When I play an "A" and you play an "A" do they sound the same? Or is my "A" slightly higher (or slightly lower) than your "A"?
Most players play a little sharp (higher) on some notes, and a little lower (flat) on others. Or, if you don't have the mouthpiece set at the right place, all of your notes can be higher or lower than "normal."
BUT, when playing together, its important that everything is exactly together -- no one higher or lower than each other. That is being "in tune" (intonation) with the other players. Playing with good "intonation" means adjusting your pitch to match everyone else's.
I agree with MyMartin, with the addition that when people use "intonation" in describing a horn, sometimes they are indicating whether all the notes have the same intonation. For example, the horn might play sharp (high) compared to your reference over one range of notes, but flat (low) in another range. Or individual notes might vary.
perhaps another addendum is that when speaking of intonation referred to the saxophone (or other wind instruments) this is as much the capability of the musician to play in tune as of the instrument to be built as closely as possible to the acoustic principles governing intonation combined (and making the needed compromises) with the construction needs (which leads us to build toneholes not always in their ideal position or size ). Besides, the mouthpiece is part of a system (which includes the players oral cavity and throat ) that combines the players ability to continuously adapt to what he hears to what the equipment provides him with. In other words, matching a certain mouthpiece to a certain horn or player might prove past the capability of that player to play in tune while another player might find it perfectly apt to his needs or capabilities.
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