Without a mouthpiece, you won’t be able to hit exactly the right tones or styles that you want. Naturally, the better the mouthpiece, the more accurate your playing will be, and that’s where Vandoren comes in.
This company is well-known and well-established when it comes to manufacturing various instruments and accessories. And the Vandoren V16 mouthpiece series is one of the best you can get for your saxophone, whatever the size.
In this article, we’ll delve into the details of the Vandoren V16 for alto saxophones, with the different models, so you can decide if this is the mouthpiece that’ll help you get the tone you want and hear in your mind’s ear before playing the horn.
Vandoren V16 Alto Mouthpiece Review
For the alto variants, Vandoren V16 is available in 5 sizes (A5, A6, A7, A8, A9) which differ in tip opening sizes and chamber sizes. This gives you some flexibility when it comes to finding the size that suits your playing style.
Generally speaking, the A5 (specifically the new S+ chamber, as opposed to the M one) is a good choice overall, as it’s easy enough to blow for beginners. It gives budding saxophonists incredible control, especially over the palm keys, and accuracy for the more well-seasoned saxophonists. Not to mention, it’s easier to tune as well as to keep in tune.
Compared to the original V16 small chamber, I found the V16 S+ was easier to control thru-ought the entire range of the saxophone especially in the palm keys.
Construction / Material
Like most of the V16 series, the alto mouthpieces are made of ebonite, or hard rubber. This is as opposed to the metal material that’s sometimes used on mouthpieces, like the gold-plated brass V16 tenor mouthpieces.
The difference is that hard rubber options are easier to play for extended periods of time, compared to the metal ones. Not to mention, they’re more suitable for jazz as they give the tunes a more melodious sound with lows on the deeper end of the spectrum.
The facing lengths of all the V16 alto mouthpieces is medium long, except for the A8, which is medium short. All of them also come with the 2 variants, M chamber (medium) and S+ chamber.
- The V16 A5 M & A5 S+: 188 (1/100MM)
- The V16 A6 M & A6 S+: 196 (1/100MM)
- The V16 A7 M & A7 S+: 204 (1/100MM)
- The V16 A8 M & A8 S+: 210 (1/100MM)
- The V16 A9 M & A9 S+: 225 (1/100MM)
As for the chambers, the M chamber is a good option in general, and for section playing in specific, as it has a warm and expressive nature.
Though, admittedly, the design of the S+ does offer richer depths, a wider array of colors, and provides the player with much more flexibility thanks to its solid projection and free-blowing nature that emphasizes on the best characteristics of the V16 mouthpieces.
Not to mention, for much less effort, the S+ helps you get more body and a sweet depth to your sound. Think of it as though you’re getting the qualities of a small chamber mouthpiece but with more air like medium chambers. The impressive part is that you don’t lose any of the focus or get any cutting.
What’s more, the V16 S+ has a more versatile feel when it comes to playing at different dynamics and gives a warmer sound. It could be said that it’s the best alternative for the vintage Meyer mouthpieces.
If you’re looking for more projection, you should opt for the A7 or higher, instead of the A5 or A6, though they’re slightly easier to play.
Ranging between around $130 and $145, the price difference shouldn’t really be a detrimental factor when it comes to picking between the V16 alto mouthpieces. Overall, the price range is quite fine, as you can find cheap mouthpieces for as low as $10, and some Selmer Paris ones can hit the $300 mark.
So, an average of $135 is a good price for the quality you get, and it’s not a professional-grade price tag for a mouthpiece that you can definitely use to play professionally, especially if you’re an expert and can control your blowing and embouchure.
Related: Vandoren AL3 vs AL4 Comparison
Vandoren V16 Pros and Cons
- Great value for the price
- High-quality tones and sound
- Easy to play
- Ideal for playing jazz
- Best suited for harder reeds (#3)
- Not the best for classical music, although it has a wide range
How Often Should Mouthpieces Be Changed?
A mouthpiece is definitely an investment, as they need changing every 2 years. You can even get to 3 and more years if you take good care of your mouthpiece and protect it from wear and tear when it’s not in use.
This includes keeping it isolated from humidity and air, as well as cleaning it well from any traces of saliva, which can break the mouthpiece down after a while.
However, the wear and tear that happens due to the vibrations of the reed against the mouthpiece are inevitable, so the only way to extend the lifespan of a mouthpiece is to take good care of it when you’re not playing your sax.
How Often Should I Clean My Mouthpiece?
Ideally, you should dry it out after each playing session. But generally, once a week would be a good interval.
How To Clean a Saxophone Mouthpiece?
You should get a brush designated for mouthpiece cleaning and use some warm water with soap to get rid of any dirt or residues on the mouthpiece.
Is a Metal or a Hard Rubber Mouthpiece Better?
Like many aspects of saxophone-playing, there’s no “better” and “worse” option.
If you’re looking for more brightness and vibration in the sound your horn makes, a metal mouthpiece would be a good choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more mellow sound to your tunes with deeper lows, then you should opt for a hard rubber (or ebonite) one.
And in all cases, approach this topic knowing that there might not be all that discernible difference, especially if you’re not a well-seasoned saxophonist that’s played for years.
All in all, the Vandoren V16 alto mouthpiece is one of the best choices you can get to pair with your sax. If you’re looking for something with incredibly high quality that could bring out the professional in you without breaking the bank on something like the Selmer Paris, then any of the V16 options would serve you very well.
The A5 S+ would be the ideal choice for beginners and intermediate-level players, and also help professionals perfect their playing style. Though, you should stick to the A7 and higher if your top priority is projection.