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
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
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 care.
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 lacquer job.
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
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
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.
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.
The 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.