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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm looking to buy a professional level soprano sax, for classical and jazz playing at music college and beyond, and wondered if anyone could give me some advice?

I'm currently looking at these models...

Yanigasawa SWO20 (Bronze)
Yanigasawa S991
Selmer SA80 Series II
Selmer Series III

Playing experience/comparison/sound/opinions greatly appreciated! Are there other models I should consider?

I can't seem to find much discussion on the Yani SWO sop sax range (pretty new?) so interested to hear what you think.

Thanks!! :)
 

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The only one on your list that I have played and gone through at the bench is the Yani S991. I just finished doing a play condition and play test this afternoon and it is the best soprano I have ever played. Previous ones I have played have been several models of Yamahas, Cannonballs, and a few Selmer Mark VI's. The sound and intonation of the Yani was superb.
 

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What do you play for alto tenor and/or Bari?
 

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- If you anticipate working on soprano under a saxophone professor, you would be well advised to wait till you can consult with that person. University music professors especially on the classical side can be pretty picky about the brand of instrument played by their students.

- No one will ever criticize you for using a Selmer soprano.

- You left off the Yamahas.

- Don't rule out Buffet and Buescher (the old True Tones, not the new Chinese ones marked "Buescher").
 

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I'm a Yany fan myself, but I play a curved model, which may be outside your preferred range of options. But I do have two suggestions:

1. If you're considering both the SWO20 and the S991, then obviously you should add the SWO10 and the S992. This will increase the likelihood of finding a great deal.

2. I would rule out the Selmer Series II. It's the only soprano on your list with a fixed, straight neck. Now, neck preferences vary (as mentioned, I play a curvy, but when I had a straight sop, I still liked the curved neck better), but I think you should at least give yourself the option of using a curved neck at times, especially if you'll be playing classical. I wouldn't buy a sop like a Series II unless I strongly disliked curved necks and were certain that I'd never want or need one.
 

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dangribbin: I owned two similar Yanagisawas in bronze and lacquered brass (curved SC902 and SC901), and after playing them for a while side-by-side, I chose the bronze and sold the brass model. For me, I heard a slight tonal difference between the two and favored the bronze horn.

I also owned a Yanagisawa S992, a Yanagisawa S901, and an Antigua 590LQ (a Taiwanese copy of the Yanagisawa dual-neck models at the same time. In that case, I preferred the brass over the bronze . . . again, there were tonal differences among these three similar saxophones, but with the additional distance from my ears when compared to the curved sopranos, I preferred the sound of the brass models.

Of course, these were not nearly enough saxophones involved to reach any definitive conclusion because I believe it takes MANY such comparisons to reach objective conclusions. And of course, others hear things differently than I do, so it is only my opinion here.

I suspect that unless you can actually play-test these models, you will probably be satisfied with any of the models you listed as long as that particular horn was made to specs (even top manufacturers don't always meet their own specs - the differences among similar models will tell you that).

As mentioned above, you left off top-line Yamahas. You should probably seek those out, as well. I had a top-end Yamaha years ago - it was a very nice soprano.

I also owned a new Serie III soprano - also a very nice soprano. I'm currently playing two MKVI's and a 1927 Conn, all of which are better players than any new soprano I've owned or played. DAVE
 

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For me the yani soprano fit like a glove. I had a vintage mint condition Selmer VI I never felt comfortable with. The Yani feels right in my hands. I always go for the feel of the horn and the pleasure of playing it.
 

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I have owned the Selmer SA-80 (aka Serie I), Selmer III, Selmer Mk VI, and several Yanagisawas. My fav’ of those was the SC-992.

I now play a Borgani Jubilee, but that’s a different animal.
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks! What's your experience with Mark VI Sopranos? And is there a significant different between brass or silver body?
 
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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
For me the yani soprano fit like a glove. I had a vintage mint condition Selmer VI I never felt comfortable with. The Yani feels right in my hands. I always go for the feel of the horn and the pleasure of playing it.
Thanks for the advice. Can I ask what was uncomfortable about the Mark VI?
 

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Thanks! What's your experience with Mark VI Sopranos? And is there a significant different between brass or silver body?
There is a greater difference to be gained from mouthpiece selection and setup (adjusting key heights and regulation, and getting rid of leaks).

Thanks for the advice. Can I ask what was uncomfortable about the Mark VI?
For many people, the Yanagisawa palm keys are more favorably positioned - then there are the rest that accept the Mk VI for what it is, and stop noticing the palm key placement.
 

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Based on my very limited experience (only 60+ years of playing soprano but I've only owned one or a few examples of most models), I think the Yanagisawas will be the most consistent, horn-to-horn. Even then, they will vary among several similar examples.

Same with the MKVI . . . I've owned three, still have two. The ones I own now are among the best sopranos I've EVER owned or played. The MKVI I used to own? Not so much.

If you are going to spend the kind of money it takes to buy a MKVI or a new Yanagisawa, you'd be well-advised to either play a bunch of them yourself OR buy from a trusted source - a retailer who has a selection and can pick one out for you before sending it to you.

Silver bodies? You'll get subjective opinions about that. I recently played a solid-silver Yanagisawa at a fellow SOTW-member's home. Nice but I didn't feel or hear much if any difference when played back-to-back with my sopranos OR his other sopranos. The solid-silver one really LOOKED nice, though.

I agree with Dr G about mouthpieces - and I'll add that each reed will make differences more noticeable than the brand, the finish, or the body-material. DAVE
 

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I've owned a Yanagisawa 901 Soprano and really liked it. I sold it to get a 1967 Selmer Mark VI Soprano. I think that this particular Selmer Mark VI plays great and with the traditional Selmer focused sound. I also have a brand new black Yamaha Custom Z Soprano and is amazing as well. Don't overlook the Yami's! I also have Grovers 1992 Keilwerth Soprano that plays and feels great in my hands. These Sopranos that I listed I would recommend in your hunt. I have been very fortunate with my Soprano choices. Good luck on your hunt! Looks like you're in good hands! :)
 

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Several years ago during a trip to California I went soprano hunting and got to try different ones. Off the top of my head I was able to play a Selmer series II (which I didn't like), a couple of Cannonballs (straight and curve), Yanagisawa Mark VI copy (which I liked better than a Mark VI which I played side by side), Yanagisawa 901, Yamaha two necks professional soprano (if my memory serves me correctly, an 875), a Mark VI and a Yamaha YSS 82 Z. Of all of these, the one that I liked the best was the YSS 82Z which was a bit out of my budget as I don't play much soprano. I ended up getting the Cannonball curvy mostly just for kicks.

The best advise I can give you is to try to do your best to go to a store that has a lot of sopranos to try them side by side. If that's not an option, budget permitting, consider a Yanagisawa or Yamaha. Cheaper but still good are Cannonballs and even Antigua, but a step below the previous two. I would be hesitant to recommend a Vintage Mark VI or any other vintage horn nor a new Selmer without trying them. Some people might like them but in my limited experience I did not.
 

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As I said above, if you plan to take soprano lessons for classical playing with a university professor, best to wait until you can get their opinion. If you cannot wait, go for the most conservative choice.

Believe me, it will make a difference to some professors whether you show up with a Selmer in regular brass finish, versus an Antigua Winds soprano in purple.
 

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As I said above, if you plan to take soprano lessons for classical playing with a university professor, best to wait until you can get their opinion. If you cannot wait, go for the most conservative choice.

Believe me, it will make a difference to some professors whether you show up with a Selmer in regular brass finish, versus an Antigua Winds soprano in purple.
I agree with turf3.

OP, what you could do is buy a used, middle-of-the-line horn with good resale value, like a Yamaha 475, and plan to upgrade once you're in college.
 

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I have been trying sopranos' the SA89II is pretty good, the yanigasawa is good but I prefer the sound of the Selmer.The Selmer SII want at all good for me. The Yamaha 475 was the pick of the yamaha's in terms of tone, they yamaha;s were all good for intonation but the higher end seemed to lack something in the the sound.
 
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