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I'm thinking of getting a mpc specifically for classical soprano sax repertoire, and I've sort of narrowed it down to the Vandoren V5 or Optimum. Based on my research, I'm leaning towards the Optimum SL4, but the soundclip of the V5 at the Saxccessories site sounds really nice too, so I'm wondering what to expect between these two models, and what are the key differences between them? Thanks!
 

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I'm thinking of getting a mpc specifically for classical soprano sax repertoire, and I've sort of narrowed it down to the Vandoren V5 or Optimum. Based on my research, I'm leaning towards the Optimum SL4, but the soundclip of the V5 at the Saxccessories site sounds really nice too, so I'm wondering what to expect between these two models, and what are the key differences between them? Thanks!
For soprano, if you want the best classical sound possible, with the easiest intonation and dynamic capabilities (ie, playing soft), the caravan is really the only way to go. I'm sure there will be plenty who disagree with me, but having played on both a caravan and also brighter mouthpieces, I can say that everything I want to do on soprano is incredibly easier on a mouthpiece that provides tonal and tuning stability.

To answer your question, I'd go with the SL4. I've always thought they had a more focused sound (like the AL3).
 

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Discussion Starter #3
For soprano, if you want the best classical sound possible, with the easiest intonation and dynamic capabilities (ie, playing soft), the caravan is really the only way to go. I'm sure there will be plenty who disagree with me, but having played on both a caravan and also brighter mouthpieces, I can say that everything I want to do on soprano is incredibly easier on a mouthpiece that provides tonal and tuning stability.

To answer your question, I'd go with the SL4. I've always thought they had a more focused sound (like the AL3).
Hi Jordan

Thanks for the response. I went to your site and listened to your clips and really liked your tone and playing. Seems you really practice what you preach as you are using the Caravan mpcs on all your SAT saxes! I had just about concluded that large chamber mpcs were out, so this is more food for thought.
 

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Hi Jordan

Thanks for the response. I went to your site and listened to your clips and really liked your tone and playing. Seems you really practice what you preach as you are using the Caravan mpcs on all your SAT saxes! I had just about concluded that large chamber mpcs were out, so this is more food for thought.

Thanks! I appreciate it. For what it's worth, I haven't always played on Caravans, and in fact worked with a standard C* all through my undergrad. I tried various mouthpieces as my desire for a more orchestral type of tone grew, and the Caravan I found to work best to achieve this type of sound.
 

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Which V5 are you considering? From that series, I would recommend trying the S27 with a #3.5 reed and the S15 with a #3 reed.

If you are trying the SL4, might as well also try the SL3, which I believe to be the easiest concert soprano saxophone mouthpiece to play. Use the #3.5 reed on the Optimum SL3.

Something else to consider, Vandoren's soprano saxophone mouthpieces are physically bigger than Selmer. That is, you might want to invest in a Vandoren ligature for hard rubber mouthpieces.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Which V5 are you considering? From that series, I would recommend trying the S27 with a #3.5 reed and the S15 with a #3 reed.

If you are trying the SL4, might as well also try the SL3, which I believe to be the easiest concert soprano saxophone mouthpiece to play. Use the #3.5 reed on the Optimum SL3.

Something else to consider, Vandoren's soprano saxophone mouthpieces are physically bigger than Selmer. That is, you might want to invest in a Vandoren ligature for hard rubber mouthpieces.
Hi Angel, many thanks for chipping in. As it will not be possible for me to try any of the mouthpieces (I do not live in the US), I will have to pick one of the Vandoren models blind which is why I am trying to get some feedback from people who are familiar with these two models.

Would you be able to comment on what are the key differences between the V5 and Optimum in terms of sound quality and playability? I will likely pick up an Optimum lig if I do proceed with the mouthpiece purchase. Thanks!

PS. A few days ago, I came across you old post on Jacob TV's Garden Of Love and I've been digging it and his other stuff. Something fresh and different, but it rocks!
 

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For soprano, if you want the best classical sound possible, with the easiest intonation and dynamic capabilities (ie, playing soft), the caravan is really the only way to go. I'm sure there will be plenty who disagree with me, but having played on both a caravan and also brighter mouthpieces, I can say that everything I want to do on soprano is incredibly easier on a mouthpiece that provides tonal and tuning stability.
That... is one whopper of a claim to make. I mean, really? You're going to be that black and white about it? There's conviction and then there's... whatever that is. Honestly man, I would never tell anybody that there is ONLY ONE way to do something, ONLY ONE mouthpiece that does such and such, etc. That sounds a bit like zealotry. And yeah, there certainly are going to be quite a number of people that disagree with you on that one. Moving on...

I second Angel's recommendation. If you're just starting on soprano the SL3 is worth a look as it's a relatively easy mouthpiece to play on, has a consistent and homogenous sound, and is pretty reed friendly. The SL4 is slightly more open, but shares many of the same qualities.

If you have already spent some time on soprano, the V5 series is more the direction I'd go. They are more difficult mouthpieces to play - particularly the S15 - but they offer a wide palette of colors. The S27 is more closed and offers more immediate response and a generally warmer sound, great precision. The S15 is the "standard" Vandoren soprano mouthpiece, is somewhat more open, and demands greater control - but it also offers a wonderful sound.

In addition, the Selmer S90 series has proven to be especially popular with soprano players, particularly the 170 tip opening. The 170 is rather closed, but is extremely homogenous and offers good flexibility and access to the altissimo register should you need it. Many people play 3,5 - 4 reeds on it.

I would really recommend trying out several of each of these models if you possibly can, as no manufacturer has 100% quality control. Every mouthpiece will play differently, and the variation between two mouthpieces of the same model can make the difference between loving your sound and hating it.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
If you have already spent some time on soprano, the V5 series is more the direction I'd go. They are more difficult mouthpieces to play - particularly the S15 - but they offer a wide palette of colors. The S27 is more closed and offers more immediate response and a generally warmer sound, great precision. The S15 is the "standard" Vandoren soprano mouthpiece, is somewhat more open, and demands greater control - but it also offers a wonderful sound.
I had just about reached the conclusion that the S15 was probably most suited for my concept at this time. I wanted a more legit mpc than the pieces that I had, and also I wanted it relatively closed. I was hemming and hawing between the SL3, SL4, S27 and S15 but thanks to your comments, it has underlined my confidence that the S15 is the likely choice, with the S27 also being considered. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience and comments!
 

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That... is one whopper of a claim to make. I mean, really? You're going to be that black and white about it? There's conviction and then there's... whatever that is. Honestly man, I would never tell anybody that there is ONLY ONE way to do something, ONLY ONE mouthpiece that does such and such, etc. That sounds a bit like zealotry. And yeah, there certainly are going to be quite a number of people that disagree with you on that one. Moving on...
Obviously you missed my colloquial tone in the post. Anyone who knows me knows I feel strongly about my set-up, but don't impress it on my students or others. Most of my students play non-caravan mpieces, if that makes you feel better.

That said, I will still stand by my assertion that that the caravan or a caravan like mpiece is the best way to go on soprano for classical music.
 

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That said, I will still stand by my assertion that that the caravan or a caravan like mpiece is the best way to go on soprano for classical music.
To "stand by [your] assertion" and to declare "the caravan is really the only way to go" are two different things. One is absolute, one acknowledges subjectivity.

Just keeping us honest, here.
 

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I love fights. I think you guys should fight more. It is only within a dialectic like this that truth can be found.

That said, the original poster should try as many mouthpieces as s/he can. His/her physicality is fundamentally different than any of ours, and s/he should find the best fit for him/her.

That also being said, if the original poster has little experience on soprano, they should (IMHO) pick a C*/SL3 and learn to control their air first before worrying about their ideal sound.
 

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Save yourselves the hassle............you're just arguing semantics (please pardon my bluntness).

Go to sopranoplanet.com and see what Joe has in closer facings. Sure Vandoren are good, but so are Selmers and I guess Caravans, but ONLY if you are fortunate enough to get a well faced one. Selmers can be particularly awful off the shelf and Vandorens very average; I have no personal experience of Caravans. But, with some magic from Joe you will get a great playing mouthpiece that will make other considerations fade into the background.

Oh, oh sounds like I have a vested interest, well no I don't actually, but I do have a couple of cracking Vandorens Joe re-faced for me, plus he completely saved an old Selmer Soloist that I had played into the ground and re-faced an S80 so that I realized I had never really played a good one. You won't regret it, he is the master.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I second Angel's recommendation. If you're just starting on soprano the SL3 is worth a look as it's a relatively easy mouthpiece to play on, has a consistent and homogenous sound, and is pretty reed friendly. The SL4 is slightly more open, but shares many of the same qualities.

If you have already spent some time on soprano, the V5 series is more the direction I'd go. They are more difficult mouthpieces to play - particularly the S15 - but they offer a wide palette of colors. The S27 is more closed and offers more immediate response and a generally warmer sound, great precision. The S15 is the "standard" Vandoren soprano mouthpiece, is somewhat more open, and demands greater control - but it also offers a wonderful sound.
I notice that the Optimum SL3 and the S15 have the same tip size of 1.23mm or 0.048", but many of you have recommended the SL3 as a good piece for someone new to soprano and the S15 as being suitable for someone with more soprano experience under the belt. So, can anyone shed light as to why these two pieces are rather different in spite of having the same tip opening size? Are there some key differences in the facing, the baffle or the chamber design?

To answer some queries, I have spent quite some time on the soprano, so I was leaning towards the S15, but seems the SL3 has some good qualities to commend it also? I don't mind to work on a piece if it will give me a better result in the end...
 

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I think you may have some incorrect info there, the SL3 and S15 are not the same tip. The SL3 is 1.14mm or c.45thou, the S15 is 1.23mm or c.48thou. The Optimums are slightly re-engineered from the V5s to fit in with the Optimum ethos - I think the exterior is slightly different and it feels to me like the interiors maybe somewhat different too.

An SL4 is equivalent, and quite similar to an S15.

An SL3 is similar and to my mind somewhat different to an S27.

It's hard to describe in words what the differences in tone and sound emmision are between, say, the SL4 and the S15 (and here we run into semantics, i.e. the actually mean of words) however if I was pressed to give my opinion, I would say that an S15 has a fraction more 'grit' at it's centre than an SL4 and that the facing curves are fractionally different, but with such variance in factory facings it doesn't amount to very much. You are as likely to find a good S15 that you love as you are an SL4, both will do a job.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I think you may have some incorrect info there, the SL3 and S15 are not the same tip. The SL3 is 1.14mm or c.45thou, the S15 is 1.23mm or c.48thou. The Optimums are slightly re-engineered from the V5s to fit in with the Optimum ethos - I think the exterior is slightly different and it feels to me like the interiors maybe somewhat different too.

An SL4 is equivalent, and quite similar to an S15.

An SL3 is similar and to my mind somewhat different to an S27.

It's hard to describe in words what the differences in tone and sound emmision are between, say, the SL4 and the S15 (and here we run into semantics, i.e. the actually mean of words) however if I was pressed to give my opinion, I would say that an S15 has a fraction more 'grit' at it's centre than an SL4 and that the facing curves are fractionally different, but with such variance in factory facings it doesn't amount to very much. You are as likely to find a good S15 that you love as you are an SL4, both will do a job.
Thanks Dave for that clarification. Yes I got mixed up with the specs, SL4 being similar to S15 and SL3 to S27. Appreciate your comments on these pieces - it sounds like they are really not too different. I read elsewhere comments to the effect that the alto pieces, AL4 and A15 played identically for some people, the only difference being the beak profile, so I suspect the same may apply to the soprano mpcs..
 

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Thanks Dave for that clarification. Yes I got mixed up with the specs, SL4 being similar to S15 and SL3 to S27. Appreciate your comments on these pieces - it sounds like they are really not too different. I read elsewhere comments to the effect that the alto pieces, AL4 and A15 played identically for some people, the only difference being the beak profile, so I suspect the same may apply to the soprano mpcs..
I think that's correct vis-a-vis the Vandoren soprano pieces, however I feel there is a much bigger subjective difference between the AL4 and the A15, the A15 has (or feels like it has) a longer facing, however the objective differences in sound may be minimal. I think most of this is to do with personal comfort and ease of playing and that little of this has much direct impact on the audience unless it allows us to play better.
 

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I love fights. I think you guys should fight more. It is only within a dialectic like this that truth can be found.
I'm not trying to fight. I'm trying to encourage an open dialogue in place of dogmatism. If you notice, I never disparaged Caravan mouthpieces at all, and personally I don't care if that's what Jordan wants to play. But his response to the OP was almost purposefully inflammatory. My point was simply that none of us are qualified in any way to declare that a particular mouthpiece or saxophone or reed is the absolute best and that to make any other choice is ridiculous. That's why I gave my subjective impressions of each of the mouthpieces the OP asked about and suggested a trial. I can't make that choice for them, I won't pretend to be able to, and for anyone to insinuate otherwise is dishonest.
 
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