I start the Fiberreed review video off by playing my long-time favorite cane reed which is the Vandoren Java. Thats the one in the green box. This Vandoren Java on a Guardala mouthpiece has been my setup for over 30 years and I’ve been very happy with it.
For this Fiberreed review I played on a totally new saxophone tenor mouthpiece. This is the FiberCarbon Guardala MBII FatBoy. These FiberCarbon mouthpieces are a brand new product from Nadir Ibrahimoglu. Nadir, who is from Germany has been making authentic Dave Guardala metal mouthpieces for years now.
Nadir’s recent FiberCarbon saxophone mouthpiece lineup was just released in late 2016 I believe. I had a chance to try them recently at the 2017 NAMM show in Anaheim and was completely blown away by them. The one I chose was the tenor MBII Fatboy *8 model which is the one I’m playing in this video.
Meeting Fiberreeds creator, Harry Hartmann at the same NAMM show is the reason I was turned on to these reeds and so here we are!
So What Exactly is in this Video Fiberreed Review?
I play and talk a bit about the 3 established Fiberreed models which are:
- The Natural
- The Carbon
- The Hemp
We end with the newest member of the Fiberreed family:
4. The Carbon Onyx
1. The “Natural” Fiberreed
While this Natural Fiberreed sounded fine it felt a little stiff to me so I didn’t feel I could get my full sound out of it. Still a very decent sounding reed but to seriously consider keeping it to play on any further I would need to sand it down a bit. That’s a good point regarding these reeds, even thought they’re synthetic you can still work on them with some fine sandpaper or the handy tool “Reed Geek”.
Personally, I don’t like to work too much on reeds. Like most people I like them to play perfectly right out of the box but with cane reeds these are just way too few and far between. This being one of the main reasons any of us are even looking at synthetic reeds.
This Natural Fiberreed didn’t feel as easy or comfortable to play as the Vandoren cane reed that I’m so used to. The sound wasn’t quite there either so let’s move on to the next one.
2. The “Carbon” Fiberreed
Right at first sight the look of this reed is very different than the first one. The Natural is all white made from hollow fibers woven and layered together. This second reed, the Carbon has black carbon fibers layered in with the natural hollow fibers, giving it the darker black charcoal color.
Right away from the first few notes I could tell this is much more of my type of reed than the first one. It popped out quite a bit more with a clearer sound. It also felt a little easier to play, especially in the very low end but I still had to blow a bit too hard.
Again, a little work on this reed could possibly get it there. A little closer to the sound I look for and get from my cane reeds but not close enough.
3. The “Hemp” Fiberreed
The Hemp reed has a more natural look to it probably because it’s made mostly from natural materials like hemp and a couple types of wood. So quite a few types of different materials compared to the first two reeds with a likely goal of getting even closer to the cane reed sound.
Upon blowing my first few notes I noticed immediately how easy it was to play. The easiest by far. The sound really projects with a bright tone that has that “buzz” I look for as well. Like the cane reed, it feels very consistent from the very low end up through the altissimo register.
4. The “Carbon Onyx” Fiberreed
This is Harry Hartmann’s new and latest creation. The Carbon Onyx reed is different in it’s construction from his other 3. It isn’t made by weaving and layering different types of fibers together. It’s made entirely from the same material as the mouthpiece I’m using; the Fiber Carbon, which is a mixture of fiberglass and carbon.
The brightness and buzz is less than the Hemp reed. The overall tone is fuller and warmer, especially on the low end. Very easy to play all around and even the low sub-tones were quite easy to get.
My Fiberreed Choice
I don’t know if all the nuances from each reed will be audible by everyone from this little video recording. I hope there was enough there for you to hear the main differences between all four reeds because there were pretty big differences for me. First in the way they all felt and the way they sounded.
The two Fiberreeds I will stay with are the Hemp and the Carbon Onyx.
These played the easiest and gave me the right amount of brightness, buzz and fullness that I’ve been getting from some of the highest quality cane reeds available.
Good Reed Advice From Dave Guardala
While I didn’t believe him at the time, I received some great advice from Dave Guardala. While I was ordering one of his mouthpieces he said that I should play the Vandoren Java’s on my Guardala Michael Brecker model mouthpiece. After all, that’s what Michael himself uses. I told him that I’ve tried vandorens before with previous mouthpieces and didn’t like them that much. This turned into a pretty funny argument about reeds but on the newly delivered mouthpiece was one of these Java reeds, compliments of Dave. Well, this setup has worked for the last 30 years so I’ve always been grateful for that!
The Cane Reed – A Love and Hate Relationship
This whole concept of a good-playing, nice-feeling synthetic reed sure is a good sounding idea for any of us who have spent many years playing only on a cane reed. My experience with the Vandorens, as great as they are, is that there’s only one really good one in a box of five. Sometimes two, and unless I want to really work on them that’s about it. That makes them very expensive and a constant hassle to keep a few good ones going.
Never mind the problems with warping, chipping and breaking towards their life’s end, which can come too quickly most of the time. I probably haven’t bought my last box of cane reeds but it’s a good feeling to know I can do just fine without them if need be. This is the first time I’ve ever been able to say that… thanks Harry Hartmann!