I had an AL-5 at home for a few weeks and found it very playable indeed. It is what it appears to be, i.e. an AL-3 with a wider tip, and a very sensible piece it is too. I used it with a Vandoren Blue Box 3 which suited it well and gave a little core presence to what is actually a very easily attained round sound. I would highly recommend the AL-5 if you find the AL-3 a bit too closed or the AL-4 a bit too constricted. I use a Referance 54 alto and I found the AL-4 a little 'sticky' in the extreme low register on that horn; the AL-5 plays better for me in that register and doesn't seem to loose any control higher up. Tip-wise it is supposed to be similar to a C*, but in some ways it felt more open than that, probably due to the feel of the facing, which I found very comfortable. Bear in mind that I am not solely a classical player and I tend to use pieces in the 6/6* range for other work.The new Vandoren AL-5!
SOTWers were alerted to its existence a month or so ago, but this is the first notice I've seen that it's now available to purchase:
I'm looking forward to reading reviews from anyone who's played it....Please!
A number of people have commented on the Large Chamber mouthpieces not playing in tune / having incorrect intonation.
The first point is that a mouthpiece can not really be out of tune, it's the combination of Mouthpiece and Instrument which is out of tune.
I was told (many years ago - and if you look this up in a modern physics book it still holds true !) that it is the volume (pints / litres, not decibels !) that controls the pitch at which a reed will vibrate. If you have a mouthpiece with a large volume then it will need to be pushed on much further to get the 'short' notes to be in tune (B, C, & C# - not semi-quavers), when compared to a small chamber mouthpiece, as it is the higher / shorter tube notes that are more adversely affected by an increase in the internal capacity of the mouthpiece.
So to have any chance of an instrument playing in tune with a large chamber mouthpiece requires the instrument first to be tuned to a 'short' tube note.
Remembering that an Alto is described as being in the key of Eb because when a C is played on the instrument an Eb is heard, you will need to push the mouthpiece on to the cork of the crook so that an in-tune Eb or D# registers on your electronic tuner. If you are playing a Bb instrument then still use the C fingering but you are looking for Bb or A# to be shown on your electronic tuner.
Once this note is playing in tune then try the long fingering D. Eb instruments should show F on the tuner, and Bb instruments should show C, but this is where the fun begins. If you have always played on a modern instrument, with a modern small chamber mouthpiece, then I will guarantee you will find that your fingered D note is now somewhat sharp. This is because the large chamber mouthpiece has also changed the physical volume of the instrument when playing a D, but not by as much as the mouthpiece changed the volume when playing a C.
It is much easier to lip a note down to get it in tune than to lip a note up to be in tune, so there's no point in learning to play your mouthpiece / instrument flat in the 'Short' notes, you will need to learn to play with those notes in tune and the long notes to be sharp and 'lip' them down - and i'm not going to try to describe that here but for those who don't know, it basically means allowing the lower lip to be a bit looser / slacker.
A second reason for you not wanting to learn to play by lipping the 'Short' notes up, is that a single reed instrument is inclined to go flat when being played loudly and by tuning a bit flat in the first place will only make matters worse when the decibels are increasing (Ever wondered why big bands can get so out of tune ? because brass instrument go sharp when playing louder and saxophones will go flat when playing louder).
I have a caravan mouthpiece for my Baritone. I love the tone and the instant response it has at lower decibels, but I hate what it does to the cork on crook. The mouthpiece goes so far down the cork that it is physically damaging the cork and I am considering asking an engineering friend of mine with a lathe, to remove the last half inch of the mouthpiece to make it more cork friendly.
I hope this helps.
I will add two mouthpieces to this list that are now available from Selmer:
The Concept mouthpiece is available for Alto and Soprano saxophones at the time of writing.
Happy mouthpiece hunting!