Best Tenor Saxophone (2020)

There are many different tenor saxophones in the market, and with all of them claiming that they’re the best, how can you be sure which one to pick? If you’re a new player then you might buy one that’s not right for you, especially if you’re not really sure what you should be looking out for when buying your new tenor sax.

Luckily, this guide has already done the hard work for you and will take you through five top tenor saxophones currently available right now. It will also take you through some of the things to look out for and answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the tenor sax.

Best Tenor Saxophone

The Best Tenor Saxophone - The Top 5 Reviewed

Now let’s get down to business and review some of the best tenor saxophone. Please know we only considered the highest rated tenor saxophone for this list:

  1. Yamaha YTS-62III Saxophone 
  2. Jean-Paul TS-400 Saxophone 
  3. Yamaha YTS-480 Saxophone 
  4. Jupiter JTS1100SG Saxophone 
  5. Selmer STS280RB Saxophone ​

We used consumer reviews and our own research to compile this list. These are unbiased reviews designed to help you pick the best possible ukulele.

1. Yamaha YTS-62III Saxophone

Yamaha YTS-62III Professional Tenor Saxophone Lacquered

Our rating:

First of all, this professional-grade saxophone is perfect for the professional, or anyone about to make the leap up. It has everything a player of high skill needs, as you’d expect from Yamaha who have more experience in musical instrument manufacture than almost anyone.

This instrument is crafted with knowledge of what the player wants and needs, and has a smooth warm tone, and contoured keys for quick action.

 This is an instrument designed to make your playing as smooth as possible so that your skill when performing shines through. It comes with an adjustable thumb rest so that your sax will feel like it’s meant for you and just you.

The sax follows in the 62-style and has been built from the feedback of world-class musicians. One of the biggest features as a result is the neck of the saxophone which helps create the pitch-perfect sounds Yamaha is known because the neck provides better airflow. This instrument also looks great with intricate hand-engraved patterns on the bell, so you’ll look as good as you sound. The intonation is accurate and enhanced from the features that make this a stand out instrument.

While this is an instrument designed with professionals in mind, you could play it as a beginner as long as you were serious about your music. A better instrument will help your playing sound better, and the joy of this model is as you improve, you’ll only sound better and won’t need to upgrade as you improve. But if you’re thinking of picking up the sax as a hobby, then be warned that you’ll have to clock up a serious amount of hours for it to be worth it and there may be better options available for you.

Pros

  • Beautifully crafted and built to last

  • Adjustable thumb rest only one of many upgrades to common problems

  • Plays and sounds amazing, with a perfect warm tone

  • Intricate hand engraved designs making this a sax that looks as good as it plays

  • Accurate and fulfilling intonation

Cons

  • If you’re used to a more traditional style saxophone than you might find maintenance a little tricky at first. But if you’ve decided to try something new then this is something you’ll just have to get used to anyway.

Yamaha YTS-62III Professional Tenor Saxophone Lacquered
  • YTS-62III Professional Tenor Saxophone Lacquered
  • A favorite among band directors for decades, the 62 model saxophones (and their predecessor, the 61) have redefined the market by offering superior quality and durability at an affordable price
  • Introduced in 1979, the YAS-62 and YTS-62 saxophones withstand the tests of time and competition and have been in a continual state of improvement since the launch of the YAS-61 in 1969
  • The Yamaha YTS-62III perpetuates this tradition of affordable excellence with new features and pricing

2. Jean-Paul TS-400 Saxophone

Jean Paul USA Intermediate Tenor Saxophone TS-400

Our rating:

This is a great saxophone that’s built to last and could easily stay with you from beginner up till professional. It comes with a bundle of accessories, making it a perfect package for beginners who are still learning what they want and don’t want with their sax. It also comes with a custom hard case to help protect your instrument when you’re out and about.

The kit includes reeds, cork grease, a cleaning cloth, swabs, gloves, and a mouthpiece. It’s an instrument that’s designed to be easy to play and is made from high-quality brass. This sax will grow with you, so you don’t have to worry as a beginner about growing out of your instrument. As your playing improves this model will really start to shine showing itself to be the instrument to take you all the way.

The engraved pattern on the bell is a nice touch and another reason why this is a tenor sax that’s a great investment for anyone, wherever they are on their musical journey. It’s an instrument that is designed to be played with minimal fatigue so you’ll be able to practice for hours and will help you progress faster.

Pros

  • Easy to play for long periods, so perfect for practicing or recitals

  • Has a lovely warm tone 

  • Comes as part of a beginner’s kit which gives you everything you need for maintenance and getting started

  • Made from high-quality materials 

  • Durable and built to last. This is an instrument that will grow with you and sound better and better the more skilled you get

Cons

  • Might put pressure on younger players to play more to get the value

Jean Paul USA Intermediate Tenor Saxophone TS-400
  • Key of BB with power forged and tapered pivot keys for easy playability
  • Beautiful yellow brass body construction with lacquer finish
  • Lovely engraved bell pattern for and extra touch of quality and class
  • Comes with robust contoured carrying case for ease of use transportation
  • Included accessories: one Rico reed, carrying case, cork grease, cleaning Cloth, Swabs, and mouthpiece

3. Yamaha YTS-480 Saxophone

Yamaha YTS-480 Intermediate Bb Tenor Saxophone Lacquer

Our rating:

Another Yamaha, once again proving them to be one of the best out there, and they’re only getting better. This model has been called one of the best ever made, and it’s easy to see why. The quality is second to none, and any serious professional should be considering this instrument as one of their first choices. With a rich, warm tone this is an instrument for a mature player certain of their skills, the contoured keys make for the easy quick action and it’s designed with quality in mind.

The thumb rest is designed with comfort in mind, encouraging long hours of play without fatigue and the keys are similarly comfortable. If you’re not a fan of the 62-style neck than this sax is designed for easy removal and replacement for something you prefer. Each of the key guards has fully adjustable screw cap stops once again proving this to be an instrument built with the musician in mind. The hand-engraved bell makes this a beautiful instrument, and you’re sure to turn heads whether in the practice room or on stage.

Pros

  • A well-built instrument made from high-quality materials built to last

  • An easily removable neck for better customization and comfort for the player

  • Easy quick action because of the contoured keys making playing easier and less tiring

  • Hand engraved patterns on the bell again marking this is as a quality instrument

  • A beautiful warm tone with accurate and full intonation perfect for live performance or practice at home

Cons

  • Probably not the best option for beginners or intermediates

Yamaha YTS-480 Intermediate Bb Tenor Saxophone Lacquer
  • Warm tone
  • Quick response
  • Hand engraving
  • Compatible with other necks
  • New key guard

4. Jupiter JTS1100SG Saxophone 

Jupiter Intermediate Bb Tenor Saxophone, JTS1100SG

Our rating:

If you want an instrument that’s going to stand out from the crowd then this is the one for you. With a wonderful almost vintage tone, this sax is probably one of the smoothest on this list. Perfect for an intermediate or advanced player, a professional could also enjoy playing this easy action sax which comes in a range of colors.

This is a quality instrument, where everything has been made with the player in mind. The features are fully adjustable, which means you can make it the perfect instrument for you. This will maximize individual comfort making for an instrument you can play for longer periods without getting tired, and your fingers will thank you. If you want to play in a band or orchestra than this is a good option. It’s even food enough for recording if that’s what you’re looking for. An excellent instrument for intermediates, with enough pro, features for even more advanced players to enjoy this sax.

Pros

  • Excellent vintage sound and accurate intonation
  • Fully adjustable for an individual playing experience
  • Great for recording, live performance in a band or orchestra
  • Perfect for intermediates, but very playable for more advanced abilities
  • Comes in a range of colors

Cons

  • Not suitable for beginners
Jupiter Intermediate Bb Tenor Saxophone, JTS1100SG
  • cf-type-tenor-saxophone, cf-vendor-jupiter, content-full, jupiter, over-100, over-1000, reverbsync-shipping-profile:Standard Ground Shipping Over 39.99, SYNC, tenor-saxophone

5. Selmer STS280RB Saxophone B001VNQENW

Selmer STS280 La Voix II Tenor Saxophone Outfit (Black Lacquer)

Our rating:

This is one of the most popular brands and it’s easy to see why people love Selmer’s saxophones. Made from only the best quality materials, professional features second to none, and a wonderful sound from all their instruments, Selmer makes sure to provide their players with only the best experience straight away.

This model is a real beauty, this sax has a warm smooth sound with easy action and you’ll be surprised at the power that this model can produce. Perfect for any ability, professionals will love the quality from this one. It’s a fully adjustable piece of equipment that comes in four finishes, so if you want an instrument that’s (nearly) designed for you this is a great option for really individual playing experience.

This is a quality instrument that’s perfect for every skill set.

Pros

  • Fully adjustable for the perfect playing experience for you 

  • Perfect for all skill sets

  • Lovely warm sound and great intonation 

  • Super easy action

Cons

  • Possibly not the best sax for use in a group due to the individual sound

Selmer STS280 La Voix II Tenor Saxophone Outfit (Black Lacquer)
  • Clear Lacquered body, neck, and bell
  • High F# Key
  • Includes: Trek style case / Selmer mouthpiece / ligature and cap / care products
  • Ideal for concert band and solo playing
  • Inheriting the pure intonation and fluid keywork of the original La Voix saxophones

Final Thoughts

There are many different types of tenor saxophones out there just like pretty much any wind instrument like a clarinet, and it can be scary when confronted with so much choice. After all, this is a large investment and you want to make sure that the one you buy is the right one for you! This section of the guide will take you through some of the things to consider when choosing the best sax for you. If you’re a beginner it’s especially important to keep in mind some of these things, as it’ll help you work out what you need and what you don’t.

As with any large purchase the first thing you need to consider is budget, after all this is a large amount of money and you want to make sure what you get suits you. There is a large range of prices in tenor saxes as with anything, so really think about your skillset. You don’t want to get something that’s designed for beginners if you’ve been playing for a while (even if you've been playing a similar instrument like the trumpet) because you might get frustrated by the sound or some of the features. Equally a beginner may feel disheartened because they’ve gone for something outside of their skill level that requires more knowledge on how to play. Most major brands have something for everyone though, so take a look at what they recommend.

Make sure you don’t skimp on quality though. If you want to take your music seriously spending a little more to start with will mean you don’t have to replace your sax and spend more money because you’ve outgrown your sax or worse it couldn’t stand up to the amount you want to play! If this is your first sax, look up the one you think you want on YouTube to see if you like the sound. Listen to lots of different saxes (like alto to baritone) check there’s not something you prefer. After all its much better to get it right first time, then spend more money and time fixing a mistake.

If you’re a beginner then you may be surprised at the weight and heft on the tenor sax to start off with. This is one of the heaviest types of saxophones so starting off on a beginner’s sax is a good way to get a feel for the instrument which is why they come recommended when you’re first starting. You don’t want to spend money on something above your level only to break it because more advanced instruments aren’t built to withstand being dropped while you get the hang of the instrument.

But it’s worth remembering that all of the greats played the tenor sax, so as you take the first few steps on your path to mastering the tenor sax know you’re in good company. The most important thing to remember while learning is what kind of music you want to play. The tenor is meant for rock and roll so if you’re more of a classical nut than alto might be more your speed. Think about what you want your sax to do should always be the first question in your mind when looking to buy your first instrument.

FAQs

How much should I spend on a saxophone?

That’s really up to you. There are lots of instruments out there, in lots of different price ranges, and finding the right one for you is a matter of time and patience. Don’t rule anything out but keep within the walls of your budget. Don’t overspend on a saxophone outside of your abilities because you think it’ll help you play better. There aren’t any shortcuts and while a superior instrument will help your playing, it is mostly because your skills will grow faster as you practice more anyway. If you do splash out on something a bit more expensive, remember you’ll have to play it more to get the value out of it.

Should I buy a starter kit with my sax?

It depends very much on if the kit is worth it. If you’re starting out and have no clue then go for it. A starter kit is a great way to learn what you want and what you don’t need. But don’t think you have to get all the accessories every time you buy a new instrument. Look at what’s included and make a decision.