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Saxophones Dooce's sax review

In case you missed it, I just got myself a rather lovely Yamaha 875, in black. Looks and sounds rather tasty. However this only came about after extensive, almost obsessive research and play-testing over a period of about 4 weeks, during which time I pestered, annoyed, and generally failed to buy anything from, sax dealers the length of England.

Up till then, I hadn't played many saxes at all apart from the B&M, Conn 10M and Cannonball that had been my previous tenors. Day after day (someone has to do it) of intensive blowing in rooms that varied from luxurious, carpeted, fully equipped mini-studios (sax.co.uk) to the space under the stairs where they sling all the spare cases (not saying, but I did wind up buying the 875 from them!), during which time I tried;


  • Yamaha 62
    Yamaha 82Z
    Yamaha 875
    Selmer Series II (about 7 or 8 of them)
    Selmer Mk6
    Yanagisawa 991
    Yanagisawa 901
    Keilwerth SX90R
    Mauriat 66 (in a bewildering variety of finishes)
    TJ Raw
    System 54
    BW M2

Some of these were always going to be outside of my budget, but it's great how sax dealers enthuse you into trying the next model up - great example of "upselling" - but thanks anyway - a £5,000 Mk 6 was never going to get on the shortlist but the opportunity to play it was appreciated.

Anyway, I came away with a very simplistic view of saxophone brands, and I appreciate that this will be controversial and will probably lead to scorn being poured on my head by far more experienced players than me.

So, my very tongue-in-cheek theory of saxophones; basically, all Taiwanese saxes are essentially the same. Honest, between the dozen or so Taiwanese saxes I tried and my (Taiwanese) Cannonball, I could not find sufficient difference to make me change. On some the tone/playability/flexibility was better, on some it was not as good, but there was no cosmic "oh my God" moment.

However when it came to the "Big 4" brands, each had their own clear identity.

Yamahas feel like a piece of precision engineering - beautiful action, staggering intonation, reliable, stable, effortless.

Selmers feel like a temperamental artiste - sometimes just good, sometimes mind-blowingly brilliant.

Keilwerths are like the Panzer tank division of saxophony, powerful brutes, low on subtlety but high on devastation.

Which leaves Yanigasawas. I can only think that because so many Taiwanese brands are copies of Yanis, they just didn't have an individual identity for me - beautifully made instruments, but nothing that stood out.

To those that disagree, I am sure you are right - you almost certainly have a greater breadth of knowledge and experience than me. To those who agree, you probably have no idea what you are talking about. A bit like me then......
:)

PS apologies to the manufacturers of Rampone and Cazzani, Borgani, Barone, Antigua, Vibratosax and the many others who did not feature in this review. Better luck next time.......
 

Taz

Busking Oracle
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Rugby UK
Hey! Kindly remember that, before you invite all this in coming FlaK, you warn your "little old buddy" just down the road, so that I can keep my head down! Come on Bill, you know that none of them could hit a barn door at twenty paces, let alone accurately "drop one" on Dooce mansions!



Scurries off to hide in the shed! >:)
 

daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
Messages
3,303
Great choice.I love Yamahas.Is yours the original 875 or the EX 875.Both amazing of course.When i got my last silverplated Z brand new i nearly went for an original silver 875 tenor.It was a close thing.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Café Supporter
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Am I correct that you are writing about tenors here ? Some interesting stuff for sure.

I would be interested in your opinion on the Yamaha 82Z vs their 875 that you ended up buying.

I have also heard really good things about the Selmer Serie III - did you try one of them or the Reference models ?

And just to stir things up a bit, what about any views on the effects of materials and finish ?

Rhys
 

daveysaxboy

Big ruff Geordie bendy metal blower
Messages
3,303
Am I correct that you are writing about tenors here ? Some interesting stuff for sure.

I would be interested in your opinion on the Yamaha 82Z vs their 875 that you ended up buying.

I have also heard really good things about the Selmer Serie III - did you try one of them or the Reference models ?

And just to stir things up a bit, what about any views on the effects of materials and finish ?

Rhys

Well heres my opinion.As you know i've had 4 Z's and i think there Yamahas finest hour.I've blew a few original 875 tenors.Not blew the EX 875 yet.The Z is more instant,louder and more free.The 875 sounded more restrained but in a nice way.Felt more like a Selmer vibe were the Z just feels much more alive which i love.Still miss that silver Z i must say.I've tested alot of Selmer serie III's which i think are selmers best modern horn along with the Ref 36.The serie 3 is a brighter horn than the 36 but again in a nice way.I had a silver plated serie 3 tenor.Very good horns but again if i was buying a new horn it would be a Borgani or Z or a Keilwerth.These 3 modern horns really stand out for me,Borgani have a very special sound as do JK and the Z's are truly alive horns in your hands.My silver Z i tested along side about 5 MKVI tenors,a JK nickel tenor,very sweet it was.The silver 875 tenor and a unlacquered Z and a black lac Z,well i picked the silver Z.All the Z's were very close in sound.Never blew or owned a bad Z.Consistent is the word and thats a yamaha thing for sure.
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
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1,433
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Daventry
Well heres my opinion.As you know i've had 4 Z's and i think there Yamahas finest hour.I've blew a few original 875 tenors.Not blew the EX 875 yet.The Z is more instant,louder and more free.The 875 sounded more restrained but in a nice way.Felt more like a Selmer vibe were the Z just feels much more alive which i love.Still miss that silver Z i must say.I've tested alot of Selmer serie III's which i think are selmers best modern horn along with the Ref 36.The serie 3 is a brighter horn than the 36 but again in a nice way.I had a silver plated serie 3 tenor.Very good horns but again if i was buying a new horn it would be a Borgani or Z or a Keilwerth.These 3 modern horns really stand out for me,Borgani have a very special sound as do JK and the Z's are truly alive horns in your hands.My silver Z i tested along side about 5 MKVI tenors,a JK nickel tenor,very sweet it was.The silver 875 tenor and a unlacquered Z and a black lac Z,well i picked the silver Z.All the Z's were very close in sound.Never blew or owned a bad Z.Consistent is the word and thats a yamaha thing for sure.

I missed the Series III out of my list - forgot that one. Yeh, a very bright, incredibly free-blowing horn I thought - too much for me, I like a bit of resistance (ooh, er, missus...). Mine is the original 875, pre the EX, with an M1 neck. I have played both, not back-to-back though, and I couldn't identify much difference - as you say, Yamahas are so consistent. I was stuck between the 875 and a one of the roomful of Series IIs that I played but the fact that the Selmers varied so much and the Yams didn't helped me decide. I also love the action on all the Yamahas - it's like nothing moves more than it actually has to - the range of movement on any key seems just marginally less than on any other brand.

You are spot on about the 82Z, a very vibrant horn but that's not what I was looking for; I actually wanted that restrained, refined sound. Apparently 875s are very popular with classical saxophonists. Even so, the first serious work I did with it was a demo of One Step Beyond for one of my bands - slapped a Rico Royal on and pushed it and she sounded like she was made for rock and roll! But lay it back using thicker tipped reeds like Vandoren ZZs or Zondas and she has a lovely, light, creamy sound.

Have you ever tried Cannonballs Davey? With your preferences, they would be worth a try. I know of a very good condition, lightly used Raven Big-bell model up for sale......

:)
 

dooce

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,433
Locality
Daventry
Am I correct that you are writing about tenors here ? Some interesting stuff for sure.

I would be interested in your opinion on the Yamaha 82Z vs their 875 that you ended up buying.

I have also heard really good things about the Selmer Serie III - did you try one of them or the Reference models ?

And just to stir things up a bit, what about any views on the effects of materials and finish ?

Rhys

Yes, sorry, missed out the sax size....I told you it was a rubbish review!! Yes it was Tenor Quest. As for finishes, my tiny brain was pushed to its limits comparing 20-odd saxes, let alone the intricacies of finishes, but I did try a silver and brass Yamaha 62 back to back, could have bought the brass, hated the silver (although I really wanted to like it) - and given the otherwise consistent nature of Yamahas, that tells some kind of story.
 

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