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Discussion Starter #1
I'm going to Japan and plan to pick up two saxophones, a Yamaha and a Yanagisawa, while there. Aside from "play them and decide", which will be done, do you have any comments or information on Yamaha's 82Z vs 875EX and the Yani models that should be considered? I've played a Yani AWO-something once and have played Yamaha student models but not their upper level horns.

I basically play whatever I feel like at any given time and don't perform anymore but sometimes record. It's nice and low stress. I currently play a Conn 6M or Buescher Aristocrat, with a Yamaha -23 hanging around and not getting much use. I'm not getting rid of those, but just want a pair of modern "pro level" horns to play around with (also, holy hell, the keywork on that Yani I played was slick).
 

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This kind of depends on what style of music you prefer to play and how much resistance for sound shaping you would like.
I have played all of these, with many in back to back sessions, but unfortunately never all back to back.
If you want to play jazz, pop, rock or any other quick response free blowing music, the obvious choices will be the Yamaha 82Z and the Yanagisawa WO-1.
If you want big broad dark classical sound or chamber ensemble sound, you want the Yamaha 875 EX and the Yanagisawa WO-20.

If you want to have a lot more flexibility for styles, on Yanagisawa you would want WO-2 or WO-10. (WO-1 still works but these other two add a bit more warmth and resistance for shaping). Then you also want the Yamaha 82Z

To clear up any confusion, the Yamaha Saxophones are different models and designs. I have heard students do great classical on the Z, so I think it is the more flexible of the two instruments listed from Yamaha. (Assuming 82ZII with V1 neck)
Then for Yanagisawa, these are all THE EXACT SAME MODEL and design, just made with different materials. The ONLY difference in effort or amount of work put into these is the amount of engraving time given. Yanagisawa makes the exact same Saxophones, to the exact same quality level, with the exact same effort, from WO-1 to WO-37. End confusion rant.

So yes, of course go there and play them all and choose what you like. But here is a good starting point. :)
 

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I bought a new Yanigasawa AWO10 last year. Amongst the altos I also considered were the Yanigasawa AWO1, AWO2, AWO20, Yamaha YAS62-III, YAS82Z-II, and YAS875EX-II.

I thought these were all excellent saxophones and it was a really tough choice. Honestly, I got the best deal on the Yanigasawa AWO10 and so that's what I bought. I would have just happy with any of the other Yamaha or Yanigasawa saxes I listed. The mouthpieces I switched between made much more of a sonic impact than the sax in this case. The keywork was universally excellent.

My other three saxophones are Yamahas (YBS62, YTS875EX, and YSS82Z) and I think Yamaha had significant advantages in sonic depth on baritone and tenor more so than on alto. The Yamaha baritone keywork was also superior. The altos were all very close in my opinion.

Regarding the AWO1/AWO2 and AWO10/AWO20 brass/bronze comparison, once again I felt these models were more similar than different.

Regarding necks, Yamaha does change the necks on their saxes and I think this has a significant impact. I think the Yamaha 82z and 875ex both had the V1 neck, whereas the 62 I tried had a 62 neck. When I tried the tenors the 875EX had a E1 neck and I did notice a significant sonic difference between that horn and the 82Z tenor with the V1 neck.

I found that these Yanigasawa and Yamaha saxes were quite different than the new Selmer, Keilwerth, and P. Mauriats saxophones in feel and sound.
 

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I got a chance to play all of these back to back at an instrument "show" at my local pro music shop not too long ago.

Yamaha 82Z: The brightest of the lot for me. Excellent response, free blowing, expressive. Tone was lighter than the others and had a bit more edge to it. Ergonomics were great. Intonation was the worst of the lot for me, but even saying that, it was still pretty darn good. Definitely a fun horn to play.

Yamaha 875EX: The darkest playing horn for me at the show. Excellent body to the tone, resonant, and lyrical. Intonation was outstanding. One of my favorite modern altos I've played in a while. Not as punchy or edgy as the 82Z. Would do really well as an all-around horn, but exceptional for classical playing.

Yani AWO1: Very fun horn to play. Focused sound; intonation is very locked in. Lighter tone quality than the 875EX but not as light as the 82Z. I've always felt the Yanagisawa ergonomics are the best of the modern horns. If you can get one used you'll be hard pressed to find a better value. Even brand new they're not terrible for the quality you get. Would serve any pro well.

Yani AW02: Pretty much the same as above. Didn't really detect any major differences; maybe just a hair less edge. But probably just in my head. I like the look of it, but the tone was basically the same as the brass version.

Yani AWO10: Felt like it had more body to the tone than the above Yani's. Slightly richer tone quality and more focused to my ears, but not worth the price difference IMO.

Yani AWO20: For me, noticeably darker than the other Yanis. Really excellent horn; could do anything. This one was worth the price difference IMO. More body and core than the other Yani's to my ears, intonation was excellent, great dynamic range. Could push it without it getting too bright. Wonderful horn, highly recommended.

Also at the show was a Reference 54 alto that played lights out. Intonation wasn't as good as the other models but still very solid, but the sound was outstanding. Huge dynamic range, very rich core tone but very versatile. Loved it.

The best horn at the show was a Selmer Series II...I think the Jubilee model? It had the smaller engraving pattern. Horn was a complete killer. Perfect intonation, very rich core, great ergo's, just a wonderful saxophone. It was so good I wanted to buy it on the spot. I would have slept on the couch for a long time, though.

Other horns were an Eastman 52nd Street that was garbage, an intermediate silver plated Yamaha (475 I think?) that played very well, a Mauriat 67R that was a nice sounding horn but had quality issues with the tone holes, and a Mauriat System 76 that was fun to play on but not adjusted very well. I could tell it was leaking in a few places so it was hard to comment on.

They had lots of tenors there, too. Was a fun afternoon. Any of these horns would serve you well, save for the Eastman, which was just bad. But all the Yanagisawa and Yamaha horns were very good horns. Just about your personal preferences.

- Saxaholic
 

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I have owned all the altos on your list and I agree with everything andre251 said above. Right now I’m using an 82Zii as my main alto (but with a different neck.) If you do choose an 875ex, make sure you get the latest version (ii? iii?) because it has improved intonation. I actually prefer the A901 to the WO models. You might be able to find a great deal on a 901 because they’re not the latest model. Good luck in Japan.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the information. I tend to go for dark and complex sound and had been eyeing the 875EX and the AWO20 based on online reading, but I also like having some variety and am now interested in the 82Z. The plan is to buy one Yamaha and one Yani. I guess the next step is to play them and see what's what.
 

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Dark and complex?
Definitely 875EXII and WO20.
These will both still be flexible for variety. I fear the 82Z will be too bright if you starting point is dark and complex.

Try horns and I would love to hear what you come up with!
:)
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I ended up going with the AWO20 and the 875EX Custom. Best options for me and my playing style. Waiting to get over the inevitable airline crud before I really work them both out, but I’ll post a full review shortly.

The flight back was painless. The airline let me carry both horns on. The buying experience (at a major store) was positive but...unique...given my barely sufficient Japanese and the lack of English speakers working that day. Got screaming deals on both horns. Highly recommend taking the opportunity to pick something up if you ever find yourselves in Japan.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
A little more information.

I only looked at three Japanese-made saxophones: the 82Z, the 875EX, and the AWO20. All were new.

Japanese saxophones, in Japan, are about 1/2 to 2/3 the price in the US. Probably a combination of a good exchange rate and the store being 20 miles from the factory. There were also some used Yani 9XXs for very, very good prices.

European and vintage American saxophones are considerably more expensive than in the US. Probably a combination of demand, limited supply, and import costs. Conns and Bueschers were going for several thousand and there was an early Mark VI, albeit in very nice condition, for $17,000. These seemed like typical prices in every store I visited; just the unique factors of a foreign market.

Thus, I didn’t consider anything but new Japanese-made horns.

Purchasing them and bringing them back was painless, but I do speak limited Japanese which helped.

The airline ticket agents got an “oh s—-“ look on their faces when saxophones were mentioned and not only let me carry them on but also let me board first so I’d be sure to find room in the overhead bins. I got the distinct impression that no one at the airline wanted to take any responsibility for damaged musical instruments and bent over backwards to avoid it. Whatever their reasons, props to them for making it easy.

I don’t know if the customs officer messed up or if this is actually a thing, but he claimed that horns for professional musicians are duty-free and let me go through with no duties due. Obviously, I didn’t argue. It would have been 2.9% of purchase price (save the receipt so they don’t try to use market value) otherwise, which really wasn’t much considering the value of the horns.

I usually need to play a saxophone at least four times with different mouthpieces before I feel like I understand it. I haven’t done that yet, but I worked out with the 875EX tonight. So, keep in mind my opinions are still incompletely formed.

The 82Z seemed a little “wild” in intonation and control. Definitely the brightest of the three.

The 875EX came with a G1 neck and a Yamaha custom 4 mouthpiece, which looks kind of like a hard rubber 4C. With that combination and a #3 Hemke reed it’s not particularly dark, but very even, mellow, and darkish-neutral in sound. The sound and intonation is extremely consistent across the entire range of the horn. I don’t know how Yamaha did it, but they made a horn that is both very stable and very responsive at the same time. You can hit perfect long tones and transition to fast pieces and back without needing to “babysit“ the horn (i.e., without excessively concentrating on embouchure and form) like you do with some vintage horns. You can move a little or a lot of air through it while maintaining very consistent performance, and I’ve not yet managed to push it to its limit (that will come in the next session). Very good horn so far. “Consistent under all conditions” would be the quick summary.

The AWO20 came with a Yani 5 mouthpiece. It has a bold sound, did not seem difficult to play, and the keywork is in slightly different positions and seems faster than on the Yamahas. I’ve not worked out with it yet, but I like what I’ve seen of it so far.

I’ll have a better understanding of the two horns at the end of this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The Yanagisawa sounds better the more air you put through it and the more open of a mouthpiece you use. It’s much more of a power horn compared to the Yamaha being more nimble and subtle. With enough air it becomes bold and raw; with too closed of a mouthpiece or not enough air it’s sluggish and hesitant. I’ve not found its sweet spot yet, but it’s mouthpiece-sensitive and likes large chambers and large tip sizes.
 

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The Yanagisawa sounds better the more air you put through it and the more open of a mouthpiece you use. It’s much more of a power horn compared to the Yamaha being more nimble and subtle. With enough air it becomes bold and raw; with too closed of a mouthpiece or not enough air it’s sluggish and hesitant. I’ve not found its sweet spot yet, but it’s mouthpiece-sensitive and likes large chambers and large tip sizes.
Thanks for this information. I am just learning and I have an AWO20. Do you have a recommendation for a specific mouthpiece?
 

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Very good Thread,informative and interesting read.

I haven't experienced intonation issues with the YAS-82zII but I did when I had a 82z with the G1 neck. I'll be purchasing a 82zII soon and I'll post my finding after a month of hard use.
 

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Thanks much for the post! It is very informative and I'm looking forward to you posting more as you spend time with each horn.

I currently own and play the 875EX. About 2 years ago I had the chance to try an 82ZII, 3 Reference 54's, a Series III, and a series II.

From darkest to brightest (simplification), I'd rank them: 875EX, Series II, Ref 54, Series III, 82Z.

Basically, the 875 and Series II were similar, the Ref 54 was on its own in the middle, and the Series III and 82ZII were brighter horns. The 82ZII was the fastest and brightest of the group for sure - it wanted to jump out of my hands! The III was similar, but a had little more meat and core to the sound.

Of the bunch, the horn that most piqued my interest was the Series II. It played incredible, reminded me of my 875 in overall tone, but had a little more natural brightness and projection.

This demo really surprised me as I've read in so many threads how 'light and bright' Yamahas are, but that was not my experience, at least not with the 875.

I'm very curious as to where the AWO-series from Yani sits as I don't have any dealers close to me where I can demo.

Thanks again for posting!
 
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