Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Alto Saxophone / New or used ... ?

User ID: 0582664
May 7th 5:24 PM
I'm not a sax player, my son is. I'm a guitar player, and I could answer this question were it about guitars. He needs to move up to an alto sax that is basically pro-level ... he is that gifted. New or used? I've learned the '40's/'50's Conns, Kings, Bueschers are worth looking at. Which ones? Can you offer ideas that might not require a second mortgage? New ones? Prices? Thanks in advance. Let me know if you want the same info about acoustic guitars. Gilbo.
User ID: 0339064
May 8th 2:47 AM
It's pretty equal to guitars. Of course everybody wants a '59 Strat, but if you can't get it you'll go and buy a new one, that's more technique and modern and all that, but not as 'cool'...
Same with the saxes. It's more a matter of taste than real facts if you choose a new or a used one. The few facts are condition and price, the rest is pure taste.

Of course not everybody wants a Fender, so there are high quality guitars by other brands.
Same with the saxes. There is not only Selmer but a lot of more brands to check out.
The Martin
User ID: 0631424
May 8th 4:30 AM
You can have a look at Steve Goodsons

He has a value guide that gives insight in which models are desirable....
Also very handy serialnr ranges to use as a guideline.
Peter Kossits
User ID: 8952923
May 8th 11:08 AM
If you have access to a good music store with a decent selection, you can also do a little blind test:

Go when the store is not very busy and play them all for about an hour or two. You can even ask the store if they're willing to take the price-tags off temporarily, so you don't let that bias your opinion.

Give tham all a good workout as well as you can in the limited time available, rank them, pick the top 2 or 3 and _then_ look at prices and iron out the details. Bottom line is your son leaves the store with a horn he really likes and it will probably be a high quality instrument.

I passed a very pleasurable morning like this back in January, and ended up with a nice vintage alto, but some of the newer ones were up at the top of my list too.

User ID: 8868883
May 8th 11:16 AM
The difference from guitars is that the 40s/50s USA saxes and some of the less well known French brands do not command nearly as high a price as a new pro horn, as you have obviously noticed! The Selmers, King Super 20s, SMLs and Buffets are like your classic Les Paul or Strat except they cost less than or similar to a new one. The Yanagisawas and Yamahas are like your Yamaha, Ibanez and Japanese Fender guitars - pro standard, easy to play, faultless intonation and great value but perhaps with less character, or they are more consistent depending on your point of view.
User ID: 1759784
May 8th 11:53 AM
With a guitar it's pretty easy to evaluate it's playing condition. Is the neck straight, are the frets even, is the bridge solid, are there any cracks.

With a "used" saxophone, unless you buy from a dealer you can trust, you really can't evaluate what you are getting unless you really know saxophones, and a rebuild can easily cost more than the horn.

If your son is such a good player that he "needs" to move up, then he's good enough to pick out what works for him. A lot of players (I'm not one but there are many) feel that the "only" sax to play is the Selmer Mark VI and those haven't been made for a long time so "used" is really the only choice on those.

Your son should probably try a few examples of all of the current "top" brands like the Selmer Series II and III, Keilwerth SX-90 and SX 90R, Yamaha 62 and 875, Yanagisawa 901, 902, 991 and 991. These "top" brand horns will cost new from about $1400 (Yamaha 62 and Yanagisawa 901 if you know where to buy them) to $4000 for the "premier" line horns like the Yamaha 875, Selmer Series III, Keilwerth SX 90R or Yanagisawa 992 if bought from a local music store and you pay near list price. Be aware that every horn I listed here is excellent and is someone's idea of the best horn on the market. A Yamaha 875 for example is more expensive than a 62, but plenty of pros play the 62 - it's more an issue of materials and things like that than quality of the horn.

Your son should also try some examples of Mark VIs which can cost just about anything so it's hard to say but $2000-5000 will buy one generally.

Of the "vintage" brands older Buescher Aristocrats (be careful because lots of horns including some real junk carry this name) are sought after. Others have listed Buffet and SML. Plenty of old Conns and Martins are good too. It's really a matter of the particular horn and condition. Some of the vintage dealers can be helpful with this.

My usual advice for parents of teenagers who need a pro horn is to get a new Yamaha 62 or Yanagisawa 901 both of which will run you about $1300-1600 if bought from a European dealer (I've had good luck with There's a lot, I mean tons of info, about these horns and buying from Europe on this forum.

If you are willing to spend a bit more, then a Selmer Series II can be bought for a bit under $2000. The Series II is pretty much the "standard" alto in use in college programs (although there are lots of Series III and Yamaha 875s in use too).