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Discussion Starter #1
All other choices set aside: If you had to choose between a Vandoren V5 or Vandoren Optimum for pure classical playing, especially on alto sax, what would you choose and why?

The Optimum comes in 2 models: the AL3 and AL4.
The V5 comes in 14 models - but only 6 of them are considered "traditional" classical pieces, which are: A15, A17, A20, A25, A27, and A28.

Following the the chart here (http://www.vandoren.com/en/altorecap.html) I'm narrowing down the options based on the mouthpieces that allow me to play on softer reeds. Thus, I'm not going for the V5 A15 or A17. Assuming I can go with this chart, of course.

Now I'm left with the following: Optimum AL3 and AL4 vs. A20, A25, A27 and A28.

Final criteria for narrowing down: the mouthpiece has to be the most forgiving one in the upper registers. I was hoping you could help me with this.

Please help :faceinpalm:
 

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I play both AL4 and A28--and they play identically for me. The exterior is different, but the interior and facing are the same. The V5 (A28) has a slightly lower-profile beak, so it may come down to what your preference is on that. The AL3 appears to be the most popular option among college and professional players, in my observation.
 

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I have both the AL3 and AL4. The 4, which I bought first, is a little too open in my opinion for classical, but the 3 is absolutely perfect for me though. I can easily play the entire range of the horn, and the altissimo comes out with ease. Before this piece I used the Rousseau NC4 and Selmer Soloist Style C. The Optimum AL3 is by far the best classical piece I have ever played.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Maybe I should introduce another criterion: This piece should not be similar to an S80 C* mouthpiece. So the pieces more similar to the S80 C* (are there any mouthpieces in this range that are similar) should be eliminated. I don't want to buy one of these and end up thinking: "hey, they play pretty much the same".

What one of these pieces has the largest (i.e. the most "excavated") and roundest (I think the S80 C* has a more square chamber - waiting for an to be delivered) chamber?
 

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It was my knowledge that each line offered two slightly different aesthetics. The V5's in general are considered somewhat more flexible and a tad brighter than the Optimum. The Optimum in general are thought to appeal to a more subdued, homogenous, and "French 2.0" tone quality. However, this doesn't mean that the V5's are bright 'nor the Optimums boring by any means. All have medium round chambers, but the AL3 may be just slightly larger. The primary differences are in the throat, baffle, tip, and rail designs. The _L4 models are indeed "rehashed" versions of V5 equivalents with different bodies, so Drake is correct about the A28/AL4 similarities. I believe that Vandoren wanted these models to be the same as what Claude DeLangle uses, or something to that effect.

Here's a potential brightness spectrum... remember that none are bright by any means, just different "modulations" on the Vandoren-French sound, as I'd like to think:
AL3, A20, A15, A25, A17, A27, A28/AL4

Vandoren's descriptions of their mouthpieces are actually quite "bang-on", I'd advise the AL3 for the darkest tone, you just might sacrifice a little volume compared to an S80, at first. You might want to take a look at the Selmer SD20, that mouthpiece has excavated sidewalls, and I don't believe that the Vandorens do.

Your milage will vary, especialy with these round chamber pieces, which are so sensitive to anatomy for tone quality.
 

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Another possible factor to reckon with if we have to be more (overly?) technical: I play a Buescher Mark IV ('29) True Tone.
Taking this into account, I'd use a Caravan large chambered mouthpiece. Bueschers love larger bores, and they DEFINITELY sound different than any S80.
 

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Another possible factor to reckon with if we have to be more (overly?) technical: I play a Buescher Mark IV ('29) True Tone.
This may well change the equation. Another option may be an S80 LT, the Larry Teal model. James Bunte at CCM sounds absolutely beautiful on his.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Here's a potential brightness spectrum... remember that none are bright by any means, just different "modulations" on the Vandoren-French sound, as I'd like to think:
AL3, A20, A15, A25, A17, A27, A28/AL4

Vandoren's descriptions of their mouthpieces are actually quite "bang-on", I'd advise the AL3 for the darkest tone, you just might sacrifice a little volume compared to an S80, at first. You might want to take a look at the Selmer SD20, that mouthpiece has excavated sidewalls, and I don't believe that the Vandorens do.

At first when you came out with your "potential brightness spectrum" I was like "huh?" :scratch:

But this actually, at least the way you're grouping the Vandoren models together, makes a lot of sense: It looks as if the A15 and A25 are similar (see original link), the A17 and A27 are similar (The A17 is the noteworthy heir of the A27, see http://www.hysonmusic.com/vandoren-v5-series-alto-saxophone-mouthpieces-various-sizes-98). I can't vouch for the rest, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I feel another thread coming on...I like this too much.

I'm leaning towards the V5 A27 at this stage. Will definitely look into a Caravan or more Rascherian mouthpiece in the near future. Here's my reason: "A27...Designed for playing soft reeds with optimum tone color, especially in extended top range..." (see http://www.hysonmusic.com/vandoren-v5-series-alto-saxophone-mouthpieces-various-sizes-98). As I said, I would like a classical mouthpiece that will allow me to play softer reeds and is forgiving in the higher registers.

But, please tell me one thing: The V5 A27 doesn't tend to be screechy, loud or piercing, does it?
 

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No Vandoren really permits you to be piercing, unless you have bad air support or are biting. I think it's a fine choice to start out with. For your horn, just watch for intonation but from my experiences, a round chamber is all it takes for a Buescher to be happy with modern stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
No Vandoren really permits you to be piercing, unless you have bad air support or are biting. I think it's a fine choice to start out with. For your horn, just watch for intonation but from my experiences, a round chamber is all it takes for a Buescher to be happy with modern stuff.
Thanks! I'm very glad that you replied. I didn't think that the mouthpiece itself will permit me to be piercing. So if it turns out to be - I'm the one to blame.

Now I'm leaning toward an A17 mouthpiece. Two reasons: first and foremost - price (almost $30 cheaper, in a fine used condition) and the A17 is the follow-up of the A27. In fact, after some reading I see that the A17 is a bit more similar to the AL3 than the A27 (if this chart http://www.saxplus.com/mouthpiece-chart.html is accurate, of course) that some of the posters have recommended. Seeing that I'm looking for a "more subdued, homogenous" (to use your own words) I think I'm on the right track.

Now, the only schlep I may be confronted with is the fact that I may need to use harder reeds on this beast. Is it really going to be such a schlep? What do you think?
 

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Discussion Starter #17
I just noticed that you're working on your M. Div. Congrats, and, based on what I've heard, good luck!
My reply is two-fold: thanks and :lol:. Would've loved to have majored in sax as you have (that was my second choice) and, no, I don't entertain any fanciful ideas that it's easy nor do I think that your industry doesn't come with its quirks. So, good luck to you too! :salute:

Btw: I see you use both a S80* and Vandoren AL3. Your insight may be very relevant to this thread. Care to share please? Compare the two mouthpieces to your hearts content.
 

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I started on the S80 C*, and it wasn't a bad piece. The tone was pretty consistent, and intonation wasn't too bad. Dynamic control was pretty decent as well. After that I spent 2 years trying out a few other pieces, spending the bulk of that time on the S80 C*, Rousseau NC4, and the Optimum AL3. In the end, the Optimum won me over. On my Yamaha, the tone seemed more open, intonation was improved majorly, and did I mention the tone? After the first time I tried the Optimum, the C* sounded like it's chamber: Square. It just had this blocky sound to it that I couldn't get rid of.

However, I tried all 3 on a Selmer, and it was a tie between the C* and the Optimum. One more thing to remember is that, in my experiences, that older horns prefer round chambers.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thus, we can note that certain mouthpieces or more compatible with certain horns. Some mouthpieces tend to be more compatible with vintage horns while some mouthpieces tend to be more compatible with more modern horns. Even within the vintage/modern categories you'll find more and more subcategories seeing that "vintage" encapsulates many decades and the same can be said of "modern". For instance, a perfect fit for an earlier Buescher True Tone may not be a perfect fit (in fact, may even be a horrible fit) for an Aristocrat. This type of reasoning seems to be ludicrous to some but to many SOTW-ers it seems to be common knowledge.

Yes, bmatney, I've been told to look out for rounder chamber mouthpieces for my True Tone. Will bombard the "SOTW Marketplace" with several posts in the near future.
 
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