Genuine reviews/opinions from customers who have bought Craven Sonoro / Ridenour Clarinets

New review from delighted customer for the new Sonoro SM clarinet.

Dear Les

Have had the clarinets a week now and I must say I am very pleased with them. Both play very freely and the A is especially nice to play. I am glad I had the extra bells and barrels and cannot wait to play them in the various groups I play with.

Ian Hunt. Essex

From another Customer – Mr Rayneau : I have been teaching myself clarinet for 3 years. I had been playing on a plastic clarinet but decided  to upgrade.  

I emailed Les and told him about my experience and requirements.  He advised me to consider his new Craven Sonoro SM Bb clarinet.  It is made from hard rubber.   Hard rubber has advantages over wood in that it doesn’t warp or crack. 

 I was able to take advantage of a very generous discount which he offers to Nhs employees.  Les says the Sonoro is as good as a professional wooden clarinet costing many thousands of pounds.  I am relatively new to the clarinet world but it feels like a quality instrument to me. It is light, robust and the key work is excellent. The keys fall nicely under my fingers. The intonation is very good.  The whole instrument resonates when you play and even high notes at softer dynamics come out easily.  It is adjusted and tested prior to dispatch.  Included are 2 barrels, standard mouthpiece, cork grease and pull-through and a nice well fitting case. 

I subsequently bought one of his Craven mouthpieces and am getting very good results from this. 

 Customer service is first class with all questions answered promptly. 

 Below are some emails  from delighted customers from all over the world 

James Mainwaring 

Leading freelance clarinettist in London

“Les  – this 576 b Ridenour clarinet is fantastic – so easy to play much less resistance in the bore which means crossing the “breaks” between registers  is so smooth and effortless. It is also so well in tune and the ergonomic register key means much less movement in the left hand thumb.” (thus reducing the risk of RSI -Les)

“Evenness of note from Chalumeau to Altissimo is amazing also. Being made of hard rubber means it is not affected so much by heat or cold and remains stable pitch – wise during a long show. It also means the clarinet will not crack or warp due to extremes of climate.
I was looking for a clarinet to keep in the theatre rather than carry my much more expensive clarinet to the theatre every day (I do not leave the clarinet there as the dry atmosphere has caused many instruments to crack) and now I have found one that has a lovely dark warm sound in all dynamics – Les I am delighted. Best wishes James”                                                                                          

Bart  Watté

Solo Clarinet at Royal Band of the Guides Belgium

Solo clarinettist of Belgium’s most prestigious Band – Bart bought a pair of Ridenour clarinets to use when he does not wish to expose his expensive Selmer clarinets to extreme climatic conditions. “Les the clarinets arrived today in excellent condition – I had high expectations but they exceeded all my expectations and the set up you have done on them is superb – thank you very much” Bart 

Rhys Taylor
This clarinet is really well set up Les – it plays really beautifully thanks Rhys

Left : Rhys Taylor highly sought after freelance player regular deputy in BBC NOW and WNO currently using his newly purchased C in Rigoletto 1st clarinet “Les this is a great little clarinet: in tune, very even and easy to play”.

Fred Carlquist

Professional Jazz / doubling musician / recording artist  in Spain: Fred Carlquist

” It’s the player and not the instrument as they say – but there are exceptions to every rule. The 576bc clarinet I got from Leslie a couple of months ago might be such an exception. The fantastic tuning, even response over registers and general low resistance has really made things way easier and actually helped me to reach a new level as a sax/clarinet doubler.  After consulting Leslie I went for the 576b  with the custom setup and the clarinet plays and feels absolutely fantastic. It  has a big warm and flexible tone just as Leslie described it. Thank you!”
” All the best!  Fred”

About one year later Fredrik sent one of his students to visit me and he also purchased a Ridenour 576b Bb clarinet Dear Leslie  – Anselm my student sounds great on the new clarinet. Quite interesting to see how his sound and phrasing improved thanks to the even scale on the Lyrique. I’m quite addicted to mine I must say. My Selmer series 10 doesn’t get much play time these days. I’ve practised hard the past year and I’m now started to record a jazz clarinet album. I’ll be more than happy to recommend this clarinet and your service to anyone – thanks very much regards Fred

June 2020 -This 5* review from another happy Lyrique 576b customer: “Hi Les The clarinet has arrived. I think it is great.  Intonation is excellent. I am really pleased with my purchase. I think I am going to enjoy playing the clarinet very much. Thank you so much for all the attention you have given me…….. ” Victoria W.

From a customer who bought a 576b clarinet then came back for some ultimax cork grease.…..Hi Les just a quick one to thank you for the great service from yourself l can’t believe how quick l received my cork grease quicker than any other online shop, which matches the service received when l purchased my clarinet from you – would be happy to recommend your services to any clarinetist Les Harris Stoke on trent

This from a professional player / teacher in Germany who needed the clarinet set up to play A442:
“Searching for an affordable bass clarinet for our school orchestra we started from the assumption that compromises were inevitable concerning the tone range, the material, or the overall quality.

The Ridenour 925c bass clarinet proved that this is not necessarily true – it exceeded our expectations in every respect. Thank you, Mr. Ridenour and Mr. Craven for a  very fine instrument” (Matthias Sauerland, music teacher at the Kardinal-von-Galen Gymnasium, Münster/Germany)

Matthias later bought a C clarinet from me
he was so impressed by the bass I also re-tuned his C clarinet to A442
“The Ridenour  C clarinet has a beautiful, rich sound and an even response throughout the registers. It is a professional yet affordable instrument,  and I’m looking forward to playing it in the orchestra and using it for folk music.”
(Matthias Sauerland, Salonorchester Münster/Germ

From a Recent Ridenour 925 Bass client: Hi Les, Hope you are well? I really loved the bass clarinet and was really impressed with how it played, I really don’t think I could tell that it wasn’t wood – I can’t wait to get practicing and get back up to a standard that I’m happy with.Thank you again for all your help with my bass clarinet – I’m loving it! Clarice G.

Principal Clarinettist Longborough Festival Opera and Bass Clarinet tutor Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama : Alison Lambert

Right: Alison Lambert Principal Clarinettist Longborough Festival Opera bought a C clarinet : “this C is lovely to play “

Alison also bought a CRY04 Bass ligature: ” Les – This ligature makes a huge difference, especially to the low end of the Bass”

July 2018 A happy C clarinet customer:Hello Les, Just a short email to confirm that I am more than happy with the Ridenour C clarinet. What a beautiful instrument.   I find it very straightforward to switch from Bb to the C, although, I need some practice to familiarise my fingers to the inevitably closer layout of the key work. The intonations seems to be pretty good and tonally, it is straightforward to avoid a more strident sound one often hears on these smaller clarinets. Thanks all round, Les, for your excellent advice and speedy service. Will certainly recommend you if I hear of a clarinet playing colleague who needs anything which you offer. Many thanks and best regards   Chris “(East Anglia)

William White
August 2018  “I have now owned my Ridenour C clarinet for a few months and couldn’t be happier!

“I am currently working as a freelance clarinet player with orchestras such as Royal Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Welsh National Opera, English Symphony orchestra, London Concert Orchestra, Red Note Ensemble and others and am looking forward to playing my C clarinet as much as possible!”

William White – clarinet

“I came to Les in need of a C clarinet as I had been booked last minute for a run of opera performances that required using one. Les had an instrument ready to go and after playing it for less than 15 minutes I threw it straight in to first rehearsals.”

” C clarinets that I had played in the past (not Ridenour) were hard to play well in tune and weren’t very even in response. To my delight, the Ridenour C clarinet played with immaculate intonation. As is often the case with orchestral music, the clarinets had many phrases in octaves with the bassoons and other woodwinds, which can quickly expose bad intonation. However, this was no problem and I felt that I could both project my sound in solo passages but also, crucially, blend with my colleagues in tutti passages. In fact, one of my colleagues asked if was I transposing some passages onto the Bb and was stunned when I said that I was in fact playing a C clarinet!”

“I believe that the Ridenour C clarinet represents excellent quality and exceptional value”

“Perhaps the best thing about this instrument is that it will never crack! I certainly could not have gone into a dry opera pit with a brand new wooden instrument and have it come through unscathed. Be assured however that the hard rubber body has just as much projection and warmth as a wooden instrument, without the negative aspects that come with wood.   Thanks Les”  – Will White

June 2018  – A satisfied Libertas buyer from Malta – Michael is a friend and a fine player I met years ago when I gave him a master class. Recently he wanted  to buy a Libertas    

Michael Pirotta 

 Professional Maltese freelance clarinettist 

bought a Libertas in Summer 2018                       

“Dear Les, Your service is amazingly good and love the work you have done on the new Libertas. It is so responsive and it seals perfectly , the top register is very easy to play. I am delighted to play on my new  Ridenour clarinet . Tomorrow will play with it in a classical symphonic concert and Saturday another pop gig in Gozo.  Cheers Mike”


from the Czech Republic April 2018 A happy 576b Bb customer – 

I’m very happy with the Ridenour 576b clarinet. I played several years Buffet Crampon B12 (plastic ABS). The Ridenour has richer more colourful sound, the key work is very smooth and easy to play. I’m really happy with this clarinet.   Best regards,  Roman

Busy freelance professional clarinettist Yorkshire – he bought a Bass in 2017 

Michael Grant

 “As someone who does a lot of work in pit orchestras, I find the Ridenour 925c bass clarinet ideal. It is  well designed, reliable and robust, and is always a pleasure to play on. ”                 

A delighted customer in Poland :

Mr Stawieski who bought a Bb 576b in February 2019  : 

“I played for a few moments. I will not send it back for sure 🙂 The mechanism works perfectly. The thing I like most is when playing, the whole instrument resonates, I’ve never had such a warm sound full of overtones. High sounds are beautifully tuned. Playing this instrument is easier. Sounds, or intervals that I was not sure of before, now come out without a problem.”  “I am very pleased. Thank you very much for your help…………..Thomas

29/4/2018 A happy Scandinavian customer who bought a 570c  C

Dear Les  -Yes it all has arrived, and it sounds great! I understood the importance of correct assembly to get the sound right, your drawing was helpful!……. the testing so far gives me a good feeling. It sounds great! Thanks for all hints and tips! Best regards, a happy c and b clarinet owner! 

Thomas   – NORWAY

June 2018  Bass clarinet buyer in East Anglia: 

Played the bass at band last night and all was well – very good projection and it was much admired by my baritone sax buddy. Played with the clarinet choir this afternoon. Those extra three low notes make quite a difference to the whole colour. I’m a happy customer! In brief, It’s so refreshing to buy from someone who cares about giving good value and service and who does what they say they are going to do. Especially, in setting up the clarinet. I have experience of other retailers who claim a ‘pre-sale and pre-delivery check and set up’ who do nothing of the sort and the instrument, on arrival, needs attention before it will play well. So thanks again Les  best wishes John

This customer also from East Anglia sat next to John (above review) in an orchestra when he was playing his Ridenour Bass and came to me on the strength of what she heard and bought a low C 925c Ridenour bass in February 2019  – 

”  The Ridenour quality is really good.  As a Low Eb player I dreamed of a Low C for a long time, until by chance someone played a Ridenour 925c next to me.   Leslie Craven has been of great help. Thanks to him the Bass has been looked after, plays well, has a good response and I look forward to years of joy.” Martine  – Ipswich

Comment from another delighted 925c Low C Bass buyer (April 2018):

I gave the new instrument a good workout yesterday at a Concert Band Workshop hosted by the Wiltshire Police Band, under the direction of the former RAF Principal Director of Music. It, and I, held up very well!!   Tony F.  (experienced clarinet choir player and Bass clarinettist / Contrabass clarinettist)

 Below:  From a customer who bought a C clarinet in April 2018: 

“I’ve recently bought a Ridenour Lyrique C clarinet from Les Craven, having previously owned a wooden C clarinet. I much prefer the Lyrique of the two – I find it to be lively and enjoyable to play, with reliable intonation and a surprising quality of tone. I have previously tried cheaper modern (non-wooden) C clarinets, which I believe were manufactured in China, but have never been impressed by them. The Lyrique also has the advantage of being a comparatively large bodied C clarinet, therefore it feels similar to a normal Bb clarinet to play. I was most impressed with the level of personal customer service supplied by Les Craven.”,  Shirley Exeter

This from a happy 570 C clarinet customer in Orkney Scotland  who bought a 570c clarinet in October 2018

Les – the clarinet did indeed arrive in good condition. I had quite high expectations but these were surpassed within an hour of playing. The sweetness and consistency of tone, the intonation, responsiveness and the ergonomic feel of the instrument makes it pleasingly comfortable to play. I’m absolutely delighted. I personally like nickel keys and the hard rubber. I’ll certainly be considering a Ridenour clarinet when it comes to replacing my Buffet Bb………………………………………..

Thanks again Leslie,  Steve – Orkney

A happy ATG reed system recipient wrote: 

“Thank you Leslie, the package arrived safely and I have been busy renovating reeds I had given up on 21 years ago many of which are good now for practice. This product is excellent and I look forward to working on my next new box of reeds. Thank you for your excellent service and I will contact you in future with a view to purchasing a new clarinet. Yours sincerely,”  E Smith

Another delighted Scottish customer:

“Dear Les
May I take this opportunity to thank you for providing me with a wonderful clarinet and great customer service.
I do not know of any shop sale person that would be so caring and thoughtful as you have been Les.
I would have no hesitation in recommending you to others.
Thanks again Les and thanks for everything. Jim  (Glasgow, Scotland)
Kind Regards” 

This  from  yet  another happy Scottish customer  who bought a Bb then came back to me for a C clarinet After long deliberations, I set my heart on a (U.S.A. based) Ridenour C ‘hard-rubber’ clarinet and was delighted to find there was a U.K. agent, aka Leslie Craven, who not only takes care of the shipping details but checks and sets up each clarinet to ensure post-transit ‘health’.
Les is meticulous not only in his attention to the professional setup of the clarinet, but also in his desire to provide an instrument tweaked to perfection for the individual specifications of the player.
The Ridenour C clarinet itself exceeds its reviews with its amazing tuning, ergonomically designed register key and exquisite mellow tone; this clarinet is an absolute delight to play!!
Due to Les’ attention to detail of both instrument and customer, the whole process from initial communications, individual specifications, speedy and protective delivery to holding a beautiful instrument with stunning tone and quality in my hands was stress-free, efficient and an absolute pleasure.
I can highly recommend both Les Craven and the Ridenour C clarinet to anyone looking to invest in a new clarinet!!!”
I am really enjoying this clarinet, it has done wonders for my confidence as it produces such a lovely reliable sound!!

Kind regards Lynn” (Scotland) (Lynn later also bought a 576Bb she was so delighted with her C clarinet!! – Les)

From Northern Ireland:

“Dear Leslie
Since buying the Libertas clarinet last year I am happy to say my long time interest in “clarinetting” has greatly revived. This is an instrument which easily lives up to the claims of the maker in all ways. The construction is excellent, the key work too. There is absolutely no hint of distortion in any weather or temperature conditions, moist or dry, and the clarinet comes with it’s own very good case. Lastly, I have to say that the price for such a quality instrument is amazing, coming in at some hundreds of pounds less than one might pay for many another top rated clarinet. I should add that, on your expert advice I subsequently invested in a Silverstein ligature which is a revelation for it’s ability to adjust to the players requirements.  Finally, Leslie thank you for your ongoing help and instant response to emails.   “Edward Kearney (N. Ireland)

Another satisfied Libertas customer from the Czech Republic :

“I have been playing a Lyrique Libertas Bb clarinet for 9 months and have a great feeling about it. Compared to my previous student level wooden instrument (famous make) the Libertas feels much more mature. I liked my old instrument but the Libertas has something more to it , it allows me to go much further when I blow ( – my breath seems to take me further) and I was surprised when I realised this……………….I feel pretty secure with the new instrument and Leslie was really friendly and helpful not only during the discussions before ordering but also when I began to play the instrument and needed some clarification regarding fingerings and other related things after the purchase….Thank you Leslie and it is great to know there is a top professional player able and willing to support even at distance…..I also play Leslie’s mouthpiece now and after some transitional period settled on it and more often  I experience these moments when I and all around me know  “it is there”      Bob Popek ( Czech  Republic)

From a 570c  C clarinet customer in Zurich Switzerland:

“Finding a good C clarinet was something that occupied my attention for a long time. The quality of the two C clarinets I bought before (not  Ridenour clarinets I hasten to add) were extremely disappointing: I returned both a couple of weeks after buying them. I had read about Ridenour C clarinets before, but did not want to spend so much money without testing the product first. This is where Leslie came in. When I went to the UK on holidays last year, I asked Leslie if I could stop by his house to try and buy the C clarinet. The rest is history. Leslie was extremely hospitable and gave me great advice and support. As someone else already said: completely beyond the call of duty. The clarinet itself is fantastic. The mechanics are solid, the sound is rich, full, completely stable and reliable in all registers. I can full heartedly recommend anyone to buy Ridenour clarinets. I currently have an A and Bb clarinet from ‘one of the two famous French brands’; I have no doubt that if I ever need to replace one of them, I would buy a Ridenour. I would also definitely buy them through Leslie. The level of quality control and (after) sales support he offers is second to none!”          Dirk (Zurich – Switzerland)

This below from  a player in the South of Ireland who purchased a Bb Lyrique Libertas

Les, The clarinet arrived early this afternoon and the initial impression is very good. On testing out of the box, the clarinet is lightweight, free blowing and very accurate intonation. I look forward to playing on it over the next few weeks and hopefully its light weight will allow me to comfortably play the clarinet for many years to come…………. John 

(a few months later I followed up with a courtesy email to ask how John was getting on with the clarinet)

John replied:

“Les, great to hear from you and hope all is well with you. I am really enjoying playing the Libertas, I have played it in rehearsals and performances. I am really pleased with the tone and intonation and the lighter weight of the instrument. The extra work you did makes it a very satisfying instrument to play…………………” ..John – Ireland

This : From another delighted C clarinet customer in the North of England:

Thanks Leslie I’ve received my clarinet and trying it out.   I’m very pleased with it.  ”    Thanks Again Ruth

This from a customer who bought a slightly used 576Bb at a bargain price:

“The clarinet sounds really nice, even in my somewhat inexpert hands. So thanks again for all of your help and advice ” BW,

Dave (Whaley Bridge)

Another satisfied C clarinet customer in Sussex : 

“The clarinet arrived safely today and I have enjoyed playing it this afternoon. It works very well and is nicely in tune throughout the range.” Best wishes,   Melville

Even sales of accessories receive high praise from top pro players  from Royal Opera House Principal Clarinettist : “Hi Les “Got back from a little holiday yesterday and the block was there. Super efficient service, thanks. Thanks for the paper and info etc., also, much appreciated.”    

Tim Orpen (Principal Clarinet of the orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden)

Another happy Bass customer in Colchester Essex :Hi Les The bass is great and can get up to C in the altissimo very smoothly. ……. Overall a great bass and am happy to know it will never crack. All the best” Ian  Essex