The sax had originally been bought from Woodwind and Brass. The new owner had never played it, due to its weight, so I bought it, essentially new, for £600 off the list price.
Initial impressions are really good. The case is the size of a coffin, with loads of cubby holes, but manageable due to having wheels. The sax itself looks beautiful, with the bronze body and brass keys. I haven’t tried the supplied mouthpiece, as if the one I got with the sop is anything to go by, it’ll only be useful as a door wedge.
Looking at it in a bit more detail, things are not quite so good. The soldering looks very much like it has been done by several different people, with various degrees of skill. No real problems, just a bit inconsistent. Some of the rod guides are very badly finished off – sharp enough to nick my mid 40s leathery biker hands. They’d undoubtedly have cut the kids' fingers quite badly if they'd touched them. Filed ‘em down to the state they should have been done at the factory.
Usual BW problem of sticky pads. In this case, the worst affected is one of the three octave pads. There’s quite a lot of slop in the mechanism, so if the pad sticks, it won’t open at all. Lighter fluid time.
Key guards are a bit flimsy, but adequate. Bell brace is pretty chunky. Top bow brace flimsy, just folded flat brass, but the Buescher survived for forty years or so without one at all, so probably not a big deal.
So, after a few (minor) tweaks, ready to have a play. On goes the superb Runyon Smoothbore and a RJS 3S reed. From the outset, it shows itself to be a great sax. Miles better ergonomics than the old Buescher, although it’s a fair bit heavier. I can rattle up and down the range at a fair lick. Tone? Not so much bark as the Buescher, a smooth and rich tone. The amazing thing about it is its complete consistency right through the range. The tone at the top is the same as at the bottom, only higher. I know that sounds a bit daft, but lots of saxes have a different sort of tone in different registers. Not this one. Low A booms out, or whispers, if you want it to. I don’t want it to, I didn’t buy a bari to whisper. Gordon Bennett, it even makes altissimo a breeze. Altissimo on a bari? Strange concept, but it can do it (or to be more precise, I can do it on this sax) if needed. The Mrs F came into the room while I was playing. She’s not really very interested in saxes, but even she commented on how nice it sounded. High praise indeed.
So, the overall quality of manufacture is not as high as I might expect from a Yanagisawa (and get, I know as I have two Yanis), but the BW is less than half the price of the cheapest bronze Yani. For the money, the quality of the finish is OK. For the money, the quality of the playing experience is outstanding. Simply amazing.
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