Saxophone Forum


by tempomaster
(28 posts)
4 years ago

Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

Recently purchased a Fibercell synthetic reed - I was amazed at the tone quality and playability. The tone wasn't right there with a natural reed but it was a great deal closer to a quality sound than I was led to believe was the case. Cost $15 but if it lasts as long as common lore indicates it will be worth it. What is the principle stigma with synthetic reeds?

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  1. by laurentlesax
    (1 post)

    3 years ago

    Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

    I recently discovered the Plasticover reeds... real cane mixed with a thin black plastic layer. It last quite long and sounds really good.

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    1. by LongTones
      (1 post)

      11 months ago

      Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

      i use Plasticover 3 1/2 Tenor and Soprano respectively.

      I also like the Forestone Reeds

      and LoVoz

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  2. by kelsey
    (815 posts)

    2 years ago

    Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

    I have, over the years, bought one of every new plastc (ect..) reed and have never had a good one....natural reeds have lots of problems but I've decided to stay away from Synthetic reeds.............

    Barry Kelsey

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  3. by tsatryan
    (2 posts)

    2 years ago

    Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

    As a doubler, I discoverd Bari reeds a number of years ago, and I love them. I use them nearly exclusively on all my saxes and clarinets. They are instantly ready to play, no matter how quick the switch from one instrument to another. They sound great, and they last a long, long time. Give one a try, and you will be convinced.
    http://www.bariwoodwind.com 

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  4. by tempomaster
    (28 posts)

    2 years ago

    Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

    Wow!  I can't believe I posted this three years ago.  In these three years I've been a dedicated experimenter with the "Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds" issue.  All of the responses to the intial post were expressed very well, very compelling.  I followed up on all of them.  I've tried Fibercell (the synthetic reed I raved about in my first post), Legere, Bari, Hurricane, and Forestone on the synthetic side.  I've tried Benz, Gonzalez. Rico, Vandoren, and Alexander on the natural side. 

    I would (in a humble way) say that the synthetic reeds have continued to improve while the natural reeds have gone the other way.  If you buy a box of ten natural reeds you will probably find three or four that you would keep.  Maybe.  

    I still stand behind the Fibercell 1000%, but the Legere and Forestone may be just as good, if not better.  The Bari is a very good product as well.  The only synthetic reed I would not recommend is the Hurricane - it is the most expensive and not nearly as playable as any of the aforementioned synthetic reeds.     

    The other point made was the breaking in and maintaining of a natural reed.  And you stop playing one for ten minutes - you are in trouble.  

    Synthetic reeds can be left on a mouthpiece, or where ever, for indefinite amounts of time and still blow like tornados.  You break them in by taking them out of the wrapper.       

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  5. by SuperSax875
    (55 posts)

    4 years ago

    Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

    Most of it comes from how horrific they used to be. They're not too bad now, but not quite up to par with good quality cane.

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    1. by tempomaster
      (28 posts)

      4 years ago

      Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

      I definitely agree with you - good quality cane has no substitute. If I may ask, what natural reed do you prefer?

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      1. by SuperSax875
        (55 posts)

        4 years ago

        Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

        I use Vandoren Traditionals for classical on all my saxes. For jazz I use V16s on alto, Javas on tenor, and again, Traditionals on soprano and bari. I used Alexanders for a while but they're quality control guys are on an extended lunch break at the moment. Either way, I now prefer a good Vandoren over a good Alexander.

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    2. by Charlie_Leo
      (2 posts)

      4 years ago

      Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

      I use Fibercells almost exclusively. They are always uniform - you don't have to go through a box of ten and discard up to 50% of the bad ones. I must not be all that good a player because I don't find that natural cane reeds give me that much better results. However, there is a major dificulty: If you play to the end of a Fibercell 'life' the reed might delaminate (the thin slick layer next to the table). That closes off the air going into the horn. I've never had it happen to me, but it has happened to others. Charlie

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      1. by Mobile Band
        (27 posts)

        4 years ago

        Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

        I make very good experiences with forestone reeds. I prefer them to other synthetic reeds, but I don#t know yet legere newer ones. www.forestone-japan.com/eg/products.html mobile jazz marching band berlin

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    3. by zootspiker
      (13 posts)

      4 years ago

      Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

      I have been very happy with Harry Hartmann Fiberreed. I play mostly Blues Rock and Funk/Fusion. My primary horn is a Selmer Series II Tenor (Huh??you say.haha) But with a Guardala MBII and a Glogger silver thinwall neck she screams. I also double on keys so I frequently have to be able and pick up the horn and have it ready to play immeadiately.
      Michael Krechevsky
      King Silversonic Tenor

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    4. by dgallego
      (27 posts)

      3 years ago

      Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

      i have not tried fake reeds for a very long time. I like high quality cane.

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    5. by wgw11232
      (1 post)

      3 years ago

      Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

      I'm getting started again on alto after not playing for many years.  I purchased a new Buffet 400 Alto which I REALLY like.  I use a Meyer 5M mouthpiece with a Rovner Mark 111 C-1RL lig.  I tried La Voz and Vandorin cane reeds.  Based on reviews I ordered the Hartmann FIBERREED.  I adjusted it like a cane reed and it is now perfect.  No more soaking etc.  Just play, play, play.  For the money I don't think this set-up can be beat.
       

      Willard

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      1. by tsmith800
        (10 posts)

        3 years ago

        Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

        After reading the reviews for the Harry Hartmann Carbon reeds. I ordered two reeds for my Saxgourmet Bon Fils alto. My mouthpiece is a Voodoo Child, I was using Java # 2 with great results!
        Well to put it mildly the Carbon reeds didn't play worth a darn. After paying $ 60.00 for two reeds that I could not play on I was not happy. I wrote Harry Hartmann about my problem with his reeds.  I really did not expect a responce, I was just venting my frustration. Months went by and I forgot about  the e-mail I sent to Mr. Hartmann.
        Then about a month ago I got a e-mail from Mr. Hartmann saying he was sorry but some setup just don't work the way we want them to. He asked me if i would like to try one of his new classic cut carbon reeds at no charge. I figured I had nothing to lose. So I ask him if he could send me a reed to match my # 2 green Java in a tenor.
        Well in about a week and a half the new reed was in my mail box from Germany!
        I did have to do slight adjustments like a cane reed and now it plays great on my saxgourmet Jack-of-Spades mouthpiece.
        I think Mr. Hartmann did what he could to solve my problem, and I'm very happy with his new Classic cut Carbon reeds.
        I guess in the end you can't ask for much more than that IMHO.  

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        1. by joeraia
          (3 posts)

          2 years ago

          Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

          The problem with cane is not the cane itself but peoples expectation of reeds.  Reed manufacturers will tell you that they dont expect you to play every reed in the box.  It's a plant.  You can't tell if a reed is a player by looking at it.  That's why you should buy them by the box, open and play test all of them in one sitting, determining which ones are vibrant, easy to play and sound good.  This falls under the preperation catagory of "selection".  Typically advanced players will say that 20-30% of the cane actually make their rotation of reeds.  Reed companies are not rippig you off, that's just the nature of the beast.  It's this expectation that they ALL play and last a long time that synthetic reed manufacturers depend on.  Most studentls do little more than "play the next reed in the box".  Then of course there is the other side of the coin which is "breaking in" a reed effectively...

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          1. by saxismyaxe
            (574 posts)

            2 years ago

            Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

            The shortcomings of even the best synthetic reeds available today is their tenancy to be bright (often shrill) compared to cane, and often a less responsive lower end, which can also sound a bit buzzy when compared to natural cane.

            The mouthpiece setup, player etc. all factor into this mind you, but those generalities seem to be the biggest bugaboos commonly associated with them.

            Fibracell are my synthetics of choice when I use them.

             

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        2. by teleonard
          (1 post)

          1 year ago

          Re: Synthetic vs. Natural Reeds

          I recently began playing a Harry Hartmann "Carbon Fiber" reed on my tenor using my Berg 105/2 SMS rubber mouthpiece.  I originally ordered the "Medium Soft" reed, thinking it would match the typical #3 Rico Jazz Select/Java/Hemke reeds I've used...but when I played it I found it was REALLY SOFT!  So, contacted Harry, who asked me to return it and I told him the reeds I typically use..and he sent me the "M" 3 Medium reed.  This one plays great...consistent response from low Bb to high F# on my P. Mauriat "Influence" tenor.  And..it has the closest similarity to a "real reed" sound that I've ever had using a synthetic reed.  It is slightly bright, but controllable, which is not an issue for me as I'll primarily use it for jazz gigs.  What I did discover was that my "chops" get a lot tougher workout when using this reed then when I play a natural cane reed.  I suspect this is the result of the fact that cane reeds tend to get a little curve in them as you play...in essence making the tip opening slightly smaller....(e.g. less embouchure strain after they get warmed up) whereas the Carbon Fiber reed does not change with usage during play...thus the 'more muscle use' during the period of play.  I don't consider this a problem...just something that I will get used to.  Today I ordered a carbon fiber and the new "clasical" Fiberreeds for my alto...as well as ordering a set of the rubber "Addjust" devices for both my tenor and alto so I can experiment with the impact they play on the Fiberreed response/sound.  I intend to continue use of the Hartmann reeds...and I believe that with continued use I will get the sound mellowed out a little, returning to my "cane sound".  As a note of info....if you happen to like Ernie Watt's playing/sound...he has used synthetic reeds since the early 70's.  I know because I sat with him and chatted on and off at a club gig he played in Riverside, CA back in the mid-70s.  Proof that the reed does not make nor break the player...it's just another "thing" to be used and controlled to achieve what YOU want to sound like.

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