Updated: Mar 27
Choosing a good clarinet reed is hard, especially when you are finding the right one for a concert or performance. The traditional cane reed does offer a good sound, however, it takes time and effort to select a good reed to play, and it does cost a lot of money and care.
That's when synthetic reed comes to play. Synthetic reed is an innovation that evolved from the traditional cane reed. With the main goal of producing superior clarinet sound with human synthetic materials and technology.
The earliest usage of synthetic reeds was from World War II when there was a shortage of reeds from France, musicians would use styrene to make reeds. In modern days, many companies invented new ways of making synthetic reeds, by using heavy machinery, new materials, and secret recipes.
Synthetic reeds used to be made with epoxy resins, molded plastics, styrene, and polyester. Which they can not produce the sound that cane reed does, the sound of wooden timber. Companies today have experimented and tried several ways of improving the production of these synthetic reed, that in my opinion, have reached superior sound than the traditional cane reed.
In this article, I have reviewed and ranked the top synthetic clarinet reeds that are available on market in 2021. Currently, there are six synthetic reeds in the market that have promising reviews and feedback from customers. The companies are Legere, Silverstein, D’addario, Forestone, Fibracell, Fiberreed.
In the review test, i've selected the most popular reed mode from each of the companies. All reeds are around #4 hardness and played with Vienna Woodwinds Gleichweit Mouthpiece #8 and #9.5. Using Backun Model F Grenadilla Bb Clarinet, and Buffet Tosca Grenadilla Bb Clarinet.
“The test lasted four weeks, and I liked both reeds very much in terms of their sound and their versatility. I’ve conducted tests such as playing the reed in different genres, octave response, hardness and softness, tonguing, sliding and pitch dropping, sound, quality, taste/comfort, price value, altissimo, low notes, dynamic control, material.”
We also recommend you to check out each company’s reed comparison chart before you make a purchase. You can find it on their official website.
6) Fibracell (Strength 4.0) ($16.50)
Fibracell reed is a cheap synthetic reed, it is one of the earliest synthetic reed company and that is still mass producing its reed. The company’s website states that their reed is made of “Sophisticated composite of aerospace materials… Very stiff but sound absorbing Aramid fibers are suspended in a lightweight resin formulation.”
My first impression of the reed is that the reed is definitely in a soft side, which makes the sound very bright and easy to produce the sound. Also, it being a soft reed allows me to play everything easily but slightly hard to concentrate the sound.
Cheap solution of synthetic reed, affordable price.
The front surface of the reed feels very much like a cane reed, right amount of friction.
Quick action and sounds very bright and fluent, also can produce quick tonguing response.
Great for jazz music or popular music.
It has some fiber sticking out on the side of the reed
Despite of it being a strength 4 reed, it sounds and plays like a strength 3, very soft sounding.
Upper register lost its focus of sound, the pitch can be easily bent.
5) Fiberreed Hemp (Strength Hard) ($31.95)
Fiberreed Hemp model has a very interesting look, which will definitely attract new customers. Fiberreed company also experimented with many organic and synthetic materials to make new reed models. On the company’s website states that “Hemp reed has superior hollow fiber layered with hemp fiber & crowned with layers of hardwood.”
My first impression of the reed is that it has a very interesting feel in the mouth. Which is like a wet piece of paper. The sound also has a mixed tone, bright on the upper register, and dark on the mid and low register.
Very attractive looking design, the pattern between hemp and hardwood fiber is soothing to look at.
Dark sounding in the mid and low register.
Very versatile, good dynamic response and sounds great in jazz or classical music.
Chip easily, and the chip part will hurt your lips (experienced myself), and need to be careful with the tip, because if can be sharp.
The upper and altissimo range sounds light and lost the focus of the sound.
4) Forestone Hinoki (Strength XH) ($28.95)
Forestone is a company that is based in Japan, and they have produced a revolutionary hybrid reed, which is “Polypropylene resin and cellulose wood fiber. More than 50% of the wood fiber used is bamboo.” The Hinoki reed has a very interesting look, which the front side is mimic and feels like a cane reed, but the backside is smooth and like a synthetic reed.