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1st review ever!

I recently received this mouthpiece (Claude Lakey Brass Alto 7*) in the mail. Shipped all the way from the US of A to the A of Australia.

Packaging and visual impression

Unpacking the box was fun after waiting for it to arrive at my call center office. Filled in the rest of my day (in between calls), as the wait for it to arrive was met with relief that Australia Post hadn't lost or mishandled it (as far as I visually tell).

There were 2 boxes. A larger freight box with lots of foam packing in it, and the box the mouthpiece came in (or retail style mouthpiece box)... Really nicely packed for international shipping. Shipping costs on the box were actually more than I had forked out for the express post. +1 For Claude Lakey, the first company I have dealt with not to charge 3 times more for shipping than it actually cost them.

Inside the mouthpiece box was a mouthpiece bag in black with Claude Lakey written on it in gold writing. Opening this bag, I found the mouthpiece wrapped in soft tissue paper, a Rovner star ligature holding the paper cover on, and a mouthpiece cap protecting the beak of the mouthpiece further.

I opened this package and inspected the mouthpiece. No manufacturing defects, beautifully plated. I like the CNC style cutouts on the sides, makes it look a little different to other mouthpieces.

I used a straight measurement tool to check the table for any warping and or non-square areas, and I found none. The baffle was beautiful and the tip and rails were really well crafted.

Looking at the tooth plate, it seems that it would have been injection molded (I am not sure of how they actually manufacture it), which would make sense as it would seal much nicer than a piece of plastic wedged and epoxied into the cutout.

The mouthpiece is really heavy, and feels solid. It looks beautiful.

It is bigger than most other metal pieces, meaning that some hard rubber ligatures will actually fit it. I really wanted to try it with my Saxxas ligature (that I was using with my Aizen Jazz Master 7) as I like the extra response flexibility I can get with it. However, even though the size of the Saxxas ligature was correct for this mouthpiece, the plastic buttons (or contact points to the mouthpiece) were in different positions to the cutouts on the Lakey piece.

I couldn't be bothered with the 5 minutes it would have taken me to measure and glue some cork pieces onto the ligature, and I didn't want to change it as I knew I would probably still use it for my HR pieces.

I then tried my Theo Wanne Enlightened ligature (alto L size) and it fit perfectly. That ligature also fit my Aizen.

I was trying this as I don't like Rovner ligatures. They are well made, but don't get along with me. I have thick lips that provide enough dampening on both the reed and mouthpiece, so I don't need the extra dampening from the Rovner ligature.

now for the Playing

I was initially a little skeptical about this piece as it has a baffle and a tooth plate. I have always found that metal pieces with baffles and tooth plates really deaden the sound or thin the sound on alto. I bought this mouthpiece to assist me with a more modern contemporary sound.

I put the mouthpiece on my sax. I then put my Rico Jazz Select 3s unfiled reed on, adjusted the position and slid the Enlightened ligature over the top.

I blew open (middle c#) to get a feel of the ergonomics of the piece. The beak is bigger than any other metal mouthpiece I have tried and smaller than standard HR mouthpieces. I really found this comfortable as my mouth is small, but I also play with a really dropped jaw. The mouthpiece felt like it would not give me the embouchure fatigue that my HR Aizen gave me, as the Aizen took up too much of my lip space. I also didn't feel like I would leak out the side of my mouth as the mouthpiece was nicely curved and fit the contour of my lips really nicely.
The height of the mouthpieces' beak was high enough to open my embouchure enough to give me enough room for air support and to have a nice airy or bubbly tone. It was not big enough so that I would need to have my jaw held open with a monster clamp to let the mouthpiece sit in my mouth comfortably.

I then ran up and down some scales. Really easy to get everything above low e out. It was like nothing was stopping me. Brilliant soft, bright, dark. Whatever I wanted tone came out. The low notes weren't as easy to get out as a mouthpiece with a super low straight baffle, or my Aizen. However they weren't overly difficult either. Only a small amount of work got me used to playing them, and now they are easy again.

High notes and anything with the octave key on sounded fantastic. It's the sound I wanted. Edgy, bright, warm, focused with a decent amount of spread, good intonation, really easy expression. I was scared this would also be buzzy, Not so.. I really wanted a clean sound, with enough edge and expression to sound saucy. I was also scared that with a baffle, that the tone colour would be hard to change. It was easy to change to what I wanted. Maybe baffles don't affect flexibility as much as I was once told.

Comparing it to my Aizen. The Aizen is a great piece. Fantastic built and great tone. I just couldn't sit with the HR chirp and duck sound that was still present in the Aizen, and the other HR pieces I have tried recently (berg Larsen HR, Jody Jazz HR, Vandoren V16, Brillhart etc.). Not saying this is a bad thing, just not what I was looking for.

Comparing to metal pieces: Otto link - never liked the metals on alto.
Jody Jazz - very similar to the DV, but with a lower price tag.
Warburton - Lakey is more responsive but with the same sort of tone colours (I tried all Warburton angles, with .80 tip)
Zagar Special, BigBore, V-Series, Vintage bronze- These were one of the best mouthpieces I had ever tried. Zagar uses a non-baffle (or extremely low baffle) mouthpiece design. This was meant to make a really free and even register, with fat low notes - and it does and did. I was a little worried that compared to this, the baffle from the Lakey piece would thin the low notes too much, and almost render them unplayable. After I played the Lakey, I found it took the annoying buzz I got in the lower register. (I don't like buzz, but others love it). The Lakey was a little harder to push the low Bb, B, C# and C out than the Zagar at a pp or ppp level, but with a bit of work (20 minutes practice), there is no problem with that now. The upper register is just as open and vibrant as the Zagar pieces, but the lower register is what I have loved in a HR piece or in other words a little less harsh than a "baffle-less" mouthpiece.

This piece is really really good for what I wanted it for. Contemporary, rock, fusion, funk and all of those styles would be really well suited to it. Ballads sound great as does a lot of Latin style music. Bebop and swing, maybe my Aizen is better for those styles as it is HR and I find it to be a little more "old style" sounding than any metal piece on alto. That being said, the Claude Lakey really competes well with the Aizen in this respect, and probably is one of the best metal pieces I have tried for Bebop, swing and "non-computer-enhanced" music styles.

I really love this piece, and is definitely going to become my main piece.

Final notes:
This piece is really affordable. $200 plus postage from the Claude Lakey website. I decided to test it with the Rovner ligature, and it worked better than any other mouthpiece with that same ligature probably due to the raised cutouts stopping the ligature from dampening the whole piece. However, I still prefer the enlightened ligature. A standard two screw metal ligature would also work well with this as it would have less contact with the actual mouthpiece body than on other pieces.

The bore on this mouthpiece is smaller than the Aizen, but only slightly. I'm going to need to sand my cork a little.

Postage, packaging, customer service: 5/5
Tone: 4.5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
Quality: 4.5/5
Projection: 4/5
Intonation: 4/5
Easy of blowing: 4/5
Responsiveness: 4.5/5

Overall: 4.38/5

*Please note these are my observations, and I tend to have very picky and selective tastes for my sound on the sax. You may even go as far as saying I have OCD with my sax sound. unless I get the sound I want, I won't touch my equipment until I do. This mouthpiece does allow me to produce my desired sound (without having to take out a house loan), which is why I have rated it so highly.

Thanks for reading
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