The oboe is a popular double-reed woodwind instrument, commonly designed to play in the treble or soprano range (though other members of the oboe family cover other ranges). The instrument is commonly used in orchestra and chamber music ensembles or as a solo instrument.
There are plenty of options for the student, intermediate and professional oboists. This isn't only true of individual instruments but also of solo oboe makers and larger oboe brands.
With such a wide variety of choices, knowing the market's top brands is useful. Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect of an oboe, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgement. In this article, I'll share my take on the top oboe 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 oboes
- Longevity of the oboes
- Variety of oboes available
- Accessibility of the oboes (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 11 best oboe brands are:
Let's get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best oboe brands. I'll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable oboe, and a link to their official website.
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Before opening up his own shop, François Loré was the chef d'atelier (workshop manager) of the top French oboe maker at the time, Frédéric Triébert. After opening up his own shop and carrying on with the tradition of his former mentor, François Loré became the number-one oboe maker in the country. Furthermore, the company still holds that position proudly today.
Also, Lucien Loré, Françoise's son, was the one who perfected the System 6 oboe to create the System 6bis, which is the best-known and most widely used kind of oboe to this day on both sides of the Atlantic.
If you want the best of the best, you have to try a Lorée oboe before buying anything else.
Notable oboe: Lorée ROYAL 125 Oboe (link to check the price at The Oboe Shop)
Entirely made of 10-year-old, air-dried Grenadilla wood, this oboe was made as a limited edition for the 125th anniversary of the brand. It was received with such critical acclaim that after the limited run was sold out, the company issued it as a regular model to satisfy demand.
The Royal 125 by Lorée is the pinnacle of the company's craftsmanship and is available with the conservatory plateau as well as with the fully automatic system. This oboe is the kind of instrument you need to take your playing to the next level.
Lorée was founded in 1881 by François Loré. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Paris, France.
Official website: loree-paris.com
Lorée is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Yamaha is a synonym for the highest quality standards regardless of the product. Indeed, the company manufactures state-of-the-art motorcycles with raw power ready to conquer any roads and pianos with a level of finesse and attention to detail that can leave any professional musician in awe.
Moreover, Yamaha is a restless innovator taking every product they work on to the boundaries of the impossible. Likewise, oboes aren't exceptions to Yamaha's excellence, and you can buy confidently knowing that over a century of great instruments backs up your purchase.
Notable oboe: Yamaha YOB-841 Custom Oboe (link to check the price at Music & Arts)
This oboe is the choice of many masters, especially in the USA. The reason behind this choice is simply that it delivers top-notch sounds with extreme ease of use. Moreover, the sounds coming from the instrument can vary since it is available in a plethora of wood types.
Although each wood type brings along its own tonal qualities, this oboe is famous for its focused center and silky, dark tones. For those after a serious, professional instrument to enjoy for years, this is a must-try before you buy.
Yamaha was founded in 1887 by Torakusu Yamaha. Nowadays, the company's headquarters are in Hamamatsu, Japan.
Official website: yamaha.com
Yamaha is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Alfred Laubin was an oboist who couldn't find an instrument to meet his high demands. Therefore, he decided to take matters into his own hands and make his own, as a DIY project at home. Such was the success of his creations. He ended up leaving his career as a player to supply his fellow professional oboe players with the highest-quality oboes in the market.
Nowadays, the third generation of Laubin oboe master builders makes exclusive instruments entirely with hand tools. Furthermore, the yearly production rarely makes it over 20 instruments.
Notable oboe: Laubin Rosewood Oboe (link to check the price at A. Laubin)
Although the estimated waiting time to receive one of these is approximately 9 years, few instruments in the world can match this oboe.
It is made with one of the world's most exquisite and expensive wood types: rosewood. Secondly, it is made by hand entirely in Laubin's New York workshop with uncanny attention to detail. Finally, it comes with a case, a case cover, a three-reed case, cork grease, tenon covers, and a feather.
If you have the patience to wait for one, and it fits your budget, nothing plays like a Laubin rosewood oboe.
Laubin was founded by Alfred Laubin in 1931. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Peekskill, New York, USA.
Official website: alaubin.com
Laubin is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Although the highest achievement by Buffet-Crampon was to create the Boehm System clarinets, the company is a synonym for the highest quality standards in every wind and wood instrument. Furthermore, they are the world leaders in Boehm System clarinets to this day.
Nowadays, after two centuries of hard work and innovation, the company offers a solid, varied, reliable, and well-curated catalogue with the best wind instruments in Europe. In the strange case you haven't already, check a Buffet oboe out before buying; they will surprise you.
Notable oboe: Buffet Légende (link to check the price at Thomann)
This utterly capable oboe is the newest addition to Buffet's professional oboe line. The reason behind its addition to this prestigious line is the combination of warm tones, ease of use, projection, and accuracy. Moreover, it is made entirely of Grenadilla wood which adds to the centred tone and enhances the tonal spectrum of the instrument.
The depth of the sound, the ease of response, and the semi-automatic, full conservatory system make this the ideal oboe for the advanced student or professional player.
Buffet-Crampon was founded by Denis Buffet-Auger and his wife, Zoé Crampon in 1825. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Mantes-la-Ville, France.
Official website: buffet-crampon.com
Buffet is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Besides offering some of the best oboes in the world, Howarth of London is also a meeting point for professional woodwind players from all corners of the planet. This is because the shop offers first and second-hand instruments as well as music sheets and accessories.
Moreover, the personnel in the shop are professional musicians ready to address any concern regardless of the playing level. Everything you've heard about Howarth's oboes is true; if they fit your budget, trying them is a must.
Notable oboe: Howarth LXV Full Automatic System Oboe in Cocobolo (link to check the price at Oboe Sales)
Howarth's professional line is still handmade to a large extent giving each instrument of this tier a distinct personality. Moreover, this translates into elegance, ease-of-use, and a flexible diversity of tone that can set your imagination free when playing. Adding to that, the dark wood of the cocobolo enhances the depth and richness of this instrument's tone, warmth, and character.
This is a great candidate if you want an instrument that can inspire your playing and take you to infinite sonic adventures.
Tom Howarth founded Howarth of London in 1948. Currently, the company's headquarters are in London, England.
Official website: howarthlondon.com
Howarth is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
The three partners opened up a factory and a shop in the busy streets of Paris to sell mainly saxophones and flutes. Soon after, because of the high demand, they could open a woodwind facility making top-notch oboes and clarinets in a village in Normandy, France's number-one woodwind instrument region.
Marigaux oboes and clarinets became so famous the company focused solely on woodwind instruments and, by 2005, came up with one of the most revolutionary oboes in history: the M2. This is the first oboe with interchangeable head joints, opening up the instrument's tonal palette, awarding virtually endless possibilities.
Notable oboe: Marigaux M2 (link to check the price at Oboe Sales)
Made entirely of hand-picked Grenadilla wood naturally dried for over 4 years, this revolutionary instrument represents a historic moment in oboe-making. This is because it features interchangeable joints that expand possibilities beyond imagination. But that's not all; this oboe is also ergonomically optimized in the Bb, B, and Eb keys. Also, it features an additional composite head-joint to avoid any cracking risks.
The Marigaux M2 is many state-of-the-art oboes in one great-sounding instrument. Give it a chance before buying anything else; it might be what you were looking for.
Marigaux was founded in 1935 by Mr. Strasser, Mr. Marigaux and Mr. Lemaire. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Paris, France.
Official website: marigaux.com
Marigaux is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Luigi Bulgheroni was a man with a dream: to open his own woodwind manufacturing facility in his hometown of Colverde, Italy. Luigi not only fulfilled his lifelong dream but also passed on his passion for excellence, craftsmanship secrets, and obsessive attention to detail to his family, who still owns and carries on the business to this day.
Indeed, from a green facility largely powered by solar energy, the company still manufactures and retails some of the best oboes in the market, bearing the proud “made in Italy” label.
Whenever you pick up a Bulgheroni oboe, you're grasping on decades of hard work and innovation; the living legacy of a legend.
Notable oboe: Bulgheroni Oboe Musa (link to check the price at WCB Oboe)
Bulgheroni's pinnacle of quality and craftsmanship comes in a 100% Grenadilla wood body featuring thickly-layered silverplated nickel keys. Moreover, it is an instrument made to accommodate solo performances as well as orchestra players because the nuances in its sound allow players to convey emotions accurately to the audience.
In the same vein, the stability of performance, attention to detail, and precision in tuning make this oboe the perfect candidate to conquer any stage.
Bulgheroni was founded in 1947 by Luigi Bulgheroni. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Colverde, Italy.
Official website: bulgheroni.it
Bulgheroni is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
The story of Rigoutat is very close to that of Lorée and Marigaux since all three of them worked as apprentices for Georges LeBlanc, the famous saxophone maker. During that time, the three worked next to each other and shared all the craftsmanship secrets.
Rigoutat, after leaving LeBlanc, also worked making keys for Lorée before he finally decided to apply all he had learned into a line of instruments to call his own. Thus, the legacy behind each Rigoutat oboe goes back for well over a century.
All you've heard about the “Rigoutat sound” comes from that long heritage; try one today and hear the difference.
Notable oboe: Rigoutat J (link to check the price at La Music)
Made in collaboration with stellar oboe players Jean-Claude Jaboulay and Jacques Tys, the J model by Rigoutat is the latest addition to the brand's prestigious professional line.
It is made entirely of African Grenadilla wood with a top joint (optional) in Delrin or composite to enhance durability. Also, the keys are silver-plated nickel silver in a full conservatory system. Finally, the pads are made of real cork for the upper registers and leather for the bottom ones.
The Rigoutat J is a new benchmark for professional oboes in the world; give it a try before buying anything else.
The Rigoutat Company was founded in 1922 by Charles Rigoutat. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Paris, France.
Official website: rigoutat.com
Rigoutat is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Gérard Fossati had been working for the Rigoutat Company for many years when he decided to open his own business. He was able to cascade all the know-how he got from his years in Rigoutat but also implemented state-of-the-art machinery in the design and manufacturing stages.
As a result, Fossati is not only a synonym with build quality and impeccable craftsmanship but also innovation and technology. If you want the best of both worlds, try Fossati's CNC-made bodies with hand-installed keys.
Notable oboe: Fossati S (link to check the price at Music & Arts)
The Fossati S is a very capable, professional instrument made with a large bore and a very thin-walled body in 100% Grenadilla wood. The result of this juxtaposition is an oboe that can deliver a round tone with enough flexibility to cover all styles. Moreover, the balance between the placement of the holes and the bore ensures tuning will remain flawless across the entire range.
Finally, the platinum-plated keys, real cork and leather pads, and the three distinct heads it ships with (black and white elfloryn and aluminum and Grenadilla) make it a classy, elegant instrument ready to take over any stage.
Fossati was founded in 1986 by Gérard Fossati. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Amilly, France.
Official website: fossati-paris.com
Fossati is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Les Silver is a music lover and an accomplished musician. It was during his time giving private saxophone lessons he realized the poor quality of the instruments his students brought to class. Besides the frustration students experienced struggling against the instrument, it steepened the learning curve.
So, Les set out to close the gap by offering great-quality affordable instruments that could help students have a better learning experience. They were received to such acclaim that the company had to expand to brass and string instruments.
Students on a budget looking for a great instrument at a price they can afford should look at RS Berkeley's catalogue.
Notable oboe: RS Berkeley OB436 (link to check the price at Sax Advantage)
The RS Berkeley OB436 is the quintessential conservatory key system, Grenadilla wood oboe design that sounds great, plays flawlessly, and remains in tune impeccably at a price most people can afford.
That being said, this is not just a student model but an oboe that can accompany you throughout the arc of your sonic journey inside its included French case with a blanket, cover, and reed.
If you are on a budget looking for a great performance-cost balance, you have to try RS Berkeley out.
RS Berkeley was founded by Les Silver in 2002. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, USA.
Official website: rsberkeley.com
Hugo Fox played the bassoon at the Chicago Symphony for over 30 years. During that time, he discovered room for improvement in his own instrument but couldn't take care of it as he was pursuing his career as a professional musician.
Upon retirement, he moved back to his hometown of South Whitley and founded Fox Instruments to pursue his lifelong dream: making world-class woodwind instruments in the USA. Furthermore, he wanted to improve designs and come up with enhanced models that could revolutionize the world.
Hugo's dream is still working full-steam, making some of the best woodwind instruments in the world in the USA. The same commitment to excellence fuels the factory today: the man is gone, the dream lives on.
Notable oboe: Fox Maple Sayen (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Hand-picked maple carved into oboe shape with thick walls in the Sayen tradition make this instrument a one-of-a-kind sonic wonder. Indeed, the maple adds sustainability, brightness, and complexity to the tone, while the impeccable craftsmanship by Fox makes playability a dream. Speaking of dreams, the tonal characteristics of this instrument make it the perfect oboe for a soloist because of its projection and character.
Finally, the Fox Maple Sayen is 16% lighter than its Grenadilla counterpart.
Fox was founded by Hugo Fox in 1949. Currently, the company's headquarters are in South Whitley, Indiana, USA.
Official website: foxproducts.com
Fox is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!