, and can be pushed really hard, but doesn’t lose its warmth as most do.
June 6, 2012 @ 8:09 pm
I have play tested the TM early babbitt otto link mouthpieces for tenor. I know joel frahm, Xavier Perez, and some other well known tenor players have switched from their vintage slant links and early babbitt links to these TM links. When I played tested them I found them to be very free blowing and with a more centered tone than the standard hard rubber links. The TM babbitt’s def had that edgy and cutting sound that so many players look for in the old otto link mouthpieces. I found the TM babbitt’s to play brighter for me in comparison to the bob sheppard model. The best way I can describe the difference between the two based on my experience is the bob sheppard reminds me of an great playing old slant hard rubber otto link mouthpiece. The TM tenor madness mouthpiece reminds me of a great playing hard rubber early babbitt piece. I found the bob sheppard piece to have a darker, punchier, and more spread sound than the babbitt. I found the babbitt to be bright with a focused sound. Let me know if this helps. I know that tenor madness and kb saxophone services carries the TM mouthpieces but currently both stores are out of stock at the moment. I know the bob sheppard mouthpiece is avaliable, and I would highly recommend trying one out.
June 6, 2012 @ 7:40 pm
Just wondering,has anyone compared this Bob Shepard mpc to Tenor Madness’s Early Babbitt Otto Link tenor mpc? I’ve listened to both mpcs, both sound great but has anyone actually done a play test by comparing the 2 mpcs? If so, what do you think?
June 7, 2012 @ 7:31 pm
Thanks for your input man I really appreciate it. I have listened to both the Early Babbitt with Xavier and Joel playing it and the Bob Shepard with Bob Shepard playing it. You said the BS mpc has more spread to the sound. How is that effecting the intonation.
Here is the deal. I have a metal 60’s vintage FL Otto Link 8* that I really love. For the longest time I have been trying to find a HR counterpart to it. I know a HR mpc will not play with quite the volume or sound as a metal mpc. However I am more interested in the tip openings being very close if not exact so both the mpcs will feel the same, sub tone the same etc, etc.
I sent a current HR link to John Reilly back around 2004 or so. It was an 8 not a 8*. However John opened it up and worked some magic but there was only so much he could do. The mpc plays and I use it for the once in a while job where I have to play soft or I used it in concert band. It now can get a jazz sound but at a much quieter level than my metal Link.
Re: the Early Babbitt (EB) Links. They were actually made in Florida by Ben Harrod and sent to Babbitt who then finished the mpcs by putting the labels on, polishing it etc. But from what I have read on Theo Wanne’s site the facings etc were made in Pompano Beach, FL. So basically they are FL Links that were finished in Elkhart, IN by Babbitt.
Now that brings us to Randy Jone’s/Tenor Madness’s (TM’s)EB Links. According to TM’s site the Babbitt Company will no longer be making the mpc for TM. TM says they took what they decided was the best EB they had and are going to use that model as there core to produce new EB’s. TM did not say who was going to make the EB mpc’s for them. It is supposed to happen if I remember correctly sometime in late summer of this year. Now the question is will it be as good as the former product or even better? Alos will they make a 8*, currently they only made them up to a 8.
TM/Randy Jones told me over the phone that Kim Bock in NYC has a guy who works for him that has actually tweaked the EB’s that TM sent Kim and actually made them play even better than TM’s EB’s. I talked to Kim and he said that once he can get a EB 8 from TM than his guy can turn it into a 8* for me.
You said you found the EB to have more focus and a somewhat brighter sound than the BS which you said had more spread, was darker and had some punch to it. Okay I like the idea of more focus, but I also like a darker sound. I’m neutral about the idea of more punch,all the FL STM Links I’ve played had plenty of punch. You also said the BS was like a really good Slant Sig HR Link. Who played a Slant Sig Link? Stan didn’t, I have seen pictures of his mpcs and the words Otto Link were written straight across and not Slanted. Stan said many times that his HR Link was made in FL by Ben Harrod. He said Harrod reshaped the beak for him because he found the large beck uncomfortable in his mouth.
My metal FL 8* Link has focus, a darker sound than say a Dukoff, Berg etc but it isn’t nearly as dark sounding as a Link Tone Master from the 40’s like Ben Webster, Georgie Auld etc played. One thing I like about both my metal and HR Link, they play in tune really well.
My favorite players are guys like Stan Getz, Zoot Al Cohn, Dexter Gordon (on both his Link and old Hollywood Dukoff), Scott Hamilton, & Harry Allen. I also like Ben Webster, Hawk etc. Those guys played the 40’s Link Tone Master.
Okay to be honest I liked Xavier’s sound on TM’s EB Link better than Joel’s sound. I think it had more personality. I did like Bob Shepard’s sound on his mpc however I’d like to hear someone else play it. Nothing against Bob, he’s a great player but Link’s tend to be a mpc that the individual player can shape his sound on it or to it. On Links no one sounds the same. For ex, Dexter, Trane, Stan, Ben Webster, Scott Hamilton, Harry Allen etc all play Links but they really do not sound alike.
Judging from what I’ve told you which mpc do you think would be a better fit for me TM’s EB or BS’s Bob Shepard model. Also at least the BS comes in a 8*. Do you know what the return policy is for the BS Link model?
Okay Zach I know this is a LOT of STUFF but $295 is a big cask outlay for me so I want to make sure I make the right decision. Btw The TM EB is $275 which is only $20 bucks less than the BS Link.
Thanks again for your input and thanks in advance for your input to this letter. You know if necessary I can send you my Demo CD so you can hear what I sound like my metal FL Otto Link 8*.
June 8, 2012 @ 3:16 pm
Hey Larry W,
I would love to hear your cd so I can better understand what you are looking for. Feel free to call me at 954-292-2951 if you have any questions to my response. I would definietly check out the bob sheppard link, Here is eric Falcon’s number: 305-878-9488. He would def be able to clear up any questions you have. The Bob Sheppard mouthpice comes with a soundwear case as well as a rovner platinum ligature,( if that helps your decision). Keep me posted.
June 9, 2012 @ 1:37 pm
Hey Larry W,
I just wanted to let you know that I think the sheppard comes with a Rico-H ligature instead of the rovner platinum, Falcon would be able to tell you the best ligature combo with the mouthpiece.
June 9, 2012 @ 8:11 pm
Thanks I’ll give you a call in a day or 2 to get your mailing address so I can send my CD to you. Or you send it to my e-mail address to Lweintraub1@cox.net.
Eric Falcon did answer an e-mail I sent him asking him some questions. He also sent me his phone # in case I had other questions.
Actually for my HR Link that John Reilly adjusted for me and for my alto mpc which is a Meyer 6M I use a standard brass gauge Selmer lig which works really well. For my metal FL Link 8* I use a Silver Selmer ligature with screws to tighten it. If I get the BS mpc I’ll try the Rico H lig. It’s kind of like the old Harrison lig isn’t it. I tried 1 of those years ago and it didn’t work for me.
Anyway thanks for the information.
June 15, 2012 @ 1:28 pm
If you haven’t already, you should receive the package I sent you either Sat or Monday. Please take a listen to the CD and let me know which mpc you think would fit me best, the Bob Shepard HR or the Early Babbitt by Tenor Madness.
October 1, 2012 @ 8:18 pm
I finally got and tried a BS HR tenor sax mpc from MacSax. It played but to be quite honest it didn’t play any better than the current edition HR Link that John Reilly of Hollywood fixed for me. So I sent it back to Eric. If I didn’t have the Reilly Link I would have probably kept it. However the money I have tied into my Reilly Link is a lot less than what the HR BS mpc costs.
October 2, 2012 @ 7:49 am
I am happy that you were able to test out the Bob Sheppard mouthpiece. I have never tried a piece worked on by john reilly but intend to reach out to him. The Bob Sheppard is a great hard rubber mouthpiece that reminds me of a slant link but a bit darker. Appreciate the feedback and let me know if their are any products you would like me to try out.
October 2, 2012 @ 5:12 pm
It was maybe to dark sounding for me. I really love the sound of my FL 60’s vintage Otto Link 8*
John Reilly plays out in Hollywood and also makes and refaces saxophone and clarinet mpcs. I found out about him through both Dan Higgins and Tim Price. Dan is Hollywood studio guy who plays really great sax, clar and flute. He said that John is a local legend for fixing mpcs and a great player. He said that John had fixed some of his mpcs.
Tim is a Philly/NYC jazz player and teacher. He teaches saxophone at the New School in NYC. I actually studied w/Tim for a while. Anyway 2 great players, 1 a East Coast guy and the other a West Coast guy recommended John Reilly. He charged me $80 to fix this current HR Babbitt Link. I seem to remember I paid about $80 for it from the WWBW in South Bend, IN. So all total I’ve got about $160 tied up in it.
I couldn’t justify buying the BS mpc for a lot more when it didn’t play any better than my Reilly Link.
Btw the same week that John Reilly was working on my HR Link he told me he was also working on some of Eric Alexander’s metal Links. He’s really a kind of word of mouth guy.
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