The English Horn (also referred to as the “cor anglais”) is a double-reed woodwind instrument in the oboe family. English horns, like oboes, are commonly used in orchestra and chamber music ensembles or as solo instruments. A proper reed is essential to play the English horn to its full potential.
There are plenty of reed options for the student, intermediate and professional players.
With such a wide variety of reed choices, knowing the market's top brands is useful. Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgement. In this article, I'll share my take on the top English horn reed brands.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the English horn reeds
- Longevity of the English horn reeds
- Variety of English horn reeds available
- Accessibility of the English horn reeds (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let's list out the brands.
The top 8 best English horn reed brands are:
Let's get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 8 best English horn reed brands. I'll share their country of origin, some history, an example of a notable reed, and a link to their official website.
Eleven decades and four generations are what it took for Vandoren to create some of the best reeds in the world. The company has been in the hands of four generations of Van Dorens that have cascaded and augmented the family's legacy and heritage to become the go-to option for professional musicians worldwide.
Speaking of which, Vandoren currently exports 90% of its production to 100 countries. This is not an overnight success story; it is the outcome of a rare combination of innovation and commitment to excellence that only some companies have. If you are serious about playing the English horn, you must try Vandoren.
Notable English horn reed: Vandoren EH10 (link to check the price at Adams Music)
This English horn reed by Vandoren is the perfect example of why this company is a synonym for quality and performance in every continent. To begin with, this is a conservatory-level reed that offers perfect intonation. Also, the cane used by Vandoren is top-quality, which gives this reed great endurance.
Finally, for those who like to shape their specific size and shape, Vandoren offers raw or semi-cut pieces of their best cane.
Official website: vandoren.fr
Eugene Van Doren founded Vandoren reeds in 1905. Currently, the headquarters are in Paris, France.
Vandoren is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
The best way to understand the success of Eastman is to say that they've achieved the perfect balance between cutting-edge technology and the use of precision CNC machinery and manual work. This balance gives their products the hand-finishing touches of boutique brands at affordable prices.
Plus, their reputation as best-in-class entry-level instruments and accessories translates into a legion of learners that honed their craft with an Eastman instrument or accessory. Therefore, they are sturdy, road-tested, and great-sounding affordable choices.
Notable English horn reed: Eastman English Horn ACC-RDEH-14 Reed (link to check the price at Music & Arts)
This reed by Eastman is made of the best cane in the world: the one from the Var region in France. Starting from this top-notch material, this French-cut, French-filed reed is offered in medium soft, medium, and medium hard.
If you want a great-sounding and extremely durable reed to hone your craft, checking Eastman out is a must.
Official website: eastmanwinds.com
Eastman Strings was founded in 1992 by Qian Ni. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Pomona, California, USA.
Eastman is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
As an accomplished musician and music teacher, Dr. Jones developed a thorough understanding of how a reed should sound and what sonic ground it needs to cover. Moreover, he focused on endurance and sound to provide the world with the kind of reed he liked to use in his instruments.
Nowadays, more than half a century later, the company has over 30 employees carefully handpicked for their talent and dedication. The result is the perfect reed for students, hobbyists, and professional players alike.
Notable English horn reed: 301A Jones Artist English Horn Reed (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Professional and intermediate players will find this to be a great reed. This reed features a brass staple wound with purple string and is finished with a layer of lacquer. Also, the company added a wire so the player can adjust the tip opening to satisfy his or her taste. Finally, all reeds are tuned to 440Hz.
Official website: jonesdoublereed.com
Dr. Jones founded the company in 1963. Nowadays, headquarters are in Spokane, Washington, USA.
Jones is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Kathy Sheinhouse is after the Holy Grail of reeds in a quest that started in the early 21st century. On the way, this oboist found great versions of the Holy Grail that she turned into her five brands. Each has a distinct personality and was made chasing one specific goal.
Moreover, Kathy is the only employee in the company, creating and shipping the canes herself without outsourcing any stage of the production. That way, she can ensure the detail level of handmade reeds with the consistency and price of mass-produced ones.
Try one today and feel the difference.
Notable English horn reed: Magic Reed Handmade English Horn Reed (link to check the price at Music & Arts)
The first thing you'll notice when picking up this reed is that it is a tad heartier than other brands, which makes it durable. Moreover, these are handmade from Freju oboe cane and then mounted on the customer's choice of Guercio or Chiarugi staples, both with a bass construction. Finally, all reeds go through severe quality assurance testing, and only those that are concert level or above are shipped.
Official website: magicreed.com
Kathy Sheinhouse founded Magic Reeds in 2007. Currently, headquarters are in Larchmont, New York, USA.
Magic Reed is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Sandy Reeds is an accomplished oboist with a Bachelor of Music degree from Ithaca College and a Master of Music degree from Yale University. Therefore, she has a holistic knowledge of the instrument from various perspectives, which allows her to create great English horn and oboe reeds.
Also, after being the principal oboe of the Bozeman Symphony for 15 years and performing with countless other groups and sessions, she has a privileged ear. With it, she can perform the perfect quality assurance test on every reed and make sure you get nothing but a top-notch product ready to help your playing from day 1.
Notable English horn reed: Sandy's Reeds English Horn Reed Medium Strength (link to check the price at Hodge Products)
These reeds are handmade by Sandy by splitting tube cane and then gouging on a Ross gouger. This first step is followed by shaping on a Gilbert 1. Once finished, each reed features wire to help the player control the openings and plastic tubing so the reed will never escape the bocal.
These handmade reeds are ready in less than a week, so you can order top-notch handmade quality and receive it at home in just a few days. Check Sandy's Reeds; they might surprise you.
Official website: sandysreeds.com
Sandy Stimson founded the company. Currently, headquarters are in Livingston, Montana, USA.
Juan José González and his son, Juan Pablo founded the company in 1983. Currently, the headquarters are in Mendoza, Argentina.
The majestic Andes mountain range offers the perfect weather to grow the best cane in the world for making reeds. Gonzalez not only planted the perfect variety of cane but also built a state-of-the-art facility with precision, cutting-edge technology. Therefore, when you buy your reeds from Gonzalez, you're getting the best material treated to perfection by experts.
Gonzalez reeds are the best-kept secret of woodwind players in the Southern hemisphere. If you haven't already, you should try them out.
Notable English horn reed: Gonzalez English Horn Reeds (link to check the price at Gonzalez)
As you would expect, utilizing their sourced material as a starting point, Gonzalez manages to create a double reed that is second to none in sound, precision, and reliability.
Moreover, the company not only offers the finished product, you can buy from them the cane tube, the segment for gouged, the gouged cane, and a gouged cane that has also been profiled. This is because Gonzalez's secret to the best tone is in the material the canes are made of.
Try one today and discover the best-kept secret of woodwind players in South America.
Official website: gonzalezreeds.com
Gonzalez is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Robert Gilbert started this company importing French reeds in the mid-20th century. From that moment until the present day, the company he founded never stopped growing. Moreover, with time, RDG got together a team of notables made mostly of professional musicians who share your love for the instrument and make the best reeds. Furthermore, they make the reeds they would like to play.
It is this team spirit and the fact that some of the employees in RDG Woodwinds have been working in the company for over ten years that make every reed a piece of musical history in the making. If you haven't already, give RDG Woodwinds a try and hear the difference.
Notable English horn reed: RDG Woodwinds Professional English Horn Reed Light Blue (link to check the price at RDG Woodwinds)
This medium-strength reed is perfect for playing the instrument while you're learning or if you need to cover vast sonic ground. This is because the reed is flexible enough to play all the ranges while feeling comfortable and sounding great. It is handmade in Pasadena, California, by the experts in RDG Woodwinds, granting great performance, reliability, and sound quality.
Official website: rdgwoodwinds.com
The company was founded by Robert D. Gilbert in 1949. Currently, headquarters are in Pasadena, California, USA.
The Nielsen family has been creating a flawless reputation for their company, one happy customer at a time, since the mid-20th century. Moreover, Edmund was the go-to repair person for woodwind players around the country who would travel long distances to get their instruments serviced by Edmund.
That commitment to excellence and impeccable craftsmanship is present in every reed to come out of Edmund Nielsen's factory. Although Dorothy and Edmund are no longer around, the company honours their legacy by providing quality products to musicians around the world.
Notable English horn reed: Edmund Nielsen English Horn Reed Red (link to check the price at Edmund Nielsen)
Professionally made under the Nielsen family tradition, these reeds are perfect for those looking for a stable pitch and superb projection. Moreover, the Edmund Nielsen Red is the go-to option for many musicians because of the beautiful, rich sound they bring to every instrument. If this sounds like the kind of reed you're looking for to blow your English horn, give Edmund Nielsen a try.
Official website: nielsen-woodwinds.com
Edmund and Dorothy Nielsen founded the company in 1949. Currently, headquarters are in Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA.
Edmund Neilsen is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!