Etude EAS-100 Student Alto Saxophone Hands-On Review
The Etude EAS-100 Student Alto Saxophone is made outside the United States and sells for under $400 new. This is a very attractive price for a saxophone, but does the Etude EAS-100 offer students an alto sax they can play?
I tested the Etude alto sax with both my mouthpiece and the mouthpiece the saxophone shipped with. To be fair, it is important to mention that this sax was sent to me without any modifications or fine-tuning. The sax I have before me is just like the Etude EAS-100 saxophone you would receive, if you ordered one today.
So, how does it play? The simple answer is: really well for the price. It would be unfair to compare the Etude to my $5,000 professional saxophone, but for a young student beginning his saxophone career, the Etude EAS-100 alto sax is a great option. Overall, it plays really well, and it will save students a lot of money.
Getting a good student saxophone is sometimes a compromise between desired features and an acceptable price. Major manufacturers create the best musical instrument they can design, and then find ways to make them affordable for you the buyer. With student instruments, the goal is to give budding musicians a learning tool that will challenge and test their abilities without a major cash investment while they are still exploring their interests.
A common solution to the price vs. feature problem has been to look to Asia as a source of inexpensive instruments. Over the last few years factories in this part of the world have been delivering musical instruments at lower prices and higher quality than ever before.
In the case of the Etude EAS-100 alto sax, the resulting saxophone offers a good sounding instrument that speaks well in all ranges. I found the overtones solid, the pitch is good overall, the stock mouthpiece will serve a beginner, and the included case houses the instrument safely. In that spirit, the Etude EAS-100 is a good-looking and fully functional alto saxophone on which a student can learn to play and still get a great deal.
Obviously, at this price, Etude has worked hard to keep the price down. However, unlike ultra-cheap saxophones from which some of the high and low keys are taken off to reduce costs, the Etude Alto Saxophone is a full standard range instrument, from low Bb to high F. I would not advise purchasing a saxophone that is not a full range, standard saxophone.
The feel of a sax in your hands is another place where cost-saving compromises can have an impact. The Etude EAS-100 Saxophone's key work impressed me as solid and the fingering system feels good.
The setup on the saxophone I received made playing low B to low C# a little difficult but is easily adjusted. I encountered minor pitch issues such as open C# to middle D seeming to spread too far with the D sounding sharp. To my ear, the top end felt a little flat, but most students tighten on the higher notes anyway, and this would compensate. To a professional, the scale is a little bit off but not enough to create any issues for a student until high school.
Certainly, if you want to pay about 12 times more than the price of the Etude EAS-100 alto sax, you can find one that is louder and more vibrant. But you must look at total benefits versus cost. The fact that an under-$400 saxophone plays as well as the Etude EAS-100 student sax is quite remarkable. I usually recommend a well-known brand for student instruments, if it's possible to deal with the higher outlay. But at this price, enjoy the Etude EAS-100 Student Alto Saxophone's amazing value and appreciate its shine and "new car" smell inside the case.
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Los Angeles based freelance saxophonist Greg Vail is among the most versatile woodwind players on the west coast. His work in jazz, pop and contemporary gospel music spans over 30-years. Greg maintains an active digital presence at www.gregvail.com.
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