Saxophones are now cheaper than they ever have been, in relative terms. This has
made the market very competitive with a number of cheaper instruments of poor
quality starting to appear on the market.
Recommended budget buys are (Selmer) Elkhar seriest II and Elkhart Deluxe, Yamaha
275, Trevor James' The Horn, Jupiter 767, and Fremont.
N.B. Most of these companies make cheaper Chinese models, sometimes referred to
as pre-budget instruments. These can often be cheap Chines instruments.
The ones mentioned above are Taiwanese, which tend to be built to a higher standard.
Decent Chinese saxophones are available from Bentley.
WHAT TO AVOID
It's becoming harder and harder to keep track of all the numerous instruments available.
There are many Chinese instruments which are badged with different names
but are essentially the same instrument. The cheapest ones tend not to be too good.
NOT CHEAP IN THE LONG RUN
I recommend avoiding the cheapest instruments which include Parrot, J.
Michael, Intermusic, Symphony, saxophones. Be wary of anything that has
no name. The numerous garishly coloured instruments found on internet auction websites
may well be poor ones. Some well established companies, (Bentley, Fremont, Venus
etc) source well made saxophones, but other instruments that look very similar aren't as
Almost unplayable reproductions are finding their way from India. Often
they have the name Hawkes and Son on them, or Boosey and Co and/or
Besson. If they are new then we know they
aren't made by the Hawkes and Son - which merged with Boosey to form
Boosey & Hawkes.way back in 1930: so if a Hawkes is shiny bright and new, with a
case with plastic bits on it - give it a miss!
A brand new instrument for £200 or less is going to be a cheap Chinese
instrument which is best avoided. You're better buying a second hand, well made student
It may be better buying a second-hand Taiwanese instrument, such as a Elkhart Series II,
which often sell from £100 on auction websites.
SECOND HAND SAXES
On the second-hand market there are numerous makes and stencils. (A stencil is an
instrument produced by one company with the name of a different company or
supplier engraved on it). Be careful what you buy as it may be a bit different to what
you think it is! On the internet auctions you will come across saxes needing "a little
work". If there are bits missing and large dents and things hanging off it'll need a lot
more than a little work!!! (And always check the crook key - we've seen quite a few
with half missing!)
WHAT TO CHECK FOR
Check the mechanism for rattles and wear.
Check that the crook fits and the octave system works correctly,
raising and lowering the both octave keys.
People will always tell you to check the pads. (These are the leather
things that cover the toneholes). This is important but if you find a really good sax
with duff pads it could still be worth buying - just be prepared to pay for new pads
top of the price of the sax. For instance you may come across a Weltklang /
Meister / Berg Larsen tenor sax (all the same thing), for around £250 -
quite a bargain, but it may cost around the same amount for a repad. For about
£350 you will get a better instrument and it's still a bargain.
Better quality instruments are Yanagisawa (all are professional quality
instruments), Selmer Paris, Yamaha 475 (intermediate) and 64
(pro), Keilwerth (avoid SX90R which has fake rolled toneholes. SX90s are OK,
though). Borgani saxes are very good, P. Mauriat are very nice, essentially
Taiwanese copies of Selmer Mk.VI.
Saxophones come in various sizes. They are heavy instruments so be careful of
lumbering your child with something they can't handle. A curved soprano as made by
the likes of Selmer Elkhart can be a good starter's instrument. If their hands are too
small to reach on that then wait a year or two and let them grow.