Top 10 Best Saxophones in 2020 – Reviews and Buying Guide
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A saxophone is a beautiful instrument, and with the resurgence of vinyl records and old-school music, more and more people are picking up on the trend. If you’re one of them and are looking for the best sax for the buck, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve scrounged the market for the best saxophone available in the year of 2021 and have come up with a list of the 10 exceptional models from world class giants such as Yamaha, Selmer, Jean Paul, and such. Without any further ado, let’s get straight to the reviews.
Top 10 Saxophones Comparison Chart – Highest Value Models
Yamaha YTS 62III Tenor Saxophone
Polyester key buttons, hand engraved bell decoration, adjustable thumb rest, complementary backpack style carry case
Selmer SAS280 La Voix II Saxophone
Characteristically warm sound, yellow brass construction, nylon resonator, black nickel plating
Yamaha YAS-280 Saxophone
Gold lacquer finish, Aux keys High F# & front F, complementary neck strap
Jean Paul USA TS 400
Brass construction, lacquer finish, engraved bell decoration, complementary carry case, Rico reed, cork grease, and cleaning cloth
Jean Paul USA AS-400
Eb key, lacquer finish, nylon resonators, comes outfitted with a Rico Reed, cork grease, a set of gloves, and a cleaning cloth
Kaizer Alto Saxophone 1000 Series
Durable leatherette pads, steel springs, Eb key, available in nickel, black nickel, and lacquer finish
Ammoon Antique Finish Eb key Alto saxophone
E-flat key, bronze build, antique finish, water resistant pads, comes outfitted with a carry case, a mouthpiece, a cleaning cloth, and a set of gloves
Eastar AS II Alto Saxophone
Copper build, leather pads, blue-copper needle spring, comes with a carry case, a mouthpiece sat, cork grease, and a leather strap
Mendini By Cecilio MAS-L Saxophone
Gold lacquer finish, Eb key, large bore, fully ribbed construction, pearl inlays, comes with a hard shell carry case, a neck strap and 10 reeds
LazarroEb Alto Saxophone
Black/gold finish, comes with a mouthpiece, ligature, a fabric case, a neck strap, a cleaning cloth, a cleaning rod, and a pack of white gloves
1. Yamaha YTS 62III Professional Tenor Saxophone
Let’s start off our review of the best saxophone models with Yamaha’s YTS 62III. Essentially, this is one of the finest, best sounding saxophones you could get for the money as it boasts unparalleled performance, durability, and intonation.
This saxophone sounds absolutely fantastic. It features a set of very playable keys and excels in pretty much every field of performance. In terms of aesthetics, you can opt between gold and silver plated finish.
In terms of sound, Yamaha’s YTS 62III practically has no equal. It offers a huge range of available tones and it sounds exquisitely authentic. Of course, this is only to be expected from one of the best saxophone models in the upper bracket of the boutique category.
There’s one more feature that contributes to its overall value. You will benefit from a complementary hard shell case for easier transportation of your YTS 62III.
The only bad thing about it is that it costs a lot. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive saxophones out there, so be prepared to start saving up if you like it.
2. Selmer SAS 280 La Voix II Alto Saxophone
Next up is Selmer’s SAS 280 La Voix II Alto saxophone. Essentially, the SAS 280 brings a wide variety of benefits to the table, including a remarkably robust construction, a beautiful design, and a set of tone keys that are very easy to play.
First things first, the Selmer’s SAS 280 La Voix II Alto saxophone features a full yellow brass construction. This saxophone is remarkably sturdy; it’s obvious that it was made to last for decades, if not more.
In terms of sax geometry, it was built in a very traditional manner. The tonal qualities it provides are very authentic, perhaps a bit accentuated on the warmer side.
Although Selmer’s SAS 280 La Voix II Alto is a professional saxophone, it’s actually pretty decent for intermediate level players as well. The keys are very responsive and placed in a convenient way with optimal space between them.
Aesthetic wise, there are three finishes for you to choose from, including the black nickel, copper body complemented with the yellow-brass bell, and plain lacquer. Just like our previous pick, this saxophone is also pretty expensive, but it holds a substantial value for the cash.
We’ve seen what Yamaha’s YTS 62III can offer, so we decided to add another one of their models – the YAS 280 Alto Saxophone. Note that these saxophones are from different series and are pretty much nothing alike.
Firstly, the YAS 280 Alto Saxophone is a beginner’s saxophone, as opposed to YTS 62III which is made for professional saxophonists. It features a set of highly responsive keys and packs a lightweight, but highly durable frame. Moreover, it features a rather basic lacquer finish which doesn’t necessarily contribute to its performance, but it does provide a protective layer against oxidation.
One of the most distinguishable features of Yamaha’s YAS 280 is its ergonomic design. The thumb rest is fully adjustable and allows for easy finger positioning.
The only thing that you might not like about it so much is that it’s quite expensive for a beginner, but it’s well worth the buck due to all the benefits it brings to the table.
4.Jean Paul USA TS 400 Tenor Saxophone
Jean Paul USA TS 400 Tenor Saxophone
Here we’re looking at the first Jean Paul USA saxophone in our review, and it just so happens that it’s one of the best tenor saxophone models you can get for the money. It comes supplied with a set of power-forged keys that are exceptionally responsive, as well as a set of tapered pivot-keys. They are the reason why the TS 400 is absolutely adored by beginners and intermediate level players alike.
The Jean Paul USA TS 400 Tenor Saxophone features a full yellow brass construction with a lacquer finish, so not only is it durable, but it looks just the part. It also packs a beautifully engraved bell. If the lacquer finish isn’t to your liking, the TS 400 also comes in the silver plated variation.
The reason why this is one of the best saxophone models out there is because it comes supplied with a wide variety of complementary accessories. Namely, the bundle includes a contoured durable carry case that substantially improves its transportability, as well as a Rico Reed, a cork grease, a cleaning cloth, some swabs, and a mouthpiece.
It’s not the cheapest of saxophones in the medium price point category, but it’s certainly far from being expensive. The only problem people seem to have with this saxophone bundle is not with the instrument itself, rather it’s the complementary carry case that’s troublesome. It’s not exactly durable.
5. Jean Paul USA AS 400 Alto Saxophone
The saxophones made by Jean Paul USA are truly wonderful, so we’ve decided to review their alto model just after the tenor. Namely, the Jean Paul AS 400 is just as great as the last one we’ve covered.
The AS 400 is a perfect mid-priced saxophone for beginner and intermediate level players for numerous reasons. First of all, the keys of this saxophone utilize the same technology as the TS 400. They’re ultra-responsive, and this boost in sensitivity greatly helps with the instrument’s level of playability.
Secondly, the sound of this saxophone is absolutely phenomenal. The geometry of the AS 400 is by all means traditional, but there are several details in the design that provide a bit warmer tone. Furthermore, this saxophone is very light, yet it’s still fairly durable and robust.
Lastly, you’ll get the same accessories as if you were purchasing the Tenor variant (TS 400) – a Rico Reed, a carrying case, the cork grease, a cleaning cloth, and a mouthpiece.
But, there are a couple of drawbacks as well. Several people have complained about the pipes being too stiff, which means that they had to put up more air for certain tones. This could be treated as a potential issue, not as a fact though.
6. Kaizer Alto Saxophone 1000 Series
Kaizer Alto Saxophone 1000 Series
Next up is Kaizer’s Alto Saxophone from their 1000 series. It sounds great for the price, its geometry is somewhat peculiar but still oriented around functionality, and it’s perfect, if not tailor made for beginners. Of course, most intermediate level players would still welcome it due to its exceptionally sensitive keys and optimal action.
Essentially, this is a beautiful saxophone that offers exceptional playability despite the fact that it does not really have an ergonomic type of design.
In terms of construction, the Kaizer’s Alto saxophone is made of quality yellow brass and it’s available in nickel, black nickel, and lacquer finishes. One of the best things about it, however, is that it comes with a plethora of accessories, including a set of gloves, a cleaning rod, a polishing cloth, the ligature set, a carry case, and a lubricant for the mouthpiece.
As far as the price is concerned, this saxophone is neither cheap nor expensive. It packs quite a punch for the buck, especially if your budget is tight.
7. Ammoon Antique Finish Eb Alto Saxophone
Ammoon is a pretty famous music gear brand, although they’ve earned their fame for their affordability. Theirs are some of the best low-end guitars, guitar pedals, microphone stands, wireless systems, but they also have a couple of saxophones in their catalog as well.
The one we’re looking at is the Antique Finish Eb Alto saxophone. It’s a pretty standard Alto sax in terms of sound quality, but everything else about it is pretty uncommon, to say the very least.
It’s made out of bronze and sports the ‘antique finish’, and it’s possibly one of the most exquisite low cost saxophones in terms of aesthetics. However, it’s not all about the looks. The Ammoon’s saxophone features comfortable keys with a decent action, and the overall playability is pretty solid.
The bronze construction is not just for show either, as it boasts a substantial level of durability. However, due to various engravings and additional miscellaneous accessories onboard, this saxophone is slightly more difficult to maintain.
On the upside, it comes with a complementary carry case, a mouthpiece, several straps, a cleaning cloth, a brush, some grease, and a pair of gloves. All things considered, it’s a formidable saxophone for a beginner, although intermediate level players, let alone professionals should consider a different, more suitable model.
8. Eastar AS II Alto Saxophone
We’re moving over to the lower end with Eastar’s AS II Alto Saxophone. Essentially, this is a low budget saxophone that offers premium performance for the money (in comparison to similarly priced models, of course).
The AS II alto saxophone is made of copper, so it doesn’t really pack the same amount of durability as the models we’ve covered so far. However, it’s still slightly sturdier than most low end saxophones.
Its geometry is also on point, standing out from the traditional design in the slightest bit; it provides a decent variety of tones. It would also be fair to say that the design of this saxophone is pretty close to being ‘ergonomic’ as it’s very comfortable to use.
In terms of aesthetics, it doesn’t stand out too much. It does appear as if it has a lacquer finish, although it is only spray painted to look that way. Nevertheless, the maintenance process should be fairly simple and straightforward as there are no special engravings or additional accessories onboard.
Speaking of which, the Eastar’s AS II does come with a dozen of complementary features. The gratis goodies include the carry case, a mouthpiece set, a leather strap, the cork grease, two sets of shoulder straps, a set of white gloves, one Resin Reed, and even a saxophone stand.
Overall, this saxophone sports a huge value for the price, mainly due to the manifold of gratis features. It doesn’t lag behind in any field of performance either, so it would be safe to say that this is one of the best affordable saxophones on the market.
9. Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L Alto Saxophone
Mendini by Cecilio is in fact one of the biggest names in the Saxophone industry. This particular model is one of their cheapest ones, and we highly recommend it for its superb playability and sound for the cash.
It features a gold-lacquered body with a fully ribbed construction, so it both looks and performs the part. Additionally, it packs a fairly large bore, and quality pads made of premium leather outfitted with metal boosters and contoured keys.
This saxophone is remarkably comfortable to play and very easy to maintain. The only downfall is that it doesn’t come with any gratis features aside from the chromatic tuner.
10. LazarroEb Alto Saxophone
We’re wrapping it up with Lazarro’s Alto saxophone. Basically, this is a great option for beginner saxophonists who are looking for a decent instrument that doesn’t cost too much.
It sounds pretty great, it’s not flimsy per se but it’s not overly durable. One of the best things about it is that it comes with a plethora of accessories, mainly because it’s a budget saxophone. These complementary features include a mouthpiece and reed, ligature, a fabric case, a neck strap, a cleaning cloth, and more.
Since it doesn’t really excel in any field of performance such as sound quality or durability, it compensates for it with the bare necessities you’ll need as a saxophone player. Lastly, it’s the most affordable quality saxophone on our list.
The four most important types of saxophones are baritone, alto, tenor, and soprano. Other types also include Sopranissimo, Mezzo Soprano, Bass, sopranino, Contrabass, Tubax, C Melody, Slide Saxophone, Saxello, Connosax, and Subcontrabass.
Body construction (geometry)
Most instruments get their sound from the combination of materials used in the construction process. Such is the case with violins, guitars, basses, but when it comes to saxophone, the most vital aspect is the geometry – the way the saxophone is shaped.
Namely, when the reeds open and close, they vibrate and produce pressure pulses. In turn, these pulses make the air within the tubes resonate in different frequencies. Depending on how the saxophone is shaped, the quality of these reverberations changes.
The materials play a key role of the saxophones sound shaping process, although they’re still placed second, right after the design (geometry).
Originally, Saxophones are manufactured from brass materials. Although there are different types of brass, the one that’s used for saxophones is comprised of several metals, including tin, zinc, nickel, as well as copper.
The most frequently used type of brass alloy is the yellow brass which is comprised of 70% copper plus 30% zinc. Of course, there are other brass types used for more sophisticated models, such as the gold and silver brass.
Moreover, some manufacturers implement a bit of phosphorous when making their necks, especially if the design requires detailed tube shaping. When it comes to the hardware, in most cases it’s stainless-steel. The various accessories often include hard rubber and leather components.
The finish of a saxophone is, contrary to popular belief, quite important when it comes to how a saxophone sounds. However, it’s not nearly as vital as geometry or the materials used in the construction process.
The most important role of the surface finish of a saxophone is to protect it from exterior damage, be it in the form of providing additional durability or simply by implementing a protective layer against oxidation or tarnishing.
There are many popular types of saxophone finishes, including various forms of lacquers, gold plates, nickel plates, and such. The Lacquer type finishes are the lowest in terms of quality as they tend to cut back on the higher end of the sound. The gold and silver plate finishes provide an extra punch in terms of the brightness while the nickel plates provide a boost in warmness.
A standard saxophone comes outfitted with 23 keys. There are also two tiny speaker holes which assist you while playing the notes from the higher register. The keys also come outfitted with leather pads so that they’re sealed better. Each of the keys can be controlled by pressing on them with a finger with the exception of the so called ‘octave key’, which is controlled by the thumb.
There are all kinds of saxophone necks, ranging from basic, flimsy ones that can be found in the range of $100 to $200 all the way up to the high-end ones that cost well above $1000. The main things that separate low-end models from the higher end ones are durability, design, and of course, the material from which they are made.
Generally, there are four skill levels when it comes to saxophone playing. The first is actually the ‘nill’ level, people who’ve never played the saxophone fall under this category. The second level is the beginner, referring to people who’ve just taken up this instrument.
The intermediate level refers to the people who’ve played this instrument for at least a couple of years and have grasped a bit beyond the basics of the saxophone playing mechanisms. The professional level represents the upper echelon of saxophonists who play in orchestras or bands for decades.
Despite what most people think, a saxophone is not a brass instrument – it’s a woodwind instrument. Every woodwind instrument produces sound through vibrating air columns inside of it, which in this case means that the sound comes from the pipes.
The quality of the sound of a saxophone, however, depends on several factors. First and foremost, there’s the issue of the saxophone’s geometry, materials, and the finish, all of which we’ve discussed already. If we could group the aforementioned factors as one, the second factor would be the skill level of the player, as it influences the intensity and the dynamic of the pitch changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you test a Saxophone?
The ideal way to test a saxophone is to actually compare it to another one. Ideally, you should be able to play at least on the beginner level. However, even if it’s your first time, testing a sax out shouldn’t be too difficult.
First of all, check if the reed is connected to the mouthpiece, as any tones you might want to produce won’t come out exactly great if the reed isn’t positioned properly. Pull out your tongue slightly and connect it with the reed.
Secondly, position your thumb on the thumb rest and press on one of the keys right before blowing into the mouthpiece. A tone should come out, and this is where you evaluate the sound aspect of the saxophone. By pressing on different keys without moving your thumb from the thumb rest you can test the saxophone’s playability.
There are no convenient means of testing out the durability of a saxophone, so you’d best inquire about the materials of which it was made.
How do you clean and care for a Saxophone?
First and most importantly, you should swab the body thoroughly. Most saxophones come outfitted with special cleaning kits comprised of cleaning cloths and brushes, so if your saxophone didn’t come with one, you should buy it separately.
After you’ve completed the first step, disassemble your saxophone and swab the neck gently. Next up are the keys. It’s important to check whether or not some of the keys got sticky due to fragments of dust (or any other debris) getting underneath them. Lastly, you should use the brush to clean your mouthpiece.
What are the different parts that make up a Saxophone and are they replaceable?
First and foremost, almost all of the saxophone parts can be replaced. Some parts that are prone to damages are often available for purchase straight from the manufacturer you originally bought the instrument from. However, certain parts, such as the octave pin, the neck cork and other delicate elements are a bit harder to obtain. In certain cases, you’d have to make an order for custom-built replacement.
Now, as for the parts, the saxophone is comprised of the neck, the octave vent & key, the mouthpiece, body, thumb rest, keys, rods, and pads. These ‘major’ parts, of course, include other integrated ‘minor’ parts.
The neck represents a tube which is attached to saxophone’s body. All types of saxophone feature a replaceable neck with the exception of the Soprano Saxophone. The octave vent & key are located on the neck, just like the mouthpiece.
Now, the body is comprised of the tube, bow, and the bell. The thumb rest represents a hook shaped piece made of plastic (in some cases metal) where the player can place his (or her) thumb in order to support his (or her) instrument.
What are Alto Saxophone reeds?
In essence, Reeds are a part of the mouthpiece. The alto saxophone reeds are basically the wooden part of the mouthpiece for the alto-type of the saxophone. There are only a couple of differences between alto and tenor reeds for a saxophone, most of which revolve around their size.
Basically, the Tenor saxophone reeds are slightly taller from alto reeds, but both of them fall under the category of ‘single reeds’. The single reeds are traditionally used for both clarinets and the saxophones.
The reed’s back is flat and it’s placed directly against the saxophone’s mouthpiece, and the top side should taper to the thin tip. These reeds are almost rectangular in terms of design, with the exception of the tip which is slightly curved.
What is the best brand of Saxophone?
There are numerous brands that manufacture saxophones, but some of the biggest names in this industry are Selmer, Yamaha, and Mendini by Cecilio. In terms of the best brands that make the highest value cheap saxophones, you should look up for Ammoon’s and Lazarro’s saxophones.
There are numerous saxophone models on the market, and picking the best one can be quite a hassle. However, if you know where to look and what to look out for, you’ll find a sax that will fit your needs. We hope you enjoyed our rundown and buying guide, stay safe!