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M/Pieces - Ligs D'Addario Reserve alto sax mouthpieces

Tom Chapman at Howarth's has been kind enough to lend me one of each of the three new D'Addario Reserve alto mouthpieces: here are my thoughts.

D'addario reserve alto mouthpiece


To start, I liked the D'Addario Reserve alto pieces. They are made particularly with classical players in mind and achieve a very good, warm, exceptionally consistent sound with great intonation very easily. So I hope D'Addario will forgive my occasional criticism and the -obvious- comparisons with other mouthpiece manufacturers. Classical mouthpieces occupy a much smaller slice of the industry than do jazz mouthpieces, so a newcomer is well worth testing out, especially from D'Addario, who are proving themselves to be a very serious in this area, for a company that is principally into mass production. Having met Kevin Garren, in charge of mouthpiece production, last year, I expected nothing less than an excellent product.

I was slightly put off at first by the thickness of the rails, side and tip. I have come to think that thick rails are the last resort of a mouthpiece maker that is unable get warmth and compactness from a particular blank in any other way, much in the way that Vandoren did with the A20 & T20, first issued in the 1980s. The Vandoren Optimum range gets around this by better design; I find both the AL3 and 4 very easy to make a dark-ish sound on, for instance. The Selmer Concept is more focused, less naturally dark. But both are much better balanced than older classical offerings from those companies.

The Reserve pieces are definitely in the same ball park as the aforementioned pieces, but they really benefit from more ‘thickness’ in the core of the sound and rather better evenness, especially at the top of the instrument. They give the impression of being darker than pretty much anything else on the market, but with some very good clarity in the mid/top of the harmonic spectrum. In other words, ignoring how they look, they have a really good balance of sound for classical playing that is, importantly, very easy to achieve.

All the pieces articulate well, which can be an issue with thick tip rails. They are not as responsive as a lot of the jazz pieces available with thin tip rails, but what you do get from the thick tip rail is a very even tonal response when you articulate. A thin tip rail will enable the sort of explosive articulation that jazz players like, where the attack is fast and edgy, but subsides a bit thereafter into a more rounded tone. In contrast, the Reserve pieces produce a very consistent tone, from initial attack through to the body of the note, enabling a staccato with good body in the sound quite naturally - which is something deeply to be desired from a classical mouthpiece.

The mouthpiece comes in three models:
1) The D145 (1.45mm tip) 'medium facing',
2) The D155 (1,50mm tip) 'medium facing',
3) The D150 (also a 1.50 tip) which has a medium-long facing.

I’ve been playing them with the D'Addario Reserve reeds. I used 3s on them all. Even the closest tip, the 145, worked well with a 3, showing that you don’t need a hard reed on these pieces. I also used a 3+ on the 145 which felt good too. The 145 is closest to the Optimum AL3, but according to the data available, it’s a bit smaller in the tip, and I would guess it has a slightly shorter facing. Sort of surprising that this piece blows so well, being so small. It has a good resonance.

The 155 works very well with a 3 and is the one I prefer of the three facings, although it can sound a little less flexible than the 150. It gives the impression of being a short-ish facing because of the more open tip. I can get more air down it than the 145 and get some projection going a bit more readily. This one feels most like the AL4.

The 150 is similar to the 155, but with a longer facing. This piece worked best with a 3+ reed for me. The longer facing does give it more flexibility and a greater range of tone, but I felt that with heavily increased breath pressure the tone slightly falls apart, and this I think is the draw-back of a thick tip rail which resists greater vibration. Having said that I know some people will prefer the longer facing and the option for a harder reed. With use I could probably learn how to make this one work for me as well.

I could play any of these pieces for classical/pseudo-classical work. The 145 is a bit more closed than I would normally use, but in a more delicate chamber music surrounding it might be a god-send, making quiet playing and a lighter tone much easier; the 155 is probably the one for Orchestral playing, the 150 for solo – and those are just huge generalisations of course, but might make it easier understand how the different facings work.

In short, I think these are well designed and well-made and will probably sell very well indeed. They are just so easy to get good results on, I’m sure educators, students and professionals alike will pick up on them very quickly.

Best
Dave
 

jbtsax

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Thank you @David Roach for that "master class" in classical saxophone mouthpiece design. I have been happy with my Rousseau 5R for classical playing, but your "treatise" makes me want to check these out as well.

I am already a big fan of the D'Addario Reserve clarinet mouthpieces which I had the good fortune to try out at the home of Lee Livingood who plays bass clarinet in the Utah Symphony and was part of the "team" which designed and produced these mouthpieces. Lee paitently helped me to select a mouthpiece designed to help sax players who don't have great clarinet "chops" achieve greater success on clarinet. The following video gives a bit of the history and background of their clarinet mouthpieces. It would be great if they were to produce one which describes the background of their classical saxophone mouthpieces as well.

 

David Roach

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Thank you @David Roach for that "master class" in classical saxophone mouthpiece design. I have been happy with my Rousseau 5R for classical playing, but your "treatise" makes me want to check these out as well.

I am already a big fan of the D'Addario Reserve clarinet mouthpieces which I had the good fortune to try out at the home of Lee Livingood who plays bass clarinet in the Utah Symphony and was part of the "team" which designed and produced these mouthpieces. Lee paitently helped me to select a mouthpiece designed to help sax players who don't have great clarinet "chops" achieve greater success on clarinet. The following video gives a bit of the history and background of their clarinet mouthpieces. It would be great if they were to produce one which describes the background of their classical saxophone mouthpieces as well.

Thanks, it was a very interesting trial. I spent some time with the pieces and allowed myself a few days in between tests in order to question my impressions and to let them solidify. It's all to easy to make snap judgements about mouthpieces; reeds change as they blow in etc etc.

Out of interest, which Reserve clarinet mouthpiece did you end up with? I bought one of the first run and didn't like it so much, but the more recent ones I have played have all been great, from the closest to the most open tips. I believe D'Addario made some changes to the CNC machines last year.
 

sax panther

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I've got a reserve clarinet mouthpiece, I bought the X10 fairly soon after it first came out. Although I've stuck with my Grabner as my main piece, I do keep the X10 as a spare and when I used to teach, I used to let students use it in order to convince them that an upgrade from the stock buffet mouthpiece would make a big difference!
Some clarinettists thin out the tip rails to make it more responsive, but I haven't been tempted to get that done.

I don't do enough classical alto to rush out and try one of these, but if I ever lost or damaged my existing classical piece I'd definitely try one of these out.

David - did you prefer the D'addario pieces to the Vandoren AL3/AL4?
 

jbtsax

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Out of interest, which Reserve clarinet mouthpiece did you end up with? I bought one of the first run and didn't like it so much, but the more recent ones I have played have all been great, from the closest to the most open tips. I believe D'Addario made some changes to the CNC machines last year.
Interestingly the one that worked the best for me was one of Lee Livingood's own custom mouthpieces, although two of the D'Addarios were a close second. Lee is one of the finest mouthpiece "refacers" in the U.S. and he often adjusts either one of his own or one of the D'Addario pieces with the customer in his studio providing feedback.
 

David Roach

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.........David - did you prefer the D'addario pieces to the Vandoren AL3/AL4?

Not entirely. I am very used to the sound and response of the AL4. The D'Addarios produce a very appropriate sound very easily which I am wary of, sometimes if a piece is very locked in, it can lack flexibility......If I played more classical repertoire, which these days I don't, I would buy one and give it some time, however nowadays I need a piece with more brightness and power than the D'Addario Reserves can give. I prefer, for instance, to play the Select Jazz 5 which, incidentally, works well with the Reserve reeds.
 

ESJohn

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I've been looking at a D150 lately being offered at a bargain basement price and advertised as "near mint". Thought I would look to see what the Cafe had to say about it.
What struck me is that the previous posts here are from 2018 and this thread appears to be the only one regarding the subject.
I surmise that it must not be a very popular mouthpiece and that could be due to the classical feel that is mentioned.
I also appreciate the references to the reed choices mentioned when using the Reserve. I'm not a solo player except for my own enjoyment at home. I own four assorted mouthpieces and generally use Rico Royal 3's, sometimes 2.5's and rarely 2.0 but haven't considered the reed strength as it relates to the style of mouthpiece.
Does anyone have any additional information or opinions? I think the only reason that I was drawn to it was the price vs brand name. My level of playing doesn't exactly demand another mouthpiece. I would probably play much the same as I do now, even with yet another selection available.
Thanks to all!
 

David Roach

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I've been looking at a D150 lately being offered at a bargain basement price and advertised as "near mint". Thought I would look to see what the Cafe had to say about it.
What struck me is that the previous posts here are from 2018 and this thread appears to be the only one regarding the subject.
I surmise that it must not be a very popular mouthpiece and that could be due to the classical feel that is mentioned.
I also appreciate the references to the reed choices mentioned when using the Reserve. I'm not a solo player except for my own enjoyment at home. I own four assorted mouthpieces and generally use Rico Royal 3's, sometimes 2.5's and rarely 2.0 but haven't considered the reed strength as it relates to the style of mouthpiece.
Does anyone have any additional information or opinions? I think the only reason that I was drawn to it was the price vs brand name. My level of playing doesn't exactly demand another mouthpiece. I would probably play much the same as I do now, even with yet another selection available.
Thanks to all!
Hi @ESJohn
If the price is good, you may get some enjoyment from the D150. Since writing the review above, I haven't personally revisited the D'Addario classical pieces, but judging by the company's consistency, I'm sure you will get a playable mouthpiece. Whether you like it or not is entirely up to you. Yes, it's a classical mouthpiece. Will it work with Rico Royal? Probably yes, but you won't get the optimum results unless you use a classical reed like the D'Addario Reserve.
It seems that no one has much else to say about these mouthpieces, after all, classical saxophone is less popular than other styles, but that doesn't mean that they are not very well made or that you won't love it!
 

SaxBySW

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I play pretty much exclusively classical music on alto - depending on setting either with a Vandoren AL3 (ensemble) or the Claude Delangle (solo).

I've tried all 3 of these (also at Howarth's) - and I found pretty much the same as you @David Roach . They are all solid pieces, producing a nice even tone and very easy to play. But - lacking any real pizzazz, and I also struggled to keep the tone solid at very strong dynamics.

I can see them working well for a well advancing beginner or intermediate player - it'd give you more than a 4C for example. Or as @David Roach says, in a polite ensemble setting.

I also only tried them on blue box reeds, YMMV with other reeds.
 

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