All Things Saxophone

Buffet 400 series BC8401 Alto Sax

Last modified 09/12/08


Questions or comments?  Send us an email

I first played the Buffet 400 Alto at a New Year's eve gig 2006 backing up Frank Sinatra Jr. — the lead Alto man was playing the 400 with the matte finish and I was curious about it.  He let me give it a blow and I was very impressed.  Being a King Super 20 guy for almost 30 years, it takes a lot to impress me.  However, I didn't get a chance to give the saxophone a thorough shakedown at that time.  I didn't do anything more with it until a month ago when I reviewed the Buffet 400 Tenor.  After that disappointing experience, I had a talk with Buffet and they informed me of the re-design they were doing on the neck of the Tenor (to be released in April '08 — I will post a review as soon as I get my hands on one) and that convinced me I should give the Alto another try.  This time I had a session with the 400 series standard lacquer finish.  Times change, people — and this is one of those moments.  I NEVER thought I would find a horn that could outshine my old King, but I

have found exactly that in the Buffet 400.

· Construction, look & feel

The horn is beautifully engraved, with a gold tone lacquer finish — smart looking, not quite as intriguing as the matte finish model but still looks great.  It is a heavy horn, but all horns are heavy when you've been playing a King as long as I have.  The action is excellent — right up there with a good Selmer, Yanagisawa, or Yamaha.  Left hand palm keys are built out well for a good fit.  The right hand palm keys are built down a little bit for my taste, but not so much to be an issue.  Spatula keys have a good feel — I'm having a small issue with the transition between C# and B but it's improving with practice.  The neck & body fit together very well, but the plug provided for the body side of the neck joint is not good.  It's cheap plastic and doesn't fit well — probably won't do a good job of protecting the joint.  I won't use it — I'll get a sax stuffer that has a good end on it to protect the joint.  Pads are all good quality, with nice nickel resonators up through the palm keys.

· Sound

This is what sold me on this horn.  I used my standard setup (Meyer 6M with Harrison ligature and Zonda 3.5 reed), played it and out came a fat sound with good edge, and a warmth to it that was BETTER than my King!  What??  Unbelievable!  I even put my Selmer Larry Teal mouthpiece on it and played some legit, and it played as well as any Mark VI I've played.  The low D, which any pro will tell you is a troublesome note on EVERY alto saxophone, is THE BEST SOUNDING I HAVE EVER HEARD.  Let me tell you, folks, I've always stuck with the King Super 20 for the jazz sound even though that handicaps me a bit when it's time to play a legit gig — this Buffet 400 can do the job in EITHER the jazz or the legit arena and do it as well as (or better than) a King Super 20 or a Selmer Mark VI!  Can you tell I'm sold on this saxophone?

· Intonation

The scale on this horn is as good as they come.  Yes, there are some issues (i.e. the high C is reminiscent of the infamous Selmer C, but not as bad), but I've never found a saxophone that doesn't have pitch issues somewhere on the scale — there is nothing on this horn that a good player can't balance out.  The altissimo notes have nicely balanced pitch — here's an audio byte of a three octave diminished scale starting on low C:

Listen to the Buffet 400 Alto Sax

Here's the same scale on a King Super 20 (same mouthpiece/reed/ligature setup)

Listen to the King Super 20 Alto Sax

And here's the same scale on a Yamaha Custom Z (again same setup)

Listen to the Yamaha Custom Z Alto Sax

· Price

Like a lot of horns today, this horn is made in China to Buffet's specifications, and is very inexpensive (approx $1600) due to the cheap labor.  The overseas manufacturers are quickly figuring out how to make good saxophones.  The only concern I have is whether or not their quality control is good (see my review on the Buffet 400 Tenor).

What words to describe the experience I have had playing this saxophone?  Amazement!  Astonishment!  A saxophone that's as good as it gets for much less cost than the established premium horns.  This horn has rocked a mindset that has a 30 year old foundation.  This kind of review gets me real excited about reviewing saxophones.  I look forward to what's next.

Text Box: SaxophoneMan’s ratings:
(5 is best, 1 is worst)
Overall is not an average
Text Box: Sound

Text Box:  4.5

Buffet 400 series BC8401 Alto Sax

The Buffet 400 Alto has sharp looking engraving on the bell and keys

Good Quality nickel resonators on all the pads