Best Tenor Saxophones: Reviews and 2017 Buyer’s Guide

best tenor saxophones

If you are looking for the best tenor saxophones, I'm guessing you've worked your butt off and are now ready to take your playing to a new level.

The best tenor saxophones are a pleasure to play and will provide a life-time of enjoyment.

Purchasing a high-end tenor sax is, however, an investment and one that you should consider carefully.

Below you will find reviews of some of the best tenor saxophones to consider.

Quick Comparison: Best Tenor Saxophones

**Below, you can find more detailed reviews, but you can also click above to read customer reviews on Amazon.

Best Tenor Saxophone Brands

It's no surprise that our list of some of the best tenor saxophones includes models from best tenor saxophone brands such as Yanagisawa, Yamaha, Keilwerth and Selmer.  Let's take a look at some of the top models.

Yanagisawa T991 Professional Tenor Saxophone

yanagisawa t991 professional tenor saxophone image

The Yanagisawa Professional Tenor Saxophone has a high F♯ key and is also in the key of B♭.

It features double-action low B and C keys and is made with lacquered brass with gold brass hand engraving on the bell.

It is expressive and dynamic and creates a unique sound.

Key Features

  • Lacquered brass
  • High F♯ key
  • Hand engraving
  • Three-point bell brace
  • Contoured independent palm keys


  • Even intonation
  • Refined sound
  • Wide and dynamic range
  • Sway-free mechanism for F auxiliary and low C♯ keys


  • This model is harder to find

Yamaha YTS-82ZII Custom Z Tenor Saxophone

yamaha yts-82zii custom z tenor saxophone image

The Yamaha Custom Z Tenor Saxophone has a clear lacquer finish, annealed body and bell, and standard key mechanism.

It has a lighter thumb hook and thumb rest braces and domed metal resonators.

Low-end response is drastically improved and you can achieve a wide range of sounds with a very clear response.

Key Features

  • One-piece bell
  • Clear lacquer finish
  • Adjustable front F key
  • Domed metal resonators
  • Engraving and fine detail


  • Better sound quality
  • Easy to play
  • High-quality craftsmanship
  • Aesthetic appeal


  • None yet reported

Keilwerth SX90R Professional Tenor Saxophone

keilwerth sx90r professional tenor saxophone image

The Keilwerth Professional Tenor Saxophone has a 5.25” bell diameter and a black nickel-plated body with clear lacquer.

It also features waterproof leather pads with metal resonators and a hydraulically formed neck.

This saxophone produces a warm and expressive sound and resonates clearly.

Key Features

  • Adjustable palm keys
  • Metal, adjustable thumb rest
  • Laser precision engraving
  • Hand soldered rings
  • Metal resonators


  • Easy to play
  • Rich and warm sound
  • Beautifully aesthetic design


  • Higher price point

Selmer Paris Reference 36 Tenor Saxophone

selmer paris reference 36 tenor saxophone image

The Selmer Paris Reference 36 Tenor Saxophone is rose lacquer over yellow brass.

It features compact key positioning so that the mechanism is closer to the body and directly under the hand.

It has a B♭ instrument key and produces a full sound that is rich and warm.

Key Features

  • Compact key positioning
  • High F♯ key
  • Adjusting screws
  • Pads are treated leather with metal resonators
  • Rose lacquer finish over yellow brass
  • Ribbed construction


  • Rich sound
  • Easy to play
  • Beautiful design
  • Great response and tone
  • Comfortable


  • High price point
  • Some resistance in higher registers
  • Not ideal for larger hands

Selmer Paris Reference 54 Tenor Saxophone

selmer paris reference 54 tenor saxophone image

This Selmer Paris Tenor Saxophone incorporates some of the same quality and features that you can find in other Selmer Paris models including a modern design and manufacturing improvements.

This model is based on the 1954 Mark VI.

The keywork is positioned closer to the player’s body for enhanced playability and improved comfort.

Key Features

  • Key: B♭
  • Blue steel springs
  • Tapered pivot screw
  • Adjustable metal thumb rest
  • Improved keywork


  • Increased comfort
  • Improved playability
  • Acoustic and ergonomic characteristics
  • More precise action
  • Lighter than a Mark VI


  • High price point

Points to Consider When Purchasing a Tenor Saxophone

Tenor saxophones are medium-sized members of the saxophone family and are one of the most common types of saxophones along with the alto saxophone. Tenor saxophones are pitched in the key of B♭ in the treble clef.

Tenor saxophones use larger mouthpieces than any other saxophones and they have a bend in the neck near the mouthpiece. Tenor saxophones are usually used more in the classical music genre as well as marching bands and jazz combos.

The mouthpiece has a wedge-shaped tube and has great flexibility in shape and style. These instruments are popular with saxophonists as they produce a warmer and rounder tone and carry a very mellow sound which makes them ideal for jazz music.

Tenor saxophones also tend to be a bit larger and are not usually recommended for smaller hands or beginners. The choice of saxophone is purely based on the tastes and musical likes and dislikes of the musician. If you are a sax player looking for a higher and brighter sound from a professional saxophone, however, the tenor saxophone is not the right choice. A good idea is to do a little research first in order to make sure that you buy the right sax on your way to becoming a professional musician.

Final Verdict

Based on overall value and quality one of the best tenor saxophones on the market today is the Yanagisawa T991 Professional Tenor Saxophone. The Yanagisawa T991 is the most affordable option out of all the saxophones reviewed and does not lack in quality or features.

The Yanagisawa T991 delivers a deep, rich tone that is music to the ears. It features double-action low B and C keys and all of the needed characteristics to allow you to create your own unique voice and stand out in a crowd.​  Let's have a listen.

Still not sure which saxophone is right for you? Visit our BIG Saxophone Buying Guide.