Alto saxophones are one of the most popular jazz and band instruments. The smooth sounds have emanated from the likes of Charlie Parker and President Bill Clinton alike. It’s no wonder that many beginner musicians choose the saxophone as their first instrument.
If you’re looking for an alto saxophone for your student or yourself, we wanted to make the search easier. We’ve reviewed 100s of alto saxophones and found the top 10 best alto saxophones on the market. Read on to learn why we recommend these saxophones.
Best Saxophone for Intermediate Players
Yamaha YAS-280 Student Saxophone
A great sax for intermediate students in late middle school or through high school.
• Made by Yamaha
• Gold lacquer finish.
• Complete kit
Best Saxophone for Beginners
Jean Paul AS-400
An excellent instrument for those who are still learning to play this alto saxophone
• Beautiful brass body
• Complete kit
• High F# key
Best Alto Saxphones
- Yamaha YAS-280 Student Saxophone – Best Saxophone for Intermediate Players
- Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L – Cheapest Saxophone
- Jean Paul AS-400 – Best Saxophone for Beginners
- Kaizer Alto Saxophone
- Yamaha YAS-480 – Best Budget Intermediate Sax
- Mendini by Cecilio Eb Black Lacquer Alto Sax – Coolest Looking Saxophone
- Jupiter JAS1100SG Saxophone – Best Sax for Advanced Players
- Selmer SAS280
- Yamaha YAS-26
- Conn-Selmer Prelude Student Model AS711
All Alto Saxphones
1. Yamaha YAS-280 Student Saxophone
The Yamaha YAS-280 alto saxophone is a great sax for intermediate students in late middle school or through high school. The sax is easy to hold and play, and sounds great. Its intonation is perfect, producing an excellent sound.This instrument is further enhanced with a stable neck receiver which promotes a quick response and ease of use when playing. The keys are ergonomicwith easy action which relieves pressure from student’s fingers and hands. This alto saxophone has a clear response with notes in the lower range. This is a stage-ready saxophone. We highly recommend this sax for any beginner or intermediate student.
2. Mendini by Cecilio MAS-L
Cecilio is one of our favorite beginner musical instrument brands. They’re well-known for making affordable and playable string instruments, but they also make great woodwind instruments, including saxophones. The gold lacquered body and keys of this beginner saxophone will make any beginner feel like they’re a professional. The outfit comes with everything a beginner needs to get started including a tuner, mouthpiece with ligature, hard case, box of 2.5 reeds, neck strap, cleaning rod, polishing cloth, a pair of gloves and pocketbook. While the sound is very good for the price, if you’re looking to produce a better, we recommend that you upgrade the moutpiece.
3. Jean Paul AS-400
The Jean Paul USA AS-400 Student alto saxophone a great option for students who can spend a bit more than the Medini by Cecilio alto sax. It’s an excellent instrument for those who are still learning to play this alto saxophone. The outfit comes with 1 Rico reed, carrying case, cork grease, gloves, cleaning cloth, swabs, and sax mouthpiece. The beautiful yellow brass body is covered in a lacquer finish to give it a shiny glow that will surely stand out in performances.
4. Kaizer Alto Saxophone
The Kaizer alto saxphone is an overall good alto saxophone for beginners. It’s one of the cheapest alto saxophones on the market and makes a great test instrument if your student isn’t quite sure that they want to play saxophone for the long haul.The packages comes with everything a beginner needs to get started including a welcome kit, molded case, mouthpiece, polishing cloth, cleaning rod, gloves, and lubricant.The instrument comes with a 45 day return policy with a guaranteed refund and a lifetime warranty. The sound quality isn’t great and some users have had issues with air leaks which have resulted in broken saxophones that need to be replaced with the lifetime warranty.
5. Yamaha YAS-480
If you’re looking to upgrade your student saxophone, the YAS-480 is a great choice. The warm tone and highly accurate intonation provide a great sound quality. The 62-style neck provides a more mature sound making this a great option for the high school or college student in concert or jazz band.The durable design is inspired by higher-end Yamaha saxophones, but the price tag is friendlier.
6. Mendini by Cecilio Eb Black Lacquer Alto Sax
This black lacquered saxophone by Cecilio will make your student stand out in band class. Cecilio makes great beginner saxophones that sound decent enough for the first few years of playing.The outfit comes with everything a student needs to get started with including a hard shell case, mouthpiece, neck strap, reeds, cleaning kit, and gloves.
7. Jupiter JAS1100SG Saxophone
Jupiter is a very well-known saxophone brand, producing musical instruments since 1930, and the JAS1100SG is the perfect sax for intermediate and advanced players. While the price tag is in the range of semi-pro, the JAS1100SG lives up to the quality of saxophones 5x the price. It has a silver-plated Sona-Pure neck made with artisan tooling and annealing that makes it look stylish and sophisticated. The contoured left-hand table keys and Bb tilting rocker arm provide very comfortably fingering for enhanced playability.
8. Selmer SAS280
The Selmer SAS280 is a great sax for concert band or solos. The traditional-sized bell helps saxophonists keep their tone focused and makes blending easy. If you’re looking to step up your saxophone, then this might be the sax for you. The sound is that of a professional saxophone, but the price is much more accomodating. The professional key styling is similar to that on more expensive saxophones which allows for accurate fingering. The pitch stays consistent across the range and the sound quality is superb.
9. Yamaha YAS-26
While not cheap, the Yamaha YAS-26 makes another great intermediate saxphone. Made by the king of musical instruments, Yamaha, you know this sax was built with the utmost care. It comes with nickel plated keys, an adjustable thumb rest, case, strap, neck, and mouthpiece. You get a very durable instrument backed by Yamaha which means this sax will last for years. You’ll get the most bang for your buck with this saxophone. We do recommend changing the mouthpiece to one that’s designed more for intermediate and advanced players.
10. Conn-Selmer Prelude Student Model AS711
Made by the leader in beginner alto saxophones, this Conn-Selmer student model alto saxophone is an affordable option for beginner students. The key design allows for correct and comfortable hand position and the left-hand table key rocker mechanism with articulated C# adjusting screw is easy to use. The body includes a ribbed construction for added strength and durability. The kit comes with a molded mouthpiece with cap and ligature, engraved bell, neck strap, dark lacquer body and keys, cork grease, adjustable metal right-hand thumb rest, 2 1/2 strength reed, kid leather pads with metal resonators, and hard-shell case.
Guide to Buying an Alto Saxophone
An alto saxophone is a woodwind instrument that is pitchedin E flat. The alto is the most common type of saxophone, but there are other types including the tenor saxophone, which is bigger than the alto, and the soprano saxophone, which is smaller. The main difference between the saxophone types is the sound and size, the notes remain the same. Most students start on the alto saxophone.
Why Is the Alto Saxophone the Best Type of Saxophone for Beginners?
The alto saxophone is the most common type of saxophone which is why it makes a great option for beginners. There are many brands and models of alto saxophones on the market so it’s easy to find a great one for you. Additionally, most middle school and high school students are required to start on alto saxophone anyway.
How Much Should You Spend on an Alto Saxophone?
Really, the amount you should spend depends on your budget. A great beginner saxophone will generally cost about $300-$700, but intermediate and professional level saxophones can easily cost at least $2,000. A good upper budget for students buying their first alto saxophone is $1,000.
It’s worth it to note that the cheaper saxophones are generally made with lower quality material which deteriorates faster and doesn’t sound as good. If you get a saxophone in the low hundreds of dollars, know that it will likely only last a few years.
What Makes a Great Alto Saxophone?
A great alto saxophone sounds great, is made from durable materials, and is well-constructed.
You want to look for a saxophone with a warm sound, what you’d imagine hearing in a jazz band. Saxophones make great solo instruments and higher-priced saxophones generally produce a warmer sound. Extra material from ribbing may increase the price, but also the sound quality.
Alto saxophones can come with ribbed or non-ribbed construction. Ribbing gives extra weight to the saxophone which changes the vibration and can actually make it sound warmer. However, the extra weight may hinder your ability to play the instrument.
Generally, you’ll want to get a yellow brass alto saxophone, but there are other materials (generally more expensive) as well including silver, copper, and bronze. For beginners, a yellow brass finish will do just nicely.
What Are the Best Alto Saxophones Brands?
Yamaha is one of the most well-known musical instrument brands. They make high-quality instruments ranging from pianos to violins, and even make great alto saxophones.
Yamaha has been producing high-quality instruments at a great price since 1887 and is the best alto saxophone brand for kids and students who are just finding an interest in the alto saxophone.
Conn-Selmer is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Steinway Musical Instruments, maker of the famous piano by the same name, and was formed in 2003 by combining the Steinway properties The Selmer Company and United Musical Instruments. The Conn brand dates back to the 19th century and jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Paul Desmond, and others swear by the Selmer as the best alto saxophone.
Established in 1930, Jupiter is one of the most well-known band instrument manufacturers and their instruments can be found in many a high school band room.
4. Jean Paul
Jean Paul is famous for making student wind instruments. They taker customer satisfaction seriously and provide a 1 year warranty on all of their musical instruments.
5. Mendini by Cecilio
Cecilio is one of our recommend beginner instrument brands. These instruments are commonly only available through Amazon and make great, affordable options for those who aren’t sure whether they will continue playing their chosen instrument.