Twice in my past, I got lucky with synthetic reeds. The first time was with my alto sax. I was just out of high school when I bought a plastic reed from the local music store in my town. I don’t even remember the brand. It was solid white in color and sounded pretty fabulous on my Claude Lakey mouthpiece. I would probably still be using it if someone had not bumped into it during a rehearsal. Needless to say, I never came across one that worked the same. You’d think they would pretty consistent from reed to reed.
The second time was in the Navy. I was stationed in New Orleans when I came across a Bari Plastic reed for tenor sax. I used it with a Berg Larsen metal mouthpiece. I was finally satisfied with my tenor sound because of this combination. I think I play that setup for nearly a year. And again, at a dance we were playing, someone bumped into the reed and bent the tip. And like the other plastic reed, I never found another one that worked the same as that one.
Since that time in the Navy, I have tried Fibracell. I never found one that worked. I tried Bari again and didn’t come across a single one that I could use.
They cost too much money, and when they don’t work, you can’t send them back or return them. Reeds are the type of product that you have to keep if it doesn’t work out. So are mouthpieces for that matter.
So I will be sticking with cane reeds from now on. Vandoren probably makes the best reeds on the market as far as I’m concerned. I have been using them for over 30 years. They are fairly consistent. I never shave or clip them. If I pull one out and it’s too stiff I played a few minutes every other day or so. Eventually, through that simple process, they become pliable enough to use for practice or performance.
My other favorite is LaVoz mediums for both tenor and alto sax. They are also very consistent and easy to work with. I get a great sound from them. They cost a little more than Vandoren though, but more come in a box. Bottom line, I think cane is the way to go. The sound it produces is much more authentic than synthetic or plastic.