Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone Review: Is it really the best saxophone ever?

In the annals of saxophone lore, no model is more sought after than the legendary Selmer Mark VI Alto Sax. Produced from 1954 to 1974, the Selmer Mark VI is considered by many to be the best saxophone ever made.

With an incredibly versatile tone, a beautiful lacquer finish, and a hand-engraved bell, the Mark VI both looked and sounded amazing.

Since the last one rolled off the production line in 1974, this saxophone has remained in high demand. It is still being discussed in internet forums, and it still demands high prices on auction sites and in trade shows the world over.

If you are looking for a high-quality, professional-level saxophone to match your dedication to the instrument, you need to consider buying a Selmer Mark VI.

The Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone makes BIG's list of the best alto saxophones and gets a BIG 5 stars.

BIG Rating

Highlighted Features


  • This is “the” classic alto saxophone
  • Known for its lush, full sound
  • Engraved bell gives a unique, hand-made look
  • Solid projection, even on the lowest A notes
  • “Soft” brass gives a more diffuse tone
  • Specifications
  • Key: Eb
  • Construction Material: Brass
  • Finish: Lacquer
  • Thumb rest: Adjustable

Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone Overview

Made in France, the Mark VI’s were shipped all over the word to eagerly awaiting customers everywhere. Built to have a smooth, dark tone, the Mark VI was in high demand during its entire twenty year run. The Mark VI was a saxophone that was pretty much ahead of its time.

Originally made as a successor to both the Balanced Action (BA) and Super Action (SA) lines, the Mark VI was really the first saxophone to include many of the features that modern players would come to expect, and it would continue to set the standard during its entire twenty-year run.

During that time, Selmer experimented with a couple of different design elements, lengthening the bow throughout the course of production to try and introduce more air and more volume into the horn. At the same time, the construction material changed slightly over the decades as Selmer worked to improve the already rich tone, taking it to new heights. The result over the years was a saxophone that defied pigeonholing, sounding rich at times, but also able to deliver a bright, edgy sound when the music called for it.

The First "Modern" Saxophone

However, the Selmer isn’t known only because of its vintage heritage -- it’s also known because it is considered by many to be the first “modern” horn, introducing many new technical innovations that would later become standard. These include an adjustable thumb rest, a detachable bell, an octave key thumb, removable bell key guards, an internally ribbed construction for durability and strength, the tilting table for the low Bb key, and a semi-removable brace. In addition to its new and inventive features, the Mark VI was also just put together extremely well. Point screws and blued steel springs help provide a quick, smooth, solid action that makes this horn very playable.

Worthy of Admiration

If you can find one, the Selmer is a horn that deserves to be admired. Sure, saxophones since then have improved upon some of its features, and a decades-old horn is going to come with its own list of quirks. However, it’s worth remembering that the Mark VI is the horn that really ushered in the modern era of saxophones. This is the instrument where all of the different features being designed through the years came together to make a truly special and professional-level instrument that is still being talked about to this day.

Pros

  • Considered by many to be the greatest saxophone ever
  • Produces a legendary, warm sound
  • Highly sought after
  • Worth a lot, and keeps its resale value

Cons

  • Hard to find

Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone Video

Charles McPherson talks saxophone and demonstrates technique with his 60s-era Selmer saxophone.

Summary

In conclusion, there’s really only one thing to say: as a professional musician, you’re always looking for the best sound, the best action, and the overall best instrument, right? For decades, no saxophone has been called “the best” more than the Selmer Mark VI, which should be all you need to know. Solidly constructed, with a deep, versatile tone that fits any and all occasions, the Mark VI has not gone out of demand in the past forty years, and shows no signs of stopping even to this day.

The Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone gets a BIG 5 stars and earns its reputation.

BIG Rating


Still not sure which sax to buy? Visit BIG's Saxophone Buying Guide for more information and buying tips.