Yamaha YTS82Z tenor saxophone
Guide price: £3350
Date of manufacture: 2004
Date reviewed: December 2004
A pro level horn developed specifically
for the jazz player
I was rather excited at the prospect of having one of these up for review
- it's a been a few years now since the Z series hit the market, and either
because of the scarcity of these horns, or the usual Yamaha reliability,
I've not seen one in the workshop until now.
My initial excitement soon faded though when it became obvious that,
in terms of a technical review, there wasn't much for me to do.
The horn's keywork is basically that of the 62 series. Nothing wrong with
that, of course, and you can find an in-depth critique of it here.
This horn has minor improvements to the octave key mech and the bell key
spatulas, which feature a slightly enlarged Bb plate and a link to the
The changes are all in the body - and in the new Z series crooks. This
particular model came fitted with the standard G crook.
Although you can't quite see it, there's new bell brace design. It's
a two-point mount (as opposed to the 62's three-point mount). It's claimed
that this gives a better resonance. Indeed.
There's a beefy sling ring fitted - which will come as a relief for those
of us who use large, nylon locking clips.
Yamaha claim the body alloy is different for this series of horns in
that it's lighter. Whether that makes a difference is anybody's guess,
but it should count for something in terms of weight around your neck
on a long gig.
I was somewhat disappointed with the point screws, being of the pseudo
type with only a point on the tip. However, the key barrels appear to
have been designed slightly differently from the norm so that the point
of the screw contacts deeper inside the barrel. This means there's scope
for adjustment as the action wears, but it also means that any wear happens
deeper in the barrel - and is thus harder to see or get at. Not something
that should be an issue for a good few decades though.
Another slight disappointment was a badly fitting G# key pearl. It's
a minor point, I know, but at this price point I don't think it's up to
the mark. There's no point going to all the trouble of building a highly
regulated spatula mechanism, and then build in a gap with an undersized
And whilst I'm in the general area, I noted a single pillar supporting
the spatula keys.
I've noted this time and again on horns - despite the fact that these
keys can take a lot of punishment. I'd have preferred to have seen a much
more substantial arrangement here - perhaps like the excellent pillar
that features on the Yanagisawa
The finish on the horn was excellent, as usual, although I was a little
surprised to see an excess of solder around a couple of the larger plates
(the bell stay mounts in particular). Again, it's a small point - and
one that will vary from horn to horn.
If you don't like the finish, there's a gold plated option available...at
around a cool £7000! There's also the option of having it in bare
brass - which many players have felt made an improvement to the tone.
As regards the setup - there were a few minor issues that needed attention.
A slight leak on the low B pad, likewise on the low Eb pad (which was
up at the rear), and a generally heavy action. These leaks were enough
to scupper the low end of the horn.
I've said it time and again (and I'll carry on saying it), you really
do have to budget for a decent setup after buying a horn - and what's
thirty or forty pounds when compared to the couple of thousand or so that
you've just lashed out for a pro level horn?
Slackening off the blued steel spring really improved the feel under the
fingers, though I wasn't all that comfortable with what I felt was rather
too much of a dish on the concave pearls. Wouldn't be too much of a problem
to have them taken down a tad though.
The whole outfit comes with a very substantial and smart case.
I was obviously keen to blow the horn, but from the very first note I
found myself completely thrown by it.
I found it extraordinarily difficult to describe the tone I got from the
horn. I think I was perhaps expecting a sort of 'extra' YTS62 sound -
whereas what I got was nothing of the sort.
I have to admit to being stumped.
It's curious, because I can always pick up a horn, any horn, and within
a few minutes of playing, if not seconds, suss out its major strengths
and weaknesses. I think perhaps the reason I couldn't put my finger on
the tone was because I couldn't decide whether what I was hearing was
a strength or a weakness.
As regards the things I'm certain of, I can say that the tone seemed very
dry - not fat and round, but not dead either.
Crisp would be another way of describing it.
There's no doubting the response of the horn, it's lightning fast. No
matter how hard and fast you push it, it's right there with you - and
drop-dead even across the range. And it's a dead easy blow too.
It was this response that really highlighted the leaks down the lower
end - it played fine down to low D...and then turned into a completely
different (and dead) horn altogether until the leaks had been sorted.
It has brightness in abundance - so much so that I swapped my trusty Vandoren
T25 testbench piece for a Java 55 to see if a more open piece would bring
out more body. It did, but the horn retained its brilliance too. This
is probably a horn that really needs a big, fat, open piece.
Some players have had problems with regard to tuning on this horn. I
noticed no such problems, but I can appreciate how its lack of resistance,
particularly at the top end, would throw many an established embouchure
Early models were rumoured to have problems with the new crooks - this
appears to have been sorted.
There's an 'M' series crook available for this horn - but this is said
to be brighter than the 'G'...and I'm not sure that would be an ideal
partnership on this horn (be interesting to find out though).
In some ways it had a lot in common with the old 'fake heavy box' trick
- you know, where you make a great show of lifting a seemingly heavy box
that's actually empty, then pass it to someone else and watch as they
You blow this horn, and the resistance you expect to find just isn't there.
It really catches you out.
The top notes were very different from anything I've gotten from a Yamaha
before. I'd say they were more open - but then perhaps so open that I
felt I missed the resistance. The more you bit into the top notes, the
more the horn gave way and accommodated you. I think this would be a very
hard horn to push to the limit, especially when you couple the deft response
with its free-blowing manner. You almost get the feeling that if you blew
it hard enough it would suck you in.
Tonewise it has a strong sound - as opposed to a big sound. If sound
were a shape then this horn gives off cylinders of sound, as opposed,
say, to a Selmer, which would give off footballs.
A strange analogy, I know, but I really struggled to fit this horn into
I feel there's perhaps a hint of a vintage sound about it - and from
reading Yamaha's blurb I see that this is indeed a feature that supposed
to be there, but somehow it's not quite right. It's almost an unhappy
marriage between the old and the new.
To my mind it falls between two posts. It doesn't have the roundness of
a great vintage horn, nor does it have the exuberance of a great modern
horn - but what it does have is perhaps a touch of what the Borgani
tenor has; a sense of being quite unique.
I really don't mind admitting that this horn has me flummoxed.
I know that the playability part of the review is perhaps the least important,
given that each player will get entirely different things from any given
horn - but I do like to be able to rattle off at least a few lines that
hint to a horn's general demeanour.
I thought perhaps I was having an off day - but a quick comparison with
a crappy old Earlham tenor showed me straight away that my senses were
firing on all eight. About the only thing I can say for sure is that the
horn is bright, and has oodles of crispness and response - and that alone
makes it a horn that just has to be on your shopping list for pro spec
I'd like to come back to this review at a later date, once I've blown
a few other examples - just so I can really nail what it is that this
horn has, or hasn't got...
A month or so has passed since the above was written, and I had an opportunity
to blow the 82Z again. This time I brought along my own YTS23 and used
my gigging mouthpiece.
I discovered two things. The first is that my initial perceptions were
right. Compared with the 23, there's a stark difference in how the tone
seems to come out of the horn. When playing the 23 the tone appears to
spread out from the bell - the client and I likened it to a sort of sawn-off
shotgun effect. With the 82Z there was a definite sense of a much more
narrow beam. It left me with the impression that the 82Z is perhaps an
introspective horn - suited to the classic image of the lone jazzer, standing
hunched on stage, blowing away in a world of his own. The 23 is more extrovert,
more suited to slapping faces at the back of the hall!
The second thing I discovered is that the 82Z isn't a horn that's
as immediately accessible as the rest of the Yamaha range.
They've always had a reputation for being horns that you could pick up
and just blow - what you get is what's there, instantly. The 82Z is a
different beast altogether and you have to spend time with it, learning
In this sense it makes it a very complex horn - and that's pretty much
the ideal for a horn of this type and calibre.
I'd be surprised if many people pick it up and find it has instant appeal,
but I wouldn't be surprised to find them motivated to keep coming back
to find new potential.
That, for me, is the mark of a classic horn - and that makes the 82Z
a very individual instrument.
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