Over the years, I have purchased student, intermediate, and professional alto and tenor saxophones. When I purchased a student or professional saxophone, I assumed that the saxophone case that came with the horn would be sufficient to protect it, but such is not always the case.
In my experience as both a player and a traveller, I’ve come to learn that choosing a saxophone case is easier said than done. I myself am currently in the process of choosing an alto saxophone case because I just purchased a vintage Selmer Balance Action alto saxophone and need a case that is lightweight, durable, and most importantly, protective of my horn.
In this article, I will review three cases based on size, material, weight, and price. Please keep in mind that the cases reviewed here come in different models for specific horns and in the case of the Reunion Blues, different colors.
The cases being reviewed are:
BAM has manufactured cases since the 1980’s and continues to introduce newer and better products which aim to fulfill all musicians’ needs. The BAM Softpack case is both lightweight and protective
The dimensions of the Bam alto and tenor Softpack case are as follows:
- Alto 4001S: 23’’ / 59.7 cm – 4’’/ 11.5 cm,
- Tenor 4002S: 30’’/ 76.8 cm – 6’’ / 15.9 cm.
The BAM Softpack can fit almost any saxophone due to the high density polyurethane foam which adjusts itself to fit the horn. I currently use this case to protect my Selmer Mark VI tenor and feel that whenever I get on a plane, I don’t have to worry about picking my horn up from baggage and discovering that the bell is either bent or dented. This case makes for an easy carry-on item due to the fact that its size allows for it to go in the overhead storage compartment with plenty of room to spare.
The outside of the case is a hard-shelled ABS material. The bottom of the case is a soft anti-slip elastomer which is coated with a water-resistant nylon fabric. The back strap is incredibly comfortable and stable due to the security screw hooks. As mentioned previously, the inside of the case is made of a high density polyurethane foam. Inside the case there is a “secret” compartment where you can store a tuner, ligatures, or reeds. There is also a spot inside the case where you can store your neck as well as a spot for your hard rubber or metal mouthpiece.
As one would imagine, this case weighs noticeably more than a leather gig bag. But based on the materials that go into the case, I feel very comfortable taking it on long distance trips as well as walking around the city.
The alto Softpack case starts at $238 while the tenor version goes for $288. Although these prices are higher than such popular brands as Pro-Tec and SKB, I attribute my scarcity of repair shop visits to the fact that the Softpack truly keeps my horn locked into position while protecting it from the outdoor elements.
Founded in 1976, Reunion Blues has become known as the premier gig bag company. They have over 70 models of instrument cases and have been called the best of the best on the market.
The interior dimensions of the Reunion Blues tenor and alto saxophone gig bag are as follows:
- 24″ length x 8″ height x 4.5″ depth for the alto.
- 31″ length x 11″height x 6″ depth for the tenor
The Reunion Blues gig bag is similar in shape and size to the BAM case. Its size makes it ideal for carrying around to local gigs. It holds any type of saxophone – even the big bell saxophones such as the Keilwerth horns.
The Reunion Blues gig bag has been reinforced at tested stress points to minimize any potential damage to your alto or tenor saxophone. It’s made out of luxurious full grain leather, soft tarnish resistant interior lining, thick dual layer density foam, industrial strength zippers, and includes a pocket on the side to store your neck, mouthpiece, and other accessories. However, I would recommend using a neck pouch when storing your neck in case you hit the accessory pouch which is on the outside of the bag.
The Reunion Blues alto saxophone bag weighs 3.7 Ibs and the tenor weighs 5.8 Ibs. One of the big selling points of a gig bag is that fact that they are quite a bit lighter than the BAM case, which is, of course, due to the materials on the outside of the case.
The Reunion Blues alto saxophone leather gig bag starts at $279.95 and the tenor leather gig bag at $349.95. I used this case when I had my Keilwerth EX 90 Series III tenor saxophone because it was lightweight, protected my horn, and looked great.
Even though you could take this case on a plane, I would recommend either a cover or a hard shelled case for air travel. It’s my opinion that the double layer foam alone might not protect it from a bumpy plane ride. I consider this case to be the ultimate case if you are gigging locally.
These are considered to be among the most protective cases on the market. In my experience, I have never seen or heard of a player replacing their Walt Johnson case due to the wear and tear or a defect with the case. A Walt Johnson case could easily serve as a life-long investment.
To give a general idea of the size of these cases, the tenor comes in at 12″W x 32.5″H x 7.5″D .
The case is a bit bulky compared to the BAM and Reunion Blues and there is very little space to store anything but your mouthpiece and neck.
These cases feature a hand-laminated fiberglass shell which surrounds the entire horn. The material is capable of withstanding a good amount of abuse and would even probably do a good job of protecting the horn in the event of it being dropped on the floor.
The Walt Johnson is one of the heaviest cases on the market, but for good reason. It weighs in a 5.5 Ibs due to the heavy-duty materials it’s comprised of.
The Walt Johnson alto saxophone case starts at $335 and the tenor case at $395. Its limited space for accessories and higher price aside, this case serves the purpose of protecting your alto or tenor saxophone against anything that might come in its path. Some users of the Walt Johnson saxophone case have referred to it as “bullet-proof” and “indestructible.”
Whichever one of these three cases you choose, I guarantee you will be happy with the quality as well as protection these cases offer. My opinion is if you are willing to spend $4,000 or more on a new saxophone, then wouldn’t it make since to protect that investment with a quality case?