Saxophones were first made in Belgium. Brussels-based instrument-maker Adolphe Sax, after modifying clarinets, made the first saxophone in 1840. Paris seemed a place full of more opportunities to Sax, and he shifted there in 1842 to start his business.
Sax invented over 15 types of saxophones, the most popular being – soprano, tenor, baritone, alto. He got a patent for the instrument, but once the patent expired, other instrument makers added to the invention by creating their versions of it.
Today we will be taking a look at some of the best Alto Saxophones in the market. But first, let’s get a better understanding of the different types of Saxophones and what is so special about the Alto Sax.
What Is An Alto Saxophone? Different Types of Alto Saxophones
Saxophones consist of a mouthpiece from which air is blown into the instrument. The air then passes through reeds and by pressing the different keys, air pressure is regulated to produce sound.
Depending on the shape of the pipe on which the reeds and key placement, the type of saxophone is determined.
Here we will be taking a look at the four most popular types of saxophones to understand their key features and how they differ from one another.
Among the most popular four types of saxophones, the soprano is the smallest in size. Its build is similar to that of a clarinet, but sopranos are more conical in shape.
The placement of the keys and the shape of a soprano helps produce the sharpest of sound among these four types of saxophones.
A soprano saxophone is the most difficult to play.
Most of the modern saxophones are tenor saxophones.
This type of saxophones is majorly used in genres such as rock and jazz. Tenor saxophones are big in size with a prominent bell. A bend in the neck of a tenor saxophone right after its mouthpiece is its identifying feature.
Tenor saxophones are known to produce a fuller sound.
The Baritone is visually the biggest of saxophones among the four types. It has a huge bell, heavy and is known to produce louder, fuller, deeper sounds.
Alto saxophones are similar to the tenor saxophones in terms of features, but minus the bend in the neck. Alto saxophones are also relatively smaller in size, making for a medium-sized saxophone which is easier to hold and play.
Are Alto Saxophones Beginner-Friendly?
If you are just starting out learning a new instrument, you would want to start with something that is more easily manageable. This is more so the case if the concerned beginner learners are children.
As such, the small-sized altos are by far the most beginner-friendly saxophones.
In terms of design, the alto is much smaller and lightweight. This makes it easier to handle with small hands. Furthermore, children who naturally have lesser lung capacity than adults, find it much simpler to play altos as the instruments require less air due to their smaller size.
Also, the gaps between the keys in an alto saxophone are smaller. This helps the younger learners and those with smaller hands play it with ease.
However, it should be noted that the design of the instrument does influence the sound output. The neck of alto saxophones goes a little upward after the mouthpiece, helping create a brighter tone in the music.
In comparison, the tenor saxophones have a downward bend in their neck, which helps in producing a more melancholy and deep sound, adding more dimensions to the music. This is why the tenor is the most popular sax amongst professionals.
But that being said, altos and tenors have almost an identical feature set and design. This makes it super easy to jump to the bigger tenor once you have practised on your alto.
As such, keeping all these in mind, it is clear that the alto is perfect for beginners. Not only are they easier to learn, but transitioning from alto to the professional tenor is very smooth and frictionless.
10 Best Alto Saxophones
Now that we know the features of an alto saxophone, let us look at the best alto saxophones available worldwide. It takes students a significant time to distinguish the tone of an alto saxophone from others and how it behaves.
A good instrument gives the novice learners a lot more confidence to embark on their journey. But, finding your suitable alto saxophone is difficult, as factors such as the purpose and budget come into play.
Most of the time, what beginners look for are quality but on a budget.
To help with that, we will here look at some of the best alto saxophones, learn about their manufacturers, and what features make them stand out amidst plenty of options available in the market.
Yamaha is undoubtedly among the most popular manufacturers of musical instruments. Established in the 1880s as Nippon Gakki Co. Ltd. in Japan, Yamaha has been the pioneers of reed organs such as pianos and synthesizers.
Yamaha’s best alto saxophone series was introduced in the 1970s in the form of YAS-21. Made for students, the model was improvised to YAS-23 and YAS-25 in the 1990s, then to YAS-275 till 2010. Finally, YAS-275 was further remodelled to create their latest – the YAS-280.
The look and feel of a YAS-280 are comparable to any professional level alto saxophone. Let us have a look at its features:
- Stylish look, with a golden lacquer coating, similar to that of a very expensive one.
- Accuracy in notes, brilliant annotation.
- Perfect sensitivity of keys, making it easier for the learners.
- Comes with high-quality Yamaha 4C mouthpiece.
- Unbelievably light-weight, easier to carry for learners.
- Accessories include cleaning kit and a neckband.
- Assurance of Yamaha at a great price.
The additional accessories of the Yamaha YAS-280 are easily available all across and are not too expensive as well.
If we increase the budget a bit more, we will find yet another brilliant model by Yamaha – the YAS-26. Though a bit expensive, this alto saxophone promises to last longer than many other models without any damage. Let’s see its key features:
- Professional-grade product on a budget.
- Modified and bettered B-C# connection.
- Remodelled neck design for better reception.
- Better screw quality.
- Adjustable thumb rest for ease of play.
- Beautiful golden lacquer finish.
- Nickel-plated keys for better look and protection.
- Comes with a top-quality Yamaha mouthpiece.
- Brilliant features yet light in weight.
The product also has the name and trust factor of Yamaha, which is unmatched.
Cecilio Mendini MAS-L
Most of the times, the young students looking for the best alto saxophones happen to have a very tight budget. Keeping their situation in mind, popular instruments maker Cecilio came up with their line of entry-level alto saxophones.
Cecilio is a popular name in the world of musical instruments. So, when they came up with a budget-friendly range of alto saxophones, it became an instant hit. The most popular of the line is the Mendini MAS-L.
The most attractive feature of the Mendini MAS-L which lists it among the best alto saxophones is its price, that is extremely low in comparison to other alto saxophones with similar output. Let us look at other features of the Mendini MAS-L:
- Produces professional-quality sound.
- Made with top quality material which makes it long-lasting.
- The intelligently built model which makes tuning the instrument easy for beginners.
- Comes with the complete accessories, a cleaning kit, mouthpiece with ligature, strap, reeds, tuner, gloves for playing, and a pocketbook to take notes.
- All accessories and the saxophone comes in a carrying box.
- A good reselling value.
As per looks, the Mendini MAS-L comes in plenty of variety that will give you a lot of options to choose from.
Ever since Kaizer walked into the market of instruments, they have made the students their priority. This makes the brand popular for entry-level, quality products. Kaizer sources their products from makers who handcraft the instruments, then run it through quality checks and finally bring it to the market.
For the ease of the students, Kaizer has built a brilliant support system. This means, your relationship with Kaizer does not end after you have purchased their instrument, but they do help with the accessories and parts of the instrument later on as well.
One of Kaizer’s most successful products is their ASAX-1000NK. This one, for the professional output that it provides and the budget that it comes for, easily enlists itself among the best alto saxophones for beginners.
Here are the features of the saxophone:
- Made of pure brass.
- Comes in two colour variants – a classic gold and a nickel-plated one.
- Highly responsive keys.
- Great accuracy of notes.
Like other premium-quality alto saxophones, the Kaizer ASAX-1000NK also comes with most of its accessories, straps, a mouthpiece with ligature and a protective casing to carry the saxophone.
However, the best thing about Kaizer is that they keep coming up with exciting offers and gifts. For instance, from an HD action camera to imported cleaning kits, Kaizer makes interesting additions to the complete package from time to time.
Even after all this, if you feel this is not the product you were looking for, Kaizer provides you with a 45-day free trial. It means, if you are not pleased by the experience, you can return the item and get a full refund till 45 days of your purchase.
Also, Kaizer’s customer care system provides a lifelong warranty. In case any problem arises with any of the product’s manufacturing, upon providing your purchase proofs, you can receive free instrument parts to replace them.
Conn-Selmer Prelude AS711
In the 1880s, two brothers, who came from a musical background, set up the first workstation of the currently renowned Conn-Selmer group.
The manufacturers have gone through many changes ever since, and the current company owns a number of brands such as Vincent Bach, Selmer, Emerson, Ludwig, Musser etc. After merging with United Musical Instruments (UMI) in 2002, the Selmer Company got its current name as Conn-Selmer.
The US-based company is amongst the leaders when it comes to instrument manufacturing and produces some of the best alto saxophones as well. Here, we will look at their immensely popular AS711 model.
- Manufactured by Conn-Selmer acquired brand Prelude.
- Best in quality, low on budget.
- Body made of pure brass.
- Available in classic golden lacquer finish.
- Musician-friendly arrangement of the keys.
- Comes with a left-hand table key rocker which has an adjusting C# screw.
- The package includes reeds, strap, adjustable thumb rest, moulded mouthpiece with ligature, cork grease and a hard carrying case.
- 30-days return policy with a money-back guarantee.
The name of Conn-Selmer gives the buyers a reliability factor, as the company has been among the leaders in making student-level saxophones since the 1960s.
Selmer SAS280 La Voix II
Another of Selmer’s popular alto saxophones is the SAS280 La Voix II. This model is particularly for the lovers of aesthetics, as the model not only qualifies as one of the best alto saxophones available but also as among the ones with the best look and finish.
- One of the most stylish-looking alto saxophones.
- Produces a warm, loud tone.
- Highly responsive keys.
- Immensely accurate notes.
- The bell and neck size is of a traditional saxophone.
- Brilliant tonal consistency from lower to higher notes.
- Comfortable placement of playing keys suited for beginners to professionals.
- Accessories include a mouthpiece, strap, cap and ligature.
- Comes in four variants – silver, black nickel, golden lacquer with nickel-plated keys, and copper body with yellow brass bell and keys.
- Selmer offers a 30-day return and money-back guarantee.
While it is one of the best alto saxophones, the unique look of it makes it a bit more expensive than the other alto saxophones discussed.
In the market of wind instruments for students, Jean-Paul is a really popular name. The brand not only manufactures saxophones but also deals in trumpets, trombones, flutes and clarinets as well. Amidst the huge range of Jean Paul’s best alto saxophones, the AS-400 has gained a lot of popularity.
Let us have a look at its features:
- Professional level tonal quality at budget-friendly pricing.
- Top-grade intonation which makes understanding saxophone’s sound easy.
- Well-placed keys that provide relaxation of fingers.
- High response rate of keys.
- Comes with reeds, mouthpiece, cork grease, cleaning kit, straps and gloves.
- Packaged in a hard carrying case.
Upon purchasing only the saxophone, one gets the accessories along with it. But in another set, named the starter bundle, the buyer gets more sets of reeds along with two very helpful guiding books to get the initial knowledge about alto saxophones.
The Eastar AS-II
Well, beginners look for a number of pocket-friendly options to choose from and the Eastar AS-II easily fits in their list. This saxophone has been rated among the best alto saxophones by its users, and for all the right reasons. From its quality to its unique look, the Eastar AS-II can be regarded as one of the popular alto saxophones.
Let us look at its features:
- Excellent, professional tonal quality.
- Made from important material like copper.
- The welding is made lead free.
- Immensely responsive keys made with faux mother of pearl.
- Pads made of imported leather.
- Handcrafted bell for perfection.
- All parts are oiled in the factory to prevent rusting.
- Improved bass U-tube.
- Accessories include a mouthpiece, reeds, cleaning kit, saxophone stand, cork grease, carrying and shoulder strap made of pure leather, gloves and a hard case.
- 30-day money-back policy.
- Comes in two variants – gold lacquer and antique bronze.
All these features at a price less than USD 500 makes it one of the cheapest yet best alto saxophones in the list.
Costzon Alto Saxophone
Talking about entry-level instruments, many must have heard the name of Costzon. The brand produces various types of instruments, including a range of saxophones.
Costzon’s E flat-F# alto saxophone is one of the best alto saxophones for beginners on a budget. This pocket-friendly alto saxophone gives the output as good as any professional alto saxophone and is also popular among the students.
Let’s check out its features:
- Pure brass body with electric melted gold coating.
- Strong horn made by rapid forging of hydraulic.
- Huge mouth of the horn producing a loud, distinct sound.
- Reworked model of mouthpiece for better playing of the instrument.
- Attached resonance under the neck of the saxophone.
- Comes in the classic golden lacquer finish and professional look.
- Packaged with mouthpiece, reeds, cork grease, belts, cleaning kit, gloves and a protective casing.
Packed with professional-level features yet costing just a fraction of them in price is what enlists the stylish Costzon alto saxophone among the best alto saxophones.
Ammoon Alto Saxophone
Ammoon, the manufacturer of instruments such as drums, keyboards, guitars, clarinets, trumpets, trombones, kept the beginners in mind and brought to market their range of alto saxophones. Along with the trust of a known name as Ammoon, the buyer gets a budget-friendly yet top quality alto saxophone.
Let us quickly look at its features:
- Warm, professional tone.
- Made of pure, top-grade red bronze.
- Made with bling steel needle and waterproof leather padding for maximum durability.
- The keys have a core inlay of shell for smooth operation.
- Handcrafted bell of the saxophone has carve detailing on it.
- Comes with straps, mouthpiece, cleaning kit, gloves and a carrying bag.
- Available in two variants – classic golden lacquer finish and nickel coated with golden keys.
- The trust of the renowned manufacturers Ammoon.
Amazing features packed with a fantastic look is what a popular brand such as Ammoon has on offer for the students of alto saxophone, and the model surely secures a spot among the top alto saxophones.
We looked at ten of the best alto saxophones that can be options for students looking to bring home their first alto saxophone. While some offer top-grade quality, some add necessary gifts to their package to help the students, others pair that up with stylish looks.
The brand, the quality and the build of the instrument play a major role in the output. But, the quality that matters the most is the art of playing an alto saxophone and the skills of the one who is adding his or her own touch to it.
We hope this article makes starting your career as a successful alto saxophone player a little smoother, by bringing down the options of the best alto saxophones together at one place.
So, what are you waiting for? Pick up your favorite piece and get on with the journey of magical music of a saxophone.