In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
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Last updated: January 23, 2021
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The alto saxophone is one of the most favorite professional woodwinds for how easy it is to learn, its clear sound and light construction. The alto saxophone is used widely for a huge amount of music played, particularly in the classical repertoire. However, this does not limit its use to this genre only. In fact, the best professional alto saxophone shows plenty of versatility. It is used in various types of bands including concert bands, military and marching bands along with chamber music, swing music and solo repertoire.
When comparing the student or intermediate alto saxophone to its professional counterpart, there are a few things to keep in mind. For instance, a student level instrument is created for easy playability, affordability and accuracy while an intermediate level instrument will also focus on producing tone that resembles the quality of a professional saxophone. But the professional saxophone is devised to meet professional needs first. These include superior tone, intonation and response. That is why when it comes to getting a professional alto saxophone, you will need to consider features like key, finish, warranty information and weight to get the best value for your hard-earned dollar.
To help you with your purchase of a professional alto saxophone, our experts have put together a list of the five best instruments in this category. Read on their in-depth reviews to gauge their performance and rankings and then finish up with our detailed buying guide to get answers for any other questions you may have.
The Editor’s Choice on this list comes from none other than Selmer, a big name in production of saxophones. The SAS280 La Voix II alto saxophone is a quality instrument that comes well-equipped for the advanced player.
The SAS280 is built to provide the best sound possible, with a yellow brass body and a traditional bell shape that produce a focused tone and ease control of pitch. Blending the notes become easier for a better overall sound experience. This saxophone is in the Eb key and provides a decently warm sound.
Another more professional feature on this instrument is the key styling. Styled in an ergonomic manner you would more commonly find on pricier models, the key placements allow for more comfortable fingering and easier playing experience. The result is a smoother, more fluid sound.
The SAS280 saxophone is a good-looking instrument, with expert craftsmanship you can expect from Selmer. It comes in a variety of lacquer finishes to better fit your aesthetic preference.
Other features on this saxophone include treated leather pads with metal resonators, plenty of adjustment screws, a mini rib construction, and a neck made to minimize resistance when in use. It includes a carrying case, a mouthpiece with a ligature, and a caring kit for maintaining your instrument.
The Selmer SAS280 is undoubtedly a quality instrument, but some find that the sound seems brighter than expected, especially when compared to the richer sounds of Selmer’s own Paris series instruments.
What we liked:
Many features add to ease of use and comfort
Capable of producing a smooth and fluid sound, and blends easily
What could be better:
Sound is not as rich as the Paris, up to preference
The Allora Paris AAAS-805 Saxophone is an elegant professional-level instrument made with quality and craftsmanship often reserved for instruments that cost far more than this one.
The Paris Series Alto Saxophone is made with ribbed construction and a red brass, offering a much warmer sound than other brass alloys. It comes available in three different finishes (gold laquer, black nickel with silver plated keys, or matte), adding that extra variety for your preferred look, feel, or sound. Each version is beautifully decorated with hand-engraved patterns, a feature that is usually available on much fancier saxophones.
The AAAS-805 saxophone includes a range of Eb to high F#, and has precise intonation to make you play all the right notes. The keys are ergonomically placed and provide quick response for perfectly timed music.
It features high quality Pisoni pro pads with metal resonators and includes a carrying case, mouthpiece, cap, ligature, and care products.
The finger rests and keys are adjustable for your comfort, though there have been some small issues involving adjusting.
Overall, the Allora Paris Series Alto saxophone is the best saxophones for concertos on this list. It is a quality instrument that comes at a decent price, with a rich sound that you can be proud of bringing with you to any performance.
What we liked:
Ribbed construction and red brass offer a warm sound
The Paris 52 Jubilee Edition saxophone is a high-end instrument originally made with the intention of serving as a “new and improved” version to the immensely popular Paris Super Action Series II and III, a series of Selmer saxophones that had become the standard in professional saxophones for about a generation.
It offers everything the best instruments had and more, making it the ultimate upgrade pick on this list. The Paris 52JU is lighter and more responsive, making it easier to play and more accurate in its sound. The yellow brass ribbed body makes it durable and offers a well-focused yet flexible tone. The mouthpiece produces dynamic sound variation and allows for better projection. The timbre is solid and you will love the overall sound of this instrument. The octave neck key was redesigned with a lighter mechanism and thinner outlines, and will run less risk of getting bent or damaged.
The appearance of the Paris 52JU is very striking. The Gold Lacquer finish not only creates a greater visual presence, but further improves the warmth of the tone. The elaborate design is completed with a new style of outline engraving. The bow to bow ring is decorated with the original signature of Henri Selmer to add that final flair.
The one thing holding this saxophone out of reach for many is going to be the price. While it is a top-quality instrument and definitely a worthy long-term saxophone to have with you, the upfront price is definitely high.
Known with a reputation of quality and reliability, Yamaha has been providing bestselling instruments for players of all levels. On their more intermediate/expert side, the YAS-62 alto saxophone is a great affordable option for experts who can’t afford to sacrifice quality and playability that comes with pricier professional alternatives.
Redesigned from the YAS-61 saxophone from the ’70s, this model has been ever improving in response time and intonation since. It had become more comfortable and playable over time, offering more flexible sounds and a solid tone. The style of neck has been changed to be roomier and allow for a comfortable flow of air. The bore is otherwise narrower, allowing for faster response and a better control of the sounds produced. The lighter construction makes this saxophone easier to play, especially for longer sessions or performances. Though these components (lighter weight and narrower bore) allow for better playability, the sound may not project as well as heavier counterparts to the YAS-62.
Other features of the YAS-62 saxophone include an adjustable thumb rest for added comfort, polyester key buttons, a standard golden lacquer finish, an AS4C mouthpiece, and a two-piece bell with hand engravings to add a decorative touch.
This saxophone also comes with a carry case for easy transport.
Yamaha has been providing quality and affordable instruments for decades and the YAS-62 is no exception. Given its affordability factor, it has all the reasons for us to nominate it this list’s Budget Pick.
What we liked:
Lighter construction is easier to play
Ergonomically designed for better comfort when playing
Narrow bore allows for better control of sound
What could be better:
Sound produced may not be as strong as heavier instruments
Jupiter is a company that has specialized in student and intermediate instruments well before they delved into more professional products, so it’s no wonder they would bring us the best saxophone for transition on this list.
Made with a quality you can bring with you throughout your journey from a learning saxophonist to an expert, the Jupiter JAS1100 is equipped with the essential features no matter what your level.
This golden lacquered saxophone provides a warmer sound that suits a variety of settings, and is appropriate for plenty of playing situations.
It is made to be very playable, even if you’re new to more professionally styled models. The
adjustable keys should make things simpler to navigate as you learn and get used to the instrument. This saxophone hits the right notes easily with minimal effort, making it easier to play as you get better.
This is an excellent upgrade for students, but can be on the pricier side for a very temporary transition saxophone. This shouldn’t be an issue for most, as it can last you a long time no matter the level you advance to.
This is a great quality transition instrument, but may not be the high-end fancy product a long time professional is looking for the rest of their playing days.
What we liked:
Quality that will last you through your learning experience
Learner friendly design, easy playability
What could be better:
Pricey for a temporary instrument
Great step-up sax, but not for the long time professional
Things to Consider
The alto saxophone is the most commonly used saxophone for beginners. Younger students and beginners in saxophone playing get used to using these types and then wish to pursue this model later on in profession. But choosing one for professional use is much different from choosing one for a beginner. Every piece of the instrument has to be taken into assessment to find the perfect saxophone.
Pro alto saxophone – when to upgrade?
The time to upgrade is up to you. Once you have surpassed the beginner level and you want a challenge, it can be time to change your saxophone and practice harder. Professional models should only be purchased if you wish to pursue your instrument further or professionally.
A professional saxophone is a huge investment which should be taken seriously. If you’re only a hobbyist who enjoys playing music, then a professional model may not be for you.
Choose the perfect professional alto sax by the following features
There are numerous features to consider when diving into the professional world of music. No matter the model number or material, all saxophones hold their own sound, which can alter with the slightest change in diameter or polishing of material.
Material and finish – go with the best
Material and finish aren’t just for aesthetics, they help amplify the sound, giving each saxophone its own unique tone. Rounded fuller tones come from saxophones that have matte finishes or black lacquer ones. If this isn’t your preferred sound, then silver plated saxophones have a purer and better centered tone. They also have an enhanced volume.
Bell and body construction
The bell is where the bell emanates from. The thicker the bell becomes, the stronger the sound will come out since it bounces off the bell’s sides before coming out. The sound will also be thicker and stiff thanks to the thick sides.
If the bell has a thin construction, then the sound will be lighter and smoother. Depending on the kind of sound you want, the bell will differ.
The body is where the keys are placed and the sound flows through. Quite like the bell, when the thickness alters as well as the diameter, the sound gets stiff or flows smoother.
Pitch and sound
The pitch and sound of the saxophone will change from one piece to the other. When you go to sample your saxophone, you want to keep your ears out for the right sound. Sound will differentiate based on the material, bell, and pipes of the saxophone. Once you have tested and tuned your saxophone, you must test how rich, soft, profound, or pure of a tone it creates. It should be able to handle all notes fluently, otherwise there is an issue with the pitch and it’s in need of a re-tuning. Or it’s not the right saxophone for you.
Reeds and mouthpiece
The most important part of the saxophone, besides the bell, is the mouthpiece. This is where your mouth will rest, and it’s essential that you keep this part of the instrument clean at all times, otherwise it could clog with spit and ruin the interior of the saxophone. Your lips should comfortably sit on the mouthpiece.
The reed of your saxophone is also another piece that goes into your mouth. This touches your lower lip and the vibration of the reed is what makes the sound in your saxophone. It is important that this part is sharp, clean, and tightly fastened while playing.
Your grip on the saxophone should be balanced enough to hold the saxophone properly, as well as reach all the designated keys. With 25 keys, this can get tricky, but there are specific places to place your fingers.
On a professional model, moving your finger over the keys should be second nature and therefore not a problem. Your thumb rest should be easy to use and within reach, otherwise your balance could be ruined. Replacement thumb rests aren’t hard to come by, and having a second with you never hurts in case your first one gets dirty or falls off.
The weight of your saxophone can change your entire experience with it. You don’t want a saxophone too heavy for you to carry, nor do you want one that shifts in your grasp. This can make playing your saxophone frustrating and might even discourage you to play. An evenly weighted saxophone that you can easily handle will make your experience more delightful and your music will come out better as well.
There are many accessories that you can get for your saxophone to make life easier;
You can purchase a tripod to stand your saxophone on top of when it’s temporarily not in use.
Teeth guards will help protect your teeth while you play. There can be an injury if your saxophone mouthpiece slips while you are playing.
A reed cutter can help you cut the reed’s end if it becomes too weak.
You can purchase your saxophone by encasing it in a foam. This foam encasing prevents any sound from coming out of your saxophone when not in use.
A necklace or cord helps when you need to carry your saxophone around the place.
Of course, there is the case. The case might be the most important accessory you could invest in. If you need to carry your saxophone around, why risk breaking it when you could tuck it safely in a padded casing?
Consider the brand
The brand is a very important factor to consider. Better known and trusted brands put more effort into their instruments which means an easier experience for the user.
Listed below are a few brands that you can consider when buying a professional alto saxophone.
YAMAHA – Yamaha is a very trusted and widely used brand for instruments. Yamaha’s success came from their customized instrument models, providing users with more versatility and options in their saxophones. The Yamaha YAS-62 is an affordable option that can fit into the tightest of budgets.
SELMER – Selmer is high-priced when it comes to their saxophones. Their consistency in models isn’t efficient, but their latest editions are better in quality than their older models. We have two Selmer models featured here, with the Paris 52JU being the ideal upgrade instrument and the SAS280 La Voix II offering a suitable instrument for any professional playing style.
JUPITER – Jupiter has a wide range of models that are made of high-quality materials and all well-tested before shipment. The Jupiter JAS1100 model is a great instrument for intermediate players who want to become professionals without investing in a new instrument afterwards.
Naturally, you’ll want a warranty for your saxophone. These investments are for life, if you plan on playing your saxophone professionally. Warranties can come for one year to five years. You’ll want to ensure that your warranty covers all parts of the saxophone.
It’s better if they involve replacement parts in the warranty since most professional saxophones are custom, and coming across their replacement parts is almost impossible.
If you want a professional take on your music, then it is better to have a professional instrument. That way, you are not restricted to the limits of an intermediate instrument. For playing professionally, an intermediate model is not a good idea. The sound is significantly different from that of a professional instrument. For practice purposes, by all means, an intermediate saxophone is a great idea, but once you make the transition from an intermediate player to a pro, the intermediate level instrument will never suffice.
Technically, all parts of the saxophone are replaceable. That doesn’t mean replacements are the solution you should jump to if you have a problem. This is a professional saxophone, and has been carefully constructed. For further replacement information for your specific saxophone, contact the manufacturer for parts and be prepared for a costly price.
If you’re looking for a reliable case, then you’ll need one from a reliable source. Just like how you’ve been told to be aware of the brand of the saxophone, the same goes for the casing. Here are just a few of the many cases you can consider: ProTec and Gator. The best option for your saxophone is to look into the brand you bought from, and check to see if they sell any cases for their own products.
Overall, the Selmer SAS280 La Voix II alto saxophone is our favorite choice. With a reliable name like Selmer that has provided the standard for professional saxophones for years, it’s hard to not consider this instrument in your top choices. Any professional will enjoy the fluid playability of this instrument.
The Allora Paris Series Alto saxophone is also a great choice to consider. This elegantly decorated saxophone comes with a quality and features not common for instruments of a similar price range, and offers comfort and ease of use in your hands.
For the most affordable option, the best professional alto saxophone has to be the popular Yamaha YAS-62. This reliable saxophone has been a favorite of many for the right reasons – it’s easy to play, relatively lightweight, and comes with the quality you can trust from a Yamaha instrument.