10 Magnificent Alto Saxophones for All Musician’s Preferences

32 Models Considered
61 Hours of Research
6 Experts Interviewed
255 Reviews Analyzed

The alto saxophone is probably the best-known of the saxophone family. Made famous in the early part of the twentieth century by players such as John Coltrane and Charlie Parker, the alto saxophone gives a distinctive sound that is most associated with Jazz and Blues music. Although commonly constructed by brass, alto saxophones are woodwind instruments which follow the reed and mouthpiece set up to blow air into the instrument. Of all the woodwind instruments, the alto saxophone is one of the most accessible to learn.

This article guides you through the world of alto saxophones to give you tips on the best products and factors you should consider before purchasing the best alto sax to suit your musical needs. Our buying guide outlines details of these various factors to consider which include the key, body, player level, warranty, material and finish. Read all the information in the buying guide carefully to give yourself the best chance of getting the best value for money.

Top 10 Alto Saxophones Review 2019

The article has been compiled from a variety of online sources including manufacturer websites and customer reviews to give you the most rounded and informative review article. The article begins with a comparison table of the reviewed instruments, followed by ten in-depth reviews of alto saxophones currently available to purchase. These reviews include key features, pros/cons and detailed product descriptions. The reviews are followed by a detailed buying guide which also contains an FAQ section. The conclusion reveals the top three alto saxophones currently available to purchase.

Image and Rating
Name and Features
Price
9.9
1. Yamaha YAS-480
Editor’s Choice
Editor’s Choice

Bright sound and high quality make this outstanding Yamaha saxophone one of the most favorite amongst the musicians

9.7
2. Selmer SAS280 La Voix II
Best Intermediate
Best Intermediate

Even pro saxophonists adore this instrument’s highly durable construction with nylon resonators and clear enchanting sound delivered with ease

9.5
3. RS Berkeley ALS502
Best for Jazz
Best for Jazz

Improvise your best music pieces with this lacquered Berkley instrument with blue steel springs and a conveniently adjustable thumb rest

9.4
4. Allora AAAS-805
Best for Professionals
Best for Professionals

Professional grade alto sax made of high-quality red brass finished with stylish black nickel and silver plated keys – great looks and sound guaranteed

9.3
5. YAMAHA YAS-280
Best for Students
Best for Students

This golden lacquered Yamaha alto saxophone has a front F key and can go as high as F# to mesmerize the listeners

9.1
6. Selmer AS42
Clearest Sound
Clearest Sound

Elegant alto saxophone for musicians who are beginning their professional career and need to audition with the excellently sounding instrument

9.0
7. Jean-Paul USA AS-400
Budget Pick
Budget Pick

Excellent beginner saxophone that comes with cleaning kit and case to save money on classes and advanced accessories

8.9
8. Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ
Best for Transition
Best for Transition

Advancing from student’s level can prove troublesome unless you have an alto sax like Kaizer that has a 45-day trial period

8.8
9. Ravel PR12NS
Best for Recordings
Best for Recordings

Sell more recordings of your talented melodies by playing on one of the best fitted saxophones to ease the job

8.6
10. Antigua Winds X/P AS1203LQ
Best for Beginners
Best for Beginners

Start your saxophonists career with this budget-friendly alto sax that has a fully ribbed construction and high-quality keyguard bumpers

1.

Yamaha YAS-480 Editor’s Choice

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass, golden lacquer finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 5-year limited
  • Level: intermediate

More features: hand-engraved, consistent closing of the low C# key, separate key guards, left-hand seesaw key, 62-style neck, polyester key buttons

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Yamaha YAS-480 is a premium range alto saxophone that is designed for intermediate saxophone players. Constructed with a yellow brass body, this alto saxophone has a gold lacquer finish to give the impression of high quality, premium alto saxophone. Yamaha is one of the best-known brands of alto saxophone, for the considerable price tag, you are guaranteed top-quality sound and durable performance.

One of the premium features of the Yamaha YAS-480 is the hand-engraved elements. This adds an element of prestige and uniqueness to the instrument. The Yamaha YAS-480 follows conventional saxophone keys by being tuned in E flat. The saxophone does not have any other keys that can be tuned to which makes it ideal for more experienced players. If you are a beginner who likes the option of having different keys, the Yamaha YAS-480 is not likely to suit your needs.

One of the best features of the Yamaha YAS-480 is its compatibility with other Yamaha necks which allows the instrument to be customized and versatile with other Yamaha alto saxophones. The 62-style neck maintains the iconic feel of the instrument and will certainly appeal to those who love the traditional saxophone appearance. The left-hand seesaw key and polyester key buttons are designed to give players maximum comfort when transitioning between keys.

The Yamaha YAS-480 comes with a generous 5-year warranty which gives customers great purchasing protection. The warranty is limited so you should read the terms and conditions to know where you are protected.

Pros
  • Gold finish
  • Hand-engraved
  • Generous warranty
Cons
  • Expensive price

2.

Selmer SAS280 La Voix II Best Intermediate

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 2-year limited
  • Level: intermediate

More features: leather pads, nylon resonators, case included, ranges up to high F#

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Selmer SAS280 La Voix II is a high-quality, high-priced alto saxophone that is designed for intermediate players. The tonal character of this alto saxophone is relaxed and warm thanks to the fluid network. This instrument is ideal for soloists improvising in a Jazz session as well as being perfect to blend into a concert band.

The Selmer SAS280 La Voix II uses a traditional-sized bell to keep the tone of the music-focused and robust. This ensures that blending that sound the with an ensemble of instruments is easy, with the Selmer SAS280 La Voix II proving a great instrument to deliver warm harmonies. The intonation of the instrument is known for being near perfect, which helps to better integrate the instrument into an ensemble line-up.

The Selmer SAS280 La Voix II can also be adapted and enhanced to make it into a professional standard instrument. Whether it be hand-engraving or professional key styling to ensure accurate note making, the Selmer SAS280 La Voix II offers customers some of the best quality features for a cheaper price than other professional brands. This alto saxophone is perfectly suited for intermediate players who aspire to perform like professionals. This saxophone is the perfect bridging instrument.

Constructed from yellow brass, the Selmer SAS280 La Voix II has the distinctive, classic-looking appearance with leather pads and nylon resonators which add to the quality feel. The instrument has a two-year warranty which does not compare well to other products. That said, you are guaranteed high-quality at a competitive price.

Pros
  • Case included
  • Classic appearance
  • Ideal for solos and ensembles
Cons
  • Not suited to beginners
  • High price

3.

RS Berkeley ALS502 Best for Jazz

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass, lacquer finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: not specified
  • Level: intermediate

More features: blue steel springs, wooden case included, adjustable thumb rest, articulated C#-B, mouthpiece kit included

VIEW ON AMAZON

The RS Berkeley ALS502 offers alto saxophone players with options of an elite, university and artist series of saxophone that is perfect for those who play Jazz music. Fitted with blue steel springs and adjustable thumb rest, this alto saxophone has been constructed with the free Jazz player in mind.

One of the best features of the RS Berkeley ALS502 is the addition of a storage case which comes fitted with a mouthpiece set as well as other useful accessories. The strong wooden case provides strong protection of the instrument which is ideal for those who travel and perform regularly. Constructed with yellow brass with a lacquer finish, the RS Berkeley ALS502 has a classic looking alto saxophone appearance which many will be familiar with.

What makes the RS Berkeley ALS502 ideal for Jazz music is the smooth transition between keys. As Jazz music follows the free form in which alto saxophone players are encouraged to improvise over a key and set of notes, the RS Berkeley ALS502 makes this process smooth and accessible for players. The instrument is designed for intermediate players by being tuned to the single E flat key.

Available at a cheaper price compared to other intermediate alto saxophones, the RS Berkeley ALS502 offers customers with a great value option that is also built to last a decent amount of time. The curved shape of the instrument and the golden color are certainly appealing for alto sax traditionalists.

Pros
  • Perfect for Jazz players
  • Wooden storage case
  • Lacquer finish
Cons
  • Single key tuning

4.

Allora AAAS-805 Best for Professionals

Features
  • Body material: red brass, black nickel finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 3-year limited
  • Level: professional

More features: silver plated keys, hand engraving, case and cleaning kit included, ranges up to high F#, Pisoni pads

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Allora AAAS-805 is a professional standard alto saxophone that is available in several different finishes for experienced players to choose their favorite design. This design reviewed is constructed from red brass with a black nickel finish to give a silver-looking instrument. Compared to the classic yellow brass style, the Allora AAAS-805 offers a visually unique alto saxophone that is certainly eye-catching.

The Allora AAAS-805 offers precise intonation and keys that are very responsive which is perfect for professional players who quickly transfer between notes. One of the premium features of the instrument is the extensive hand-engravings and ribbed construction. The ribbed construction adds some weight to the instrument which makes it unsuitable for inexperienced and young players.

Included in the Allora AAAS-805 purchasing package are a case, cap, mouthpiece, care products and ligature. One of the best aspects of the Allora AAAS-805 is the inclusion of a top-quality cleaning package. This helps experienced alto sax players maintain the instrument, improving the chances of the Allora AAAS-805 lasting a long period. Many rival products do not include such a comprehensive cleaning product, which makes the Allora AAAS-805 particularly appealing.

The inclusion of high-quality Pisoni pads also adds another layer of quality to this instrument. These pads ensure that entry valves into the instrument are sufficiently protected from outside elements which are known for causing potential damage and decay. The Allora AAAS-805 comes with a 3-year limited warranty agreement to give purchasers decent product protection.

Pros
  • Professional standard
  • Black nickel finish
  • Cleaning package
Cons
  • Expensive price
  • Heavyweight

5.

YAMAHA YAS-280 Best for Students

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass, golden lacquer finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 5-year limited
  • Level: student

More features: case included, high F# and front F auxiliary keys

VIEW ON AMAZON

The YAMAHA YAS-280 is known for being one of the best student alto saxophones currently available to purchase. Yamaha is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of alto saxophones so buying with such a reputable company is a good idea, especially when purchasing for a beginner alto saxophonist.

Constructed with yellow brass and a gold lacquer finish, the YAMAHA YAS-280 is true to the traditional design features of an alto saxophone. Though there is an option to get the instrument with a silver-plated finish if you prefer that style. The YAMAHA YAS-280 is made in the classic E flat key and includes the high F sharp and front F auxiliary keys to allow students the opportunity to reach all the notes that professionals will be accustomed to.

One of the great aspects of purchasing the YAMAHA YAS-280 is that it comes equipped with a strong and durable case, giving students peace of mind when traveling to practices and gigs. The instrument also contains various upgrades from previous student models. These include a new neck receiver which comes with a durable screw to improve the responsiveness and durability of the mechanism. The low B-C sharp connection is also significantly improved to create a clear response from those notes.

Another technical addition is an adjustable thumb rest which allows for precise and comfortable hand positions when playing the YAMAHA YAS-280. Yamaha has got everything covered when it comes to comfort and precision engineering. This gives students the best chance of successfully learning to the instrument.

Pros
  • Precise and comfortable
  • Option for silver-plated
  • Equipped with a case
Cons
  • Single key
  • Not an affordable student alto sax

6.

Selmer AS42 Clearest Sound

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass, black nickel finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 2-year limited
  • Level: entry-level professional

More features: Henri Selmer Paris neck and mouthpiece, high F# auxiliary key, fully ribbed body construction, engraved bell, metal adjustable thumb rest, leather pads

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Selmer AS42 is known as an entry-level professional alto saxophone, designed best for new professional players who have only previously used beginner or intermediate alto saxophones. Constructed from yellow brass but with a black nickel finish, this alto saxophone has a distinctive silver-looking appearance that will certainly make players stand out from the crowd.

The Selmer AS42 is a high-quality alto saxophone through its various design features. The neck and mouthpiece are made from Henri Selmer’s Paris patented design. The instrument includes many engravings on the bell which reveal the yellow brass beneath. It also features known as essentials for modern alto saxophones which include a high F sharp auxiliary key and an adjustable thumb rest to give extra comfort while playing. The instrument also features multiple adjusting screws to help players customize the instrument to their preferences.

The Selmer AS42 contains a fully ribbed construction which is common among professional alto saxophones. This means that the sound of the instrument is warm, but the feel of the instrument is heavy. For those who are lighter-bodied and are needing to play the saxophone over long periods, alto sax’s like the Selmer AS42 can be pretty hard work.

Despite this, investing a significant about of money in the Selmer AS42 is a sure-fire investment in quality engineering that produces beautiful hearty and warm alto saxophone tones. This instrument is perfect for a solo player who has to perform many improvisations. The appearance and tone of the Selmer AS42 deliver a strong impact on an audience.

Pros
  • Warm sound
  • Quality engineering
  • Distinctive black nickel finish
Cons
  • Heavy instrument to play
  • Not suited for ensemble players

7.

Jean-Paul USA AS-400 Budget Pick

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass, lacquer finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 1-year limited
  • Level: beginner

More features: carrying case included, nickel-plated mouthpiece cap, cleaning kit included, nylon resonators

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Jean-Paul USA AS-400 is one of the best budgets pick alto saxophones currently available. Accessible at a supremely affordable price, this alto saxophone is designed with beginners and young players in mind. The price point is also designed to make the saxophone accessible to new players as other products required a hefty investment.

Constructed with yellow brass and a lacquer finish, the Jean-Paul USA AS-400 gives clear visual similarity with more expensive professional products. If you are a beginner, or simply looking for an affordable saxophone, this alto saxophone will allow you to save money but also fit in with the rest of the ensemble as the cheaper construction does not radically affect visual appearance. The Jean-Paul USA AS-400 includes a carry case for that extra durability as well as a cleaning kit to help you maintain the instrument. It is always important for beginner players to get used to maintaining their instrument from the start, otherwise, bad habits will make the instrument decay over time.

The Jean-Paul USA AS-400 includes a nickel-plated mouthpiece and nylon resonators to add to comfort and quality of the sound being produced. Although these features are not as precisely engineered as other more expensive alto saxophones, the sound produced is of sufficient quality for a beginner to become accustomed to the alto saxophone.

The Jean-Paul USA AS-400 is non-ribbed which makes it slightly lighter to play which is ideal for younger players. This is an instrument designed to be a gateway into the world of alto saxophones.

Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Affordable price
  • Gateway instrument
Cons
  • Less quality design
  • No engravings

8.

Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ Best for Transition

Features
  • Body material: brass, golden lacquer finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 45-day trial, lifetime no-hassle warranty
  • Level: student, intermediate

More features: travel case included, F# auxiliary key, blue needle springs, caring kit included

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ is a student or intermediate level alto saxophone that is constructed from brass with a golden lacquer finish. Designed to be part of the familiar family of alto saxophones, the Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ performs well in terms of price and sound quality in the intermediate alto saxophone market.

Some of the best features that come with purchasing the Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ include a deluxe travel case that is designed to withstand long periods of travel to keep your instrument secure and well-maintained. The purchasing package also includes a complete mouthpiece and ligature set, cloth for polishing, a neck strap, cork lubricant and gloves. Through purchasing the Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ you instantly become equipped to be a professional alto saxophonist.

With some purchasing offers there is the Kaizer Welcome Kit which includes an Ultra-Pure repair kit for the alto saxophone. Check various online sellers to see if this is available. The Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ contains professional Italian pads to guarantee high-quality intonation and comfort. This particular model is best suited for players in a school or ensemble band as tonal character blends well with other instruments.

One of the best features of the Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ is the 45-day free trial of the instrument. This far exceeds any other manufacturer and allows customers to play the instrument and test it out for 45 days. If the instrument does not fit your desired needs you can send it back to the seller and receive a full refund. This is ideal for players who do not know too much about the saxophone and would like to fully test out a product before purchasing.

Pros
  • 45 Day free trial
  • Deluxe travel case
  • Cleaning kit
Cons
  • Not suited for solo players
  • More expensive than other student alto saxophones

9.

Ravel PR12NS Best for Recordings

Features
  • Body material: nickel-plated brass, lacquered finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: not specified
  • Level: beginner, intermediate

More features: sandblasted body, leather pads, metal resonators, F# auxiliary key, adjustable thumb rest, ribbed construction, case and cleaning kit included

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Ravel PR12NS is a beginner or intermediate level alto saxophone that is available at a competitive price. Constructed from nickel-plated brass with a lacquered finish, this instrument gives has a unique appearance compared to the more common yellow brass design. If you are not interested in yellow brass or silver-plated design, the Ravel PR12NS offers a nice in-between color that blends in nicely.

The Ravel PR12NS follows the standard E flat key format to allow beginners and intermediates straight forward access to the standard alto saxophone notation. The instrument comes with quality leather pads and metal resonators to ensure the distinctive alto saxophone tones can be heard. The inclusion of an adjustable thumb rest adds a layer of comfort and precision to the product design, making it easier for players to play for longer periods.

The Ravel PR12NS has a ribbed construction which is often more associated with the professional-level alto saxophone. The benefits of having a ribbed construction are that the tonal quality of the instrument is hearty and warm. There will be less harsh and earthy tones coming out of this instrument.

One of the best features of the Ravel PR12NS is the inclusion of a case and cleaning kit when purchasing. The good quality case protects the instrument when traveling to practice or performances. While the cleaning kit allows you to self-maintain the instrument which is good habits for beginner players to get into. For intermediate players, this price point is very competitive, while for beginners the Ravel PR12NS is a more expensive purchase.

Pros
  • Competitive price for intermediates
  • Unique body color
  • Case and cleaning kit included
Cons
  • Expensive for beginners
  • Heavy instrument

10.

Antigua Winds X/P AS1203LQ Best for Beginners

Features
  • Body material: yellow brass, lacquered finish
  • Key: Eb
  • Warranty: 5-year limited
  • Level: beginner

More features: high F# auxiliary key, fully ribbed construction, keyguard bumpers, case included

VIEW ON AMAZON

The Antigua Winds X/P AS1203LQ is a premium-priced beginner alto saxophone that follows the design of classic alto saxophones. Constructed from yellow brass with a lacquered finish, this instrument will look familiar to those who do not know lots about alto saxophones. Although featuring fewer premium features compared to professional products, this instrument is a high-quality instrument for a beginner to learn on.

One of the features that make the instrument higher quality and a higher price is the fully ribbed construction. This allows a distinctive warm sound to resonate from the horn of the instrument and will not sound of place compared to professional instruments. Where the cheaper price comes in compared to professional standard alto saxophones is on the body of the instrument where the Antigua Winds X/P AS1203LQ features no engravings or quality leather pads.

The Antigua Winds X/P AS1203LQ includes a case when purchased to allow players to easily protect their instrument while traveling as well as saving money from having to buy a case separately. The instrument is built to the E flat which is familiar with all alto saxophonists. The inclusion of a high F sharp key also allows this instrument to fit in well with other instruments, allowing the full range of alto saxophone notes to be accessed.

The Antigua Winds X/P AS1203LQ comes with a generous 5-year limited warranty to give purchasers all the necessary protection when purchasing. The warranty is limited so you must check the small print to see what aspects are covered under the warranty agreement.

Pros
  • High-quality beginner alto saxophone
  • Fully ribbed construction
  • Generous warranty agreement
Cons
  • Expensive price for a beginner
  • Heavy instrument not suited to younger players

Buying Guide

This buying guide and FAQ section outline all the essential information that you need to know when you are looking to buy the best alto saxophone for your needs. The section begins with some information on the alto sax, before outlining some of the factors you should consider before purchasing. Take note of all the information given as it could well save you lots of money in the long run.

Where you can play an alto sax?

10 Magnificent Alto Saxophones for All Musician's PreferencesThe alto saxophone tends to know in the musical world as the ‘alto sax’ and it is certainly the most commonly played saxophone from the saxophone family.

The instrument is always pitched to an E flat key and is played similarly to other saxophones and clarinets by using a mouthpiece which has a vibrating wooden reed to block air and produce sound.

Alto saxophone playing tips

This video accessed on the link below is a 15-minute masterclass by Paul Haywood on how to sound more professional when playing the saxophone.

It is worth a watch if you are a beginner or intermediate level player who is seeking to add a stronger and more robust sound when playing the alto saxophone.

The sound of the price

Learning musical instruments needs to be accessible and affordable. The majority of well-known woodwind, brass or string instruments tend to have a large variety in prices available. For beginners and students, alto saxophones can be available around the $300 to $400 price point.

Whereas professional players who want all the highest quality features can access saxophones costing well over $3000. Premium alto saxophones can justify that huge price tag because of features such as hand-engraving as well as mechanisms to change the key of the instrument.

Consider the following features to choose the perfect alto saxophone

Below we outline various factors you should consider before purchasing the best alto saxophone to suit the needs of whoever is playing it.

Making these considerations will allow you to get the best value for your money and ensure that alto saxophone is a worthwhile investment.

Player’s level

Depending on the experience and skill level of the player, different saxophones cater for the different levels of saxophone skill. Beginner saxophones such as the YAMAHA YAS-280 are considerably more affordable, having easy grips and valve presses to making notes transition easier and they are also much easier to tune. As the majority of beginner saxophone players are young, the weight of beginner alto saxophone is also lighter than those used by more experienced players.

Intermediate level alto saxophones such as the RS Berkeley ALS502 are designed for those who have gained sufficient levels of experience on a beginner alto sax. The tones of these instruments are much improved but not to the level of professional instruments. They provide a decently priced bridge between affordable and premium alto saxophones. The intermediate alto saxophones tend to have more responsive keys for fast playing action.

Professional alto saxophones such as the Allora AAAS-805 are naturally at the premium end of the market. In addition to the significantly improved intonation, responsiveness and tone, these instruments look incredibly appealing. Many have hand-engravings in addition to other deluxe product finishes that make the instruments stand out from a crowded market.

Choose the key

Choosing the key is an essential element when selecting the best alto saxophone to suit your needs. You won’t be surprised to hear that different alto saxophones have different keys. Highly skilled professional players will manage fine on one key. Many prefer to purchase a saxophone with only one key to making the body less cluttered and easier to navigate.

Beginners may appreciate having a few extra keys. Having added keys such as the high G or F sharp provides beginner saxophonists with easier access to notes and keys that are not reachable in the E flat key. Saxophones with alternative positions for the keys and height screws that can be adjusted may be appealing for beginner players as it gives extra scope to make playing the alto sax easier.

Body look and material

10 Magnificent Alto Saxophones for All Musician's PreferencesThe appearance of an alto saxophone can either be ribbed or non-ribbed. This refers to the body of the instrument specifically.

An alto sax with a ribbed construction makes the instrument feel heavier, which in turn affects the vibration of the instrument. A more massive instrument tends to produce a warmer sounding saxophone. The opposite is true for non-ribbed alto saxophones which are lighter and produce a denser and harsher sound.

Although ribbed construction for alto saxophones is prevalent and often more visually appealing, there are problems with this type of construction, particularly when it comes to playability. More massive horns can be burdensome and difficult to play during long performances. This decision should be made on what feels comfortable for the player.

The yellow brass finish easily identifies the majority of alto saxophones. That said, there are other materials used to construct alto saxophones these include, copper, bronze and sterling silver. Different materials will affect the price of the instrument. Sliver instruments are likely to be the most expensive.

There are also a variety of finishing materials for alto saxophones that give a unique glisten to the instrument. Common materials include black nickel plate, vintage and colored lacquers. There are a variety of other finishes to look out for which look so unique that they may enchant you. Don’t be lulled in purely on the appearance though, test out the sound of the instrument first to ensure that the finish material does severely hamper the tonal character.

If you are a beginner alto sax player, the instrument you purchase should not weigh over 6 pounds. Lighter instruments make practicing and playing much easier to manage.

The shape of the instrument can either be straight or curvy, with the curvy being more iconic and stylish, especially when playing live.

Neck

The length of the neck is significant when effecting the playability of an alto sax. This is a very personal preference that is best worked out when the player compares different alto saxophones with different neck sizes.

Luckily, if the neck size is too long or too short, you can easily change them for size more suited to dimensions of the alto sax player. There is not too much pressure on you to get the size perfect first time around. If you are buying for a young, growing player, the best advice is to buy an alto sax with a longer neck so that the player can grow into the instrument.

Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece is another crucial aspect to consider when deciding the best alto sax to suit your playing needs. It is important to note that the cut and shape of the mouthpiece is highly influential in effecting the tonal quality of the saxophone.

An example of these is the difference between a square and round chambers. The sound character of these two different mouthpiece chambers is very different. The best option is to try out both and select which one you prefer based on the sound style and feel.

Although most musical stores will have standard mouthpiece sizes and styles, some allow for customizable mouthpieces to suit to certain playing styles. Whether it be for jazz, classical, or ensemble music, some experienced players will carry different mouthpieces for different musical styles. This is a useful tip if you are to use the alto sax for a variety of musical styles.

Pads

No matter whether you an experienced player, intermediate or a beginner, when you purchase an alto saxophone, you have to ensure that it comes with pads. By pads, we mean pads that cover the various holes on the instrument. The material of the pads cannot be overly soft but constructed of robust material to ensure long-standing performance. Water-resistant pads such as those found on the Allora AAAS-805 are ideal for helping with the durability and maintenance of the alto saxophone.

Thump rest

10 Magnificent Alto Saxophones for All Musician's PreferencesWhen you purchase an alto saxophone that you intend to play regularly over a long period, the instrument must have all the accessories to ensure smooth a comfortable performance. The thumb rest is crucial in this. If the thumb rest on the alto saxophone is poorly designed, there will be significant discomfort and disruption when playing.

The thumb rest is located in the area of the saxophone where the thumb rests on providing balance and stability to the instrument. It is normally configured in a hook-shape and can be made from metal or plastic. It is important that you hold various alto saxophones with different thumb rests on deciding on which style is most favorable to you. Many modern alto saxophones such as the Selmer AS42 have adjustable thumb rests to give more comfort.

Accessories

Most saxophones will come with a variety of accessories which can be influential in deciding which instrument provides the best value purchasing offer. Accessories for saxophones include a case, reeds, a tuner, and hand-engraving.

Some of the accessories may be very important, and others not important at all. For example, beginner saxophones are likely to come with a cheap, less robust instrument case. If you are interested in a purchasing a beginner saxophone with the hope of it lasting a decent amount of time, it could be advisable to find a brand that sells a beginner alto sax with a strong case.

Consider the reeds

The reeds are the tiny pieces of fine wood that are added to the flat mouthpiece surface in combination with the ligature.

The reed helps create a sound as air travels when through the mouthpiece when blowing and vibrates the wood against the mouthpiece material to produce the sound. Such simple technology can create wonderfully rich and earthy alt saxophone tones.

Different types of reeds produce different types of musical styles and sound quality. Reeds have a numbering system which indicates the stiffness of the wood. Higher numbers indicate a stiffer reed. Experienced saxophonists more commonly play them as they are notoriously more difficult to use. Despite the difficulties, the sound produced by a stiffer reed is the deep, rich and darker tone that so many alto saxophonists crave for.

Using a soft reed may be easier to play, but the register of the notes is much brighter and commonly leads to high notes sound too flat.

Reeds are commonly replaced, and it is important that whenever you play alto saxophone, you have to have at least three back-up reeds ready and available to use. If you are playing different musical styles throughout the performance, it is always handy to have reeds with different stiffness levels to allow adjusting the sound accordingly.

Warranty

The warranty agreement of any product is essential to provide the consumer with sufficient purchasing protection. The same applies to saxophones.

From the products reviewed in this article, there is a vast range of warranty agreements available with different alto sax products. Products such as the Jean-Paul USA AS-400 have a short one-year warranty while others such as the Kaizer ASAX-3000LQ offer a hugely generous lifetime warranty agreement.

This product also includes a 45-day trial period to see whether you like the instrument. These kinds of purchasing offer can be hugely appealing, especially for those who have never bought an alto saxophone, let along with a musical instrument before.

Is there a difference between an alto and tenor saxophone?

best alto saxophoneThe alto and tenor saxophones are the most common saxophones purchased. They have several differences that you should be aware of:

  • Size: The tenor sax is slightly larger and heavier than the alto saxophone. This leads to the instrument producing a deep and mellow sound. Alto saxophones are more accommodating to younger and beginner players because of the small size.
  • Register: Both the alto and tenor saxophones are constructed to the E flat key. That means that when either one of these instruments plays a C note, the equivalent of a piano would be an E flat. The difference comes as the tenor is made an octave lower than the alto, making the sound much deeper.
  • Transposition: The alto and tenor saxophones both use the same finger positions, number of notes and mouthpieces. This makes them a popular double-act when learning, with many key saxophonists learning both instruments simultaneously because of their playing similarities.

FAQ

Any instrument can be difficult to learn, the difficulty level is often affected by your previous musical experience. If you have already learned to play the tenor saxophone before or even another woodwind instrument, the concept of using a reed mouthpiece and different positions will be a relatively familiar concept which can aid the learning process.

If you are learning the alto sax from scratch, it may take time for you to get used to the orientation of the instrument. One of the great things about learning the saxophone is that it is quite a free instrument. Regularly played in Jazz or Blues music, the concept of improvisation and music without notation is commonly associated with the alto sax. This gives players freedom when they learn notes to experiment and play the saxophone in a creative and explorative way.

The biggest challenge when learning the saxophone is getting used to blowing the mouthpiece and operating your fingers at the same time. Although not impossible given time and practice, to excel at the alto saxophone is certainly a challenge.

Maintenance of the alto saxophone is crucial to the instrument lasting a long period. The main parts of the instrument that need dedicated care and attention are the neck, mouthpiece and body.

To ensure good hygiene, the mouthpiece has to be cleaned regularly. This not only a question of sanitation but crucially about the sound quality of the music. Overtime, saliva builds up inside the mouthpiece to obstruct potential sounds coming through. Removing it a wiping regularly with a cloth is an easy maintenance tip to follow to ensure clean and healthy sound.

The neck interior should also be cleaned regularly. To do this requires a dissembling of the part and using cleaning rods and clothes to clean the inside of the neck. Specialist cleaning rods are a common accessory of most alto saxophones but if not can be bought from most music shops.

The exterior of the same is very easy to clean and does not affect the sound of the instrument. This is mainly an appearance thing, with players recommended to wipe down dust regularly to maintain pristine condition.

It is always best practice to test out an alto saxophone before purchasing. It is a very straightforward process, you simply get permission from the seller and play some notes and riffs on the instrument.

Testing intonation is to check whether the instrument can be tuned easily by moving the neck further away or closer to the neck.

Testing the key function is done by pressing down on the keys and feeling their responsiveness to the starting position.

You can also check the quality of the leaking pads by looking at them while in operation.

The market for saxophones has grown significantly in recent years, with the number of brands producing alto saxophones increasing. The brand is not hugely important, it more comes to specific features and specifications of the product that you need to spend time focusing on.

If you are saxophone history nerd, you may wish to follow in the footsteps of famous saxophonists such as John Coltrane and Charlie Parker and buy saxophones made by the same brand that they used.

Our Verdict

Hopefully, this article has given you all the essential information that you need to know about the best alto saxophones that are available to purchase.

Our verdict on the top three best alto saxophones are:

The Yamaha YAS-480 comes first in our rankings because of the premium gold finish and hand-engravings on the body of the instrument. It is one of the best-looking alto saxophones.

The Selmer SAS280 La Voix II finishes second in our rankings because of its suitability to both individual and solo performance.

The RS Berkeley ALS502 comes third in our rankings because of its suitability to Jazz players as well as its strong wooden case that is included in the purchase.

There is a huge variety of types and prices of alto saxophone, which means choosing the best alto saxophone can be a difficult decision. Take your time and do as much research as possible to have the best chance of getting value for money.

9.9/10 Total Score
Yamaha YAS-480 - Editor's Choice
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