Rico vs Royal Reeds – Everything You Need to Know

Although reeds are a very small part of the saxophone setup, they can make a big difference in how your playing sounds.

One might help you get a brighter tone while the other could be better for playing deep and mellow melodies. In this article, we’ll look at two options in particular, the Rico line and the Royal line.

Rico vs Royal Reeds: Short Answer

Since both reeds come from D’Addario, they’re not completely different. The main difference lies in that one is unfiled (Rico) and the other is filed (Royal).

Generally speaking, this is why the Rico would give you more power to the tone and would be a perfect match for tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones. 

On the other hand, Royal reeds are a better choice if you’re looking for more flexibility and faster responses from the reed. They’re also good for the sopranino and soprano saxophone and are one of the best alto sax reeds out there.

Rico vs Royal Reeds: Delving Into the Details

Now that we’ve covered the big and main differences, let’s look into the details of each reed, how they’re similar, and what are the differences.


Both reeds are made of cane, which gives them a more natural sound. It also makes them require a bit of skill on the saxophonist’s end, as cane reeds have some variations in their playability.

This is because, unlike plastic reeds, they’re natural and the type of cane itself as well as the way it was manufactured into a reed can cause a degree of difference between one reed and the other—even if they’re in the same batch and box.


You may find the variation you get with the Royal reeds better as they vary between 1.0 and 5.0 with 0.5 increments.

On the other hand, the Rico ones start at 1.5 and end at 4, with the same 0.5 increments.


Moreover, the Royal line reeds come at a higher price, which is expected as the Rico ones are directed more toward beginners and students.

Ease of Playing

The Rico reeds are much easier to play, feel softer, and have a brighter tone to them. They suit anyone that’s only starting on their sax journey as they don’t need extreme embouchure control and give you a full sound more easily.

Have Rico Reeds Become Worse After D’Addario Acquired Rico?

Rico by D'Addario Saxophone Reeds - Reeds for Alto Saxophone - Thinner Vamp Cut for Ease of Play, Traditional Blank for Clear Sound, Unfiled for Powerful Tone - Alto Sax Reeds 3 Strength, 50-Pack

We can’t say the reeds have become better or worse, but they changed. The vamp area near the bark comes with a different shape and cut.

The new cut has a taller vamp, which is about 2.5mm taller, and that makes the curve entirely different.

Moreover, the old reeds used to have a cut that was more on the rounded side rather than the straight-across cut on the new ones. 

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So, with the new ones, the cut ties into the edges. On the other hand, the rounded heart on the older ones extended further toward the tip.

D’Addario digitized the process of manufacturing the reeds, causing less variation in their shapes and cuts.

They’re different than what they used to be, but that means an individual can like or hate the difference, not that the change in itself is necessarily better or worse.


Is Rico a Good Saxophone Brand?

Since 2004, Rico has been a subsidiary of the famous D’Addario brand. Before the acquisition, Rico was pretty solid in the game, but they had a reputation for being a student or entry-level brand.

After D’Addario, the brand’s reputation has improved, especially since D’Addario did some rebranding to improve both the functionality and perception of Rico.

Is Vandoren Better than D’Addario?

If we draw a comparison in absolutes between D’Addario and Vandoren, the latter easily wins. Vandoren simply checks the boxes on plenty of aspects, whether in the realm of mouthpieces, reeds, or ligatures.

However, they cater to different audiences. D’Addario, especially with Rico’s acquisition, is seeking beginners, students, and saxophone enthusiasts.

On the other hand, Vandoren is a well-established name, and its customers are typically more seasoned and professional players.

Final Words

Although the Rico and Royal reeds are incredibly similar on many levels, there’s a core difference that can help you determine which one is the better option for you from the get-go.
If you’re looking for darker tones and more somber sounds for classical output, opt for the filed Royal.

On the other hand, if you’re seeking the easiest playability with the brightest sound, Rico’s Orange Box reeds will serve you better.