Warburton has recently launched its new series of sax necks and mouthpieces. The Ultimate Sax Neck has taken its cue from many of the innovations and advances Terry Warburton has been so successful with in his line of trumpet mouthpieces and accessories. Eric Falcon of Warburton and formerly JodyJazz has been at the center of the development of the new line of mouthpieces. Custom refacing of mouthpieces and a conversion of your standard neck to the Ultimate Sax Neck system is also available.

I first learned of the Warburton Ultimate Sax Neck while surfing the web. It looked interesting but I only took a passing glance. Within months of first seeing it advertised, my old road buddy Otto Alcon (a former rep for Warburton) contacted me about these new necks. Soon I was in touch with Eric Falcon who has done a great job of working with me to find the correct set up.

The Ultimate Sax Neck system consists of a traditional saxophone replacement neck in a variety of finishes. I was sent a beautifully engraved tenor saxophone neck and an attractive alto sax neck without engraving. Eric was kind enough to share this explanation of the necks available:

“The differences between the necks needs a bit of explaining.  Tenor saxes have three distinct angles that exist out there: the Mark VI low rise, the modern Selmer and Keilwerth high rise, and the Conn 10M extra high rise.  Because the angle of the neck has an effect on how the mouthpiece enters the player’s mouth we have all three angles available.  There are acoustic reasons as well for the different angles but it most directly affects the player’s comfort so we always send out the angle closest to what the player has now, in your case a low-rise neck.  On alto there are negligible differences in angle so only one angle is available.  All necks are available in brass and solid copper.  We have different finishes available so that's why you necks look different.  Soon all necks will have the W cut out of the octave key arm.”

After determining which mouthpieces and saxophones I was using for alto and tenor, a package of “Initiators” and “Tenon Size Gauges” were sent via priority mail. The neck itself does not have the traditional cork for the mouthpiece but and Initiator with 4 O-rings to replace the cork.  On the other end of the neck goes the interchangeable tenon to fit your particular horn. When you find your proper set up, the extra parts are to be returned to Warburton.

The whole process was as smooth as possible due to Warburton’s thorough customer service. It does however require a bit of patience unless you are dealing directly with a local Warburton rep for a trial.

The box that arrived came with a ton of parts so I could give it a thorough trial. I suspect an actual order placed with Warburton would include a few options, but not the overwhelming number of possibilities I was able to encounter. My head spins with the possibilities of shaping the sound, as I didn’t even receive all of the initiators they offer.

Each piece fit snuggly and smoothly, using precision threads to screw on all parts. The tenon sizing was fairly easy. The initiator selection took some more time…

The initiators all have different bore sizes and tapers. The sound and feel are greatly affected by the change in taper and bore size. A complete explanation and graphics can be found on the Warburton site. I had some students try some of the combinations while I listened and took notes on the results. Later, when I gave them a more discriminating audition, my approach was to determine simply “yes” or “no” as to whether I felt comfortable with the sound and feel. I made two groups just as I do when selecting reeds. Some I will play on. Some I won’t. Without paying attention to the markings I just played all of the tenor options and then all the altos. Interestingly enough, I selected mostly the initiators marked “F” in various sizes for tenor. On alto I liked the F taper but also found success with the A42. A list of the sizes that worked for me is included at the end of this article.

After spending a good amount of time with this Warburton Ultimate Sax Necks I came to a couple conclusions. The system does allow each player to customize their set up without changing mouthpieces or reeds. Presumably, you could have a couple different initiators for different situations, rather than changing the mouthpiece. While taking the mouthpieces on and off I found it easier to push straight on and off rather than a back and forth (left to right) movement as I would on cork. Each time I turned the mouthpiece to the left, the initiator wanted to come with it. Perhaps screwing it on tighter would secure the initiator fairly permanently. For the purpose of testing I didn’t want to get one stuck by over-tightening it.

Finally, the mouthpieces… Not knowing that Warburton was developing saxophone mouthpieces, Eric Falcon enlightened me and gave me the opportunity to try them. I was sent and alto hard rubber .084 per my request. He also sent two tenor mouthpieces in a .105 and .110. They measured true on my mouthpiece facing gauge and played beautifully. They had an even scale top to bottom and the workmanship notable. The alto piece, reminiscent of a Meyer was very comfortable and something I would have no problem playing on a gig. The tenor pieces both felt large in my mouth – just as a Link hard rubber does. The .105 suited me better but I prefer a smaller profile in my mouth on tenor. Players who like slant sig Links would probably be quite comfortable with these hard rubber pieces.

In the end, Warburton continues to develop innovative designs by thinking out of the box. The introduction of Ultimate Sax Neck and Warburton Hard Rubber Mouthpieces goes far into establishing Warburton as a name in woodwinds and not just brass.

You can find out more about Warburton necks and mouthpieces at Warburton’s official website

Skip’s preferred set-ups:

Tenor –F46 –F48 –F50 initiators size 63 / tenon size gauge 87

Alto A42 – F45-F47 initiators size 60/ tenon size gauge 65