The Boston Sax Shop Custom Tenor Saxophone Reeds Review

Today, I am reviewing a new BSS custom saxophone reed released by Jack Finucane at the Boston Sax Shop.  Jack has been my repairman for the last six years and always gives me the inside scoop on new saxophone gear that is coming out. Besides being a phenomenal repairman and craftsman, Jack is always up to some saxophone related endeavor lately.  Whether it be straps, cases, ligatures, saxophone necks, reed cases, reeds, masterclasses, etc….. Jack always seems like he has a new project on the horizon……When I heard of these new BSS custom reeds he was developing, I had to try them!

I have been playing primarily Rigotti Gold tenor saxophone reeds for my tenor sax mouthpiece reviews for many years now. (I don’t know the exact number of years but it has been a long time…..) Although, I love Rigotti Gold tenor saxophone reeds, at times I find them a bit too buzzy, bright and edgy depending on the mouthpiece I am using them on.  In general, I usually notice this the most on tenor sax mouthpieces with a shorter facing curve like the 48 length curve of my JVW (Jon Van Wie) refaced Otto Link, Retro Revival Florida Super D, Eric G refaced Early Babbitt and hard rubber Lamberson J7 (all  have curves of a 48 length). These are some of my favorite tenor saxophone mouthpieces but the Rigotti Gold reeds tend to be really stiff and edgy on these shorter curves in my experience. (I have reviewed all of these mouthpieces on my site here and I don’t think I used Rigotti reeds on any of those reviews)

I have been on the lookout for a darker equally responsive reed that would play well on all my mouthpiece but especially on these shorter facing curved mouthpieces.  I have been searching for years trying all sorts of reeds.  You name them, I have probably tried them with no luck. (The closest I have come to finding a darker reed has been Rico Select Jazz reeds but I found them very inconsistent for me)

The Boston Sax Shop Custom Saxophone Reeds

When Jack Finucane at Boston Sax Shop contacted me a couple months ago about a new custom saxophone reed he was working on, I was quite excited.  In our communications back and forth he left me a voicemail that I thought sums up the concept of the new BSS custom saxophone reeds.  Here is his message transcribed for you with his permission of course:

“I mean this was it for me,  I was always going back and forth between trying to find a classical reed that could project, but gave me that upper register homongeneity, if thats a word, that I could push in the palm keys and that wouldn’t get super bright and thin.  But then of course,  I couldn’t project with it and I would go to the “jazz” reeds which were too buzzy.   I would end up playing 4’s or whatever hernia inducing size as I could find but you know, I was always just going back and forth, back and forth, and this to me, I think I wrote it in my description, is kinda of like a hybrid between the two. It’s a dark reed that still projects but it gives you the good kind of resistance you need in order to fatten up the upper end of the horn which as you know,  is such and issue on Selmers to begin with………….-Jack Finucane (excited voicemail message to Steve Neff)

Here is the description of the Boston Sax Shop custom saxophone reeds from the Boston Sax Shop website:

Designing the Boston Sax Shop reed line has been a dream of mine, stemmed from the frustration that many of us as players have searching for that ‘perfect’ reed. For years I personally struggled to find a well balanced reed that would promote a warm, homogenous tone while still allowing me to project. Most ‘jazz’ cut reeds seemed to play too ‘bright’ and ‘buzzy’ but offered the projection I needed while ‘classical’ reeds had the depth and evenness I was searching for but simply could not cut across a band. So with the help of the finest French cane manufacturer in the world, I designed a ‘hybrid’ jazz reed that had qualities of both cuts, creating a reed that did exactly what I asked; providing a warm and dark tone while still being able to be pushed.  I certainly hope you give them a try and enjoy them as much as I do! ~Jack Finucane (Owner and Repair Technician Boston Sax Shop)

The Boston Sax Shop Custom Saxophone Reeds

As I wrote in the disclosure at the bottom of this review, within minutes of trying a 3 reed on my beloved Early Babbitt 7* (Slant Blank) hard rubber tenor mouthpiece and the 2 1/2 reed on my JVW refaced Otto Link 8 metal mouthpiece I immediately texted Jack and wrote “Holy Crap!  These reeds are great!” “Do you have 5 boxes of each I can buy before you sell out?”  Why was I so excited?  Why was I willing to spend 260+ dollars in a matter of minutes?  Well, I’ll tell you……….

Like Jack described in his voicemail message above, the Boston Sax Shop custom reeds are a darker sounding reed.  I have tried darker sounding reeds before but usually I find those reeds are too stiff for me.  They also don’t feel like they have the responsiveness and projection I would like out of a reed.  Many times they just sound like they are “dead” to my ears. I was looking for a reed that was darker but still had resonance.

When I first tried the Boston Sax Shop reeds they felt a bit stiffer than my Rigotti Gold reeds and I had the thought “Here we go again, they are darker but stiff as a 2 x 4!”.  I didn’t want to throw in the towel without giving them a chance so I played longer.   Within 10 minutes, the 3 reed on my Early Babbitt Otto Link tenor mouthpiece was playing effortlessly.  It had a much darker and richer saxophone tone than I can get on my Rigotti Gold tenor reeds that is for sure. I had always struggled with the palm keys and altissimo sounding too thin and bright with the Rigotti Gold reeds on the EB mouthpiece.  With the BSS tenor sax reeds,  those upper notes sounded darker, fuller and thicker.  I was in love!

The best part was that I could still get loads of volume and projection from these new BSS custom saxophone reeds.  The tone, without a doubt, is darker than the Rigotti Gold reeds, so that might affect how well my new darker tone might cut through a mix compared to the brighter reeds but in my studio they were just what I was looking for.

I was so hopeful and excited that I immediately thought of my JVW refaced Otto Link mouthpiece.  I have never found a reed I could play on that mouthpiece besides a Vandoren Java 2 1/2 tenor reed.  This mouthpiece was my main gigging mouthpiece for many years but whenever I played a jazz set it would tend to get overly bright when I played at full volume.  I have been looking for a darker saxophone reed for that mouthpiece for about 15 years now with no luck.

Did I dare to hope? My brain was telling me that it probably wouldn’t work and I would be disappointed again.  The JVW Otto Link has a short curve of 48 but I have been told by a few refacers that it also has some atypical numbers to the curve that cause it to have more resistance.   I’ve always believed that the Java reeds work the best because they are thinner right in that spot in the curve where the resistance is and they can still bend easily at that point in the curve.  All other reeds feel like a  2 x 4 and are super resistant and edgy. I hoped for the best with the BSS reeds but honestly thought they would also let me down on this JVW Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece.

I put a 2 1/2 BSS tenor sax reed on the JVW Otto Link and tried it. Low and behold, it played easily and it sounded like a totally different mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is usually pretty bright when you crank up the volume on it like I wrote earlier.  With the BSS reeds it sounded so much darker.  Even at full volume in the upper register and altissimo still had a rich darkness to the sound.  It caught me so off guard that I was amazed.  “I could do a jazz gig on this mouthpiece and reed with no problem!”

The Boston Sax Shop Custom Saxophone Reeds

As of this review, I just don’t have the time to provide audio clips of different mouthpieces with different reeds for comparison but I do hope to do that in the near future.   Until that time, you will just have to take my word on how good these new Boston Sax Shop custom tenor sax reeds are.   If you have been looking for a darker alternative as far as tenor reeds,  these are worth checking out!  Trust me!

If you are interested in the Boston Sax Shop custom saxophone reeds,  you can get them at these links Boston Sax Shop Custom Tenor Saxophone Reeds or the alto saxophone reeds (I haven’t play tested these yet…….) at Boston Sax Shop Custom Alto Saxophone Reeds.  Hint: you might want to act fast. I posted about these reeds on Facebook a few weeks ago and Jack was sold out of the size 3 tenor sax reeds by the next day!

Thanks to Jack for sending me these great reeds to try.  Even now, weeks later, I am still just as excited to wet one of these reeds and put it on one of my mouthpieces.  I still haven’t tried these on the rest of my favorite tenor sax mouthpieces so I am super excited about how these reeds will perform with them as well.  Great job Jack!

PS.  As I was finishing writing the last words of this review above, I thought about another favorite tenor sax mouthpiece of mine that I thought was a bit thin and bright in the palm keys with Rigotti Gold reeds and that is my Barone SNY mouthpiece.  I put the same 2 1/2 BSS reed on it that I used on my JVW Otto Link and it played perfectly on the Barone SNY just now!  No edgy, bright thinness in the palm keys at all.  The tone is dark, thick and beautiful!  I’m very excited!

If you try the Boston Sax Shop reeds, please come back and tell us what you think of them in the comment section below.    Steve

Disclosure:  I received a sample package of 12-15 of the Boston Sax Shop custom reeds reviewed above for free in the hope that I would try them and perhaps review them on my blog.  As soon as I tried the tenor sax reeds, I contacted Jack and ordered five boxes each of the 2 1/2 and 3 tenor saxophone reeds and received a 10% discount from Jack on my purchase.  Regardless, I only review products that I believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     Steve
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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Avatar Gerry Smith says

    I find Roberto’s like a darker version of Rigotti and I really like them. I’ll have to give these a go.

    • I tried Roberto 2 1/2 once but they were way too soft for me for some reason. I ended up giving them away to a beginner student. Do they run a lot softer than other reed strengths?

      • Avatar smith.gerry says

        I find the Roberto’s a little bit harder than the equivalent Rigotti although the tip a bit thinner. Just right for my sound – similar to Paul Desmond on Alto, Scott Hamilton on Tenor in concept – not suggesting I compare with either!

      • Avatar smith.gerry says

        When I switched I went from Rigotti 3 Light to Roberto’s 2.5 Hard but on Alto I’ve since upped to 3 Light because I like the sound. Going to try the same on Tenor. Still have the Rigottis in my case, I use them for Reggae gigs!

  2. I tried some A+W reeds that Jack had recommended to you (as posted on SOTW), but I found them warm in the lower registers, but just gave out in the palm notes and they couldn’t be pushed at all. These do much better than the A+W reeds, then?

    • Karl, I actually like the AW reeds but I don’t remember liking the palm keys as much as I do with these BSS reeds. I don’t remember thinking anything about the palm keys with the AW reeds actually. I just remember they were darker than the Rigotti Golds which got me interested in them. I think the BSS reeds are even darker but the tone seems thicker to me.

  3. i always love dark reeds, i switched from Java green to ZZ, and also selct jazz unfiled, i am willing to try these based on your assessment , but i normally use 2 and all they have is 2.5,, ???????

    • Philipe, I think the smallest size they have at the moment is 2 1/2 unfortunately so it sounds like you are out of luck as far as these reeds go. Maybe later they will come out with a 2?

  4. do they play hard or soft or right on target

    • The BSS reeds don’t have strong or light reeds but just one reed per have number 2 1/2,3, 3 1/2 etc……

    • If you are asking about Rigotti Gold reeds I play all of them. I try so many mouthpieces that I need a full range of the reeds to be prepared to try each mouthpiece. I have Rigotti Gold 2 Strongs-3 1/2 Mediums in my drawer.

  5. I ordered these reeds for alto and tenor the day they went up for sale, and I was immediately sold. I’m on my second order now, and I have to say the only thing better than the tone and playability is how consistent they are. In the 15 reeds I have purchased, I found all 15 to be gig worthy. While they are a little more pricy than your Vandoren/D’Addario you can basically make up that value in their consistency.

    For those that were asking about strength, there is a strength guide on the order page. That said, I find they run a little bit harder than most jazz reeds. I think it is also worth noting that they are a little thicker at the stock than most other reeds I have played on. Not usually a big deal but if your ligature is already tight for your mouthpiece you may need to adjust.

    I’m just hoping BSS starts selling them for soprano and baritone.

    • I found that I get more response and vibrance from then if I take in a little more mouthpiece than I do with the Rigotti reeds. Not a lot but just a smidge and they really open up……..

  6. Avatar PAT ZICARI says

    I wish reed manufacturers would realize there are a few of us who HAVE to use a #2 reed…
    My Lawton Tenor is equivalent to a 11*-12*?? (.155)… I manage to use a Rigotti Gold Jazz 2-Light but always looking for a “No edgy, bright thinness in the palm keys at all. The tone is dark, thick and beautiful!”. Make a BSS in my strength and I might be ecstatic too…

  7. Yes. A. #2 would be sweet. I use a 8* and 9 tip. The thicker spine might be why it’s dark

  8. Avatar PAT ZICARI says

    Philipe…
    YES… in over 60 years of playing, have never had less than a .125 tip for Tenor.
    You see all the #5-7 lay mouthpieces for sale… occasionally a 130/0 Berg (have one) but really not a lot.
    Maybe if we cry a bit, we can get some #2’s… 🙁
    Oh… it would also be nice if Dealers would carry #2’s when the manufacturer makes them… a lot only go as low as 2 1/2…

  9. oh yea 125 is a bad ass tip size i had a gerber and some TW 10 tips , killer bending qualities

  10. Avatar Chris Womack says

    Hey Steve! I got a couple boxes of these tenor reeds a few weeks ago. When I first slapped them on I was a little bummed. The high end did seem fuller and stronger but the lows were hard to play (they felt too stiff) and the mids seemed somewhat hollow. I took out 4 and played them each for a few minutes. They all responded pretty much the same. I put them in my reed case and would play one for a few minutes every couple of days or so. After about a week I used one on a gig and really liked how the high end sounded. It was a loud rock gig and not great sounding monitors so I really couldn’t tell what the reed sounded like exactly, but I sensed it was somewhat lacking. I didn’t really play them for the next 2 weeks but I started playing them a few days ago and WOW–these things really opened up. They sound awesome. Im doing a wedding tonight and cant wait to play them. Hopefully they just needed to be broken in or something.

    • Chris, I play Vandoren Green Java reeds a lot also and find them to have a much thinner vamp area than other reeds making them play more easily for me but also making them a lot brighter for me. For me, the Java reeds tend to die a lot quicker. I remember only being able to use a reed for 4-8 hours or two gigs before it would get too soft. These reeds have a thicker vamp in my opinion which makes them feel a bit harder but once broken in I think they last longer. That has been my experience so far. They are expensive so I hope they keep lasting longer!!! Steve

  11. 4 things!
    One: Thanks to everyone for trying them 🙂 Designing a reed was always my dream!
    Two: I hear you guys and will add #2 strength to my next batch so stay tuned!
    Three: Chris Womack, I’d recommend trying a strength down. Because the tip is thicker they don’t ‘die’ like most other reeds in my experience. When you get the size that will ‘play right out of the box’ normally we take that as a bad thing, thinking they won’t last long. Because of the design of these reeds it not a problem!
    Four: Ive already approved a soprano reed prototype, those will be available in a month.

    THANKS!! ~Jack

  12. Jack…
    And THAT’S how you develop and keep customers…
    The #2’s WILL be appreciated…
    And the BALAM… tried the similar shoulder holder at NAMM… and do prefer yours…
    Again, thanks for the “big lay” support…
    Pat

  13. SWEET deal count me in on #2 tenors

  14. That is very exciting indeed, both those are going to be hard to find here in Europe. Out of curiosity, because like you I love Rigotti reeds, did you had the chance to test the rigotti classic? I was hoping to find the quality of the Gold with a darker/warmer tone…

    • David, I have tried some Rigotti Classic but I don’t remember getting on with them like I have with the BSS reeds. I believe I still have some in my reed drawer. I might pull one out and see how they compare…….. Steve

  15. Avatar Chris Womack says

    Jack, thanks for the reply. No, going down in strength is not what I need. I probably didn’t convey what was going on very well so here’s my take after more playing-a gig Saturday and practice yesterday. I’m really liking these reeds. I think for me and my setup I just need to play these reeds a little longer to get them ready. Usually I will take new reeds and play them just a few minutes for several days and after that they are good to go. I think this process “self-balances” the reed and gets it properly broken in. Basically, with these reeds, that process just takes a little longer than with green Javas, what I’ve used for years. Based on how the BSS reeds responded during their break in period, I wasn’t expecting the end result to be that great. But I was very pleasantly surprised. They sound and feel great. And yes, they don’t seem to be dying as fast as other reeds. The 2 I used Saturday still sound just as good. I’m pretty stoked.

    • Chris, Your experience is similar to mine. They feel a bit harder and thicker but once broken in they play much longer. I also found that mine seem to open up and resonate more when I take a tiny bit more mouthpiece in my mouth than I do with the Rigotti Reeds. Steve

  16. Got my first box of BSS reeds and have been playing on the same reed for weeks. Coming from AW 722 reeds the BSS reeds were a bit harder. Maybe because the 722 is a “jazz” cut? Anyway, after a short breaking in period it plays great with a full sound throughout the range of the horn and hasn’t lost any mojo. I’ll go a bit softer on the next box, but it might take a while before I need one. These are high quality reeds.

  17. Avatar Norman Walsh says

    Would love to purchase #2 tenor saxophone reeds from BSS. At the moment I use Francois Louis #2.

    • Norman…
      I, too, use #2 reeds… right now using either Rigotti Jazz Gold 2-light, or Hinoke xs or Legere Signature #2…
      How does the Francois Louis #2 compare to any of these brands???
      And Jack said is working on the 2’s for us… 🙂

  18. I am going to buy a couple packs of 2. Sounds like these are what I am looking for right now. I use ZZ and select jazz and they seem to be working great.

  19. Avatar Irwin Haas says

    Yes I also play on 2 for tenor but I actually prefer my reeds on the soft side because of teeth issues. So I would like to try these and I can always reed geek them to my preferred strength. Jack let me know when their availability please

  20. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone as hard-working, passionate and knowledgeable about their trade than Jack Finucane. He’s also a master technician. I went to see Jack a couple of years ago on the advice of a couple of players because I wasn’t totally happy with my sound and wanted to explore some other options. Jack didn’t just sell me things, he gave me his time and guidance and helped me to get the sound coming out of my horn to be closer to the sound in my head. He cares about quality and you can trust anything with a BSS logo on it. I wish him great success with it. Also, some of us enjoy trying and/or buying saxophone accessories and we have fun with it!

  21. Avatar Stephen Young says

    Great review Steve. I’ll try these on my jvw link It’s a great piece and sounds very similar to your description of your jvw link
    Over the last year I picked up two double rings… a wt facing refaced by Eric Falcon and another refaced by Brian Powell. These three pieces all play differently but all of them are incredible.
    I just need to find a hard rubber piece and then hopefully I will be able to stop my mouthpiece addiction

    • Stephen, Does your JVW Link have the added baffle in it? I have seen very few of those over the years. I ran into one other one that I sold to a good friend of mine and he sounds awesome on it. If you ever want to sell that one make sure to let me know.

      There are a lot of great hard rubber pieces out there to choose from now. Good luck on the search. Steve

      • Avatar Stephen Young says

        Hi Steve,
        Yes it does. It is with the dark colored epoxy. I bought the mouthpiece from a close friend of mine, Dirk, who JVW mentions in the interview with JVW.
        It had a really nice brightness to it but not edgy. I’ll send you a photo later in the day. Looks exactly like your one which I have read about. Mine comes in around a 7 tip opening and is very focused. It’s not for sale but I will let you know if I ever decide to part with it.
        I am on my double ring BP 110 at the moment. Very different mouthpiece to the JVW, great sound, but the JVW with the baffle plays with ease. Love your articles, Steve. All the best from Australia Steve!

  22. I use Rico royal 3 alto. Is the same strength comparable to the Boston

  23. Avatar Jack Finucane says

    Edwin, 2.5 in our reeds would be comparable 🎷

  24. Avatar Cat Rabin says

    I have been seriously playing saxophone nine years now. Mouthpieces I enjoy are a vintage Conn plastic and a number of Chinese made metal ones. It’s my embouchure I need to progress.

  25. a well made MP by a profestional makes a great deal of difference , and reeds in general completely change MPs —food for thought

  26. Just got my BSS 2.5 reeds in and wow! each one looks very precisely and evenly cut,\: my usual Rigottis seem to be consistent and play well out of the box, but the cut and texture seems much more random then the BSS. I’m glad I read the reviews and the comments. I ordered 2.5 since I use 3 light Rigotti on tips .100-.105. The BSS reeds seem pretty hard and stiff making for a tired embouchure quickly, but still very smooth and even out of the box. Because of the comments I am confident they will break in nicely. Very much what I was hoping for when I bought the AW reeds, smoother and darker than the Rigotti, something to add to my mouthpiece collection to get a big full, round tone. The AW were good either in the top end or the bottom end- to get the nice low end of the AW, the top notes closed off for me. These are nice and even throughout, just pure nice tone in all the registers.

  27. Avatar Jack Finucane says

    Hey all! Just a quick update, we just received our order of #2 tenor reeds 🙂 They are now available on our website: https://www.bostonsaxshop.com/boston-sax-shop-custom-reeds/boston-sax-shop-custom-jazz-tenor-reeds-grc3h

  28. Avatar PAT ZICARI says

    Steve & Jack

    Well… got my #2’s…
    Am just breaking in right now… using the Alexander Reeds’ break-in method…

    PART 1
    ALL 5 reeds played right out of the box.
    BUT am going to be patient and break-in slowly like I’m supposed to… lol
    Actually, I MAY have to go to #2 1/2’s… we’ll see…

    The first thing I noticed was the evenness of the grain… each reed was a mirror of the other… a BIG plus in my experience… and well worth the extra $$…

    I’ve been using Forestone Hinoki xs because of my 12* Lawton…
    THESE gave me the overtones and harmonics I’ve been lacking…

    Part 2 follow up in a week.

    Pat

  29. Avatar bryan plank says

    I think it is easy to lose sight of the actual physical product you buy with jack’s reeds–they are a reed you can try a couple of sizes and then uncharacteristically know exactly what you’re getting right out of the little plastic thing–how many reeds can you say that about? He calls them a jazz reed but the adjectives above by him, Steve, and readers perfectly define the needs of classical. What about the mouthpieces? Well, I’ve got three Phil-tones, a couple of Vandorens, one Selmer, and a brand spanking new today Mindi Abair–even the Abair blasting away like a zoo suite with a 3 1/2 sounded great to er ah…me! They’re really one stop shopping people–in the best sense.

  30. My teacher said I had to use a harder reed because I pushed too much air through my Phil-Tone Paul Desmondish mouthpiece. As nothing succeeds like excess, I started out using my BSS 4 reeds. I couldn’t get to squeak a couple of months ago and lo and behold I played in my humble estimation way better, but way more to the point, as it relates to BSS reeds, is that everything sounded way better–the tone, the tongue varieties, attacks, hairpins, BUT most of all after weeks (I started playing in February of this year but play other stuff) what the heavy reed solved for me really really well is that my damn sax (a new selmer plain vanilla one everyone gets) doesn’t sound like 2 instruments any longer from octave to octave. I’ve tried and discarded 15 reed brands including even from china and nothing like this ever happened, you really must, like Steve says, try some BSS reeds from his site.

  31. Avatar Joseph Monteleone says

    I tried the 2.5 alto reeds on my Vandoren V16 mouthpiece and they are fantastic! What a rich sound! Thanks for turning me on to Boston Sax Shop reeds! I ordered the soprano and tenor 2.5’s also.

  32. Avatar Tom Meggison says

    The Tenor reeds are great, just slightly stronger in strength. If your playing a Java 2 1/2 these may feel closer to a 3 in a 2 1/2 BSS. They are by far the best new reeds I’ve tried. Not too dark or bright. Rigotti’s are too strident sounding. Just ordered the BSS Soprano’s to replace my Vandoren Blue Box.

    • I agree Tom. Sometimes I like the brightness and edge of the Rigotti but now when I put the BSS reeds on it’s like a totally different mouthpiece for me. So much darker and warmer. Great reeds!!

  33. Firstly, Steve, thanks for all that you do for the international saxophone community!

    Secondly to Jack if you see this: are there any plans down the line to make your products more readily available in Europe?

  34. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi Steve
    Thanks for the review. I was wondering if you can comment on strength comparison for BSS tenor reeds vs. usual ones like DSJ, Rigotti Gold, etc. Would you say 3 is like Rigotti Gold 3M? I use a strength between 3 soft and 3 medium for most jazz reeds. Which strength for BSS reed should I pick? Did you try this reed on a bit longer facing mouthpiece? If so, did you find optimal performance same as short facing mouthpieces? What about trying it on dark mouthpieces? Did you try to see if it makes the sound too dark? Also I appreciate if you can comment on the consistency and longevity.
    Thanks a lot,
    Arya

    • Arya,

      The BSS run harder than the Rigotti Gold reeds. A 2 1/2 BSS is like a 2 1/2 Strong or 3 Light I think. A 3 BSS is like a 3 Hard to 3 1/2 Light Rigotti I think. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly because the cut of the reed is different and they blow differently. I am mostly using the 2 1/2 BSS reeds on 7* mouthpiece and using the 3 BSS on 7 tip openings. I have used 3 BSS on 7* also but I have had too break them in a bit (play them a bunch to soften them up a bit) When they get a bit softer they rock though and last a while.

      The reeds work great on longer facings from what I have tried. I’m not sure what you mean by long though. I’m talking like 50-52. I’m not sure I have anything longer than that. The shorter facings of 48 are trickier. Some shorter facing mouthpieces played great with the 2 1/2 BSS and were a lot darker but a few of my 48 length facing curve mouthpieces were very midrangy. By that I mean that the ones that played great had a nice dark vibe but the ones I didn’t like seemed to play with more of a midrange tone. They weren’t bright and they weren’t dark either if that makes sense. I love the reeds because they take the buzz and brightness away which can leave a robust dark tone but if they take the buzz and highs away but the tone is midrange it just sounds a bit generic and dead to me. I didn’t really like the reeds on those mouthpieces. Two mouthpieces I felt this on were my Lamberson J7 and an EB metal Otto Link I have. I should try them again as what I am relaying to you was only my first impression from trying them once. On all my mouthpieces with at least a 50 or longer facing the reeds were great.

      I will say that I really dig my Marc Jean ligature on these reeds also. On the Rigottis I felt like the MJ ligature made the Rigotti reeds a little too responsive and buzzy. With the BSS reeds it make them a little less dark and puts a little bit more of the highs back in the sound but they are still what I consider dark.

      I haven’t tried them on what I would consider a dark mouthpiece just because I don’t think of any of my tenor mouthpieces as dark. I do have a Bunte 42 that is on the darker side of things but I haven’t tried them on that yet.

      They are super consistent and last a longer than Rigotti reeds for me. I think the Rigottis get softer quicker which makes them get brighter and more buzzy for me. It seems like the BSS reeds will get softer but they still stay dark from what I have experienced so I don’t see the need to get a new reed as quickly.

      I still love the Rigotti reeds but I like the option of the BSS reeds when I want a darker sound. Depends on what mood I am in. Hope this helps,
      Steve

  35. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Thanks a lot Steve for your thorough reply. I will get 2 1/2 for my 7* DR Link copy then. Roberto reed is also the darker version of Rigotti but still can have too much midrange if I don’t line up the reed tip to have with enough tip rail covering. It reminds me a bit like La Voz which also works well on short facing but La Voz has a more midrangy and less complex sound.

  36. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi Steve,
    I had James Bunte reface my 7* Double Ring copy. The tip and side rails are thicker (more manageable) and have more flexibility for positioning the reed tip on the tip rail. The curve is shorter than before. I felt it went from too long to a bit too short for my taste. I haven’t measured and James didn’t give me an exact number but I felt the same about too midrangy character with some of the reeds. I ended up adjusting the vamp on my reeds in order to get more low end and balance the tone. I found reeds that have a bit more mass in the middle between the heart and the tip work a bit better because the short rollover baffle and diving deep to the chamber on those early Double Ring mouthpieces creates a hollow sound (not enough mid-range) and that extra mass helps to even out the tone (rather than too short facing). I wish there was a paintable mass-adding food-grade adhesive with springy character (like nail polish but not harmful) to add mass to certain parts of the reeds to adjust the buzz, body of the tone and darkness. I’m not fan of clipping the reed tip. It reduces the distance between tip and the heart which makes it loose its springiness and tone complexity and lushness. The only reed that worked for me with a small tip clipping was Alexander Superial. If they were 100 percent consistent they would be the best reed for me. To me a good reed has a springy quality so with minimal air flow (very soft blow) you get a tone rather than air hissing. It is a different concept that buzz. It could be a good springy character and a very good response but with a darker tone and less buzz. Of course all these qualities can’t add up to one great reed for all because for each mouthpiece depending on the airflow variations along the reed, ideally there could be a perfect reed thickness profile to be the counterpart for that airflow variation for optimal vibration. However I found a good springy reed can stand out from the bunch even trying it different mouthpieces.

  37. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi Steve,
    I forgot to mention: people compare these reeds with Rigotti and say it is less buzzy than Rigotti. I understand if they want to compare Rigotti and Roberto because both are jazz reeds with the same length of cut and only Roberto asks Rigotti company to make a bit different profile of cut (perhaps a bit more material in the front). But based on what I read, BSS is a shorter cut reed perhaps like Vandoren Traditional but with more material in the tip and also the other difference is that it is unfiled. Actually it reminds me with the geometry and design of Gonzalez RC (regular cut i.e. unfiled) which is also short length for the cut, and people call it dark reed because of more material in the heart and perhaps the tip. They also go with half step stronger than jazz reeds (for instance 2.5 works like a 3 in most other reeds). They are also pretty consistent and I’ve used them for both classical and jazz. They have a tailored tone profile. More controlled envelop of sound but it is not boring, just more controlled and stable by means of the relationship between the air flow and vibration.

  38. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Sorry Steve,
    I’m sending another note. I thought since you mentioned BSS changes the tone of your mouthpiece, may be it is worthwhile if you could do a comparison of the tone for the same mouthpiece. Especially one that BSS compliments (short facing length that you take advantage of BSS shorter cut perhaps), or may be if you like to do two A&B sets with two different mouthpieces. Not to put more work on your shoulders but it is definitely helpful for readers of your BSS reed review to compare the tone and project in their mind what kind of possible tonal shift they can get on their mouthpiece. Thanks a lot.

    • Arya, My latest reviews have clips with the BSS reeds as well as the Rigotti reeds on the same mouthpieces. That should help as far as a comparison.

      As I mention in one of my prior comments, I find that the BSS work better on 50+ facing lengths for tenor. The shorter facing are more tricky as far as how they work. I have had mixed results on facings of 48. Some pieces played well but others didn’t because of that midrange tone that I wrote about. Steve

    • Arya,

      Have you tried these reeds yet? the quickest answer to all your questions is just to order a couple boxes and try them out. We could go back and forth talking about them for many hours but until you try them you won’t have the answers you are looking for. Steve

  39. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Hi Steve, thanks for letting me know. Have you already posted a review for the tone comparison (Rigotti vs. BSS)? When I do the search I just see one entry to do with BSS reeds. Would you be able to post the link to the new review that includes the sounds please? Thanks. Also thanks for the clarification. I thought you were mentioning short facing is more compatible. Now I know it is the other way around which makes more sense. I think where the facing gradually takes off requires a good length of reed (from beginning of the facing to the tip of the reed) i.e. acts as the lever (law of the lever in physics) which creates enough displacement at the tip for the given amount of air flow. Longer length of vibration (longer lever) creates lower frequency content and that’s why the sound is more lush, and if there is not enough of that (only shorter length of reed vibrating) it limits the range and it sounds too bright and mid-rangy if the very tip of the reed is thicker. Also thicker tip means it requires more springiness in the vamp to create enough rocking. When we remove the vamp material to make the tone a bit lusher (based on Larry Teal’s guidelines) although it makes it increases the domain of vibration but it reduces the springiness (less material in the back to support pulling back the reed tip in opposite direction) which means it can impact the liveliness of the reed. Creating a proper proportion for tip thickness vs. the vamp thickness and cut length is always the key, but if this is going to be impacted by the facing curve, ideally we should have a category A, B, C for the facing curves as well as the matching reed cuts.

  40. Hey all! Im excited to announce that Boston Sax Shop is now offering the reeds in boxes of 10 for both alto and tenor 🙂

  41. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Good news Jack. I got my first pack of BSS 2 1/2 tenor sax reeds from Twigg music in Montreal. One of my friends visiting Montreal brought it to Calgary (Canada) for me. I wish they were available here in Calgary too. They are excellent for spring behaviour. It is the best mix of tone fullness and spring (liveliness, response, etc). Any other reed that I know that has fullness has less some element of dullness and ones that have good spring don’t sound as full. I must say two of the reeds out of 5 have more vibration that the other 3 (feel a bit softer) but I understand this is the nature of fibre and they can’t be exactly the same. I like the ones with slightly harder because for my taste they are more balanced. But I think I will regret going to 3. It is probably too much of a jump. I would be curious to try one or two #3 reed though. I wish you had a bit cheaper sample packs or singles for that matter. Once I settle the strength I would definitely buy pack of 10 and I don’t have any doubt that this will be my go to reed, period. Thanks again for offering this quality. I hope this continues for a long long time. Sax players like to eliminate reed variable if they can (and I think that’s one reason they switch to synthetic reed) but also appreciate a good wood tone as well! Cheers.

  42. I asked Jack if the French people could please make for me a bunch of 4 1/2 and 5 reeds as I was plowing through the 4s very quickly and vaporized 3 1/2s in several hours. Therefore, the shop will have 4 1/2 and 5 reeds right away–I think he got 20 boxes of each, which should be enough for everyone. I find the 4s much less of a challenge for most aspects of playing related to sound–intonation, pitch, continuity of registers…all that stuff. I don’t know anything about all the technical stuff, but I am aware that not one bird that ever lived cared about ornithology….

    • Bryan, Holy Cow! 4 1/2 and 5 strength reeds. I think I would immediately die if I tried to play those. Can I ask what tip opening and mouthpiece you are using? Steve

  43. Steve,

    Do you think these reeds would be good for classical playing? I have a fairly nice setup I’m using, but I feel like I need the right reed to achieve the truly dark rich sound I’m looking for. I usually play on Vandoren 3.5 or Hemke 3.5. Get back as soon as you can. Thanks!

    • Connor, I think these would be great for classical but you have to try them out for yourself. Let me know what you think if you try them. Steve

  44. Avatar Robert Lewis says

    Do you carry soprano sax reeds and clarinet reeds? and what strength would you recommend for a beginner sax player. I am using a Lakey five star. I played tenor a long time ago.

    • You would have to contact a music store to purchase saxophone reeds. I usually start beginners on 2 1/2 strength reeds and most students do fine with those. Every once in a while I have a student who needs to start with size 2 reeds because they have trouble blowing size 2 1/2 reeds but that just happens once in a while. Good Luck, Steve

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