Saxes for Sale – 5 things to watch out for:
1. Asking advice online
People often ask on the forums or social media “what is the best saxophone?” hoping for an answer. Note I said “an answer” (singular). Unfortunately they tend to get a whole raft of different answers and end up being no better off. If you ask “what is the best saxophone?” it can sometimes feel like you are asking “what is the best colour?”
To help narrow things down you can do a bit of homework. Know what your budget is, explain your background, what type of playing you will be doing. For example if you are thinking about marching band, then you need something that is rugged and loud, but not too valuable if (or rather when) it gets damaged.
2. Player reviews
Players tend to discuss mostly how the instrument plays and feels and this is of course very subjective. There are plenty on the forums or on Youtube. The first caveat here is that the reviewer may have some kind of vested interest, maybe they work for a store selling that model or they were given a free instrument in return for a glowing review.
Possibly they are a genuine customer and spent a lot of money on a saxophone and are now trying to convince themselves that it was worth it! I think there could be a lot more of these than the customer who paid out for a real lemon and doesn’t really want to publically admit they made a mistake.
A few caveats
3. Technical reviews
You would expect reviews by technicians to be more objective than a lot of customer/player reviews, though again beware any that may have some kind of business connection. Or perhaps they are looking too much from an engineering angle and may miss some magic spark a horn has when you play it. Certainly some of my favourite instruments to play have been those that technicians found to be wanting in the build quality department, but is not actually that important. Of course there are some build issues that should never be ignored such as metal that is too soft and bendy, or keywork that will fall apart or cause the instrument to go out of adjustment much sooner than normal.
4. “You Get What You Pay For”
No you don’t. Well, not always. Along with “Buy the best saxophone you can afford,” this is a very overused and misleading cliché, implying that the more you spend the better saxophone you will end up with. In some cases this may be true but if you consider that new saxophone prices can vary from about £200 to £10,000, you will probably suspect that the £10,000 saxophone is not 50 times “better”. Not just that but in some cases a £300 saxophone can be much better than one costing 5 or even 10 times as much.
The problem with this for the beginner of course is that you can’t gauge an instrument’s quality by its price.
5. Vintage or Used is Better Value
Yes and no. Obviously a used saxophone is cheaper, and like a car, after a year or three it will have depreciated almost as much as it’s going to and so the resale price will not go down much. However it can be difficult for an experienced player to know whether any instrument for sale has some mechanical issue that could end up being costly, even when inspecting an instrument in person, let alone trusting an ebay description.
Things get a bit better when buying used from a reputable dealer, however it will of course cost more than buying privately.
To counter the argument that used instruments are better value, a new one should come with a warrantee, and in many cases a returns policy so even if you buy online you can show your teacher to get a second opinion.
So, how can this site help?
I am gradually compiling a set of links to sales sites that I trust in this section, and so can pass on that recommendation. If you have any issues whatsoever with any of the sellers listed, please let me have some feedback.