Do you want to learn the saxophone, but you don’t want to drop a lot of cash?
Are you looking for decent saxes at a lower price range?
Just because a saxophone is cheap doesn’t mean it has to be a bad one.
In my past decade (plus…) of teaching music and knowing many many band teachers and saxophone players, I’ve come to realize how important it is to balance the cost of an instrument with its quality.
I hear a lot about how to find instruments on a budget, so I decided to do some research on this fun instrument and hunt down the best saxophones under $500 for you.
Of all the options, the best saxophone for under $500 is the Jean Paul USA AS-400. The Jean Paul alto sax has a rich, strong sound, plays easily, and is quite durable for the lower price range.
Let’s dig into more on this topic and specific reviews for each of my top 5 picks.
Saxophones Under $500 In This Review
- Jean Paul USA AS-400
- EAStar Alto Saxophone
- Mendini Alto Saxophone
- Lazarro Alto Saxophone
- LyxJam Alto Saxophone
What To Look For In An Alto Saxophone Under $500
When you look for the best saxophone on a budget, you need to be extra careful.
In many cases, you may end up with a saxophone that has a junky sound quality, breaks easily, and can’t stay in tune.
This is why I always recommend people spend a little more on their new instrument. When it has quality sound, you’re much more likely to stick with learning the instrument.
But I understand people need to stay within a budget. So if you need to look for a lower-priced option, that’s what this guide is for.
Don’t be fooled by low-priced and colorful saxophones. They’re usually not good.
Be sure to stick to this list to make sure you don’t waste your money.
What You Want In A Budget Sax
- Strong sound quality
- Good tuning or intonation
- Easy-to-hold design
- Properly working keys
What You Don’t Want In A Budget Sax
- Abrasive tone
- Breakable keys
- Out-of-tune pitches
- Clunky and hard-to-hold
- Poor quality lacquer
Note: This covers good altos at this price point, but if you’re looking for the best saxophones for beginners, check out this linked article.
Review Of The Best Saxes For The Money
In this section, we’ll go over each musical instrument option specifically. I won’t mention specific prices, so click the link to see the most current pricing (and deals!).
All saxophones will be between $100-499, an affordable price.
Disclaimer: Links may be affiliate in nature, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting the Dynamic Music Room.
Jean Paul USA AS-400
The Jean Paul AS-400 also makes our list one of the best overall beginner saxophones.
It comes in at the top of this price level, but it’s worth every penny.
Jean Paul is a saxophone company you can trust.
It has nickel-plated keys and a mouthpiece cap for extra protection and comes with a durable yet lightweight case to keep your investment safe while you walk around.
The AS-400 is an Eb alto sax with a quality yellow brass finish and body construction (these are quality materials) to save on money while not sacrificing tone or power.
It also comes protected with a quality lacquer many of the other options at this price level skimp on. Jean Paul knows you need this layer of protection from the oils on your skin and the elements.
Will it hold up against more expensive models? Probably not in terms of tone.
But this is the best option for students looking to stay under that $500 mark.
- Strong, rich sound, good tuning or intonation
- Designed for new players
- High F# alternate key
- Yellow brass body and nickel-plated keys with beautiful key inlays
- Comes with protective case, Rico reed, cork grease, gloves, cleaning cloth, swab, and mouthpiece
EAStar Alto Saxophone
The EAStar isn’t a saxophone company that will win any awards, but it will sound good, last a while, and come in at a lower price point.
EAStar is known for making budget instruments that work well and sound fine, and this saxophone is no exception.
While the sound is clearly inferior to the Jean Paul model, this one still has a clear, strong without coming across as tinny or thin.
This instrument uses copper and lead-free welding that stands up to most usage but may break when knocked around.
The key construction feels smooth and doesn’t stick (a big problem with budget models), and it’s easy to hold and play.
The tuning is mostly good, but some of the extreme ranges of the instrument are off slightly.
- Decent and consistent sound
- Well-constructed to work consistently
- Solid budget saxophone
- Good lacquer finish for protection
- Comes with carrying case, mouthpiece set, leather neck strap, cork grease, shoulder straps, white gloves, resin practice reed, Bulrush reed, cleaning kit, and saxophone stand
Mendini Alto Saxophone
The Mendini alto saxophone is a surprisingly good saxophone for such a low price.
This alto comes in a variety of colors, which some players enjoy (though it doesn’t affect the sound at all).
It comes in the following colors:
- Rose Gold
- Sky blue
As far as sound goes, this saxophone holds pitch and tuning relatively well and has a strong sound, though some will wish for a richer and warmer tone.
Still, it’s well-constructed and functions consistently, though you will need to be careful to avoid bumping it as it may break quickly.
The colors scare a lot of band teachers away because it’s usually a sign the instrument is not good. The Mendini saxophone is the exception to the rule.
- Strong sound
- Comes in many colors
- Good key construction and design for new players
- Comes with a hard case, mouthpiece, neck strap, 10 reeds, cleaning cloth, cleaning rod, gloves, and a digital tuner.
Lazarro Alto Saxophone
This sax by Lazzaro is similar to the Mendini with a few key differences.
They come in around the same price point; they both come in a variety of colors. Lazarro does offer more of these:
- Black nickel
- Sea blue
- Silver lacquer finish
The keys also come in silver or gold in combination with the colors above.
It also comes with a lot of accessories mentioned in the features below. Really, this one does the best in what it comes with as far as accessories go.
The big difference comes down to sound and construction.
The keys of this Lazarro sax seem to work more consistently over time, so I’d say this was more durable. But the sound came across as much thinner and “honkier.”
Still, it’s head and shoulders above other budget saxes, so it made the list. Though if you’re unsure which one to get of the two, I’d pick the Mendini option.
- Brass body and quality key placement and construction
- Many colors and combinations to pick from
- Budget price; cheap saxophone
- Accessories include a mouthpiece, reeds, mouthpiece cap, fabric case, neck strap, cleaning cloth, reed holder, cleaning rod, white gloves, screwdriver, tweezers, and cork grease
LyxJam Alto Saxophone
Last on our list is the LyxJam alto sax. This one is designed for beginner players at the lowest price on our list.
Surprisingly, it has a better sound than all other similarly-priced models, but it doesn’t match up to other options at higher prices.
If you are completely strapped for money, this is the lowest price I’d recommend going. Anything less than this brand will be essentially unplayable.
It’s designed to be easier to hold and is quite light.
The sound is strong and pretty well in tune, though it’s not nearly as warm as other models.
One thing this sax does have going for it is its durability. It doesn’t break as often, though the keys may stick.
Learning to play is easy on this saxophone, but given time, you’ll outgrow it as your skill levels improve.
- Accessories include case, 10 reeds, neck strap, gloves, cleaning cloth, cleaning kit
- Pads and key construction are quite durable
- Sounds strong and clean
- Budget saxophone
Will These Saxophones Last A Long Time?
Instruments are usually designed to last forever, and they should work and sound good forever.
The saxophones at this quality and price may not.
For one, they’re not designed with longevity in mind. For another, once you get better, they won’t live up to what you can play.
You may save money in the long run with these options, but you usually won’t keep it forever.
The exception is the Jean Paul USA student model. This one will sound good and last, though if you get a lot better, you may still want to upgrade in a few years.
How much does a decent saxophone cost?
It depends on what you mean by “decent.” Most student beginners and adult beginners will be OK with spending $500-1500 on a saxophone that sounds good and works for them.
The above options are ones I’d pick if I had to stay under the $500 mark, but I usually recommend going above that if at all possible.
A decent intermediate saxophone or professional alto saxophone costs, even more, stretching into the $3-10K range depending on how picky you are.
What are good saxophone brands?
Since the saxophone is one of the most popular instruments out there, there are quite a few companies that do a nice job making them.
The best saxophone brands are ones that have stuck around a long time and made their instruments better and better through experience.
Here are a few I’d call among the best company for saxes:
- Jean Baptiste
- Jean Paul
There is more to this topic, so click over and check out our dedicated article on the best saxophone brands.
Can I teach myself saxophone?
Yes, you can, though it’s tough.
Look for a saxophone method book or a set of video lessons to help you out. I’m also on the hunt for online learning programs to review, so keep checking back on the website to see if I find any you may want to check out.
All in all, the best way to learn is by playing. Without a book or video lessons to guide you, I’d recommend a combination of signing up for private lessons and joining a community band.
This will give you the experience you need.
Is tenor or alto sax better?
This is really an objective question with no real answer.
If you’re talking about which instrument sounds better, it depends on your preference. As a tuba player by trade, I enjoy lower-pitched instruments, so I’d pick the tenor saxophone.
But many people love that sweet middle sound coming from the alto.
As far as which is better for new players, the generally accepted belief is the alto saxophone. It’s a little easier to reach the keys, requires less air, and usually costs less.
If you’re talking about jazz band, it’s a matter of preference again, though the tenor saxophone seems to be prevalent.
Is it difficult to play the saxophone?
Yes and no.
In general, the alto is considered one of the easiest instruments for new players to pick up. Making a sound on the saxophone is relatively easy, and the fingerings are logical.
Most people who start on the saxophone will appear to be more advanced than those on other instruments (with the exception of perhaps, the trumpet).
However, in the long run, all instruments end up being around the same difficulty. Yes, it’s easier at first to make the sound, but once that initial learning curve is passed, it becomes much more difficult to player higher levels of music.
The saxophone, in particular, is known for its modern music and unusual techniques such as tongue slaps and circular breathing.