Buying your first Saxophone
I played on Elkhart 100 Series when I first started playing, it started me off well and I apparently made a good sound. Some years later and no doubt after my parents believed that I was going to stick with the Sax they bought me a YAS 62. When I returned to the Elkhart it felt, awkward, clunky and sounded horrible in comparison to the YAS62. But initially, I don't think I would have realised any difference in the quality of these Saxophones. You will however get what you pay for and you should most certainly pick a budget and spend as much as you can simply afford especially if going second hand as the Saxophone market is fairly robust.
The Saxophone comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. This factors into the type of Saxophone you should be buying in the first instance. Without a doubt the two most popular types of Saxophone are the Tenor Sax and the Alto Sax. These two are considered the most accessible to beginners by myself and many other professionals. When asking yourself which one to buy you should really have a listen to some Sax players that you like play their respective horns and make a decision. After all, you'll be spending (hopefully!) lots of time with your newly acquired Saxophone.
Soprillo, Sopranino, Soprano - Are the highest (in pitch!) of our family members and require a lot of embouchure strength to produce a solid tone on.
Alto/Tenor - The Trebles, The most common and therefore, have the most music written for, Saxophones (Recommended Starting Point)
Baritone, Bass, Tubax, Contrabass - The bass section, bulky and heavy to carry around with you and require a rather hefty set of lungs.
Used or New?
New - You know you are getting a Saxophone that is ready to be played and if it doesn't, you want your money back! It may however have not been set up properly and be very awkward to play.
Used - The Saxophone may need some minor or major work (£30-300) depending on the state. Or it may have had major work in the past where the integrity of the sax has been compromised. It may also have just had a service in which case it is in perfect condition and you may have grabbed yourself a bargain. The risks are the same as buying anything second hand, totally up to you.
Decent Saxophones for less than £210 (including delivery)
A cheap saxophone will not last you forever, you will need to upgrade and it will probably break. Disclaimer over, here is a list of Saxophone Recommendations that are classed as decent starter Saxophones for the money. They are often stencil models of more expensive saxes and often don't have the same level of quality control that the bigger companies do.
Alto Saxophone from Gear4Music - £199 + £10 Devliery
A cheap Saxophone. This Saxophone will get you started in the right way but do expect to need to upgrade as you improve. The Mouthpiece that these come with however are actually HORRENDOUS!! So invest £25 in a decent Yamaha 4C mouthpiece .
Don't expect miracles from this saxophone but as a total beginner coming to the instrument you can't really go far wrong for £209.
Pros - Cheap. Decent feel and sound for the price range
Cons - Not very robust. Hit and miss even brand new. Not a great tone but nothing that will impede a beginner. The model I personally tested was unplayable due to manufacturer errors that would undoubtedly have been fixed but until they send me another to try this verdict will stick.
Recent Test Model - Arrived with an extremely stiff neck joint making the saxophone practically impossible to assemble. This was fixed with some finger lubrication and a bit of wire wool but nevertheless a pain to put together for even a veteran sax player. The soldering done to the B + Bb pads was so poor that the guard had detached itself in transit. Not Impressed...buyer beware....not happy, Gear4Music. Gear4Music did, in their defense, offer an apology and fully refunded the customer.
Acclaimed Saxes for Less than £300
Jericho J6AGN - £299 but not tried be personally, claimed to be as good as many saxes twice as expensive....
Used Saxophones for £300-450
Used choice - Yamaha Alto Saxophone 23, 25, 275, 301, Vito A100
Brilliant Saxophones for the money and very robust. I am a yamaha fanatic. I play on a Yamaha 62 which is their entry level professional model and there isn't a world of difference between these earlier models (23, 25, 275) and my own.