House & Beyond is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here
Whether you are a student of music, a beginning musician, or even a professional who knows nearly everything about music, then you know the best alto saxophone is an incredible equipment that is capable of giving you a quality sound and memorable moments. In fact, if you’re looking to go to the next level as a musician, an alto saxophone is one of the first musical instruments you need to ace. Invented in the 1840’s, the Alto Saxophone is the most popular type of Saxophone, thanks to its unbelievable versatility. From concert and classical music to soul, funk, and jazz music, an alto saxophone is used in nearly every related music category or genre.
Now that you have decided on the type of saxophone to opt for, a greater challenge lies ahead – which is determining which one out of the hundreds of models of these outstanding instruments to actually choose. It is very difficult, and despite how great alto saxophones are, your experience with them could be ruined forever if you choose the wrong model. In order to prevent you from ending up with the wrong model, we have researched tirelessly to compile a list of the top 8 alto saxophones on the market right now, taking important factors such as size, weight, tenor key, and user’s suitable level into consideration.
Like we mentioned in the paragraph above, we have put a lot of hard work into the creation of this in-depth guide. And having invested tens of hours into research, we are confident that this guide will help you choose the best alto saxophone for your musical needs. Our well-crafted table, in-detail reviews of each product, handy buying guide, and thorough FAQ section have all been thoroughly assembled to ensure you don’t ever regret your purchase.
Having steadily built a solid reputation over recent years, Jean Paul USA has become one of the biggest manufacturers of musical instruments. With their ability to strike a balance between high-quality and affordability, it is no surprise that the company is so popular amongst professional musicians and students. The Jean Paul USA AS-400 Alto Sax is a perfect sax for people in search of a product with maximum value for money. It comes in customary brass color with a silver or lacquer finish.
It is a delightfully constructed sax with a deliberately built neck, wonderful keys, and brilliant body etchings. As we already mentioned up there, this model is about quality and reliability, which is obvious with the exceptionally strong power-forged keys. Besides, the unit’s bell brace is totally strong and the Pivot keys are tapered so that playing would be blissfully easy, another reason why the AS-400 is one of the best saxes for students and beginners.
Furthermore, intonation and rage are really good on this horn. In fact, several of the features of this unit, both physical and audible are often found on higher-end models. It is capable of producing deeper, more subtle tones, making it an ideal product for band usage. In addition to that, it can produce the gritty, raw alto sax sound that is often used by solo players, grasping the attention of an enthralled audience.
One of the primary reasons why saxes form Jean Paul USA are one and the same with premium quality is their 2-phase testing process. This way, each of their saxophones is thoroughly tested upon completion before departing the factory and again before shipping.
At first glimpse, the Glory Alto Saxophone looks stunning. Its color combination looks classy, tasteful, and luxurious. Among the first things you’ll notice when you see the Glory Alto Sax is the glorious design, which instantly gives you the impression of a complete package. The kit comes with 11 pieces of reeds, 9 pc mouthpiece, a neck strap, grease, a screwdriver, a pair of gloves, and a cleaning cloth. In addition to these, it also comes with a carrying case that’s comfortably lined to make sure it never breaks during transport or storage.
One of the most impressive features of this horn is the smoothness of its mouthpiece and how simple it is to play. While the provided reeds are of supreme quality, you can also purchase superior after-market ones. The package also contains a cork grease which is useful when putting the sax together. The Glory E Flat Alto Sax produces a remarkable sound that is fairly solid and simple to play, and thanks to its compact design and practical key layout, the sax can be effortlessly played by both children and adult.
If you’re looking for a great sax that will enable you to learn to play the alto sax without investing a lot of money, this horn is a product of choice as it performs admirably and is also cost-effective. Although, there is no padding in its neck strap, which could make it a bit uncomfortable. Otherwise, this is a great sax that should give you endless moments of pure joy.
Whether you are a musical instrument player or not, Yamaha is a brand name that you must have heard before. Being a household name and one of the largest companies in the world, Yamaha manufacturers high-quality musical instruments and covers several categories such as drums, guitar and bass, brass, woodwind, and violins. Their keyboards and pianos, especially, are very popular all over the world for being of high quality and innovative.
The Yamaha YAS-280 Alto Sax is a beginner and student offering from Yamaha. Sporting an elegant and professional design and sturdy construction, this horn has a quality feel which we have come to expect from a manufacturer such as Yamaha. Also, it comes with stunning intonation and is brilliantly lightweight and easy to play, which makes it totally ideal for students and beginners.
This product is widely considered as one of the best entry-level models available on the market. Apart from being highly responsive and producing a wonderful sound, this sax is also very easy to play, thanks to its free-flowing keys. The instrument also comes with a remarkable Yamaha 4C mouthpiece which exudes quality. As we have mentioned already, the horn is designed elegantly and sports a lovely golden lacquer finish.
When it comes to the accessories, it comes with a wonderful carrying case which apart from being very rugged, is also munificently padded for optimum protection. Moreover, the carrying case has backpack-style straps for convenient and easy transportation of your instrument.
From a beautiful and attractive body to a superb sound and easy playability, the Lazarro 360-BN Alto Saxophone ticks all the boxes. If you do not really like yellow brass, you don’t need to worry at all because Lazarro has got you covered. You can select whichever color you want, without giving up something in return – no matter what finish you choose, there is a consistency in sound quality and durability.
The horn comes with a standard key layout, although it includes 2 additional keys – the front F key and the high F# key. Moreover, the sax comes with leather pads of high quality with metal resonators and adjustable key height screws. The package also comes with pretty much everything you will need – reeds, neck strap, ligature, a reliable cleaning kit, a mouthpiece, and a lot more.
While the included accessories might not really be of the most premium quality, you can’t really blame the manufacturer, considering the price range. You will actually find it difficult to find a cheap saxophone that does not need any extra expenses. The alto sax produces an amazing sound though – and that is all that truly matters.
Established in 2004, Cecilio Musical Instruments is a company that is renowned to be terrific manufacturers of musical instruments for musicians of all levels, from students to professionals. Like their previous releases, the Cecilio Mendini MAS-L+92D+PB is also perfect for amateurs yet ideal for accomplished professionals. Boasting a remarkable construction, the Mendini is pitched at E flat with a high F sharp. It comes with premium quality stainless steel tone boosters and a ribbed build. A couple of users pointed out issues playing low C.
The low B flat spatula keys of the instrument have been made in a titled fashion, which makes it incredibly easy to play and delightfully simple for new players to get an excellent sound. This model also comes with a wide variety of handy accessories, which makes it ideal for beginners and students. These included accessories include a highly sturdy hardshell case, 10 x 2.5-inch reeds, a rod and cloth for basic cleaning, a neck strap, and a pair of gloves. Generously, the product also comes with a pocketbook and a 92-D tuner.
In addition, the Mendini comes with a 1-year warranty which covers manufacturing defects. The unit is produced using a rose brass body and is relatively lightweight, considering it weighs in at only 12 pounds, which makes it a very ideal sax for young players.
The Etude-100 Alto Saxophone is molded from strong metals that deliver a breathtaking tone that is perfect for beginners and student. As soon as you handle the EAS-100, you will instantly figure out that each component is working collaboratively to make the horn consistent in tones production and easy to play. Besides, the Etude EAS-100 saxophone is fairly sturdy and comes with numerous accessories, making this a cost-friendly option for beginners and students. The package includes a mouthpiece, a ligature, a durable storage case, and a cleaning cloth.
Furthermore, the Etude-100 requires no setting up and it is shipped ready to play. Apart from being very efficient, the horn is also has a gorgeous look with a vividly-colored lacquer. While the mouthpiece is somewhat reliable, you can easily upgrade to a costlier model when your skills improve. Most students find this sax easy to play and find its sound perfect. While it has a somewhat heavy construction, the weight shouldn’t make playing uncomfortable. Most notes hold superbly, especially the lower octaves.
As with most cheap saxes, the included neck strap is somewhat too short, which means you might need to purchase a longer one to allow for more comfortable playing. You can also buy better reeds if the included ones don’t meet your taste. Otherwise, it is an excellent model to enjoy your first couple of years as a saxophonist.
If you are in search of an elegant looking alto sax at a reasonable cost, the Ammoon Professional might be the perfect option for you. Made of a striking red bronze with a carved pattern surface and an eye-catching antique finish, this sax from Ammoon is obviously outstanding.
Designed for novice and professional sax players alike, this model is suitable for jazz bands, classical music, and solo players. It comes with water-resistant pads and steel needle for optimum durability. The inlays of the shell key are very comfortable and allow for easy, free-flowing playing. Yet, some usershad to glue the buttons of the keys back when they fall off. The range of this musical instrument is E flat to F sharp, and it flawlessly reaches the full complement.
When it comes to accessories, the Ammoon sax comes with a pro-grade carrying case that measures 24 x 6 x 11 inches and is padded generously for optimum protection. Not only that, but there is also a premium-quality mouthpiece, straps, cork grease, gloves, cleaning cloth, and a lot more. If you choose this sax, you won’t be getting only a high-quality unit but also an entire of basic provisions to keep you prepared for the future.
Many saxophonists are usually hesitant with saxes in this price range, and rightly so since there’re a lot of terrible stories to discourage anyone. Many people, however, are left with no choice as they can’t afford alto saxophones in the high hundreds or thousands of dollars range. But with this horn from Ammoon, you can rest assured as it has enough quality and durability to continue exciting you as you progress and improve, despite its affordable cost.
The Kaizer ASAX-1000LQ offers a level of quality usually found in pro-grade horns to beginners. Kaizer is a company that places their focus on reliability and they manufacture saxes intended for children, people just starting out, and young students playing in orchestras and school bands. This remarkable horn has been built with extra attention being given to increased intonation and response and ease of playing.
Furthermore, it comes with premium-quality steel springs for rapid action, high-quality leatherette pads, and a magnificently sensitive response. Moreover, it comes with a strong brass body and sturdy construction and is available in both silver lacquer finish and traditional golden lacquer finish. The premium leatherette pads provide optimum comfort and intonation control. Without a doubt, this unit is made for both beginners and professionals alike.
This saxophone also comes with an impressive range of accessories, which include a terrifically crated case to shield your sax, a great mouthpiece and a set of ligatures, and a basic maintenance kit which consists of a cleaning cloth, gloves, lubricant, and cleaning rods.
Why are we impressed?
Suitable for beginners and students
Good soung quality
Easy to play
Wide range of accessories
What negatives must you be aware of?
Occasional air leaks
Things to Consider
This section is probably the most important section in this article as it contains everything you need to know as both a first-time buyer and an interested musician. From the different handy buying tips to the FAQ section, we are confident that this buying guide will help you choose the best sax for your needs.
Know your alto saxophone from the first note
Invented by Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax, a Belgian man whose father was also an instrument manufacturer, the alto saxophone is a member of the saxophone family. Arguably, the alto saxophone is the most common sax played by beginners and experts alike. The alto sax is small in size and also deft when it comes to the dynamic range, which makes it a mainstream for genres running from Pep Band to Jazz Band. The affordable price for introductory models coupled with the charm sparked by some well-known Jazz musicians promoted the alto sax into what it has become today.
The alto sax, pitched in Eb, has a higher range than a tenor or a baritone but warmer than a soprano. Just like other saxes, a progression of keys is pressed so as to create a sound. The concept is the same in every sax, only with somewhat different fingerings. The alto sax is smaller in size, which makes it the ideal choice for younger students. Due to the fact that it requires a tighter and smaller embouchure, the mechanics behind the instruments makes it less difficult for new players to understand before graduating to playing bigger saxophone types.
If your kid is small in size and has little hands, the alto sax’s minimal physical requirements make it a great first sax for younger players as well. if you are selecting a sax based on category or genre, almost every type of sax is utilized in jazz music, especially the alto saxophone. Thus, if your kid seems to be mostly interested in jazz music, the alto sax is the ideal option.
How to determine which level saxophone suits you or your student best
After choosing the type of saxophone you want to play, a second huge decision to make is the level of saxophone that suits you. The saxophone levels are student level, intermediate level, and professional level, and choosing one of the three options will have a huge impact on your experience with alto saxophones.
As suggested by the name, student and beginner saxophones are specifically designed for the unexperienced musicians making first steps in learning how to play the instrument. They are affordable, easy to play, and engineered with accuracy in mind so that you can learn tunings and notes easily. For younger students Ammoon Professional saxophone would be a smart buy since it’s the lightest student sax around.
A great student sax will produce a pleasant sound even when it’s played with crude technique. However, keep in mind that quality is still an important factor. Despite mostly being affordable, all students saxophones aren’t created equal, which means you need to take your time to figure out the model that provides you with the best value for your money, like YAMAHA YAS-280.
As soon as you’ve got a hang on the fundamentals of the instrument, you are ready to promote to an intermediate sax. These instruments are capable of producing a tone that is near to a professional saxophone in terms of quality. You will find that the action and keys will feel a lot more responsive and smoother than those of a beginner or student sax, and these horns usually have a beautiful yet simple look, with high-quality finishes but few cosmetic details like handwork or engraving.
If you are looking for the next step after you have mastered your beginner/student sax, find an intermediate unit. Or, if you are an experienced player that is playing an alto saxophone for the first time, you can choose an intermediate model to learn the dissimilarities between alto saxophones and the one you used to practice before taking the leap to the professional-level sax. For this purpose Lazarro 360-BN saxophone will be absolutely the best choice.
Just like the student and intermediate levels, the name is also self-explanatory as regards professional saxophones. Built and designed for professional needs, these tools produce the best tone, response, and intonation. They are usually visually appealing, with hand-hammered, hand-engraving keys and likewise crafted details. Also, they provide the most deluxe finishes, from colored and clear lacquers to silver or gold plating.
From the soldiers and metal alloys to the pads and key surfaces, every material in these instruments is high in quality. Unsurprisingly, though, the higher quality materials directly equate to higher price tags, which is one of the reasons why a professional saxophone is not ideal for a student. If you are an experienced professional, you shouldn’t look at any instrument below this level. For beginners, go for a beginner or intermediate saxophone instead, until you have gathered adequate experience to make the most of the benefits of a professional model.
How to clean your alto saxophone
The primary parts to keep clean on a sax are the neck body, mouthpiece, both exterior and interior. The mouthpiece ought to be cleaned regularly for purposes of obstruction and sanitation. You can clean it easily by removing it using a cloth to wipe its interior.
You should also clean the neck body’s interior at regular intervals. It is very easy to do this – simply disassemble as required and then use a cloth and cleaning rods to clean the interior. These cleaning rods usually come as part of the accessory kits of several alto saxophones. However, if you don’t have any, it is necessary to buy them.
The exterior of the sax is a lot easier to clean and does not need the same amount of attention or regularity. Simply wipe the outside of your sax down once in a while to ensure it stays free of dust, grease, and dirt.
How to test an alto saxophone
Most more reputable musical instrument manufacturers test their alto saxophones severally before releasing them to consumers. These instruments are usually tested after production in the plant, then at the distribution center of the company before shipping them to local retailers. Nothing about the sax testing process is intricate at all. It is just going through the vital parts of the instrument and making sure everything is working properly. The major parts to cover are the key function, intonation, and ensuring there are no leaking pads.
To check the intonation you are essentially looking to see if the sax can be properly tuned. To tune an alto sax, you only need to move the mouthpiece up into the sax’s neck for sharper tones, and to play flatter, just pull the mouthpiece from the neck. It’s fairly simple to check key function – you only need to press the keys down and check for a rapid response. Also, check the quality of the sound of each key whilst playing. Check if there are leaking pads is done easily by the fashion of a nippy visual.
Features to Consider While Choosing an Alto Saxophone
One of the greatest mistakes anyone could make is buying an instrument as intricate as an alto saxophone without knowing the things to look for and features to check. We don’t want you to make that mistake, which is why we have painstakingly listed and described the most important features you need to consider before buying your alto sax below.
Alto saxophones usually come with either ribbed or non-ribbed construction. Ribbed construction usually adds more weight to your sax, which changes its vibration. Due to the increased weight, saxophones with a ribbed construction produce a warmer sound. Then again, having a weightier sax could have a negative effect on your instrument’s playability. But sometimes looks go along with the comfort like in a Jean Paul USA AS-400 saxophone.
Do you have a need for extra keys, or are you capable of playing some notes without them even? If you are adequately skilled, additional keys will only be additional clutter rather than being helpful. If you, however, require the help, a high G key or a high F# key might be very useful. Also, watch out for +-saxophones with alternative key positions and models with adjustable key height screws such as the Glory model and the Lazarro 360-BN.
The neck’s shape can be influential when playing a sax. If you seem to be incapable of playing your sax comfortably, a shorter or longer neck could solve the problem. Fortunately, necks are replaceable in the event that you purchase a unit with a neck that does not fit you.
Material and Finish
The bodies of most alto saxophones available in the market are made of yellow brass. Some other models have materials like copper, bronze, and sterling silver making up the other components of the sax. It’s worth mentioning that while materials like that may dim the tone, they could also be costlier. The standard finish for most saxes nowadays is a clear lacquer. A lot of saxes, however, come with other finishes including vintage, black nickel plate, colored lacquers, among others and can enchant you just with their looks like Glory Alto Saxophone does. But wait until you hear how it sounds…
While experimenting with your sax be certain that all the holes are covered by the pads particularly when looking at student and intermediate saxes. Also, ensure that the pads are very soft to touch to ensure they are of high quality and will last longer.
While experimenting with your sax be certain that all the holes are covered by the pads particularly when looking at student and intermediate saxes. Also, ensure that the pads are very soft to touch to ensure they are of high quality and will last longer. Some of the pads, like Ammoon Professional saxophone’s, are even water-resistant.
The thumb rest is another important feature to take into consideration when buying an alto saxophone. Nobody should endure discomfort or pain while playing their instruments, which is why you need to consider how comfortable the thumb rest is when playing a sax. In case you don’t know, the thumb rest is a hook-shaped piece of metal or plastic where your right thumb sits to balance the instrument.
The cut and shape of the sax’s mouthpiece change the quality of its tone. Differences like a square or round chamber on the mouthpiece’s inside, or the measure of space between the reed and the mouthpiece rails all provide considerably different responses and sounds.
Generally, saxophones come with a standard mouthpiece but several people prefer to customize their mouthpiece. Jazz, classical or ensemble performance will determine the decision of mouthpiece and several players have many mouthpieces close by for various musical settings.
Reeds help manufacture the unique tone of a sax. The reeds are tiny pieces of wood appended to the mouthpiece’s flat surface with the ligature. When air is blown into the mouthpiece by a player, the air travels between the reed’s thin tip and the mouthpiece’s slight opening which at that point vibrates the reed against the mouthpiece.
The reeds of alto saxophones come in various brands and powers to offer less or more resistance and also different sound qualities depending on the personal preference of the players. As a saxophonist, you need to regularly buy replacements and should also have not less than three reeds close by at all times.
If you are a beginner or student, an alto sax is probably your best choice. This is due to the fact that it is usually smaller than other saxophones and features a more compact key arrangement which can significantly help you learn everything you need to know about playing a sax. You must ensure your alto sax is lightweight, like an almost 6 pound Ammoon Professional, so that you will be able to hold it easily particularly in your developmental period so you get the hang of it without wearing out your hands.
Alto saxophones come in 3 major shapes – traditional shape, straight shape, and curvy shape. The one you choose totally depends on your skill level and your needs. The traditional one is the tightly curled sax that is often used in films and is the most common sax shape out there. The straight sax usually comes with a higher key range, and they tend to be more lightweight and more professional. The curvy shape is more similar to the traditional sax shape but is a bit more relaxed. Curvy saxes tend to be more stylish and ornamental.
If you are looking to get the best bang for the buck, you need to choose a model that comes with several handy accessories. You need to more attention to products that offer things like carrying cases, cleaning kits, gloves, tuners, and more. You can profit from a genuine bargain and get nearly everything required to begin playing this stunning woodwind instrument.
With cases there is a whole lot of possibilities since it is one of the most important accessories which will be protecting your alto saxophone from the moment you put it inside. We find Jean Paul USA AS-400 saxophone’s carrying case one of the most elegant options matching the incredible instrument it keeps safe. Some products even come with an additional DVD course or manual which can help you learn much quicker.
The sax is actually fairly easy to learn, maybe be due to the fact that it was designed at a time when musical instruments started gaining prominence. The awkward construction of saxes is what really prevents students and little children from picking it up at a young age. Most saxophones are fairly heavy and often require using a neck strap coupled with the hands of the player to grip the instrument. Besides, it is somewhat too wide for little hands, which prevents kids with little hands from playing it.
However, as soon as you have developed physically enough to be able to handle the sax, it is fairly easy to learn. The fingering system is extremely simple to get and tone production is a lot easier and simpler than with many wind instruments. The primary challenge of the sax is when it comes to the control of its intonation. Since it’s a conical bore instrument, it doesn’t have the pitch stability often found i9n cylindrical instruments. Besides, the sax’s different pitches have their own unique tone or timbre, which makes it difficult to understand its intonation. Although, with a decent trainer and a lot of hard work, intonation is absolutely possible.
The best way to safely transport an alto sax is by carrying it in a carrying case or bag. There are dozens of options on the market when it comes to carrying case or bag for saxophones. Keep in mind that you need a harder carrying case/bag rather than softer one for maximum protection. You can take a look at a case like the Protec PB305CT Tenor Saxophone PRO PAC Case. It is a shock-absorbing, weather-resistant carrying case that is designed to offer maximum protection to your horn.
Absolutely, you need to tune your alto saxophone. Of course, there will be changes in your tuning as your embouchure gets ready and as the horn gets ready. The first step you have to take is to set the calibration of your tuner to 440HZ. Then, play an F# with the Octave key. When playing the F#, your tuner should show A on its screen. If it shows another note that is different from this, then the mouthpiece hasn’t reached its proper position. In such cases, the mouthpiece should be moved in either direction until the tuner displays the right note. If you have a flat note, drive the mouthpiece so that the pitch would go up, but if you have a sharp note, pull out the mouthpiece so that the pitch would go down.
The winner of the Best-All-Around Alto Saxophone is the Jean Paul USA AS-400 for many reasons. Designed specifically to produce a premium-quality sound, this horn provides impressive performances every time it’s played. It has a smooth key action, making it an easy horn to learn how to play. Besides, the body of the sax is made of yellow brass with a lacquer finish, which gives it an elegant and sophisticated look.
Our runner-up is the Glory Alto Saxophone, which is coincidentally also the most pleasant-looking sax on our list. Featuring a very smooth mouthpiece and producing premium-quality sound, all without costing a lot of money, this is a model that’s worthy of being checked out.
Our second runner-up goes to the YAMAHA YAS-280. Made especially for student players, it comes with neck receiver with a durable screw. In addition to that, it comes with a set of useful accessories, which include a cork grease and an excellent case It may not be the most affordable sax around but it is definitely the best alto saxophone for learners.