The saxophone is somewhat of an outlier when it comes to woodwind instruments, though it's certainly one of the more commonly used. Saxophones are popular in various music formats, including concert bands, chamber music ensembles, as solo instruments, marching and military bands, jazz and rock bands and modern pop recordings.
There are a variety of different saxophone types, ranging from subcontrabass to sopranissimo, though the four most common types are soprano, alto, tenor and baritone.
Because the saxophone is such a popular instrument, it makes perfect sense that there are plenty of options to choose from on the market. With such a wide variety of saxes, knowing the top brands is useful.
Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect of an instrument, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgement. In this article, I'll share my take on the top saxophone brands.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Performance of the saxophones
- Longevity of the saxophones
- Variety of saxophones available
- Accessibility of the saxophones (how easy they are to find/buy)
- The company must currently be in operation
With all that being said, let's list out the brands.
The top 11 best saxophone brands are:
- Henri Selmer Paris
- P. Mauriat
- Trevor James
- Antigua Winds
- Cannonball Saxophones
Let's get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best saxophone brands. I'll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable saxophone, and a link to their official website.
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Henri Selmer Paris
Just like Stradivarius is the Holy Grail of violins, early models of Selmer Paris are considered by top-notch players as the best money can buy in the shape of a saxophone.
This reputation wasn't developed overnight; Selmer Paris has been manufacturing some of the best wind instruments in the world for way over a century. Still, the same passion and commitment to excellence that took the brand's name to the top of the list live in every piece of the Selmer Paris catalogue.
If you are after excellence and not playing a Selmer Paris, you should pick one up today.
Notable saxophone: Selmer Paris Tenor Super Action 80 Series II Tenor Saxophone (link to check the price at Guitar Center)
Introduced back in 1986, this is the longest-lived tenor saxophone in the current Selmer Paris catalogue. Just like with the brand, there's a good reason they never took it out of production. To begin with, the specific timbre given by the pronounced neck angulation is uncanny.
Also, the angulation awards the player a playing position specific to this model. Finally, finesse, projection, and huge volume are all part of the combo. If you want a unique saxophone with its character to help you take your inspiration to new heights, you have to try this model out.
Selmer Paris was founded by Henri Selmer in 1885. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Mantes-la-Ville, France.
Official website: selmer.fr
Henri Selmer Paris is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Yanagisawa is a pioneer brand in terms of woodwind instruments manufactured on Japanese soil. But that's not all; since making its first saxophone in 1951, the company has been refining its centuries-old manufacturing techniques and innovating relentlessly to produce one of the best-curated, best-sounding catalogues in the industry.
Many people compare Yanagisawa with Selmer and Yamaha; this brand is the best-kept secret among sax players globally. It is high time you give them a try.
Notable saxophone: Yanagisawa T-WO37 Tenor Saxophone (link to check the price at Gear4Music)
This made-to-order, custom engraved, silver tenor saxophone is the top-of-the-line in Yanagisawa's roster. To begin with, it is handmade. Also, it features pointed pivot screws that ensure a perfect fit as well as remarkable reliability and endurance. Besides, the sealed, waterproof pads allow leak-free playing.
This classy instrument is fitted with true Mother of Pearl touches. If you want the best of Japanese precision in sound, design, and craftsmanship, give this silver wonder a try.
Yanagisawa was founded in 1894 by Tokutaro Yanagisawa. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Japan.
Official website: yanagisawasax.co.jp
Julius Keilwerth became an apprentice in the fine art of wind instruments in Czechoslovakia. There, he learned all the secrets of the Czech masters before moving to Germany. By the start of WWII, his company was one of the largest saxophone makers in the world, with over 150 employees.
This was not random; years of dedication, talented personnel, and an uncanny, relentless commitment to the highest standards of excellence made Keilwerth the go-to option for professionals around the world. If you haven't already, try one; you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Notable saxophone: Keilwerth SX90R Alto Saxophone (link to check the price at Woodwind Brasswind)
This alto saxophone is named Shadow because the black nickel coating applied over the German Nickel silver gives it a smoky, appealing coloration. But the reason behind this coating is not just aesthetic since it adds depth to the centred, powerful sound.
Moreover, the mother of pearl key buttons with real Pisoni leather pads make it sound as precisely in-tune as possible. The hand-engraved inner bell and key work round up a stunning-looking, great-sounding, utterly reliable saxophone that can make you shine on any stage.
Keilwerth was founded in 1925 by Julius Keilwerth. Currently, the company's headquarters can be found in Nauheim, Germany.
Official website: julius-keilwerth.com
To speak about Yamaha isn't like speaking of any other brand in the world. No other company can cover as much ground excelling in each category. Furthermore, they are market leaders in everything they do, from motorcycles to pianos.
Speaking of which, not many people know this, but Torakusu Yamaha was a piano builder, and thus, Yamaha's musical instrument-making leverage goes back more than a century. Thus, taking from that rich heritage but keeping one foot in the present through relentless innovation, Yamaha's saxophones are worthy heirs of the brand's excellent reputation.
Try one out today and see it for yourself.
Notable saxophone: Yamaha YAS-82ZII Custom Eb Alto Saxophone (link to check the price at Woodwind Brasswind)
Introduced to the world in 2003 and revamped from bell to neck in 2013, the Yamaha Custom Z series is the go-to instrument for top-notch players worldwide. This saxophone comes with a one-piece bell enhancing the tonal palette and adding depth to the overall sound. Also, the V-1 neck provides a free-blowing feel for added flexibility.
The metal resonator pads provide effortless playability and a wider dynamic range. If you are serious about your playing and the YAS-82ZII fits your budget, you should try one out today.
Founded in 1887 by Torakusu Yamaha, the company's headquarters are currently in Hamamatsu, Japan.
Official website: yamaha.com
Yamaha is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Jupiter is the woodwind and brass instrument brand of one of Asia's biggest names in musical instruments, KHS. As such, every Jupiter product carries the leverage of a company that has been selling student and entry-level instruments to generations.
Adding to that, Jupiter has been the go-to option for students for over 40 years. So, what you can expect from this brand are well-made, good-sounding, reliable, and accurate instruments that can get you through your music formation stages flawlessly.
Notable saxophone: Jupiter 700 Series JTS700 Tenor Saxophone (link to check the price at Sam Ash)
Having a beginner instrument with advanced features can be a golden ticket to improving your skills. On the one hand, you get the durability and reliability of an instrument that needs to endure student life and care.
On the other, you get a rich, full sound powerful enough to fill a room and engage listeners. Finally, coming with a mouthpiece and ligature and made of lacquered brass, this is a saxophone that can accompany you in your musical journey with years of joy.
Jupiter was established by its Taiwanese parent company, KHS, in 1980. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Zhongli, Taiwan.
Official website: jupitermusic.com
Jupiter is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Several aspects of P. Mauriat's manufacturing process make them different from all competition. To begin with, they hired a panel of artists and paid them to work full time at the factory, just testing saxophones to make sure every instrument leaving the facilities is ready to make history.
But before that, each saxophone goes through a hand-hammering process to reach its final shape. Also, the three-stage lacquer application preserves the tone and gives it uncanny endurance. Finally, the engraving is handmade with a single tool.
P. Mauriat offers the perfect balance between budget and features; try one today if you haven't already.
Notable saxophone: P. Mauriat Master 97 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
This instrument by P. Mauriat is a dual-alloy saxophone made of sterling silver octave pips and a gold brass neck. This combination gives it a unique and powerful character that adds colour to any composition. Furthermore, the Pisoni Pro pads with synthetic resonators give it accurate tuning, a complex and wide tonal palette, and jaw-dropping aesthetics.
P. Mauriat introduced several ergonomic improvements for this model, resulting in a comfortable, great-sounding, loud instrument ready for any stage.
P. Mauriat was established by Albest Musical Instruments, founded in 2003. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Taipei, Taiwan.
Official website: pmauriatmusic.com
Borgani is the perfect mix between the centuries-old musical instrument tradition Italy oozes and the commitment to innovation the USA has been so famous for. Taking these two aspects together, Borgani managed to curate a catalogue that offers uncanny instruments of every size.
Moreover, all saxophones are made in the original Macerata, Italy facility. This translates into over a hundred years of leverage applied to every single production process step.
Borgani has surprised the world for decades. If you haven't already, it is time you check this Italian wonder out.
Notable saxophone: Borgani Tenor Sax Special Edition (link to check it out at Borgani)
This exquisite instrument is made of the union of two precious metals: silver and rose gold. But this is not just an aesthetic decision by Borgani; this union brings a timbre so personal and full of character that it can be the perfect canvas to build “your sound”.
Moreover, in terms of expression and tonal palette, this saxophone covers a vast ground, enough for most types of music. The natural contrast of the colours makes this a sound machine that is equally appealing before and after you play it.
Borgani Musical Instruments was founded by Augusto Borgani in 1872. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Macerata, Italy.
Official website: borgani.com
Although the company started importing and selling a hand-picked number of Asian-made saxophone parts rebranded and assembled in Kent, nowadays, Trevor James manufactures several top-notch saxophones in England.
This wide variety in prices, design, and features make it a suitable company for students, advanced players, and professionals alike. Moreover, they maintain a reasonable balance between price and features throughout the entire line.
Try one out, regardless of where you are in your music career.
Notable saxophone: Trevor James Signature Custom Raw XS (link to check it out at Trevor James)
After 12 months of intensive testing and exploring the boundaries of what a saxophone can do tonally, Trevor James finally released the Raw Series. The company perfected the manufacturing process, so no lacquer is needed, giving the instrument a gorgeous feel to the touch, a unique timbre, and uncanny resonance.
Furthermore, the Raw XS goes even further; it involves more extensive hand polishing, which results in a different sound because it goes down to the raw brass. If you want a unique-sounding instrument that's reliable, beautiful, and won't break the bank, you need to check one of these out.
Trevor James was founded in the early 1990s. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Kent, England, United Kingdom.
Official website: tjflutes.com
Trevor James is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Eastman is a huge company that manufactures string instruments as well as top-notch wind instruments, mouthpieces, and more. The leverage of managing 7 companies dedicated to the manufacture of musical instruments gave Eastman the scope to create some of the best-sounding saxophones in the world.
Adding to that, Eastman also owns Backun Musical Instruments, and thus, their uncanny commitment to innovation spreads throughout the entire range. Eastman is a name you can trust when it comes to musical instruments, especially saxophones.
Notable saxophone: Eastman 52nd Street Tenor Saxophone (link to check the price on Amazon)
In the relentless search for that sweet vintage tone only a well-played instrument can provide, Eastman created this un-lacquered wonder that looks and plays like a vintage saxophone would.
But that's not all; this saxophone sounds like a vintage piece with none of the hassles because it features state-of-the-art mechanics and premium-quality parts. Thus, if you want that fat, big sound with rich harmonic overtones, tons of character, and sweet-sounding highs, you have to try this one out.
Eastman was founded by Qian Ni in 1992. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Pomona, California, USA.
Official website: eastmanwinds.com
Eastman is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Although Antigua Winds started as a saxophone-only manufacturer, their line expanded to include other wind instruments. Likewise, the company started selling student-only models and can now offer top-notch wind musical instruments to satisfy even the most demanding musicians in the world.
Indeed, names like Steve Clarke, Dante Lewis, Ting-Quan Lu, and Marcus Anderson, among many others, play Antigua Winds in front of screaming crowds around the world. From the VOSI line for students to the Pro One line for professional musicians, Antigua Winds has an instrument for each step of the way.
Notable saxophone: Antigua Pro One Baritone Saxophone (link to check the price at Pro Winds)
When this baritone saxophone was introduced to the world at NAMM 2016, it won the Editor's Choice Award. The reason behind this saxophone's impeccable reputation is that it is the lifetime achievement of player, designer, and traveller Peter Ponzol. According to him, this particular instrument represents a lifetime of ideas turned into reality. Some of the unique features are a vibration-free top brace and a newly-designed neck that lowers resistance.
Fred Hoey founded Antigua in 1991 in San Antonio, Texas, USA, where the headquarters are still located.
Official website: antiguawinds.com
Sheryl and Tevis already owned and played an impressive collection of vintage saxophones that could make any professional musician cry. But that was just their background since what started as an experiment in their kitchen trying to make a new saxophone sound like an old gem of their collection ended up being the founding stone of the company they are today.
Still, despite its growth, the same level of attention to detail and sound quality can be heard throughout their catalogue. It took Sheryl and Tevis years of playing the best saxophones on the planet to train their ears for finesse. It will take you seconds to understand why they make some of the best-sounding saxophones in the world.
Notable saxophone: Cannonball Big Bell Stone Series Black Ruby (link to check the price at Cannonball Music)
Besides the outstanding looks, this is a serious instrument that can shine on any stage in the world. To begin with, it features the same big, fat sound the entire Big Bell line by Cannonball proudly oozes. Also, it comes with two separate necks, an original and a fat one, to better adjust the instrument to your playing. Additionally, it has 16 semi-precious stones, comes in 10 finishes, and features one-of-a-kind, intricate engraving.
Cannonball Saxophones was founded by Sheryl and Tevis Laukat in 1996. Currently, the company's headquarters are in Sandy, Utah, USA.
Official website: cannonballmusic.com
- Jean Paul USA