Yamaha has a reputation as the “new kid on the block” compared to old standards like Selmer and Conn. Nevertheless, the Yamaha saxophone’s keywork and intonation are considered top-of-the-line, and it’s known for producing bright, clear sound at any level. In particular, the quality of the craftsmanship – how the saxophone feels in your hands, how your fingers feel on the keys – is most notable. Especially after the introduction of the 62 line of alto and tenor Yamaha saxophones, Yamaha has consistently been ranked as one of the best saxophone manufacturers in the world. Many famous sax players, including Phil Woods, Bobby Watson, and Jeff Coffin all played a Yamaha sax.
Tenor and Alto Saxophones
Note: Alto saxophones are prefaced by YAS (for Yamaha Alto Saxophone), while tenor saxophones are prefaced by YTS.
Best for those just starting out, this YAS-23 Yamaha student saxophone typically runs about $1,300 new or $500 used. The YTS-23 tenor sax costs about $2200 new and about $500 used. With optimum intonation and an emphasis on comfort and durability, the 23 series is perfect to help new players get a hang of their instrument.
Designed for intermediate players, the 475 series’ sound is richer with more body than the 23 series, making these saxes an excellent buy for Yamaha sax players who want to show off their growing skills. YAS-475 costs around $1,800 new and in the $1,300 range used, while the YTS-475 costs about $2,300 new.
Yamaha’s entry-level professional option, the 62-series is quite simply the best saxophone in its class. When the 62 series came on the scene, it set the bar extremely high for non-custom pro saxophones due to its even, smooth, polished tone, which gives skilled players tremendous control over their sound. The YAS-62 costs about $2,500 new and $1,800 used, while the YTS-62 is around $2,800 new and $2,000 used.
The 82Z series was designed specifically for professional jazz players, and it shows. YAS-82Z runs a hefty $3,200 new and close to $2,300 used, while the YTS-82Z is about $4,000 new with few used to be found. The sound is worth the price, however. It has the smoothness of the 62 series with a fatter, full-bodied tone, it’s the perfect Yamaha saxophone for filling a room.
Perhaps the most versatile custom Yamaha saxophones, the 875EX series is best for skilled musicians who like to play many different genres. The sound isn’t quite as oriented toward jazz as the 82Z, but depending on your skill, you can use it for many more genres of music, from the dark sounds in classical orchestra to the bolder rock tones. The YAS-875EX costs about $3,500 new while the YTS-875EX will set you back about $4,000.
The budget-level soprano sax, the YSS-475II is perfect for the beginner to intermediate player looking to break into a new instrument. Its one-piece design may come as a surprise to some, but its bright, even tone is all trademark Yamaha. A new model will cost on average $1,500, while used models are generally hard to come by.
Good for high-level intermediate players and extending well into the professional realm, the YSS-675 is renowned for its comfort and clear, resonant tone. It is among the best professional soprano saxes out there, with new models costing close to $3,500 and used ones around $2,500.
For a gutsier, fuller sound that’ll add an extra oomph to your soprano sax playing, the YSS-875EX is a great choice. Due to the high-end materials used on this horn, the instrument is bit heavier than its less expensive counterparts. New models typically cost about $200 or so more than the YSS-675, but are generally in the same price range.
All in All
While it lacks the legacy of the great vintage horns, as far as new horns that you can easily pick up today, Yamaha makes quite simply some of the best saxophones you can buy – particularly if you’re at the student level.