For those who dares to dream to play the sax but don’t have the budget that would normally afford them a household brand such as Yamaha or Trevor James, sometimes the option of going for unknown brands can seem a daunting prospect. There are so many ‘own brand’ instruments out there, all with their quirky names that have been drawn out of hat and applied to pre-existing student models that are mass produced in factories located somewhere in Eastern Asia. As the buyer for Sax.co.uk, it has been one of my specific projects and challenges over recent years to seek such a budget instrument that will act as a first saxophone for many players. I use the word ‘challenge’ because the process of seeking an instrument that will fulfil the criteria of having the necessary quality of build and come in at the right price to really help those on a budget is not straightforward. Established brands such as Yamaha, Trevor James, Conn Selmer, Yanagisawa etc are normally available to us at the drop of a hat via established UK distribution/dealer networks, whereas the process of bringing in our own-brand ‘Sakkusu’ range has involved many years of probing away at different factories until we have finally landed upon a formula for success. Some of the key ingredients that I look for:- metal that isn’t too soft; comfortable key positioning; a robust build quality that holds its set-up when played for hundreds of hours; good tuning and a decent tone. All these factors need to be considered within the context of a basic student sax; a comparison with pro instruments is unhelpful and unrealistic. For example, it is a given that a Yanagisawa will have higher spec components with more durability, and finer engineering tolerances. But these saxes can be over ten times the price of a basic Sakkusu, so you’d naturally expect this! Sometimes it can be hard to translate the message to complete novices that a basic sax is not missing any of the features, keys, rods and levers of a top bill sax! The difference literally does come down to the quality of materials, the design differences, the engineering tolerances and the manufacturing methods. But even with that being said, the manufacturing method for producing a cheaper Chinese sax still involves an expensive production-line operation, with each post being operated by a human being. Yes, it is true to say that the process of producing a student-line compared to a professional-line is much quicker, the latter involves a high degree of hand assembly and heavily skilled hand-finished operations, but the same principals still apply and the end result is physically very similar! I am now happy that I’ve got to a point in our Sakkusu history that we’ve established a set of instruments that display a decent build quality, a very comfortable key layout, a robust-enough strength of metal, and a quality of tone and intonation that is comparable with student saxes much higher than their price-point. Let’s face it, we’re talking altos in the £300 to £400 price bracket, and tenors a little bit higher – to actually have a saxophone do everything it’s supposed to do, and deliver an exciting tone at the same time, is quite exceptional. I often find it interesting that you can fool listeners into believing that you are playing a professional sax when in fact you are playing a student sax. If you get the mouthpiece right, and you play with a good technique, the difference to the listener can often seem marginal. Of-course if you are serious about your music, you do invest in the best that you can afford and you most certainly enjoy the benefits of the machinery in front of you. But if you, like many nervous dreamers out there, don’t want to plunge into a potentially expensive hobby, the Sakkusu could be the perfect first stepping stone.



Sakkusu Alto Saxophone  


August 13, 2020 — George Platt