The sousaphone is the lesser-known brass instrument relative to the tuba, designed for easier playing when standing or marching.
Though not as popular as the tuba, there are plenty of options for student, intermediate and professional sousaphonists. This isn't only true of individual instruments but also solo sousaphone makers and larger brands.
With such a wide variety of choices, knowing the market’s top brands is useful. Of course, the brand is far from the most important aspect of a sousaphone, though it's still worth considering for general knowledge and judgment. In this article, I’ll share my take on the top sousaphone 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 sousaphones
- Longevity of the sousaphones
- Variety of sousaphones available
- Accessibility of the sousaphones (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 7 Best Sousaphone Brands Are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 7 best sousaphone brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable sousaphone, and a link to their official website.
To speak about C.G. Conn is to speak about one of the most important companies on Earth in terms of wind instruments. But that’s not all; being one of the companies in the world with the largest heritage, experience, and know-how, it has influenced other manufacturers in the century and a half they have been in business.
Furthermore, C.G. Conn was already the go-to option for professional musicians when Selmer bought it in 2003. This operation elevated the standard for both companies by sharing best practices and state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques. As a result, every C.G. Conn sousaphone is the result of centuries of combined experience.
Notable sousaphone: C.G. Conn 40KSP
This instrument is an innovative addition to the already legendary line of sousaphones by C.G. Conn. Indeed, the 4th valve improves the intonation of the entire instrument, especially in the lower register. This can be a great addition for bands that need extra-strong low-frequency foundations to build melodies upon.
Furthermore, the extended lower range allows the player to crank out the lower notes effortlessly. Finally, this all-brass, silver-plated instrument ships with a Bach 18 mouthpiece.
Perhaps to start speaking of King by saying that it was Charlie Parker’s go-to brand is enough for some people. The brand was also the favourite of legends like Tommy Dorsey and the great Cannonball Adderley. In summary, we can say that King's instruments helped define the sound of the golden generation of brass players in the 40s and 50s.
Nowadays, although more than a century has gone by since its foundation, King continues to make state-of-the-art brass instruments for the most demanding players around the world. Furthermore, it has become a synonym for effortless playability, flawless craftsmanship, and great tones.
King sousaphones are no exception to the rule, and each of them is made to enlarge the company’s reputation and legacy.
Notable sousaphone: King KSP411S
This is a unique sousaphone in the sense that it was engineered specifically to give the player added comfort while playing. To begin with, it is lighter than most of the competition.
Secondly, the design and engineering of this model have been focused entirely on ergonomics and comfort.
Thirdly, the wheeled case allows for easy transportation. But that’s not all, since the 26” bell gives the instrument a solid bass sound that can work wonders, being the foundation of any ensemble.
Torakusu Yamaha was a piano maker who decided to innovate on the classic model and give the quintessential instrument a new life. That commitment to excellence and relentless innovative spirit still live today in each creation of the company. Indeed, from the cutting-edge technology used in the top-tier motorcycles to the tiniest component inside its sousaphones, Yamaha is fueled by the same spirit.
Therefore, what you can expect from a brand like Yamaha is an outstanding instrument made utilizing the most modern manufacturing techniques and the best materials with the heritage and experience of a company that has been at the elite level for more than a century.
Notable sousaphone: Yamaha YSH-411
This sousaphone by Yamaha was designed and built specifically to address the issues that marching bands might face. In that sense, for example, the bits for comfortable mouthpiece positioning were specially designed. In the same vein, the instrument was reshaped to obtain optimum balance, avoiding uncomfortable positions when on the move.
Also, heavier bracing was added to the frame, specifically at vulnerable points, to increase durability. Finally, the pressure-formed tubing allows perfectly round tubes, which results in less turbulence and smoother airflow.
Musicians around the world trust Jupiter to take their initial steps in music. This is not a random occurrence or because Jupiter flooded the market; it is because the company offers good-sounding, well-made, in-tune instruments at affordable prices. Thus, Jupiter has been a privileged witness to the beginnings of musical careers that have taken people to stardom.
Nowadays, Jupiter instruments can be found virtually in every corner of the planet in beginners' hands in orchestras, ensembles, and bands. If you are after a brand that can ensure performance and playability without breaking the bank, Jupiter needs to be on your list.
Notable sousaphone: Jupiter JSP1100
This is one serious sousaphone with a full brass body, a .688-inch bore, and a 26-inch bell. Indeed, the size and projection allow for outstanding response and a tone that can cut through even the most cluttered ensemble.
Also, this Jupiter sousaphone was designed for easy maintenance with a removable valve body covered in lacquer for a rounder, more musical sound. Finally, the steel pistons deliver remarkably smooth action that helps agility and speed for musicians at all levels.
Graslitz was the most prestigious brand in Germany, making state-of-the-art instruments for the elite players of the time. The 13 master builders left out of a job when the company was dismantled had joined forces and combined their experience in making some of the best, most sought-after sousaphones, tubas, trombones, and other brass wind instruments.
Hence, what you can expect when buying a Miraphone is a sousaphone made with the best materials, crafted following the German tradition, and utilizing the best modern manufacturing techniques. If you haven’t already, try a Miraphone sousaphone before buying anything else; they might surprise you.
Notable sousaphone: Miraphone Model 1300
Entirely made of brass with a silver-plating treatment and lacquer, this is a serious instrument for serious players. Indeed, the 4-piston mechanism allows players to create the solid foundations in the low register an orchestra needs to base the melodies upon. Speaking of which, the pistons run smoothly and help fast action.
Finally, it comes equipped with a hardshell case and accessories to ensure proper functioning for years to come.
John Packer is a master builder who has worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Yamaha, Schreiber, and Boosey & Hawkes. During those years, he forged a unique sensitivity as a builder and as a player, becoming a sought-after performer for years.
After finishing the apprenticeship, he began with oboe masters in Howarth of London. John opened his shop to pour all he had learned into the shape of amazing-sounding instruments. Indeed, having learned the secrets of the craft from masters, by the time he opened his shop, he offered customers a craftsmanship quality that takes other companies decades to build.
As a result, every instrument with his signature on it is ensured to give the player a lifetime of beautiful sonic adventures.
Notable sousaphone: John Packer JP2057 Sousaphone
Made entirely of solid, high-grade brass, this sousaphone is designed for comfort and performance. On the comfort side, the 3-part removable lead pipe allows the player to find the most comfortable position for playing. Also, the smooth pistons allow fast passages and effortless action.
On the performance side, the forward-facing 26-inch bell is capable of mellow, bass-rich sounds that can help support melodies or roaring, monster-size lows that can step up when needed.
The JP2057 is one of the best sousaphones in the market; give it a try before buying.
Gustav Schiller was one of the best piano makers of his time. Indeed, his creations are collector’s pieces sought after because of their sound, playability, and quality craftsmanship. Yet, making pianos wasn’t Gustav’s only talent; he knew how to create a team spirit and be relentless in pursuing innovations that help instruments sound better.
After WWII bombs destroyed the piano factory, reducing it to ashes, the company, resilient as Gustav, made a stellar comeback, offering to the public some of the best brass wind instruments on the market.
Thus, nowadays, what you can expect from Schiller is outstanding instruments that sound, play, and feel exactly like a dream.
Notable sousaphone: Schiller American Heritage Bb Sousaphone
With authoritative projection, this sousaphone is capable of vociferous sub-tones that reclaim the quintessential American sousaphone heritage. Indeed, the yellow brass receives a nickel silver-plating treatment to avoid breakups, regardless of how hard you blow. In the same vein, the company went the extra mile eliminating sharp bends, allowing the air to flow smoothly and effortlessly.
Also, the quick-throw Monel valves include valve caps for comfort and added precision. Finally, it comes in an aluminum case with wheels for easy storage and transportation.