Ask any alto sax player what the most important part of their instrument is and their answer will most likely be the reed. Small, simple and relatively inexpensive, alto saxophone reeds may not be as impressive as the horn itself, but they play a significant role in how your alto saxophone sounds. And because they often need replacing (reeds are delicate and should always be handled with care), it never hurts to have a few alto sax reeds in your instruments case. Thankfully, this section is stocked with a wide variety of alto sax reeds to suit just about any performer's sound situation.
Before choosing an alto sax reed, there are a few things you should consider, the first being reed strength. Made in a range of different strengths, reeds are typically numbered (1 through 5 or 6) by hardness. What you must remember though, is that no two brands numbering systems are the same. For example, you shouldn't expect a No.2 Rico Royal Alto Saxophone Reed to produce the same sound as a No.2 Andreas Eastman Venuto Alto Saxophone Reed and vice versa. Ask your peers and other musicians about their experiences with different brands - their advice will go a long way in helping determine which reed is best for you.
Another important decision to make is whether to go with an alto saxophone reed that is made from natural cane or synthetic materials. Musicians who play in orchestras or concert settings usually gravitate to reeds that are made of cane due to their clear, classic tone. That's not to say that synthetic instruments don't hold their own when compared to those crafted from cane. Synthetic reeds, like the Bari Synthetic Alto Saxophone Reeds and the Fibracell Premier Synthetic Alto Saxophone Reed, are formatted to sound as similar to cane reeds as possible, but will usually last several times longer than their traditional counterparts. Synthetic reeds can still chip or crack, but they shouldn't split or warp like cane - and they don't need to be pre-moistened before use.
Selecting the perfect reed for your alto sax is a personal choice, so it definitely doesn't hurt to shop around and try out a few before deciding which reed (or reeds) are going to showcase your talent. Whether you go with a reed that is natural or synthetic, keep in mind that getting used to your reed is a must before hitting the stage and sharing your stellar sax skills with the world.