Firm, punchy, and has edge; Bari woodwinds has created their best reed to date in the Bari Star line. If your musical situation requires volume, edge, and longevity then this reed should be on your short list.
I’ve been a huge proponent to synthetic reeds since I first played one back in 2001. It was a bright and punchy but a bit unrefined. Eventually I returned to the time honored cane reed for my playing. At this time I was in a Ska band that enjoyed very minor success and toured a little around the region. Like many other wind players touring from dive bar to the next you learn that beer and booze can have a disastrous effect natural cane reeds. It can shorten their lives and if you have enough booze you can chip or break them on accident. This can lead to the problem of trying to find more reeds on the way to the next venue, on a Sunday when the music stores are closed. Sometimes you ask the sax player in the opening band if he has a spare reed you can swap him for a cold brew, this hardly worked as baritones were few and far between in Ska bands at the time. Though now they’ve made a bit of comeback thanks to groups like Streetlight Manifesto and Ska Cubano.
Enough history now on to the goods:
Tone: This reed is much warmer than the original Bari Synthetic reed. It is closer in tone to a Brancher Jazz cane reed than to other synthetics. It is not as classicaly smooth as a Forestone or as natural cane sounding as a Legere.
Strength Grade Scale: S [soft] – H [hard]
Relative vs Stated Hardness: I find this reed to be about a 1/2 step softer than the hardness scale suggests the soft – medium should be and I find Hard to be a little 1/4 step harder than they suggested.
Finish: The surface which touches the lips has slight machine marks which are smooth but noticeable. The left and right sides of the reed can be a touch sharp as the angle is only slightly rounded off. I suspect that a few passes with 1000 grit sand paper to round the rails of the reed will fix that with minimal change to performance.
Shape: This reed fits my RPC .110 High Baffle mouthpiece well and with very slight overhang on each side.
Tonal Edge: This mouthpiece has about half of the edge from the standard Bari woodwinds reed.
Performance change while playing: I find that the Medium and Medium Hard did soften after about 1.5 hours of steady playing. Not enough to want to change out reeds but there was a slight performance difference. I suspect it is due to warmth and the reed returned to normal after it cooled a bit.
Price: $ – Cheap as domestics brews on ladies night. So cheap you can buy 4 or more for the price of 1 box of Vandoren bari reeds.
TAKE AWAY: I recommend that all baritone players take a spin on an appropriate Bari Star reed. These are a suitable fit for times when I prize a bit more volume over a perfect tone. When I need more control and more depth, like in a Big Band, I still prefer the Légère.