The 10 Best Saxophones

Updated December 20, 2017 by Sheila O'Neill

10 Best Saxophones
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top options for this wiki. Whether your playing style is like Branford Marsalis, Clarence Clemons, or unique to you, one of these fine saxophones will let you share your musical talent with the world. We've included models in a variety of styles to meet your individual preferences, as well as instruments priced specifically for both beginners and professional performers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best saxophone on Amazon.

10. Lazarro 360-BK

The Lazarro 360-BK is a truly comprehensive package that comes with all the accessories you need to get started playing right away. Every unit is hand inspected in New York to ensure high sound quality and superior durability.
  • available in 24 color combinations
  • made from real brass
  • hard to keep it in tune
Brand Lazarro 360-BK
Model pending
Weight pending
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Legacy SS1000

If you're looking to play in a higher register than a tenor or alto can accommodate, consider the Legacy SS1000. This soprano sax comes with a reed, a neck strap, cork grease, and more, making it an especially great deal for a beginner.
  • more portable than other models
  • excellent sound and tone
  • comes with low-quality mouthpiece
Brand Legacy
Model Legacy_SS1000_w_LegMpc_
Weight 11.6 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

8. Legacy AS750

The Legacy AS750 offers superior intonation that is ideal for any music student with growing skills. It is easy to assemble and play, and includes a hard shell case that can easily convert to a backpack, which is great for taking it to and from lessons.
  • simple to produce clean notes
  • shiny clear lacquer finish
  • included neck strap is uncomfortable
Brand Legacy
Model Legacy_AS750
Weight 12.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

7. Mendini MAS-L

The Mendini MAS-L is available in a variety of colors, from traditional gold and nickel to fun options, like purple and green. Novices will appreciate the included booklet, which features a fingering chart, assembly instructions, and fundamental lessons in reading music.
  • deep and rich tone
  • excellent lacquer finish
  • keys can be sticky at first
Brand Mendini
Model MAS-BK+92D+PB
Weight 9.9 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Glory PR3

The Glory PR3 features high-grade leather pads with metal resonators, and a hand-engraved flower pattern on the bell, making it look as good as instruments that cost twice the price. It has a smart key layout and a compact design that make it a good choice for beginners.
  • key height is adjustable
  • very comfortable metal thumb rest
  • cork is a bit too thick
Model pending
Weight 10.3 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Mendini MBS-30L

Not only is the Mendini MBS-30L a fantastic instrument that gives users the experience of playing a great baritone sax without taking out a second mortgage, it also comes with a full set of accessories, including a Cecilio 92-D chromatic metronome.
  • metal tone boosters
  • impressive quality for the price
  • arrives tuned and ready to play
Brand Mendini
Model MBS-30L+92D
Weight 35.5 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

4. Yamaha YAS-280

While it's not quite on a par with the model that topped out our list, the Yamaha YAS-280 is a premium student option that is easy to play and surprisingly durable, so if you aren't the most careful musician, it would be a smart choice.
  • pads are perfectly aligned
  • warm smooth tone
  • quick action for jazz solos
Brand Yamaha
Model YAS280
Weight 5.6 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

3. Selmer La Voix II

The fluid keys on the Selmer La Voix II make it fun and easy to play. Musicians of every level, from beginners to professionals, will appreciate the instrument's perfect intonation. It's an especially good choice if you're looking for a smokey jazz sound.
  • comfortable fingering
  • pitch is consistent without strain
  • comes in four colors
Model SAS280R
Weight 15.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Jean Paul AS-400

The Jean Paul AS-400 is an excellent instrument for both beginning and intermediate musicians. Its key action is smooth and even, making it very comfortable to play and a good learning sax. It also has a strong bell brace for durability.
  • attractive yellow brass body
  • comes with a rico reed
  • faux mother of pearl key buttons
Brand Jean Paul USA
Model AS-400
Weight 11.8 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

1. Yamaha YAS-62II

The Yamaha YAS-62II is a truly professional model that is perfectly suited to orchestra and stage performances. It has a narrow bore that makes it easier to control and more responsive than many other instruments, plus it feels very well-built.
  • creates remarkably pure notes
  • good tonal balance
  • blows freely with a loud volume
Brand Yamaha
Model YAS-62II
Weight 16.9 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

All That Jazz: A Wealth Of Sound

Music is seen as a window into the soul. Each instrument evokes a different style and group of emotions, yet still provides the versatility to be injected into many different forms of music, while maintaining its individuality. An instrument reflects the time during which it's played, the feelings of the player, and the mood of its surrounding environment and audience. After all, a major purpose of music is for it to be performed, heard, and remembered. Considering the richness of an instrument like the saxophone, it is no exception to the art of orchestrated storytelling.

Also referred to as a sax, the saxophone is actually a woodwind instrument, typically made out of thin brass with a cone-shaped tube and a single-reed mouthpiece that is similar in style to a clarinet. The reason the sax is considered part of the woodwind family is because of the use of an oscillating wood reed to generate sound waves, as opposed to just one's use of their lips and airflow.

The tip of the saxophone is flared into the shape of a bell. Along its tube are approximately twenty to twenty-three variously-sized tone holes and two small vent holes designed to assist with playing music in the upper register. The saxophone's vent holes are covered by keys with pads made from soft leather that provide an airtight seal on the instrument tube. It's interesting to note here that when the saxophone is at rest, some of these vent holes are left open, while others are closed off. A player will use their fingers to press on the keys, while their right thumb remains underneath the sax on a thumb rest, to keep the instrument stabilized.

Adding to their allure, saxophones are available in several different types, and the user can choose the one that best suits his or her needs and personality. The four most common types of sax are the soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones. Less common are the bass and C-melody saxophones.

The soprano B-flat sax is characterized with the highest pitch of all four main sax types. It is often heard as part of background or elevator music. The soprano sax can be either straight in shape or curved with a flared bell. The alto E-flat sax has a pitch range higher than that of a tenor sax, but not quite as high as the soprano. The alto sax is a common choice for beginners, school music bands, and is considered the most popular among classical performers and composers.

Alto saxophones contribute to concert, funk, jazz, pop, blues, and rock music. The B-flat tenor sax is slightly larger than the alto and has a crook in its neck piece. The tenor sax is popularly believed to be the signature instrument of modern jazz. The E-flat baritone is the largest of the common group of saxophones and is the most difficult to carry around due to its size.

A Brief History Of The Saxophone

The saxophone was first invented in 1846 by a Belgian instrument maker, flutist, and clarinetist named Adolphe Sax. Prior to his invention, Sax made keywork and acoustic improvements to the bass clarinet and succeeded in extending its range. Adolphe Sax developed several saxophones in various sizes throughout the 1840s and received a fifteen-year patent that included fourteen different versions of the instrument on June 28, 1846.

When Sax's patent expired in 1866, the design and keywork on the instrument continued to evolve and improve, thanks to the work of other manufacturers and saxophonists. Such improvements included the addition of extra keys and alternate fingerings in order to make certain music passages less difficult to perform. Another important advancement was in the ability for the left thumb to operate both tone holes on the instrument using a single octave key, which is still common with most modern saxophones.

Additional advancements to the design of the saxophone were made in the 1930s and 1940s by Henri Selmer Paris, which included offsetting the instrument's tone holes as well as a redesign of the octave key.

Play To Your Heart's Content

For newcomers to the instrument, finding a saxophone package that makes it easy to get started is the most important thing. This involves finding a good mouthpiece and choosing reeds that make the instrument produce the richest sound possible without too much effort.

If your investment is for a beginner, the alto sax is a great choice because it requires the use of less air than other saxophones. Additionally, there's a large volume of music literature written specifically for the alto sax, making it easy to pick up the instrument and learn the fundamentals.

Not only does the smaller key scale of an alto sax fit easily in a young person’s hands, but both the embouchure and airflow needed to successfully play the alto sax is transferable to all of the other types of saxophones. That said, your student will acquire training early and be able to apply it to more complex saxophones when their interest grows.

Some saxophones are made with lacquered keys and treated leather pads, which serve to add durability to the instrument. That said, if you're purchasing an instrument for a student, longevity of the instrument's construction will be a large consideration.

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Last updated on December 20, 2017 by Sheila O'Neill

Sheila is a writer, cosplayer, and juggler who lives in Southern California. She loves sitting down with a hot cup of tea and coming up with new ideas. In her spare time, Sheila enjoys drawing, listening to podcasts, and describing herself in the third person.

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