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Saxaholic's Official Review: 10MFAN Mouthpieces

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Here is my official review on the new 10MFAN hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpieces.

I’ve had these mouthpieces longer than anyone, and have been playing on them every day for several months now. The short version: it is my opinion that these are the best made mouthpieces on the planet for what they’re intended to do. I now rotate between the three depending on which gig I’m doing, but if I had to pick one to take to any gig, it would be the Robusto.

Initial Impressions: My initial impression after I played all three was to call Mark and mess with him. I told him there was something wrong with all of the mouthpieces, and the concern in his voice was evident…and then I told him the problem was that I couldn’t pick a favorite. ? While I’m sure his blood pressure didn’t appreciate my little joke, it was actually the truth…I couldn’t pick a favorite at first because I was amazed at what he accomplished with these mouthpieces. They were all so different, yet they all had amazing depth of sound, richness, were full-bodied, super reed friendly, and had an exceptional core sound.
10MFAN Merlot: Disbelief…Mark told me this was better than any warm category mouthpiece…and he was right. I always liked roll-over baffles, but Mark made this with a low, flat baffle that I haven’t played before in this mouthpiece category. I didn’t know if I would like this as much as the standard roll-over baffle, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Beautiful work, and a truly unique baffle design. It felt so natural when I played it, the comfort was perfect. The sound was the most beautiful I’ve ever heard in a tenor mouthpiece, ever. Now, months later, I find that the piece just sounds better and better and I’m having more fun and enjoying my playing more than I ever have before.

10MFAN Robusto: It sounds really insane when I sit there and think about this, but the actual initial impression was “I hate Mark…for not coming out with these sooner.” I instantly knew this was going to be a “go-to” type of mouthpiece for nearly any gig. This is one of those moments where your eyes bug out of your skull because you’re so surprised and overjoyed at what you’re hearing. It was really hard to imagine a mouthpiece making such a difference, but there it was staring me in the face. Several months later, and it’s only gotten better and better every day.

10MFAN The Boss: My initial impression upon looking at The Boss was there was no way I was going to like this mouthpiece. Way too high of a baffle. “Ok, I’ll try to see where he was going with this,” was my thought process. Then I blew a few notes and had to check my pulse. Easily the most powerful, hugest sounding tenor mouthpiece I’ve ever played…..and I LOVED it. I couldn’t believe the volume I was getting out of it; and I also couldn’t believe the amazing tone! Full, powerful, big bodied, with depth and plenty of cut. The thickest sounding “powerful” type mouthpiece I’ve ever played.

Appearance: All of these mouthpieces have the same outer shape, with the inside being carved differently.

10MFAN Merlot: Beautiful outside as all the others, with the “10MFAN” in script lettering and the “MERLOT” underneath it. The three white rings on the shank were a perfect addition and will immediately identify these to anyone who goes out to a gig and sees a cat playing on one. The inside baffle is a very low, nearly non-existent flat baffle that extends into a medium-large chamber. The work is beautiful and flawless. The table is PERFECTLY flat and LONG so you can line up your reeds perfectly; side and tip rails are beautifully crafted. The beak design is super cool, too, it has vertical lines up and down it. You can’t feel it at all but it’s a unique look that adds to the cool factor of these mouthpieces.

10MFAN Robusto: Same gorgeous outside as the Merlot with a slightly higher and longer flat baffle floor which flows into a medium-large chamber. Gorgeous work and beautiful to look at. The tip, baffle, and rails are all expertly done by Eric Falcon and look perfect. I like how they polish the baffle area because Mark and Eric feel they play better that way, yet they leave “The Boss” with an unpolished baffle… this is really exacting work and they obviously experimented with everything. Plus, I’m a cigar aficionado, so seeing “Robusto” on my mouthpiece is definitely a cool extra for me. ?

10MFAN The Boss: A high baffled piece that doesn’t feel like a high baffled piece. It’s bizarre but once you blow it you’ll know what I mean. They leave the baffle work alone on this model, meaning it isn’t buffed/polished at all, as Eric and Mark feel it plays better this way. You can see Eric’s craftsmanship on a higher baffle and it is perfect. The tip rail is the perfect thickness and these have the signature “10MFAN” in script with the model name underneath.

Response: I consider "response" to mean how quickly a mouthpiece responds to your air stream; how easily the extreme ranges of the horn speak; and how fast the articulation can be on that particular mouthpiece.

10MFAN Merlot: This is such an easy blow, you won’t believe the big, warm, rich sound you get out of this mouthpiece. This piece, like all three, has the perfect amount of resistance. The low register purrs and hums, and will honk and bop, too. The altissimo is super friendly, and easy. I love the way the piece feels to play. Low note sub-tones are breathable; altissimo feels like a natural extension of the horn. It’s nice to just play the music instead of having to worry about the extreme ranges; most people playing this category piece aren’t going to be screaming high notes all the time, but if you need it, the response is there.

10MFAN Robusto: This piece has a quick response combined with a warm, fat sound with power. The blow again feels just right, which is insane because when I played the Merlot it felt perfect. Then I played this mouthpiece and it felt perfect. I couldn’t decide which felt better, then I realized it was exactly what Mark was talking about in his “3 Category System” and it finally made sense. You’ll feel the response is similar to the Merlot, but a bit quicker overall which lends to the extra bite and power this piece is capable of. Again, sub-tones are full, beautiful, and you can whisper on them. I think I felt the most comfortable on this piece with altissimo because it was in the same type of resistance I’m used to; except this just made it so easy that I could actually just use the extended range as part of the instrument, and not have to worry about hitting the notes themselves. Mark talked about the high notes “releasing” or “opening up” with his pieces, and I understand what he meant. The palm keys aren’t stuffy, dull, or tubby like vintage pieces are when you go up high.

10MFAN The Boss: Holy hell. This thing is unreal. The bell keys WHISPER in subtone….and altissimo too. Then in an instant you can scream the highest note in your range with ease, fullness, and richness. Then honk a low Bb (or low A, if you’re so inclined) that would scare off a charging bear. It just doesn’t make sense. Really. It’s just silly how easy it is. That’s really the first word I can use to describe it…silly. Higher, faster, louder. That’s the motto of lead trumpet players right? Well, I guess saxophone players can do that now with this piece. For such a high baffle, the low end is clear and clean response wise. It takes some getting used to in the altissimo range because you actually don’t need to really put much effort into it; when I’m on a gig and blowing hard and going for some high stuff, it’s standard to get more tense and “work harder” to hit those notes….on The Boss I can actually relax knowing full well I won’t need to tense up or work harder for those notes.

Dynamics/Projection: Not the same thing, I know, but included in the same category. Projection, in my mind, is the ability to fill up a room with your sound; the ability to make your sound carry to the far corners of the room, no matter what volume. To me, volume is simply how loud you can play...a higher amount of decibels.

10MFAN Merlot: DON’T EVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU A WARM, FULL SOUNDING PIECE CAN NOT BE LOUD. This breaks that myth into pieces. Warmth, fullness, richness…and power. A great blow and this piece can get plenty of volume. The projection is big and wide and fat. The width and color of the sound are unbelievable. Very spread and this type of projection is a perfect match to the vintage Selmers who have a tighter core/focus to the sound, because it adds a lot of width and fatness to the sound while the horn still maintains that core/focus that people like. Conversely, though, I’ve tried this on vintage American horns like Conns and Martins, and it doesn’t make the sound more spread, it just makes it richer, with more depth, color, and more projection than other mouthpieces in this category.

10MFAN Robusto: This is a little more focused than the roundness and width of the Merlot; and this thing can COOK when you push it. Seriously. Put on an even slightly brighter reed and you could do any R&B gig with this thing. The dynamics are unbelievable. They can whisper up high or down low…they can get huge when you need them. This piece ROARS when you push it; it will take all the air you can give it and not quit on you. And the entire time it keeps a perfect sound quality. I find the projection definitely more focused than the Merlot, but it’s still got a ton of “extra” going on. I find this piece matches up REALLY well on vintage American horns and French designs alike; I especially liked it on my Martin because it adds a bit of focus while still having a huge, fat projection quality. Definitely more powerful than the Merlot, more focused, and punchier dynamics when called upon. This piece can whisper and do ballads though…see David Mann’s clip below as proof of that.

10MFAN The Boss: Just the most powerful, monstrous sounding tenor mouthpiece I’ve ever played. And the crazy sick thing is…you can lay back and get a fat, full sound. Easy response whether you’re playing soft and smooth…or roarin’ in a rock setting. It’s just plain silly. Altissimo is instant, easy, huge sounding, full, dynamics are beyond measure. I would say this is one of the loudest mouthpieces out there. You will never, EVER need a microphone with this mouthpiece. If you need a mic to be heard on this thing, start practicing more, because it’s your chops! I can’t believe the combination of sound and power on this mouthpiece. This is easily my go-to for heavy and loud funk/blues/rock gigs.

Tone: I consider "tone" to be descriptive of the sound the mouthpiece gives to the player. Terms such as: bright, dark, full, thin, big, small, etc etc can be used to describe tone. Since it is such a controversial and individual topic, I will focus on things that other players will most likely encounter when comparing these pieces.

About my sound: Just to give you an idea where I’m coming from, I thought I’d talk about my approach on sound and what’s required of me at gigs. If it were up to me, and I was playing in a perfect world where we got paid millions of dollars to do only the gigs we wanted to do, I would be in Mark’s “Category 1” and do the Getz thing. My inherent tone that I want to use is a warm, smooth, fluffy sound that I really don’t get to do very often. Only in smaller venue type gigs do I get to play like this. Most of the time, I’m required to play more straight ahead, bop, big band, R&B, funk, or rock stuff (I really don’t do the pop thing too much.) I almost always prefer to play without a microphone, so any mouthpiece I use has to be able to be heard for the type of gig I’m doing.

That being said, my sound on most gigs is typically in the “Category 2” that Mark has. Most people tell me my sound is vibrant, round, warm, powerful, and punchy when I call on it. My standard equipment is a 180,000 serial “The Martin Tenor” but I have tested these on Selmer Mark VI, SBA, Yani, Yamaha, Conn 10M, and several newer Taiwanese horns.

10MFAN Merlot: Easily the most difficult part of this review. Here’s the short of it: there is nothing out there that sounds like this mouthpiece. The immediate improvement in tone was really surprising, as I’ve played all the modern boutique stuff and all the vintage stuff, both original and done by various refacers, and I honestly feel that this mouthpiece has a better tonal quality than anything I’ve played. I find the piece medium to medium-dark in tonal quality, but it is BALANCED. There are highs, mids, and lows in the sound. It’s not a stuffy, dark mouthpiece. It is clear, smooth, warm, RESONANT and vibrant. This is the richest sound I’ve heard out of a tenor mouthpiece, and the feel when you blow it is just perfect. For what he was trying to accomplish on this mouthpiece, Mark NAILED it. Up and down the horn the sound is even, clear, full, warm, incredibly rich…and you can alter many things on this piece with reeds and ligatures. I personally use a FL Bare Brass ligature and find it the best match (for me), and I find the best results with Rigotti reeds. Everyone is going to be different on that so experiment with reeds and ligatures to see what works best; I followed Mark’s advice on this and it really was a ton of fun exploring all the different sound colors I could get out of this mouthpiece. If I wanted darker, warmer, smoother, I went with a LaVoz or Vandoren blue box. If I wanted a middle-of-the-road type of reed, I’d put on a Vandoren ZZ or Rico Jazz Select. For a bit more brightness I’d use Rigotti. I personally kept the Rigotti because that’s what made it feel perfectly balanced FOR ME. And when I say “for a bit more brightness I’d use rigotti” don’t take that to mean the mouthpiece is bright or going to be bright if you use Rigottis. It just adds a little more highs to the sound and colors it a little brighter by using those reeds. If you put yourself into Mark’s “category 1” type of player….then this mouthpiece is what you should be playing. I have used this on quite a few gigs now, and have received countless compliments on how personal and warm the sound is; just a few of the compliments I’ve heard from other musicians.

“Way more complexity; I always liked your sound man but this is something else!”
“It’s definitely given you a new depth and richness.”
“The most beautiful I’ve ever heard you play any ballad.”

There are quite a few more, but it gives you the general idea. I’ve been playing with some of these guys for over a decade, so for them to approach me about it is awesome because I never announce when I’m trying a new mouthpiece to them. I try to see if they will notice something and approach me, and they did, not just with this mouthpiece but with all 3.
The Merlot can be quite versatile...

Check out Jeff Rupert’s playing below:

And then listen to Joel Frahm kill on it:

10MFAN Robusto: From the first time I played it, I knew that I was going to be using this mouthpiece A LOT. Holy cow what a sound. First, let me differentiate it from the Merlot. It is definitely more focused, it is definitely more powerful, and it is definitely brighter than the Merlot. Now, that being said, the Robusto can do just about anything you want. It’s got warmth, richness, is very full sounding, and has a nice edge on top of the sound that gives a very balanced approach. Incredibly balanced, plenty of highs, mids, and lows and incredibly versatile. You can get a fantastic smoky ballad sound out of this and turn around and get a great funk vibe from this. Of all the 10MFAN mouthpieces, this is the one I’ve played the most. It is just so incredibly versatile for so many different kinds of gigs. In my opinion, this is the main piece that tenor players should aim for, because it covers some territory that the Merlot does, and also covers some of “The Boss” territory as well. Each of those pieces definitely have their own vibe, but this is just such a sick mouthpiece. You can do SO much on it; it has the perfect feel in the mouth so I find my throat is relaxed, more open, and I’m getting this huge, resonant, warm, powerful sound that I can shape in so many different directions. Then you get into the whole reed thing!! It’s astonishing. I’ve played these mouthpieces for months now, and they just get better and better everyday. If I had to choose one of the three, the Robusto would be it because it is so incredibly versatile. When Mark said he had made the best all-around tenor mouthpiece ever…I was skeptical and told him that I was glad he was passionate about it. Now, I can sit here and say with full confidence that this is the best all-around tenor mouthpiece ever made. I’ve played everything out there and there is nothing that comes close to this mouthpiece. I’ve had many compliments at recent gigs and rehearsals on this mouthpiece as well, and they were usually very different from the Merlot compliments.

“Very clear and gutsy”
“Easily the best I’ve heard you sound; your command of the range seems to be exceptionally good” (regarding some altissmo licks and bell note honking during the same solo)
“Wow; what a difference! I can’t put exact words to the sound…it’s like you could do whatever you wanted. On different tunes I heard Dexter, I heard Sonny influence, I heard Trane…very cool!”

Mark makes a bold claim of this being the best all-around hard rubber tenor mouthpiece ever made. After months of playing on this mouthpiece, I must admit I am in full agreement. Check out the David Mann clips below for proof that this piece can cover a huge range:

David playing a beautiful ballad on the Robusto:

Now check out David playing a straight-ahead jazz blues. Great middle of the road playing:

And now listen to David play on a funk track:

As you can see, the versatility of the mouthpiece is fantastic and can be used in a huge variety of settings. My personal favorite of David’s is the blues clip; such an amazing sound and the freedom you hear in his improvisation is excellent.

10MFAN The Boss: Mark should have called this piece “The Freak” because it doesn’t make sense what it can do. This is the most powerful hard rubber tenor mouthpiece I’ve played, but it has such an intense depth of sound, a fullness that you just don’t ever see in a high baffled piece like this. I normally don’t even like high baffled mouthpieces but I’ve been using this regularly for louder power-type gigs for funk and rock. I can’t begin to describe how huge the sound is…it’s one of those pieces when you play it in your living room it’s almost too much power. But when you get to the gig and you’re competing with electric guitars and heavy-handed drummers and the volume is cranked up…this piece shines. I have not had to use a microphone at all for these gigs since bringing this mouthpiece and have received a TON of compliments on cutting through the mix with clarity, power, and body. It provides such a freedom of playing and can do so much; you can really take it down with this piece and still keep a fat, full sound. The bottom register just oozes out and the upper register is just stupidly easy. I thought I was going to have to “learn” this piece but it played great from day one for me. I typically play a 7* and thought I’d have to increase my tip for a baffle like this…Mark told me the way they do the facing curves I wouldn’t need to go up in tip and he was right. The 7* felt perfect from day one and still feels perfect now, months later. This will do the funk, R&B, rock, and pop thing with ease…but you can actually take it down and do a straight-ahead vibe with it as well. It’s definitely the brightest of the three models but it’s so full and rich that it’s hard to imagine so much power is there as well. I found this piece to be the most sensitive to reed changes; you can really darken up the tonal quality with a heavier reed. For me, I felt most comfortable playing just a very slightly harder reed than normal. Usually I’m around a Rigotti 3S strength…but the 3M and 3H felt perfect with this piece. If I wanted to add a bit more cut and brightness I went down slightly to a 2.5M and it burns. I’m pretty confident I can go to the harbor and dock ships with this mouthpiece. It’s just a freak of a piece, I can’t explain it much better than that. I had a funny experience with this piece where a fellow sax player came out to a loud funk/rockin blues gig I do; he’s heard me play many times before but this is the first time he had heard me on The Boss.

“What did you change?? Your sound was just crazy huge tonight; I didn’t see a mic near you and it just cut through crystal clear.”

Here is top contemporary jazz saxophonist Euge Groove playing a great track to show The Boss' abilities.


I didn’t know what the price was going to be when I first got these; I assumed Mark was following the rest of the mouthpiece world and going to charge $600-$800 like the rest of the guys who are making mouthpieces this same way. Anyone doing pure 100% rubber rods and hand finishing is up in that range. When Mark told me he was charging $385, I was completely stunned. He told me he had been selling high-end vintage piece for a long time and wanted to do something that was truly beneficial for the mouthpiece world. He said he wanted to make better hard rubber pieces than anything out there and charge less than everyone else who was making them this way.

Mark’s mission was made clear to me; he was out to change the mouthpiece world and he did it. For the guys who haven’t heard Mark, he is a KILLER player and has probably played more mouthpieces than anyone on the planet. It seemed like a natural progression for this guy to sell the top vintage mouthpieces for 30 years, and then design even better mouthpieces. Combine that with Eric Falcon, who has more experience refacing and making mouthpieces than most of the other cats in the game…it was just the perfect combo.

Another intangible is these mouthpieces FREE you from so many constraints. The Merlot can give you darker, warmer, richer…but it can be CLEAR and LOUD. No stuffiness, no tubbiness, no lack of volume. The Boss can give you super-powerful, brighter, cutting…but it is FULL-BODIED and RICH and THICK with tons of depth. No thinness, no blaring buzzy sound, no lack of character. And then the Robusto can give you the perfect middle ground that allows you to get a huge, rich full bodied straight ahead sound with sizzle and power available.

What’s really cool is that Mark has helped to simplify what everyone is talking about in regards to tonal color by making that 3-Category System. The vision is cool because most mouthpiece guys just make a mouthpiece either based on a prior mouthpiece model, someone else’s work, or just to release something new. Mark came out with these to take care of 3 simple sound categories. Any shades in between can be done with reed and ligature choice.

A big thank you to Mark, for allowing me the time to prepare this review. I normally like to wait as long as possible before doing a full detailed review, so I have time to test the mouthpieces on gigs, rehearsals, in the shed, and get the opinions of other musicians who know my sound and my playing. He was gracious enough to allow me to play these for several months and I got these three before anyone else to give me time while he prepared his announcement. Thanks, Mark!

There have been plenty of other reviews by tons of people, but the common theme is that everyone is blown away by these. What’s really great about these is that they’ve saved me a ton of money; I don’t have to go looking for mouthpieces anymore. After the “honeymoon” was over, I was still as excited about them as the first day I received them. Every day I can’t wait to play the horn because I’m so satisfied with what I’m able to do on these mouthpieces.

I’ve been fortunate enough to play a lot of mouthpieces and do many different reviews on them, and I’ve been impressed with other mouthpieces in the past. That being said, nothing I’ve played comes even close to these 10MFAN mouthpieces. It has completely ended my search. I have 3 different mouthpieces that 110% cover everything I could ever do in the saxophone world, and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

- Saxaholic
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