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Last week I sort of impulse-bought a 10MFan Robusto 7** in Ultem.

Earlier this year, I bought an HR Robusto in an 8* tip opening from someone on the forum. I'd been doing all of my playing on an RPC 115B, which is a great mouthpiece and worked well when I was just playing in a rock/pop cover band (corporate events, weeknights at bars, etc), but was a bit loud and aggressive when playing jazz or experimental music in smaller spaces, which is what I really like to do. Naturally, a GAS attack was in order.

The Robusto felt close to what I wanted, but just didn't quite work for me. It's extremely free-blowing, so I needed a significantly harder reed than I normally use just so I didn't feel like i was going to fall in. I had a hard time feeling like I was totally in control of the Robusto and it had a lot of higher partial "buzz" in the sound. I do like having some of that buzz, but for me, it felt like as I played softer in the lower register, the fundamental would get softer, but the buzz would just get more and more prominent. I'm not sure if that makes sense. Harder reeds helped to tame that buzz, but I didn't especially like the response down low with those reeds. All the same, there was something interesting about the basic sound of the mouthpiece, especially at louder volumes, and I kept pulling it out of the drawer, thinking that if I just found the right reed or just found the right ligature, maybe there was something that I would hear today that would make the little details work for me this time.

Ultimately, though, I've been splitting my time between a Phil-Tone Intrepid and my old Link 7* that Eric Drake refaced for me back in 2007 (I bought it new in 2005). The Link is solid and very comfortable for me since I played it all through college and basically learned to play on that mouthpiece, but it's dark and I find I need to voice it very bright to get the sound I need a lot of the time. The Intrepid, despite is baffle appearing pretty mellow to my mostly-untrained eye, was quite a bit brighter than I was expecting for the way that I like to move air. I can get it to do what I want, but feel like I am doing a lot of voicing to mellow the sound and take a bit of harshness out of my tone. A bit of a "walking on eggshells" feeling. It's a very good mouthpiece, but I still felt like it isn't quite for me.* I needed something in between.

Anyways, when I saw the Ultem Robustos and saw what Mark had to say about the changes in response from generation 1 to generation 2 of the design, I was definitely interested. I love my RPC ultem bari mouthpiece, so I knew that a great mouthpiece could be made from the material, and the promise of a bit more resistance, a bit shorter facing and a tip rail that wasn't annoyingly thin (it sounds dumb, but getting a Legere placed just right on there was a pain!) all sounded like they might just address the things that made the first-gen Robusto not quite work for me. Plus I thought the Ultem mouthpieces looked cool. So I contacted Mark and ordered one.

I usually receive packages at work because there's nowhere to leave them at my apartment, so I had it out on my desk to check out periodically during the day and I've spent some time since then comparing it to the first generation. As Mark has outlined elsewhere, the side and tip rails are quite a bit less thin than the first generation. Still pretty thin, though. To my eye, the step baffle has a slightly different shape right at the "step", where the new one has a bit more a defined edge there while the first generation seems a bit more rounded. The baffle height and length seems about the same (accounting for a slightly different tip opening), though the shape of the "bullet" (not really a bullet shape) cutout in the baffle seems slightly different, though maybe that's just the rounded edge on the old one playing tricks on my eyes. The exterior dimensions are functionally the same and they still have that long, low beak that is great for people like me who like to take in a lot of mouthpiece. Just looking at that step baffle, though, I was sitting at work thinking that there was no way this was going to be the "Goldilocks" mouthpiece I was looking for, especially given my experience with the last one.

Fortunately, I was wrong.

After bringing out an assortment of reeds to try, I settled in with Legere Signature and Studio Cut reeds, both in a 2.5. That's a half strength softer than I was using on the previous-generation 8* and is a lot more like what I play on other mouthpieces that I enjoy. A good start.

I've only put in about 8 hours on the mouthpiece in the time I've had it, but I can say already that I love the resistance that this mouthpiece gives me. For me, it's just enough that I feel like it's giving good tactile feedback for my air that makes it easy to gauge exactly how I want to blow to shape my sound, but not so much that I feel like I am fighting it. The resistance reminds me of my Link, so I felt right at home.

What doesn't remind me of my Link, though, is the sound. It's definitely a middle-of-the-road mouthpiece on the dark/bright spectrum, with what I'd consider to be a nice, healthy edge, but there's a good, strong fundamental sound that lets the tone sound (and feel) nice and fat. Because of that nice resistance, though, I felt like I knew right away how to voice darker or brighter and play louder or softer. It just feels easy to play like myself.

Once I got my reed strength dialed in, I found the response of the mouthpiece was very even across the range of the instrument, with low notes speaking cleanly and evenly and palm keys staying nice and full without any funny voicing required. I struggled a bit with the palm keys on the first-gen Robusto unless I went to a hard reed, which made the low notes suffer for me.

Intonation was good on my 10M and my Mark VI. I don't really have intonation problems with the Link, the RPC or the Intrepid either, fwiw. All four of these mouthpieces play in tune on both horns, no problem.

To make an overly-long story short: if you found the first generation Robusto to be interesting, but a bit too buzzy and/or free blowing, this one might just do the trick for you. If you liked the first generation...this one is probably also good? But I guess you're already happy, right?

On top of all of that, Mark is a really great guy to deal with. Always friendly, always enthusiastic and always quick to respond to any questions.

Really nice work, Mark. I'm super happy with this mouthpiece. I feel like I could take this to just about any setting and not need to worry about wishing I had brought something else.

Discussion question: Should we be moving away from hard rubber in general and towards advanced plastics like Ultem?




*To be clear, that's a me issue, not an issue with the Intrepid. It's really beautifully made. Not saying it's harsh in general. Bob Franceschini sounds absolutely fantastic on his, as do a number of SOTW-ers.
 

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Wow, that was great to read and very in-depth.
First of all, I’m so glad you are loving the mouthpiece!
Secondly, I’m glad you were able to understand first hand how the changes done have peaked the playability of the mouthpieces. I can tell you guys about the updates made and how fantastic these play, but it’s best when you are able to experience it yourself.

Every model is playing at its apex and outplays the first generation pieces. As I have said before, the originals played great for me, I loved them---but it isnt until you make changes to something, that you are able to really compare, and improve something to make it even better. ALL of my models are greatly improved now.
All of my model designs are the same in both hard rubber and Ultem. My new craftsman has the playability and the voicing of the pieces at its peak. The balance of mids, lows, and highs, are really fantastic on every model now. Eric leaned towards brighter and freer, and the thinness of the tip rails did not help. I am so happy to have my new craftsman doing these pieces, and all the facing curves are all in place for each model in each tip size, to optimize the playability. All of the pieces have the power and the punch available still, but they are smoother.
I am glad that you feel you can color the sound the way you want now. The pieces before were too free blowing for many, and the curves were too long on the tips below 8*. I have heard this from many players, so I knew it was time to make adjustments, and the feedback so far on the new Generation ll pieces has been outstanding.
I also know that players have been very appreciative of the price point. To get a masterfully hand finished mouthpiece for $299, is a gift. This was going to be an initial offering, and then I would go up in price after a few months, but I’m not sold on that at this point, so we shall see. Maybe I will keep it right here for good.
I also appreciate the kind words about me....that means a ton to me.

*** If you find in time that you’d like more punch and brightness with more freedom in the blow, my Showtime model is the perfect call for that. ***

Again, thank you very much for your great feedback. Others will have that same experience, and I am really grateful for that.

All the best, Mark
 

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“Discussion question: Should we be moving away from hard rubber in general and towards advanced plastics like Ultem?”


Hi Max,
There are a lot of players who will only play hard rubber. There are a lot of players who will only play metal. There are a lot of players who will play rubber or metal. There are a lot of players who don’t care if a piece is plastic or a hard rubber.

In other words, there is something for everyone. 😀

The Ultem is great and I am so happy to be offering pieces in this material.
I’m happy to offer for less money per piece with this material, so more players can afford to get into my mouthpieces and I will sell a lot in volume.
As long as I have five orders for the same size and tip opening, I will offer these on a regular basis. I was going to just offer them as a limited offering, but I’ve gotten so many orders already, that I’m ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

Just keep the emails coming telling me what you guys want and I will continue making groups of five.
If you are a hard rubber guy and don’t want to play this material, no worries, the hard rubber pieces are always available. I can tell you as a pro player, these Ultem pieces play phenomenal and I may end up on one full-time.
I’m having my size made as we speak, for both tenor and alto.
 

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Just keep the emails coming . . .
I got my alto Daddyo 6 piece last night.

Looks beautiful: fit and finish are perfect. The workmanship really is excellent. The Ultem material is perfectly comfortable to play on.

But, of course, the proof is in the playing. After just last night, I can just give first impressions, but it was just what I was looking for. I really like that it is a really well-balanced piece. The bottom end is full and sonorous, but the top end is not sacrificed at all. All the way up to altissimo, the sound is lush and complex. I wanted to avoid a shrill piece, and this is anything but shrill. The high end is strong and full sounding, matching nicely with the beefy bottom end. And, as 10mfan told me, I can get the edge I want, when I want, if I push it.

I will have lost of fun exploring this piece in the coming weeks. I appreciate all the design work and craftsmanship that went into my Daddyo.
 

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Richard,
Thank you so much. So glad you are loving it already, and you are not alone. :)
The material feels great to play on and the playability is as good as any material out there.
With the Generation ll pieces, we really nailed it. Players are going to be thrilled. I ordered my size in the orange Showboat for alto, because I may end up on that myself. Can’t wait to get it.

Enjoy!!!
 

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I saw Mark’s post about the new Ultim mouthpieces and decided to give the Classic 6* a try. I’m 71 and thought I would go for a closer tip opening as I play 7* or 8. I picked up a Metal Merlot a while back when Mark was selling them for $299.00 which has been became my main player ever since.

I’ve played the Classic on five gigs and really notice the fulness and open feel of the 6* tip opening. My Merlot is now my backup. The focused sound allows me to hear myself above the drums and guitar and with a heavier reed my vibrato is more Getz like. I feel like I have dialed in my sound. The Ultem material has a closer feel to a metal and bridges the gap for me. The Classic Ultim allows me to play from the bottom to the top of my horn from a whisper to FF effortlessly. Thanks Mark for a phenomenal mouthpiece.
 

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I saw Mark’s post about the new Ultim mouthpieces and decided to give the Classic 6* a try. I’m 71 and thought I would go for a closer tip opening as I play 7* or 8. I picked up a Metal Merlot a while back when Mark was selling them for $299.00 which has been became my main player ever since.

I’ve played the Classic on five gigs and really notice the fulness and open feel of the 6* tip opening. My Merlot is now my backup. The focused sound allows me to hear myself above the drums and guitar and with a heavier reed my vibrato is more Getz like. I feel like I have dialed in my sound. The Ultem material has a closer feel to a metal and bridges the gap for me. The Classic Ultim allows me to play from the bottom to the top of my horn from a whisper to FF effortlessly. Thanks Mark for a phenomenal mouthpiece.




Thank you so much, Jim. I’m thrilled you’re loving this mouthpiece so much.
The combination of the Ultem and all of the updates to the Generation ll pieces, has definitely made the playing experience FUN! The mouthpieces are playing at their peak, and I’m so glad players are feeling the same way. Every model I make, will be offered in this material along with the German bar stock hard rubber.
Jim, I really appreciate you sharing your feedback and I hope everyone who gets these pieces will do so.

I can’t thank everyone enough for all their feedback which made the updates happen.


For everyone thinking about getting one of these, just keep emailing me with your wish list of what you want with model and size, and we will get to it.
 

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I received an Ultem Robusto 6* and it is fantastic. Love the look and design. The finish and quality control on these things is top notch. Mark's customer service and communication is also excellent.

I'm a hard rubber Early Babbitt Link guy and this Ultem Robusto puts me right in that same zone. Love it!
 

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Thank you very much, my friend! I’m so glad the tenor piece is doing it for you. If you need something with even more punch with more highs in the sound and a more free blow, the Showtime would be it.
I can’t wait for you to get the Showboat alto 6. The design is great and the feedback has been outstanding with the Generation ll updates. I’ll put a post up shortly letting others know that we are making the Showboat alto in orange. I will let you know when it’s ready and thank you so much for sharing your feelings on the mouthpieces and I really appreciate your personal comments about me.
All the best, Mark
 

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I just got this review in an email from a super happy buyer and member in Canada, who recently got my Ultem 7** Classic model:

“Hi Mark,

Wow! Wow! Just incredible
In my book this Ultem Classic MP is one of your best creation!…..but don’t worry, I’m playing with the Merlot and B Widow which are excellent too.
It’s the easiest MP to play: very easy blowing in all registers +++
I finally get the sound that I was looking for in my head……….and in my heart!
Wonderful warm, focus and soulful sound!!! The lows and subtones are « velvety »!
All the Legere reeds (Classic Legere, Studio Cut and Signature) play great with the Classic.


Finally this Classic MP is the « extension » of myself………and it’s not a joke!!

Congradulations for the quality of your work!
Once again: many many thanks and my best regards!


Guy Boots”





These are the reviews that make you feel great. Feel free to put up your reviews here, and thank you all to everyone who has ordered these great pieces.
 
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