The Essential Guide to Finding the Best Alto Saxophone + Reviews
Whether you’re a beginner, a student, or a well-versed musician, getting the best alto saxophone can provide you with unforgettable moments and a quality sound. However, finding the model that best suits your skill level, style, and budget can be challenging, especially when considering the huge offer available. Fortunately, you won’t have to dedicate days to searching all over the internet since we’ve already done that so you can make the right purchase while saving time and money. After comparing the features of some of the highly acclaimed models available, we have decided to recommend the Jean Paul AS-400 as the sax you should buy. This instrument comes with a solid yellow brass build, it features power-forged keys, and it is also sold along with a carrying case, a mouthpiece, and a few other accessories. In case it is unavailable, you might want to take the Mendini MAS-L Saxophone into consideration as well.
Highly Recommended Choices – Reviews & Comparison
If you want to be confident that you are picking the right instrument but don’t have the time to spare on reading dozens of alto saxophones reviews, then we’ve made things simple. You can check out this selection of saxophones which offer the best bang for the buck, in addition to being some of the most popular options among both experienced and amateur saxophonists.
Alto saxophones for students and beginners
Best alto saxophone for beginners
Jean Paul AS-400
The AS-400 is the perfect model for someone wishing to learn to play an alto sax. This instrument comes with a superior sound so you get to enjoy pleasant classes as well as impressive performances every time. Thanks to the smooth key action, you can also learn to play the sax faster while also benefiting from a consistent and responsive action.
This sax is pitched in Eb and is capable of offering a well-rounded intonation while also being easy to practice on. The instrument benefits from a solid construction. The body is made of yellow brass that looks great and which has a lacquer finish. The keys are power-forged for increased durability and resistance even to aggressive play styles.
This model also comes with a strong bell brace, while the tapered pivot keys feel great. This product is accompanied by a strong carrying case for safe transportation, 1 Rico reed, cork grease, a mouthpiece, as well as a few other accessories that can help you start playing right away.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($469.95)
Mendini MAS-L Saxophone
The Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L is an amazing alto saxophone that’s a good option for both beginners and advanced musicians. This is a solid instrument that comes with a ribbed construction which can last for many years while retaining a high-quality sound. This model also features a Gold lacquered body that will certainly make this an eye-pleaser.
The MAS-L alto sax comes with soft leather pads with metal tone boosters and contoured keys which display faux pearl inlays for an attractive look. You also get a quality mouthpiece which comes with a ligature and cap and a pair of soft gloves. A Chromatic Tuner with a Metronome is included so you can keep your sax in tune. There’s also a neck strap for comfortable playing.
The cleaning rod and cloth allow for easy cleaning to keep the sax in top shape while the hard case ensures a safe transportation anytime while also allowing you to keep all your accessories organized.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($249.99)
Monoprice Eb Alto
If you’re looking for a quality alto sax that comes at an affordable price, then the Monoprice Eb Alto is just what you need. This model has a beautiful Gold Lacquer finish that will also protect the body of the sax from corrosion. All keypads are durable and offer an airtight seal which results in higher accuracy as well as a more powerful sound.
With this package, you also get a neck strap so you can comfortably play your saxophone, a pair of soft gloves, as well as a hard case that helps you safely place your instrument and other accessories and make sure they stay unharmed during transportation. You also get to properly clean and maintain your sax by using the included cleaning rod and cloth.
This model is a great option for kids and adults alike who wish to start playing what is probably the most popular wind instrument type in the world.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
Best intermediate alto saxophone
The Windsor MI-1005 is an alto saxophone that’s ideal for students both young and old. This model comes with a sturdy design and an eye-catching brass body that will surely impress both visually and acoustically. The Windsor engraved bell benefits from a gold lacquer finish for increased durability and resistance to corrosive agents.
The keys come with soft pads and they are operated by stainless steel springs which ensure superior responsiveness and playability while the strong pins and rods offer long-lasting performance. This product also provides you with a hard carrying case that features a soft plush interior so you get the peace of mind that your instrument and accessories are protected.
The case has an accessory compartment so you can stay organized, and a shoulder strap for comfortable transportation. You also get an adjustable strap, cork grease, a mouthpiece with a reed, as well as a cleaning kit which includes a brush for easy inside cleaning jobs and a cloth to keep the exterior shining.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($224.6)
Costzon Alto Eb
The Costzon Alto Eb saxophone comes with an attractive finish and a strong brass body that can offer years of beautiful music for amateurs and advanced musicians alike. This model features a brass construction that makes it durable yet lightweight so it won’t weigh you down even when traveling across the country.
This instrument is a great choice for people willing to learn to play since it is smaller than its counterparts. It also comes with a well-centered and balanced sound that’s a perfect starting point for the untrained ear, and a versatile choice that can accommodate a wide range of musical genres, from jazz to rock to pop to even classical music.
With this package, you get a hard carrying case for extra protection and easy traveling every time, a comfortable strap, a reed, cork grease, as well as a pair of gloves. The included cleaning kit will help you keep this instrument shiny and sounding great.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($229.99)
ammoon bE Alto
The ammoon bE Alto saxophone is an affordable model that plays just as well as it looks. This instrument features a gold and black lacquered body which gives it a classic design that’s bound to impress. The accurate soundhole can deliver a powerful and rich sound every time, while the leather pads with metal boosters make for easy and comfortable playing sessions.
This saxophone comes with a solid design that’s meant to offer superior performance for many years to come. You can also make sure that it lasts for a long time by maintaining it in a good shape and cleaning it with the included cleaning brush and cloth. The provided cork grease will allow the mouthpiece to slide easily inside the neck to avoid any damage.
You also get a padded carrying case and a neck strap that you can use to comfortably play the saxophone without tiring your hands while also making sure you don’t drop it by accident.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($219.99)
Best professional alto saxophones
Selmer SAS280 Alto
If you’re looking for a high-end alto saxophone, then the Selmer SAS280 La Voix II is surely a great choice. This model comes with a beautifully crafted black and gold body which features an amazing amount of detail that’s guaranteed to turn heads. The construction is solid just as it should be for an instrument designed to perform for a long time.
Thanks to the finely crafted keys, you get to enjoy fluid key-work that will delight your fingers just as much as your ears. You also get a perfect intonation and a powerful projection while retaining a warm sound, making this an instrument that’s well-suited to a wide range of styles and music genres, regardless if you’re playing in a band or enjoy soloing more.
You get to benefit from a quality and consistent sound while the standard bell helps it blend more easily. Despite its high-end features, the La Voix II comes at an affordable price so that any aspiring musician can benefit.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($2779)
Yamaha YAS-62 Professional
The Yamaha YAS-62 is a high-grade alto saxophone that comes with a redesigned frame as well as a few great features. This model has a new neck design which makes it a top choice for many advanced players. The body benefits from a solid construction and it comes with the classic gold lacquer finish.
The keys are powered by strong stainless steel strings and they are able to offer a smooth responsiveness and an improved control every time. The YAS-62 has a strong legacy, having been the favorite of many top musicians since its first launch in 1979. The narrow neck improves airflow and offers a faster response and improved control for a quality and consistent sound.
The body features fine engravings with tiny details, while the improved mechanism that operates the low B to C# keys also contributes to an airtight seal for a clear sound in the low range. This saxophone also comes with a solid case for easy transportation.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($2366.11)
Selmer AS42 Professional
The Selmer AS42 is a strong contender for players with advanced skills who are looking for a professional alto saxophone. This sax is the result of a close cooperation between Selmer USA and Henri Selmer Paris and a high-quality instrument that features a solid fully ribbed construction that can perform well even when it comes to aggressive virtuoso playing styles.
You get to enjoy Pisoni leather pads which also come with metal resonators for an impressive projection as well as hand engravings, pearl inlays, and blue steel springs for a crisp and fast response every time. The neck offers improved control and a consistent tone while the mouthpiece is specially designed for this model and is suited to advanced players.
This model also features a rocking table mechanism and a high F# key. You also get multiple adjustment screws for a personalized performance regardless if you’re playing jazz, classical music, pop, or any other genre or style.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($2919)
YAMAHA YAS-280 Alto
The YAMAHA YAS-280 is an alto saxophone that has a professional build yet comes at a more than affordable price. This model offers all the quality features you can expect from a higher-end sax. With an ergonomic design and lightweight body, this instrument is ideal for dedicated musicians trying to perfect their skills.
Just as you’d expect from a model made by the legendary Yamaha, the YAS-280 offers a remarkable intonation and projection despite its lighter construction. Based on the design of the popular YAS-275, this sax brings a more stable neck receiver for improved playability. You also get a new low B-C# connection which allows you to perform adjustments more easily.
This saxophone will help you enjoy a quick response and durable performance. The thumb rest is easy to adjust so you can enjoy comfortable hand positioning as well as effortless fingering action for prolonged playing sessions. The brass body and gold lacquer finish protect this instrument from corrosion and maintain a shiny appearance.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($1100)
Yearly Guide & Report
Whether you’re looking for the best professional alto saxophone or an entry-level model, the plethora of options on the market might be quite confusing. If you don’t know exactly which model to go for and you also don’t know a lot about these woodwind instruments, then read on. The following guide should provide you with all the info you need to make the right purchase.
Get a model suited to your level
If you’re just starting out, you might want to go for the best student alto saxophone you can find on the market. Doing so will save you quite a bit of money while also ensuring that you get an instrument that’s intended for easy playing.
Besides not overcommitting with a huge investment that might not be justified, you’d also benefit from a lighter instrument that’s ideal for prolonged learning sessions so that you can improve your skills and technique quite fast.
When considering an alto saxophone, you also need to familiarize yourself with the types of builds and materials before buying. For example, you could choose the best alto saxophones for intermediate players which features a fully ribbed construction with a large bell. This would ensure increased resistance and durability for many years of memorable playing sessions.
Most alto saxophones are made of brass, although you’ll also find some more expensive silvered models, as well as some experimental saxophones made of materials such as polycarbonate. The exterior usually comes with a gold or black lacquer finish which ensures that the instrument is attractive and shiny.
Keys can be made of metal, plastics, or other materials. These usually come with soft leather pads for a great feel and increased comfort, and they can display mother of pearl inlays. The springs are responsible for how responsive the keys are, or how fast they respond to your fingers. The springs are commonly made of stainless steel or blued steel.
Getting a lightweight alto saxophone
The saxophone is an instrument that needs no introduction. The sax has been a staple of jazz, bebop, rock, and pop music for generations, with legendary saxophonists such as John Coltrane and Charlie Parker contributing greatly to the art of playing this beautiful instrument.
While there are quite a few types of saxophones, from the light sopranino to the tenor saxophone, getting an alto saxophone is probably your best bet if you’re just starting out. This is because this instrument is smaller and comes with a more compact key layout which can greatly help you learn the ropes of playing.
This instrument, which is tuned to Eb, also comes with a higher sound that’s 2 ½ steps higher than the tenor saxophone. This option is also more affordable in general, which means that getting the best alto sax for beginners is probably the thing to do.
An alto saxophone is also a lot lighter than a tenor saxophone which can be more than 2 times heavier. A lightweight instrument will be easier to hold especially in your formative months so you get the hang of it without tiring your hands too much.
Choosing the right saxophone reed
If you want to benefit from a quality sound and a particular pitch, then you might want to have a look at reeds. These are oscillating wooden strips and the actual components that create the sound waves.
Reeds are often made of Arundo donax cane, although you’ll certainly find reeds made of other materials as well. The length of the reed is quite important, and different saxophone types have different reed lengths. This is important to remember since you don’t want to get a reed that’s too long or too short for your alto saxophone.
Many well-versed saxophonists also experiment with different hardness levels as well as various cuts, as these also influence the projection of the instrument.
Which mouthpiece do you need?
The mouthpiece is one of the most commonly overlooked pieces of a saxophone. This is because most beginners have no idea that a mouthpiece, together with the reed, are the most important factors when it comes to the sound a saxophone is able to reproduce.
This is one good reason to go for the best mouthpiece for alto saxophone you can find. Doing so will help you achieve a particular sound for a specific genre, ensure a consistent tonality, as well as help you play more easily, depending on the mouthpiece you choose to buy.
Besides improving playability and tone, a mouthpiece can also be made for a particular style or level so you might want to check out some beginner models if this is your first purchase. The ligature is also important and it may affect the sound, as well, so make sure you get a model that’s easy to use and tighten.
Enjoying countless accessories
You might want to get the best bang for the buck, in which case you can read some reviews of alto saxophones and check which products offer an extended package with things such as cleaning kits, carrying cases, tuners, gloves, and more.
There are actually quite a few of these available, and they’re usually sold along with entry-level or student alto saxophones. You can benefit from a real bargain and get everything you need to start playing this amazing woodwind instrument. Some packages even throw in an extra manual or DVD course which can help you learn a lot faster.
Maintaining your sax in top shape with a cleaning kit
In case you plan on using your alto sax often, you might also want to search for a proper cleaning kit for sale. Your instrument will work well as long as you take care of it; accumulating grime between and beneath the keys, dust inside the saxophone or bacteria inside the mouthpiece aren’t really desired.
These won’t just affect the performance of your instrument but also lead to accelerated degradation, and in the case of a dirty mouthpiece, even pose health hazards. Get a comprehensive kit which contains at least a long enough cleaning rod for inside jobs, a cloth to polish the exterior, as well as some disinfectant for the mouthpiece.
You should also remember that you need to use some cork grease to ensure that the mouthpiece slides inside the neck with ease, otherwise you risk damage or unnecessary wear.
Safely transport your instrument
You can settle for a carrying case included in one of the beginner kits or you can get a separate case. Especially if your alto saxophone is expensive, you might want to invest in a hardshell carrying case that comes with a tough exterior and extra padding on the interior.
That way, you’ll prevent potential damage to the instrument while also benefiting from a quality case that comes with pockets and accessory compartments so that you can keep everything neat and organized. This would be in addition to being able to safely transport your saxophone anywhere in a comfortable way.
Keep your alto saxophone in tune
No matter how much you spend on a fancy saxophone and accessories, you won’t be able to play the best alto saxophone songs without having your instrument tuned. Everything will sound off and you might just quit in frustration. Keeping your instrument in tune is vital to a quality and consistent performance, and that’s why you want to get a digital chromatic tuner as well.
The good news is that these don’t usually cost a lot so you can enjoy accurate tones every time with a minimal investment. There are also some saxophone packages that include digital tuners.
Don’t forget to practice
Also, remember that you need to practice hard and practice often if you want to see any significant improvements in your playing abilities. You’ll need to dedicate at least a few hours per week to playing your alto saxophone while also rehearsing different techniques and experimenting with new sounds.
The good news is that there are lots of educational resources on the internet so you’ll definitely be able to learn quite fast if you’re perseverant.
How much should you spend?
How much money you should spend on a saxophone depends entirely on you. Your choice should be dictated by your skill level, intended use, as well as budget. Especially if you’re at the beginning and you aren’t sure if this passion will last, then you can go for a cheap alto saxophone.
That way, you won’t need to fork over two thousand dollars on a high-end model only to see money going down the drain due to losing interest in the instrument after a couple of months. If you’re playing professionally, then investing in a good alto saxophone is surely going to pay off.
In addition to providing you with a consistent sound and superior playability, you would also enjoy a beautiful instrument that can last a lifetime and bring joy to your audiences.
Frequently asked questions about alto saxophones
Where was the alto saxophone invented?
Adolphe Sax is the man who would invent the saxophone in the 19th century. Originally from Dinant, Belgium, Adolphe spent some years in Brussels attending the Royal Conservatory. Shortly after relocating to Paris in 1841, he began working on a new line of instruments that would lead to the first saxophones.
He obtained a patent for his invention in 1846, but despite some support, the instrument never became part of the orchestral instruments. However, due to the saxophone’s ability to project a strong sound while also being agile and suitable to playing technical parts, the instrument was rapidly adopted by the military in France as well as in other countries.
Which alto saxophone should I buy?
There are quite a few options when it comes to finding an alto saxophone. However, there’s no simple answer to which saxophone model you should buy, and there’s no right or wrong option. The choice depends on your level, as you’d probably want a smaller saxophone if you’re just starting out.
The budget might also influence your buying decision. You might want to invest a small sum of money on your first saxophone kit or be willing to spend a hefty amount of money on an upgrade, especially if your skills are more advanced.
Who invented the alto saxophone?
The alto saxophone is part of the saxophone family of instruments that were invented by a Belgian guy named Adolphe Sax. His father was also an instrument maker so he was building and repairing instruments from a young age. The skills learned in his father’s shop allowed him to experiment with bass clarinets, eventually inventing the saxophone in 1846.
The innovative approach of Sax was to combine the agile frame of a woodwind instrument with the projection of a larger brass instrument. The first versions of the alto saxophone had fewer keys than modern models, with keys such as Bb, high E, and F being absent.
Who is the best alto saxophone player in the world?
There are lots of amazing saxophone players in the world, and there’s no way you can point to a particular musician and say that he or she is the best. Saxophones have been used in a variety of genres, with many of the great musicians creating their own style and staple sound.
While you can’t talk about the best saxophone player in the world, you can definitely talk about influential musicians who helped develop and refine alto saxophone vocabulary and technique. Among some of the most popular were Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker, and Cannonball Adderley.
What are these types of saxophones made of?
Most modern saxophones come with bodies that are mainly made of brass. This might surprise you, as these are called woodwind instruments. The springs that operate the keys and ensure a fast response are usually made of either blued or stainless steel. Most key touches are made of modern plastics or mother of pearl.
There are also deviations from the norm, with some alto saxophones being made of polycarbonate materials, with varying degrees of success. The reed is usually made of giant cane, while the mouthpiece can be made of rubber, plastic, bronze, or even steel.
How much does an alto saxophone cost?
The price of an alto saxophone can vary greatly depending on a large number of factors. The brand and particular model influence the price, and you can expect to pay a lot more for a sax from a reputable company compared to a little-known manufacturer. Build materials, the quality of the craftsmanship, and accessories also influence the price.
Some saxophones are meant for practice and ideal for beginners, and these might be lighter as well as cheaper. High-end professional models can surely cost quite a bit, although veteran musicians wouldn’t settle for anything less than an instrument that satisfies all their preferences and play style.
How much does an alto saxophone usually weigh?
An alto saxophone typically weighs around 4 pounds and 5 ounces. This is about double the weight of a soprano sax, but less than half of the weight of a baritone saxophone. The weight of alto saxophones and other sax types have considerably increased from the lightweight instruments of the 1920s when they first reached the spotlight.
However, the weight has stabilized in the late 1960s. Since alto saxophones are more compact and lighter than most of their counterparts, these make great instruments for beginners since they’re easier to play and handhold, not to mention somewhat cheaper.
How to clean an alto saxophone?
Keeping your saxophone clean and maintaining it is extremely important in how it performs and how long it lasts. If you want to keep your beloved instrument in top shape and have it working perfectly for many years to come, then you should learn proper cleaning techniques and clean your sax often.
You can clean the interior with a special cleaning rod, while a flexible swab can help you properly clean the mouthpiece. A cleaning cloth is also needed for the exterior. You can use cotton swabs to remove grime from the keypads. You might also want to use a special disinfectant for the mouthpiece.
What are alto saxophone reeds?
A reed is a part of a woodwind instrument such as the alto saxophone which creates its distinctive sound. Contrary to brass instruments where the sound is made with the lips against the mouthpiece, saxophones feature an oscillating wooden reed. Many reeds are made of Arundo donax cane, although other materials have been used successfully.
Many advanced players will experiment with different types of reeds which can vary in strength, texture, or cut. The length of the reed also influences the sound so saxophonists tend to try many different combinations until they settle on one reed.
Best alto saxophone brands
Yamaha is surely a brand that needs no introduction. The Japanese company has brought countless innovations to multiple fields, from musical instruments to power sports to electronics equipment. It is the world’s largest piano manufacturer, as well as one of the most important makers of saxophones.
Yamaha offers a diverse and extensive line of saxophones, with many alto saxophones with vintage as well as modern designs. You can choose from one of the countless models, such as the YAS-280, the YAS-82ZII, or the highly popular YAS-62, all of these offering a quality build and superior sound and improved playability and responsiveness.
Henri Selmer Paris is a French manufacturer of musical instruments that is headquartered in Mantes-la-Ville near Paris. The company was founded by Henri Selmer in 1885. The company has designed and produced some of the world’s most popular saxophones that have been played by legends such as Marcel Mule, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Coleman Hawkins.
The ever-expanding line of saxophones also includes many alto saxophones that are of professional quality, with a long-lasting build and an amazing sound. These are highly sought-after by both advanced and seasoned musicians, especially ever since the company started introducing some affordable models as well.
Yanagisawa is a Japanese company that specializes in manufacturing professional saxophones. Together with Yamaha, it is one of the largest saxophone companies from Japan. The company was founded in 1896 and it was initially a family business that offered customization and repair services to saxophone owners.
The first models were designed and manufactured only after the Second World War. Its breakthrough came in 1954 with the release of the T3 tenor saxophone. The first alto saxophone was the A3, which immediately became a success. Yanagisawa makes both entry-level professional-grade saxophones and high-end models.
Mendini is a brand of musical instruments that are made by Cecilio. This company is headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga, CA and is well-known among saxophone players across the country as well as beyond it. Cecilio woodwinds are appreciated for their solid design and great sound.
Many of the models are perfect for both beginners and advanced players, and the company boasts that each and every instrument that is manufactured overseas is thoroughly tested in the US before being shipped. One of the most popular models is the MAS-L, an alto saxophone that’s light in your hands as well as on your wallet.
Jean-Paul USA is a musical instruments company that is headquartered in Doral, Florida. The company takes pride in its line of saxophones that are built to offer an amazing performance every time while also being able to last a lifetime.
Perhaps one of the alto saxophones that have caught the eye of consumers in the US is the AS-400. This is a quality model that features a lightweight yet sturdy design, just like other wind instruments made by this company. Another common trait is the low price which makes it a hit among students who want to learn to play the sax without spending a fortune.
Windsor is a brand of saxophones that are perfectly suited to amateur and advanced players alike. Its line of alto saxophones combines quality materials and durable designs with high-quality manufacturing standards. Many of these models offer great playability and control while also costing only a fraction of the price of a professional model.
One of the highly acclaimed models is the Windsor MI-1005. This sax comes with a solid construction and a gold lacquer finish, as well as responsive key action for easy learning and an amazing sound. Just like other similar models, it is sold along with a case and several accessories.
Kaizer is a well-known American musical instruments manufacturer and distributor that has an extensive line of both string and woodwind instruments. Headquartered in Chino, California, this company puts just as much emphasis on its customer support service as it does in the creation of beautiful instruments that are meant to offer a quality performance for many years.
Kaizer is mostly known for its student instruments which are easy to play as well as affordable, making them the perfect choice for aspiring young musicians who wish to improve their skills without having to spend a fortune on one of the higher-end models.
Cannonball is a renowned manufacturer of various musical instruments that is headquartered in Sandy, Utah, USA. The company was founded by Tevis and Sheryl Laukat in 1996, and it owns over 30 patents and trademarks. Its line of saxophones, clarinets, trumpets, and flutes are highly sought-after, especially due to the high manufacturing standards and handmade techniques.
Cannonball designs and produces saxophones for all categories of players, with student, intermediate, as well as high-end professional models such as the Big Bell Stone Series and the Key Artist Series. Many of these also come with a wide range of finishes, from standard brass to iced black and aged brass.