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New 'student' sax becomes my favorite sax.

I've been doing this a long time. My first pro gig was in Junior High School, I'm now of retirement age (but not considering that) and for almost all of my adult life I've made a living doing music and nothing but music. Sax is my primary instrument, but I also play drums, flute, guitar, bass, wind synth, keyboard synth, and vocals.

In my career I've had a Conn (fireworks), Selmer Modele 26, Pan American (el-cheapo backup horn), Selmer Mark VI (bought new), Selmer Mark VII (shouldn't have traded the VI in for it), H.Couf Superba II (one of my favorites and which I liked better than the Mark VI), Grassi Supreme (gold plated) and a custom finished MacSax Classic (with two coats of silver colored nickel plating).

My Grassi was a backup horn, and it neededan overhaul. I thought I would really like to get it relaquered, but that gets expensive and the horn is gone for a long time. What if my main (MacSax) breaks while my Grassi is shipped of to points unknown?

So a friend of mine who trades saxes tells me why not buy a used Yamaha YTS-52. He didn't have one but said they go for about the price of an overhaul if you are patient and find a good one.

So I got one from Sam Ash Houston via Reverb. It has only a few minor scratches on it near the neck strap ring.

The intonation is very good, the tone is a little brighter than my MacSax, but it quickly became my favorite horn.


Response and flexibility.

Response first - very free blowing (I'm using a Link ToneMaster 8 NY) - almost no back pressure - I have big strong lungs and this is so easy, it's almost like breathing into the horn.

Flexibility - I am so impressed at the different sounds and tones I can get out of this thing. It can purr, it can scream and by adjusting my oral cavity and breath support I can get a very wide range of different vowel sounds (oohs and aahs) and degrees of edginess to the tone (from a soft subtone to a shrill bite). It simply has more vox humana than my other horns (my Mark VI has been gone too long so I can't make a comparison to it). Anyway, I'm very, very impressed with it.

It also feels very solidly built, and the intonation is about as good as any sax gets.

So the 'intermediate' level horn that was supposed to be my new backup horn has become my primary horn.

I don't know why I never thought about a Yamaha sax before. After all their first product was a grand piano and have been in the music instrument business longer than I've been on the planet.

Insights and incites by Notes


Striving to play the changes in a melodic way.
Staff member
I had a matched set (alto & tenor with close serial numbers) of Yamaha Z's about 15 years ago. I didn't appreciate them as much as my matching set of Couf Superba I's. And then I tried a Selmer Ref 54 (alto) and Ref 36 (tenor) and never looked back. There are soooo many good instruments out there. Interestingly enough, the horns I passed on to my son or sold are still close holds by the new owners. That sez a lot too.
I liked my Superba II better than my Mark VI. The intonation was much better and the tone could get much bolder. Although I love all kinds of music, I play pop music for a living. I traded my VI in for a VII and found I didn't like the VII, thus the Couf. I would have kept the Couf but nobody lacquers anymore, and here in the salty, damp South Florida climate it turned green with a texture like the skin of a cantaloupe. I often play in places where the men wear tuxedos, a nasty looking sax is a good way not to get rehired, no matter how good you are.

I bought the Grassi because it was gold plated, and figured that would cure the problem. I didn't really like the tone of the Grassi as well, it had a bit too much edge to it. A big tip opening and baffle mouthpiece tamed it. But eventually the gold plating started flaking off.

I had the MacSax plated with two coats of nickel (regular silver-colored nickel, not the black tint) and it held up very well. I like the horn a lot. I don't think they make MacSaxes anymore, I guess it was one too many Taiwan boutique sax brands. It is pretty much like a Baronne, but Phil wouldn't make one in nickel for me and guarantee that the intonation would be great. I can understand his reluctance, as he would have had to have it plated at his cost, and he didn't know me well enough at the time.

I intended the Yamaha to be my backup sax. I play once a week on a quay over a salt water lagoon at a marina in Florida, and have done so from October until the rainy season in May or June for 11 years now. My backup sax goes to that gig because salt water can be hell on sax finishes. Well I like the Yamaha so much, I think it will end up being my main sax, and the MacSax the backup.

At the marina we can play anything. So one day an old friend who used to work as an accountant at a major recording studio came in and wanted to hear a few mellow standards. We did Misty and Night & Day. The Yamaha got much more mellow than the Mac could and I believe even the Couf would have. Of course that is the combination with my lips, my mouth, my breath support and my playing style.

Like I said, I'm delightfully surprised with this horn. Especially since it isn't even a high-end model.

Insights and incites by Notes


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I have been playing a YBS-52 for several years and it is great. The one I am playing actually belongs to the band, but I have a used one that I am going to overhaul with a brushed brass finish that will be my personal sax. As far as I am concerned the Yamaha research and development department "gets it right"---especially since Eugene Rousseau became a consultant.
In that old series, the YTS-23 was the student model, the YTS-52 was the Intermediate/Advanced and the YTS-62 was considered the professional model.

Personally, on Alto I grab my Vito/Yamaha Student horn more than anything else. I bought it for about $125 bucks a few years back, put a few pads in and regulated it. I tried to sell it at one point but now am glad no one bought it. Its just easy to play.
I wonder what designates Student, Intermediate/Advanced, Professional. I'm sure there is no definite answer other than price points along various lines.

Thanks to the "intermediate" classification on the YTS-52 I wasn't expecting as much as I got. I bought it for a backup horn. It's become my primary horn. It's free blowing, has intonation that is as good as any other modern sax (and much better than my old Mark VI had), they key work is solid, the brass is nice and thick, the epoxy lacquer is applied nicely, and best of all, it is easy to shape the notes and it has a wide range of tones/vowel sounds. What it doesn't have is a lot of engraving, but although I like nice engraving, it's a minor point with me. How it plays is what I care about most.

So I guess I got a lucky deal for me (someone else might not like this sax at all).

Insights and incites by Notes


Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Back when the YAS-23 was first introduced and the Bundy II was in it's heyday as the most used student sax the differences between a student instrument and a "professional" instrument included the following features:

Removable Individual Key guards
Detachable Bell
Octave Key Rocker Assembly
Rib Mounted Posts
Adjusting Screws on Key Guards
Adjustable Thumb rest
Large Octave Thumb pad
Ribbed 3 Point Bell Brace
Adjustable G# Lever
High F#
Metal Pad Resonators
Fully Tilting L.H. Spatula
G#/Bis adjustment on separate arm
Stack Key Adjustment Screws
Removable Fork F# Guard
Blue Steel Springs
Adjustable Front F
Low B to C# Closing Arm
Professional style wooden case

Following the advent of all of the lower priced quality saxophones made in Taiwan and Vietnam those differences no longer exist, since most "student saxes" have most if not all of those features. The difference between a "student" saxophone and a professional model today is the price range and the "reputation" of the particular make and model.
The only Bundy saxes I played were back in the days when you had your sax overhauled and relaquered. At that time the shop would give you a loaner, most often a Bundy fo the shop I used, and they were decent saxes, but the brass was so thin it just felt cheap. Nickel keys marked it as 'inferior' (although I have nothing against that) and the tone wasn't as full as the pro horns I was playing at the time (Mark VI, for a short time VII, and the a Couf Superba).

Thanks for the info.

I've never fully researched this sort of thing. I just play them, and if I like them, I keep them.

Between sax, flute, wind synth, guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and creation of our own backing tracks, plus a side business selling styles and song aftermarket products for Band-in-a-Box, there is not enough time to learn everything about every instrument I play except how to get the best music I can out of them.

New info that comes this way is always appreciated.



Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
I wonder what designates Student, Intermediate/Advanced, Professional. I'm sure there is no definite answer other than price points along various lines.

If you're talking about what differentiates the Yamaha models, each student (2x or 2xx models) through machine-made pro (62) model has more and more features, from things as simple as the color of the lacquer to as complex as one or two-piece bell. So, a 575 has almost all the features as a 62 and has a ton more features than the 23 or 275. The 82Z and 875EX are essentially completely different pro horns, kind of like comparing the Keilwerth SX90R to the Keilwerth MKX: same manufacturer and that's about it.
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