Why Oboes Are So Expensive

Insider Business visited Mike Dadson at Howarth of London to learn about the materials that go into making an oboe and why the instrument is so much more expensive than other woodwind instruments.

A specialized woodwind with a wistful yet powerful tone, the oboe is one of the most expensive instruments you can buy. Professional-grade oboes can sell for almost $14,000. That’s more than four times the price of some professional flutes.

The cost mainly comes from the expensive and extremely rare African blackwood, which requires special permits and dispensations, particularly for importation. The instrument is also very difficult to build.

Oboes are one of the most complicated instruments to make, and because they’re prone to cracking, high-end oboes have to be made of the best materials, like this African blackwood. …The most valuable part of a log is the heart, which becomes the basis of the oboe.

The key work is also a large part of the expense.

The complexity of the key work determines the price. The more keys in the oboe, the more expensive it will be. A clarinet has 17 keys typically, whereas an oboe has almost double that as a student model.

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