Best Saxophone Brands | Alto Sax Reviews for 2019

“Don’t play the saxophone, let the saxophone play you.” These immortal words by Charlie Parker help to underpin the importance of finding your perfect match in the world of saxophones.

Finding the best saxophone is not as simple as walking into a store and handing over cash for the closest instrument. Finding your ideal match takes time and research, as well as a good understanding of just what it is you want.

To help make your life easier, we have done the hard work for you, putting together the best saxophone brands for your perusal to help take you one step closer to the instrument of your dreams.

Our Top Pick

Our top pick today is the Jean Paul TS-400 Tenor Saxophone; this is a gorgeous sax which offers top-quality sound in a stunning casing. It includes everything you could need to get started straight away and is an excellent pick for both students and more experienced players looking for a change. Jean Paul is also famous for their superb customer service, allowing you to browse and buy with the utmost confidence.

Reviews of the Best Saxophone Brands

Jean Paul TS-400 Tenor Saxophone -Best Overall

Beautiful, powerful, and designed to capture attention, this Jean Paul model is a fantastic choice for beginners and experienced players alike and tops our ‘best saxophone’ list for all these reasons.

 

Key Features

  • Includes carry case with pockets to keep your instrument safe
  • Comes in key Bb
  • Yellow brass body
  • Weighs 15 pounds
  • Comes with accessories to get started

 

What I Like About This Product

This is a stunning instrument which is perfect for those looking to make a long-term investment in their saxophone-playing careers. The finish is stunning, and there is the bonus that all replacement parts and servicing can be sourced directly from the manufacturer.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

There are some issues with the octave of this instrument, but this is easily sorted by tuning and a chat with Jean Paul’s customer support.

 

Pros

  • Heavy, durable finish for longevity
  • Includes everything you need to get started
  • Stunning gold finish
  • Parts can all be replaced by the manufacturer to prevent you from needing to buy a whole new sax
  • Versatile and suitable for a range of players
  • Great intonation and range

Cons

  • Some issues have been reported with the instrument playing at the wrong octave

 

This model is a versatile, flexible saxophone which is bound to appeal to a wide range of players. With high-quality sound, an attractive finish, and an excellent reputation, you can rest easy knowing you have backed a winner if you invest in this offering from Jean Paul—these are people who know their trade.

 

Overall Rating: 10/10

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Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L+92D+PB Gold Lacquer E Flat Alto Saxophone -Best Alto

If we had a top choice for the best alto saxophone, this Mendini would definitely be a prime contender. Handcrafted and assembled, this model has an attention to detail that is rarely seen in an instrument in this price range.

 

Key Features

  • Faux mother of pearl inlays
  • Contoured keys for easy playing
  • Bore, ribbed construction
  • Gold lacquered body and keys
  • Includes a hard-shell case to protect your sax
  • Comes with ten reeds, gloves, and a cleaning cloth
  • Weighs 9.7 pounds
  • Handcrafted parts

 

What I Like About This Product

This instrument feels far heavier and better quality than the price tag suggests—you are getting a great deal for your money. The sound is fantastic, and this is a top choice for beginners who are just getting started playing the sax.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The quality of the mouthpieces are not great, but this is easily sorted by purchasing some at a higher quality if required.

 

Pros

  • Handcrafted and assembled for the best quality
  • Includes everything you need to get started straight away
  • Stunning design with great attention to detail
  • Smooth, sweet sound

 

Cons

  • The mouthpieces are not of a good quality
  • Warranty only lasts for a year

 

Cecilio has struck gold again with their Mendini offering, combining casual elegance with a great sound. Perfect for beginners, this sax offers everything you need to start with a bang, though there might be some issues with the quality of the mouthpiece—this does tend to be a personal preference.

 

Overall Rating: 8/10

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Yamaha YAS-480 Intermediate Eb Alto Saxophone

Lightweight, sturdy, and with a revolutionary new octave system, this Yamaha model has a lot to offer for a surprisingly affordable price! A top pick of students everywhere, you can count on this brand for good quality and steady instruments at an affordable price range.

 

Key Features

  • Comes in keys constructed from metal, and hand-engraved for that extra special touch
  • Includes keyguard
  • Enhanced neck, compatible with custom EX and Z Yamaha necks
  • Left-hand seesaw key
  • Silver plated
  • Easily adjustable keys

 

What I Like About This Product

This Yamaha sax offers an authentic and clear sound and will be a great encouragement to players of all levels. The finish is simple and stunning, and this is a high-quality instrument which should last for years to come.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The high price may be off-putting for some players, but it is well worth it for the top-quality finish of this piece.

 

Pros

  • Comes ready tuned
  • Hand engravings add a real sense of luxury to the instrument
  • Choice of neck to offer more flexibility to players
  • Versatile and suitable for a range of abilities
  • Stunning finish and great craftsmanship

 

Cons

  • Made in Japan – may be a worry for some buyers
  • High price tag

 

As we have come to expect from Yamaha, this is a good quality instrument, which is the perfect choice for students, beginners, and those looking to build and develop their sax skills. With beautiful hand engravings adding a touch of class and sophistication, this is a reliable and sensible choice which players of all stages will be happy with.

 

Overall rating: 9/10

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Windsor MI-1005 Student Alto Saxophone -Best for Students

Perfect for casual hobbyists and enthusiasts, this Windsor option has an excellent reputation as being amongst the best saxophone brands for students.

 

Key Features

  • Includes responsive stainless-steel springs
  • Suitable for players up to grade 5 – perfect for beginner and intermediate level players
  • Brass body with lacquer finish
  • Engraved bell for an additional touch
  • Premium pads
  • Pearloid keycaps
  • Includes a lightweight case for protection and portability
  • Comes with a cleaning kit and neck strap
  • Weighs 4.8 pounds

 

What I Like About This Product

This model is a solid choice for a beginner’s saxophone—the quality is good for the price, and the overall appearance of the instrument is pleasant and appealing. It can also be played straight from the box for the utmost convenience.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

Some of the pads are a little sticky, and this can cause a lifting action in some of the notes played, making them less responsive.

 

Pros

  • Ideal for beginners and those looking to take the next step
  • Engraved bell adds a special touch
  • Comes with protective carry case
  • Can be played straight from the box with no assembly

 

Cons

  • Some keys are a little sticky, and this affects the quality of the notes
  • Setting of infrastructures is very tight – may require regular maintenance

 

This beginner offering from Windsor could be a perfect fit for a student, or those looking to bridge the gap from total newbie to intermediate level. The engravings add a sense of elegance and an expensive feel to the instrument, while the good-quality parts combine to create a pleasant and accurate sound.

 

Overall Rating: 9/10

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Ammoon Antique Finish Bend Eb E-flat Alto Saxophone

This is quite simply a gorgeous instrument which can be snapped up for an affordable price, allowing you to get your hands on something glorious even on a tight budget.

 

Key Features

  • Tuned to Eb, F, and F#
  • Constructed from bronze with an antique finish
  • Includes carrying case to protect the saxophone
  • Weighs 5.8 pounds
  • Included cleaning kit and reeds

 

What I Like About This Product

This sax first appealed to me due to the unique and beautiful appearance, and I am proud to report that it impresses me in almost every category. The tone is sweet and accurate, and this is a great starter item before you invest in something more expensive later down the line.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The mouthpiece and reeds that come with the sax are not the best quality, but this is no great surprise considering the overall price. These can easily be upgraded, though of course, this is an extra expense.

 

Pros

  • Stunning antique design
  • Feels very high-quality and more expensive than the actual price
  • Tuned to three keys
  • Includes accessories such as mouthpiece

 

Cons

  • Mouthpiece, which is included is poor quality and cheap – really disappointing considering the attention detail elsewhere in the instrument.

 

The stunning look of this sax is its top selling point, and it adds to this appearance with quality sound. The standard of the mouthpiece is disappointing, but this is something which can be relatively easily rectified with an adjustment and additional purchase from another brand.

 

Overall rating: 9/10

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Roy Benson RBAS202K

With a reputation for excellence, as a company, Roy Benson has established themselves as being amongst the best saxophone brands. This sax is perfect for students or those looking for a new hobby.

 

Key Features

  • Includes high F# key, as well as C# – Bb connected table key
  • Hardened blue steel springs
  • Made from a brass body, with anthracite black lacquer
  • Brass lacquered keys
  • Weighs: 12.3 pounds
  • Includes a carry case with backpack assembly
  • Comes with mouthpiece, strap, and cleaning cloth

 

What I Like About This Product

As I would expect from Roy Benson, this is a sax made of good quality metal and constructed carefully to produce the best possible results. It is super easy to use, allowing for good key action and is a reliable choice for newbies getting to grips with the instrument.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The only real criticism I can make is that this is rather cheap compared to other products from the brand, and more experienced players are likely to want something sturdier and more comprehensive for their money.

 

Pros

  • Good quality metal
  • Careful construction
  • Solid brass body
  • Great offering from a respected brand

 

Cons

  • A little on the cheap side compared to other products in the range – probably not suitable for experienced or professional players

 

Roy Benson once again proves that they deserve their sterling reputation with this solid, well-constructed and attractive sax offering. The brass body is durable and hard wearing, and the overall sound is high-quality and on a level with that produced by more expensive offerings.

 

Overall rating: 10/10

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Etude EAS-100 Student Alto Saxophone

This Etude model is one of the best alto saxophone models out there. It is reliable, durable, and can be played straight away— perfect for your first foray into the saxophone world.

 

Key Features

  • Key is Bb
  • Constructed from lightweight metal
  • Super reliable brand
  • Can be adjusted easily by beginners
  • High-quality bell brace
  • Includes carrying case and accessories
  • Weighs 9.8 pounds

 

 What I Like About This Product

This model is a great starter instrument and clearly designed for beginners and those in the early stages of lessons. The sound is good and clear, and it is effortless to play straight out of the box—perfect if you are still new to the nuances which can come with sax playing.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

My main issue with the Etude model is that it looks and feels a little cheap compared to other options in the price range. This aspect does not detract from the good-quality sound but is a bit disappointing when you see what else is on offer for a budget price.

 

Pros

  • Easy to play and adjust even for beginners
  • Very lightweight and easy to handle
  • Clear, pure sound
  • Set up to help beginners as much as possible

 

Cons

  • Feels very cheap
  • Not particularly durable compared to other products

 

Perfect for beginners, this is an affordable and cheerful choice which will help newbies to decide whether the sax is the instrument for them. An excellent pick for those just getting started.

 

Overall Rating: 9/10

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Lazarro Professional Eb E Flat Alto Saxophone with Black-Gold Keys

For a fun and unique twist on the traditional saxophone, this Lazzaro model is the perfect pick. It is suitable for almost any occasion and is sure to produce a fantastic talking point!

 

Key Features

  • Metal thumb rest
  • High F# and front F key
  • Available in a wide range of colors
  • Made from brass
  • Includes a hand-engraved bell decoration
  • Metal resonators and leather pads
  • Comes with eleven reeds and accessories
  • Includes carry case

 

What I Like About This Product

Considering that it is a little-known brand, they still pull out all the stops to produce a good-quality instrument which is on a par with some established household names. It feels heavy and sturdy rather than flimsy and cheap and offers outstanding quality sound. A real hidden gem!

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

It is tough to find anything to criticize with this product, especially considering the low price you pay. Any issue is likely to emerge down the line after a few months of playing.

 

Pros

  • Variety of colors available
  • Brass construction for durability
  • Close attention to detail throughout the instrument
  • Comes with everything you need to get started, including a carry case

 

Cons

  • The mouthpiece is not very good quality compared to the rest of the instrument

 

The durable and sturdy feel of this sax is surprising considering the low price tag and is a reflection of the excellent quality which is offered throughout the instrument. The range of colors adds an element of fun to the playing experience and allows you to pick the option which best suits your lifestyle, needs, and preferences.

 

Overall rating: 9/10

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Legacy AS750 Student/Intermediate Alto Saxophone

For those beginners looking for an instrument to take them to the next level, this Legacy option is the best alto saxophone for your needs. It is a fantastic bridge choice and can help you develop your skills and take the next step.

 

Key Features

  • Good key spacing – ideal for beginner and intermediate level players
  • Clear jazz style
  • Clear lacquer body
  • Weighs 7 pounds
  • Key is Bb and F
  • Includes mouthpiece, neck strap, and carry case

 

What I Like About This Product

This sax is fantastic for students and comes ready assembled with a reed in place to let you start playing straight away—a real bonus! The overall appearance is shiny and high-quality, and the case is well cushioned to ensure that your instrument stays protected.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The mouthpiece is not the best quality, and you are likely to want to replace it with a superior option. It also has very sharp edges, so watch out. In addition, the ligature is very thin and slightly bent, making it hard for the reed to make contact effectively, and the neck strap is also uncomfortable and poorly padded.

 

Pros

  • Easy to use for beginners – good, clear key spacing
  • Comes in two keys
  • Offers a great jazz style
  • High-quality finish
  • Comes ready assembled

 

Cons

  • The mouthpiece is a little sharp and quite poor quality
  • Ligature is low quality and makes it hard to connect with the reed
  • Neck strap poorly padded – very uncomfortable

 

A great choice for players who are confident at a beginner level and need a reliable and flexible instrument which can take them up to intermediate and beyond. You may have to replace a few parts to really make it shine, though.

 

Overall Rating: 10/10

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Yamaha YAS-82ZII Custom Z Alto Saxophone

Yamaha: a brand so great we included it twice! Top quality craftsmanship and a stunning finish combine to make this alto saxophone a must-see for players of all levels. This sax is a top-quality, professional standard piece at a super affordable budget.

 

Key Features

  • Elaborate vintage engravings for a superior finish
  • Metal resonators for a wider dynamic range
  • Clear pronunciation
  • Wide bore V1 neck for flexibility
  • Low B – C connection with a strong seal allows for clear responses
  • Adjustable front F key
  • Includes slim, lightweight case and shoulder strap
  • Weighs 14.9 pounds

 

What I Like About This Product

This sax is a truly magnificent instrument which earns each and every penny of the high price tag. The engravings create a luxurious feel, and the alto sound is of the very highest quality, making this instrument an absolute pleasure to play.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

The only criticism I can find is the very high price tag, but I would argue that this sax is well worth it, especially for professionals.

 

Pros

  • A really stunning instrument
  • Gorgeous vintage engravings
  • Flexible neck for real versatility
  • Comes with case and shoulder strap
  • Clear, pure pronunciation

 

Cons

  • Very expensive price tag
  • Very heavy

 

The beauty of this saxophone does not need stating; it is a stunning and genuinely glorious instrument, which is sure to please anyone who has the fortune to play it. The price tag may seem high, but it is well worth the top-quality materials, delicate hand engravings, and excellent sound which are offered by this sax. A real treat to play and own, this is one for serious sax lovers.

 

Overall Rating: 10/10

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Professional Eb Alto Saxophone

For a professional standard on an amateur budget, you could do much worse than this alto choice. With everything you need to elevate your playing standard, this is ideal for those starting to take the saxophone seriously.

 

Key Features

  • Instrument key is F
  • Made from solid brass with a luxurious gold finish
  • Weighs 10 pounds
  • Includes a great carrying case with zippers and pockets
  • Includes cleaning kit and accessories
  • Professional level

 

What I Like About This Product

The low price of this sax is a red herring—this is a real steal as a top-quality instrument for a budget price. Though targeted at students, the great sound quality means that this could be easily suitable for more experienced players, or even pros as a spare instrument.

 

What I Don’t Like About This Product

One of the only issues with this piece is that replacement parts are very very expensive and tricky to source, meaning you will likely have to replace the entire instrument if something goes wrong—not great for the planet or your wallet!

 

Pros

  • Solid brass – sturdy and durable
  • Stunning golden finish for an extra touch of class
  • Comes ready tuned
  • Great sound

 

Cons

  • Very hard to replace or repair parts

 

At first glance, this feels like a standard budget saxophone. On closer inspection, however, we are able to see that this is actually a very good-quality instrument masquerading as a budget option. It is a solid, attractive construction which offers a clear, authentic sound and is a great but for both beginners and those with a little more experience.

 

Overall Rating: 10/10

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Saxophone Buying Guide

Buying a saxophone is an involved decision, and there is a range of factors to consider. When picking the best saxophone for your needs, here are some of the top considerations you will need to bear in mind:

 

Should You Buy New or Used?

This question is an ongoing debate when it comes to purchasing a saxophone, and the choice comes down mainly to personal preference. No matter which you decide to go for, you should always make sure that you try and purchase your instrument from a professional and respected music shop which has a specialist in saxophones. These experts will be able to give you personalized and tailored advice as to the best pick for you.

A used instrument can be ideal for those who find themselves on a budget and are looking to test out whether this is the instrument for them before they make a large financial investment. There is a huge range of options to choose from, and so you are very likely to be able to find something in your price range, which is good quality and suits your needs.

In addition to a cost-effective option, older instruments can benefit from superior materials and craftsmanship and will offer unique engravings and frills which are absent from modern offerings. The brass is likely to be stiffer and stronger, and the surfaces will be plated instead of lacquered— this can result in the instrument being more hardwearing and long lasting.

There are some red flags to consider if you decide to go for a used instrument. Make sure you do your research thoroughly before you commit to a purchase; while most vendors are decent and honest, there will always be a few who see the chance to take advantage of a newbie and overcharge you for an item which just isn’t worth the cash.

There is also a risk of coming across a stolen sax when you are buying used. Common warning signs include a missing or filed down serial number, a school name painted on the case, a strangely low price, suspicious behavior from the seller, such as anxiety about showing the instrument or someone with patchy or no knowledge, and of course your faithful gut feelings. If you have any suspicions, get yourself out of the situation and let somebody know.

If you have the money to spend, or simply want peace of mind for your purchase, a new sax could be the ideal way to go. You have the advantage and satisfaction of knowing that the instrument is 100-percent yours, and this also means there is a lower risk of things going wrong. Everything will be in new condition, and hopefully covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, and you get that fantastic ‘new item’ feeling which just isn’t the same with a used sax.

The flip side, of course, is that new instrument can be costly, and it is worth taking the time to shop around. Do your research carefully, and make sure you ask plenty of questions to ensure you bag the very best bargain and the best fit for you.

 

Student or Pro?

This point is another important decision to make when buying your new sax. For beginners, student models are perfect, and they often offer extras and benefits to make learning easier. They also tend to be much cheaper, which is a bonus if you are not sure you will commit to the instrument long-term.

Some models, including some we looked at above, will act as ‘bridges’ and are ideal for intermediate players. They take you out of total newbie territory but have a lower price tag than the serious professional models.

The main difference between student and professional saxophones can usually be seen in the materials and craftsmanship. Student models tend to be more hardwearing and able to withstand the drops, mistakes, and issues which come from student playing. Heavy duty-lacquer is common, as are stronger bell-braces, side-rod configurations, and nickel-silver rods. They tend to be bulkier in appearance and may lack the nuances and attention to detail offered by some more expensive professional models.

Intermediate models will straddle the student/professional border and are the next step up. They will feel and handle more like professional saxophones but will lack the fullness of tone that these enjoy. Like the student options, they lack high level detailing and cosmetic additions and are again built for practicality and to equip and suit a learning musician.

Professional level saxophones are another step up and offer better quality in tone, response, and intonation. They provide delicate features and more intense handwork, such as hand hammered keys, delicate engraving, and special touches which let you know that these are top quality instruments. The highest quality metals and materials are used, including on the soders and alloys, and this takes your playing to another level, offering full expressiveness and an advanced, top-quality tune.

Body Construction

Body construction is another element to take into consideration when choosing your instrument. Saxophones come with ribbed or non-robbed construction. Most modern instruments are ribbed, and this may be a deciding factor in whether you go for new or used.

These terms refer to how the posts attach to the body—the posts are the knobs which protrude from the body to hold the keys. Individual posts will be attached to sheets or plates of brass using a high-temperature brazing material or solder. The ribs help to strengthen the bonds between the posts and the body, and this helps to keep the instrument in adjustment for a longer period.

In the US, most vintage and student saxophones tend to be non-ribbed, and this makes them lighter and easier to maneuver. They also make tone production easier for those still finding their feet with the instrument.

 

Material and Finish

Choosing the ideal material for your sax is also important. Most will come with yellow brass bodes, and this provides the typical look most of us are used to seeing on these instruments. Other options available include bronze, sterling silver, or copper, and these combinations can be all over or focused on the bells, bodies, or necks of the sax.

The material will affect the tone, as well as severely impact the cost of the instrument. A more expensive material will also require careful handling, and the material quality tends to increase as you advance up the professional ladder. Most top-level players will seek a distinctive and individual look and tone to help set their identity.

Most saxophones will be finished in clear lacquer, though an array of alternatives are also available including colored or pigmented lacquers, silver plated, nickel-plated, black nickel-plate, and vintage or antique finishes.

 

Additional keys

Almost all modern saxophones will comer with a high F# key, though this note can also be played even if the key is missing. Many soprano saxes will also offer a high G key—again, this can be played on instruments without a dedicated key. For some altos, a C~ resonance key is added – this helps to improve the sound and clarity of middle C, and is a popular addition for many alto players. Most baritone saxophones will also offer a low A, but again, this is a personal choice.

Picking whether to include extra keys and just what these may entail, is an important part of choosing your instrument. In the beginning, you are less likely to be bothered or affected by this— the focus is on learning to play the basics. As you advance, however, your playing style will start to emerge, and this will help to direct your choices one way or another as you experiment with different sounds and tones.

Saxophone necks

Sometimes, you will find yourself in a position where you are happy with every aspect of your sax—apart from the tone you are getting. Rather than having to spend money on a brand-new instrument, one popular alternative is to upgrade the neck.

This option is particularly popular with Yamaha instruments, and this brand, in particular, make the process easy and simple with lots of choice and variety available. Changing and upgrading the neck can have a hugely dramatic impact on the sound and tone of your sax, as well as the responsiveness, and is a much cheaper and more accessible alternative than having to shell out for a whole new instrument, especially if you are playing with more costly equipment at the higher levels.

 

Accessories

While not a necessity, there are some accessories that are nice to have—and sometimes you can find them bundled with saxophones whether you buy new or used.

Especially if you’re a beginner, bundles can be a great way to save money. Just remember that bundled accessories are only worth it if they aren’t low quality and don’t increase the price more than you would pay buying them separately—always price compare! Some of the most common saxophone accessories include a hard case, neck strap, extra reeds, cleaning tools, and stands.

 

Final Thoughts

Purchasing a saxophone is a big decision, and there are a lot of different elements and factors to consider, as well as a wide variety of choice available.

Our top pick, the Jean Paul TS-400 Tenor Saxophone, offers a stunning body and casing which is combined with top-quality materials for a fantastic and authentic sound. It is suitable for players of all levels and has the same benefits no matter where you are at on your musical journey.

Your ideal instrument will change according to our experience level, budget, playing style, and personal preference. By making sure you have done your research, you can make a solid investment, confident in the knowledge that you are going to play and sound your very best with each and every note.

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