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Vandoren V16 Metal Tenor Medium Chamber MouthpieceAfter over a decade of great music, the coveted V16 line of metal tenor saxophone mouthpieces by Vandoren has undergone a redesign and expansion to appeal to an even wider range of tenor players. The new exterior shape and interior design evokes the sound of famous metal tenor mouthpieces of years gone by with the Medium chamber for players seeking the 1950s jazz aesthetic. The V16 metal tenor mouthpiece is made with the legendary “Bell Metal” brass, then plated with 24-karat gold. Choose between T6, T7, T8 and T9.
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I was excited to try this mouthpiece ever since I saw that Vandoren had created it. I only tried one so my review is based on that one V16 I did try. I got the T9 Medium chamber. Immediately upon looking at the mouthpiece it reminded me of my Otto Link piece. The rails were slightly fatter (a plus in my book ever since an old Guardala with thin rails used to consistently split reeds along the rail). The chamber and baffle also look very similar to the Link. Putting the two side-by-side I'd say there are some differences but it seems to me that Vandoren was using the old Links as a starting point for their design with this mouthpiece. When I played the mouthpiece it also reminded me of the Link.
This is a fine mouthpiece and should enjoy great popularity. The piece is beautiful to look at. It was definitely not love at first sight but I saw enough potential in this piece to work with it for over a month. After a month of getting to know this piece here's my final verdict (for reference--I tried this piece exclusively on my Yamaha Custom Z tenor with V1 neck):
I have been using Vandoren Java (green box) reeds exclusively for years but this piece ultimately shifted me over to the Java reds, which for me responded much better with this piece (Reds #3 play 'perfectly' right out of the box, 3 1/2 needs to be broken in). Ultimately I really like the Reds with this piece but the piece does seem a little reed picky.
I ordered it sans ligature. I already the Vandoren Optimum and the Rico "H" ligature for metal Link. Both fit perfectly. I liked the Rico H best with this mouthpiece. (Incidentally I liked the Rico H better on this piece than my old Harrison ligature which also fit.) The metal Selmer ligature that many folks like to use on Links also fit, but not perfectly. The Optimum gave a smooth clear response but the H has more spread to the tone and never leaked air, where the Optimum did leak air on one reed (with the #1 plate).
The tone is also reminiscent of an old Link. It is a VERY flexible mouthpiece and I could get a whispery old time tenor voice, a husky bluesy tone, a sweet vibrato-infused tone, a straight-ahead vibe and an ultra modern bright and energetic tone--all with the same piece/reed/ligature combination (T9/Red 3/Rico H).
Intonation is impeccable on this piece. Of course intonation is never perfect on a saxophone but this piece allowed me to keep the entire range well under control and has no 'bad areas' on the horn, where some mouthpieces do.
The third octave responded quite well on this piece and also plays in tune. There was a slight reduction in volume as I entered the altissimo range, which occurs on many pieces but not all. It wasn't the easiest altissimo piece I've ever tried, but well within manageability. Altissimo was also in tune, as far as it goes.
This is my only real complaint with this mouthpiece (along with, perhaps, it being a little reed finicky). The largest size is a T9 which equates to a 108. My old RIA which I love is a 138 tip opening so there was a great disparity here for me. I'm not sure if the tip opening is the sole cause of this piece's lack of projection but I would definitely be interested in trying a T11 if they ever make one, which I think they should. As it stands this mouthpiece is significantly quieter than my other mouthpieces. Playing in unamplified environments caused me to overblow, and barely hold on. Playing in amplified situations was ever worse. I only had tone when the microphone was jammed into the bell--a problem I've never had with my RIA. So ultimately this mouthpiece is rendered useless for most of the gig situations I find myself in since it just doesn't have any projection to speak of. However, in those rare instances where I actually want to play very quietly but still have a full well-rounded and not withdrawn tone this piece is perfect for that. I will keep it for my discreet gigs!
So in conclusion. The lack of projection is why I can't rate this piece 5-stars. If everything else was okay I would also forgive the reed finicky-ness of the piece but as it stands that is also a point against the V16. But all-in-all, this is a well made and beautiful to behold piece which I am sure will work perfectly for many players. For me it lacks the needed projection and will remain a back-up piece for quiet gigs only. However, I eagerly anticipate a future V16 medium chamber piece with a bigger tip opening to try.
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