Yamaha YAS62 alto saxophone - with Mark II/III supplementary reviews
Guide price: £1900 (MkIII)
Weight: 2.47kg (MkI purple logo)
Date of manufacture: 1979 (MkI) / 2008 (MkII) / 2013 (MkIII)
Date reviewed: October 2014 / November 2009
(62 MkII) / November 2013 (62 MkIII)
Yamaha's basic professional level horn, at
a price that won't break the bank
Ah, the ubiquitous Yamaha 62 alto.
These first appeared in the 1970s, seemingly from out of nowhere,
as the YAS61. At that time there were very few choices for the budding
professional sax player, you either settled for a Selmer (MKVII
- which was never a popular horn), a Buffet (even less popular)
or one of the American horns (which were rare in the UK, and were
not nearly as well regarded as their earlier namesakes). And then
suddenly there was this 'new kid on the block'.
To say that it took the market by storm is something of an understatement
- and to my mind it heralded the dawn of a new age in saxophone
The 61 version held sway for a number of years before Yamaha tweaked
it and reissued it as the 62 in the late 1970s - though for the
most part the changes appeared to be cosmetic. And just as with
any other 'grande marque', the 62 underwent several revisions down
the years - a process that continues to this day.
The first model (pictured on the right) is now known as the MkI
- though its silk-screened manufacturer's label on the bell has
led to it being popularly known as the 'purple logo' model. Another
distinguishing feature is the use of a non-tilting table for the
bell key spatulas - and, of course, the single-piece bell key guard
that extends from the low C to the Bb.
Over time all three of these features changed; the purple logo
gave way to an embossed one, the bell key table gained a tilting
mechanism and the single piece guard was replaced by individual
guards for the low C and low B/Bb. Some of these changes overlapped
- for example, you might well come across a model with a tilting
table and the single-piece bell key guard.
But - and this is the important bit - it remained a MkI.
What that means, or should mean at least, is that the example pictured
here should be exactly the same as any of the later MkI models in
terms of feel and playability. That's the theory - but as the words
'purple logo' begin to be heard along the hallowed corridors of
the saxophone hall of fame I can only suppose that it's because
there's some value in the notion that something built 40 or so years
ago will be better made than something built yesterday. Given that
we now seem to live in the 'age of accountants', there's probably
some small truth in that.
The body design is pretty much standard; drawn (and level) tone
holes, detachable bell, two-point bell brace, semi-ribbed construction
(ribbed top stack only, though it runs all the way down to the low
C upper pillar), adjustable bumper felts and an adjustable thumb
The way in which it's all put together was a benchmark for build
quality - which makes it all the more piquant that the latest incarnation
of the series seems to lack the finesse and craftsmanship that can
be seen on these early models.
The finish is worthy of note - Yamaha's epoxy lacquer is incredibly
resilient, so much so that it's quite possible to perform minor
soldering jobs on the body and stand a very good chance of not losing
any lacquer in the process. And when it does get damaged or scratched
it tends not to start flaking off.
like the design of the bell brace. It provides ample support for
the bell, and in the event of a knock the little crossbar on the
body mount will act as a pivot, taking most of the load. I've seen
a fair few 62s down the years that have taken a whack to the bell,
and while I've had to realign many a bent bell stay I've seldom
had to deal with creases beneath the stay's mounting plates.
As mentioned earlier, the tone holes are nice and level - which
is just as well as there's very little 'meat' left to play with
from the G tone hole downwards. These are not tall tone holes, and
a bash to the bottom bow and a consequently warped low C tone hole
will require the attention of a meticulous repairer. Hack away at
these tone holes with a file and you'll very soon end up with little
or no tone hole at all.
And while we're on the subject, I've always felt the size of some
of the key cups in relation to the tone holes is a tad on the small
side. This means that the pads have very little 'overhang', which
in turn means the seat impression is rather close to the edge of
the pad. Not too much of a problem when the pads are new and supple,
but once they start to firm up with age it tends to mean they're
more likely to leak. It also means that some pads (such as the low
D and C) require extra care when seating...and it's these two pads
in particular that you should keep an eye on for leaks.
the body, the keywork is similarly well-designed, built and finished
- and sports a fine set of genuine mother-of-pearl key pearls...a
feature that was dropped from later models.
Of particular interest to repairers and home tweakers is a full
set of regulation adjusters on the main stacks, which allow the
action to be precisely adjusted 'on the fly' without any of that
monkeying about with strips of sandpaper. Such things are commonplace
now, but were quite the 'mod con' when the 62 hit the market.
Note too the simple fork and pin connector for the side trill keys.
This no-nonsense design is slick, reliable and, provided you lubricate
the keys from time to time, quiet in use.
Proper points screws are fitted,
which allow for the action to be adjusted as and when it wears.
The screws themselves are fitted with a nylon insert which acts
as a thread lock, and there's a bit of leeway already built in to
the pillars - so when the time comes to adjust the point screw action
it's simply a matter of giving the screw quarter of a turn or so
and the job's a good 'un...with no fuss or bother with having to
ream out pillars or deal with loose screws.
model, being an early purple logo, features the non-tilting bell
I like this arrangement, and on the whole prefer it to a tilting
mech - it just feel more responsive under my fingers.
Some thought has clearly been given to the design of the spatulas;
the Bb has a raised section at the rear, there's a drop-off on the
lower outside edge of the C# and a chamfer on the rollered edge
of the B - all all topped off with a very generously-proportioned
As with the regulation adjusters, such a design is commonplace
these days - but back in the 70s it was a hot feature.
the right is a shot of the later, tilting mech - as fitted to a
MkI with an embossed logo and a single-piece bell key guard. As
you can see, not much has changed - the Bb spatula is rather more
square and there's less of a drop-off on the low C#, but everything
else is much as it was along with the obvious addition of the tilting
mechanism. And as with the seesaw octave key mech, it's very much
a nod to Selmer, who pioneered both of these design features.
The keywork as a whole is beautifully laid out - even players who
aren't particular fans of the Yamaha sound will often comment on
the layout. From a repairer's point of view, assembling the horn
is a doddle - with no quirky mechanisms to figure out.
I do have one reservation about the keywork though - and that is
that it's inclined to be a tad on the soft side. Having said that,
there appear to be a few anomalies. I've noticed that the main stack
keys are easy enough to manipulate, but the bell and ancillary keys
appear to be as tough as old boots.
It seems to me that earlier models have sturdier keywork - so perhaps
there was a change in the alloy used over the years?
The whole outfit is bunged into a very respectable case, complete
with very solid catches. The early models came with a sort of purpley-brown
case, and while it never had the 'coolness' of the shaped cases
that came to dominate the market in later years, it was nonetheless
one of the best sax cases ever made. Mine's getting on for forty
years old now, and it's still going strong - though I've had to
pop a couple of brass corner braces on the rear of the lid, as this
seems to be a weak spot.
From new the 62 was shipped with a basic Yamaha mouthpiece - which
although perhaps too basic for a pro player is perfectly adequate
for a beginner, and makes a handy emergency spare in case you ever
need such a thing.
In use, the action is remarkably slick. Yamaha have used stainless
springs throughout; normally these can make an action feel heavy,
but as the keys have been designed and balanced to suit the springs
the result is an action that can be easily modified to suit the
individual player's requirements. And it's worth having this done,
as the factory setup was always a bit on the high and heavy side.
Slacken the springs off a tad, lower the stack action a couple of
mil and it really changes how this horn feels and responds.
Under the fingers, everything is where you'd expect it to be - and
even the palm keys seem to suit the majority of players. I see far
fewer palm key risers (little rubber cushions that players stick
on to raise the height on the palm key touchpieces) on Yamahas than
on any other pro horn.
Round the neck the horn feels nicely balanced, and remarkably light.
Tonewise, well, I have to put my cards firmly on the table and
say that the 62 is my alto of choice.
In the decades that I've been repairing and playing I must have
played thousands of horns. Yes, I've come across some wonderful
Selmers, some remarkable vintage horns, not a few interesting horns
from other eastern manufacturers - and even a few surprisingly good
student horns....but not one of them has given me what the 62 gives
Many manufacturers seem to have an 'in house' sound. When you pick
up one of their horns you also pick up the tone that's manufactured
in. That's no bad thing, if you like the tone - and even if you
don't it's possible to work around it and change it with your own
choice of mouthpiece.
But you don't get that with the 62 - it has a tone that carries
with it a remarkable purity and clarity, it places you firmly in
the driving seat, it lets you makes the running, hands you the choices.
The sound you get from it isn't you playing a Selmer, or a King,
or a Conn - it's just you, playing.
And I've never come across a horn so accommodating when it comes
to mouthpieces. You can bung anything on a 62 and it won't so much
as miss a beat - though it would probably protest (and quite rightly
so) if you tried to turn it into a 1920's 'woofler'.
Given this characteristic you should very much think of the 62 as
a two-part instrument....the horn itself, and the mouthpiece you
fit to it.
To my mind it stands up there as one of the legendary horns, and
I sincerely hope that Yamaha never make the mistake of assuming
it's time to move on. This one's a keeper.
If you're in the market for a pro horn you cannot ignore the 62
(though see my review of the YAS61).
In 2000 Yamaha introduced the mark two version of the YAS62. Improvements
were cited as an annealed body, a redesigned crook socket and the
inclusion of the G1 crook - as fitted to the Custom Series horns.
There were a few cosmetics changes too, the most noticeable being
the bell key guards - and the change from real mother-of-peal touchpieces
to plastic ones.
For fans of the original model there was much debate about whether
the new model would be as good or better, a debate not helped by
some players having noticeable tuning problems with the new 62 tenor.
Things were sorted out and the debate settled somewhat, but there
are still players who feel the original YAS62 is best.
So, are they right?
overall build quality remains much the same, though the use of plastic
key pearls hints at a cheapening of production costs - and my personal
perspective of the instrument is that it doesn't seem quite so well
It used to be that Yamaha's were pretty much perfect straight out
of the box, but many repairers will tell you that's no longer the
It's still true, though, that the action is one of the finest fitted
to any saxophone.
The bell key guards now match pretty much every other horn on the
market, and although I know they're an improvement over the old
design I can't help but wish they'd hung on to the single-piece
guard. Yes, it was more inclined to get bent out of shape, and yes,
it wasn't as sturdy as it should have been - but it looked distinctive.
It made the horn stand out from the crowd.
In terms of improvements the neck socket (or receiver) is a genuine
upgrade. The clamp has been beefed up, and as this part of the horn
is subject to a lot of stress it's good to see a bit more metal
It looks good too - like it means business.
The horn is supplied with the G1 crook as standard, but there's
also an M1 and an F1 crook available. The G1 is an all-rounder with
good projection a clean top end, the M1 is said to be more centred
and a little brighter while the F1 is rather more dark.
There are some subtle changes in the action, the most noticeable
being the use of blued steel springs - the mark one version had
stainless springs - which impart a little extra snappiness to the
action. However, this is offset by the plastic key pearls which
tend to feel a bit slippery at times.
really big question is whether or how the tone has changed.
It has, and I wouldn't say the changes have all been for the better.
It certainly has a more open tone at the top end, but I found it
made the top C a little growly. The mid to bottom end is also more
open, but there's a slight hint of boxiness about it...a bit too
much midrange boom. This affects the clarity of the horn, particularly
Even when blown quietly the horn has a tendency to over-present
the midrange, and I got the sense of a horn that's a bit 'shouty'
on the whole.
On the positive side the altissimo range is cleaner and easier,
and there's an overall feeling that the horn blows more freely than
the original - and it's certainly louder.
I'd say the mark one is a more focussed horn, and more evenly balanced
tonally. It seems to have more intensity than the mark two when
blown softly, and there's a general feel of more 'soul and perhaps
a little more authority.
A lot of the changes can be put down to the crook, but even with
the original crook fitted most of them remain.
It's interesting to compare the design of the G1 crook with the
original - on the left is the original, the G1 is on the right.
Straightaway you can see it's a slightly longer tube, and the placement
of the octave key pip is around a centimetre or so lower. Nonetheless,
the original crook seems to work just fine when fitted to the mark
In summing up, then, Yamaha have taken an arguably legendary horn
and applied a few tweaks and updates. In so doing they've managed
to retain much of the character of the original horn, but even the
slightest change is still a change. For some players the changes
won't make much difference, for others they will be significant.
In terms of quality I don't think there's much in it, and certainly
not enough to put the new horn down as flimsier and less well-built
on the whole - which hopefully reassures prospective buyers who
may have heard otherwise.
As a long-time player of a mark one YAS62 I feel the new version
has lost a little of what made it such a great horn - though it
has to be said that the mark two can still stand on its own merits.
There's definitely a relationship between the two horns in a sort
of 'chip off the old block' kind of way - but I think I'll stick
with the old block.
YAS62 Mark III
another revamp for the 62 in early 2013, taking it to the third
version of this stalwart model in Yamaha's ever-expanding range
I'll admit to being a little puzzled as to why Yamaha felt it was
necessary to make a Mark III version of the YAS62. The original
was a great horn, the MkII was fine - so I really couldn't see what
needed updating, unless they'd decided to go back to the original
specs (fat chance).
As usual, I read the manufacturer's blurb - but reading the ad copy
is a little like reading the personal ads in the back of the local
newspaper. You all know the score - VGSOH (very good sense of humour)
means 'miserable bugger'; bubbly means a penchant for pies and puddings,
effervescent means a pain in the arse - and 'quietly thoughtful,
considerate and objective' means sullen and moody.
And so I read buzzwords such as tuning, response and control and
figured that these probably count as what I call 'ethereal' upgrades.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like my upgrades to come with a few
facts and figures...and some measurements, or at least a few things
you can point at and say "Ooh, would ya look at that..."
It could just be that I'm getting grumpier in my
age, or maybe I'm just more cynical after all these years in the
trade - or it could be that so much of what's touted as 'new and
improved' these days is actually 'cheaper to build'.
So when a client asked if I'd be interested in doing a setup on
a brand new MkIII I jumped at the opportunity to have a good, close
look at the new version of one of my all-time favourite altos.
Out of the box it all looks pretty standard - I've always liked
how 'unfussy' the 62 looks when compared to the competition. I dare
say one modern alto looks much the same as any other, but Yamaha
seem to have a knack of making things look neat and tidy...at least
from a few feet away.
And from a few feet away the only visible difference to the MkII
appears to be the engraving on the bell - which is very nice if
you like that sort of thing.
Up close there's a little more to see.
far as physical upgrades from the previous model goes, there doesn't
seem to be a lot to shout about. There's a new crook and a new case
(more of which later) and there's an all-new low B to low C# adjuster.
Now, before you break out the bunting and the champagne it's worth
taking a closer look at this little gizmo. Yamaha claim that it
will ensure a proper seal and thus boost the response of the lower
Being generous I'd say that it was perhaps a little bit better than
the older designs, with a slightly longer arm coming off the C#
key barrel, but low C# closing mechs in general suffer from mechanical
flaws and even the best of them are only just about adequate. It's
all to do with leverage, and wear, and things settling down - and
out in the real world the best that you can hope for is that these
mechs will at least ensure you get some kind of note out if you
make a fluff when reaching for the low B key. In any case, there
seems little point in improving the mechanism and then stuffing
a thick, square-ended cylinder of cork in the adjuster (though it's
at least composite cork, which is less compressible than plain cork).
You can see in the photo that its just the front edge of the cork
that's making contact with the C# arm - and it would have been so
much better if they'd fitted a thinner buffer with a domed head.
It might have helped, too, if they'd got the adjuster plate lined
up centrally with the adjuster - not that it does on my MkI either...
that caught my eye was the way in which the pillars and fittings
had been soldered to the body. Now, I like to see a little hint
of solder around the base of fittings - it provides a quick visual
indication that they're secure and that they're likely to stay that
way. A lack of any visible solder causes me to wonder just how little
there is holding the fitting in place, or whether it's evenly distributed
over the mating surfaces.
But there's a fine line between 'just enough' and 'a bit too much'
- and the MkIII crosses that line by some margin. The two photos
show the MkIII on the left and my own MkI on the right. The MkI
gets it right - there's a thin band of solder that's just about
visible beneath the strap. It gives the appearance of someone having
drawn a thin line around all the fitting bases with a thin, dark
grey felt-tip pen. All nice and neat.
The MkIII, on the other hand, looks positively sloppy in comparison.
It wouldn't perhaps be so bad if the solder was clean and consistent,
but as you can see in the photo it's distinctly blotchy. I'm told
that Yamaha use lead-free solder, and the results are typical for
this alloy - it rarely seems to flow as well as traditional leaded
solder and doesn't seem to provide a uniform surface finish on cooling.
Of course, the way around this is to be more careful when applying
it and spending a bit more time cleaning up afterwards...neither
of which appears to have taken place.
thing I very definitely don't like is the new case.
Y'know, nothing beats the sound and the feel of popping open a brace
of case catches prior to a gig - and nothing gives you that sense
of security and a job well done of popping them closed at the end.
It's simple, quick and reliable. Job done.
Zips are cheap and tacky, stuff gets caught in them (sometimes painfully
so), they jam, they squeak...and then they break, and can't be fixed.
Ranting aside, the addition of a music pocket on the outside of
the case is a sensible move, particularly given the target market,
as are the 'backpack' straps - but the 'tongue' that has to be slid
under the handle and secured with a magnetic popper is a proper
Other than that it's a good case.
The setup was dreadful.
It honestly pains me to say as much. It used to be that Yamaha set
the benchmark for out-of-the-box playability, but the standard on
this horn was well below my expectations. Every single pad on the
main stacks, bar the G and the G#, was leaking at the rear...and,
on a couple of the pads, from the lower side too. The G# articulation
was out of regulation (thus knocking out the bell notes) and the
lower stack action had been set too high relative to the upper stack
- resulting in double-action on the Bis Bb key arm (see photo) -
and the tilting table of the low Bb was clanking due to lack of
lubrication. There was also a leak from the outer side of the side
C key pad.
this horn had come straight from the factory barely a month ago
via mail order, with no dealer setup inbetween.
Transit damage, perhaps? Not likely - not unless the case received
at least three distinct and precise whacks which managed to shift
the top stack one way and the lower the other way, and without putting
a bend in the body.
Now, I'm used to clients bringing in brand new horns for a setup
and a tweak, but this is usually about them wanting to get the very
best from their new horns right from the off. Fair enough - but
what I don't expect to see at this level are clients bringing in
new horns because they simply don't work. I'm sure that had the
owner been able to try the horn out before purchase he would have
passed this example over for another - but I can remember when it
used to be said that you could walk into a music shop anywhere in
the world, pick a 62 off the wall and it would play as well as any
other. Times have changed, and I'm a bit sad about that because
the 62 was an historically important horn that freed many players
from the shackles of vintage horn ownership and provided a credible
alternative to a Selmer. Like it or not, it was a landmark horn
- and it still is, and it deserves better than this.
According to the specs the pads have been treated with silicone,
presumably to help prevent them from sticking.
Only time will tell whether or not this is effective, but I noted
some slight stickiness from the usual suspects (G#/C# and the octave
key pads). Treating them with cigarette lighter fluid might help,
but I've no idea how this will affect the silicone treatment.
Perhaps the biggest change is that of the new crook, touted as
being "specifically designed to appeal to a broader range of
I'm always wary of such statements because it so often means that
rather than a product being made more exciting - and thus giving
it wider appeal - things are made more bland, so as not to upset
anyone. It's the 'beige' effect - nobody really minds it as a colour,
but at the same time nobody really gives it much thought.
Tonewise I felt that the comments I made regarding the difference
between the MkI and the MkII pretty much apply to the difference
between the MkI and the MkIII. It's quite evident that the newer
horn lacks the pizzazz and sparkle of the original, though on the
plus side you get a more rounded bottom end. You also gain a bit
more depth in the midrange, but this is at the cost of some brightness
- which becomes ever more evident as you go up the scale.
Swapping the crooks around reveals just how much of the tone comes
from them, though it's fair to say that the body tube plays a small
part - the MkI crook on the MkIII body brings back a lot of the
characteristic glitter and graunch, but some of it is tempered by
the slightly darker tendencies of the new body. At a rough guess
I'd say it's 90% in the crook, 10% in the body.
I should say that although new crook fits the MkI tenon socket,
the ring on the octave key sits a little too high to make contact
with the octave key pin - so if you decide to use a MkI 62 with
a newer crook you'll either have to have the octave key pin extended,
or the crook key's ring bent down.
I'm told that the tuning has been improved. This sounds a bit iffy
to me, given that it's always been said that if you can't play a
Yamaha in tune then you might be better of taking up the banjo.
Can't say that I noticed any particular improvement over the MkI.
At a pinch I'd say the MkIII had more stability...which in horn
terms tends to mean it's less exciting.
One last little point to note - compared to the MkI the sling ring
is slightly more over to the left of the tube, which makes the horn
hang a little differently. No big deal really, as the holding position
isn't uncomfortable, and you'll only really notice it if switching
between the two models.
I can see how the new 62 will appeal to a broader range of players
- it's essentially a more 'vanilla' horn - but that's not what the
original horn was all about. It arrived on the scene at a time when
the choice for a professional player was a Selmer MkVI or a vintage
horn, and it made its mark because of its build quality, its price
and its unashamed clarity of tone in a market awash with 'fat' altos.
Granted, a great many players love those full-bodied altos - and
that's great - but there are still a great many players who don't
want a 'small tenor', and who prefer their altos to have fire and
brilliance by the bucketload.
The new 62 is still a great horn, and newcomers to the marque will
find that it can still stand up against the competition - but my
feeling is that the light that once shined so brightly has dimmed
again. However, if someone at Yamaha were to suggest that they could
reissue the original crook as an optional extra...it just might
rekindle that old flame.
Oh, and put proper key pearls back on it...and set it up properly.
*Update: Following the publication of the MkIII update I had an
email from a chap who'd just bought a MkIII tenor and had noted
similar setup problems. Naturally, I'm unable to confirm the existence
or the extent of any problems, but at the very least it suggests
to me that buyers would be well-advised to check these horns carefully
As usual, I'll update this review as and when other examples appear
on my workbench.