Best Saxophone Brands Review in 2017
Since their inception in the mid-1800’s by Adolphe Sax, saxophones have enjoyed a steady rise in popularity giving them a place in jazz and pop genres, thanks to their ability to synchronize well with other musical instruments. An increase in the number of saxophone brands has also been observed, each brand promising increased versatility.
A Saxophone Brands For Everyone
While one may not tell the best of the best among saxophone brands in the market, a few brands have levitated to the top thanks to their high-rate quality craftsmanship, durable construction materials, the versatility of their sax and construction methods. The best sax, therefore, will be determined by the saxophonist playing context and needs.
While a jazz musician will need a sax with a deep bass sound, a classical musician will fancy a sax that allows them to move through notes quickly and swiftly. Like the musicians, saxophones present a series of markers that discern its specific sound and mode of playing from its competitors. A good move for a discerning saxophonist is to try out a saxophone to see its compatibility with their playing context and with their style.
Which Sax Type Best Fits Your Needs?
Saxophones offer a superfluity of versatility; from honking tones produced by baritone sax to the warm, mellow sounds of tenor sax, to the articulate sounds of soprano and alto saxophones. These instruments are able to conjure moods that range from restful to wild. They have been used to complete tunes in soul, RnB, pop, reggae, salsa, and jazz.
While some saxophonists are proficient in more than one voicing, others have honed their skills around a single type of saxophone and created a stellar solo voice. While it is prudent to know which saxophones brands rock, it is more prudent to know which saxophone matches your needs. Below I have explored the features of some popular voicings for your consideration.
If you are a beginner, you will find it a cinch training with this sax. It is tuned to Ebb and comes two and a half steps above the tenor sax. Its keys are compact, which makes it easier to play for beginners and better yet, it needs less air. Even better, there is a wealth of information and tutorials online training on the alto sax. Its low cost and the fact that skills learnt on it can be transferred to other saxophones, makes it a good choice for beginners.
Though the instrument comes handy in training, many classical and jazz musicians have discovered their signature sounds in it courtesy of its wide range of sounds. Its cost can be relatively low, yes, but the quality of its tone and playability depend on its craftsmanship and materials.
Tenor sax is associated jazz – most jazz players fancy it. It is tuned to Bb and comes with a curved body build familiar with most people. It is lithe and small making it a good choice for beginners. Due to its curved shape, it is prone to damage and thus care should be taken.
The Bb soprano is tuned two and a half times above the tenor placing it in the third position. Though the instrument’s small size and low price make it great for a beginner, its high pitch and preciseness may make it a hard nut to crack. Nevertheless, the instrument delivers a wealth of sounds for music played in high registers.
The instrument is commonly used in concert bands and orchestras and has also found its way into jazz. Due to its small size, it is offered in a straight configuration, but some saxophone brands have retained the curve giving players the freedom to choose.
This is a low-pitched instrument with Ebb tuning. It is mostly common in classical music but has also been used in jazz to deliver solo sound. Its place, however, is in traditional R&B where its honking sound delivers great music. Its size makes it not suitable for beginners, but for saxophonists whose goal is to play a low sounding wood or brass wind, the baritone is the best choice.
This is the least common of the sax types thanks to its large size and its low versatility. It is tuned to Bb and comes full octave below the tenor saxophone. Given its size, this instrument is, in almost all occasions, played in a seated position. It is common in classical occasions and sax ensembles. If you are a beginner, you are better off considering other saxophone types , but if you are a skilled player, you can hone your skills more with the bass.
Choosing a Sax for your Level
Even after choosing a sax type, you still have to pass the hurdle of choosing a sax that matches your level of experience. The levels are student, intermediate and professional.
Student level saxophones are designed for beginners; they are affordable, easy to play and designed to offer accuracy enabling beginners to learn notes and tunings with ease. It is crafted to produce a great sound even when played with a beginner’s techniques. Keep in mind, however, that different saxophone brands offer different qualities and thus the need to consider which gives you value for your money.
On mastering the basics, students can climb up to intermediate level sax; these offer tones closely similar to professional level sax but missing some frills. Compared to student level sax, the keys feel more responsive and smoother. Better still, they come with simple but great appearance with exquisite finishes.
Pro level saxophones deliver the best tone, intonation, and key response. They are offered with hand hammered keys and engravings making them visually appealing. Their luxurious finishes and clear colored lacquers make them expensive. With a prop level sax, expect the best quality materials.
So, Which Saxophone Should You Buy?
This will depend on your needs, really. Nonetheless, from the information provided above, the main items to look for in a sax include material and finishes, key layout and playability, neck adjustability and mode of construction – either ribbed or un-ribbed (whether the knobs that stick out are soldered or directly attached to the body). Granted, below are five saxophone brands you may consider when shopping for a sax.
Five Best Saxophone Brands
There are many saxophone brands; each of which has designed and produced stellar pieces of musical instruments. Picking the best of the best from this constellation is no mean fit. Before compiling this list, models from different brands were considered including Etude EAS100, Lazarro 360-BK, Best Choice SKY1644, Legacy AS570, Glory PR3, Conductor Tenor, Mendini MBS-30L, Jean Paul AS400 and Yamaha YAS-62II. However, the following took the crown.
Jean Paul USA with AS-400 Student Alto Saxophone
Jean Paul saxophones are popular among students and among saxophone brands. The AS 400 is a perfect apt for beginners and intermediates alike thanks to its superior tone, even key action and key layout that feels smooth enough for band members. It comes with a fluid keywork that gives it a relaxed feeling making it playable by any saxophonist. It has a rounded intonation and a warm, versatile sound that fits in any band and in different music genres.
Its exquisite brass body coupled with its power forged keys, and its heavy bell brace offers durability and makes it a perfect choice for many. Beginners will appreciate its tapered pivot keys which make it easy to play. It sports a lacquer finish.
Selmer – STS280 La Voix II
The Selmer La Voix II is a great instrument to try if you are interested in honing your sax skills and developing your signature sound. It offers a great sound, features highly responsive keys and palsy in tune, making it a popular brand among professional saxophonists. It has been designed to offer an acoustic response and fluid compatible with a wide range of registers.
Featuring a low resistance neck, this sax is able to bring out the exact sound a saxophonist needs. All the above features merged with a compact key design and pro spring tension tickles my fancy for this sax. It also sports multiple fine-tuning screws, mini-rib body, treated leather pads, bell flare and high F#. Variants of the La Voix II include tenor, soprano, alto and baritone. Each piece comes with hand engraving on lacquered brass.
Each sax operates on Selmer mouthpieces which further smoothens the tone, offer an impressive response and ensures a steady intonation. To further guarantee the durability of the product, Selmer has designed lightweight cases.
Conn-Selmer – Prelude AS711 Alto Sax
The AS711 is a student alto sax that has been designed to offer great sounds. Being a student model, the sax sports a compact key design that allows correct and precise keying making it a good fit for beginners. Its yellow brass body comes with a separable body-to-bow connection and a ribbed construction to ensure durability and sturdiness while in use.
Other features include left hand key rocker mechanism which has been articulated with C# adjusting screw, a high F# key, a molded mouthpiece designed to offer professional quality tones – mouthpiece comes with cap and ligature -, engraved bell, dark lacquer keys and body, neck strap, cork grease, right hand thumb rest, leather pads and metal resonators. A combination of these and more features make this sax complete and versatile enough to deliver for beginners and intermediates.
The AS711 weighs only three pounds which is light enough for players. A hardshell case has been designed to keep this sax safe and increase its durability.
YAMAHA – YAS 280 Student Alto Saxophone
The YAS 280 was designed to be used by beginners, intermediates and professionals alike. It is offered with a relatively light weight and an ergonomic key design that makes it easy to handle and play. Its intonation is stellar, allowing players to develop their own sound. The latest YAS 280 models are enhanced to offer even better quality sounds; a new and stable neck receiver and a low B-C# connection offer better adjustment to ensure a refined intonation.
The new neck receiver, besides featuring a durable screw for easier adjustments, promotes quick key responses, makes playing easy and enhances instrument durability. With a low B-C# connection, the sax a smooth low C# closing while promoting responsiveness from notes in the low range of this sax. There is also an adjustable thumb rest.
With a full body length of 30 inches and weighing 2 pounds, the YAS 280 comes light enough not only to be carried anywhere but also be comfortable while being played.
Antigua Winds – X/P TS1203LQ Tenor Sax
If you are a beginner, an intermediate or a recreational player who needs a simple sax that offers great value, then you are better off trying the X/P. The instrument comes with redesigned left-hand keys to offer comfort and enhance responsiveness during playing. It’s yellow, fully ribbed, brass body not only enhances the beauty of the instrument but also up its durability. The clear lacquered keys and body make this instrument appealing to many experienced and beginner saxophonists.
It is offered with a high F# key to further enhance its sound. Besides the strong build, Antigua has designed a canvas bag to protect the sax.
From the list of saxophone brands above and their sax models, Yamaha takes the crown with the YAS-280 Student Alto Saxophone. Its yellow brass build makes it beautiful and durable while its new and advanced receiver neck gives it the best intonation and tone. Better still, it is simple enough to accommodate beginners yet offer a wide range of voicings to be used professionally. Its versatility is simply a force to reckon with.
The compact key arrangement enables the user to produce a good tonal balance and adjusts volumes without the fear of spoiling the sounds. As a plus, this sax comes with all needed accessories and a strong storage case for protection.