In this guide we’ll take a look at the best alto saxophone reeds.
We’ve compared sound quality, design, strength and cost
to give you our top recommendations.

What Are The Best Saxophone Reeds?

  • Features
  • Available in sizes 1.5 to 5.0
  • Very versatile
  • Extremely popular worldwide
  • Cost
Rating
9.7/10
  • Features
  • Available in sizes 1.5 to 4.0
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Good value for money
  • Cost
Rating
9.6/10
  • Features
  • Available in strengths 1.0 to 5.0
  • Clear tone with good resonance
  • Good for beginners
  • Cost
Rating
9.4/10
  • Features
  • Shorter vamp for a darker tone
  • Premium quality
  • Great for jazz and classical music
  • Cost
Rating
9.2/10
  • Features
  • The ultimate jazz reeds
  • Super projection and control
  • Available in third strengths
  • Cost
Rating
8.9/10
  • Features
  • Thick tip + thin heart = Good jazz tone
  • Flexible and versatile
  • A favorite ever since 1983
  • Cost
Rating
8.7/10
  • Features
  • Outstanding control and projection
  • Makes the low register sound beautiful
  • Blank reeds with a heavy spine
  • Cost
Rating
8.6/10

More Detailed Saxophone Reed Reviews

Vandoren SR213 Alto Sax Traditional Reeds

Vandoren has been making reeds since 1905, so they know exactly what they’re doing! These particular ones are among the most popular reeds in the world because they are so versatile.

Sometimes you just want to buy reeds without making too much research. You just want something that always works. These are a go-to for many people.

What Makes Them Special?

These reeds work for any genre, really. Jazz, rock, classical music- everything goes!

They have a really thin tip but a thick heart, which means that they are very responsive but still give you a clear, steady tone.

Here is a short video in case you want to learn more about them!

Price

If you get a box of 10, they’re only around $3 per reed, which I personally think is a pretty good price considering that they are much better than cheap options. It’s an affordable way to make your sound instantly better!

Strengths

The traditional reeds are available in the strengths 1.5 to 5.0, so they can work for everyone from children that are learning to play to professionals.

Who Should Buy Them?

No matter if you’re a beginner or a professional, as long as you pick the right strength, you can use these reeds. They are super if you play lots of different genres. Perhaps you’re a saxophone tutor or just somebody who likes all kinds of music and don’t want to limit yourself to one genre.

Rico by D'Addario RJA1030 Alto Sax Reeds

Rico’s reeds make me a little nostalgic because they were the first reeds I used when I was 12 and started playing the saxophone. But they’re not only good for beginners, I and many other advanced players still use them!

What Makes Them Special?

The reason why they are so good is that D’addario, who owns Rico nowadays, are very particular about how they’re made. They want you to be able to buy a box of ten and know that all of them are going to be good.

It used to be pretty hard to find good reeds and in a box there would only be a couple that would be really good. That’s what they have tried to fix, and I must say they’ve done it!

The secret is in the material, the cane, which they make sure to grow in perfect conditions in France. They don’t use any artificial pesticides or anything like that, and everything is done by hand.

This video goes more into detail and I highly recommend watching it if you’re interested in learning how reeds are made.

Price

These reeds cost around $2 per reed if you buy a box of ten and they’re definitely worth it!

Strengths

The Rico reeds are available in strengths 1.5 to 4.0.

Who Should Buy Them?

These reads are great for beginners and intermediate players as well as advanced players who want to mix their expensive reeds with something more affordable once in a while.

Royal by D'Addario RJB1030 Alto Sax Reeds

Rico Royal are reeds that I’ve been using for many years. I somehow always come back to them, because they are such good all-round reeds. They work well for most music and are quite affordable, but still high-quality.

What Makes Them Special?

The Rico Royals feature a traditional French filed cut. This means that they make your tone clearer and they increase resonance. They are good for classical music and jazz since they’re very versatile.

Even if advanced players like myself frequently use them, they’re also an excellent choice for beginners who might not know what reeds to buy. If you are one of those beginners and came to this article to find your very first reeds, you’ve found them, buy Rico Royals, that always works!

Price

These reeds are sold either in boxes of 3 or 10. It’s much better to buy 10 at a time because if you only buy 3, they’re over $4 each, which is really expensive. If you buy 10, they’re about $2.50 each. Much more affordable!

Even if you’re a beginner and might be thinking that you’re only going to buy three to get started with, consider buying the 10-pack. The reason for this is that a reed might only last a week or so. Or if you’re unlucky you might accidentally break it earlier than that. They’re very sensitive and you will need a bunch of them even if you’re a beginner, so there is never really any reason to only buy 3!

Strength

Rico offers these reeds in strengths 1.0 to 5.0, which is about as good as it gets. This is yet more proof that shows how versatile they are and that they work well for most saxophonists.

Who Should Buy Them?

These reeds are incredibly popular, especially among saxophone students. If you’re looking for your very first reeds, these are a great option!

Rico Hemke Alto Sax Reeds

Are you a fan of Frederick L. Hemke? If you don’t know who it is, look him up! I particularly like his album Simple Gifts, it’s absolutely wonderful! But why am I suddenly going on about Fred Hemke when I’m supposed to be telling you about saxophone reeds?

It’s because these reeds from Rico are named after him! If you find yourself listening to Hemke’s wonderfully soft tone and want to play just like him, these are the reeds to go for!

What Makes Them Special?

The Hemke reeds have a shorter vamp for a darker tone. This means that the low register sounds amazing and the low notes sound clearer than usual.

These reeds are designed with professional players in mind and you need to be advanced to do them justice. They’re made from premium grade cane and have been developed by agronomists, scientists, and musicians that have thought about everything throughout the process.

They are best suited for jazz and classical music.

Price

Even though these reeds are very high-quality, they’re not that expensive. They are sold in boxes of five and cost about $2.50 per reed.

Strengths

The Hemke reeds are available in strengths 2.0 to 4.0.

Who Should Buy Them?

Looking for a dark, full tone with lots of character for jazz or classical music? You’re going to love these!

Rico Select Jazz Alto Sax Reeds

If you love playing jazz, you want reeds that are specifically designed for that genre. Rico Select are super for jazz and provide great control and projection. Here is a great video that tells you a bit more about them and lets you hear what they’re all about!

What Makes Them Special?

The people who have created these reeds have worked hard to make sure that they’re growing the cane in the right conditions, that the reeds are cut exactly the right way and that they give you amazing flexibility and great response.

In other words, I can’t really see how jazz reeds could get much better! I really like these and I would definitely recommend them if you’re into jazz!

Price

The reeds are sold in packs of ten and cost about $2.90 per reed. I think they’re well worth it!

Strength

These reeds are available in strengths 2.0 to 4.0, but that’s not all. Instead of offering half strengths, such as 3.5, every step has three different options, soft, medium, and hard. This means that it’s possible for you to be extremely picky and find reeds that are perfect for you.

Who Should Buy Them?

Anybody wanting to find the perfect jazz reeds should definitely try these out! Just the fact that they come in third strengths increases the chance of you finding what you’re looking for in this range.

Vandoren SR263 Alto Sax JAVA Reeds

If you’re looking for traditional jazz reeds, you have found them! Vandoren’s Green Java reeds are their original jazz reeds that have been around since 1983. That can only mean one thing- they’re great!

What Makes Them Special?

You may wonder, what is the difference between classical reeds and those specifically made for jazz music? The answer is that the jazz ones feature a thicker tip together with a thinner heart.

Those two features combined mean that the reeds get a more flexible palette since they vibrate over a larger area. They are more flexible, literally!

Another thing that I really like about these ones is that they come sealed in ‘Flow Pack’ so that they’re super fresh every time you start a new one!

Price

The reeds are sold in packs of 10 and cost about $2.90 per reed. I have read reviews that suggest that a few of the reeds in the boxes were bad, but I haven’t experienced that myself. I thought I’d just mention it so that you can be aware that if you buy them it can be good to keep track of how many good ones you get in a box.

Strength

They are available in strengths 2.0 to 4.0.

Who Should Buy Them?

I’d say that any jazz saxophonist who wants to get back to basics would like these.

D'Addario Reserve Alto Saxophone Reeds

If you are an advanced player looking for reeds that give you dynamic flexibility and lets your tone shine no matter which register you’re playing in, the Reserve reeds might be exactly what you’re after!

What Makes Them Special?

The Reserves are thick, blank reeds that have a heavy spine which means that they give you good control and that the tone sounds lovely. The projection and response are amazing and make it possible for you to play what you’re hearing in your mind.

Check out this video to learn more about them and hear what they sound like! In the video, you see how easy the reeds make it to even play low notes like Bb in piano or pianissimo and still achieve a very even tone, which can be difficult with some reeds. Of course, if you’re a complete beginner you might not be able to do this as well as she does in the video, because it does take some practice to be able to do that.

Price

These reeds are sold in packs of 10 and are the most expensive reeds I’ve reviewed at about $3.20 per reed, but they are extremely good, so no wonder they cost more than some others!

Strength

They are available in strengths 2.0 to 4.5.

Who Should Buy Them?

Have you ever felt like you have lots of great music going on in your head and then when you play you just can’t get it out? It just doesn’t sound as good as you imagined it to be. That might be because of reeds that aren’t providing you with what you need.

Chances are that you will find it much easier to create music with the Reserve Reeds, since they offer such good control, even in the low register, which many often struggle with.

These reeds are best for advanced or even professional players since it’s not likely that beginners will feel much difference anyway. Personally, I really like the D’Addario Reserves!

Alto Saxophone Reed Buyer’s Advice

Using the right reeds is just as important as having the right saxophone and mouthpiece. Many people think that they might just as well buy the cheapest reeds available, but that would be a mistake.

Even though it might seem like it’s just a piece of cane, there is much more science to it than that. If you want a high-quality reed there are a few things you should know before you go shopping. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know!

Why the Quality Varies

Think about products in general. If there are two similar products and one is much cheaper than the other, what conclusion would you draw? I would assume that the quality is poorer.

This can depend on a lot of different things, but most of them have to do with the manufacturing process. Perhaps the company has tried to save some money by recruiting staff that is far from experts, by using cheap materials or rushing things to produce as much as possible.

These are all likely explanations why some reeds aren’t as good as others. In fact, the process of making good reeds is quite advanced! Just growing cane the right way seems to take a lot of knowledge and patience.

Brands

I would recommend that you buy reeds from a well-renowned brand. They sell so many reeds simply because people are so pleased with them! My favorite brands are Rico and Vandoren, you can’t really go wrong with them!

Price

Even if cheap reeds can cost half of what good ones do, I and many other saxophonists would say that it’s worth it buying the good stuff. After all, even the ‘expensive’ ones don’t cost more than a latte!

One reed lasts about 1-3 weeks depending on how much you play and how well you look after it. So let’s say that you use two reeds in a month, that’s about $5. If you compare that to other hobbies it’s really quite affordable.

For instance, if you like to paint, you can easily pay $5 for one small tube of paint!

Strength

Before you buy reeds, you need to know what strength to buy. Most beginners benefit from buying strength 2 or 2.5. Here is a great video where you can learn more about how to pick the right strength.

Many people believe that the strength has to do with the thickness of the reed, however, this is not the case. It is, in fact, a measure of resistance. It is the stiffness of the cane that determines the resistance.

This means that the higher the strength, the stiffer cane. For this reason, beginners who aren’t used to playing and still need to build up their muscles and breathing should get a reed with a low number, whereas an experienced player can go higher.

I  really hope that this article has taught you everything you need to know to find the perfect reeds for you!