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. A proper oboe reed is essential to play the oboe to its full potential.
There are plenty of reed options for the student, intermediate and professional oboists.
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 judgment. In this article, I'll share my take on the top oboe 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 oboe reeds
- Longevity of the oboe reeds
- Variety of oboe reeds available
- Accessibility of the oboe 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 9 Best Oboe Reed Brands Are:
Let's detail each of these brands and explain why they belong in the top 9 best oboe reed brands. I'll share their country of origin, some history, an example of a notable reed, and a link to their official website.
The reeds made by Dunkel are the result of the never-ending quest for the perfect reed two professional oboists started over four decades ago. Indeed, Stuart Dunkel started playing at age 5 and was professionally formed as a musician playing for several orchestras during his fruitful musical career.
In the mid-2000s, he came across Dr. Amy Gollins, who holds a Doctorate in Musical Arts and oboe performance from the University of Southern California. Together they decided to build the kind of oboe reeds they would like to play through in every performance.
As a result, Stuart Dunkel oboe reeds can satisfy the desires of the most demanding musicians in the world and are among the best in the market.
Notable oboe reed: Stuart Dunkel D'More Reed
With an average length of 50mm, this handmade oboe reed is perfect for playing the oboe in a band setting. The medium strength and dark tone enhance the mellow qualities of the oboe tone, delivering top-notch results for every player. Furthermore, you can order it in five different strengths, from soft to hard. If you haven't already, try Dunkel reeds and hear the difference.
The story of Jones Double Reeds started on the kitchen table of Dr. Wendal Jones. He served as an oboe maestro and taught the instrument at a university level when he started making the reeds for his students. He set out to make affordable, great-sounding reeds for a student budget with a pro sound.
With time, that initial dream grew to employ over 30 people who work their best every day to follow the Jones quality standards and provide oboe players with world-class tone without breaking the bank. Finally, every reed is handmade by artisans and tested by Dr. Feller-Marshall, the principal bassoonist of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.
Notable oboe reed: Jones Artist Oboe
Jones's Artist line of reeds is made from the most select Mediterranean basin. This top-notch raw material delivers a superior tone and gives the instrument uncanny projection. Moreover, the long scrape (as preferred in the USA) allows players to enjoy the full range of their instruments seamlessly.
Finally, every Artist Oboe Reed is handmade, tuned to 440Hz, and tested by a professional oboist in a professional oboe.
The family business that Edmund and Dorothy started over 70 years ago started as a repair and sales shop in which Edmund Nielsen would repair classic oboes and do minor sales. With time, the insight of working on so many instruments allowed the company to develop a product range that includes several accessories such as bocals, instrument care, and, above all, state-of-the-art reeds.
Nowadays, after the passing of Edmund in 1981 and the retirement of Dorothy in 2011 (at age 1987), the company belongs to Theresa Delaplain and Robert Mueller. The new owners are committed to honouring the Nielsen tradition in terms of quality, sound, and customer service.
Notable oboe reed: Edmund Nielsen 4EO24 Green Oboe Reed
This hand-finished reed by Edmund Nielsen is a faithful representation of what the company's reputation is based on. The mellow tone, perfect intonation, and fast transients (translating into a fast response) make it perfect for intermediate and advanced students. In the same vein, professional musicians looking for an affordable alternative will find this reed to be perfect for their needs.
During the past 25 years, brother and sister Ben Krabill and Grace Lytle teamed up to develop cutting-edge machinery that could bring the company to the 21st century. This investment allowed the company to create the perfect blend between state-of-the-art technology and decades of traditional hand-shaping and manufacturing.
As a result, Marlin Lesher can deliver consistent results for their customers in the shape of perfectly made reeds that sound like the traditional reeds of past decades but feature cutting-edge technology.
Notable oboe reed: Lesher Pro Oboe Reed
For professionals looking for a firm and dark pitch, this oboe reed is handcrafted with windows in the profile. Moreover, the reed is made on a silver staple and a synthetic cork, which makes it as durable as it is great-sounding. Finally, the strength option available for this reed is medium-hard making it perfect for professionals and advanced students.
Cooper Wright is not just another oboe player; he is the owner of a refined ear and pair of hands that have taken him to make some of the best reeds in the world. What started as a way to build the best possible reeds for his performances turned into a business because of the critical acclaim his reeds received among other players.
Nowadays, his reeds have become legendary, and many top-notch players worldwide swear by their Cooper Wright. Nevertheless, Cooper refused to grow his operation to keep the quality of the reeds and pursued his doctorate, making only small amounts of reeds for subscribers and customers who turned into friends after years of collaboration.
Try a Cooper Wright on your instrument and blow through the difference today.
Notable oboe reed: Cooper Wright Professional Oboe Reed
This reed was made with a David Weber 1-c and then shaped using a Graf gouging machine to achieve superior levels of precision. As a result, these reeds can offer the player colour, fullness, and complexity of colour while allowing maximum response and flexibility. Furthermore, this is a 100% handmade reed tested multiple times by Cooper Wright himself before shipping.
Finally, this reed is perfect for professional oboists and top-tier teachers looking for a next-level response and sound.
Cheryl Wefler is a self-proclaimed “reed nerd” who dedicated her life to creating the perfect reed. She has received formal and informal education about reed making with a variety of legends in private classes as well as schools such as the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Finally, she teamed up with renowned oboists from around the globe to obtain invaluable feedback that could help her create the best reeds in the market. As a result, Cascade reeds feature the experience of Cheryl's formation plus the sensitivity of world-class musicians' ears.
Notable oboe reed: Custom Cascade Oboe Reeds
This reed, made with a silver staple and MH cane, is special since Cheryl will fine-tune it to meet your demands. Therefore, if you're looking for a special type of reed that will work perfectly for your instrument, you can provide her with the following information:
- Oboe model
- Desired tone
- Embouchure formation
- Pitch level
- Altitude concerns
- Amount of opening
These are just some of the categories proposed by Cheryl, but you can always add more information to your solicitude to get the absolute perfect oboe reed for your needs.
Kathy is the only employee of all her companies, founded 15 years ago with only one goal: to create the perfect oboe reed. During the past decade and a half, she has worked tirelessly not only in manufacturing and shipping every cane herself but also in research and development for the products of each of her brands.
Speaking of which, she owns more than one brand because she wants to give each its personality and specific aim. Therefore, what you can expect from each of the products that Kathy makes is the precision and craftsmanship of handmade reeds combined with years of fine-tuning her approach to achieve a specific sound.
Finally, Kathy works really hard to keep costs down so you can get a professional reed at the price of a mass-produced one.
You can try one today and feel the difference from the first blow.
Notable oboe reed: Magic Reed Professional Oboe Reed
Handmade from scratch, this oboe reed is 100% hand scraped from Kathy's competitive advantage: her 2017 Var inventory. The top-notch raw matter allows this reed a dark and rich tone that can meet the demands of professional players, conservatory students, and adult amateurs. Moreover, the reed is only shipped after undergoing dozens of micro adjustments by Kathy's expert hands and being tested in two different rooms with and without a carpet.
Finally, the reed is finished with the signature American long scrape and is ready to consistently deliver the four pillars of oboe reeds: pitch, tone, stability, and response.
Like all other industries in the world, the reed-making industry is constantly looking for alternate materials that can give players better results than traditional ones. Légère was born with this aim; to change the world of reeds for the better.
Moreover, both brand creators hold Ph.D. degrees which give them enough know-how to manipulate substances at a chemical level improving their results. But that's not all, since Guy Légère is also an accomplished musician who has played with the Brampton Symphony Orchestra, among many others.
Légère's proficient musical ear is the compass that has directed the company's efforts toward musicality. On the other hand, the duo's chemical understanding provided the platform to create next-level reeds for oboists worldwide.
Notable oboe reed: Légère European Scrape Oboe Reed
It is no surprise that the first-ever orchestral-grade, synthetic oboe reed comes from Légère. But what does this mean? Well, this reed can be played for hours before you need to rotate it. Moreover, it also means that it can last up to 12 months, making your instrument sound as wonderful as it did on day one.
Sound-wise, you can expect a reed that retains the instrument's warmth but is stable when visiting the upper registers. Finally, because of its synthetic nature, it is playable right out of the box and isn't affected by weather changes.
Over a hundred years have gone by since the Van Doren family started making reeds for woodwind players. During the past eleven decades, the company has innovated restlessly to come up with the perfect reed that will solve problems for woodwind players around the world.
This has been the main goal of the family for over four generations, and, considering Vandoren's reputation of being one of the best-performing reed brands in the market, excelling at quality and performance, it could be said that the goal has been achieved.
Nowadays, the Van Doren family still controls the operation and has expanded the business exporting 90% of the company's production to over 100 countries around the globe. As a result, Vandoren's reputation has grown exponentially and non-stop for eleven decades.
In the rare case you haven't already, try a Vandoren reed on your oboe and blow through the difference.
Notable oboe reed: Vandoren OR10 Medium Oboe Reed
One of the secrets to Vandoren's impeccable reputation is the raw material used for the reeds. Indeed, this company works only with the best cane in the world. This line of oboe double reeds is no exception.
Moreover, the best cane in the world goes through the expert hands of Vandoren's master craftsmen who shape it and assemble it with the leverage eleven decades of work have given the company.
These reeds are a great indicator of Vandoren's superior quality. Try one today and blow through 100+ years of reed-making tradition.