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· Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2010
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This looks like an interesting read... The change to digital machinery would appear to explain our perceptions that reeds aint what they were due to the change in manufacturing methods. Also interesting that Orange box and La Voz are the same, Royals are simply Orange box with a French file to remove bark around the vamp, and Plasticovers are just cosmetic Royal rejects with a coating... There is a lot of detail here...

 

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I don't know who told him a lot of that stuff but the poor guy didn't even know the purpose of the Plasticover which was to provide a reed that did not need to be wetted in order to play. This made it perfect for doublers and others where a sax might sit for whatever reason and the reed dry out and wrinkle. The great Pete Christlieb used Plasticovers when he was on the Tonight Show for that reason. I use them on my doubling horns for the same reason, plus the fact that they play great! The 'brightness' thing only comes into play when the reed is too hard for your application.
 

· Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2010
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I don't know who told him a lot of that stuff but the poor guy didn't even know the purpose of the Plasticover which was to provide a reed that did not need to be wetted in order to play. This made it perfect for doublers and others where a sax might sit for whatever reason and the reed dry out and wrinkle. The great Pete Christlieb used Plasticovers when he was on the Tonight Show for that reason. I use them on my doubling horns for the same reason, plus the fact that they play great! The 'brightness' thing only comes into play when the reed is too hard for your application.
Chicken or egg though. Brilliant to repurpose reeds that would otherwise be scrapped for cosmetic reasons. A product that found a market, or a market that needed a product? Another interesting comment is that Rico sold all their old school mechanical cam following "Francke" machines to "another reed manufacturer in France" in 2017. I'm betting it wasn't Vandoren! These machines appear to have originally been bought used from Glotin in the first place, because Vandoren had bought the Francke machine company and were not about to sell machines to their competitors!

I was totally unaware of the connection between D'Addario and Vandoren too, which effectively ended a couple of years after Vandoren chose not to go in with their US distributor in a deal to buy Rico.

Anyway, one big takeaway is that everything is now made on CNC controlled equipment, which in theory is a lot more consistent and offers a lot more design flexibility, but its no surprise if the end result we experience is somewhat different to that made on mechanically controlled production equipment back in the day. It would be interesting to take accurate CMM or laser measurements of old and new "Orange box" or royals or whatever and see just how they vary old vs new.

All the information is cited, either through documents or personal interviews with the protagonists. It is a doctoral thesis after all.
 

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I don't know who told him a lot of that stuff but the poor guy didn't even know the purpose of the Plasticover which was to provide a reed that did not need to be wetted in order to play. This made it perfect for doublers and others where a sax might sit for whatever reason and the reed dry out and wrinkle. The great Pete Christlieb used Plasticovers when he was on the Tonight Show for that reason. I use them on my doubling horns for the same reason, plus the fact that they play great! The 'brightness' thing only comes into play when the reed is too hard for your application.
Huh. I always thought the purpose was that middle school band kids could go an entire year on one reed. ;)
 

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Modern manufacturing techniques can produce more consistent machining, but since the raw material is a product of nature, I expect there will always be variations.

In theory I prefer cane reeds, but this winter I have experienced so much dry heated air causing warping issues that I decided to switch to Legere synthetics until spring. After a few weeks on them I am starting to wonder if I will go back to cane once the humidity returns.
 

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When I was in high school (1974-79) my band director always steered me away from plain Ricos. He even frowned when I developed a fondness for Rico Royals. So, to be honest I've never tried one. I think I remember paying a quarter a reed from my band director until I started buying my own boxes. I still to this day have never tried a Rico, but I am curious about the new Nexus reeds endorsed by Chad LB.
 

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When I was in high school (1974-79) my band director always steered me away from plain Ricos. He even frowned when I developed a fondness for Rico Royals. So, to be honest I've never tried one. I think I remember paying a quarter a reed from my band director until I started buying my own boxes. I still to this day have never tried a Rico, but I am curious about the new Nexus reeds endorsed by Chad LB.
Yeah, my teachers/directors tried to steer me toward Vandoren back then as well. But I never liked them, could not get the sound I wanted (like Brecker, etc.), so I ignored them and stuck with Rico. They're still the easiest reed to get the sound in my head on.

Nexus sure sounds interesting, but they cost a fortune, and I'm already happy with what I've got. If anything, I'll keep trying to move more to synthetics in the future. I already play them on clarinet, bari and bass saxes. Tenor, alto and soprano synthetics are still not good enough for me though, at least for performances.
 

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Gawd - yeah OK I get it - reeds are expensive but - it you are a reasonably experienced player and can afford the indulgence - I sincerely suggest playing every reed you can get your hands on. It just may change your life. reeds-direct in the UK is where I have sourced a majority of those I have purchased coz' too few are available locally. Take some time to compare the reed strength charts to make sure you get what you expect.
 

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I still have a soft spot for the old brown box reeds.
I’ve just come across too many that just played well for me.
I’ve still got a few Bari 3 Brown box reeds that I flog till they split in my mouth.
Royals can be decent at times though.
I have long been more than fond of Royals - like 'em on alto, prefer Hemke for tenor
 

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I have long been more than fond of Royals - like 'em on alto, prefer Hemke for tenor
Yeah I love the Royals on Baritone.
Hemke are good also.
Tenor I’m all over the place.
Loved Vandoren green for a long time but had trouble with warping.
Now I’m using a bunch of Alexander Superials that I had lying around.
Not too fussy though because I play baritone way more than tenor anyway.
Alto I use royals also, but to be honest I’ve only ever had royals for alto as it only gets played once or twice a year.
Generally speaking I get by pretty well with the old Rico range.
Rigotti are sometimes fun on tenor but woeful for baritone.
 

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Do the vintage ones have as many splinters as the modern version?
No. The older ones are fine. The current ones are so rough.

When one of my kids started sax I bought the modern Ricos. I have in another thread here where the surface was roughly cut and not finely smooth finish (like every other reed I've ever tried). It certainly felt like splinters. So I replaced their reeds with Hemke for sax and Mitchell Lurie for Clarinet. The Hemke/Lurie tends to have a longer thinner cut which makes them play right out of the box and good for beginners. The harder strengths are fine too but still can get water logged with non-stop playing.
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All the information is cited, either through documents or personal interviews with the protagonists. It is a doctoral thesis after all.
I enjoyed it, and will wholly rely upon this explanation in regard to my disdain for their current offerings:
D’Addario’s team of engineers began working on a new machine that would ultimately reshape how they cut reeds.
In other words, it was purely for cost cutting; reed cutting, not so much. I'm glad Vandoren didn't jump on board... as those are my current favorites.


Huh. I always thought the purpose was that middle school band kids could go an entire year on one reed. ;)
That worked out for me when I bought them for my son many, many years ago.
 

· Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2010
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In other words, it was purely for cost cutting; reed cutting, not so much. I'm glad Vandoren didn't jump on board... as those are my current favorites.
Vandoren are almost certainly using CNC manufacturing by now for some product. Many of the modern cuts are only achievable with multi axis CNC machining.
Lean manufacturing and cost cutting don't always go hand in hand. Hitachi for example got so good at lean manufacturing that their confidence in their Flat Panel TV manufacturing process was so great they eventually did no testing at any point from incoming components through outgoing TVs. Unfortunately they were much more expensive than the competition and Hitachi left that product arena shortly after achieving this remarkable quality milestone.

The biggest single factor in any reed brand is the quality of the cane. Vandoren themselves claim that about 90% of the cane that they cut ends up heating the factory as its not good enough to make reeds out of. It must be very tempting for any company seeking to save money to let more of that marginal cane make it to the consumer, and if you think you have more control over your manufacturing process due to the magic of CNC machines, the temptation will perhaps only get stronger to try to work with cane that you would have previously disregarded as unworkable with the old machines.
 

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Vandoren are almost certainly using CNC manufacturing by now for some product.
Oh, my problem isn't with the CNC in itself, and if Vandoren is using it, then for me at least, they're doing a better job at it. I only pointed out that quote as a sort of admission that D'Addario made changes to Rico's process. I knew it had to be in there somewhere. But if folks dig D'Addario reeds, that's all well and good. I just don't think of them as Ricos anymore.
 

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Oh, my problem isn't with the CNC in itself, and if Vandoren is using it, then for me at least, they're doing a better job at it. I only pointed out that quote as a sort of admission that D'Addario made changes to Rico's process. I knew it had to be in there somewhere. But if folks dig D'Addario reeds, that's all well and good. I just don't think of them as Ricos anymore.
I didnt think it was a secret, they seemed quite proud of the investment they had made and the technological advances. Lets face it, if Vandoren bought the company that made the old machines and wont sell to anyone else, that left them the choice to either buy old used equipment when it became available, or else move boldly into the future.

The wonder is that if it was Rigotti that bought all Ricos old machines in 2017 then they have done a great job in producing really consistent product with them. I dont know if they did or not of course, but it seems likely based on video of their production. Maybe they just have more exacting QC inspection or a better strength testing method that makes them seem more consistent to the end user taking them out of the box.
 
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