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Yamaha YAS-280 - Refining a Classic

Saxophones Yamaha YAS-280 - Refining a Classic

Experience
10 + years
Playing level
Advanced
Technical Knowledge
Reasonable level of technical knowledge
Market Knowledge
Reasonable
Yamaha have had a superb "Student" sax almost since they started making the things , they`ve had plenty of ups and very few downs - the 275 got bad press for glueing the joint to the bell even when it was made in Japan and further moans when they started making this model in their Indonesian plant - the reality is that the bell joint thing can be fixed and there`s nothing wrong with the Indonesian plant but Both ghosts have been laid to rest with the release of the 280 model ......

Yamaha-YAS280-4.JPG


Like the 275 made just before it, it`s made in Indonesia , but on going through the horn, you`d not know, the build, parts quality etc is every bit as good as a Japanese Made YAS-62 MkIII and the setup a damn sight better than the 62-III I had (though the action was heavy as they tend to be from the factory) ..

Also like the 275 and predecessors, it continues with the long key guard, this is the same as the YAS-62 Mk1 Purple Logo but without adjustable bump stops (they`re interchangeable) , the old YAS-61/21 two point bell stay and pearl high-F key touch dating from the same era has also made it this far as have the Stainless steel springs and the Strapless construction, I find this amazing but none of it hampers the performance .

Two things which have changed on the 280 are the Neck receiver which is now very much like the YAS-62's and the octave rod allows the fitting of custom necks including old ones off Purple logo 62s (which I tried) . the second is the mod to the low B-C# connection which first appeared on the 62 Mk3, Both are excellent additions .

Yamaha-YAS28.JPG


These are classed as "Student" Saxes (I prefer the term "Budget") but at over £700 , neither are words I`d choose, it`s a lot of cash but saying that I feel this horn is worth the asking price, the refinement after adjustment is up to 62 MkIII levels under the fingers (though the old Mk1 62s are slicker) .

the sound is if anything better than the latest 62 because the 280 actually comes with a copy of the 62 Mk1 Neck instead of the 62-III`s rather tame "62" version (which I thought was a bad move as it De-Yamaha'd the horn even more than the G1 did) .. I swapped between the neck off my 62 Purple Logo and the stock 280 neck and couldn`t hear a damn difference - laying them out, they`re exactly the same, the length octave pip position, the lot ! . I had to buy a Mk1 neck when I had a 62-III - no need with the 280, it comes with one right in the case . as you can imagine, this horn rips, makes the 62-III with its stock neck sound dull and flaccid, in fact the sound reminded me of the old YAS-21 (arguably the most lively of the Yamaha Altos)

when compared to my classic `89 Purple Logo YAS-62 using the same neck for easy A:B'ing , it lacks the Nth degree of refinement in the upper register, the midrange is a tad recessed and the low end actually a bit deeper but all this equates to about 10% (similar to the Diff between a Mk3 62 and the Mk1 both with the Mk1 neck) , the horn feels better to me than the 275s I`ve played (Japanese) and more like the YAS-62-III which is not a bad thing..

IMO the biggest difference between the YAS-280 and a YAS-62-III with a Mk1 neck on is Snob Value, the little niceties the 62-III offers over it aren`t deal breakers as far as I`m concerned and this line of horns has proven itself to take on heavy Pro work and last the distance as well as the 61/62/82 line . Don`t thnk of this as a "Student" Horn, think of it as a way of saving a LOT of cash (even more when you don`t have to buy a Mk1 Neck) - if you don`t like the bright lively delivery of the 280`s 62-Mk1 clone neck then you`re better off with a different make of Sax because the G1 (MkII) and "62" (MkIII) Necks just hold these horns back in my book .

Bad Bits ? . the case is a cheaper version of the 62 Mk-III case thankfully without the useless magnetic flap but still a light zipper job of questionable longevity - I still think that Yamaha ought to cave in and put the modern bell brace on these things , I know they do it (along with the even sillier lack of bump adjusters) to protect the "intermediate" 480 model but to be honest, the improvements to the 280 and the dumbing down of the 62-III have realistically squeezed out any point of the 480 model to begin with ..

the 280 still hasn`t got a tilting table or blued steel springs (so like the Mk1 62 in that respect) but I find tilting tables actually slow things down, and stainless springs were good enough for the 61 & 62 Mk1 - a weird thing is that they have stuck with the old YAS61 style front F pearl touchpiece which really is bizarre, especially when even the cheapest Chinese jobs have the modern teardrop style (and Bump adjusters, and tilting tables and blue springs, Ribbed construction etc LOL ) .........

This leaves me seeing and Hearing the YAS280 as a sort of Indonesian knockoff of the YAS-62 Mk1 with some YAS-61 stuff left on - and made by Yamaha themselves ........ Hey, that`s pretty damn good in my book ! .

July 1st 2015 Update

I spent quite a while A:B-ing this horn again against the 1989 vintage Purple Logo 62, the minor difference between the two in sound (the 280s deeper low end and recessed mid, less refined highs) is barely noticeable from 10 feet away , in all fairness is far from night and day from the playing position and after a lube (the 280 had sat as little more than an ornament before I got it) , its losing that New horn stiffness (Remembered that from the 62 Mk3) and although I doubt the keywork will ever be as slick as the Purple Logo horn, I`m sure it`ll match the MkIII .. Anyway as a Tenor player who only doubles on Alto , it`s good enough for me (leaves me to add a Selmer or whatever :) .......

The 62 Purple Logo is now SOLD which says a lot for the 280 . I will say that I doubt it`d have happened if the neck had been the same as the one on the Jap YAS-275 I had as buying a Mk1 or modded YAS21 neck would up the cost quite a lot .....
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Nice review!
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Great review and very thorough.
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