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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Note: If you’ve read this already, you can skip to the update of August 28, 2007.

I decided to post this initial review of my silver 7* AMMA, which I received on Monday. Unlike some of the reviewers, I have no prior association with Theo or Tom Wanne, and I was not involved in development. You should check out Skip’s superb review if you have not already done so (http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showthread.php?t=63420&highlight=AMMA). Partly because of the way that thread is titled, I decided to start a new thread. Also, this thread is titled "More AMMA Reviews" – with an “s” - to encourage other contributors, so please post your impressions in this thread if you've played a production AMMA.

How does it play?
The AMMA is by a small margin the sweetest piece I've ever played, and I would expect the margin to widen as I get more familiar with it. It plays very easily and with a gorgeous tone over the full range of the horn. It’s supposed to be like a custom Link, but there is absolutely, positively nothing tubby about it. The low register is not the least bit "tinny" or thin, which sometimes is a problem with pieces that have this much baffle. Also, I have a mild dislike to the feel of STMs, but for whatever reasons, the AMMA feels completely comfortable.

On the other hand, the AMMA is just a bit bright in my hands, and for reasons of personal taste, this is something I have mixed feelings about. My horn (Keilwerth Shadow) tends to play on the bright side, and some of the brightness may originate with me as well. In any case, I have rolled with this and developed a brighter sound concept. So in some respects, I think the AMMA is helping my tone concept, but on the other hand, I sometimes feel like adding some huskiness to the tone. I would have ordered a Barone Jazz or perhaps a Hollywood if Phil had still been making them (not that I'm complaining).

How does it play compared to what?

My current piece, a Saxscape Uptown NF 098, is a very close contender with the AMMA. In fact, it’s the only close contender in my experience. It is worth noting that the AMMA and Uptown strike me as similar in some important respects. While I am not a mouthpiece expert, the baffles seem very roughly similar, and both pieces have scooped side walls and chambers that are larger than the bore. There are differences in degree. The AMMA chamber is huge, and the AMMA sidewalls are scooped all the way back to the tip rail. Both pieces also play a bit brightly, the AMMA slightly more so than the Uptown. Unlike some pieces that have significant baffle, the AMMA and Uptown both have full, beautiful bottom ends.

I've tended to prefer rubber pieces for their controllability, and so far, I do find the AMMA slightly harder to control than the Uptown (except in the very low register, where both pieces are good, but the AMMA is easier to play; go figure). But the difference is subtle, and controllability should improve with familiarity. Besides, the control issue is a mixed blessing anyway, IMHO. Right or wrong, my thinking is that the same things that make a mouthpiece a bit harder to control ultimately allow greater expression. For example, when I first played the AMMA, I noticed that I could very easily produce various overtones up to an eleventh into the altissimo. I was flabbergasted. I had to go to the keyboard and check myself. I don’t have a good altissimo, and I could not control the overtones that high up, but they are clearly there for me eventually.

Some other Comparisons
Stock Links: I've played a few. They range from poor to quite good, but even the nicest doesn't come close to the playability and overall tone of the AMMA.

Refaced Links: I have the briefest of experience with one refaced link, which by coincidence I received on Wednesday (ok GAS, who’s your daddy?). This Link is still a work in progress. There's no question that the refacing makes a difference, but for several reasons, I don't think comparisons are fair. For example, the Link I sent was the one I most disliked to start with, and all I’m looking for it to make this Link both playable – which it now is – and consistent with my sound goals – which we are still working on.

Ponzol M2+ S: The piece I played had impeccable workmanship but was way too bright for me, especially in the low register, where I thought it was a bit thin. It does play loud though, and produce beaucoup overtones. For me, the AMMA has all the good features of this piece without any of the bad.

SRT Titan: Also impeccably produced, but it lacked the tone and power of the AMMA or Uptown. It looks to me like the Titan chamber is smaller, if that is what you want.

I’ve omitted comparisons with some other rubber pieces. I wish I could have compared the AMMA to the Barone Jazz or Hollywood, and to the Saxscape Uptown Dark. If anyone else out there is in a position to make these comparisons, I'd love to hear from you.

The Liberty Ligature and Reed Replacer Cap
I've warmed up to the Liberty ligature because it works, it saves me time, and it doesn't mar the finish. To my amateur eye, the Liberty seems conceptually similar to the Francois Louis, but it doesn't slide around, and it certainly makes minimal contact with the mouthpiece itself. I haven't experimented with the different settings yet. The reed replacer cap is fine, or you can leave a reed on and cover it with a Francois Louis smart cap.

How is it Finished
Mine is finished beautifully. My piece came with a very tiny discoloration in the exterior silver, but the discoloration came right off with some silver polish, leaving a beautiful and flawless exterior. (Caution: You can’t use silver polish on all parts of the mouthpiece. Please see the update or consult Theo for cleaning instructions.) Some parts of the inside are not as nice as some of the pictures suggested, but after checking around, I believe this is "normal". This is the area between the throat and the place where the floor falls off into the chamber. Another AMMA owner turned me on to this URL (http://theowanne.wordpress.com/2007/08/14/‘completing’-the-amma/), which suggests that these interior colorations are normal.

Doing Business with Wanne Inc.
It helps to keep in mind that Theo Wanne Inc is a small business in the middle of a huge transition, and I’ve had to revise my opinion of what it should be like to do business with this luxury mouthpiece vendor. In defense of TWI, they delivered what they said. They were late, but worth waiting for, and the delays were understandable under the circumstances. A few glitches which arose during the ordering and delivery process were promptly resolved and most emails have been promptly returned.

On the other hand, no one picks up the phone (for me anyway), and for reasons that do not relate to playability, I haven't always felt like a first class customer. [This was true when the review was first written, but not now.] I know I would have liked the opportunity to talk directly with Theo about precisely what I’m after. And I can tell you right now, if you want to do business with Saxscape, Ken Barry will make himself available to you over the phone, as he did to me on two occasions, including during his difficult transition over last New Year. The same is true in my admittedly limited experience with Phil Barone. I think these are legitimate criticisms or TWI, but criticisms which ought to get better over time. I also think that they are criticisms which only indirectly bear on the playability of the AMMA you receive.

Was the AMMA worth it?
It was definitely worth it to me. On the other hand, the AMMA certainly isn't a "must have". The Uptown, at $250, performs respectably compared to the $650 AMMA, and I’m sure others have their favorite pieces too.

A few words about me
To be sure no one feels misled, here is some info about me. I started playing as a trumpeter several centuries ago, when I was an even younger man. While in high school, I started playing professionally, and eventually added bass guitar. (Some things never change, and one of them is that the rhythm section always works.) At one point, I let music go out of my life (!!! BIG MISTAKE !!!). Then, some years ago, I decided to prepare for retirement by reinventing myself as a saxophonist, a work that is likely to be in progress as long as I am. For those of you who crave a label, I would call myself an intermediate player. For those of you who crave an accurate label, I can only repeat the words of the famous philosopher, Popeye, “I yam what I yam, and that's all that I yam”.

Good luck in whatever you decide.


Note
: There is some additional information in the update of August 28, 2007.
 

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Well, that was quite informative and candid. Thanks.
 

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Thanks for taking the time with such a detailed and balanced evaluation. I'm sure a lot of us will benefit from it. I have just a comment or two.

Although for me the recorded example on the other thread was too bright (for MY sound I mean) I am wondering about your statement that the AMMA is a bright mouthpiece, because you said your JK Shadow is a bright horn and that does not jibe with my experience at all, nor those of several other players here, so I'm wondering if you don't play a bit bright, yourself. If so, that of course would be a factor in anyone else trying to get a perspective on the "shade" of the mpc.

Also, I don't understand your beef with the finish or why you think it's something that still remains to be resolved. As I read it, it is a minuscule discolouration? If this is a "tiny" discolourisation what makes if a "finish issue"? Why would that be a problem? I mean. It's nothing to cut your ear off about, right? :D

Again, thanks for the review.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
gary said:
Thanks for taking the time with such a detailed and balanced evaluation. I'm sure a lot of us will benefit from it. I have just a comment or two.

Although for me the recorded example on the other thread was too bright (for MY sound I mean) I am wondering about your statement that the AMMA is a bright mouthpiece, because you said your JK Shadow is a bright horn and that does not jibe with my experience at all, nor those of several other players here, so I'm wondering if you don't play a bit bright, yourself. If so, that of course would be a factor in anyone else trying to get a perspective on the "shade" of the mpc.

Also, I don't understand your beef with the finish or why you think it's something that still remains to be resolved. As I read it, it is a minuscule discolouration? If this is a "tiny" discolourisation what makes if a "finish issue"? Why would that be a problem? I mean. It's nothing to cut your ear off about, right? :D

Again, thanks for the review.
Gary,

I've had others play my horn, including my teacher, and we all feel this particular Shadow is bright (and as loud as you like). You know how horns are. Mk VIs are not identical either. I also have a Yamaha tenor, and I don't sound near as bright on it. Then too, words have limits. To me, bright on the Shadow is not the same as bright on other horns. I heard someone use the term "smokey" to describe the sound, and somehow bright/smokey works for me, or sultry. Nor did I mean to dis the AMMA in this regard, but only to indicate how it relates to what I'm after. I said the AMMA was "just a bit bright", and that partly reflects my comparing it to the Uptown NF.

As for the finish, you may be absolutely correct. My thinking is that for $650, there should be no gaps in the silver plating, even small ones. I estimate this gap (i.e., black spot) to be about 1.0 mm by 0.5 mm. If such gaps are to be expected, and if they will not affect the durability of the finish over the years, then I may just forget about it. Without going into details, I've been waiting since Monday to hear from TWI about this, and I know they're busy, but decided not to wait any longer before posting a review. I actually hope the resolution is as simple as someone telling me it's NBD. And as you so perceptively observed, I don't have an ear to spare!:D
 

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Discussion Starter #6
tjontheroad said:
:thumbrig:

I just love a review I can believe. Thank you :)
You're welcome. Can you please tell me where such a review can be found?:D
 

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Wow, Mike - excellent review!

As long as we're coming out of the closet, I'm the other AMMA owner that Mike referred to in his review. (And I guess since the thread is titled More AMMA Reviews, I had to chime in. :))

I bought a gold 7* from Theo, and also received it on Monday. I too have no prior affiliation with Theo other than some email correspondence regarding a couple of vintage mouthpieces over the past year. I was planning on spending more time with it before posting a review, especially since I'll be out of town over the next few days. (Those of you that know where I live - the AMMA will be in my locked safe. Good luck. :))

Those of you that know me know that I'm primarily an alto player (I know, loose term...), but I really prefer the sound of the tenor, especially now. My initial reaction to the AMMA is extremely positive. First of all, the piece is gorgeous (I know, that has no relation to playability at all, but it makes me feel better when I play :D). As opposed to Mike's AMMA, the outside finish on mine is flawless. The inner chamber of my piece is as Mike described his, but the link to Theo's blog explains that. Theo did modify the baffle on my AMMA; it's a lower baffle, designed to give it in Theo's words "more of a Stanley Turrentine kind of thing". That's all I had to hear, since Turrentine is one of my favorite players. ;)

I've tried many tenor mouthpieces trying to get my ideal sound, but every other mouthpiece fell short, and I've tried most of the brands you guys would recognize. My initial play tests of the AMMA blew me away. On most other pieces, I'd struggle with the low notes warbling. Not with the AMMA. I've also found that the AMMA allows me to use a stronger reed. I went from a Java 2 to a ZZ 3. I love the tone I'm getting with this mouthpiece. For me, being a novice, I feel that the AMMA has made a tremendous difference in my sound, and I only expect it to get better over time.

As far as dealing with Theo and Tom, I started talking to them about the AMMA just after the new site launched, and before the AMMA went on sale. Understandably, it was difficult getting an immediate response during this very busy time, but they always got back to me. Communication has gotten progressively better over the past several weeks.

For those of you who don't know me, I'm still very much a beginner. I took up sax later in life 2 1/2 years ago (still kicking myself that I didn't do it much sooner). My only prior experience musically was a bit of piano and guitar when I was a young teenager. I've been playing mostly alto over the past 2 1/2 years, and have been the 2nd alto in a community band near my town for the past year. I really only started playing tenor about 6-9 months ago, and maybe only once or twice a week during that time. I try to practice at least an hour each day.

Anyway, as I was reading Mike's review, I kept waiting for a sound clip, and never got one. So I thought I'd bare myself, and post a clip of me on the AMMA. I play a Yamaha Custom 875 tenor, and am using a Vandoren ZZ 3 reed for this clip.

Here's Misty

Frank :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter #9
fballatore said:
For those of you who don't know me, I'm still very much a beginner. . .
Frank,

I really enjoyed listening to your clip, and you are too damn modest!

I'm also real glad to see your review up here. As you already know, your comments have helped me out quite a bit. One thing you reminded me of is that I also love the way the AMMA looks, especially sitting atop the nickel silver Shadow. Let's face it, that's part of what we pay for. And BTW, I forgot to mention in response to Gary, that I LOVE my Shadow. I feel incredibly lucky to have it and the AMMA, too.

Have a good trip.
 

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Very nice clip, Frank.

I've read all this with great admiration -- for the reviewers, for the mpc under review, and for its maker -- and nevertheless felt not one GAS cramp or bubble.

Woo hoo! I'm all growed up and happy with my stuff! And not unhappy to learn there is other stuff out there. . . .

Thanks for all the labor, clear thought, and clean writing. Respect.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Reedsplinter said:
. . . I've read all this with great admiration . . . and nevertheless felt not one GAS cramp or bubble. . .
Better check your pulse.:D
 

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sounds like a Link. Would like to hear it with a harder reed.

Thanks guys for taking the time to review. Personally I wouldn't buy a $650. mpc that sounds the same, to me, as a $100. mpc.
There are probably ease of sound production issues (easy blow) that would make it worth it to some but for me any old(or new) STM is fine.
 

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sinkdraiN said:
This wonderful review makes me want to try a saxscape mouthpiece!
Yeah! Exactly what I was thinking too. Let's do it!
 

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On the other hand, the AMMA is just a bit bright in my hands, and for reasons of personal taste, this is something I have mixed feelings about. My horn (Keilwerth Shadow) tends to play on the bright side to begin with, and I have rolled with this and developed a brighter sound concept.

Too many players overlook the important fact that the size of the oral cavity determines the light spectum or brilliance or darkness of tone quality. A person of large stature may get the sound that you seek. The solution to this matter may be consulting Theo for a larger chamber mouthpiece and perhaps less or no baffle.
 

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Thanks, Lamplight and Frank, for the excellent reviews!
 
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