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According to Dr. Wally in his latest Pod Cast -- nothing. While discussing reeds with a representative from D'Addario it was revealed that the only difference is the packaging and strength labeling. Otherwise, they are the exactly same reed. The La Voz branding was intended to address people who prefer "French" reeds. He discusses this in his latest Pod Cast entitled "Summer Saxophone!". The reed discussion starts around 15:05.

Saxophone Summer!
 

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I find that somewhat hard to believe. While they coincide on their strength chart, they felt different to me when I tried them, and the anatomical descriptions on the back of the packaging are not identical, either. Also, both these cuts of reeds are unfiled, so would they imply sth. else with "French"?
 

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They are not the same at all. The finishing is even different. Orange box are rough and furry with grain while lavoz have a normal finish. They also sound and reapond different. This is assuming they have not changed since the buy out.
 

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They are not the same. They may have been the same when they were introduced, what, 80 years ago? But I have used both (in fact I have both in my drawer right now) and they are distinctly not the same. A 2.5 Rico orange sits between a La Voz MS and M in stiffness and resistance. The sound profile is noticeably different as well with a purer sound from the La Voz and a bit more buzz from the orange box.

The claim they are the "same reed" is based on a quote in a paper from someone that worked at the company over 50 years ago, IIRC. Yeah, 50 years ago? Maybe the same reed. Today they are not.
 

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In a way, this reminds me of the production arguments of mouth pieces. The same production facility can make different reeds. Same cane can make different reeds according to the brand specs. Rigotti produces a variety of products that are not the same.
 

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He is taking about that at one point they were the same thing since Rico had basically funded LaVoz and supplied LaVoz with it’s reeds. That has changed over the years as the companies grew apart. The old orange box where supposed to be the same, as in didn’t have the same level of QC as normal Rico, state because LaVoz got popular. Someone posted a document with research about this a while back. Basically Rico was trying to be the only game in town and get around anti-trust laws.
 

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Off subject: in high school, early 70s, the tenors played Rico and the altos played La Voz. Go figure.
 

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I remember a post here over 20 years ago so now gone that quoted a senior rep of Rico who stated that reeds lost 75% of their strength in the first 15 minutes of playing. I wait to be convinced that these people know what they are talking about.
 

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All I know is that when I started investigating reeds in the early 80s, the regular Ricos had a large fraction of reeds cut off center, chipped or cracked tips in the box, wide irregular grain pattern, whereas La Voz had far fewer of these poor-quality reeds.

40 years later, it's been 40 years since I bought Rico reeds and I'm still playing from the same 20+ boxes of La Voz baritone reeds a friend gave me in about 1998, so I can't speak to today's conditions. They might very well be the exact same thing; Rainbo and Wonder Bread used to come off the exact same line, just distinguished by which bags they loaded into the packing machine.

It's not particularly difficult for someone with mechanical ability to measure the thickness of a reed at various locations, develop a map of its contour, and compare a decent selection of Ricos to La Voz, but of course no one's actually going to do that, since it's easier to speculate based on hearsay.
 

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Page 40 from Neal Potsma dissertation.

“The La Voz Corporation was set up as a means to appear not to have a complete monopoly on the reed market. They also tried to lure customers that were not happy with Rico reeds. The company produced a reed with the name La Voz, but it was the same exact reed as a Rico Orange Box.110 Rico color sorted the cane for La Voz reeds, but they did not playtest it. The only other difference between these two reeds was the strength grading. Roy J. Maier (and Rico Orange box) used strengths 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5, a total of nine strengths. La Voz strengths are soft, medium-soft, medium, medium-hard, and hard, a total of five. The reed’s design is the same, but cane density determines the strength. The Roy J. Maier reeds would have closer tolerances in a single box, as they encompassed a smaller range of resistance in the reed.111 The company first introduced this reed in 1948 after only ten years of production of reeds under the Roy J. Maier branding. It was not widely known at the time that Rico even made La Voz reeds, much less that they were the same exact reeds as the Roy J. Maier cuts.”
 

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When all is said and done....... The difference is that I can play La Voz and I get several reeds in a box that are consistently good and I can't play Rico Orange due to not being able to find a good reed in the entire box. There may not be a difference to some but to me, there is a huge difference.
 

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OK, so Rico introduced these reeds in 1948 as identical except for grading.

What's happened since then?

I know there's been at least one corporate buyout.

Anyone have any more current info than that?
 

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If you read the dissertation linked by @Benjamin Allen above, you'll see that Neal cites interviews with managers at D'Addario reed manufacturing (active managers, not ones who left decades ago) in stating that the reeds were still (as of 2017) identical.

For example, see page 13-14 of that dissertation, which cites a 2017 interview with Jess Gonzales, who is still a manager at D'Addario.
 

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It's also current information as the podcast literally confirmed it this year.

Here's a link that doesn't try to download something, specifically the Saxophone summer Podcast at 15:10ish starts the Rico talk. (17:20 for the info about them being the same).

So all the differences everyone experiences - are they luck or bias? :)
 

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It's also current information as the podcast literally confirmed it this year.

Here's a link that doesn't try to download something, specifically the Saxophone summer Podcast at 15:10ish starts the Rico talk. (17:20 for the info about them being the same).
Where in that podcast do they "confirm" anything? The host just says "they're the same!" without any attribution to a source, unless I missed it.

I'm tempted to message the manager who has the original quote (he has a linkedin profile) to set the record straight on this. I think he's using some dated information at best, and the fact that he's a "manager" doesn't mean that he's a definitive source, IMHO. The fact that the cuts of reeds I have for rico and lavoz appear different side by side makes me question how accurate the whole "they're the same with different strengths marked" is.
 

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So all the differences everyone experiences - are they luck or bias? :)
I think it's probably a bit of both. Combine a bit of sample-to-sample variation with the expectation of a difference and you'll pretty reliably get a perceived difference.

It's not as if this phenomenon happens with any other aspects of saxophone equipment, right?
 

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I have always thought la voz and rico reeds sucked. Now i know why.
 
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Page 40 from Neal Potsma dissertation.

“The La Voz Corporation was set up as a means to appear not to have a complete monopoly on the reed market. They also tried to lure customers that were not happy with Rico reeds. The company produced a reed with the name La Voz, but it was the same exact reed as a Rico Orange Box.110 Rico color sorted the cane for La Voz reeds, but they did not playtest it. The only other difference between these two reeds was the strength grading. Roy J. Maier (and Rico Orange box) used strengths 1, 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4, 4.5, and 5, a total of nine strengths. La Voz strengths are soft, medium-soft, medium, medium-hard, and hard, a total of five. The reed’s design is the same, but cane density determines the strength. The Roy J. Maier reeds would have closer tolerances in a single box, as they encompassed a smaller range of resistance in the reed.111 The company first introduced this reed in 1948 after only ten years of production of reeds under the Roy J. Maier branding. It was not widely known at the time that Rico even made La Voz reeds, much less that they were the same exact reeds as the Roy J. Maier cuts.”
That is so interesting. Thanks for posting the link to the entire dissertation as well!
 
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