Vandoren “blue box” reeds have long been the standard to which many players have turned. They use their own estate grown cane, grown in the Var region of southern France. They claim that reed strength is primarily a factor of cane density, however a test of cane densities among boxes of 3, 3.5, and 4s showed little correlation. More significant was tip and blank thickness, where 4s were roughly 8% thinner than 3s.
By the Numbers:
Out of the Box:
Out of a box of 10, strength 4:
- 8 reeds played with appropriate strength
- 2 reeds were harder than average box strength
- 0 reeds were softer than average box strength
- 3 reeds were perfectly balanced
- 2 reeds were heavier on the left side of the tip
- 5 reeds were heavier on the right side of the tip
Warping: after three soaking/drying cycles
- 7 reeds showed no noticeable warping
- 2 reeds showed slight warping
- 1 reed showed severe warping
- About half of the reeds tested had reasonably good response over the whole range and would be considered to be “good” reeds.
- Only two reeds stood out as possibly being a great reed without further adjustments.
- Low registers were typically full and centered, but the middle registers were often stuffy and upper clarion somewhat weak and bright.
- Two reeds were completely unresponsive and unplayable
Under the Knife: