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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Theo Wanne recently came out with yet another update to the Gaia and Durga lines of mouthpieces.

This got me thinking, is this a clever business strategy to maximize profit off of GAS-prone saxophonists, disguised as super advanced R&D and innovation?

I think the reason I started wondering is the fact that I just can't hear the slightest difference when someone "upgrades" from say, a Durga 3 to a 4. Some of the geometry features (like the shark gill) of the Theo Wanne pieces look dashing and quirky under a bright light, but are these design choices actually based on real acoustic research? And furthermore, if they did change the mouthpieces to any significant degree, wouldn't that include trade offs? Surely you can't "improve" a line of mouthpieces over and over without introducing setbacks in certain areas?

It all seems like hyperbole to me.

EDIT: from what I've heard from people who know Theo personally or professionally, I can believe that he's genuinely obsessed with tinkering with his own products and that is reason for the frequent updates.
 

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I agree. I think the "improvements" are largely BS (any actual R&D is more likely to be targeted at reducing manufacturing costs than at improving the peformance of the mouthpieces).

Moreover, as you point out, what are "improvements" to one player are likely to be viewed as demerits to another. As a player, it's frustrating because one of the main benefits of the establishment of CNC in mouthpiece manufacture is that it should be easy to get a mouthpiece that plays exactly the same from the manufacturer (e.g., in case you want a backup, or your mouthpiece gets damaged, etc.). The fact that the mouthpieces are constantly being "updated" (and the older versions discontinued) destroys this benefit.

I think this constant updating is mainly just Theo's way of trying to avoid competing with his pieces on the second-hand market. It also allows new buzz to be continually built up around the "new and improved" versions of the mouthpieces.

In short, I believe it's just marketing.
 

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Even if that is true, Theo is certainly not alone in marketing hyperbole.

Does anyone else remember back when there were only three categories of mouthpieces (ex. Soloist, Link, Berg)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Glad I'm not alone in my skepticism, though I do actually welcome being proven wrong!

As another example and maybe a talking point, read this slogan for the new Gaia IV:
The GAIA 4 tenor does everything previous GAIA tenor mouthpieces did, but with an incredible CORE to the sound!

So the GAIA 3, the previous KING of Otto Link style pieces DIDN'T have an incredible core to the sound?

Now, I'm not sure if "core" is perfectly defined within mouthpiece nomenclature. I usually think of tone as being mostly comprised of harmonic content, frequency balance and the character of the articulation. If by "incredible core" they mean more midrange frequencies, then that would mean the lower and higher frequencies gets less pronounced at the same time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Even if that is true, Theo is certainly not alone in marketing hyperbole.

Does anyone else remember back when there were only three categories of mouthpieces (ex. Soloist, Link, Berg)?
That is a good point, they are for sure not alone in marketing hyperbole. However, I do think they're alone in "updating" their mouthpieces.

I'm glad we live in a time where you have so many options with regards to saxophone equipment. Contrary to what my first post might suggest, I am myself prone to GAS and I love gadgets.

But I have accepted that my love of gadgets is irrational and I don't need to justify every purchase I make. It's okay to want nice things even if they're pointless.
 

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And anybody who makes mouthpieces knows that a single stroke with an 800 grit sandpaper can alter the properties of the MPC, so even if there was an "improvement" it would probably still be on a graded scale.
But hey, it's good marketing.
I'd have some comments from Ron C but what happened in Vancouver stays in Vancouver :cool:
 

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Does your mouthpiece get worse when a new mouthpiece comes out? I guess it might take a resale hit, but if you're buying and selling mouthpieces enough to be worried about the resale of a particular mouthpiece, that's a problem you've created for yourself.

As an engineer and a creative person (separately and together), I definitely have a hard time putting stuff down. If I can think of a way that it might be better, I'll always do it. Generously, I might call it "continuous iteration," less charitably I might call it "not being able to leave well enough alone." I don't see why Theo wouldn't want to keep improving on a theme, if he does actually see each mouthpiece model as a product meant to accomplish a certain goal.

Often when I am writing code, I'll come up with a good way to accomplish something, usually more efficiently, that will inspire me to go revisit something that I previously wrote so that I can implement that tactic there. I assume that Theo and co. are a similar way about mouthpieces.

The problem is that players see a Durga 4 and start to think that their Durga 3 is no longer a viable mouthpiece or whatever. Maybe we are conditioned by computers and phones to think that we must eventually upgrade to the newer thing with the higher number. Unlike with phones and computers, though, Theo doesn't have the power to push a software update that will render your mouthpiece obsolete.

With that said, I've always thought the Theo Wanne marketing has been bull**** from the start. Lots of weird, unverifiable pseudoscience to justify what could reasonably just be "these well-made mouthpieces play really well and cost what they cost."

In conclusion, both things can be true. It can be a genuine desire to iterate and a clever marketing ploy to capitalize on weak-willed saxophonists with disposable income. How else do you fund your flights of mouthpiece engineering fancy?

Just remember that nobody anywhere is getting rich in the saxophone business.
 

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That is a good point, they are for sure not alone in marketing hyperbole. However, I do think they're alone in "updating" their mouthpieces.
Other manufacturers have also updated their mouthpieces, but not as often, and not with quite as much fanfare.

Regarding the update and how it can be a detriment: note that this isn't theoretical for me.

I own an original Gaia for tenor that I really like, it was my main mouthpiece for more than 5 years.

A couple of years ago when WWBW was having a sale, I decided to try the Gaia 3. I was in the unique position to try them side-by-side and I found the updated Gaia 3 to feel like a completely different mouthpiece, which I didn't like nearly as much as the original. As recounted in this post, I wound up sending it back in rather short order.
 

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I don't want to say anything harsh about Theo even though I know essentially nothing about him and have never played any of his MPs. I have a lot of respect for people who create and operate businesses like his. R&D can PhDs in lab coats or it can be someone asking friends and musicians to try out a modified MP. The latter approach seems much more appealing when it comes to saxophones.

That said, I'm reminded of an old saying about the manufacturers of fishing equipment: they design their products to catch fishermen, not to catch fish. That's "catchier" than anything I can say about music equipment manufacturers, but there's a similar point to be made.
 

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That is a good point, they are for sure not alone in marketing hyperbole. However, I do think they're alone in "updating" their mouthpieces.
There have been a few makers that issue "Generation II" models, and then there are those that sell alternative materials (ex. marble HR vs black) for the same model and ascribe changes in response and tone.
 
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
There have been a few makers that issue "Generation II" models, and then there are those that sell alternative materials (ex. marble HR vs black) for the same model and ascribe changes in response and tone.
Fair point!

In regards to marble HR vs black, I wouldn't mind if the manufacturer simply stated "you can have this mouthpiece in your choice of marbled or black hard rubber, whichever you like the look of most". But no! Everything is about sound with us saxophonists! We don't care about aestehtics! We're not superficial like that!
 

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Fair point!

In regards to marble HR vs black, I wouldn't mind if the manufacturer simply stated "you can have this mouthpiece in your choice of marbled or black hard rubber, whichever you like the look of most". But no! Everything is about sound with us saxophonists! We don't care about aestehtics! We're not superficial like that!
Some players will guarantee that they can hear a difference between the two, while other players will tell you they hear no difference.
Some will find the marble rubber to be brighter, while others will find it to be warmer, and others will find it to make no difference compared to the black hard rubber.
The one thing we can agree on, is that they look different from one another, and you will probably have a preference with one look compared to the other.
The problem is, everybody wants one answer that will work for everybody, and sometimes there isn’t one. If someone told me that they had a black hard rubber piece and it played brighter than the same piece in marbled rubber, who am I to disagree? That’s just something they hear, whether or not I hear it myself.
It reminds me of a phone call I had with David Sanborn once. He used to get some Dukoff super power chamber alto mouthpieces from me.
We were talking about sound and he told me he just got his horn back from Bill Singer and he needed one spring changed. Bill changed the spring, and Sanborn told me unequivocably, that the whole sound of the horn changed for him. He asked me if I thought he was crazy. I remember pausing, and answered him by saying “Who am I to tell you what you hear and feel”?
 

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Some players will guarantee that they can hear a difference between the two, while other players will tell you they hear no difference.
Some will find the marble rubber to be brighter, while others will find it to be warmer, and others will find it to make no difference compared to the black hard rubber.
[...]
The problem is, everybody wants one answer that will work for everybody, and sometimes there isn’t one. If someone told me that they had a black hard rubber piece and it played brighter than the same piece in marbled rubber, who am I to disagree? That’s just something they hear, whether or not I hear it myself.
I'm going to have to disagree with you there.

I'm a perceptual scientist by profession, so I know that there are well-established and straightforward methods for determining whether people can reliably perceive a difference between two stimuli (e.g., two sounds, or images, or whatever). My job depends on the application of these methods. The algorithms used for encoding and displaying audio and video files across the internet (as well as in other media) is based on information about human perception obtained using these methods. If you've ever met with an audiologist, you've probably been tested using some of these methods.

I understand why you might not want to tell your customers that they are wrong, but there is an objective answer here, and if you wanted to determine that (correct) answer, it would be pretty easy to do.
 

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Even if that is true, Theo is certainly not alone in marketing hyperbole.

Does anyone else remember back when there were only three categories of mouthpieces (ex. Soloist, Link, Berg)?
Maybe we would be better off if those were still the only mouthpieces available.
 

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It reminds me of a phone call I had with David Sanborn once. He used to get some Dukoff super power chamber alto mouthpieces from me.
We were talking about sound and he told me he just got his horn back from Bill Singer and he needed one spring changed. Bill changed the spring, and Sanborn told me unequivocably, that the whole sound of the horn changed for him. He asked me if I thought he was crazy. I remember pausing, and answered him by saying “Who am I to tell you what you hear and feel”?
Not so mysterious or magical if the spring was failing to hold a pad shut and therefore causing a leak.

We'll have to sort out the sound of black vs purple marble some other time.
 

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Maybe we would be better off if those were still the only mouthpieces available.
Reminds me the first time I visited East Berlin in 1991, right after the wall fell. We stopped by a market buy some breakfast supplies. Shelves were sparsely populated with a single choice of brand-less items: coffee, jelly, yogurt, bread. I remember thinking to myself how much simpler life could be to not have dozens of options to chose from as we were used to in the Western countries.

There are so many variables in a mouthpiece design that there will always be a unique, new design coming out and marketed as the best yet invented. What most that chase those products forget is that there is so much variability in reeds, players physiology, embouchure, etc that one needs to control/overcome that these minor subtleties in mouthpiece design are really irrelevant in the bigger picture. I buy the notion of finding a well designed mouthpiece that fits a general concept (Soloist, Link, Berg, Guardala...) and from there, developing your own sound around it by shaping up your playing chops.
 

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Horn players love new mouthpieces that promise a new core/lush/vibrant/dark/bright sound. I find that I play a mouthpiece for a while, then fall out of love with it, only to rediscover it some time later. As I grow older, my 'pool' of mouthpieces is certainly decreasing, but still..... :)
 

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I think any percieved difference between two otherwise idential mouthpieces, one marbled, the other black HR would be akin to a similar argument about ligatures. With the intimate exposure what one may 'feel' from one or another may very well be just that - a feel or perception the player experiences without any audience being aware of any difference.
 
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