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Looking for a tenor sax? Then you’re in the right place at the right time.
In this guide, we look at numerous tenor saxophones for beginners, intermediates, and professionals. We’ve even organized them into their respective categories.
Let’s get into it!
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Best Tenor Saxophones For Beginners
If you’re looking for a beginner instrument, there’s one thing you should know – even entry-level instruments can go from reasonable and affordable all the way to pricey and expensive.
That said, the cheapest isn’t always the best for beginners. It’s always worth combing through your options to find the right fit for you. That’s why we’ve covered the entire spectrum here.
So, let’s get into entry-level, beginner, and student tenor saxes.
Yamaha YTS-26 Standard Tenor Saxophone
Although Yamaha describes their YTS-26 Standard Tenor Saxophone (compare price Sweetwater, Amazon, Guitar Center) as an entry level instrument, it comes with a premium level price tag. This instrument comes with a yellow brass neck, body, bell, and nickel-plated keys, and an adjustable thumb rest.
Buyers said they loved this sax and couldn’t be any happier with their purchase.
Item weight: 19.84 lbs.
Package dimensions: 32.48 x 9.84 x 16.53 inches
Antigua Winds X/P TS1203L Tenor Saxophone
The Antigua Winds tenor saxophone comes with a lacquer finish, high F# key, fully ribbed construction, and canvas case. Basically, it’s a tenor sax with all the essentials, though again, it’s not necessarily at a budget friendly price.
Buyers generally thought this instrument was good value and that it plays great, though it needs a bit of breaking in.
Item weight: 18.2 lbs.
Package dimensions: 34 x 14 x 9 inches
Selmer TS711 Tenor Saxophone
The Selmer TS711 tenor saxophone (compare price Amazon, Sweetwater, Guitar Center) comes with a yellow brass body, ribbed construction, detachable reinforced body-to-bow connection, left-hand table key rocker mechanism, articulated C# adjusting screw, high F# key, molded mouthpiece with cap and ligature, engraved bell, and right-hand thumb rest.
The bundle also comes with a neck strap, cork grease, leather pads with metal resonators, and hard-shell case.
Some customers thought this sax was better than most intermediate and professional models(!). And most loved that it had a great sound and said it was comfortable too.
The downsides are relatively minor, but some reviewers found this sax a little heavy.
Item weight: 8 lbs.
Package dimensions: 34 x 7 x 12 inches
Mendini By Cecilio MTS-BNG+92D Tenor Saxophones
The Mendini by Cecilio MTS-BNG+92D tenor saxophone is a fun option for beginners, because it comes in gold, nickel, and black with different key colors too.
And price wise, it’s easy on the pocketbook.
This instrument comes with a tuner, case, mouthpiece, 10 reeds, polishing cloth, cleaning rod, a pair of white gloves, and other accessories. It also comes with a one-year manufacturer warranty.
So, for beginners who are looking for an all-in-one bundle, this isn’t a bad deal.
Buyers thought the Mendini was great for the money – with good tone and good quality.
Some reviewers weren’t as sanguine about it though, saying it felt kind of flimsy, it produced a “clacking” noise when using the low C, corks coming loose, and more.
If you’re an intermediate player or above, this sax probably isn’t right for you. A beginner will likely appreciate it more.
Item weight: 15.12 lbs.
Package dimensions: 33 x 8 x 14 inches
Jupiter JTS710GNA Tenor Saxophone
Jupiter promotes their JTS710GNA tenor saxophone as a beginner sax with advanced features, but it should not be considered a budget option by any means. That said, the best beginner sax isn’t always the cheapest.
This horn comes with a lacquered brass body, nickel-plated keys, and contoured left-hand table keys with tilting Bb rocker arm. Included in the package are a wood frame case, mouthpiece, and ligature.
This durable instrument has been built to last, which is a great comfort to students and beginners (especially young ones), and it has a rich sound to boot.
This is a highly rated tenor sax, though buyers did not leave any specific comments about it.
Item weight: 8 lbs.
Package dimensions: 34 x 7 x 12 inches
Eldon ETS420LN Tenor Saxophone
The Eldon ETS420LN tenor saxophone comes with a fully ribbed construction, yellow brass body, adjustable nickel silver right hand thumb hook, nickel/silver power forged keys, high F# key, engraved detachable bell, lightweight collegiate case, mouthpiece, reed, neck strap, polishing cloth, and cork grease.
According to buyers, this sax plays great and offers a great sound. And apparently it even sounds more expensive than it is.
The con is that it may require a bit of adjustment out of the box to function optimally.
Item weight: 16.9 lbs.
Package dimensions: 32.9 x 8.3 x 14.3 inches
ammoon LADE Tenor Saxophone
The ammoon LADE tenor saxophone comes with a polished lacquer finish, carved pattern, and concave pearl white shell buttons. It also comes in silver and gold.
The bundle also includes a mouthpiece, neck strap, case belt, brush, grease, cleaning rod, cleaning cloth, a pair of gloves, and a hard-shell case.
Buyer reviews weren’t necessarily glowing, but most thought the ammoon was good for what it is.
Item weight: 12.45 lbs.
Package dimensions: 33.46 x 12.6 x 7.87 inches
Best Tenor Saxophones For Intermediate Players
Here we’ll look at the best tenor saxophones for intermediate players.
We only cover a couple of instruments here, but you should also know that some of the higher quality beginner horns can work quite well for intermediate players as well.
Either way, here are some of the best intermediate tenor saxes.
Yamaha YTS-480 Intermediate Tenor Saxophone
Its design was influenced by high-end Yamaha instruments, and as result, it comes with accurate intonation, warm tone, quick response. It is also lightweight and durable.
Additionally, it comes with a 62 style neck, left-hand seesaw key, and separate key guards with adjustable screw cap stoppers.
Buyers universally loved the Yamaha YTS-480 and thought it sounded great too.
Item weight: 24.2 lbs.
Package dimensions: 34.44 x 10.82 x 17.12 inches
Jean Paul USA TS-400 Intermediate Tenor Saxophone
The Jean Paul USA TS-400 tenor saxophone is marketed at an intermediate saxophone, but it’s available at a beginner level instrument price. That said, it could be a great choice for beginners and intermediates alike.
This sax is available in brass, gold, and silver depending on your preference.
It comes with power forged and tapered pivot keys, yellow brass body, lacquer finish, engraved bell pattern, contoured carrying case, as well as accessories – Rico reed, cork grease, cleaning cloth, swabs, and mouthpiece.
Most buyers of the Jean Paul USA were quite happy with their purchase, with some even saying it was the best tenor sax they’ve ever played.
Some reviewers had issues with the keys though.
Item weight: 2.2 lbs.
Package dimensions: 35.5 x 16 x 10 inches
Best Tenor Saxophones For Professionals
Pros are generally those with a great deal of experience. And because of that, they have a more refined taste as applied to their instrument – everything from how it sounds, all the way to how it feels and rests in their hands.
Pros have plenty of options to choose from. And some are quite expensive, while others are more affordable, comparatively speaking.
In this section, we look at the best options for professionals.
Selmer Paris Reference 54 Tenor Saxophone
This horn comes with a rich, centered sound. The neck, body, bow, and bell were made from a special brass alloy. Kid leather pads with plastic tone boosters allow for more projection and flexibility. It has a brushed finish, lacquer on the body and keys, and a stable intonation.
This bundle also comes with a Selmer Paris S80 mouthpiece, cap and ligature, as well as Selmer saxophone care products.
Some buyers said this was the best tenor sax they’ve ever played. Others called it the Ferrari of saxophones.
There are no negative reviews for this premium sax.
Item weight: 19.71 lbs.
Package dimensions: 41 x 16 x 13 inches
Yamaha YTS82Z Custom Z Tenor Saxophone
The Yamaha YTS82ZZ Custom Z tenor saxophone features a brass alloy one-piece rib construction.
Its body, bell, and bow are annealed to make the horn more responsive and less resistant. The bell is a two-piece, hyrdo-formed bell with blue steel springs. The engraving gives the horn a custom appearance. You also get a high F# key. And more.
The package includes a hard-shell case, mouthpiece assembly with ligature, cap and mouthpiece, neck strap, cork grease, cleaning swab, and a five-year parts and labor limited warranty.
We couldn’t find a single negative review for this highly rated instrument.
Item weight: Unknown
Package dimensions: Unknown
Selmer STS280 La Voix II Tenor Saxophone Outfit
The Selmer STS280 La Voix II tenor saxophone comes in black, silver, copper, and lacquer. Selmer says it’s ideal for concert band as well as solo playing.
It features a clear lacquered body, neck, and bell, and a high F# key. The bundle comes with a Trek style case, Selmer mouthpiece, ligature and cap, and care products.
Buyers thought it was worth the money and said that it was beautiful and sounded great.
Some reviewers said they had issues with the keys, but they were in the decided minority.
Item weight: 17.7 lbs.
Package dimensions: 33 x 14 x 9.5 inches
Yamaha YTS-62III Professional Tenor Saxophone
The Yamaha YTS-62III professional tenor sax (compare price Sweetwater, Guitar Center, Amazon) is what some might consider the perfect balance of quality and affordability. Yamaha says this horn has been a favorite among band directors for decades.
It's available in both Gold Lacquer and Silver Plated.
This instrument comes with a 62 style neck, narrow bore, engraving, an improved low B – C# connection, and a semi-hard case.
Buyers were unanimous in their love of this horn. They thought it was outstanding and thought it was great value for the money.
Item weight: 24.1 lbs.
Package dimensions: 36 x 16.5 x 10.75 inches
Roy Benson RBTS302 Professional Tenor Saxophone
The Roy Benson RBTS302 professional tenor saxophone comes with a relaxed neck design, improved brass body, hardened blue steel spring, Pisonis pads, mouthpiece, ligature, cap, and case with backpack assembly.
Buyers loved the sound of this horn. Critical reviews were mostly negligible.
Item weight: 17.75 lbs.
Package dimensions: 36 x 12 x 14 inches
What Should I Look For In A Tenor Saxophone?
Choosing an instrument can be fun, but also overwhelming.
It’s exciting when you feel like you’ve stumbled on your perfect instrument, but it can be frustrating wading through endless options until you finally find it.
Basically, finding the right sax can be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.
Our hope is to make the buying decision process a little easier on you. We may not be able to equip you with everything you need to make this decision, but we’ll do our best to provide you with all the information you need to find your perfect sax.
In this section, we’re going to be looking at what you should look for in a tenor saxophone and what factors you should consider while shopping.
Here are the main factors considered:
- Sound quality
Let’s explore these in more detail.
Musicians evolve with practice and experience.
A beginner often can’t tell that much of a difference between a starter instrument or a premium instrument, simply because they haven’t spent that much time on their instrument.
But a more advanced or professional player usually has a more discerning taste. They’ve tried many tenor saxophones and have discovered what they liked about each through the years.
Sound quality is an important factor regardless. Because even if you can’t tell, there may be people around you who can.
That said, your requirements will differ based on how you’re planning to use the instrument. You wouldn’t need the same sax for playing in school band versus playing in a 10,000-seat venue. Just as an example.
But it is worth considering the sound quality of the instrument before making the purchase. To that extent, you can check the reviews, as well as demos on YouTube. In most cases, you should be able to find some reliable information this way.
Playability is another critical factor, and depending on who you ask, in some cases, it might be even more important than sound quality.
It’s one thing to have a great sounding instrument. But what if it’s too difficult to play? What if it’s too heavy? These things can certainly affect your experience of the sax.
If you have some experience, then you probably have a better sense of what you like in a sax. If not, then it’s probably going to come through some trial and error.
Again, there is no easy way to tell whether a horn plays well without trying it out, but the demos and reviews can still come in handy.
If you have the opportunity, then of course, trying out a few saxes at the store is the best way to figure it all out.
How important is durability? As with other factors mentioned here, it depends a lot on who is buying and playing the instrument.
What follows is a vast generalization, but it often holds true.
Beginners generally need an instrument that can take a bit of abusive. We’re not talking “throw it to the floor and stomp on it” type of abusive. But the horn should be able to survive a few nicks and dings.
Although not true of everyone, younger students tend to be a little less cautious with their instrument, and in some cases, it may even be a little too heavy for them. Which means they are more prone to mishandling and dropping it.
Again, it’s just what it is. But all things being equal, durable instruments are desirous for students and beginners.
Meanwhile, an intermediate or professional player may value sound quality or playability (or both) over durability.
This is somewhat understandable, to the extent that they are probably more careful and mindful of their instruments, especially since they are more likely to be paying several thousand dollars for them.
This isn’t to suggest that they should go out and buy a flimsy instrument. Not at all. Professionals and experienced players likely have more performances and engagements, meaning they play their instruments more. And they haul their saxes with them, wherever they go.
So, it’s mostly just a matter of how you think about it. There are factors that may be more important to you or less important to you, though durability is a bit of a constant either way.
Where possible, choose a horn that meets your needs. Check demos and reviews for more warning signs and information.
It’s not unusual for a saxophonist with some experience to pay $1,000 to $2,000 to their instrument, and sometimes even $3,000. Even if they aren’t professional players.
Let’s just say that music isn’t a cheap hobby. And while it can certainly turn into a career, most musicians end up spending many years practicing, gaining experience, and even performing for free before they earn a cent from their passion.
There’s nothing wrong with spending $1,000 to $2,000 on an instrument. Most serious musicians will at some point. The key takeaway is that you shouldn’t spend more than you can afford to.
And that’s where a purchase like this may require some planning. Of course, if you’re serious about the tenor sax, you should have your own instrument. But you should consider your resources first.
At Music Industry How To, we don’t recommend overspending or going into debt to buy an instruments. So, be mindful of your purchase.
Either use your existing budget to whittle down your options, or save up for the instrument you want.
What Are The Best Tenor Saxophone Brands?
There are many tenor saxophone manufacturers, and several of them are major players in the music industry, not just in the saxophone niche.
Just because we don’t mention certain brands here doesn’t mean they aren’t also great. There’s simply no way we could cover all of them, including all the premium and boutique brands out there.
But we handpicked five of the most recognizable brands and offer a little bit of insight into each of them here. Have a look.
Yamaha doesn’t require much of an introduction. They make a variety of acoustic and electric instruments, music production tools, accessories and more. To that extent, they are more diversified than some of the companies on this list.
Yamaha is certainly a matter of taste, but many musicians trust them to manufacture and sell high quality instruments for a variety of applications.
Jupiter (or Jupiter Music/Jupiter Band Instruments) makes woodwind, brass, and marching instruments as well as accessories. The company was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in Mt. Juliet, TN.
Jupiter instruments are designed with playability in mind, and as a long-standing brand, they are trusted by musicians too.
Antigua (or Antigua Winds) focuses specifically on the manufacturing of professional saxophones and accessories. They’re also the parent organization of Eldon.
Antigua is known for creating instruments that offer the perfect balance of quality and affordability.
Most saxophonists, bassoonists, and clarinetists should be familiar with the Selmer brand. Conn-Selmer is, in effect, the parent organization and it owns a variety of other known brands too.
As a trusted brand, Selmer has been around since the 1800s and has experienced massive growth through the decades.
Jean Paul USA
Jean Paul USA’s focus is on student wind instruments and are known to make good quality instruments at an affordable price. They make trumpets, saxophones, trombones, flutes, clarinets, and accessories.
If an entry-level instrument is what you seek, then Jean Paul USA is a good brand to turn to.
Top Tenor Saxophones For Beginners, Intermediates & Professional Saxophonists, Final Thoughts
If you over feel overwhelmed in your shopping efforts, just remember to have fun. Finding a great instrument is worth the time and money you invest into it.
Using the above guide, you should be able to navigate the field and you should be better prepared to make a purchase decision.