After researching soprano saxophones for a while, I have come up with a conclusion regarding the differences between Asian made "cheapo" saxes and the "high quality" pro saxes (think Selmer Paris, Yamaha, Yanagisawa, etc.). Please keep in mind that this is just the opinion of a saxophone-playing student not the meaning of life, and I own an Asian made "cheapo" and "high quality" pro sax.
If you do some research and frequent any saxophone-related forum or website, you will most likely encounter people who swear that any saxophone or SSO (saxophone shaped object) coming out of Asia is a piece of poop that will fall apart in your hands. True, there are the rare instances (a certain story about a Cecilio sax ordered off eBay comes to mind), but most of the time this is not true.
I know a kid who started playing last year and uses a "Reynolds" brand sax. I had never heard of this brand but further research pointed me in the direction that it was just another generic eBay sax marketed to beginners. After one marching season and many crazy pep rallies (my school has been voted to have the best pep rallies in Texas, which of course means they are crazy), the saxophone was still holding up without any pearls falling off, random bent keys, or pads disintegrating. I will admit, however, that the neckstrap finally had to be replaced because it was literally being held together by one strand.
Now I'm not calling the anti-Asian horn people liars; they just need to keep up with the times. Technology is always getting better. The race to have a better, cheaper, cooler product is always driving the market to constantly improve. Ten years ago, these cheap Asian horns may have fallen apart in your hands, but technology, and subsequently manufacturing techniques, has improved vastly to put these instruments into a playable state.
Addressing the "high quality" pro saxes, one may realize that putting $3,000+ into an instrument will not buy you talent. It is up to the saxophonist to create the music coming out of the instrument. No matter how much money someone puts into buying the best of the best (i.e. 5 digit Selmer Mark VI, Selmer Soloist Scroll Shank, some reed that took twenty years to perfect, and a mint condition Brilhart three band ligature) they will not sound amazing without practice.
So why do people fork over several grand for the dream horn if it won't make them sound like (insert your role model saxophonist here)? The ultimate reason is brand marketing. Selmer, Yamaha, Yanagisawa, etc have all been around for a long time. Started at humble beginnings, these companies have risen to popularity through because people love their horns. I will admit that I buckled and currently own a Selmer Super Action 80 Serie II. "Why, Sara? You're writing this article about how they won't make me sound amazing instantly, yet you fell into the trap?" You may ask; well I'll explain. The reason people stand so firmly behind their Selmer Mark VIs or any expensive horn is because they see that they put all of this money into a horn, so it must be better than that $1,000 horn on eBay. Not to mention, lots of music schools are influenced by big names like Selmer and Yamaha; thus they pass this influence onto their students to buy these horns.
Since technology has improved, the quality of Asian-made saxophones has sky rocketed. Cannonball, Antigua Winds, P. Mauriat, and Phil Barone are all fine examples of the quality of Asian-made saxes. If you research any of these brands, you will find positive reviews on core sound, intonation, looks, and ergonomics. Plus, they cost a fraction of the cost of a Yamaha or Selmer.
So what point am I trying to make? Basically, don't judge a book by it's cover. Just because it has been around for a long time doesn't mean that the newbie brand can't match or beat it. We, the musicians, are the ones who make the saxophone work, so don't beat down a certain brand just because it has a weird logo, low price, or is new. So next time you are about to rant on a brand, make sure you do your research and have experience to back your claims. Who knows, maybe that $199.99 saxophone brand on eBay may evolve to become the next holy grail of saxes.