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Reeds Review: Marca American Vintage Alto reeds.

Having recently received a box of the new Marca reeds (2.5 strength) I have spent some of the last two days reviewing them and comparing them with other American Cut reeds of similar thickness - the Vandoren V16 and the Alexander Superial NY reeds.

The Marca AV reeds immediately looked to have the shortest length of cut of the three from cut to tip. The measurement from heel to cut was 3.45cm. the NY was 3.15cm and the V16 was 3.2cm. Hence it had the shortest vamp section of the three.

I tried each on two mouthpieces - Phil-Tone Aurora (darker) and Mouthpiece Cafe NYB (brighter) with a Marc Jean Ligature.

The initial blows on the Aurora were as follows:

Marca AV - Quite a dense sound throughout, particularly in the lower register, but the upper register had a little more sparkle to it and the top notes were fine. Intonation was fine and the sound was solid throughout. It felt as if it took quite a bit of puff, despite Marca France saying that the hardness was similar to the Marca Jazz reed. I play a Marca Jazz 3, which was much less hard work. I thought the sound was only OK, bit on the Heavy and Dull side, particularly in the Lower register.
Vandoren V16 - In comparison this felt much easier to blow and the sound had quite a sparkle to it throughout - felt like a Jazz reed in comparison - more flexibility to the sound and a more dynamic character. The Upper register above top C# was not quite as solid as the Marca but the sound was more lively throughout. I liked the sound very much.
Alexander NY - again easier to blow, but slightly less so than the V16. There was sparkle throughout and a good degree of flexibility throughout. As with the V16 there was a solid sound - full and with a degree of brightness, but solidity too. Where the NY outshone the V16 was in the upper register which was rock solid throughout and to F# was clarity personified. It edged it from the V16 but both were a joy to play in comparison with the Marca AV which trailed somewhat - very solid, slightly stuffy sound, with no magic to my ears.
The bottom range was good with the NY and V16, but muddy with the AV.

On the Mouthpiece Cafe NYB (Excellent Meyer type mouthpiece) the sound was only slightly brighter, but the above comparisons stayed true.

Conclusion: My favourite was the Alexander NY reed as it was the most able overall. The V16 was a close second with just some weakness in the upper register. Perfectly acceptable but the top F# was not confident. The Marca American Vintage did not really compete and may need some more work on it. Howarth of London described it as rather Heavy and Dull and I think that is quite close to the mark to my ears.

I did not compare the AV with the other American Cut reeds I use - Alexander Superial Standards, which are livelier still and have a thinner cut.

So I would not recommend the Marca American Vintage alto reeds at this stage.
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Di in France

Senior Member
Thanks Tom good review! What do you think of the Marc Jean lig? I've seen some good reviews, and I'm thinking of getting one for my hard rubber alto mouthpieces.


Well-Known Member
Skabertawe, South Wales
The best, without question. I use one on Soprano, Alto and Tenor and really like Marc - top man!

You will need to let Marc know which mouthpiece(s) you are using as he custom makes them. My alto ligature was designed for a Phil-Tone mouthpiece, which also fits my other alto mouthpieces.
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