Updated 10/21 – This seems to be a popular page--see some added info at the bottom, and comment or email me if you have additional questions.
Every year I've been to the Eau Claire Jazz Festival with my school jazz band, I hope to win an instrument from their raffle. It has been disappointing in the past that my students haven't always tried to complete and turn in their clinic cards to have a shot at doing so, so I was pleased this past April when everyone actually did what I told them to. There was no drawing at the evening performance, however, so I was surprised when a few weeks later I heard from a rep from the festival that said we had won a new alto sax!
What is Anthem? From what I can gather, the company appears similar to Accent instruments. The horns stamped with their label are only available through certain stores throughout the US. Instruments are made overseas (in Anthem's case, in China), and are purported to have a high degree of quality control. In the case of this Alto, it was provided as a prize by Schmitt Music. You can find Anthem's web presence here.
On to the saxophone itself. First off, it reminds me to some degree of the Cannonball student alto in its weight. It's heavier than the used Yamaha and Vito models commonly found in student hands. It's clearly labeled "Made in China" by the serial number (something other newer brands seem hesitant to mark) and has the brand and model stenciled on the bell. The case is not fancy but seems sturdy and definitely adequate. The body of the sax is secure, and there's a designated place for the neck and mouthpiece as well as a compartment for miscellaneous items.
The saxophone I have been playing with students for the past six years was a Buescher, and I can safely say the Anthem feels better and plays better than the Buescher. The key action is nice, I didn't notice any issues with pads sealing, and I was satisfied with the tone--not as bright as I fear with a student saxophone.
As you'll hear, it plays reasonably well in tune. Again, for a student model, I think it is acceptable (the notes I expect to be sharp or flat are). Since I've only had the horn for a couple months, I can't speak to its long-term prospects. I'll update here if I have any issues.
I've been playing the Anthem saxophone several times a week with students in lessons. Nothing has broken or gone wrong so far, and I find that as I've grown used to it, I like it more. I still have no out of the ordinary issues with pitch, and no problems with response (other than my own lack of aptitude on the saxophone). If anything, I like the tone better than at first. One thing I do despise: the design of the case includes a nylon strap connection the upper and lower sections so that it opens to a 90° angle and no further. Even if the floor is flat, the case often closes on its own because the strap is just a bit too short. Oh well.