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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This may seem like an elementary question, I could imagine, but I struggled to find a clear response online: what are the differences between vintage and modern saxophone mouthpieces, and why are vintage mouthpieces that much more expensive? Were there simply less of them produced? Do they have some sort of tonal superiority?
 

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Vintage mouthpieces are much the same as modern mouthpieces - some were good, some sucked. If you are paying for "vintage", it may or may not have a good facing. "Vintage" only guarantees that it is old.

There are a lot of good modern mouthpieces - and many more that suck. "Modern" doesn't have to sound "contemporary", it only means that it was manufactured recently.

A good mouthpiece of recent manufacture is better than a "vintage" mouthpiece with a worn facing, and likely costs a lot less.

I have played hundreds of mouthpieces over the last 40+ years - old and new - and prefer a great modern mouthpiece.

And then there are reeds...

You want tonal superiority? Get a decent piece and learn good support and control.
 

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I mostly agree with Dr. G, but may add a few things.
Mouthpieces made in the first half of last century generally had smaller tip openings than modern mouthpieces. That is one important difference. Too often, these have then been refaced to a larger tip and thereby lost their original good sound. Avoid these.
Old HR pieces have a different sound than present day HR pieces, because the rubber today is harder than it was before. Whether you prefer the warm sound of vintage or the more neutral sound of modern HR is a matter of taste.
Finally, those vintage mouthpieces, made by true masters like Ben Harrod and Wolfe Tayne (of Otto Link), MC Gregory, Bobby Dukoff, Meyer Bros., Arnold Brilhart, Santy Runyon, Berg Larsen, Dave Guardala, and the unknown craftsmen behind the mouthpieces bearing the names of Selmer, Lelandais, Riffault, and others, are in demand today, not because they were made many years ago, but simply because they were so well made.
I have, like Dr. G, played several hundred of mouthpieces over the last 10 years, and the best I have played have been vintage pieces. Including (cheap) Couf Artist, Brilhart, ARB Arbex, Runyon, Lelandais, Wolfe Tayne and Guy Hawkins (also Wolfe Tayne) but also more expensive ones like Dukoff Hollywood, Otto Link Reso Chamber, and Slant signature, plus Meyer New York alto pieces. I have also played many excellent modern pieces, but have in general not liked the sound. (Aizen, Mouthpiece Café, Charles Bay, Morgan, Vandoren, Yanagisawa and others)
One final remark: With the exception of the very fashionable brands, vintage mouthpieces are, in general, NOT more expensive than good modern mouthpieces.
 

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I feel there is a good deal of hype surrounding certain vintage brands which has caused prices to rise to levels sometimes hard to believe. This is not to say they are not potentially very good mouthpieces. However, a contemporary hand faced piece (or even CNC), can be just as good, if not better for you when it's done by a master to your specifications to fit your playing style and objectives. All that at from 1/2 to 1/4 of the cost of certain vintage pieces that you risk ruining the value of if you get it faced to your liking. Bottom line for me, there are no magical mouthpieces or material, regardless of their age or who plays or used to play them. Let the "collectors" battle over the mythical pieces and find something that plays.
 

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This may seem like an elementary question, I could imagine, but I struggled to find a clear response online: what are the differences between vintage and modern saxophone mouthpieces, and why are vintage mouthpieces that much more expensive? Were there simply less of them produced? Do they have some sort of tonal superiority?
Vintage pieces have reputations because of the players that used them, but often modern pieces are just as good or better. On a side note, more and more vintage pieces end up being refaced and/or opened up because modern players want more open tips. Seems to be done a lot especially in the US (just look at the market place here). Personally I feel smaller tipped vintage pieces play and sound better as they are (provided the facing is ok).
 

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More of the "vintage " pieces tended to have a proper large chamber unlike many modern ones.
This is often advantageous in getting some vintage horns to play in tune.
Many modern pieces still have a lrgish chamber, but few are as large as those earlier ones.
As for the cost, this is determined by what the market will bare not necessarily by the quality of a given piece.
I have both modern and vintage pieces and they are all good players, better than I deserve anyways.
 

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All that follows is my own opinion from messing around with (mostly) old mouthpieces. The material has been everything from hand carved wood to machined Delrin.

In the beginning, Sax created the saxophone and its mouthpiece, and it was good. But it was an instrument that was a brass woodwind the purpose of which was to blend between the woodwind and the brass sections of an orchestra. The mouthpiece reflected that ideal. A mouthpiece with a narrow tip opening, large chamber, basically no baffle, played with a stiff reed, produces a "horn-like clarinet" sound. That's what Sax was going for. First alto saxophone blended with second soprano clarinet, which blended with third flugelhorn, etc. Everything was fine for the first 50 years. But along came small combos playing "dance music." Mouthpieces started to change to produce a brighter more individualized sound. Narrower sidewalls on the mouthpiece chamber will brighten the sound, as will an exaggerated baffle near the tip, as will raising the entire baffle area. Larger tip openings and softer reeds can make it easier to play loud and give more buzz. We now associate a "yakaty yak" sound with the saxophone, not chamber music, in part because of the "modern" mouthpiece (a Dukoff Super Power Chamber, I believe, in the case of Mr. Boots Randolph).

The sound produced by new vs. vintage mouthpieces is a generalization. It's probably possible to play a soft ballad on a new Dukoff SPC for those few who have the talent. It's probably possible to play a screaming altissimo solo on a 1920's Conn Eagle for somebody with the talent. But these mouthpieces wouldn't be the right tools for the job. One could also try to make a Dukoff SPC into a classical piece. Gouge out the baffle, reduce the tip opening, open the chamber, etc, but the basic shape of the piece will limit the possibility of success. Same is true with making a Conn Eagle into a rock and roll monster. Open the tip, glue stuff inside to produce a baffle, maybe reduce the table thickness, add some kind of a tubular shim to reduce the chamber size. Again, it's more likely to produce a monstrosity.

That's the general continuum from a performance point of view. And there are sometimes issues with chamber size and intonation. But that's not what most want to hear about mouthpiece lore. People want to hear about that vintage vodoo that you just can't get with a modern mouthpiece. Or they want to hear about the newest expensive mouthpiece that will make them sound just like their favorite player (maybe because it is a copy of that player's special vintage mouthpiece).

The difference between vintage and new as to value often strays into fairy tale land. Some of the vintage pieces have acquired a reputation that far exceeds their performance. The valuation is often just nonsense, like this "rare" Selmer Goldentone mouthpiece for $200. I have these white mediocre mouthpieces show up unannounced in the cases of used horns that I have bought. I was amazed when somebody bid $40 for beat-up one I listed on Ebay and then paid shipping to Europe. Yet a Goldentone that I opened and balanced couldn't fetch $45 on a SOTW donation after 200 views. Not enough hype on mine?

Because knowledge of the actual materials and production methods used on the vintage pieces are now lost in time, it's easy to make up stories about mythical materials, magical curvatures, and secret production methods for vintage pieces. In my opinion, that's mostly what you are paying for on vintage pieces. It's the ability to say "I have an $800 vintage mouthpiece and you don't." That alone is worth $750 to a lot of people. So it all works out.

Mark
 

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A mouthpiece with a well-applied facing makes a huge difference in what it sounds like and how it plays. Even if it's a plastic mouthpiece (See: Tonalin / Ebolin).

I often wonder if the reputation of vintage mouthpieces comes down to a tendency back then for a new mouthpiece to have a decent facing out of the box. Not that you wouldn't get dogs, just that a higher proportion of mouthpieces had decent facing and chamber work from the start.

If so, now that everybody's into opening up the vintage 'pieces, so much for what may have been special about 'em - may as well buy a new 'piece with decent facing and chamber work!!

Of course, all the vintage heavyweight sax players also played vintage sax mouthpieces, so that doesn't hurt the reputation of vintage mouthpieces, either.
 

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All that follows is my own opinion from messing around with...
...It's the ability to say "I have an $800 vintage mouthpiece and you don't." That alone is worth $750 to a lot of people. So it all works out.

Mark
Great observation, Mark. +1
 

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FWIW, there are still a few sleepers out there.

I wonder whether the OP is asking about vintage hard rubber or metal. I conjecture that part of the reason old Otto Links are valuable has to do with the condition. I've read that Wolfie used the same blanks for his rubber pieces.

For metal pieces, I can't understand why a Dukoff in corroded silverite is 3 or 4 times more expensive than a Wolfe Tayne or Guy Hawkins made at the same time, both in S. Florida. Then there is a high step baffle BARI (like a Guardala), which may be the same blank as WT and GH. Great mouthpiece and cheap, if you can find one.

I haven't played thousands of mouthpieces. I see some great looking ones but the vintage designs do it for me.
 

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Thread seems to have gone a bit off the OP.
Everyone has an opinion on what what a mouthpiece is worth or more to the point being made in some of the previous posts, NOT worth and thats fine.

But getting back to the essence of vintage V modern pieces.
what are the differences between vintage and modern saxophone mouthpieces?
why are vintage mouthpieces that much more expensive? there are reasons the vintage ones cost more.
Take an easy example, Otto Link Slant Signature and a modern Tone Edge.
They are designed similarly but have different dimensions and amounts of hand finishing and come from different molds.
Some people prefer what they can get from the slant sig, there are less of them around and even if they have been refaced they may hold more appeal than a modern tone edge to that particular group of people. Now you are into simple supply and demand. You cant buy a new one and there is competition for the the used one. You got to pay more than the competition and that, has been capitalised on.
This applies to a lot of other mouthpieces too of course and that is your basic answer as to why they cost more.
Its impossible to say vintage ones are different than modern ones as a general observation, you have to compare apples with apples as far as you can.
But an old link, whether it is an STM or a Tone edge, A Dukoff Stubby or D* silverite, a Gaurdala hand made by him or Mass produced Laser trimmed etc. they are all different.
If you want an old one you gotta find it and pay for it at the capital price, strike a deal or walk away. Simple.

On top of that, lots of reasons a mouthpiece is 'magic' have been invented, exaggerated and shared to boost the price even higher. Its the same with horns too.
Worse still you hear about mouthpieces that suddenly become expensive out of no where. Blue Jumbo Javas weren't an expensive piece new but since Warren Hill gave them fame you can pay $hundreds more than their original price.

Are they worth the money????
Only if you can get the one you want for what you are happy to pay.

Do they have some sort of tonal superiority?
Define superior
 

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I often wonder if the reputation of vintage mouthpieces comes down to a tendency back then for a new mouthpiece to have a decent facing out of the box. Not that you wouldn't get dogs, just that a higher proportion of mouthpieces had decent facing and chamber work from the start.
I've shared my geezer story before, but here it is again... I visited Ponti's (New York City) in the early '70s to buy an Otto Link STM. I spent hours playing through dozens of mouthpieces to find The One. There was a definite range of quality in the facings, and ALL of them are now "vintage" mouthpieces.

If so, now that everybody's into opening up the vintage 'pieces, so much for what may have been special about 'em - may as well buy a new 'piece with decent facing and chamber work!!
Yep.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I mostly agree with Dr. G, but may add a few things.
Mouthpieces made in the first half of last century generally had smaller tip openings than modern mouthpieces. That is one important difference. Too often, these have then been refaced to a larger tip and thereby lost their original good sound. Avoid these.
Old HR pieces have a different sound than present day HR pieces, because the rubber today is harder than it was before. Whether you prefer the warm sound of vintage or the more neutral sound of modern HR is a matter of taste.
Finally, those vintage mouthpieces, made by true masters like Ben Harrod and Wolfe Tayne (of Otto Link), MC Gregory, Bobby Dukoff, Meyer Bros., Arnold Brilhart, Santy Runyon, Berg Larsen, Dave Guardala, and the unknown craftsmen behind the mouthpieces bearing the names of Selmer, Lelandais, Riffault, and others, are in demand today, not because they were made many years ago, but simply because they were so well made.
I have, like Dr. G, played several hundred of mouthpieces over the last 10 years, and the best I have played have been vintage pieces. Including (cheap) Couf Artist, Brilhart, ARB Arbex, Runyon, Lelandais, Wolfe Tayne and Guy Hawkins (also Wolfe Tayne) but also more expensive ones like Dukoff Hollywood, Otto Link Reso Chamber, and Slant signature, plus Meyer New York alto pieces. I have also played many excellent modern pieces, but have in general not liked the sound. (Aizen, Mouthpiece Café, Charles Bay, Morgan, Vandoren, Yanagisawa and others)
One final remark: With the exception of the very fashionable brands, vintage mouthpieces are, in general, NOT more expensive than good modern mouthpieces.
Thanks for this response- it actually addresses the physical/tonal properties I was looking for.
 

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In general terms, the "vintage" mouthpiece tends to be older than the modern mouthpieces. :bluewink:
 

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Back in the old days (pre 30's) isn't it true that sax mfr's made their own MP's (Buescher, Conn, Selmer) presumably engineered to optimize the intonation, playability, or am I being naive? I'm sure that the OP was addressing the phenomenom of $1500 meyers from the 50's and 60's, but when did sax Mfr's quit making MP's to match their horns?
 
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