Over the past month, I’ve been playing these new high-tech VENN reeds from D’Addario, and I’ve been comparing them with the Légère synthetic reeds that I’ve been playing for the last few years.
So which is the best synthetic sax reed? There are some things I like about the VENN and some things I’m not so much a fan of. So the question is, is VENN better than Légère? Well, that’s what we’re going to be digging into today.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- The best synthetic saxophone reeds
- The pros and cons of Venn reeds
- Comparison between Venn reeds and Légère synthetic reeds
Why synthetic saxophone reeds?
Cane reeds are probably the most frustrating part about playing the saxophone. Do you agree? They’re inconsistent. And they wear out, and they change with the weather. You seem to spend all of your time trying to find a good cane reed. And that’s the reason why loads of sax players have started switching over to synthetic reeds.
But which is the best synthetic sax reed for your money?
There are some good synthetic reeds out there. And there are some that I don’t really like. But if you’ve been watching my videos for a while on YouTube, or if you’re a member of our Sax School membership community, then you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Légère reeds I’ve been playing them for a long time.
But these VENN reeds sound really great – are they any good? Which one is the best synthetic saxophone reed? Let’s find out.
Why I used to hate synthetic sax reeds
Oh, by the way, I forgot to say that, although I play Légère reeds now, for about 30 years before that, I pretty much hated every synthetic reed I tried. And I did try all of them. Because every time I tried a synthetic reed, they always left me feeling a bit dissatisfied. They weren’t responsive enough. They were too bright. They just didn’t have the sound that got me excited about playing the saxophone.
But all that changed when I found Légère, particularly their Signature reeds. I think they’re great. And although they don’t look like real reeds, they play fantastically. And most importantly, for me, every time I pick up my sax in the studio, they work. They’re not changing all the time. They’re very, very consistent.
But one of the problems with them, of course, is being able to put them on your mouthpiece. They’re transparent, so you just can’t see where they fit on the mouthpiece. Maybe that’s just me getting old, but that does bring me to the first thing that I love about VENN reeds.
The Pros Of VENN vs Légère
VENN Reeds: Positive #1: Looks Real
So at first glance, the VENN looks like a real reed. I mean, look at it.
It looks like a perfect reed, but it also looks like a real reed. D’Addario describes the VENN as an ‘advanced synthetic reed constructed of polymer, fibers, resin, and natural cane elements’. That all sounds pretty fancy to me.
But what it means to us sax players is you’ve got something that looks and feels like a real reed. And most importantly, when you put that on your mouthpiece, it’s really easy to see where it lines up. Maybe that’s a small point – but when it comes to deciding which is the best synthetic sax reed, it’s a big one for me.
VENN Reeds: Positive #2: Adjustable
Now, the second thing that I love about the VENN reeds is that you can adjust them. So if you use a ReedGeek or a reed knife, you can work on a VENN reed the same way that you’d work on a normal reed. And this was important to me, because one of the things I struggled with on the VENN reeds was getting the sizing right. I’ll tell you a bit more about that in a second.
This reed was a bit hard for me on the tenor. So I had to lighten it up a little bit. Now they’ve told me at D’Addario that you can’t clip the end of a VENN Reed, but you can work on the front of the reeds, just like you would with a cane reed. And to be honest with you, it feels and responds in the same way as a cane reed. Now, I think that’s a massive positive.
Because synthetic reeds are expensive. And you don’t always get the reed that’s right for you. We can’t adjust Légère reeds. But we can adjust the VENN and that’s a big tick in my book for the VENN reeds. But the sizing was a bit of an issue – I’ll get to that in a second.
VENN Reeds: Positive #3: Brighter
The third thing I love about the VENN reeds is that they’re just a little bit brighter than the Légère reeds. And that’s fantastic if you are playing something that’s a bit edgier, or you need a bit more volume. So for example for a David Sandborn, or something funky or commercial – I quite like the extra raspiness of it.
Have a listen to see if you can tell which one is the VENN and which one is the Légère.
The Cons Of VENN vs. Légère
VENN Reeds: Negative #1: Less Durable
It’s not all good news, because there were a few things that I didn’t like about the VENN reeds.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve got used to how durable the Légère reeds are, but I managed to break one of my VENN reeds. I’ve chipped it right on the end. I haven’t broken a reed in… forever.
The D’Addario guys were great though. They did send me a replacement. Thank you, D’Addario. You’re wonderful.
But I just wonder, are they a little bit more fragile than the Légère reeds? Maybe they’re not quite as durable, so you’ve got to be as careful with them as you would with a normal reed.
VENN Reeds: Negative #2: Sizing Problems
Now, the biggest thing I struggled with the VENN reeds was getting the sizing right.
D’Addario was helpful, and they did give me some advice on which reed would be compatible with what I’m using currently. So I use a 2.5 or 2.75 in Légère.
D’Addario sent me some size 2 and some 2.5. To be honest, the 2.5 VENN is way too hard for me, because I’m using quite a light setup these days. But even the size 2 was a little bit hard, hence why I had to use my ReedGeek to adjust the reed.
So I think the sizing is a little bit confusing. And if you are going to try one of these VENN reeds, then you need to do a bit of digging around before you decide which size is right for you. It’s probably going to be a smaller size than what you expect.
VENN Reeds: Negative #3: Too Bright
I mentioned before as a benefit that VENN reeds are quite bright.
But to be honest with you, sometimes I find that they’re too bright for me. When I’m recording videos for Sax School, I’m doing a whole range of things from classical to pop, to jazz, to blues. And sometimes that edginess is just a little bit too hard to control. So for me, I think maybe they’re a little bit too bright.
Also, I found on the tenor, I struggled to get altissimo notes out clearly. With the Légère, it just seemed a little bit more solid for me up in the altissimo. Maybe that’s because I’ve been playing the Légère reeds for a long time. But even over this last month, I’ve still struggled to get a consistent, good sound up in the altissimo on the VENN reed, with my mouthpiece.
But the brightness is an issue too.
Have a listen to this next clip and see if you can work out which is the VENN and which is the Légère. What’s your view on the best synthetic sax reed?
Price: VENN vs Légère
Now just before I reveal which reed was which in those little playing demos, we need to talk about value for money and price. The VENN reeds are about £27 to £30, or $28 to $30, depending on whether you’re going for alto or tenor. And that’s just a couple of pounds cheaper than the Légère Signatures, which go from about £29 to £32, or $33 to $35.
Either way, though, they are a lot more expensive than cane reeds. We know that already. That’s more than you’d pay for a box of five Select Jazz cane reeds, and about the same as you pay for a whole box of 10 Classic Rico reeds.
But of course, with synthetic reeds, you are getting a reed that’s going to be more consistent and last a lot longer. For example, a Légère synthetic reed will last me for three months of playing every day – which is amazing. And over the last month of playing the VENN reeds every day, they haven’t changed. They’ve been consistent. They’ve played the same, every single time I’ve picked them up.
Best synthetic sax reed test: The results
So it’s time to reveal which reed was which in my playing test. Did you get them right? Which one do you think is the best synthetic sax reed?
Let’s have a listen.
So how’d you got on? Were you able to pick the difference between VENN and Légère?
I enjoyed the VENN reeds this month, and to be honest, I’m going to continue playing with them because I do think they’re interesting reeds.
But for me, I think Légère reeds still fill all of the needs that I have. Because I’m playing lots of different styles, and because of the type of playing that I’m doing, and the mouthpieces I’m using. I think Légère suits me better. It’s the best synthetic sax reed for me. but I think the VENN is a great option.
If you want to check out the American Cut synthetic reed from Légère, take a look at my review here.
And if you want to find out more about what we are doing in Sax School and get access to over 1000 lessons, mini-courses, and masterclasses – plus pro tutor support and our amazing Community, Get started with Sax School.