Since their conception in the 1840s, saxophones have been a staple of multiple music genres including jazz, orchestra, big band, and others.
Its long history as an instrument led many manufacturers to create original models and score a reputation for quality sound and design. Today, there are multiple brands to choose from, each with unique traits.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at the story of 12 of the best saxophone brands currently on the market. Let’s get started.
1. Selmer Paris
French company Selmer Paris was founded in 1875 by Alexandre and Henri Selmer, brothers and graduates of the famed Paris Conservatory. They have a long history of creating saxophones and other woodwind instruments.
Balanced tuning and powerful projection are Selmer Paris’s specialties, but they also make a variety of mouthpieces that suit musical needs. Their models range from sopranino to bass, covering the full spectrum of saxophone types.
The company prides itself on its professional models, including the 52 Axos Alto Saxophone. The horn has a lightning-fast response time, fluid intonation, and great tone, even at the altissimo register. It’s a perfect example of Selmer Paris’s dream of advancing musicians into the world of a professional orchestra.
Japanese brand Yamaha is an industry giant, creating everything from pianos to amps and drums. But did you know they also produce woodwinds?
The company’s legacy began in 1887 with reed organ repair and gradually expanded to cover every musical need. Yamaha’s advantage over competitors is diversity backed by Japanese design philosophy and ingenuity.
Its saxophone line contains many outstanding YAS series options, but the YAS-480 is one of its latest products. This model features a classy engraving on the bell and a long neck that draws out high-quality tones. It has separate key guards, which allow the player to customize and fine-tune the saxophone to their liking.
3. P. Mauriat
Established in the late 1990s, P. Mauriat is inspired by the French orchestra leader it was named after. The brand creates a respectable repertoire of brass and woodwind instruments, including flugelhorns, flutes, and saxophones.
Mauriat has built a solid reputation for its saxophones, with certain models associated with many legendary and up-and-coming jazz and pop musicians, like James Carter and Reiner Witzel.
Of the brand’s many options, the Master 97 series has become the preferred choice for several international-stage players. The dual-alloy saxophone has synthetic resonators that give the instrument a complex sound. As a result, it can meet the demands of pro players.
Our next brand, Jupiter, is a subset of KHS Musical Instruments Co., which has produced quality horns and tools since the 1930s. The brand was created in 1980, with a focus on community.
These values have led Jupiter to center on providing educators, aspiring musicians, and distributors with quality service and products. They largely focus on brass instruments, but saxophones, piccolos, and flutes have a place in the company catalog.
Its brass and woodwind lineups contain a handful of gorgeous silver-plated instruments such as the JAS1100SG alto saxophone. The tonal quality enhancements are due to the company’s Sona-Pure annealing, which helps give each instrument a rich sound.
Next we have another Japanese company, Yanagisawa. This Tokyo-based brand has been creating musical instruments since the late 1800s. Today, the brand focuses solely on saxophones, producing models of every sound range except bass.
Yanagisawa is responsible for creating many of Japan’s first original woodwind instruments, giving the country more sway in the music industry. One of Yanagisawa’s most unique offerings is the curved soprano saxophone.
Soprano models are typically straight to keep the pitch high, but Yanagisawa has engineered a curved instrument that doesn’t compromise tone, quality, or looks. The design gives this saxophone an air of exoticism and sound versatility that few others can rival.
You don’t have to be an old brand to be one of the best. Elkhart is a young company that has brought innovation to musical instruments since the 1990s. Today, it is a subset of Conn-Selmer, working to create models that mimic the best parts of those made by industry giants.
Elkhart’s focus is on woodwinds with some brass offerings like cornets. The company excels at creating entry-level instruments perfect for beginners.
They typically come with everything a starter sax needs, with worthwhile intonation and projection for a novice-class model. Moreover, many Elkhart models are incredibly lightweight, making them an excellent marching option.
Entering the scene in the late 20th Century, Keilwerth is a European saxophone company that aims for perfection. The company’s models span all saxophone types except sopranino, but the true selling points of its instruments are the rare designs and materials used within.
For instance, the Keilwerth SX90R Professional Tenor has a body of beautiful black German nickel with golden keys as an accent. The adjustable key heights give it ergonomic utility while its bellowing sound draws plenty of attention. Keilwerth also creates horns with antique finishes that pop.
Beginning in the small town of Macerata, Italy, Borgani has been creating musical instruments since 1872. Studying the techniques of Conn and other top competitors, founder Augusto Borgani sought to add Italian quality and flair to top performers in the woodwind industry.
Today, the brand still produces a variety of saxophones through timeless methods, with soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones as the main offerings.
Similar to Yanagisawa’s high-pitched curved sax, Borgani produces half-curved soprano instruments. These have the rich sound of a standard soprano, and the half-curve makes them comfortable to hold and play. They even glitter with the sheen of pristine 24-karat gold.
9. Trevor James
European instrument producer Trevor James first began in the 1990s. Today, the brand creates saxophones suited for beginner, intermediate, and professional players. The horns are sourced from Asia but are modified, upgraded, and engraved in England.
The most iconic Trevor James product is its line of RAW saxophones, which have a bare-brass finish. When the models are finished, they receive a coat of wax but no lacquer, allowing the horns to age over time like antiques.
The unlacquered body gives these saxophones a wide range of tones that depends heavily on the player. Each Trevor James sax also has detailed engraving on the bell.
10. Cannonball Saxophones
In 1996, Cannonball began manufacturing instruments in Salt Lake City. Despite its short legacy, the company has an impressive lineup of saxophones, trombones, flutes, and other horns.
The company aims to add aesthetic flair to the instrument market, putting intricate detail into engravings and adornments on its saxophones. Cannonball’s 25th Anniversary Saxophone fits that description perfectly, with its polished black nickel body and white tiger engraving.
The outside of the instrument is adorned with snakeskin jasper stones mined in Australia, giving the horn a truly exotic feel. The result is an instrument that stands out and plays well.
Industry giant Conn-Selmer is part of Steinway Musical Instruments Inc. It was formed in 2003 through the merger of United Musical Instruments, the Selmer Company, and elements of Steinway.
Since then, it has carried on the legacy of its predecessors, distributing horns from Yanagisawa in Japan and Henri Selmer Paris in France. The brand’s global, widespread nature allows it to be the country’s #1 producer of brass, woodwind, and string instruments for beginners and professionals.
As a distributor, many of Conn-Selmer’s saxophones are not its own products. However, its top seller is the Selmer AS42, an entry-level professional horn with a ribbed body. It collaborates the French touch of Henri Selmer Paris with the technology of Selmer USA to create a horn that stands out in its price range and capabilities.
12. Jean Paul USA
Florida-based company Jean Paul USA began in 1994. Its vision is to cut the cost of distributing world-class beginner instruments to students and teachers across the country.
The brand’s original models span all skill levels, but its catalog consists mainly of saxophones. Jean Paul USA’s entry-level models are extremely affordable, but its original intermediate-level BS600 baritone saxophone is a crowd-pleaser.
It is a reliable horn with beautiful hand-engraving, a fluid response time, and an ergonomic key layout. The BS600 fulfills Jean Paul USA’s vision of giving newcomers a chance to grow with music.
Summing Up Our List Of Saxophone Brands
From France, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the USA, global saxophone manufacturers make their marks on the industry. Newer brands slowly engrave their legacies as they partner with big-time distributors.
This led to a world of fascinating saxophone models and utilities, and each producer possesses a unique history and skill-set that surfaces in each horn.
We hope we have helped you find the saxophone you needed or learned something new about their producers. Creating instruments is an art form that is best appreciated by picking up a horn and playing it. Once you do, you’ll see the intricacies, technology, and love each one carries.