/ / 15 Best Alto Saxophone Reeds 2021 – Highest Quality Reviewed

15 Best Alto Saxophone Reeds 2021 – Highest Quality Reviewed

Music Instruments And Tools | Saxophone
Best Alto Saxophone Reeds

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Looking to pick up an alto saxophone reed?

With so many choices on the market, how do you even choose?

And does the quality of the reed make that much of a difference?

What strength of reed do I need, what cut, and how many?

In this guide, we answer all these questions and more. But to kick things off, let’s look at the highest quality alto saxophone reeds on the market.

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Best: Vandoren SR413 Alto Sax ZZ Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

Vandoren SR413 Alto Sax ZZ Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

The Vandoren SR413 Alto Sax ZZ reeds combine the medium-thick heart, spine, and rounded tip of the V16 reed with the flexible design of a JAVA reed.

These reeds have been sealed in “Flow Pack” to endure freshness. They offer responsiveness without sacrificing brightness or tone quality. They are durable and feature a strength of 3. You can also find them in 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3.5, and 4 strength though, with some minor price differences.

What buyers loved most about these reeds is that they play, sound, and feel great. They also found these reeds lasted longer than others.

What some didn’t like is their lack of flexibility, and oddly, some found them to be a little weak too. These people were in the minority though, generally, these are seen as the best alto saxophone reeds of the market.

Item weight: 0.8 ounces

Package dimensions: 4.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 inches

Vandoren SR813 Alto Saxophone V21 Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

Vandoren SR813 Alto Saxophone V21 Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

Here we have the blue-boxed Vandoren SR813 alto saxophone V21 reeds featuring a unique conical design. These reeds have been designed for players looking for added focus, smoothness, and consistency in their reeds. They promise to give you a warm, centered, and clear sound for your sax.

The product featured here comes with a Strength of 3, but 2.5, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5 are also available (they all vary slightly in price).

The good – customers said it’s a solid classical reed and liked its tone and quality.

The bad – some felt you could do better for the price, while others complained of “squeak.”

Item weight: 1.6 ounces

Package dimensions: 1.25 x 2.5 x 4.5 inches

Vandoren SR613 Alto Sax V.12 Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

Vandoren SR613 Alto Sax V.12 Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

The Vandoren SR613 alto sax reeds come with a thicker heel with longer palette for more vibration. They offer a deep, rich sound thanks to the thicker tip. That also makes them longer lasting.

Every reed has been sealed in “Flow Pack” to ensure freshness. These babies have a strength of 3, but 2.5, 3.5, and 4 are also available (4 strength costs less).

Most users expressed a positive sentiment for these reeds. What they liked most was that they offered a great sound, were long-lasting and sturdy, and good value.

You can’t please everyone, though, and some customers didn’t like the way this reed made them sound.

Item weight: 0.8 ounces

Package dimensions: 4.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 inches

Legere American Cut 3.00 Alto Saxophone Reed (ASA3.00)

Legere American Cut 3.00 Alto Saxophone Reed (ASA3.00)

The Legere American Cut 3.00 alto sax reeds come in a sharp-looking gold and black box. Per the manufacturer, its character is a result of the reinvented profile and heart, as well as a shorter and wider vamp.

While these reeds are highly rated, reviewers didn’t have much to say about them.

Item weight: 0.416 ounces

Package dimensions: 4.5 x 2.75 x 0.4 inches

Vandoren SR2625 Alto Sax JAVA Reeds Strength 2.5; Box Of 10

Vandoren SR2625 Alto Sax JAVA Reeds Strength 2.5; Box Of 10

The famous Vandoren SR2625 alto sax JAVA reeds come in a signature green box. They are decidedly more flexible than traditional and V16 reeds. These also vibrate over a longer palette, which allows for a brighter sound with a high level of responsiveness. Every reed has been sealed with “Flow Pack.”

Pictured is strength 2.5, but 2, 3, 3.5, and 4 are available at slightly different price points.

The best part about these reeds is that they are durable, offer a quality sound, and are highly playable (once broken in). Some buyers even call these their go-to reed.

What’s not so great is that some reviewers noted a marked decline in the reed’s quality. We can’t verify this, but it might be something to look out for.

Item weight: 0.8 ounces

Package dimensions: 4.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 inches

Legere Alto Sax Reed Signature 3.0 (ASSS3.0)

Legere Alto Sax Reed Signature 3.0 (ASSS3.0)

Here’s another Legere option in the form of the Signature Series alto sax reed. This one has a strength of 3, but 2.25, 2.75, and 3.5 are also available.

Manufacturer says this reed has the properties of non-toxic moist cane and doesn’t require any preconditioning (breaking in) before playing.

Users loved that these reeds did not need to be wetted, and found them easy to clean, affordable, and they play like cane reeds.

Some did not like that the reed broke easily, couldn’t get the sound they were looking for, and thought it was just okay.

Item weight: 0.32 ounces

Package dimensions: 4.5 x 2.75 x 0.44 inches

Vandoren SR213 Alto Sax Traditional Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

Vandoren SR213 Alto Sax Traditional Reeds Strength 3; Box Of 10

Yet another promising entry by Vandoren. Here we have the SR213 alto sax traditional reed.

This reed offers excellent response in all registers, which allows for a pianissimo attack regardless of the note. This reed is extremely flexible, allowing for legato and staccato executing, while maintaining a richness of tone. Of course, it’s been sealed in “Flow Pack” for extra freshness.

Pictured is a strength 3 reed, but this model is also available in 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3.5, 4, 5, and more.

Customers liked that these were a quality, consistent, polished reed.

Others thought this reed was about average, and took a while to break in.

Item weight: 0.8 ounces

Package dimensions: Unknown

D’Addario Rico Select Jazz Alto Sax Reeds, Filed, Strength 3 Soft

D’Addario Rico Select Jazz Alto Sax Reeds, Filed, Strength 3 Soft

Hard to believe this is the first D’Addario entry on our list, especially considering their popularity.

Either way, the Rico Select Jazz alto sax reed offers a big sound, powerful projection, and control. This reed is available in filed and unfiled models, and of course you can also find it in a variety of strengths – 2, 3, and 4 with soft, medium, and hard variations.

Buyers found these to be long lasting and solid. They also said they play easily over the entire range of the sax.

Others said these were kind of hit and miss and also said they were just okay.

Item weight: 0.352 ounces

Package dimensions: 3.06 x 0.87 x 2.68 inches

D’Addario VENN Alto Saxophone Reed, Strength 2.5 (VAS0125)

D’Addario VENN Alto Saxophone Reed, Strength 2.5 (VAS0125)

The D’Addario VENN alto saxophone reeds come in a slick computer software style box. Of course, what counts is on the inside, not the outside. Let’s see how these highly rated reeds measure up to the rest.

A unique combination of polymer fibers gives the VENN reeds natural flexibility for response, articulation, and a warmer, richer sound like a cane reed. These reeds are resistant to elements and stresses, making them quite durable.

Manufacturer even calls this “a new species of reed.” Quite humorous!

In addition to the pictured 2.5, this reed is available in 2, 3, 3+, 3.5, and 4 strength.

Overall, users liked the D’Addario VENNs, but some thought they were a little pricey for what they got.

Item weight: 2.39 ounces

Package dimensions: 5.08 x 2.76 x 0.94 inches

D’Addario Reserve Alto Saxophone Reeds, Strength 3.0+, 10-Pack

D’Addario Reserve Alto Saxophone Reeds, Strength 3.0+, 10-Pack

If there’s one thing we must give D’Addario credit for, it’s designing slick looking boxes.

Here we have the Reserve alto saxophone reeds. This is a thick, blank reed with a rich, warm tone, a heavy spine with dynamic flexibility and strong tone quality in all registers. D’Addario says this reed is ideal for advancing students and professionals alike.

This reed is made from naturally grown cane (outside of US), but the reed itself is made in USA.

This 10-reed box comes with strength 3+ reeds, but you can also get it in 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, and 4 strengths.

Users loved these reeds, and even said they offered mind blowing tone quality.

Others weren’t crazy about them, but reeds are a matter of personal preference.

Item weight: 1.28 ounces

Package dimensions: 2.75 x 3.17 x 1 inches

D’Addario Royal Alto Sax Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-Pack

D’Addario Royal Alto Sax Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-Pack

Yet another entry by the design conscious D’Addario, the Royal reeds feature a traditional Rico cut with a stronger spine. This reed works well with classical and jazz applications.

As you can see, this box comes with 10 filed reeds with 2.5 strength, but you can also get it in 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 3.5, 4, and 5 strength.

Perhaps their greatest selling point is they offer clarity, consistency, and ease.

Conveniently, in addition to 10 packs, D’Addario also offers 25 and three packs of the Royal reeds.

Overall, customers thought these offered consistent quality, great sound, and thought they were great for beginners too.

Some had issues with chipping, and others thought they were a tad overpriced though.

Item weight: 0.352 ounces

Package dimensions: 3.06 x 0.87 x 2.68 inches

D’Addario Rico Alto Sax Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-Pack

D’Addario Rico Alto Sax Reeds, Strength 2.5, 10-Pack

Here we have the ever popular D’Addario Rico alto sax reeds. These come with a thinner vamp cut design for ease of use, traditional blank for clarity, and unfiled design for powerful tone. This reed can be used for a variety of playing situations and is a favorite among jazz players.

These are available in 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, and 4 strength and you can get them in three, 10, 25, and even 50 packs.

Made with French cane, Rico offers consistency and quality. These reeds are a favorite among students and teachers alike.

Buyers thought these were great for starters, and liked that they were good bang for buck too.

To be fair, some found that these reeds were not long lasting, and were even disappointed by the quality.

Item weight: 1.41 ounces

Package dimensions: 3.06 x 0.87 x 2.68 inches

D’Addario Woodwinds Hemke Alto Sax Reeds, Strength 2.5, 5-Pack – RHKP5ASX250

D’Addario Woodwinds Hemke Alto Sax Reeds, Strength 2.5, 5-Pack – RHKP5ASX250

The D’Addario woondwinds Hemke alto sax reeds feature a shorter vamp for darker tone. They offer a balanced, slightly thinner tip for fast response and articulation, and they’ve been filed to increase depth in harmonics.

In addition to strength 2.5, there are also 2, 3, 3+, 3.5, and 4 reeds.

The good – solid choice for beginners. These are reliable and resonant reeds.

The bad – some said these reeds tend to bend backward. Others added that they didn’t sound as good as Vandoren reeds.

Item weight: 0.704 ounces

Package dimensions: 3.06 x 0.87 x 1.36 inches

Cecilio Alto Saxophone Reeds, Two 10-Packs With Individual Plastic Case, Strength 2.0

Cecilio Alto Saxophone Reeds, Two 10-Packs With Individual Plastic Case, Strength 2.0

Now we’re beginning to move into budget territory. Cecilio, though, is not a bad brand name by any means.

Here we have their Cecilio alto sax reeds with strength 2 and a total of 20 reeds at a more than reasonable price. You can get them in 2.5 and 3 strength as well though.

Most customers liked the price and quality of the reed.

Others said they chip and break frequently. No wonder they come in 20 packs!

Item weight: 2.88 ounces

Package dimensions: 5.1 x 5.1 x 1 inches

GOLOHO Alto Saxophone Reeds 2.5 For Alto Sax, 10 Pack, Unfiled Cut, Strength 2.5

GOLOHO Alto Saxophone Reeds 2.5 For Alto Sax, 10 Pack, Unfiled Cut, Strength 2.5

The GOLOHO alto sax reeds offer a dark, powerful tone with good response. Manufacturer says they are great for students and educators.

These utilize digital reed-making technology that promotes good response across in all registers with a rich and clear tone. They also have a built-in sealing system to ensure freshness.

These are 2.5 strength but 3s are also available. They come with a traditional tip and unfiled cut.

Buyers thought this was a great product at a great price point.

Some found these a little hard to use, though, and others said you’re better off with higher quality, higher priced reeds.

Item weight: 0.634 ounces

Package dimensions: 3.7 x 3 x 0.5 inches

What Should I Look For In An Alto Saxophone Reed?

As with choosing an instrument, choosing a reed is also quite individual. Which means what might work for another won’t necessarily work for you.

Through trial and error, as well as experience, you will probably come to discover the best fit. Until then, it might feel like a bit of a scavenger hunt. Don’t worry, though – this is part of every musicians’ journey. If you find your perfect anything on your first try, consider yourself lucky!

Customer reviews are certainly helpful, and you can reference them any time you like. That said, there are certain characteristics you should look for in a reed that will help you make a more informed buying decision.

Here are the main factors to consider when buying a reed:

  • Brand
  • Strength and size
  • Material
  • Musical style or genre
  • Sound
  • Cut
  • Durability
  • Budget

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Brand

For those who’ve wondered whether brand makes a difference, the short answer is “yes.”

With that in mind, the quality of the reed depends a lot on the manufacturing process and the material used. Not the logo printed on the reed.

If the brand you’re buying from does not have a consistent manufacturing process and doesn’t use quality materials, then of course, you’re going to end up with an inferior reed.

We are not aware of any companies that cut corners, but if you were to buy bargain basement reeds, you’d probably come across reeds that are terrible compared to name brands. Granted, they will also be significantly cheaper. You get what you pay for.

Strength & Size

By now, you’ve likely seen that the strength of a reed generally varies from about 1 to 5. 1 refers to the softest, while 5 refers to the hardest of reeds. That should be relatively easy to remember. You should be able to find the strength of a reed on the reed itself and on its packaging.

The main thing to remember is that beginners are usually better off with softer reeds.

Note that the stiffness of the reed can have an impact on playing quality.

Also know that the size of a reed is basically measured by the strength of the reed. 1.5 to 2 is great for beginners, while professionals are more likely to choose a reed with a strength of 3 or higher.

Material

Traditional reeds are designed with Arundo Donax, also known as cane, a specific grass with a rich tone. Cane can typically be found in France. No two cane reeds sound exactly alike, however.

Cane reeds can cost a little more, but if you’re budget conscious, there are always synthetic reeds. And unlike cane reeds, synthetic reeds can deliver a more consistent result.

Overall, synthetic reeds are also easier to maintain and are more durable.

Musical Style Or Genre

Depending on the style of music or genre you play, you may opt for different reeds. Most musical genres are better served with a darker tone, but if you’re playing jazz, you may prefer a brighter tone overall, and some reeds have been designed with jazz in mind (also see above).

Sound

The sound or tone that a reed offers is largely determined by its design.

Sound is an important factor for any instrumentalist. But you’ll want to do your homework if you’re planning to buy reeds based on sound, because some reeds give you a deeper, darker tone while others produce a brighter tone.

Cut

A reed will either be filed or unfiled, referring to its cut (or how the tip is cut).

A filed reed (double cut) can facilitate a freer vibrational flow, and that will give it a brighter sound suited to jazz. It tends to offer a quicker response too.

An unfiled reed (single cut) produces more resistance, and therefore a darker, richer tone. It also reduces vibration and projection.

If you’re unsure, it’s worth experimenting with both! Reeds are generally inexpensive.

Durability

Durability might be a bit of a factor depending on what your expectations are.

How long a reed lasts depends on a lot of factors, so there isn’t one right answer. It’s mostly determined by how often you’re playing your saxophone, as well as your ongoing care and maintenance routine.

In general, reeds can last several months, while others only have a lifespan of a couple weeks after heavy use.

So, the quality of the reed as well as the quality of care it receives are both factors when it comes to its longevity.

Having said that, it’s not a bad idea to stock up on a few reeds. Buying a 10 pack, for instance, ensures that you have backups when you need them.

Budget

Reeds are quite affordable, even when buying 10 or 20 packs. So, this is just a quick reminder to not go into debt to buy musical gear. Stick to your budget and you’ll be fine!

What Are The Best Alto Saxophone Reed Brands?

Here are some of the best alto saxophone reed brands (we’ve also highlighted these throughout the guide):

Vandoren

Vandoren is a go-to option when it comes to alto saxophone reeds.  The family business was founded in 1905, and are known for their mouthpieces, reeds, ligatures, and accessories, for clarinets and saxophones.

Legere

Legere makes reeds for saxophones, clarinets, oboes, and bassoons, and they are favored by many a saxophonist.

The company was founded by Dr. Guy Legere and Dr. Mark Kortschot in 1998.

D’Addario

D’Addario is a well-known manufacturer of musical accessories, especially guitar strings. That said, they are also known favorably among saxophone players because of their great quality reeds, especially the ubiquitous Rico reed.

This is not a company to ignore. Who knows what they might come up with next?

Top Alto Saxophone Reeds, Final Thoughts

The right reed for you depends a lot on what you’re looking for. That said, you’d be hard pressed going wrong with high quality Vandoren, D’Addario, or Legere products – especially if you have a good sense of what you’re looking for!

Generally, old standbys like the SR613, Rico, and Hemke will serve you well, but it’s still going to come down to personal preference.

We hope you found what you’re looking for. Here’s wishing you happy shopping and phenomenal playing.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you’ve learned will matter if you don’t know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career’ ebook emailed directly to you!

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