I was greeted by couple of packages from Vandoren when I returned from my recent trip to GA. This time, in addition to my regular V12 reeds, I asked for few products I wanted to try out, including HRC20 Hygro Reed Case, Juno reeds (great reeds for beginners and young students), 5RVs, and the recently announced V21 reeds.
My primary choice for reeds has been Vandoren V12 3.5+ and occasionally rue lepic (I have not used Traditional reeds for many years). Naturally I was anticipating some good results with V21 since it "combines the conical shape of a 56 rue epic reeds with a V12 profile" (you can read more about it here).
It is very difficult to precisely describe the particular tendencies of different lines of reed. However, I will try to generalize the characteristics of V12 and rue lepic based on hundreds of reeds I have used over the course of many years. I find that V12 reeds have a very strong core that enables great focus, direct response, and intensity in sound. When the reed is well balanced, it allows both full elastic projection and subtle responses to great satisfaction. On a downside, I find V12 sometimes results in a bit sharp, edgy (even thin) sound with slightly abundant resistance. Rue lepic, on the other hand, feels warmer, more even throughout, and more refined, but I miss the strong center that I enjoy in V12 (on a simplest term, it just feels softer than what I would like).
I was advised to try V21 3.5 and 3.5+ to my current setup--M13 Lyre. The immediate reaction was highly encouraging.
After playing for few minutes, I was convinced that the V21 is really a good compromise of what I wished to have from both V12 and rue lepic. V21 3.5+ felt a bit harder than V12 3.5+, but I could make both V21 3.5 and 3.5+ work for my current setup. To me V21 felt closer to rue lepic than V12 but with much improvement, particularly on its center and strength. The sound is very even and well refined. Articulation and maintaining good intonation is easy, too. I plan on playing both V12 and V21 for a while.
Quick note on HRC20 Hygro Reed Case: these reed cases are super light and easy to use/refill (with humidity control). Check out a video made by David Gould at Vandoren website here.