Best Tenor Saxophones of 2020: Brand Buying Guide & Reviews

When every single tenor saxophone entering the market is advertised as “the best,” it can get a bit confusing as to which one to purchase. This is more so the case if you are a beginner and purchasing your first tenor saxophone. People selling you wind instruments might not have your best interests in mind, and only sell what’s giving them the highest commission.

But not to fear! To help you out, we have curated a list of the 10 best tenor saxophones and what makes them great. Here you will not only get to know which tenor saxophones are highly rated but also understand why it is so acclaimed and would it be the right fit for you.

However, if you are completely new to tenor saxophones, first let’s get a proper understanding of what a tenor saxophone is, and what makes it different from other types of the instrument.

What is the Tenor Saxophone?

Following a broad classification, there are around 14 different types of saxophones. However, we will be focusing on the four most common types of instruments – soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.

Soprano – This is the smallest type of saxophone but playing it is more difficult compared to the other alternatives. As far as the sound production is concerned, sopranos are known to reproduce the highest pitch sound out of the bunch. Kenny G popularly was known for using the soprano.

Alto – The alto follows the same design and structure as all the other saxophones but in a miniature packaging. It is much lighter than the other saxophones and easier to manage, making it ideal for beginners and young students. 

Tenor – In terms of size, the tenor saxophone is bigger than the alto but smaller than the baritone. It is by far the most popular sax that is predominantly used in modern jazz and rock. The sound produced by the tenor is most likely what you consider when thinking of a saxophone. It has a slight bend in its neck which creates a throaty full tone.

Baritone – And finally we have the Baritone, the biggest of the four common types of saxophones. Its massive size is one of the reasons why you see it less used in mainstream music. However, it produces the deepest and most powerful sound which is popularly used in big bands, horn sections, or solo parts in R&B.

10 Best Tenor Saxophones

So now that you have a clear understanding of what a tenor saxophone is, let’s get started on this list of the 10 best tenor saxophones:

1. Glory B Flat Tenor Sax

Glory B Flat Tenor Sax review

Starting off our list, we have the Glory B Flat tenor sax. Priced at around $350, it is relatively affordable making it perfect for beginners and students just starting out playing the instrument.

It is made from high-quality brass and heavily stylized boasting a black-gold finish and a hand-engraved design right on the bell. 

You will get access to advanced features like a metal thumb rest, leather pads, as well as resonators. The key-holes are also precisely positioned which helps the players to comfortably place their fingers on them. Also, thanks to the distribution of the keys and its compact design, the saxophone can be easily played by players with shorter fingers, including children.

Also being targeted at beginners, the sax comes with a complete kit of all the necessary accessories. This includes a hardshell case, mouthpiece, neck strap, grease, screwdriver, a cleaning cloth, and rod, as well as a pair of gloves.

Features:

  • Made from high-quality brass.
  • Comfortable action with quality key plays.
  • Has a hand engraved design on the bell.
  • Comes with a complete kit to get you started including a hardshell case, mouthpiece, neck strap, grease, screwdriver, a cleaning cloth, and rod, and gloves.
  • Affordable pricing.

And much more.

2. Kaizer TSAX-1000LQ

Kaizer TSAX-1000LQ review

Now, if you are just looking to try out a tenor saxophone without having to deal with the commitment of investing a couple of hundred dollars straight away, then the Kaizer TSAX-1000LQ is an excellent choice. 

Apart from its design and playability, one of the most unique aspects of the saxophones is that it comes with a 45-days free trial. That is to say, you are allowed to get the instrument and try out for 45 days, and if you don’t like it, you can return it for a full refund. 

Looking at the offering, it is clear that the instrument is targeted at beginners or students who are just getting into playing the Tenor Saxophone. However, it still comes with great design and sound quality. The instrument is made of a solid brass body which clearly shows in its enhanced tonal qualities.

Overall, the instrument is easy to play, responds without effort, has a fast action, making it one of the most easily playable instruments in the market. Sound-wise, the instrument is tuned to the key of B flat which is actually perfect for beginners, as well as school bands and orchestra players.

Features:

  • Build using solid brass.
  • Tuned to the key of Bb (B flat).
  • High playability.
  • Comes with a molded case, complete mouthpiece, ligatures set, polishing cloth and cleaning rod, gloves, and lubricant.
  • 45 day free trial.
  • Lifetime warranty.

And much more.

3. Opus USA by KTONE

Opus USA by KTONE review

Up next, we have the Opus USA by KTONE, a tenor saxophone ideal for users who have cultivated an interest for well build saxophones, but don’t want to break the bank. The instrument is priced around the $400 bracket and is constructed in Super French Style. Design-wise, it looks very simplistic which is one of the key reasons behind its popularity amongst beginners and professionals alike.

In fact, despite its budget price tag, the instrument actually looks and feels high-end boasting a lot of premium features. For starters, you get a highly durable build with tough key construction that can hold for a length of time.

Coming to the sound quality, it is tuned to the Key of Bb and also includes a high F# key allowing you to play for versatile pieces. The quality of the sound is good enough that you can take to professional gigs and performances.

Also, worth noting is that the sax comes complete with a whole set of accessories including a hardshell case, cleaning cloth, pair of white gloves, neck strap, and reeds.

Features:

  • Super French style design with the USA mouth.
  • Sturdy build that can withstand regular wear and tear.
  • Tuned to the key of B Flat.
  • Support for High F# for versatile playability.
  • Comes with a complete package with a hardshell case, cleaning cloth, a pair of white gloves, neck strap, and reeds.

And much more.

4. Mendini by Cecilio MTS-L

Mendini by Cecilio MTS-L review

The Mendini by Cecilio MTS-L tenor saxophone boasts a solid build that is made available in five different finishes including gold lacquer, nickel, black/gold, gold/nickel, and black/nickel. This gives users a lot of variety and options to choose a style that fits their taste. There is also a Faux Mother of Pearl inlays to add extra style and personality to the instrument.

Also, being targeted at beginners, it comes as a part of complete package, since players who are just starting out won’t have access to necessary accessories. For the price, which is around $400, you will get access to the instrument as well as a hardshell case, neck strap, 10 x 2.5” reeds, mouthpiece, cleaning supplies, and a pair of gloves. They even throw in the Cecilio 92-D digital metronome and tuner to help you practice.

Now, apart from all the accessories, let’s talk about some of its notable features. The MTS-L comes with a lot of professional functionalities including contoured keys, metal tone boosters, a durable leather pad, ribbed design, and a large bore. 

Features:

  • Well built tenor saxophone.
  • Option to choose between five different finishes.
  • Boasts the Faux mother of pearl inlays.
  • A lot of accessories bundled in including a hardshell case, neck strap, 10 reeds, cleaning supplies, and a pair of gloves. 
  • The Cecilio 92-D digital metronome and tuner bundled in as well.
  • Comes with contoured keys, metal tone boosters, and a large-bore for easy playability.
  • 1 year warranty.

And much more.

5. Selmer STS280RB

Selmer STS280RB review

The Selmer STS280RB is rather expensive when you consider what you are getting out of the box. However, it is one of the most popular and trusted saxophone manufacturers in the market, so you can rest assured that the price is justified in terms of build quality and durability.

Now speaking of built quality, the instrument is masterfully crafted and you can expect a phenomenal playback experience. The actions are smooth and easy, and produce a powerful sound that manages to be smooth and warm. In fact, it is one of the most smooth sounding tenor saxophones in the market, on par with many professionally used ones.

Overall, if you are looking to buy a tenor sax from a trusted and reputable brand that only sounds great, but will also last longer, and you don’t even mind the relatively expensive price tag, then the STS280RB is an excellent pick.

Features:

  • Extremely well built with high-quality brass.
  • Comes in four different finishes – black, silver, copper, and lacquer.
  • Tuned to the high key of F#.
  • Comes with multiple adjustment screws.
  • Inbuilt rocker mechanism, steel springs, and the Selmer USA nozzle.
  • Available as a bundled package complete with a trek case, ligature and cap, cleaning supplies, and the Selmer mouthpiece.

And much more.

6. Yamaha YTS-26

Yamaha YTS-26 review

Yamaha is another well-known name in the world of musical instruments, and the YTS-26 is their take on a mid-range feature-rich tenor Saxophone. It does fall under the expensive category, priced above $2800, but when you consider all the high-end features that you get bundled in, it seems like a bang for the buck.

The YTS-26 can be used by professionals and students alike. It can help you learn the ABCs of playing the sax as well as play those intricate sections in live performances. The action and tone of the sax are just marvelous and something that gets the most praise out of its users.

It goes without saying that the build quality is professional-grade and the sound reproduction has a slight vintage hint. The tuning follows the improved BC# mechanism for proper key closing and better low range performances.

Features:

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Option to choose between a platinum and brass lacquer finish.
  • Has a smooth tone.
  • Comes with contoured keys made for quick actions.
  • Adjustable thumb rest and keys.
  • 62-style neck that can be easily interchanged with another compatible neck.
  • Improved low BC# correction.
  • Comes with a complete package containing a professional hard case, cleaning supplies, 10 reeds, a mouthpiece, and neck strap.

And much more.

7. Yamaha YTS-480

Yamaha YTS-480 review

Another entry in the Yamaha YTS line of saxophones – we have the YTS-480. This model right here is considered as one of the top tenor saxophones in the market boasting an excellent build quality and promising superior sound quality. Similar to the previous YTS model on the list, this also follows expensive pricing and is sold at around $2500.

Now for most intent and purpose, this is a mid-range saxophone, but the sheer number of premium and advanced features it brings to the table is just staggering. It can easily substitute many far more expensive Saxes when opting to play it at live performances or recording sessions.

Some notable features of the sax include countered keys for quick actions as well as a seesaw key which allows for more actions comfortably. There is also a comfortable thumb rest and keys for enhanced playability.

Features:

  • Superior build quality and sound.
  • Produces a rich, warm and mature tone.
  • Comes with contoured keys and a seesaw key for more comfortable and quicker actions.
  • Improved BC# mechanism for proper key closing and enhanced low range responses.
  • 62-style neck that can be interchanged with other compatible options.

And much more.

8. Jupiter JTS1100SG

Jupiter JTS1100SG review

The Jupiter JTS1100SG brings together elements of classic handmade design with many modern technologies to bring you one of the most unique tenor saxophones in the market. Not only does it boast a phenomenal build quality, but the unique approach to the manufacturer allows it to produce a smooth vintage sound which is quite unique.

Now, it is another mid-range tenor sax with a price tag around the $2800 bracket. For that amount, you get access to a handmade Sona-Pure brass neck complimented by adjustable palm keys, gold lacquered body, an engraved hood, and many more features you will find with high-end premium saxophones.

The instrument is all about style, quality, and playability. Your fingers will basically slide across the body of the sax as you go from note to note allowing for maximum comfort and lucid playing experience.

Features:

  • Brass Sona-Pure handmade neck.
  • The body and neck are lacquered in gold.
  • Comes with adjustable palm keys.
  • Tuned to the key of high F#.
  • Tilt to G# – Table Keys Bb (B Flat).
  • Get adjustable octave G with an inbuilt rocker mechanism.
  • Metal tone boosters.
  • Screws to adjust the top and bottom batteries.

And much more.

9. Jean-Paul TS-400

 Jean-Paul TS-400 review

The Jean-Paul TS-400 is a mid-range tenor saxophone priced at around $650. However, it comes bundled with tons of awesome high-end features which makes it a bang for the buck.

First, going over the design, it boasts a beautiful brass body available in two different finishes – a yellow brass color and a silver-plated variant. On top of the body, you will have forged power keys, a strong bell stand for increased durability, and conical pivot keys.

The instrument is tuned to the key of Bb (B Flat). The overall sound quality is excellent with warm and fuller tones. Overall, it is an excellent option for intermediate students, as well as for professionals’ use in live performances.

Features:

  • Excellent built quality designed with solid brass.
  • Comes in two different finishes – yellow brass and silver plated.
  • Hand engraved pattern on the bell.
  • High playability.
  • Comes bundled in with many necessary accessories like cork grease, carrying case, Rico rods, gloves, cleaning supplies, and mouthpiece.
  • The best bang for buck tenor saxophone.

And much more.

10. Yamaha YTS-62 III

Yamaha YTS-62 III review

And last but not the least, we have the Yamaha YTS-62 III, a legendary name in the world of professional Tenor Saxophones. The 62 series have been around since 1969, and over the decades it has been adopted and celebrated by professional-level musicians, music directors, and the lot.

In terms of quality, this tenor sax is second to none with every detail and aspect of the instrument carefully crafted throughout the manufacturing process to give the best money can buy. As you can expect, it is also one of the most expensive tenor saxes on the list priced at around $3500.

The instrument practically plays like a dream with its easy actions and pitch-perfect tones. If you are really serious about playing the saxophone and love the instrument, then you should definitely get the YTS-62 III to see the sax at its pinnacle.

Features:

  • Extremely well built.
  • Intricate hand engraved patterns along the bell for extra style.
  • Offers a smooth and warm tone.
  • Keys are contoured for quick actions.
  • Comes with seesaw key for more comfortable actions.
  • Accurate and enhanced intonation.
  • Improved BC# mechanism for proper key closing and enhanced low range responses.

And much more.

Wrapping Up

So these were our picks for the 10 best tenor saxophones. We hope you found the read to be useful and that it helped you in finding the perfect saxophone that fits your needs and budget.

As you can see, we have included a diverse range of saxes that cover a variety of price points, from budget to mid-range and top of the class. Each instrument also comes with its own strong suites, for example, some have a sturdier build, while others offer easy playability and smoother sounds.

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