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Selmer Saxophone Overview

Selmer’s Reputation Speaks for Itself

Ask any saxophone player, and they’ll tell you that Selmer saxophones are the standard by which all other saxophones are measured. Selmer saxophones are world renowned for their quality both in manufacture and in musical tone. Not only is a Selmer saxophone the clear choice of most professionals, but it is one of the most commonly played saxophone for students as well. With models appropriate for a wide range of experience and budgets, there is a Selmer saxophone for everyone from the beginning student to the seasoned professional.

How Does a Selmer Saxophone Compare?

There’s no lack of competition in the musical instrument market. There are many companies which offer reasonably high quality saxophones. Yamaha is the closest competitor in terms of the best saxophones sold, and brands such as Keilwerth, Jupiter, and Yanagisawa have made inroads as well.

While we have nothing bad to say about any of these instruments, a Selmer saxophone still represents the gold standard by which others are compared. Since Selmer first developed the Mark VI in 1954, Selmer’s best saxophones have been a clear favorite of students and professionals alike.

The Selmer Sound

The Mark VI set the standard for all saxophones, becoming the choice of jazz greats from Phil Woods to Branford Marsalis to Kenny G. If you’ve listened to jazz music at all, you’re undoubtedly already familiar with the warm, full bodied tone of a Selmer saxophone.

And while the classic Mark VI is still a clear favorite amongst jazz musicians, the newer Selmer models have continued to be well received by a diverse group including Gary Bartz, Ralph Bowen, Fred Hemke, and Mark Colby.

While there are certain tonal characteristics (warm, full bodied) which are common to Selmer saxophones in general, there are differences between one Selmer saxophone and the next. Silver saxophones, for instance, tend to be warmer and more full-bodied, whereas clear lacquered saxophones tend to have a brighter sound.

Selmer USA and Selmer Paris: Vive le Difference!

Selmer saxophones originated in France, but are also manufactured in Asia. Many sax players claim the French manufactured Selmer Saxophones have a warmer sound, and they are revered by classical artists, while the American made varieties tend more towards brighter, crisper sounds, and are preferred by some jazz musicians.

USA Series: Which Sax is appropriate for whom?

The Selmer STS280R

The Selmer STS280R

There are several distinct series of American made Selmer saxophones, each of which spans the gamut of the saxophone family (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone). Regardless of which series you choose, silver plated Selmer saxophones tend to have a warmer, more full-bodied sound. Saxophone players disagree regarding the influence of lacquer on an instrument’s sound. Ultimately, sound preference is a matter of personal taste. What is known for certain is that lacquered instruments tend to last longer because the coating gives them some degree of protection from outside elements.

(NOTE: The “L” at the end of the various model number stands for “Lauquer” while the “S” at the end of other model numbers stands for “Silver.”)

  • The 500 series of Selmer saxophones (including AS500, AS500S, BS500,TS500, and TS500S) are an excellent choice for beginning students. Prices range from $1945 to $2740, depending on the type of sax and the finish chosen.
  • The 600 Aristocrat series (including AS600, AS600L, SS600, TS600, and TS600L) is also appropriate for students. These models are very similar to the 500 series, and are also designed with the student in mind, but are slightly less expensive, with prices ranging between $1875 and $2160.
  • SA280 La Voix II series. The Super Action series (including SAS280, STS280, SBS280RSSS280R, SAS280R, STS280R, and SSS280R) is designed for professionals, and is one of the most popular saxophone models on the market today. Prices range from $2129 to $4949

Paris Series Selmer Saxophones

Selmer "Firebird" Reference 54

Selmer “Firebird” Reference 54

There’s nothing quite like the warm tones of a French-made Selmer saxophone. Like their American counterparts, they come in a variety of models. While they are pricier, many sax players feel that the added expense is worth it for a truly world class instrument.

  • Super Action 80 Series II. Series II saxophones are primarily for professional level musicians. They range in price from $4199 for an alto saxophone to $8699 for a baritone saxophone. They feature the dark tone typical of French Selmers.
  • Series III. The Series III models are similar to Series II, and are also appropriate for professionals. Their tone is best described as slightly darker than the Series II. Prices range from $4099 to $4879.
  • Reference Lines. The quintessential Selmer saxophone, Reference 36 and Reference 54 Firebird are designed with the discerning professional in mind and produce a sound similar to that of the legendary Mark VI. Prices weigh in at a hefty $5299 to $7149, and quantities are limited.

Postlude

Selmer saxophones have been the industry standard for as long as any living musicians have been playing, and they have survived for a reason. Simply put, from the entry level through the professional ranks, Selmer makes an outstanding instrument.

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About the Author

I've been playing the sax since the late 80's, but my musical journey has run quite the gamut. The musical rap sheet includes tours with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and reggae master Half Pint, center stage at the L.A. Music Center, cozy cafes, raucous night clubs, gear-drenched studios, and the pinnacle of any musician's career - playing weddings in New Jersey! (duh). There's a lot of other stuff too, but you should be reading these blog posts and leaving comments instead. Now off you go!

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Comments (30)

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  1. miguel Solaz says:

    how much is a tenor sax Selmer Aristrocrat serie 34504-AJO48TS in very good condition this day????Anybody, thanks

    • Not sure, as vintage horn prices are not an area of expertise for me, but I’d go to eBay and see if you can find “completed listings” for that horn to see what people have paid for it.

      I hope that helps!

  2. Justin says:

    Aren’t the Selmer “USA” models actually Taiwanese horns? From what I understand, there is no mainstream saxophone company today that manufactures horn in the US.

    • I believe that you are correct, they moved their manufacturing overseas some years ago. I cannot confirm 100% that they were made in Taiwan (pretty sure they are), but I went ahead and changed it to say “Asia” instead. Thanks for catching that!

  3. jobest says:

    Hello,

    I want to know if you have this Brand product:( selmer saxophone as500 )available.let me know the price tag and the ground shipping to thailand and also do you accept international credit card?let me know if its acceptable.

    Hope to hear from you again.

    jobest

    • Hello there,

      I do not actually sell saxophones, I just feature saxophone-related articles on my website.

      I don’t actually know where in Asia to look for a saxophone to be ground-shipped. Of course, in the US, where I’m located there are great stores such as Woodwind Brasswind (http://www.wwbw.com), but beyond that , I’m afraid I can’t be of much help.

      Best of luck in your search,

      Doron

  4. Jay says:

    I’m a young Bari sax player and my school doesn’t have a Bari sax so imona hunt for one. I was looking at the serie II . Anyone know anything about it?

    • I believe I tried one a Serie II tenor out at NAMM and I really liked it, so I assume that a bari would be great as well. Selmer horns are very highly regarded, but definitely not cheap, especially a Bari.

      I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else – go to a store and try out as many horns as you can. I hope that helps just a tiny bit, sorry I don’t have anything else to offer regarding the Serie II. Best of luck!

  5. Mike says:

    i Got an offer to buy selmer 56 series tenor saxophone mark vi. But ain’t got no idea, if i should go for it.
    Are they good?
    Also suggest me the cost of it please…
    Any suggestions…. ????
    Any body…????
    Thanks

    • Hmm, I don’t think that there is such a horn as a “selmer 56 series tenor saxophone mark vi” – I don’t see anything like that mentioned here: http://www.henriselmerparis.com/saxophones/

      But the Mark VI is obviously one of the finest horns ever built and the new French Selmers are quite good as well, but you have to play the horn first and see if you like it. As far as the price, assuming that you’re looking for something used, I’d go on to eBay and look at completed auctions for the horns you’re interested in. This way you can see what people have actually been paying for these.

  6. Art Manchester says:

    I’ve been playing a Series iii tenor with a Sugal Super Gonz 8* mouthpiece for about 10 years, and I absolutely love the tone and the response of the horn. I play in a variety of settings from jazz combo/ big band to rock/funk it really does the job.

  7. Stan Tucker says:

    I have the following Baritone Sax I would like to sell.
    Baritone-Selmer-made in France
    BREV SG DG No. 383098
    ENGL Pat. 11.824
    US Pat No. 2710.558
    M 180640
    Could you help me with the value?
    Excellent shape, with case(case is rough)and stand.

    • Unfortunately I’m not very knowledgable in these things. I would go to eBay and do a search for your horn, or one close to it, and find completed auctions to see how much it went for.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  8. Salvador Ruivivar says:

    I have been handed down a Major by Selmer tenor sax (sn 53228)the condition is not so good (it needs some work). I’ve been searching for it’s origin for some time and the most I got is that, it was produced in Dusseldorf, Germany by Selmer but the factory closed down. I don’t know what I have. Can someone please enlighten me?

    • I’m definitely not an expert in vintage horns, but if you go to the forum on saxontheweb.net, then you should definitely be able to find an answer.

      Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  9. Timi says:

    Could you please tell me where to purchase a professional selmer tenor and alto saxophone (green and white color).

    Thanks

  10. Thea says:

    Can you tell me anything about the Selmer AS32 and AS42 saxophones. I cannot seem to find any reviews of them on the web. Thank you very much.

    • I don’t really know much about those horns, although I’ve probably played them at NAMM and liked them. Selmer horns are among the best. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help!

  11. Linda says:

    What can you tell me about the Selmer Artist Ltd Alto Saxophone? Is it considered a student, intermediate or professional sax? I can’t seem to find any reviews on the web and I have an opportunity to purchase one for my 15 year old son.

  12. jose says:

    I bought altosax selmer I don’t know if I did god deal

  13. jose says:

    But this altosax say selmer500 made in Taiwan

  14. Walter Archie says:

    I have a Mark vi bought in 1972, I lived in a very humid climate , most of the lacquard is worn off, who do you recommend to renew the plating.

  15. Chad says:

    I’ve decided after eight years of playing to step up. I’ve been looking at a Super Action 80 series II and a MarkVI . The MarkVI is a bit of a stretch in price (but if got a second job) Both are out of town purchases so I really cant try them out. Whats the biggest difference between the two altos ? I will be keeping the new sax most likely for a real long time. Thanks

    • Man, you will probably be surprised to know that I am not really a sax gear expert, I am mostly focused on the music end of things, so I’m not really the person to ask. That said, I think it comes down to personal taste, but you will get much more informed insights if you pose this same question at http://forum.saxontheweb.net. Wish I could be of more help!

  16. sam howett says:

    ive just bought a new selmer la vie 240 tenor sax here in the uk.reports show these are a good horn limited now due to the manufacturing cost of this model in the us .how do these horns rate against the french selmers.

  17. Karen Gatlin says:

    Hello out there. My husband passed away recently leaving me with a few musical instruments. One of them is a Selmer TS500 saxophone. He never used it because he had to get dentures and found that he couldn’t use it comfortably. It has a very nice case and some reeds. I need to sell it as I’m moving to live with and take care of my mother in another city. How much do you think it might be worth? I would appreciate some feedback from someone. I’m not familiar with these type of things and need some help. My hubby was the expert.

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