October 30, 2020 at 2:29 pm #99224Mike PotterParticipant
I saw a post David had put up related to a Borb Oliver MBII tenor mouthpiece in a resin material and was a bit intrigued so I went on eBay and ordered one. I got a 20% off deal and it cost a little over $70 with free shipping USPS priority. It showed up yesterday and I’ve been playing it for the about 5 hours and comparing it with the other mouthpieces I have, here’s a little overview, the Borb Oliver piece is number 4 in this review:
The pieces I’m comparing it with are as follows (with as much description as I can offer)>
1. WestCoast Sax – Soul Machine 8* (113), metal. high baffle, slight step into a steep drop/bullet, medium chamber. Big sounding mouthpiece but can clean up nicely (like me, ha ha). What I like – it can do a wide variety of stuff, his a nice thick core sound in the mid octave notes, altissimo is ok. Highest price of all the mouthpiece I own.
2. Drake NY Jazz Tenor, 8 (112), composite, medium rollover baffle into a medium chamber, one would think this mouthpiece would be more dark than bright, it’s not, it’s a very well balanced piece, not quite as expressive in the altissimo range as I’d like (I had a Drake Studio Tenor 9* which was much better). But it’s great for situations where I’m not mic’d and playing with an acoustic group (I have, or had till covid, a once a week jam at a coffee shop with some friends – no pa, it was perfect for this gig).
3. AM (Arnold montgomery) Aras 9* (116), high baffle, into a medium sized bullet chamber, hard rubber/resin hybrid (hard to explain), interesting piece, I would play this more but I have a problem (TMJ) that gets irritated by the larger sized hard rubber pieces. But when I do play it I like how it sounds, much less volume than the WestCoast piece but when amplified it plays and sounds nice. AM pieces are very reasonable priced for those looking for something different and decent playing/sounding. I will use this piece as the same acoustic gig as well as the swing group I used to play with pre covid. It’s a little darker than the metal and blends nicely in that setting (keys, drums, stand up bass, large body electric guitar).
4. The new Borb Oliver MB2 copy, 8* (112), resin/metal composite, not 100% sure what kind of metal is used probably silverite or something like that, two different hardness of mixed materials makes for difficult CND machining. I’ve been playing on this piece using Select Jazz 3S, 4S, 3M and Fibbereed Copper Carbon 2.5 reeds. It appears to have a high/short angled baffle (similar to the MBII design) but on the MBII’s I’ve seen that are real the step is further down the facing closer to the table, the baffle on this piece is maybe 3/4’s of an inch long from the tip, the baffle step distance on the WestCoast and AM pieces are over an inch long from the tip. From there it drops into a larger oval shaped chamber. As a result, this piece isn’t nearly as big or bright as one would expect, it’s much more similar to the #5 mouthpiece I’ll discuss next. But keeping on this, it’s definitely darker than Westcoast/AM pieces, more on par with the Drake (which doesn’t really have a high baffle at all). How does it play, a little stuffy, no matter what reed I put on it, but the resistance isn’t prohibitive of getting a good tone from bottom to top and altissimo is actually not bad (better than the drake for sure). The mouthpiece seals really well, not sure if you folks ever do the “suck test” to see if the reed is sealing on the mouthpiece? I read a few reviews of this piece and that was really one of the only complaints, lack of evenness/flatness on the table and rails. Now, with that said, I still need to spend more time with this piece and try some other reeds (I have some plasticovers I’ll try next). In retrospect, this piece is less than a fifth of the price of the WestCoast piece, a 3rd of the Drake, about half the AM (although I got this piece on a closeout deal, normally there $200+). But this piece is more expensive than the #5 piece. Would I but this had I knows it was going to sound/play like it does – no, reason is, it doesn’t sound or respond like an MBII, the chamber on the piece I have is just way to big to get the bite and sound one would expect from a piece claiming to be and MBII copy. If you want that, look for a used CE Winds Legend series piece, I had two, they nail that type of sound and response. Now, if I were just looking for a decent playing and inexpensive medium bright mouthpiece – this would fit the bill really well. Oh, and it comes with a ligature that you’ll want to replace.
#5 – off brand Chinese copy of something – I’m not sure. Brass and mystery metal coating – they say it’s gold… It’s supposed to be a 9 tip opening and I’m going to say that’s probably pretty accurate, based on what I could measure it’s about .115. It’s a medium high baffle piece, the highest part of the baffle angles off at about a half inch from the tip and then drop sharply into the chamber (small) after about and inch and a half. Medium thickness tip rails. And there’s a ring machined about inside the mouthpiece about 2 3/4’s into the mouthpiece bore from the tip – I’ve seen rings in mouthpieces in the past but nothing this deep, usually they’re much closer to the baffle drop in the chamber. How does it play, weird, exactly as one would expect. It’s the stuffiest of all the pieces, but it’s got a nice even tone, I don’t know how it accomplishes this cause nothing about the design makes any sense.
So, overall, for under $100 the Borb Oliver is a decent playing/sounding mouthpiece, balance well, workmanship is fine, finish is fine, honestly it’s better than I expected, will I be gigging with it, probably not, but who knows it might grow on me as I play it more. My primary concern is they shouldn’t be marketing it as an MBII copy because it really isn’t a good copy of that design, in my opinion anyhow, it doesn’t play like any of the MB copies (GD laser trim, CE Winds Legend I and II) that I have owned. it’s a bit of a hybrid. Oh, and the ligature is horrible and it smells bad.
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