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Yamaha YTS62 tenor saxophone (with notes on the MKII version)

Yamaha YTS62 tenor saxophoneOrigin: Japan (uk.yamaha.com)
Guide price: £2150
Weight: -
Date of manufacture: 2001
Date reviewed: April 2004

For a long time, Yamaha's pro level horn - now superseded by the Custom and Z series horns, yet still holding its own...and quite effortlessly too

I was sorely tempted to review this instrument by writing just one word - 'Yup'.
To those who own one of these horns that single word would have been quite adequate to describe this instrument, but in the interest of, well, interest I'll try and pad it out a bit.

This particular horn is one of the last of the Mark I models - the new version (the Mark II) has a few 'improvements', such as a new crook socket, a redesigned octave key mechanism and a new crook.
I've tried the new crook, but for personal preference I rather like the old one for its neutrality.

One of the most notable features about these horns is the build quality. I really don't believe any other manufacturer comes close to the quality of lacquering you find on Yamaha horns, and the three years worth or regular use this horn has had hasn't left so much as a spot on the finish.
The keys are well finished, the pillars and fittings are solidly soldered in place, everything is just so neat and tidy.

Mechanically the horn is just as well built. Proper point screws are used throughout - and there's some adjustability built in from the factory. This is great news when the time comes to take up a spot of play in the action. There's a full set of regulation adjusters on the main stacks as well as the usual adjusters for the Bis Bb. G# and low C#. The bell brace and bow clamp are substantial and the bell key guards are decorative but tough.

I'd mark the horn down a point on the use of synthetic key pearls though - a horn of this quality (never mind the price) should have proper mother-of-pearl buttons (I'm sure earlier versions did).
Although they look presentable enough they really don't have quite the same feel or grip as proper mother-of-pearl, and on a hot stage this could result in fingers slipping off the pearls. It's only a theory, mind you - I'd have to get one hot and sweaty to confirm this.

YTS62 upper thumb restAnother criticism is the proximity of the thumb key to side C cup.
Ordinarily this shouldn't present a problem, but if that cork under the octave key isn't set just right it's possible for the thumb key to foul the side C when the octave key is pressed down.
There a slight chamfer to the underside of the key, which means that someone at Yamaha had spotted the potential for a collision - and if that happens on your horn then it's time to have that cork replaced.
You'll certainly know about it when it happens - you'll either get an annoying click every time you press the octave key - or you'll lose everything from top B down, as the octave touchpiece pushes the side C key cup open.

Under the fingers the action feels very comfortable. New horns will benefit from a bit of tweaking to the action as it tends to be set quite hard from the factory - but once tweaked, the action is capable of being fast yet light.
Stainless springs are used throughout, which is a good option if you're a particularly wet player.

The bell key spatula cluster is nicely laid out and fits comfortably under the average hand. The whole thing is only supported on one pillar, but it looks to be quite substantial enough - though I'd have preferred to see something that offered a bit more support in the event of a knock.
The C# spatula benefits from a bit of tweaking - it sits just a little too high for my liking, but this is true of many horns that use this arrangement.
The link plate from the low B to Bb is good and sturdy, and once correctly set shouldn't give any appreciable trouble.

YTS62 bell keysAs regards setup, it used to be that Yamahas were renown for working 'out of the box' - but these days my feeling is that their quality control isn't what it used to be. For the sake of another thirty or so pounds on the cost of the horn I'd strongly recommend having your repairer spend a little while setting the horn up properly - with particular attention to the right hand key stack and the low C.

It comes with a decent enough case, though I'd have liked to have seen a bit more space between the lip of the bell and the top of the case...I'd certainly think twice before sitting on the top of the case when the horn's inside (yes, we've all done it).

As for playability, well, it rocks!
The 62 has bags of power and projection, but no matter how hard you push it there's never a sense that the tone is getting away from you. It has a remarkable combination of thrust and control that allows you to play by the seat of your pants and never quite fall off the chair.

And what's the sound like? Well, it's like anything you want it to be.
Tonewise the 62 starts out warmer than its cheaper brethren, and if you want to accentuate that warmth or pull more cut and brightness from the horn it'll simply follow you. Responsiveness comes built in at the factory.
I mentioned earlier on that the new models have a different crook - I think it's worth experimenting with these as not every improvement is actually an improvement. I've found the original crook to be just fine both in terms of tone and tuning, and it better suits my preference for a brighter tone.
The low notes are gorgeously crisp on this horn, and yet retain all the warmth you need if you fancy a spot of subtone smooching. Similarly the top notes are nicely refined, with less of the tendency to shout that the cheaper models have.
The evenness of tone is remarkable, with only the mid D requiring a little extra forethought (a tricky note on any sax anyway).

So, a classic pro horn that ought to be on any prospective buyer's shopping list - and despite its newer, flashier competitors from the same factory it's still a horn that make me go 'Yup!'.

Notes on the MKII YTS62 (April 05):

It's hard to spot any differences in the latest version of the 62. There are some changes to the bell key spatulas and the octave key mechanism, and the horn features a beefier crook socket. Probably the biggest change is the inclusion of the new crook (in this case the G1 model). I didn't notice any particular change in the way the horn felt under the fingers, but then neither did I notice anything undue worth commenting on - so perhaps the changes to the keywork will be noticed more by some than others.
Much is made of the annealing process that the brass is subjected to during the horn's manufacture, but I suspect that the redesigned crook makes more of an impact to the tone. Annealing is a process involving heat, which reduces the stresses and strains that build up in the metal as it's worked. One way to put those stresses back in is to hit the metal...a process known as work hardening. Every time you press a key down you'll impart a small shock to the body of the horn and over time this will result in work hardening. In other words you'll be back where you started from. It's a nice selling point, but I wouldn't place too much relevance by it.

The tone is slightly different though. It's less pushy than the MKI, more laid back - but with extra smoothness in the upper register. For dyed-in-the-wool Yamaha fans (like me), it's perhaps a bit of a shame...I've always loved the exuberance and fireworks of the older models - but for newcomers and fans of warmer horns these changes should prove to be quite appealing.
I'd be quite happy with a MKII, though I'd want to put back that classic Yamaha bite by using the old crook.

The case supplied is of the semi-soft variety, quite sturdy yet light. Certainly good enough for gigging around with - and the fitted shoulder strap is a useful addition.

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