Soprano saxophones are small, quirky woodwind instruments that are full of attitude and offer a different voice in a jazz band. Getting a note from a soprano saxophone is similar to an alto or even a tenor saxophone. However, the soprano saxophone will not aid you when tuning the notes. Kenny G and John Coltrane are some of the famous jazz players that incorporate high-standard soprano recordings in their music. This type of saxophone is an excellent purchase if you wish to produce a vibrant and full sound in higher registers.
Our quest to find the best soprano saxophone turned out to be a fun and productive experience. In our review, we considered several features of soprano saxophones. These include player level, material, mouthpiece, key and sound, key quality, and even the type of brand. These are some of the top features that you should review before choosing a soprano sax. This will help you achieve the perfect note without a struggle — no need to buy a professional soprano sax if you have never played the instrument in your life.
Top 5 Soprano Saxophones Review 2019
We spent a lot of time reviewing the different instruments that we had. Experiencing the various features of these saxophones and researching about each one of them took us months. We tried each one of them, talked to industry professionals and even got the input of different musicians. In our final review, you will find a table highlighting the saxophones, in-depth review of each instrument and a buying guide to help you make the best choice.
Selmer SSS280R La Voix II – Editor’s Choice
- Material: rose brass, clear lacquer
- Key: Bb to high G#
- Level: intermediate, professional
- Warranty: 45-day return policy, 2-year limited
More features: case included, treated leather pads, professional spring tension, adjusting screws
The Selmer brand has been a popular brand for years because of its high-quality saxophones. And the Selmer SSS280R La Voix II is not an exception. While many people assert that playing a soprano sax is difficult, the Selmer La Voix II is considered to provide more fun since it sounds better and responds easier when you tune it. People choose this brand because it has no huge bells, no sonic stones, or even zebra finishes. With the Selmer La Voix II, its all horn and no hype.
It has a fluid sound coupled with ergonomic keys that support some quick finger action. A great choice if you want a lightweight sax with a wide range of tones and one that delivers an excellent performance. The neck of the Selmer La Voix II is also specially designed to give a superior response. This means that this instrument will be perfect for you if you are looking for some darker or mid-range sounds. Moreover, this model comes with all the features that you expect from a contemporary soprano saxophone.
Other cool features of the Selmer La Voix II is the high G#, several adjusting screws, traditional bell flare and some nicely treated leather pads. This soprano saxophone has clear lacquer over the rose brass finish, a timbre finish and beautiful engraving on both its body and bell.
- It is lightweight
- Its keys are ergonomically designed
- A fluid and focused tone
- A versatile instrument
- Maybe a bit pricey and out of reach for some
Allora Vienna Series AASS-502 – Best Student Soprano Saxophone
- Material: lacquered yellow brass
- Key: Bb to high F#
- Level: student, intermediate
- Warranty: 3-year limited
More features: fully ribbed, gig bag included, two necks
The Allora Vienna Series AASS-502 is a great choice for schools or even beginners who are on a budget. If you do not wish to break the bank but get an excellent instrument, then this may be the best choice. This saxophone has some great features that make it a step up from any previous budget instrument you may have.
Being an instrument that targets students and beginners, Allora has ensured that the saxophone addresses the needs of this demographic. What was once considered a delicate instrument had been made playable. It produces excellent sound and is designed to help novice musicians to learn how to play it quickly. The Allora Vienna Series is one of the few intermediary saxophones that come with a better play and tone range. This will allow a musician to not only access soft notes but also reach blow out notes.
It is a flexible instrument whose keys are also ergonomically designed to give musicians the best experience when playing it. This model comes with two necks. One neck gives out some darker tones to the player since it is curved while the straight neck offers a direct sound. The high F# key of the soprano saxophone also enhances its flexibility. The Allora Vienna is a wonderful soprano saxophone choice if you want a warm tone, especially in the low and middle octaves. All this at an affordable price.
- It has two necks
- It has a high F# note
- Offers a warm tone in the low and middle octaves
- Not the best choice if you want high tones
Yamaha Custom YSS-82Z – Best Professional Soprano Saxophone
- Material: gold lacquer
- Key: Bb to high F#
- Level: professional
- Warranty: 5-year limited
More features: one-piece neck, hand-engraved, front F auxiliary key, mother of pearl key buttons, case included, 4 CM mouthpiece
Are you looking for a professional-grade soprano saxophone? If you would wish to get an unparalleled soprano sax with a high-end sound, then this is what you are looking for. It has a lot of features that will come in handy if you are a skilled soprano sax player. Of course, getting such as professional saxophone will cost you an arm and a leg. However, you will be able to make some perfect sounds that can’t be achieved by lower-end models.
The Yamaha Custom YSS-82Z brings a vintage feel whenever you unleash it. It will bring a mix of past eras into any performance. There are two neck options when you decide to go with the Yamaha YSS-82Z. These include the straight neck and the curved neck. Having a one-piece neck means that the sax does not have a joint to the body making the response super-fast.
Yamaha made sure that this model is quite playable. It has ergonomic keys, a high F sharp key and an easily adjustable thumb rest. These features not only allow you to get correct fingering but they also ensure that you hit the right notes. Maintenance is also super easy. With the pivot screw, you do not need to do much to keep your saxophone in tip-top shape. If you want a quality sopranino sax that will help you take your playing skills to the next level then you should consider the Yamaha.
- Great for jazz players as you can hit high notes
- Lightweight due to its brass alloy
- Not the most versatile soprano sax
RS Berkeley SOPR500 – Best Intermediate
- Material: lacquered brass
- Key: Eb to high F#
- Level: intermediate
- Warranty: 2-year limited
More features: blue steel springs, ABS plush-lined case, adjustable thumb rest, full ribbed, raised arm key
Do you want a soprano saxophone that will work great despite your playing level? Generally, RS Berkeley instruments are designed to help even novice musicians to get the perfect notes. Not only does this model maximize your ability to play but it also enhances the intonation and clarity of sounds. At the same time, your investment is protected with the finest materials. While this sounds like an expensive instrument, it is quite affordable.
The RS Berkeley SOPR500 comes with an adjustable thumb rest to ensure that you are comfortable when playing the instrument. Its keys are also ergonomically designed so that the musician gets the perfect fit. These keys are made from nickel silver and brass. Another key feature of the RS Berkeley SOPR500 is its elegant engraving and lacquer finish. You also want a soprano saxophone that not only plays well but also feels and looks great.
With the RS Berkeley SOPR500, you can play some sweet sounds. For example, you can choose to get soft notes or go with a loud sound. You can also play all the notes from top to bottom, i.e. B flat to the high Fs. It also comes with a metal thumb hook as opposed to the common plastic hook. A metal hook is quite comfortable and well adjusted.
- Elegant lacquer finish
- It is portable
- Quite durable
- Its reed gives out too fast
Jean-Paul USA SS-400SP – Budget Pick
- Material: silver plated
- Key: Bb
- Level: beginner, intermediate
- Warranty: lifetime full
More features: carrying case and mouthpiece included, Rico H ligature
With the Jean Paul USA SS-400SP, buying a new sax will get you value for your money. This instrument is a great choice for those looking to take their performance to the next level. If you want a low budget option that will not compromise on quality, then is what you need. Not only do you get a superior quality product but you also get it at an unbeatable price. The soprano sax weighs about 7.5 pounds, which is not too heavy. You can carry your instrument around and train whenever you get the chance. As a curved soprano sax, this instrument is small and easy to hold too.
As much as this is an inexpensive sax, this does not mean that it does not deliver quality sounds. Most people are impressed with how well it plays in-tune and the overall quality of the sax once they get to use and know this little gem. Coming in silver-plated body construction, the soprano sax looks stunning. Its keys are also ergonomically designed to fit the user’s fingers.
Coming in a silver plated body construction, the sax looks stunning. Its keys are also ergonomically designed to fit the user’s fingers. It also comes with everything you need when you purchase it. This includes a case, mouthpiece, swab, cleaning cloth, reed, cork grease and ligature. You will not have to purchase any other thing once you settle with this choice. Start your musical career with a powerful soprano sax.
- It looks great
- Quite affordable
- It is a curved soprano sax
- The silver-plated body makes it a bit bulky
If you are a saxophone musician, then getting a soprano saxophone will surely improve your music. With so many options, you are probably wondering how you will land your hands on the best soprano saxophone without regrets. This guide will highlight some important considerations to keep in mind when making that final decision.
Soprano saxophone distinction
Before moving to the factors to consider when buying a soprano sax, it is first important to understand what a soprano saxophone is. Some people consider a soprano saxophone to be a defiant voice to the contemporary symphonic band or jazz ensemble. Soprano saxophones vary considerably to alto and other types of saxophones. Their characteristics also depend on the brand that you choose and this guide offers an honest review of some of the top features of soprano saxophones.
The price of the soprano sax
Price considerations come into play when making any important decision. Ideally, your budget for purchasing a soprano sax should depend on your level of playing the saxophone. Are you a musical novice that just got into the industry? Going with our budget pick, Jean-Paul USA SS-400SP, may not be such a bad idea. On the other hand, if you are a professional musician with lots of years under your belt, then a professional sax such as the Yamaha Custom YSS-82Z may be suitable.
Consider the following features to choose the perfect soprano sax
You have finally decided to buy a soprano sax. What’s next? Well, there are some few things to keep in mind. Here are some of them.
Straight or curved?
Do you want a straight or curved neck? You are probably wondering what difference it makes. If you decide to get a curved neck will give you darker tones if that is what you want. A straight neck, on the other hand, offers a more direct sound. Sometimes, you may not be satisfied with the tone you are getting but still want to keep the instrument. In such a case, you can get a new neck, which will change both the sound and responsiveness of your soprano sax.
Materials and weight
Many saxophones around the world are made with yellow brass bodies. It is also not uncommon to find saxophones, bells or even necks made from copper, bronze and sometimes silver. These materials are different and may add the cost of the sax, darken the tone or offer a more professional look to the instrument. They also add to the overall weight of the instrument.
The finish determines the outside look and design of the instrument. For most saxophones in the market today, you should expect a clear lacquer finish. However, you can also choose from a wide array of alternative finishes. These include a silver plate finish, vintage finishes, nickel-plate finishes or colored pigmented lacquers.
The quality and fit of the keys play an important role in the final output of music from your soprano sax. Are your keys customized to fit your arms or fingers? Modern saxophones are fitted with ergonomic keys, which make playing the instrument a breeze.
The mouthpiece is what you use to blow into the saxophone when you want to make some notes. Different mouthpieces are depending on the type of instrument. For example, there are mouthpieces for alto sax, bari, soprano and tenor saxophones. Buy the right mouthpiece for your soprano sax to ensure it fits and produces great sound. It is also important to keep your mouthpiece clean as it can be unsanitary if not maintained regularly.
Are you a rookie sax player? It is not common to find anyone starting with sopranino before learning the alto or tenor sax. Probably because being a professional soprano sax player is quite difficult. Manufacturers of saxophones put a lot of attention into producing instruments at each player level. If you are a starter, there are student saxophones such as the Allora Vienna Series AASS-502 that are not only affordable but will help you develop your skills. Intermediate saxophones are in-between the level of a student and a professional. It s not easy to distinguish between an intermediate and professional sax since the key work and action may feel the same. However, intermediate saxophones do not produce the full tones that professional ones do. When you purchase professional saxophones like the Yamaha Custom YSS-82Z, you will notice a significant shift in tone, intonation and response of the instrument. You are also likely to find a lot of handwork on professional saxophones. Think of a beautiful hand engraving or hard-hammered keys on the bell.
Key and sound
A regular sax (well, most of them) have the high F# key although you can play without it. Soprano saxophones have been including a high G# key, but you can still play without it. Some brands such as Selmer include a C# resonance key if you want a clear middle C#.
Consider the brand
There are popular brands that are known to produce magnificent saxophones since time immemorial. Selmer saxophones are for the discerning saxophonists. These brands have a longstanding tradition of deft sound, excellent craftsmanship and smooth finishes. Yamaha has grown a significant following in the recent past too. Pricing, sound and even appearance are what influences the growing number of Yamaha aficionados. The upside to choosing an established brand is that you are guaranteed of a good quality sax.
You obviously want a guarantee that the product you purchase is in mint condition. After all, you can’t know the full condition of an instrument unless you use it for some long period. The Jean-Paul USA SS-400SP has an impressive lifetime warranty while the Yamaha Custom YSS-82Z comes with a 5-year full warranty.
Soprano saxophones also come with various accessories. Some models, such as the Selmer SSS280R La Voix II come with protective cases. This model also comes with treated leather pads, professional spring tension and adjusting screws. These accessories can improve your playing experience and the saxophone you choose should come with different accessories.
Soprano sax playing tips
The soprano sax is quite versatile; it can easily move from the orchestra to the jazz band. That said, adopting the right technique is essential. Here are a couple of tips to help you play the soprano sax well.
- Achieve the perfect embouchure. You should practice consistently to learn the proper embouchure, which is neither too loose nor too tight.
- Make sure the instrument is in tune. Instead of using the lips to bring a note to tune, adjust the mouthpiece instead.
- Hold the sax right. Unless it is a curved neck, you should hold it at about 30 to 45 degrees and the position should not change.
- Close the keys completely. This may seem like a basic tip, but failing to seal the openings will make your sound breathy and out of tune.
- Extended techniques. As you continue learning, you will be exposed to some advanced techniques. You should only practice them if the basics are mastered.
There are some key differences between an alto and soprano sax. These include
- Shape- The soprano sax looks similar to a clarinet and has a small bell that flares at its end. An alto sax, on the other hand, has a crook leading to the mouthpiece while its bell curves around.
- Range- A soprano sax plays about a sixth higher than the alto saxophone. This means that the soprano has a pitch advantage over the alto sax.
- Transposition- A soprano sax is in the key of Bb as opposed to the alto sax that is in the key of Eb.
Many people argue that it is most difficult to master the soprano sax. This is why a lot of saxophonists start with alto or tenor sax and build their knowledge and skills to finally play the soprano sax. You can choose a saxophone for beginners which will help you practice to become a good soprano sax player. Why is it difficult? Getting a note from a soprano sax is same as any other type of sax. However, a soprano sax does not aid the player to get the perfect note.
Like any other instrument, proper maintenance of a soprano sax will keep it working well for years. Aside from keeping it clean, it is important to protect it by getting a soprano saxophone case. You can get one off amazon at an affordable price. You do not want to be walking around with a pricey Yamaha sax that has no case.
Researching and finding the top soprano sax was a fun experience for us. While all of the instruments we reviewed impressed us in one way or another, we have to choose the top 3.
At first place is the Selmer SSS280R La Voix II, which impressed us with its cool finish, quality sounds and ergonomic key design.
The Allora Vienna Series AASS-502 comes in second and is a great purchase for students. It has an excellent play and tone range and helps musicians reach blow out notes.
Our budget pick is the Jean-Paul USA SS-400SP. With our comprehensive buying guide, choosing the best soprano saxophone will be a breeze.