Best Alto Saxophones: 2017 Buyer’s Guide

best alto saxophones

You've worked hard to take your playing to the next level and need a sax that won't hold you back.  Of course you want to know what are the best alto saxophones.

You're looking at the best alto saxophones that money can buy or at least the best alto sax that you can afford!

There are lot's of choices but a few of the best alto saxophones always rise to the top.

Here we review some of the best alto saxophones that will make your mouth water and make you sound like a god! Ok, maybe not a God, but pretty damn good.

Quick Comparison: Best Alto Saxophones

***Click the links provided in the table above for more details and to check current pricing or scroll on down to read a more detailed review.


Student vs. Pro Level Saxophones

Before we jump into looking at the best pro level saxophones if you are a student or a beginner then a more affordable student saxophone is probably a better way to go. Student saxophones are made of more durable materials and are usually easier to play.  Check out BIG's guide to the best saxophones for beginners.

A professional model alto saxophone is more costly but if it is your passion or career then it will prove to be a good investment. You get a high quality instrument with all the added artistic touches. Professional alto saxophones also produce a better sound and will last for years if they are properly taken care of and maintained.

Buying New vs. Used Saxophone

Buying a high quality used professional saxophone is a good option if you are on a limited budget, but a lot of folks don’t think of buying a used instruments as a viable option. There are pros and cons to buying a used saxophone that you should weighed while you make a decision.

Pros of New

  • Higher Appeal
  • Ready to play
  • ​Includes warranty
  • Better re-sale value

Cons of New

  • More expensive
  • Consistently can vary
  • Quality can vary

Pros of Used

  • ​Less expensive
  • Easy to find
  • Vintage appeal
  • Availability of discontinued models

Cons of Used

  • Unknown condition
  • Need to test play
  • May need to repair

Below are some of the best alto saxophones to have graced the earth.  Some models are sadly no longer in production but links are provided to where you can get good deals on vintage (used) models.

Yamaha YAS-82ZII Custom Z Alto Saxophone Lacquered

yamaha yas 82zii alto saxophone

The Yamaha Custom Z Alto Saxophone features a beautiful design and engraving and is market tested for durability and reliability.

This new model features a one-piece bell with engraving that is reminiscent of vintage saxophones.

Key Features

  • One-piece bell
  • Finer detail
  • Wide bore taper
  • Lighter and adjustable thumb hook
  • Adjustable front F mechanism

Pros

  • Expressive design
  • Great response and control
  • Great flexibility
  • Cohesive tone
  • Wider dynamic range

Cons

  • High price point

Yanagisawa A-992 Bronze Alto Saxophone

yanagisawa a-992 bronze alto saxophone image

This Yanagisawa Bronze Alto Saxophone is ideal for professionals and features a hand-engraved lacquered bronze bell and a high F♯ mechanism.

It includes a case, mouthpiece, cap and ligature, and care products. It has a wide dynamic range and is of particular interest to classical players due to it warm and rich sounds.

Key Features

  • High F♯ mechanism
  • Contoured independent palm keys
  • Double-action table keys
  • Rib-mounted upper and lower stack posts
  • Lacquered bronze

Pros

  • Easy to play
  • Excellent intonation
  • Warm and rich sound
  • Quality craftsmanship
  • Wide range of sounds

Cons

  • Very high price point
  • No regulation adjustors
  • Overly large thumb rest

Yanagisawa WO20 Alto Saxophone Bronze

yanagisawa wo20 series alto saxophone bronze image

The Yanagisawa WO20 Alto Saxophone is ideal for any professional that plays a variety of music styles including classical and jazz.

The WO20 saxophone boasts of superior craftsmanship with a moderate level of resistance and it provides effortless tone with depth and flexibility.

Key Features

  • Key: E♭
  • Range: Low B♭ to High F♯
  • Bronze Alloy
  • Detachable neck

Pros

  • Depth and flexibility
  • High-quality craftsmanship
  • Moderate level of resistance

Cons

  • Hard to find any!

Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone

selmer mark vi alto saxophone image

This Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone is considered by many as being THE best alto sax to have ever been created! The Mark VI was manufactured between 1954 and 1974.

The Mark VI produces a wonderful classic sound and boasts of ergonomic keywork. It is known for good intonation with good timbre and excellent tone quality.

It was constructed to be durable and repairable and has stood the test of time. Refurbished models are available on places like Amazon.  


Keilwerth SX90R Professional Alto Saxophone

keilwerth sx90r professional alto saxophone image

This Keilwerth SX90R Alto Saxophone is constructed of German Brass 

The SX90R features an adjustable thumb rest, engraving and gold lacquer finishing. The tone holes are drawn with hand soldered rings.

The key range is E♭ and the range is Low B♭ to High F♯.

This particular saxophone is listed as used on Amazon.

Key Features

  • German brass
  • Metal thumb rest
  • Pads are leather pisoni
  • Gold lacquer finish
  • Laser precision engraved
  • Hand soldered rings

Pros

  • Affordably priced for a professional level saxophone
  • Beautiful design and finish
  • Warm sound that is great for classical or jazz

Cons

  • A few minor scratches
  • Some wear and tear

P. Mauriat PMXA-67R Series Professional Alto Saxophone

p. mauriat pmxa-67r image

This P. Mauriat Alto Saxophone features a vintage looking dark lacquer which provides a beautiful finish.

It produces a rich, warm sound and is ideal for any professional saxophone player and the brilliant tone exceeds the musicians expectations.

It has hand engraving on the bell and bow and has no soldering at all.

Key Features

  • Vintage dark lacquer
  • Hand-engraved bell
  • Rolled tone holes
  • High F♯

Pros

  • Very affordably priced
  • High-quality craftsmanship
  • Superior resonance
  • Easy to play
  • Great sound quality

Cons

  • No cons found

Final Verdict

All of the best alto saxophones reviewed here are of professional quality and are ideal for accompaniment, jazz, a variety of band music, and of course classical music. The Yamaha YAS-82ZII alto saxophone stands out as one of the best considering overall quality and price. It has a free and open tone and boasts of a beautiful design. It is affordably priced for a professional level alto saxophone and has the combined elements of playability, expressiveness, and response. It is reminiscent of a vintage saxophone and inspires impressive music with its wide dynamic range and clear pronunciation.


Still not sure which saxophone is right for you? Check our Saxophone Buying Guide for more information.