Yanagisawa 992 alto saxophone
Guide price : £3000
Date of manufacture: 2004
Date reviewed: May 2004
A very good-looking professional quality horn
with some useful features
There's been some debate for some time in the saxophone community as
to the merits of using different materials for body construction - so
I welcomed the chance to review Yanagisawa's bronze-bodied alto.
On first sight it's not actually that obvious that the body is bronze
- the slightly reddish hue could just as easily be down to the colour
of the lacquer. Indeed, it caught me out - and it was only when I glanced
at the model number that I realised the body was bronze. It looks quite
obvious now though, when pictured against this pale background.
Will it make a difference to the tone?
I don't mind admitting that I'm entirely sceptical - and for very good
scientific reasons - but there's no denying that the 992 is a bit of a
looker. Brass is all well and good, and I've got nothing against it -
but bronze just has such a lovely warmth to its colour...so much so that
even if it doesn't make a jot of difference to the tone, I don't really
But bronze costs more than brass - and given the price premium, what
do you get for your money?
Well, it's undoubtedly a very well built instrument. The pillars and fittings
are neatly soldered on (ribbed construction), the keys are nicely put
together and the whole lot is finished off with what looks to be an excellent
There are the usual modern body features, such as a detachable bell
and an adjustable thumb rest as well as a sturdy triple-point bell
stay, which should help to keep the bell in line in the event of
a light knock or two - and the bell key bumper felt are adjustable.
I'll knock a few marks off for the sling ring though. Oh, it's beefy enough
- it's just that the diameter is a little on the small side, and this
may limit the choice of slings due to the size of their hooks.
I was particularly pleased to see a very substantial bell key pillar arrangement.
I've often commented before where horns have lacked what I consider to
be this essential feature, namely good support to a complex pillar that's
first in line for a whack if the horn takes a tumble.
Not content with merely providing a beefy pillar, Yanagisawa have made
it removable. Top marks there from the repairer's workbench.
Note too the bridged roller between the low C# and B touchpieces.
This is a simple but effective design that makes for a smoother finger
transition between the two notes.
It works very well, though other manufacturers tackle the same problem
by adding a slope to the facing edges of the two touchpieces.
The keywork has some nice features. Yanagisawa are big on braces, and
this horn features a double arm on the low C and B keys, and an F# helper
arm - which is a secondary adjustable brace for the link between the low
F key and the Auxiliary F key above it. I have my doubts as to whether
such a brace works effectively on larger horns (due to the whip in the
arm) but it seems to work fine on this alto.
The keys are well laid out, and with the blue steel springs and proper
point screws the whole action has a very positive and agile feel to it.
The setup was very good indeed - so much so that I rather suspect the
retailer may have tweaked it, though I still found the main stack action
to be a tad too heavily sprung. Rather surprisingly I had to strengthen
the bell key springing...it was a just a bit too weak, which leads to
a bit of bounce if you're not careful.
A couple of minor points (and we were doing so well)...I didn't think
much of the placement of the auto F key. It was so far offline that I
even wondered whether it had been bent, but it appears to be where it's
supposed to be. It way too far back on the B key, and needs to be brought
much more into line with the key pearl. No big deal - this key can be
bent to suit the individual.
I found the top D touchpiece to be a tad too far down the body, so that
whenever I played a top D the base of my finger hit the point of the touchpiece.
I have quite long fingers, and I hold my left hand at an angle, so this
might not be an issue for you - but if it is it will get on your nerves
in no short time. The fix for this would be to round off the upper point
on the touchpiece - or, if you really wanted to go to town, have the whole
touchpiece moved up slightly. Bear this in mind when testing the horn
- it really is no fun to have that key dig into your palm every time you
hit the top D.
A minor gripe is that there are no regulation adjusters fitted to the
bar at the rear of the stack keys - but that's more an issue for us repairers.
body is topped off with one of the largest thumb rests I've ever seen,
and an octave key touchpiece to match. Comfortable? Oh, only a lot!
The horn also features a thumb hook with a dimpled base - which I've commented
upon in the 901
horn is advertised as having an underslung crook. In fact it's not a true
underslung like the Conn 6M, where the octave key hole is on the underside
of the crook (and the mechanism works in reverse - rather, it's just a
plain octave key that's been redesigned. Having said that, it's been designed
very well and will certainly be a lot sturdier than the traditional design.
The keywork is finished off with a nice set of pads that have been well
fitted and well set - and the whole package comes with a sturdy but light
case that offers very good protection for the instrument.
And what a lovely horn to blow! Under the fingers the action feels eager
and responsive. I'd prefer it slightly lower, and lightly sprung - but
even the standard setup is more than adequate. It blows easily throughout
its range - whether you scream down it or smooch away with subtones, it
doesn't miss a beat...and glides effortlessly between the extremes.
Tonewise it has a well rounded sound, and I get the impression that it'll
produce just about any tone you want with the right mouthpiece. Tuning
is excellent, and the tone is even across the range. It perhaps lacks
the power and cut of the YAS62, but then again not everyone wants that.
The client that bought this horn was looking for a darker, more classical
sound - and I'd agree that the horn has the potential to deliver that.
I can't really say any more about it - it's all there.
As to how much difference the bronze body makes - who can say? I'd certainly
advise comparing it with the 991, which has a plain brass body - you might
find the extra £500 or so for the bronze body could be better spent
on a mouthpiece that would give the same tonal response...and still leave
you with change for a few pints. If you can do without the underslung
octave key arrangement, you can save even more pennies.
I played the horn side-by-side with a couple of brass-bodied instruments,
but couldn't really tell whether it was the bronze body that made the
difference or the horn's design. If any comparison is going to be valid
then it'll only be the one between the 991 and the 992...and even then
the differences will be down to the individual horns.
My advice is to ignore the hype, disregard the body material debate, and
judge the horn simply on its merits...of which there are quite a few.
Definitely a horn for the top of the shopping list.