$1,500 US is a lot of money – but in the world of professional saxophones is probably about half of what you’d expect to pay for a recognized brand.
So when Jean Paul brought out a range of cheap pro saxophones, I was intrigued. So today I’m testing their professional soprano and their professional alto saxophones.
Cheap Pro saxophones
Now a little while ago they brought out their professional range. I’ve just recently got my hands on their professional soprano and their professional alto. And they are only $1,500 each.
Seriously, how good could a saxophone be for $1,500?
Well, today I want to demonstrate these cheap pro saxophones for you, because I’ve been playing on both of these pretty much exclusively, for the last couple of months.
So today I’ll play them for you and I’m also going to compare them with my normal pro saxes.
The Jean Paul USA AS-860 alto sax
So this is the AS-860 alto sax from Jean Paul, and at first glance, it’s a good-looking saxophone. I love the deep gold lacquer that’s on it. I’m not sure though that I’m convinced about the black pearls. But the engraving on the back of this saxophone is beautiful. I also like the engraving on the neck and the metal touch piece for your left thumb. That looks great too and feels comfortable.
Listen to how it sounds.
Now, I don’t know what you think, but it was the tone of the saxophone that got me interested. Because to me, when I’m playing it, it sounds lovely. It’s got a really rich, warm sound. When I’m recording on this saxophone, I can hear a darkness to it compared to my zebra sax over there, which is a student model 280 Yamaha, which I think is from the seventies.
So this has got a darker sound and is pretty comparable to my YAS 62, which I’ll play for you in just a second.
Also, the key work feels brilliant under your fingers. It’s well made and it feels really tight and very even. And I find the intonation of this saxophone really good, particularly up into the altissimo, which for me is popping out clearly.
Now on both of these saxophones, today I’m using:
Let’s listen to how the Yamaha compares.
The Yamaha YAS-62 alto sax
So for both of these saxophones, I’m not using any effects. That’s just the recorded sound, warts and all.
What do you think? Can you hear much of a difference?
For me when I’m listening back to those two, it’s so hard to tell.
I’ve been playing that Yamaha 62 Alto for 30 years. So I’m comfortable with it, and that always makes it difficult to compare saxophones, because that is so much more familiar than any other sax that I’ve played.
But I have to say, when I listen back to the recorded sound, it’s hard for me to distinguish the two. And actually, I think the Jean Paul Alto sounds good, particularly when it costs half as much money.
Comparing the altos
Let’s listen again. This time I’m going to swap between the Jean Paul and the Yamaha. But I’ll put the track on and I’ll put some effects on it as well, and see how the two compare when the saxophones are in context.
Now, the reason that I like to test saxophones like this is because inside Sax School we’ve got thousands of people learning with us. And many of them are looking for an entry-level saxophone or a mid-range saxophone.
But what I find interesting about these cheap pro saxophones from Jean Paul is it’s a mid-price saxophone but it’s got some pro-level qualities. And I think that’s very intriguing for somebody who’s newer on their saxophone journey, or whose budget won’t quite stretch to a new pro saxophone.
Let’s check out the sopranos.
The Jean Paul: SS-860
I’ll be honest with you, I’m quite picky about my soprano saxophones. I have played some great soprano saxophones in the past. Professionally, I like the Yamaha that I play at the moment. It’s the 82ZB. It’s got great intonation, and great key work. I’ve owned Yanigasawa sopranos before too, which I love.
But when it comes to lower price or entry-level or intermediate sopranos, generally I find them to be a bit temperamental with tuning. The key work doesn’t feel that great. They just aren’t that fun to play.
That’s why I was really surprised when this Jean Paul soprano sax turned up. And I have to tell you, I was skeptical. But right from the get-go, this soprano is a surprising saxophone.
Now the look of the saxophone is amazing. It looks beautiful. The engravings are nice. It looks pretty sharp in this silver finish as well.
The key work, I’ll grant, it’s not quite as light and smooth as my Yamaha, but that’s a $5,000 saxophone. This is a $1,500 saxophone.
What is interesting about this soprano though, is the intonation is very, very good. And I can actually pop up into the altissimo on this soprano. And I’ll let you in a little secret here Sax School followers -that’s something I’ve never been able to do on a soprano saxophone. Altissimo on soprano I’ve always found really challenging. But I can do it on this saxophone. I’m not sure why, but there you go.
So let’s listen to how it sounds.
Now to keep this easy, I’m using a Jody Jazz HR* 7 mouthpiece. It’s not an expensive mouthpiece, but I think it pairs quite well with this saxophone. Have a listen and see what you think.
So what do you think of the sound? I mean, listening back, I quite like the recorded sound.
The Yamaha: YSS-82ZB
Now let’s listen to my Yamaha. It’s the 82ZB. This is a $5,000 saxophone. See if you can hear a difference.
So what do you think? It’s kind of negligible, isn’t it? There’s a small difference in there.
Now, I’m lucky I’ve got the choice between those two saxophones. So if I had to choose, I’d probably go for the Yamaha.
But I’ll tell you what, if I had $1,500 to spend and I wanted to get a new soprano saxophone, this is something I would consider. Because for the money, I think it’s quite surprising.
Comparing the sopranos
Let’s listen to these two sopranos side by side, and I’ll put the effects on so you can see how they sound in context.
And then I’ve got a couple of extra thoughts for you about choosing a saxophone.
So when you hear it with the backing track, what do you think? Do you prefer the Yamaha or do you prefer the Jean Paul?
I guess the real question is, Where’s your budget? Are you looking at spending $1,500 on a saxophone? Because if you are looking at cheap pro saxophones, then I would suggest Jean Paul is a great choice .
Alternatively, of course, you could look at a used saxophone, and that’s a great way to get a pro-quality saxophone at a more reasonable price. Now, it might be difficult to get a Pro Yamaha for $1,500 used, that’s in great condition, but it’s worth exploring that option.
However, if you’re looking for a new saxophone, I’d consider something like the Jean Paul soprano or the alto. I’ve been super impressed with these cheap pro saxophones.
I’m not paid to make these videos. I just genuinely like to make videos about interesting saxophones that are great choices for you guys.
Tips for buying a saxophone
It’s always best if you can try a saxophone before you buy it.
Watching reviews like this is great. Picking it up and feeling it in your hands is important.
So a big retailer like sax.co.uk in England is fantastic. Take your mouthpiece, take a bunch of reeds, take your music. And take your time to try these saxophones out in a bunch of different styles, and see what you think.
Because a lot about saxophones these days is a personal choice. To be honest with you, there are so many great well-made saxophones on the market these days. So it’s about finding one that talks to you, that you just pick up and love to play. Because that’s going to keep you playing all the time. That’s really what it’s about.
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