Vandoren Optimum SL5

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  1. #1

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    Default Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Has anyone tried the Vandoren Optimum SL5? This past year, Vandoren expanded the Optimum range by adding "5" versions for soprano, tenor, and baritone. I assume this means that the AL5, which was introduced earlier, has been a success. Indeed, the AL5 is my favorite classical alto mouthpiece. It provides almost all the tone quality of the AL3, but noticeably more power.

    However, a key to the AL5's performance, IMO, is the fact that it uses the same ML facing as the AL3. In contrast, the in-between AL4 uses an MS facing, which makes it a very different piece regardless of the tip opening. (I have an AL4 for sale if anyone wants one.)

    I currently use the SL3 for classical soprano playing. This piece has an ML facing, like the AL3 and AL5. However, the new SL5 has an S facing, like the SL4. I wonder whether this means that it offers quite different playing characteristics than the SL3, and not merely a bigger tip opening. Also, the tip opening of the SL5 is 1.25 mm, while that of the SL4 is 1.23 mm. It seems to me that if the SL4 and SL5 both have an S facing, and their tip openings differ by only 0.02 mm, they are practically the same mouthpiece. Why bother? Can anyone elaborate?

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    Forum Contributor 2008 DaveR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    I have a couple of SL5s now. They feel and blow like a more open version of the SL4. I'm happy using a half strength softer reeds on the SL5 than I do on the SL4. The SL5 is somewhat warmer in sound and articulates more easily in the lowest register; it plays just as well in the palm keys as the SL4. The SL4 has more immediate bite (should you want it).

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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveR View Post
    I have a couple of SL5s now. They feel and blow like a more open version of the SL4. I'm happy using a half strength softer reeds on the SL5 than I do on the SL4. The SL5 is somewhat warmer in sound and articulates more easily in the lowest register; it plays just as well in the palm keys as the SL4. The SL4 has more immediate bite (should you want it).
    What's the tip on these? Very keen to try one

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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Found it-1.25mm or .049 for anyone who wants to know

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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by Benny View Post
    Found it-1.25mm or .049 for anyone who wants to know
    That info was in my OP.

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    Daniel Goff's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    I think LostConn is onto something with the longer facings, and I wish Vandoren would use some longer facings lengths on some of their more open pieces in general. S27 seems to work well for me on soprano and I love my AL3...AL5 is also very playable if I need a bigger mouthpiece. But when I go to a shorter facing length I never feel comfortable. I'd love to find a soprano piece with a slightly more open S27 or SL3-ish facing.

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    CarlHeanerd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Goff View Post
    \I'd love to find a soprano piece with a slightly more open S27 or SL3-ish facing.
    Get your S27 refaced by Robert Scott. Mine was refaced by him in 2014 and it's a pretty killer piece, extremely homogenous but vibrant sound, and a just touch more open feeling than stock. PM me if you want his info.
    Soprano: Selmer Paris Series III Selmer Paris S90 170 + Vandoren Traditional 3.5 Selmer Paris Silver Ligature
    Alto: Selmer Paris Series III
    Selmer Paris S80 C* + D'Addario Reserve 3.0+
    Ishimori Gold Ligature

    www.heaneymusic.com


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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    I now have an SL5, but I can't accurately evaluate it yet because all the reeds I have are too hard. These include Forestone Black Bamboo & White Bamboo 3.5, Vandoren blue box 3.0, and Legere Signature 2.75. The Sigs almost work because they are older and pretty broken-in, and the White Bamboo isn't too bad because it's a "soft" 3.5 to begin with. Still, I feel that I have to go down a half-strength from what I use on the SL3 to avoid a breathy sound and overly resistant feel on the SL5. Maybe I could sand down a Vandoren, but I'll probably just order something softer.

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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    I was finally able to resume my SL5 testing today, after playing only alto sax and clarinet for weeks because of a concert schedule involving those two horns. I am sure the hordes of SL5 devotees here have been pacing their practice rooms nervously while awaiting this update.

    The mouthpiece is manageable with a Forestone Black Bamboo 3.0. A 3.0 Legere European Cut Signature for clarinet gives a similar feel. (The reed is somewhat long for the mouthpiece, but the tip is a perfect fit, which is not surprising, since the Euro Sig is based on a soprano sax reed.) It's more work to adjust to the SL5 than I anticipated; it behaves quite differently from the easy-playing SL3. Unlike the AL5 and the TL5, the SL5 does not feel like merely a slightly more open version of its L3 near-twin. The resistance is considerably greater, especially in the lower register. I'm having to adjust my air flow and attacks a lot. This must be due in large part to the shorter facing. It feels like a very different mouthpiece.

    Anyway, the upper-register response is very good, and the lower end is tolerable when properly "massaged." The more I played, the more the BB 3.0 seemed like a good match. I may even try a 3.5 again after I really feel comfortable with the SL5. And I think the tone is richer and rounder than with the SL3, which is what I was hoping for. The SL3 is a very nice classical piece, but I find its sound just a bit thin (playing a Yany SC901B with an SC992 neck). The sound of the SL5 has more body and potential to be shaped. I really enjoyed playing my standard test tunes, the sop solos from Bolero and The Age of Gold. The goal is to sound more like this guy:

    lo

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    Forum Contributor 2008 DaveR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    I was finally able to resume my SL5 testing today, after playing only alto sax and clarinet for weeks because of a concert schedule involving those two horns. I am sure the hordes of SL5 devotees here have been pacing their practice rooms nervously while awaiting this update.

    The mouthpiece is manageable with a Forestone Black Bamboo 3.0. A 3.0 Legere European Cut Signature for clarinet gives a similar feel. (The reed is somewhat long for the mouthpiece, but the tip is a perfect fit, which is not surprising, since the Euro Sig is based on a soprano sax reed.) It's more work to adjust to the SL5 than I anticipated; it behaves quite differently from the easy-playing SL3. Unlike the AL5 and the TL5, the SL5 does not feel like merely a slightly more open version of its L3 near-twin. The resistance is considerably greater, especially in the lower register. I'm having to adjust my air flow and attacks a lot. This must be due in large part to the shorter facing. It feels like a very different mouthpiece.

    Anyway, the upper-register response is very good, and the lower end is tolerable when properly "massaged." The more I played, the more the BB 3.0 seemed like a good match. I may even try a 3.5 again after I really feel comfortable with the SL5. And I think the tone is richer and rounder than with the SL3, which is what I was hoping for. The SL3 is a very nice classical piece, but I find its sound just a bit thin (playing a Yany SC901B with an SC992 neck). The sound of the SL5 has more body and potential to be shaped. I really enjoyed playing my standard test tunes, the sop solos from Bolero and The Age of Gold. The goal is to sound more like this guy:

    lo
    You will certainly find it quite different to the SL3. Vandoren's point was to produce a more open SL4, a much shorter facing piece than the SL3 as has been noted, but terrific once you get used to it.
    In the end I have not used my SL5s and went back to the SL4 and some excellent pieces made by Ed Pillinger.

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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveR View Post
    You will certainly find it quite different to the SL3. Vandoren's point was to produce a more open SL4, a much shorter facing piece than the SL3 as has been noted, but terrific once you get used to it.
    What, in your view, is the advantage of a short facing on a classical soprano mouthpiece? I.e., what goal is Vandoren trying to achieve with the SL5 and SL4? What exactly are they supposed to offer that the SL3 can't? I know how the pieces sound and feel to me; I'm interested in the intended design objectives.

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    Forum Contributor 2008 DaveR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    What, in your view, is the advantage of a short facing on a classical soprano mouthpiece? I.e., what goal is Vandoren trying to achieve with the SL5 and SL4? What exactly are they supposed to offer that the SL3 can't? I know how the pieces sound and feel to me; I'm interested in the intended design objectives.
    For me, it's a very specific thing. I needed a piece that gave me a great deal of security when playing for long periods at high volumes, particularly in the palm keys and found the S15 was the answer for me about 25 years ago. The S15 gave me the ability to play softer reeds if I wanted, but the flexibility to play anything between a 2.5 and a 3.5 Blue Box quite comfortably. I moved to the SL4 because it has better focus. A short facing gives me added security when my embouchure is tired, but there is a slight pay-off in that the lowest register can start to sound a bit shallow - not insurmountable. These are the benefits I gain from those pieces. As ever YMMV.

    The SL3 or a similarly longer faced piece will give easier sound emission, a more immediately generous tone, easier access to the lower register and will take a harder reed , but, may be less forgiving in the palm keys. If I played more delicate music I might use an SL3 or similar more often.

    I now only keep an SL4 as a spare and have moved on to some bespoke pieces from Ed Pillinger. He copied the facing from a very good SL4 onto a Selmer-Soloist-type blank for me and enlarged the throat a little which gives me a very solid projecting, bristly, super stable piece that plays very reliably with V21 #3s. He also made me a piece with a slightly smaller throat with a longer facing for more delicate work. Both have a tip of c. 1.20mm (C*/SL4-ish).

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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Interesting. Thank you. There's an interview on YouTube with the H2 Saxophone Quartet in which the soprano player comments that he uses both the SL5 and the SL3 (the group is sponsored by Vandoren). He says that he loves the way the SL5 "blends" in the quartet, "but as a soloist, I like the SL3 very much." That struck me, because I probably would have assumed a priori that it would be the other way around. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbtadTLsQS4.

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    Forum Contributor 2008 DaveR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vandoren Optimum SL5

    Quote Originally Posted by LostConn View Post
    Interesting. Thank you. There's an interview on YouTube with the H2 Saxophone Quartet in which the soprano player comments that he uses both the SL5 and the SL3 (the group is sponsored by Vandoren). He says that he loves the way the SL5 "blends" in the quartet, "but as a soloist, I like the SL3 very much." That struck me, because I probably would have assumed a priori that it would be the other way around. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbtadTLsQS4.
    Well, in the quartet he may find it easier to get more air down the soprano with the SL5, whereas in solo work (chamber style) the possible delicacy of the SL3 may work better for him. Why don't you email him and ask? I'm sure he'd be pleased to talk about it.

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