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 Synthetic Redux
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2022-12-01 23:59

What's people's thoughts on the Silverstein lineup--particularly the Primo Vivace, and Blue lines? Are they more D'Addario Venn or Legere like--or in their own league?

Every so often I get in the mood to experiment. I don't know if it's boredom, or videos like Eugene Mondie's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yK4aXpjSxA, which talks about trying new things, or seeing what's changed in the market since the last time I tried new things.

I'm not unhappy with cane. Using Tom Ridenour's ATG system I find myself able to get a large percentage of cane reeds to work for me. Maybe it's in part my reed friendly M15 mouthpiece. Maybe it's making peace with reeds, knowing, like people, they all have their limitations, and good and bad days, etc.

As Paul Aviles has contended, I agree that Legere is the synthetic benchmark right now, it's "Achilles heel" perhaps being the intonation that barrel changes can address. I recently tried a D'addario Venn and was initially disappointed, but not only appreciated the ability to work on the reed (unlike a Legere where perhaps hot water is the only application available to effect its play) but found that after (considerable) sanding the Venn worked better for me.

I recently also bought a Legere Signature but haven't had the time to try and compare it to the European cut, as well as searched here for recent thoughts on synthetics. I've also tried their Soprano sax lineup with an Eb ligature on my Bb. It wasn't bad for me, but it also wasn't a game changer.

All this said: students out there, the greatest equipment ever made for the clarinet was a good etude book and metronome. :)


Reply To Message
 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2022-12-03 19:47

Hi again.

I suspect some of you have seen this video. If not, it offers a review that addresses many of my questions from above.  :)


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 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2022-12-03 20:56

.......and Mr. Eric Black's review does not line up with reality in any shape or form.

Is there ANY major artist using the Ambipoly reeds? Has ANYONE gotten a reed like sound out of an Ambipoly at ANY time?

just askin'

...............Paul Aviles

Reply To Message
 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2022-12-04 07:05

Hi Paul

A couple of things.

* I value your opinion
* I ordered (before your post today) the two high end Ambipoly reeds (Venn Vivace and Primo) today but have yet to try them
* I bet you have tried them
* I still use cane, and suspect I will continue to, having pretty good luck with it, and
* I believe Eric Black both competent and unbiased.

I recently came across a review of these reeds from Dr. Larkin Sanders, also on Youtube. She really liked them. Then I watched her review of the Venn reed from D'Addario, who like Silverstein she is affiliated with, and respectfully drew less favorable opinion of that reed than her....so I won't be surprised if I, like you, fine Legere to remain at the top of the synthetic reed mountain.

I did agree with Dr. Sanders than Venn's run hard, and was pleased that I could adjust them--which after doing so (and they need far more sanding than cane to achieve similar softening I found) the Venn did play better.....so maybe part of my issue was related to getting too strong a sample. Another, of course, being my sample size of one. And yet another perhaps being that D'Addario might consider recalibrating their strength charts assuming the wish to jibe with a Vandoren cane standard.

According to Silverstein's website, Wenzel Fuchs uses them and gave a November concert in NY playing one. I say this as a feeble response to your question as to who professional is playing them. What (just one) artist endorses, and what they like and play could in fairness to you be 2 different things. Unlike me, Mr. Fuchs could probably sound great playing a popsicle stick.

I never loose sight of the most important piece of equipment: a mind willing to put in meaningful practice time. But I'm in a mood to experiment.

I hope I can report results similar to Mr. Black's, but even if I can't, I'll be richer for knowing what doesn't work for me and report my findings either way, even if I'm financially poorer by $65!  :)

Post Edited (2022-12-05 01:41)

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 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: MarkS 
Date:   2022-12-04 19:33


I have been playing on synthetic reeds for several years. I started with Legere European Signature, and was quite happy with both tone and articulation. Some issues with flatness, but it reduced after a couple of months. When Silverstein came out with Ambipoly, I tried them out of curiosity, and preferred them over Legere mostly based on richness of tone. I also found them to play somewhat darker than the Legere. When the Primo and Vivace options came out, I tried both. For playing classical music, I had a clear preference for Primo. I continued playing Primo until very recently, when I decided to try the second generation Venn, as well as revisit Legere (now the new formula European Cut). Midway during the period when I played Ambipoly, I switched from a medium open Grabner MP to the Playnick Nommos B2, which was specifically designed for Ambipoly reeds, and reviewed by Eric Black. It is more open than the Grabner, and has a wide tip rail that also increases the resistance.

I have not had success with the Venn, either 3.5 or 3.0. I tried to sand the 3.5 but my sandpaper seemed to be too fine to make any difference. (Can you tell me what grit you used?) On the other hand, I am quite happy with the Legere on the Grabner MP. My initial reaction is that the tone is better than what I remembered, and it is more responsive to articulation than the Ambipoly.

I am surprised to hear quite a few players refer to the Ambipoly reeds as "unplayable." They play a bit different than Legere, but no problem getting a good tone. Since I am an amateur, it is certainly possible that there is something that causes top professionals, including endorsers of other Silverstein products, to choose not to use them. When you try them, make sure you SOAK them for a couple of minutes in a cup of water. (Just wetting them by mouth may not be sufficient.) For a new reed, expect it to seem unplayable at first. I just play scales without articulation until it begins to respond (about 10 minutes). After about 20 minutes it plays reasonably well, and after the second day of playing it is fine and does not change further. This requirement makes it cumbersome to try the same reed on different mouthpieces. By the way, once you wet a reed, it stays hydrated for at least two hours, so you can wet a backup reed before a rehearsal or performance, and it will be ready if you need to change.

It also seems to me that Ambipoly reeds, and perhaps Legere as well, are more sensitive to matching the optimal strength for a given mouthpiece, and do not play well with even a slight mismatch. One advantage of the B2 MP is that the wide tip rail provides a greater lattitude for tip position of the reed. I found that a reed that would be unplayable with the tip lined up with the MP tip could play well with the tip of the reed lowered significantly.


Reply To Message
 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2022-12-04 20:52

Hi Mark:

* How did you reduce the flatness using Legere reeds? Did you effect some equipment change or did you make conscience or unconscious changes to your play to raise pitch, etc.?

* To sand the Venn reed I used by ATG system sanding block with the included Klingspor Wet Dry 320 grit sandpaper https://www.klingspor.com/PS11-320-Grit-A-4-X-9-Sheet-251556. I probably made more strokes with the sandpaper against the Venn reed than I do against 20 cane reeds and I probably am going to do more. I did take off material, and it helped. I also ordered another Veen reed 1/2 size smaller than my preferred Vandoren strength.

Again, I'm one of the people who isn't than frustrated with cane. I use a wide variety of manufacturer's brands, from Vandoren's 4 French offerings, to Leuthner, Pilgerstorfer, Steur, and Brad Behn's Aria and Brio offerings, etc.

With the ATG system I'm able to get a large number of my reeds to pretty playable levels.

* Thanks for the tips on initial and subsequent use of the Ambipoly product. I'll be sure to follow your guidance and be patient.

* I too have found reed positioning on the Legere offerings to be critical using my Vandoren M15 mouthpiece.

Thanks for your input.

Reply To Message
 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2022-12-05 00:49

So besides apologizing for being a bit brusk I feel the need to explain where I'm coming from on synthetic reeds.

I am NOT frustrated with or disappointed in cane. In fact I do believe that the best results in sound are still to be found in working with cane reeds. I came to synthetics via the back door if you will. It was brought to my attention that you can use a German mouthpiece on a French clarinet quite successfully and take advantage of the "just put it in your mouth and blow" ease of German playing using a 2 1/2 strength German reed. It took me six months to adapt to this change but it was well worth it and only the German style facing, tone chamber and bore can do this (no approximation of smaller numbers in French facings will give you the ease AND the high performance). Once I achieved success with the German mouthpiece, it occurred to me that there were (at the time) far more German professional players (including Wenzel Fuchs) who had great success with synthetic reeds. I only went down this path to experiment and see where this would lead me. It actually took several years of quite dedicated work to refine a "second best" approach to cane, but I find several factors worth all the effort to include constancy of play from day to day, week to week. Just to reiterate, these are factors that make taking a bit off the performance of the sound worth it.

Now to Ambipoly. I came on board rather soon after their launch to give it a chance. These were according to Silverstein the greatest thing since sliced bread. They were awful. I waited for (I believe) the third iteration to try them again with Silverstein assuring everyone that this was now far better than sliced bread and just like cane. I did a fair assessment using a wide range of strengths so I could find the best match for my set up having switched back to a Boehm mouthpiece. It was still awful; not even close to the Legere Euro Cut reeds (still European Signatures at the time).

So now Wenzel Fuchs uses Ambipoly (so were are told) and he endorses them (so we are told). I can forgive the claims from Mr. Black since any of our assessments are just subjective. The sound he produced on the Ambipoly in the video was quite familiar to me and not something I care to produce myself, though if he says he likes this sound and says this sounds more like cane to him........that's his prerogative. If we ALL have learned anything from politics in the last six years it is that the only time one cannot lie is when giving sworn testimony to a Federal grand jury, or to Congress. Therefore, as always, we are all left using our best judgement on any claims about anything that is proffered to the general public.

I do, however take the claims of Wenzel Fuchs more seriously and may at some point soon give the Ambipoly another go (researching whether there is a German version which may change the equation completely). It may be worth it for me to revert back to the German mouthpiece again if the Ambipoly sounds "THAT GOOD" on the German mouthpiece.

Until then I will stick with.......just awful.

................Paul Aviles

Reply To Message
 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: SecondTry 
Date:   2022-12-05 02:04

To the extent that you directed your thoughts at me Paul I wasn't at all offended.

The gold standard of any clarinet equipment's use is the diversity of players over time that adopt it. So your point about Silverstein's synthetic wares, which have been out of a while, enjoying a far smaller market share than Legere, I completely agree with as a fairer litmus test of quality that any fancy copy that some seller puts in their internet links.

I also delved slightly into the German world of mouthpieces---a little--in my use for a while of the Vandoren M30D, "D" for Deutsche, (as I bet you know.) I enjoyed the covered sound but the projection was lacking, and the tip opening too much for my taste.

As the occasional double lip player, my closed M15 and weak reeds is much preferred.

Also like you, I might trade some reed performance for consistency in adoption of synthetics over cane.

As to your testing of Ambipoly, I can only assume that you exhibited more than a fair share of patience in the adoption of a new one of these reeds. I understand that their more cane like makeup finds them requiring more of a break in period than Legere's offerings.

I wonder if this 3rd iteration you speak of is their current offering.

"So now Wenzel Fuchs uses Ambipoly (so were are told) and he endorses them (so we are told)."

I can take this statement with the equal grain of salt it appears you might as well Paul. This is not to take a stab at Mr. Fuchs or Silverstein Works. But need I tell you, if a year from now Mr. Fuchs or someone else of his caliber was endorsing "Venn reeds and Uebel clarinets" (two brands I expressly do NOT wish to disparage here) I wouldn't be shocked. I generally don't think artists will play junk for money, but if gear choices are comparable I wouldn't be shocked to find artists going with the setup that has the most lucrative endorsement contract.

"I do, however take the claims of Wenzel Fuchs more seriously and may at some point soon give the Ambipoly another go (researching whether there is a German version which may change the equation completely)."

There appears to be German reed offering Paul on this webpage:


Post Edited (2022-12-05 02:06)

Reply To Message
 Re: Synthetic Redux
Author: Paul Aviles 
Date:   2022-12-05 05:35

So the Wenzel Fuchs remark has a bit more history to it. There was a video of a master class where he was asked about his reed. The follow up question was, “how long do Legeres last?” He spoke of a favorite that had just past the year mark. He accidentally broke it in the hinge of his reed case during a careless moment. He then said they last at least a year. This was of course separate from any official endorsement material. I trust that. Further as a soloist with the highest paying orchestra in the world, he needs no further monies from manufacturers, and must care for his highly valued reputation. So his endorsement does carry some weight. Notice for the German reeds (beside dimensions) they note a difference in the vamp.

……….Paul Aviles

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