Review Gottsu Sepia Tone Master 2021
The Sepia Tone Master 2021, which the Japanese manufacturer launched in 2021, follows the design of the Otto Link Tone Master. Otto Link produced this metal mouthpiece from 1940. Some of the most important jazz tenor saxophonists played this model: Georgie Auld, Charlie Barnett, Al Cohn, John Coltrane, Bob Cooper, Don Byas, Herschel Evans, Paul Gonsalves, Dexter Gordon, Johnny Griffin, Coleman Hawkins, Jimmy Heath, Illinois Jaquett, Hank Mobley, Vido Muso, Buddy Tate, Ben Webster, Lester Young and many others... Copies in good condition or even in their original condition are very rare and are traded at high prices. The quality of the production was subject to significant fluctuations, so that the surviving copies, regardless of their state of preservation, often differ significantly in terms of sound and playing characteristics. Incidentally, this also applies to the current products from Otto Link: you are well advised to choose the best among several examples of the same model!
The original Tone Master had a long facing-curve and smaller openings (3 and 4). The very large chamber combined with a long facing-curve required smaller tip-openings to keep blowing-resistance at an acceptable level. However, Otto Link also produced copies with larger tip-openings (about 8 and 7) on request. A number of musicians had other facings-curves on their Tone Master. Some manufacturers, such as Theo Wanne, developed refacing methods before designing their own mouthpieces. Masahiko Goto, founder of the Gotsu company, also gained several years of experience in refacing and only later decided to produce his own mouthpieces. This knowledge of the optimal facing curve and the exact knowledge of historical models benefits the development of a modern mouthpiece such as the Gottsu Sepia Tone Master 2021.
Replicas of the Otto Link Tone Master are rare: the Retro Revival company has produced a thoroughly successful homage to the historical model with its Crescent model. Sakshama produces a replica. Theo Wanne's Ambika III model cannot be clearly assigned to any specific historical model: since the Ambika III lacks the narrow rollover baffle of a Tone Master, it more closely resembles the Master Link from the 1930s. The Gottsu Sepia Tone Master 2021 appears as a fairly accurate reproduction of the Tone Master from the 1940s. The mouthpiece is precisely manufactured and perfectly balanced! It is a piece of the best craftsmanship with a very fine finish and is very beautiful to look at!
The external appearance of the Sepia Tone Master 2021 is closely based on that of the historic Tone Master: a very short shank with a pronounced throat at the transition to the body of the mouthpiece. The model designation is engraved on the cylindrical part of the shank between two parallel milled rings. On the top of the mouthpiece, a flat metal band rises lengthwise, which bears the embossed lettering Gottsu. The conception of the chamber and baffle essentially follows the conception of the historical model. The tip rail of the Master 2018 is extremely narrow, finely and precisely worked out. There is a very short rollover-baffle of low height, which smoothly transitions into a low baffle and drops deep into a fairly large and smoothly rounded chamber. The concave side walls are hollowed out very deeply, the transitions to the baffle are in soft, smoothly polished curves. Every detail is precise and perfectly executed.
Sepia Tone Master 2021 is a very exceptional mouthpiece. It has plenty of character! The blowing resistance is designed in such a way that optimal tone control is possible: it is slightly higher, especially in the lower registers, than with the Retro Revival Crescent or Theo Wanne Ambika III. The large chamber of the Sepia Tone Master 2021 absorbs plenty of air, but the mouthpiece responds quickly and accurately to the finest nuances of articulation and phrasing.
Even though Gottsu recommends wooden reeds, the Sepia Tone Master 2021 works best with synthetic reeds such as Legere Signature or Legere American Cut.
The Sepia Tone Master 2021 colors the sound very strongly: the great depth of the tone is striking! The mouthpiece sounds big and round, extraordinarily colorful. There is a clearly defined, very dark and warm core and around this, there are layers of various overtones. So the Sepia Tone Master 2021 produces an extremely complex sound. Although this appears much darker than that of the Sepia Tone Double Ring, it is in no way dull or matt: quite the opposite! The Sepia Tone Master 2021 always sounds very defined, present and brilliant! The dynamic range of sepia tone jazz metal is extremely wide: no matter whether you play pianissimo or fortissimo, the substance of the tone remains stable. Subtones are easy to control, emerging with great clarity. All registers, the highest as well as the lowest, can be blown with ease and held securely. The harmonics sound great. The intonation is very good.
The Sepia Tone Master 2021 is a mouthpiece that allows you, to express the most diverse facets of the sound and your own playing style. It opens up a richer sonic world than the Retro Revival Crescent, sounds softer and smoother than the Ambika III, whose tone is always somewhat rough, edgy and grainy in some ways. The Sepia Tone Master 2021 enables a remarkably voluminous and assertive tone, which always retains an elegant character.
I have been blowing this mouthpiece on a Yamaha 82 Z WOF UL for two years. The mouthpiece interacts optimally with all three Yamaha necks. The intonation is outstanding in combination with the C1 (small bore) and the E1 Custom (medium bore) necks. The more flexible Yamaha V1 Custom Neck (large bore) in combination with the Tone Master 2021 intones much more balanced than with mouthpieces with smaller chambers. I use Vandoren Java Red (3.5), Vandoren Classique (3), Rigotti Jazz Gold (3.5) and Legere Signature and American Cut (2.75). I usually fastened the reeds with a Theo Wanne Enlightened Ligature. I blew mouthpieces with 95, 100, 105 and 110 inch tipp-openings. All these tip-openings worked perfectly. The tip-opening of 110 inch produces a particularly rich, colored tone. However, the basic sound characteristics of the mouthpiece remain the same for all tip-openings. Depending on the tip- opening, nuances of the tone change. In my experience, the really large chamber of the mouthpiece requires somewhat more moderate openings in order to maintain balanced playing characteristics. For me and my setup, tip-opening of 100 inch is ideal.
I have been comparing the Sepia Tone Master 2021 to the Gottsu Sepia Tone Master 2018 and Sepia Tone Double Ring, which I bought a few years ago. I come to the conclusion: the Sepia Tone Master 2021 convinces me completely and seems to me the most successful metal mouthpiece from Gottsu. It is certainly one of the best mouthpieces on the market today!
Yamaha 82Z WOF UL (without high-f-sharp-key, unlackered) with Gottsu Sepia Tone Master 2021