Saxophones are popular in a variety of music formats, including concert bands, chamber music ensembles, as solo instruments, marching and military bands, jazz and rock bands and modern pop recordings. A proper saxophone reed is essential to play the saxophone to its full potential.
Because the saxophone is such a popular instrument, it makes sense that there are plenty of reed options on the market. Knowing the top brands is useful with such a wide variety of sax reeds.
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 saxophone 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 saxophone reeds
- Longevity of the saxophone reeds
- Variety of saxophone reeds available
- Accessibility of the saxophone 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 7 Best Saxophone Reed Brands Are:
Let's get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 7 best saxophone reed brands. I'll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable reed, and a link to their official website.
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Polishing the concept of the perfect reed took the Van Doren family over eleven decades. The brand became a synonym for quality, endurance, performance, and tone during that path. Moreover, they are the go-to option for many musicians around the world.
Nowadays, the business is in the hands of the fourth generation of Van Dorens. The company has grown so much that it exports its quality products to 100 countries. Furthermore, that makes up 90% of its production.
If you are serious about your saxophone playing, you should try Vandoren reeds.
Notable saxophone reed: Vandoren V21 Reeds
Vandoren's celebrated 56 Rue Lepic reeds and V12 reeds are together in the V21 by Vandoren. This means that the best aspects of the 56 shape and the V12 profile will grant the instrument evenness across the register.
The warmth of the woodwind is retained, while the upper register offers a wider tonal palette and remains vibrant and strong.
For performers that need a reed that can cover a vast repertoire that includes large interval leaps, a reed as the Vandoren V21 is a goldmine. Plus, it's backed up by over a century of Vandoren's excellence.
Besides being one of the biggest string manufacturers in the world, D'addario is one of the biggest accessories manufacturers in the world as well.
They sell many products aimed at solving musicians' everyday lives, from backpacks made specifically for music gear to state-of-the-art reeds.
Speaking of which, D'addario acquired Rico Royal in 2004 with its plantations in Argentina and France, so the company still sources the reeds from the best cane in the world. Therefore, D'addario enhanced Rico Royal structurally while the experts perfected the designs to make the best reeds the company had made so far.
If you haven't already, try them on your saxophone; you'll hear the difference.
Notable saxophone reed: Rico by D'addario Saxophone Reeds
These are the perfect reeds for students and beginners. Their traditional blank and profile make them suitable for beginners and educators due to their ease of response. Moreover, the unfiled cut adds to the support.
Plus, like every reed you can buy from Rico/D'addario, they are made with the best cane in the world, sourced in specific plantations in Argentina and France. Finally, players worldwide, like Dave Koz, love the thinner profile that allows uncanny ease of use.
Two Ph.D. holders got together to solve a problem that has been part of musicians' lives for centuries. Indeed, Guy and Mark joined forces to find the perfect compound that could deliver brilliance, warmth, and even response and endure the hardships of the road.
Moreover, Guy is a seasoned musician who has played with the Brampton Symphony Orchestra. Therefore, the nuances of the sound, the detail, and the soft touch are all in charge of his perception and privileged ear.
Therefore, you can expect Légère reeds to be balanced and deliver a rich, full sound.
Notable saxophone reed: Légère American Cut for Saxophone
These reeds are the next step for Légère reeds. They combine the snappy, fast reaction and edgy tone of the Signature cut but retain some of the low-end of the Classical Légère reeds. In this sense, these are very balanced reeds that play effortlessly, sound utterly colourful, and with personality.
Finally, because of their unique profile, the low register sounds full and round but remains clear, while the altissimo oozes brilliance and sounds vibrant. If you haven't already, give them a try; they might surprise you.
In the 80s, when Harry Hartmann started researching alternative materials to make reeds, the idea wasn't as normal as it seems now. Moreover, Harry Hartmann spent more than a decade until he could find the perfect compound to deliver a cane-like sound with more stability and increased endurance.
Nowadays, Fiberreed creates reeds from a plethora of sources. Furthermore, he creates hybrid compositions that retain the best from every ingredient, delivering vibrant overtones with classic, warm low end. Plus, they are more reliable and stable.
Notable saxophone reed: Hemp Fiberreed for Tenor Saxophone
This reed is made of a superior hollow fibre layered with hemp fibre and crowned with several layers of hardwood. Moreover, the cut is specially made to enhance the natural tonal benefits of hemp. This wood retains the low end, giving the instrument an Earthy, dark low end.
On the other hand, the remaining part of the composite (80% hemp, 20% synthetics) gives it a full high register with colourful harmonics and an altissimo range.
Finally, hemp feels so soft that the company advises people to get one strength harder than they normally would when buying from another material.
The origins of Fibracell are common to many inventions in history: there was a need. David was a music teacher in primary school for 15 years when he decided to found his own company and offer people the kind of reliable, great-sounding reeds at a price they could afford.
He worked for almost 30 years with different professionals to develop the perfect combination of materials that could replace cane.
In 1993, Fibracell was born to offer a product that can last up to 6 times more than reeds made of cane and doesn't need any cane to be made.
Therefore, you can expect performance quality, extreme endurance, and a balanced sound at a price that won't break the bank.
Notable saxophone reed: Fibracell Premier Synthetic Tenor Saxophone Reed
With a classic woody tone you would expect from real cane reeds and uncanny projection, these reeds can satisfy the needs of every clarinet player, regardless of the style. They offer a bright, quick response with beautiful harmonic overtones over a resonant tone that always retains the low end. But even sounding very close to the wood, these reeds are made of Fibracell, which means they are unaffected by the weather and last 4 times longer.
The composite of Fibracell involves aerospace materials, Kevlar and rosin, to create a stable, sturdy, durable reed in the market.
Location played a key role in the history of this brand. It was founded right in the heart of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, which has the perfect geography and weather to facilitate the growth of some of the world's best cane around its many streams and rivers.
Also, beyond location, the Rigotti family has been making reeds for well over 50 years and has perfected the legacy of past generations to offer a well-crafted, great-sounding, modern product with the finest material in the world.
Rigotti has become a synonym for quality, sound, and performance due to the quality of the material and the expert craftsmanship. If you are serious about playing, you must try Rigotti reeds.
Notable saxophone reed: Rigotti WILD JAZZ Saxophone Reeds
Cutting the reeds from wild canes gives the product many different characteristics. For example, they have a different colour than you would usually expect.
Also, they have a thicker tip which makes them longer-lasting than others. Moreover, for jazz lovers who need to cut through the band, these reeds allow a brighter, punchier sound that perfectly suits modern jazz.
Furthermore, the rich harmonic overtones and balanced tone can be great for big bands and even orchestral work.
Boston Sax Shop
The sole belief behind the entire company is one that musicians know very well: the little things. Jack was striving to find reeds and designed accessories from a musician's perspective.
The kind of product that simplifies your life because it was made by someone who went through the same you went through. He believed he could deliver accessories for the soft touch, minding the little things specifically.
But that's not all; the innovations are tested on the road by some of the best-known saxophone players in the world. The brand has ambassadors who test their products to the limit and bring back valuable feedback. Thus, you can expect great-performing reeds that provide effortless playability to all players.
Notable saxophone reed: Boston Sax Shop Custom Tenor Reeds
A reed that can deliver a balanced tone that will allow you to project while staying warm is a rare find. This was the idea behind the first prototype of reeds by the Boston Sax Shop. They were searching for a mix of the warm-oriented Classic reeds and the more buzzy and bright tone of the Jazz reeds.
Finally, the cane comes from the South of France, so it's among the best you can find in the world.