Instrument Buying Guide
I highly recommend Fox or Renard oboes for students who are starting out. They are the best value that I have seen for correct pitch, balanced resistance/resonance, sturdy keys and mechanisms, and good factory pads and set-up. Without naming names, a lot of other popular brands tend to have serious pitch flaws, soft key work that goes out of adjustment easily, strange resistance/stuffiness, and/or poor quality pads that do not work well.
Fox oboes are expensive. If a new oboe is beyond your budget, I recommend finding a good deal on a used instrument. Your teacher may know of someone who has a good oboe that they would like to sell, or RDG and other oboe shops frequently have used instruments available on consignment. This can save you a lot of money, just be sure that your teacher approves of the instrument before you agree to purchase it. A "trial" period is fairly common even with used instruments. You may also want to plan to get a used instrument cleaned or at least checked up by an oboe repair specialist.
What about plastic? People say that plastic oboes sound bad, and wood ones sound much better. This is simply not true. Of course there are a lot of plasic instruments that are very poor, but this is due to a lack of precision, quality control, research and development, and fine finishing steps within the manufacturing process. Additionally, there are a lot of wood oboes out there that are poor choices due to similar flaws. A plastic Fox or Renard oboe that has been properly maintained has a wonderful characteristic oboe sound. Plus, they do not crack or have open wood grain on the tone holes, two problems which cause severe air leaks and require expensive repairs.