“I tried the Jean Paul horn today and I have to say, I am really impressed!! It’s…. really good!!! If I play with my mouthpiece it’s not much different in sound…. wow. I totally would recommend it to any of my students!” – Jazzfuel friend & New York saxophonist Tobias Meinhart
The range of Jean Paul saxophones provide an interesting mix of low-cost instrument with sturdy manufacturing. But are they any good?
We enlisted the help of renowned New York-based saxophonist Tobias Meinhart to put the instrument through its paces, as you’ll find below…
We’ve rounded up the pros and cons of these horns and even got a professional saxophone player to record a video testing one out.
Read on for the full lowdown or check them our for yourself via their website.
The go-to beginner saxophone, Jean Paul's intermediate alto saxophone is budget-friendly and ready to play right out of the box.
Available in brass or silver finish, the TS-400 is an excellent starter instrument for those looking to play tenor sax.
Looking to add a soprano sax to your instrument family? This Jean Paul model is ergonomically designed with a curved bell.
Spend too little and you might get an instrument that slows progress. Spend too much, and you risk being left with an expensive decoration if things don’t work out!
As you may have noticed, there are a lot of offers out there for cheap beginner saxophones and not all are guaranteed to be good enough to help you get started and make fast progress.
One brand at the lower end of the pricing table which has been popping up recently is Jean Paul USA.
They sent one of their instruments to a professional saxophonist friend of Jazzfuel in New York with the simple goal of figuring out how good they are!
Are Jean Paul saxophones good?
We’ll get into the details next but let me first quote the email I received when the instrument was delivered…
“I tried the horn today and I have to say, I am really impressed!! It’s…. really good!!! If I play with my mouthpiece it’s not much different in sound…. wow. I totally would recommend it to any of my students!”
Bear in mind he plays a $15,000+ saxophone…
So yes, this is a beginner saxophone worth looking at!
Getting started playing saxophone
There’s no denying that the saxophone can be an expensive pursuit and quite possibly, as you develop more as a player, splashing out on a vintage or professional-level horn may be on the cards…
But whilst a great horn can make a great player sound even better, it’s not enough on its own.
Charlie Parker, for example, made some of his most famous performances on a borrowed plastic saxophone!
The most important thing, especially when beginner or intermediate level, is to find an instrument that plays easily enough to allow you to make fast progress and develop your technique.
With that in mind, looking for a much more affordable sax like the Jean Paul 400 series is a great idea.
Jean Paul USA pride themselves on building instruments that “are built to perform, and last a lifetime” and we wanted to test out the quality of these as a starter instrument for any budding saxophonist or established player looking to upgrade.
The result, as you’ll see below, is that it’s an excellent option which mixes high affordability with a quality manufacturing.
Who are Jean Paul USA?
Jean Paul is a small, family-run business based out of Florida, which started out more than 25 years ago distributing musical instruments including big brands like Yamaha.
Seeing a gap in the market for a high quality yet affordable horns, they began manufacturing their own beginner and intermediate instruments in 2012 with the goal of providing low-cost options with a solid design.
Jean Paul saxophones are currently available in two finishes – lacquered and silver-plated – and in the following sizes:
How Much Does a Jean Paul Saxophone Cost?
Jean Paul saxophones are priced firmly at the low-end of the market, with all their intermediate instruments coming in at under $800.
In fact, the AS-400 alto saxophone is advertised at a cool $499 on their website.
It’s true that there are even cheaper saxophones out there (usually on Amazon) these are often fraught with building inconsistencies and defects that can really hinder a players progress.
If we narrow our search to saxophones which have a basic level of quality to allow the beginner to really flourish, it’s hard to find a cheaper option than the Jean Paul range.
From our tests, the instruments seal nicely from top to bottom, affords an even, superior tone and has a warm, easy playability.
And, on top of that, they look pretty good too!
So, with all that in mind, let’s dig into the details of these instruments.
The classic Jean Paul 400 series
Jean Paul’s best selling and main instrument is their ‘S-400’ series, which sees the initials of each instrument followed by the number 400:
These are brass lacquered instruments with high F# keys that boast beautiful hand engraving on the bell and mother of pearl key buttons in addition to blue stainless steel springs that allow the mechanism to work smoothly.
Hand-engraved, ergonomically designed and ready to play right out of the box, the Jean Paul alto sax is generally the go-to beginner saxophone and this 400-series is our recommended pick from the US manufacturers.
The big brother of the alto version, the intermediate tenor saxophone TS-400 is the most popular in this range and also arrives ready to play out of the box.
If you’re looking to follow in the footsteps of the tenor greats like John Coltrane & Stan Getz, this is the one for you.
The SS-400 soprano saxophone is slightly curious as, unlike many manufacturers, it only comes in a curved option.
This is an interesting decision from Jean Paul USA (straight sops are generally more popular than curved ones) but does have one big advantage: they allow the player better sound feedback, by nature of the curve changing the direction of the bell.
Worth noting, though, that in general straight sopranos tend to be easier in terms of intonation and are what most professionals choose.
The soprano us not the easiest member of the saxophone family to learn, and our recommendation is to always start with alto or tenor, before trying out a soprano sax.
What’s in the box?
In addition to the horn itself, all Jean Paul 400 series saxophones come in a standard box-style case with:
- a standard own-brand mouthpiece
- a ligature
- a 2.5 strength Rico reed
- a cleaning cloth
- a cleaning swab
- cork grease
- a neck strap
Although we’d recommend upgrading some of these items, the big win is that the horn arrives totally ready to play, so you can get started immediately.
The addition of cleaning cloths and swabs also get you into good habits with looking after your instrument.
In terms of what we’d change, beginner saxophonists will likely find it easier to start with a softer reed – 1.5 for example – as we covered in our guide to the best saxophone reeds.
We’d also recommend considering upgrading to a professional mouthpiece as soon as you make some progress with your studies.
It might seem like a detail, but your mouthpiece can have a big impact on your sound and is a relatively low-cost thing to try out.
You can find out more about our top recommendations on sax mouthpieces here.
The Silver Plated Jean Paul USA saxophone Series
Alongside the standard range of 400 saxophones, Jean Paul also makes a silver plated options with the:
- Alto (AS-400SP)
- Tenor (TS-400SP)
- Soprano (SS-400SP)
Slightly more expensive than the standard model, these silver-plated instruments don’t seem to be different in any other way.
Whether silver-plating effects the sound production of a saxophone is an age-old debate, but there are some (including us!) that argue that silver-plated instruments have a slightly brighter tone to the professional ear.
Silver-plate is more durable than lacquer though, and you’ll find that these instruments will either tarnish beautifully over time or with use of a silver polishing cloth, maintain their shiny look.
All of this is nuance, though, so for the beginner saxophone student you should choose this option purely on it’s aesthetic qualities; it does stand out!
What’s in the box?
Targeted at the more intermediate player, the silver plated models do come with some more ‘professional’ accessories.
In addition to the same reed, ligature, cleaning cloth, cleaning swab and cork grease is an upgraded case that, according to their website, is “made with a water-resistant nylon outer shell and comes with smooth-rolling in-line wheels for easy transportation”
Jean Paul FAQs
Warranty of Jean Paul Instruments
Whilst you can find Jean Paul instruments on marketplaces such as Amazon, a large part of their business is done direct with the customer, via their website.
With every purchase, they offer a one year parts and labour warranty which will certainly guarantee that instrument you buy is in great working shape.
Where are Jean Paul Saxophones Made?
As part of their commitment to affordability, Jean Paul have made a nice compromise here: the instruments are made in China (where manufacturing costs are famously much lower than North America or Europe) but are then checked over by a saxophone technician in the US before being sent out to the end customer.
As such, we see a good level of quality control to ensure good consistency and value for money.
Of course, an instrument made and monitored from start to finish in a dedicated factory – such as the legendary Selmer Paris – can usually offer a higher level of quality, but that comes with a price tag which can easily exceed 5x the price of a Jean Paul.
For a beginner student (or, more often, the parents of one…) this is a trade-off well worth making.
Where to Buy a Jean Paul Saxophone
Whilst you can find a new Jean Paul sax on various online marketplaces, we’d recommend buying direct from the manufacturers.
As well as being connected directly to them in case of issues or follow up questions, they also offer payment via Paypal and the option to pay in instalments.
Round up – Are Jean Paul Saxophones Good?
Whilst the Yamaha YAS-280 is widely considered the ultimate beginner saxophone for it’s ability to carry a player right through to professional level, it’s quality and brand-recognition comes with a price tag which can put off many beginners.
If that’s you and you’re looking to start playing saxophone (or even upgrade from an old instrument which is hindering progress) the Jean Paul series is a really excellent option.
Surprisingly affordable, great quality and a trusted team of US-based experts behind it, it allows you to start playing music right away.
As our saxophone friend Tobias mentioned when he tried it out: “I totally would recommend it to any of my students!”
We would too!