Ever want to play on a killer Theo Wanne mouthpiece? In the video above I’m going to demo 4 of Theo’s new alto sax mouthpiece models. If you’ve ever played on one of these beauties, comment below and let us know what your experience was like with these mouthpieces.
These Theo Wanne mouthpieces are as good as it gets, but also as expensive as it gets.
If you are unfamiliar with Theo Wanne and his mouthpiece creations, check out my interview with Theo Wanne from last year. He explains his philosophy behind making these mouthpieces and how he is constantly working to improve the designs.
The mouthpieces I’m going to talk about and play for you today are all either evolutions of his existing designs or brand new ones.
I’ve got 2 mouthpieces from the new elements series the Earth and Fire alto models. These are Theo Wanne quality mouthpieces at half the price.
And then the new Gaia 3 and Durga 4 alto designs.
Let’s start with the Elements mouthpieces.
Theo Wanne Elements Mouthpieces
The obvious question is how are they half price? These sell for $275 which puts them in the price range of some other popular metal mouthpieces like Yanagisawa and Otto Links.
Based on my conversations with Theo and looking closely at the pieces, it appears that the significant price difference is more a result of finding designs that play well, but are less expensive to produce. They appear to require less intricate shaping of the metal.
There are also a few other details like a less expensive ligature and the case, further reducing the cost.
The elements series comes with a more basic ligature which I actually like a lot. Instead of the fancy zip case, they come with a cloth bag.
All Theo Wanne mouthpieces are sold in a great box and for most things we buy, packaging doesn’t matter much. However, I have kept the box for every mouthpiece I’ve ever bought. If you ever sell it down the road, it’s nice to include the original box.
So let’s listen to me playing on the Earth alto mouthpiece in a 7 tip opening. Check out the video around 2:38 to hear this play test.
I’m playing a transcription from Gerald Albright who has a great contemporary alto sound. I wanted to demonstrate how these mouthpieces perform in the altissimo range.
So the Earth model is meant to be an all around mouthpiece that can be used for any style of music. For me, it feels like it leans a bit more toward the contemporary sound because of the small chamber. I really like how it sounds and how easy it is to play over the full range. The altissimo was no problem with this even though it has a moderate baffle.
It also has a big and powerful sound that I associate with a more modern style.
So if you like a small chamber mouthpiece that can work in any style but leans a bit towards a more contemporary sound, the Earth is a great option at $275.
But wait, here’s some good news for you, I’m very happy to be able to offer a special discount for BetterSax subscribers! You can get 15% off on the Theo Wanne website by using the coupon code BETTERSAX15 at checkout, so that knocks about 40 bucks off the price.
Next up is the Fire alto sax mouthpiece.
This is clearly designed to be a bright cutting mouthpiece as the name suggests. Altissimo is effortless on this and you can make yourself heard when competing with other loud instruments. Check out the playtest around 4:30 in the video.
The fire is a great choice for anyone who needs a screamer without sacrificing playability. No problems in the low range at all. While I always find high baffle pieces to be a bit more challenging when it comes to intonation, I found this to be very manageable.
I would recommend this as an affordable piece for someone who may normally play a more traditional jazz mouthpiece but occasionally needs an ear bleeder for a DJ gig or when competing with guitar players who play too loud.
As I mentioned these elements series pieces come with this more simple ligature that I think is great, but they also have the notches in case you want to upgrade to the Liberty ligature that comes with the more expensive models. The fire also runs at $275.
Top Shelf Theo Wanne Mouthpieces
Moving on to the top shelf stuff. Let’s check out the new version of the Durga mouthpiece which is one of the most popular Theo Wanne pieces and is being played by a lot of great saxophone players. Check out the play test around 5:55.
I really love this mouthpiece. I have always played more traditional lower baffle jazz mouthpieces but this was immediately fun to play and opened up a new dimension in my sound. So if you’re someone who always played on Meyer style hard rubber mouthpieces, don’t be afraid to try a metal alto mouthpiece with some baffle in it.
Now this also comes in a hard rubber version if you prefer that material. I love the feel and weight of the metal though.
The craftsmanship of this one is very impressive. The level of detail and precision that go into making this mouthpiece is crazy.
Altissimo speaks with ease, but the sound is lush and rich while powerful and cutting at the same time.
I know a lot of players who struggle with their jazz mouthpieces when doing non jazz gigs which often require more power and more projection. This Durga mouthpiece is one that you can play in those situations and not feel like you’re fighting to be heard. You can go play a jazz gig and still have the full dynamic range and flexibility to blend with the people around you.
It definitely leans more to the contemporary side of things. But it can also serve as the one mouthpiece for every situation.
This metal gold plated version of the Durga mouthpiece comes with this Liberty ligature which is integrated into the mouthpiece. You can adjust the placement of the pressure plate to your liking. That’s a really unique design that works very well.
It sells for $675 but with that 15% off coupon you save about a hundred bucks.
Finally, the last mouthpiece is the new Gaia 3. Check it out around 8:08.
I really love this mouthpiece as well. It is perfect for anyone who wants a traditional jazz mouthpiece that’s not stuffy. You can play soft and expressively yet still project. It’s got a beautiful edge to the sound, and I can get a very even tone over the whole range.
At first this one was my clear favorite since it’s like a much improved version of the sort of mouthpieces I’ve always played on. But if I’m trying to play in a more contemporary style with a lot of altissimo, it is not as easy to get those notes as on the other pieces.
I can play up there no problem, but with less baffle you have to be a lot more careful and your range is going to be somewhat limited.
My success rate for the upper altissimo notes with this might be more like 70 – 80% whereas with the other three, I very rarely missed a note.
So if you’re a more contemporary style player I’d go for the Durga.
if you want one of the best traditional jazz mouthpieces out there for alto, I recommend checking out the Gaia 3. They also make it in the gold plated metal version.
It comes with the Theo Wanne Evolution ligature which is great. I love that it holds everything in place very securely so I can adjust the mouthpiece without worrying about my reed moving. While at the same time it looks super cool and only contacts the mouthpiece at three points. This is another very unique design that works.
As far as differences with the previous version, you can see it’s got a more narrow shape, which I thought would feel weird but I actually prefer it. The baffle has the shark gill grooves cut into it as well. I really liked the Gaia 2, but the Gaia 3 is even more to my liking.
The hard rubber version I have here sells for $575 but with the 15% off you’re looking at about 490.
Theo Wanne Coupon Code
Don’t forget the Coupon code BETTERSAX15 to save 15% on the Theo Wanne website. If you’ve been wanting to treat yourself to one of these premium mouthpieces, now’s the time to do it!
Interested in other mouthpiece reviews? Check out this High Baffle Ear Bleeders Battle.
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2 thoughts on “New Theo Wanne Alto Sax Mouthpieces – Play Test & Review”
Great review, I could actually hear the Difference In all four mouth pieces … ??