The oboe is a double reed instrument in the woodwind family and an essential member of large ensembles such as orchestras, bands as well as smaller chamber ensembles. The oboes recommended here are all manufactured by reputable brand names, built from high quality materials to facilitate great sound production, accurate tuning and smooth key response. For more help selecting the right oboe for your needs, check out our buyer’s guide provided below.
Best Oboe Overall:
The oboe is a double reed instrument in the woodwind family and an essential member of large ensembles such as orchestras and bands as well as smaller chamber ensembles. These instruments have an exceptionally intricate key system with many optional keys to make playing easier for the musician.
Professional level oboes are constructed primarily out of grenadilla or a similar dense wood which produces a desirable sound. Wooden oboes require extra care because the body will swell or shrink with changing temperatures and humidity.
The oboe is played by blowing into a double reed, two thin pieces of wood tied together which vibrate against each other to create sound. The delicate double reed on the oboe requires special care and attention, as it is very fragile and susceptible to even minute changes in the weather. Many oboe players will learn to adjust and make their own reeds.
All of the instruments on this list have a full conservatory system including a low B-flat, left F and third octave keys; all necessary and standard at higher levels of performance. However, the auxiliary keys included on each instrument vary slightly depending on the maker and is specified for each individual oboe.
Additionally, the oboes recommended here are all manufactured by reputable brand names, built from high quality materials to facilitate great sound production and accurate intonation and constructed with craftsman-level manufacturing techniques. Each oboe comes with a carrying case and cleaning swab.
Founded in 1881, French company F. Loree has risen to the top of the list for many professional oboists. Designed for a dark, consistent tone across the entire range of the instrument, the F. Loree Paris Professional oboe is the top pick instrument here. Read Full Review
Widely popular as a manufacturer of bassoons, Fox evolved their knowledge of double-reed instruments to create professional level oboes since the 1970’s. The Fox Model 800 oboe is a great instrument choice for the advanced musician, thanks to a great sound and durable construction. Read Full Review
The Italian manufacturer, Blugheroni, prides itself on working closely with professional musicians and expert instrument makers to create sought after, quality oboes in a smaller, hands on company. The Blugheroni Opera oboe combines this expertise into an oboe with a warm tone and exceptional craftsmanship, great for professional musicians. Read Full Review
Buffet Crampon woodwind instruments are some of the most sought after instrument brands since the company was founded in 1825. Manufactured in France, Buffet’s 3613 oboe is a professional oboe with a variety of custom options. Read Full Review
Manufactured in Japan, Yamaha oboes have an established reputation among professional oboists and educators of all levels. The YOB-841 series custom oboe is a high quality instrument which produces a flexible sound and consistent intonation. Read Full Review
Best Student Oboe:
The oboe is a double reed instrument in the woodwind family with a home in orchestras, bands, chamber ensembles and solo performance. The oboe is played by blowing into a double reed, two thin pieces of wood tied together which vibrate against one another to create sound. The delicate double reed on the oboe requires special care and attention as it’s very fragile and susceptible to even minute changes in the weather. Many oboe players will learn to adjust and make their own reeds.
When purchasing a student level oboe, it may seem best to seek out the least-expensive instrument. However, especially for a beginner, lower quality instruments may present mechanical difficulties which make learning frustrating and unnecessarily difficult. In addition, poor quality oboes are prone to major or frequent repairs which are costly or near impossible to fix. At the student level, the body of the instrument may also be constructed using resin (plastic) for added durability and to avoid the extra care needed for wood swelling and shrinking in humidity.
The student oboes included on this list include a low B-flat key, standard for most oboe playing and are manufactured by reputable brands, constructed from quality materials which facilitate good tone production and intonation (the ability to play in tune), and built durably for the beginning player. Each of the following best picks come with a sturdy case, cleaning swab and at least one reed, all the essentials needed to begin playing the oboe.
From beginner to professional, Yamaha manufactures their quality instruments with the same care at all levels of experience. The YOB-241 is the most reliable and recommended student oboe for playing in tune, having a great sound and durability to ensure years of enjoyable use. Read Full Review
Since the company was founded 100 years ago, Buffet Crampon has created some of the most sought-after woodwind instruments. Manufactured in Paris, Buffet’s BC4011 student level oboe is one of the top choices for beginners looking for an exceptional and durable wooden instrument. Read Full Review
Widely popular as a manufacturer of bassoons, Fox has been making quality oboes since the 1970’s. With their knowledge of double-reed instruments, they created the Fox Model 300 oboe, a great instrument for the beginner, providing a nice sound and a full conservatory key system. Read Full Review
Italian instrument manufacturer Blugheroni works with professional musicians and expert instrument makers to create a popular, sought-after line of oboes. Their FB-091 student oboe features a modified conservatory system, a wooden body, and exceptional craftsmanship. Read Full Review
Oboe Buyer's Guide
The oboe is a fun and rewarding double-reed instrument. However, there are various instruments to choose from and finding the right one can often feel like a daunting process. Therefore, testing out a variety of oboes to find one which fits a player’s personal preferences is essential. In choosing an oboe, especially at the professional level, the final decision often comes down to personal preference in terms of tone and feel to the player.
Oboes are manufactured for a variety of ability levels, including student, intermediate,
Oboes for students focus on affordability, reliability, and ease of play. They’re typically constructed with a plastic body since this material requires less maintenance. Additionally, these instruments may use a modified conservatory system which removes optional keys, such as a low B-flat, to make playing less stressful for new players.
A transitional instrument, intermediate-level oboes provide some upgrades from the student models such as a wooden body and low B-flat key to extend the pitch range. However, for those seeking a long term investment, avoid the intermediate category and invest in a professional oboe.
These are the highest quality instruments, having all the extra features standard for upper level performance such as a wooden body for excellent tone quality. Professional oboes use a full conservatory key system which includes the low B-flat key to extend the lower range of the instrument which is necessary at higher levels of performance.
Manufacturing at this level focuses on optimal sound, response, accurate tuning, and swift key action. If well-maintained, an oboe from a reputable manufacturer can last a musician their entire career and passed down to future generations of musicians.
Oboes can be constructed from several different materials, based on the level of the instrument and desire of the oboist.
All-plastic construction is typically reserved for student instruments since it’s more durable and affordable. Since plastic requires less care than wood, beginners don’t need to worry about their instrument cracking due to weather changes unlike real wood.
Grenadilla wood or a similar dense wood like violetwood or rosewood, produces a dark, desirable sound which is standard on instruments above the student level. These clarinets require extra care because their wooden body swells or shrinks with changing temperatures and humidity. Without proper care and attention the wood will crack, completely ruining the instrument.
At the professional level, oboes will usually have a full conservatory system with all the keys needed for advanced performance. You’ll want to test several key set-ups to determine which extra keys will work for your playing style.
This especially useful key allows oboists to play the F-key with either the right hand (standard) or the left hand, making tricky note passages easier to play.
B-flat and/or F Resonance Keys
These keys can be used to manipulate the tone and tuning on certain pitches for a better sound.
Additional auxiliary options may come standard or optional on many oboes such as left-hand C/D trill, split ring D-sharp trill, G-sharp trill, articulated B to C-sharp mechanism, and B-flat trill keys.
The oboe is played by blowing into a double reed, two thin pieces of wood tied together. When air passes between these reeds, they vibrate against one another which creates the oboe’s signature sound. Oboists will want to make sure their reeds soak in water several minutes before attempting to play them as reeds produce a better response when properly hydrated. Because of their delicate construction, double reeds are fragile and need to be replaced regularly; in fact, a dedicated oboist should always have several on hand.
While pre-made reeds are fine for beginners, players generally learn to handcraft their own reeds using specialized tools and reed blanks cut in the proper size/shape; double-reed players typically report better tonal quality using handmade reeds. There are also specialized reed makers who sell high-quality, handmade oboe reeds for those still learning the craft of reed making or individuals without the time to make their own.
In general, the quality of an oboe is reflected through how much it’s priced. Be wary of instruments which are significantly less expensive than their peers, as cheaply crafted oboes may have poor tone quality and faulty tuning requiring costly repairs or even premature replacement. Sticking with a reputable oboe manufacturer or consulting with music educators and professional oboists will ensure you a solid, long-term investment.