Before we take a look at the very best clarinet brands currently available, let’s consider that the first clarinet, or what we know as a clarinet, appeared in the early 1700s — created by a German Johann Denner. It came about by need rather than by design.
Classical composers of the period were making evermore serious technical demands on their trumpet players. The pieces were getting more complex and melodic, and tone and pitch were vital. The trumpets in those days had no valves or pistons, and therefore notes in the ‘clarion’ range were hard to hit.
Therefore increasing clarion registers needed an answer and the clarinet, or as it was sometimes called ’the mock trumpet’ was born.
It is today, of course, a staple instrument in every orchestra, pieces have been written for it, and it is one of the most learned instruments.
It has spawned great musicians as it appeared in different genres. Jazz, of course, took it up, and Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw became iconic players. Mozart wrote his Clarinet Concerto, and in Pop music, Acker Bilk took Stranger on the Shore to Number 1 in the UK. It is an instrument that can be one minute happy and jolly and the next morose and sad.
There are a lot of manufacturers making this instrument. The designs, of course, are virtually the same, but the quality varies greatly. One thing that has changed over the years is the material used in the basic manufacture.
For years it was wood, of course. Most clarinets still look like they are made of wood, but some are plastic and some even a very hard rubber substance. Therefore, finding the best clarinet brands if you don’t know your way around the instrument can be daunting.
So, let’s give you a helping hand as we take a look at the Best Clarinet Brands on the market…
Top 10 Best Clarinet Brands To Buy 2020 Reviews
1 Mendini MCT-SB+SD+PB Sky Blue ABS B Flat Clarinet
If you are involved in or just aware of orchestral instruments, you will know about Mendini. They are a range from the Cecilio company who specializes in manufacturing instruments for beginners at a very affordable price.
This clarinet is manufactured from ABS, which is a thermoplastic polymer plastic material known to be hard-wearing. The standard 17 keys and the fittings are nickel-plated. Nickel is a good material for the manufacture of the keys and rods. It is hard-wearing and keeps its shine longer than other materials
This is a B flat instrument, which is the most common key for orchestras and in general. But there are other clarinets in different keys. e.g., A and E flat.
This clarinet has an adjustable rest for the thumb and trill keys that are inline. Trill keys are fast interchanges between notes either in semitones or full tones. Inline trill keys allow the note to be flattened and then raised to the intended note very rapidly. This gives the trilling effect.
This instrument comes with a zipper case, a box of reeds size 2.5“ and a mouthpiece and mouthpiece cap. For maintenance, it is supplied with cork grease to keep all the moving parts well-oiled and a pair of gloves and cleaning cloth. It also has a folding stand.
It stands up as a decent budget clarinet and, in general terms, a good student clarinet.
However, we are really not convinced about the color. We see very little need to make a clarinet sky blue. If the reason is to make you stand out, then we would suggest you let your playing ability do that.
Mendini is a decent brand as a budget and entry-level instrument. That is what they do. Most of their instruments are made in China; therefore, we don’t think it can be called the best manufacturer of clarinets. But they do offer a very affordable entry to young players for their first instrument. Their presence in the clarinet marketplace is then justified.
- A decent entry-level instrument.
- Very cost-effective price for a starter.
2 Jean Paul USA CL-300 Student Clarinet
Jean Paul are a well-known name in the manufacture of cost-effective instruments, specially designed for beginners. They are an American company, but some of their instruments like this CL 300 Clarinet are made in China.
This particular clarinet is made from Ebonite. This is a particularly hard rubber material that is hard-wearing and can be made to look very much like wood. It is, of course, a cost-effective way of keeping manufacturing costs down. It does, though produce a decent quality of the instrument and is certainly better than plastic.
The design is quite standard, of course, and is a B flat clarinet with the 17 key Boehm system. The keys are nickel-plated, which is also a material often used. It is also quite hard-wearing and retains its silvery look for a lengthy period of time if it is maintained well.
If the nickel plate is not prepared correctly or is too thin, it is susceptible to bending. This can be the case with this particular clarinet. Young students, therefore, have to treat the instrument with care.
The bore of the instrument is excellent, which allows for a good projection of sound, and the instrument is made to a decent standard. It has been designed to be easy to play but lacks some of the finer points that, the more expensive instruments have. As an example, it has a thumb rest, but it is not covered. It may, therefore, not feel particularly comfortable for a long session. That is only to be expected at this price point.
It comes with a 2.5 inch Rico reed and a carrying case that includes cork grease and a cleaning cloth.
As a student clarinet or first instrument, it is a decent buy. It is affordable and has an attractive look about it. It is quite well made and put together and has a decent sound. Certainly a better sound than most plastic, but not all, clarinets will give you.
Jean Paul cannot be considered as the best clarinet manufacturer, but this is a good student clarinet
- Nicely made with an attractive finish.
- Decent sound and quite easy to play.
- Keys are a little susceptible to bend at times.
3 Yamaha YCL-255 Standard Bb Clarinet
Yamaha doesn’t need much in the way of an introduction if you are talking about musical instrument manufacturers. They produce some of the finest instruments used by professionals in the world. But they also design and make instruments for entry-level players. The YCL-255 in B flat is one such instrument.
It takes much of its design from Yamaha’s more expensive clarinets and adapts them to make the instrument a little more affordable. This particular model is made from a thermoplastic polymer that is known as ABS. It is a plastic resin, and it has a matte finish. This gives the student the look of a wooden instrument but the durability that comes with ABS.
It is fitted with nickel keys and rods that are silver-plated and have been given durable Valentino pads. And has a thumb rest that is adjustable.
It produces a very nice sound with warm tones very similar to what you would find with a wooden clarinet. It has a 65mm barrel, which encourages a great sound. A professional player would be able to tell the difference, but this is for a student. It has a sound that will suit a new student and even up to an intermediate level player. As the player improves, this clarinet is able to move with them.
This particular model is considered the best student clarinet by many people, but Yamaha instruments are not cheap to buy. This particular model is more expensive than most other student instruments. It is though an investment that is well-made if the student is going to persist. With many clarinets made for students, they need to be changed regularly as the player improves — not the situation with this clarinet.
It comes with a mouthpiece and case. Yamaha is considered one of the best clarinet brands, and this student clarinet is one of the reasons why.
- Excellent quality of the build.
- Great sound and easy to play for a student to intermediate level.
- It will be too expensive for some.
4 Jupiter JCL-700N Student Clarinet
Jupiter is another instrument manufacturing company that is highly regarded. They make a variety of instruments and have a very good student or entry-level range.
This clarinet is constructed with an ABS body. This might be considered a plastic polymer, but it has some advantages, especially with durability. It also isn’t affected by temperature changes.
Some will argue though with reasonable grounds that the sound is not quite as good. This, though is a student instrument. At this level, a little drop in sound quality is not such a bad thing if it makes the instrument more robust.
It has some features that you normally only find on more expensive instruments. The keys are nickel-silver, and it has an adjustable thumb rest. The bore is .58 inches and, with a 65mm barrel, produces a warm, rich sound. It also is built with a nickel silver edge to the bell. The quality of design and manufacture includes offset trill keys with undercut tone holes. It is built well and therefore has a high-reliability level.
It might be a little heavy for some young players at 5 pounds. Fatigue can be an issue with some, especially if the clarinet is heavy, due to the playing position. It has a normal size at 14 inches in length.
This is a fine instrument for any student and is going to last them through the early years as they improve. It comes with a great fitted case. A good student clarinet is more expensive than some of its competitors, but Jupiter is one of the best clarinet brands.
- High-quality build and good materials for a student.
- Nice sound and plays comfortably if a little heavy.
- The price point will put some off.
5 Selmer CL211 Intermediate Bb Clarinet
Selmer was originally a French company. Established in Paris in 1885, their orchestral instruments were known to be high-quality. You will sometimes find some of those original instruments played by the top professional classical musicians in today’s top orchestras.
They have lost a little of their aura and maybe French style since being assimilated and wholly-owned by Steinway. Then and thereafter also in a chaotic series of buyouts, failures, and takeovers that resembled the mess at Fender guitars.
They still make very good instruments, and the name carries weight. It reminds us more, though, of what they were rather than what they are. The one element that has seemed to survive intact is their student and improvers range. This clarinet is one of them.
This clarinet has a Grenadilla wood body with silver-plated keys. The keys are laid out in the traditional French Boehm system. The bore is slightly smaller than many student clarinets, and it has steel springs and undercut tone holes. There is a thumb rest that is adjustable.
There are many other attributes to this instrument that originate from the top pro models. These make it more of an intermediate clarinet than a starter instrument, in our opinion. With that, of course, comes the downside in that it will take more maintenance.
The wooden body especially has to be taken care of in a way an ABS or heavy rubber instrument doesn’t. The plus side, of course, is the sound which is rich and warm. It comes with a case and cleaning essentials a mouthpiece and ligature.
At one time, if you were looking at the best clarinet brands, then Selmer would be right in the frame. Maybe not so much now, but it is still a formidable clarinet that is possibly too much for a starter to handle. The price would certainly make you think twice.
- Very good build quality with a wooden body and good fittings.
- Nice rich and warm sound.
- Very expensive for anything less than an intermediate player.
6 Yamaha YCL-650 Bb Clarinet
Another quality instrument form the extensive Yamaha range. This one though not for the student, This instrument designed for the intermediate to professional musician.
This really is a beautiful clarinet with a resonance that will astonish. The design shape of the bell projects the sound and produces a sound that most clarinet players can only dream of. The bore size makes it easy to create the sound, and the intonation is perfect.
This clarinet has a Grenadilla wood body, which was specially chosen for its tonal properties. It also has silver-plated keys and levers. The responsiveness of the keys is outstanding. And as the keys are so well made, they will not bend or lose shape and become unresponsive.
This is an instrument that will serve for many years. It’s build quality and the materials used to guarantee that. Of course, it will need maintenance as a wood clarinet is not as tough as an ebonite material. But the sound achieved from this clarinet makes it a no-decision situation. It is made in Japan by Yamaha.
It plays as it should, and even the most notoriously difficult notes are easier. For example, playing a standard C note but then blowing the same finger position should produce a high G. Difficult on some instruments with poor design. Not a problem with the 650.
It comes with a 4c size mouthpiece made by Yamaha and, of course, a beautifully lined and fitted-case and accessories for its care.
Normally we try to finish off a review with some conclusive opinion. In this case, it is a simple statement. Yamaha, perfection. But we should point out. Perfection doesn’t come cheap. One of the great clarinets from one of the best clarinet brands
- A great instrument in every way.
- It will last a player for years.
7 Buffet Crampon E11 Bb Clarinet
Buffet Crampon is a well known and well-respected manufacturer of orchestral instruments. They manufacture a range of woodwind but are most known for their clarinets. You will find this brand being used by professional musicians in many of the world’s top orchestras.
They were established in 1825 in France and still have their HQ in Mantes-La-Ville in the suburbs of Paris. The instruments were once solely made in France, but demand has meant them opening other manufacturing facilities in Germany and in China.
The E11 is student B flat clarinet of the highest quality made to the most exacting standards. This particular instrument is made in Germany. This is where it has taken its design ideas from through the acquisition of the Schreiber company. It has a Grenadilla or as it is sometimes known African Blackwood body.
This wood is found on many of the world’s top clarinets and is noted for its tonal qualities. The sound then is rich and warm.
The keys and levers are silver-plated, and it has stainless steel springs. Intonation is exceptional, and it is set up to be easy to play. Given the wood that is used in construction, you could say the finest materials. It has a fixed thumb rest, not adjustable, and felt bladder pads for its 17 keys.
It is a very traditional design and is made in a very traditional way, much of it by hand. They have been producing clarinets and other woodwind instruments for over 250 years. From shortly after the Battle of Waterloo and the final defeat of Napoleon to give you a timeframe.
We think they have a good idea of what they are doing. This is a clarinet demonstrating technical and artistic excellence in its build and its sound.
It is, of course, a very expensive instrument for a student, but it is more than just an instrument for someone to learn with. It will last many years through much progress. In many ways, an investment for the future. It comes in a mini briefcase that is well-padded and fitted to the instrument.
Quite simply, it falls into the category of the best student clarinet from one of the best clarinet brands. From Buffet Crampon’s view, it is not perfect, but it is close.
- Very good quality and materials used.
- Great warm. Rich sound.
- The price will put some off.
8 Buffet Crampon E12 Intermediate Bb Clarinet
It is sometimes said that the French do not manufacture orchestral instruments they create them. The care that has gone into producing world-class instruments for over 250 years is evident in the work of Buffet Crampon.
Of course, they are going to be good; this is the land of Debussy and Ravel, of Berlioz and Erik Satie. And any country that produces the composer of the opera Carmen, Bizet, will be serious about their instruments.
This is an intermediate clarinet but moving very closely towards the professional instrument. It is simply outstanding. It is a step up from the E11 by Buffet, which was close to German design. This clarinet leans on those designs but introduces some French ‘Joi de Vivre’ into the instrument.
It is made of African blackwood or Grenadilla and is not stained but uses the natural colors of the wood. It has 17 keys and six rings. There is an adjustable thumb rest. The keys are nickel and are silver-plated. It has blue steel springs for a great response and leather pads.
It is not heavy, considering it is made of real wood weighing just under 5 pounds for its 17.9-inch length. The majority of the manufacturing is undertaken in France, and it is assembled in Germany. It comes with a mouthpiece.
Well… it has a warm, rich sound with superb intonation, and there is nothing critical to say. As a music teacher once remarked to us, there’s nothing wrong with the instrument. If it doesn’t sound right, it’s you — a clear contender for the best clarinet brands award.
Outstanding high-level clarinet but get ready for a visit to the bank.
- The highest quality of build.
- Brilliant sound.
9 Yamaha YCL-221 Student Bass Clarinet
Back we go again to Yamaha this time for a student bass clarinet. Yamaha includes on their student instruments a lot of the features you will find on a more expensive clarinet. This Low E flat bass clarinet is no exception.
It is made using ABS resin which makes it able to withstand a few knocks, but also provides a decent sound. It has been given a matte finish, which gives it a nice appearance. The kets are silver-nickel, and it has leather pads. These pads are longer lasting. Resonators are made of plastic.
Yamaha has made it a little more like the neck on the professional level instruments. This has given the instrument a much more comfortable feel and has helped to create a better playing position. This is a big help when getting students to adopt the correct posture to achieve a permanently good technique.
Further design improvements have come with the redesign of the tone hole and the rounded bridge connector. They have placed rubber rings on the cork joins. This helps to prevent leaks and to get a better fit.
This is no lightweight instrument and weighs 14.5 pounds. It is 24 and a half inches in length. This should be borne in mind when considering the age of the child you might be buying for.
It is Yamaha quality from top to bottom, and just the look of its says quality. The sounds are superb, and it has a comfortable playing style. As always, these items are not cheap.
- Great quality and construction.
- Warm, rich sound with new playing improvements.
- Just the price, which will scare many people away.
10 Buffet Crampon Greenline 1193 Prestige Low C Bass Clarinet
Suddenly it gets very serious. Here we have a high-quality top of the range bass clarinet. This not in B flat but in C. This is quite simply an elegant instrument.
The body is made from Grenadilla wood powder composite. This is created by taking the wood grains and exposing them to high compression. The reason for this is that pure wood is a little at the mercy of temperature.
Unfriendly temperatures can cause havoc with a wood clarinet and even cause them to crack. This compression process makes the wood tougher but still retains its tonal attributes. The sound remains powerful and full of rich dark tones.
As you would expect, the keys, posts, and levers are made to the highest quality. They are nickel, pre-plated in copper, and then given their finish of a rich silver plate. They work well, and they are stunning to look at.
The tone of the instrument is improved by high-end design features. Undercut tone holes improve the tone but also the responsiveness. It is fitted with an E flat/A flat lever and a resonance key for the G note. Also included are double and triple D spatulas. These design improvements have evolved over the years of Buffet Crampon, working at the highest levels.
It is no lightweight instrument. It is 36 inches long and weighs 31 pounds. This instrument is Buffet Crampons’ quality at its best. It exemplifies the quality of what can be achieved when manufacturers sit down to work to produce fine instruments.
A look at the price point might be something you are expecting, or it may shock you. Either way, with this instrument, you get exactly what you are looking for – Excellence.
- Pure quality in every way.
- Sounds are rich and warm and what you would expect from a professional instrument.
- Only the price that will scare away all but those seeking this level of quality.
Best Clarinet Brand Buyers Guide
To a certain extent, the answer to the question of which is the best clarinet brand lies in what the clarinet is used for and who it is for.
A Student Model
If you are talking about a student clarinet, then you have to give a little consideration to price. Many people are not willing to spend a fortune early on. You want and need some quality, but it’s got to be sensible. You could buy a professional instrument for a starter, but they might struggle with it.
What you are looking for then is a brand that will suit the student at more than just entry-level. An instrument that will grow with them at least part of the way up the ladder, If you don’t find that there may well be a lot of instrument changes.
There are a lot of manufacturers who make very cheap options. They fulfill a role in the market, are inexpensive, and provide an introduction to the clarinet. But not much more. They are often a bit vulnerable to intonation problems and obviously don’t sound as good.
The materials used are a bit less than quality to keep the costs down, and generally, they are what you might describe as ok. There are, of course, plenty of musical disasters hanging around you must be wary of.
We have looked at ten clarinets across a range of brands that have included student instruments. Some are obviously better than others for the student.
Then we have also looked at some higher-level instruments. In at least one case pro level. The difference is clearly outstanding, but then so is the price. Deciding which brand is the best is quite difficult.
So, What Are The Best Clarinet Brands?
We are going to break with tradition here. Two brands stand out, of course, they do. But one is, in our opinion, better at the student market, and the other might have the edge with the pros.
We must confess we have taken a third party opinion on board here, and we know a professional clarinetist and called her up. Therefore, we asked her what she used, and she told us. We agreed, and then we asked why she didn’t use the other big brand, she told us.
Besides her orchestra commitments, she also teaches. So, we asked her what she recommended for students. She replied with the exact instrument we were considering as the winner. And so our deliberations were borne out by a professional player.
On that basis, we have chosen two brands — one for the student and one for the professional. For the student, we say that the best brand is Yamaha, and especially the…
Great quality in the build and has a great sound. Easy to play and going to allow the student to improve to intermediate level without needing to change instrument.
For the professional brand, we have chosen a company that has been at the center of orchestral instrument development for 250 years. A French company. One that doesn’t just make their instruments they create something special with each and every one. Our choice for the best pro brand is Buffet Crampon, and especially the…
Two outstanding manufacturers. Either of which could have taken the other one’s recommendation and reversed the roles.