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What makes a mouthpiece worth $1000.00, or $500.00 or even $200.00? Are they so much better than say an $80.00 Runyon or any number of others? A zillion dollar Stradivarius? O.K. A $150 Cecilio? Not O.K. A clear difference between them. But a grand for a mpc vs $100? Is it so much better? Or is it GAS?

I don't get it.
 

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My guess is that it is like many things, that as you increase the dollar amount, there is a diminishing difference per additional dollar. In other words, there will be a bigger difference between a $50 mouthpiece and a $250 mouthpiece than between a $700 and a $900 mouthpiece. But if you have GAS, or are just seeking the ultimate mouthpiece, and you have the money to spend, it might be worth it. If you are making $30,000 a year, $200 is a lot for a mouthpiece. If you are making $800,000 a year, $1000 isn't so much.

That said, the most I have spent on a mouthpiece is $225, for a refaced vintage HR Berg, and that felt like a lot of money. My current favorite tenor piece is a more recent Berg I picked up off eBay for $80 or $90 and had refaced for another $75, so a total of about $160. I tried a Rico Graftonite, and hated it. It seems to me that the value sweet spot for HR tenor pieces (which is what I have bought and sold the most of) is around $100 - $200. But that is just me, and based on my budget.
 

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It is GAS. I have tried many different mpcs at various values and the difference is quite minimal. For example I tried and compared a tenor guardala handmade brecker 2 with laser tremmed and they sounded about same. For alto I own a meyer bros 6m and paid over two grands for it. It does play nicer than a stock meyer but the difference of tone quality does not justify the price difference. The reason I paid that much is simply because I wanted to own one as a part of mpc collection. :) it is like a car.. you pay tons more for the extra horse power.
 

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A fundamental truth about the saxophone is that the closer you are to the tip of the reed, the more influence you have over the tone. And, as you go backwards into your body and forwards into the sax, the import diminishes in some mathematical way. To put it more simply, a tiny change at the very tip of the reed, or the vibration therein makes more difference to the overall sound than if you took a baseball bat to the end of the sax. Next truth is that the air column is shaped immediately at that point, and the speed and turbulence in it is what defines a person's "sound" -- this going on the previous rule is roughly 30% mouthpiece and 30% mouth. To test this hypothesis you can install a pressure mic inside the mouthpiece and capture the pure saxophone tone, and you'd be amazed how similar it is to the tone you hear out in the air. This effect also explains how people with a very consistent embouchure can play their mouthpiece of choice on various horns and sound remarkably similarly. So at this juncture is where the importance of the mouthpiece reveals itself. I was a person who spent my first 20 years of playing being very haphazard about mouthpieces. I just tried one, and if it sounded ok, I kept it. I later discovered that my mouthpiece was seriously holding me back and causing some very bad habits of adjusting my embouchure to compensate. The really nice, expensive mouthpieces are definitely worth it in some cases, but the most important thing is finding one where that 30/30 balance is truly in balance. Just like the other 20/20 needs to be. (By this I mean, diaphragm and wind support for the body 20, and no leaks/good design on the horn's 20). My search settled on an early Babbitt link 5* on alto, a Rousseau R4 on soprano, and a Dukoff/Zimberoff HR 7 on tenor. None of these has been refaced. 2 of those are "high end" and one is cheap and common. Frankly I sound better on soprano than either of the other 2 horns, although it could be that my natural balance is with the soprano. So, the best thing is to try as many as you can. And, whether they are worth it or not, you may decide that one of those high end pieces is the right match for you. One word of caution... it does take time to bond with a mouthpiece that is "greater than you" -- meaning, it may require some working into to get a consistent embouchure free of the defects you developed on earlier pieces. It has taken me years to undo my tendency to take in more mouthpiece to play lower and less for altissimo.

I hope this helps!
 

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It is GAS. I have tried many different mpcs at various values and the difference is quite minimal. For example I tried and compared a tenor guardala handmade brecker 2 with laser tremmed and they sounded about same. For alto I own a meyer bros 6m and paid over two grands for it. It does play nicer than a stock meyer but the difference of tone quality does not justify the price difference. The reason I paid that much is simply because I wanted to own one as a part of mpc collection. :) it is like a car.. you pay tons more for the extra horse power.
I disagree, simply because every mouthpiece made before the advent of CNC is quite different and unique. Just like saxophones. Plus, having seen and played many Guardalas over the years, I find them particularly inconsistent and often very poor sounding pieces to begin with -- overly bright, thin and sloppy in rail width/slope. The ones played by Brecker and others were finely tailored and refined in real time. The lack of difference in the pieces for you probably has to do with a well-developed sound concept on your part or lack of a sound concept. Having never heard you play, I will not venture which one it is. This is very common among beginners and very seasoned players. Beginners don't know the difference, and pros play through the differences, assuming the facing/baffle/chamber is at least remotely similar. You would probably not play the Meyer and Guardala and say they sounded similarly.
 

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I disagree, simply because every mouthpiece made before the advent of CNC is quite different and unique. Just like saxophones. Plus, having seen and played many Guardalas over the years, I find them particularly inconsistent and often very poor sounding pieces to begin with -- overly bright, thin and sloppy in rail width/slope. The ones played by Brecker and others were finely tailored and refined in real time. The lack of difference in the pieces for you probably has to do with a well-developed sound concept on your part or lack of a sound concept. Having never heard you play, I will not venture which one it is. This is very common among beginners and very seasoned players. Beginners don't know the difference, and pros play through the differences, assuming the facing/baffle/chamber is at least remotely similar. You would probably not play the Meyer and Guardala and say they sounded similarly.
Of coure I don't compare meyer to guardala as the design between the two is very different. For me meyer is a more traditional sounding dark mpc with little bite to it while guardala is bright high baffle mpc. I was just comparing mpcs of similar design and although there is a difference that does not mean that one plays 10 times better than the other. I was just comparing value vs tone which was what the original poster was asking:)
 

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I think it is just basic "supply and demand." Supply is usually easy to understand. Demand can be based on several sources. Together, you have a perception that only this particular item will satisfy your need (desire). Usually the mouthpiece is perceived to be the same exact mouthpiece that some famous player used or still uses. Even if the mouthpiece model is still in production, the vintage one is considered to be different and better (it may or may not be).

OK, I guess the above has more to do with "collectables". For current production mouthpieces that cost more money, a lot has to do with marketing. Endorsements, performance claims, reviews by regular joes, and your own perception of quality and value. They create a demand. Fancy materials, shapes, development costs and hand finishing of the facing curve and chamber, packaging, overhead and marketing can drive up the production costs.
 

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The value is ultimately in the eye of the buyer. However, I think Jason's breakdown is worth noting why mouthpieces tend to get so much attention. Nothing affects my sound quite like a good mouthpiece vs a bad one. And they have to match my concept and comfortability levels rather precisely for me to be truly "happy." That said I've been very fortunate to have some very good refacers and knowledgeable pros help guide me during my formative years; it was only after I was left to my own devices that I got caught in the whirlwind of trial and error. Then it took a very wise man one piece to help me back in. Yeah, that mouthpiece cost a good chunk of money but I sure would have saved a lot more had I just sucked it up and went with it from the beginning. But live and learn. Is it worth having 5 mouthpieces that are worth 200 each that are okay and somewhat acceptable to play ("oh, it's fine") or have 1 piece that you absolutely treasure and adore that cost 1,000.

Of course, you have to play it and love it first. Don't just buy it on name.
 

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What makes a mouthpiece worth $1000.00, or $500.00 or even $200.00? Are they so much better than say an $80.00 Runyon or any number of others?
There can be a huge difference from one mpc to the next and one can be significantly better than another in terms of design, facing, balance of chamber size, baffle, & tip opening, etc which will all have an affect the response and tone quality of the mpc. But none of this necessarily translates into the cost of a mpc. Cost can be more a matter of reputation, brand name, materials used, demand, and so on.

So I don't think it's so much that a $500 mpc will be vastly superior to a $100 mpc. It could go the other way, in fact. But it is true that some mpcs are MUCH better than others.
 

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Good marketing will convince people to pay either

  • more than it's worth
  • a lot more than it's worth
  • too much money

(delete as appropriate)

for a mouthpiece.

Some mouthpiece manufacturers have realised a weakness (insecurity = the more you pay the better the mouthpiece) combined with disposable income and thought of some clever strategies.

I've tried most of them out there, please don't ask me to name names.
 

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Some mouthpiece manufacturers have realised a weakness (insecurity = the more you pay the better the mouthpiece)
That's true for very many products, but I would dare to say that the value for money ratio isn't as disproportionate for mouthpieces as it is for, say, cars, for example.
 

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Well...I´ve played tenorsax for 20years and first 18years I used a Dukoff D8 (not Miami) and never thought about the mouthpiece.
For about two years ago I got a possibility to buy several vintage Links and some other pieces for really cheap.
...I really don´t like Links...
...then I found SOTW...
...and the possibility to TRADE mouthpieces...
...all this ended up with me trading pieces and trying all possible mouthpieces.A whole new world opened for me.
I found out that the mouthpiece is like a spice in a good meal.the meal can be good but the spices bring out the best of the meal and makes it more tasty...you get it?It´s the same with a good mouthpiece.
I´m not an expert what comes to mouthpieces,I´m just a player,but this is how I feel.
Answer to OP´s question, YES,they are worth it.It´s like a buying a very good running shoes,they don´t feel anything but you feel like you´re flying when you use them.If the shoes are bad you notice it immediately...does this make any sence...[rolleyes]
BUT you have to be good enough player to be able to take the benefits that a well made mouthpiece gives for you.You also have to have the sound you want to achieve"in your head".
 

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I played on a Berg for 20 years and never thought about the mouthpiece. Bought it new, not even trying/choosing it. Then I found SOTW... And during those 20 years, I would never have been comfortable with spending over $100 to replace it with something 'better'. I don't seem to be nearly so frugal now, so my answer would be: Yes, if you can afford it, and if it truly improves your playing over any 'lesser' piece.
 

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I think there are 3 real different categories of MPCs. Student Line, Commercial pro Level, and Hand Made.

I think Most hand MPCs are going to be the ones we are talking about for the $200+ range. I think a quality hand finished MPC is worth more than a Commercial Pro Level MPC. The question here is how much more?? I have a friend who just dropped serious $$ into 2 Theo Wanne Metal Tenor Mpcs. He is not a guy who I consider to ever having GAS.

The deal is that a mpc (and the sax for that matter) is a tool. If your living is by you using this tool - then you want the best tool possible. If a guy who is gigging every weekend finds playing a $2000 mouthpiece is both enjoyable and pleasing to the patrons - then yes, It is worth $2K to him.

Weekend warriors playing $2000 mouthpieces for $30 gigs twice a month is something I don't get, unless their day job can allow them to have an expensive hobby.

Bottom line, Investing $2K into a computer that is going to be outdated in 3 years for you to use in your business makes about as much sense as a Pro Player Buying and using a $2K mouthpiece. We all need tools for our trade.

If you think dropping $2K on a mpc is nuts - don't talk to the pro flute players about their Headjoints!!

Just my 2 Cents.

Charlie
 

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Yes, but the question is and stays, what makes a 400$ hand-made mouthpiece cheaper than a 700$ hand-made mouthpiece?
I think the answer is........... a lot of good marketing or, aside the hot air that you put through it (which might prove to you that that is the real thing or not) , a lot of hot air that the seller puts out , fancy names and looks and the idea that you are buying something unique that nobody (well, few people ) has.
 

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I think many makers easily see what guys are willing to pay for vintage mouthpieces on eBay. So they try to create and market new mouthpieces to appeal to those buyers.
I think that is very true. Some big profits to be made from the gullible.
 

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A mouthpiece or horn can be made for 1000 wampum, but that doesnt necessarily mean it can be designed, developed, marketed and sold for that same amount. Every manufacturer balances these costs in different ways.

E.g. Taiwanese manufacturers copy other horns and thereby forego a great deal of design costs, yet opt to spend exorbitant amounts on advertising and so end up near the price of many other manufacturers that have a much higher labor cost.

But yes, if a mpc can be made that is the holy grail, chances are it can be copied from someone in China and be offered for $100.
 

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A friend of mine, who happens to be an incredible alto player, used to play on an original Meyer "Bros" 5M. These have been selling around $2000 for several years now, I believe. He dropped it and tip broke. Ted Klum fixed it for him, and though it plays well, it doesn't play the same and the value is shot. Last I heard him, he was playing a Versitone Acoustimer (I believe) and sounding brilliant. His claim is that he actually likes the Versitone more than he liked the Meyer in its original condition.

$350 vs. $2,000... In this case it's clearly about collectability because I am sure that Ted Klum knows his craft at least as well as the guys who made the old Meyers!
 
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