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Saxophones Ok buying first alto for 9 yr old...does an older YAS-23 really sound better than later models?


Hi so my kid has been playing guitar for a couple years now...has great fingers and learns her way around the fretboard really well compared to when I started playing as a boy. But she's just not incredibly passionate about it. But she has fallen for the sound of an alto.

So reading up I've found that the YAS-23 is a solid bet for starter sax. There's two in my area. One is a later model, the serial number starts with 3, has the later engraving of the logo. But see then there's this older one....has the older engraving, with the small logo to the left of the 'YAMAHA' name....serial number starts with '1'. The seller confirms that it has no dings, dents or anything they are both around the same price.

From what I've read, some people say that the older 23s that are Maiden Japan have superior tone than the later models. Some say no big diff.

A high school music teacher I know says vintage horns are a different breed (is this that vintage?), and recommends a later model 23, or the YAS 280, there's a similar priced model of that one on kijiji. But I read a couple opinions on another forum that said the 280 isn't as well made as the 23s were, regardless of era.

I don't know much about horns, never played a horn, so looking for some solid advice.

I'd like to pick up one or the other tomorrow, especially if the older one is more desireable, because that seller is a ways away but will be in my area tomorrow. If anyone can help I'd really appreciate it.

Any diff between the older 23 and newer?
The 280 or one of the 23s? Or another suggestion? all the ones I'm looking at are in the 575-600 range...(CAD)

It is my understanding that when Yamaha switched their student sax production to Indonesia the saxes were named something other than YAS-23 like 280. The ones made in Indonesia I have worked on are not made as well as the Japanese models, even though they play about the same. If I am correct, all of the 23's were made in Japan and are of the same quality. Another bet is to look for a Vito student sax that says made in Japan. It is identical to the YAS-23 except for the name on the bell. These can often be purchased for a few hundred less than a comparable Yamaha. I buy them in my area for around $200 - $250 to repad and resell.
Buy the one that does not need an overhaul
He isnt going to meet the horns potential for some time.
Dont buy a hole to throw money in,
A good YAS-280 or a good YAS-23 would both be excellent. They are a lot better than just "starter" saxes.
Personally, I would probably go for the one that will need the least repair work to get it into tiptop playing condition.
But this will be hard to tell if you are not a player. Do you know anyone who you could ask to come and try the horns?
I'm not a Yamaha expert, but I don't know any reason why an older YAS-23 would be better than a later YAS-23.
They all sound different. And we all have a sound in our head that we want to achieve. I’d say ignore the reviews. Take your child to a local music shop to try out the second hand ones. She will pick the one with her sound. And don’t forget to buy a mouthpiece she likes and can play.
Thanks so much for all the advice so far. See here's the two:

Yamaha YAS-23 Alto Saxophone in Great Condition! on Kijiji Yamaha YAS-23 Alto Saxophone in Great Condition! | Woodwind | City of Toronto | Kijiji

And the older one:

YAMAHA YAS 23 alto on Kijiji YAMAHA YAS 23 alto | Brass | Oakville / Halton Region | Kijiji

According to the sellers, The older one was recently 'overhauled', and has "no dents, dings, in tip top shape" for whatever that's worth.

The newer one was bought used from a good shop in Toronto, no dings and was "lightly used" over the last year and a half..she says she doesn't play it any more.
Can one of the experts say whether the pad at the bottom right is OK?
Looks as if it has gunk around it.
(This is the newer one.)

difficult to see seeing as the pad is sprung shut - those dark marks could be gunge on the pad or, dirt, corrosion on the tone hole_ common on low Eb pads and toneless.
To change a low Eb pad would cost around £10 UK.
I appreciate the look. I can get the older one for 500. What say you wise saxamaphonists?
Can one of the experts say whether the pad at the bottom right is OK?
Looks as if it has gunk around it.
(This is the newer one.)


Cleaning the pad (and tone-hole rim) using a cotton-bud soaked in lighter fluid will help. By default (i.e. when the horn isn't being played) that pad is normally sprung closed - so gunk can easily build up. Even if that pad is a write-off, it's dead easy to replace. I've done that job on a few YAS-23s over the years. Alternatively, any sax-tech can do the job very quickly - it's a very simple and inexpensive repair.

YAS-23s are truly excellent horns that punch well above their weight. But then I'm prejudiced:- I've got a real soft spot for YAS-21s, YAS-23s and YAS-25s. They are so good it's quite spooky.
I'm afraid the serial number doesn't tell you the age of the Yamahas. Then what ammters is not the age but the condition. The NEWER one has more detailed pictures than the OLDER one so it's difficult to compare the two.

In any case, you'll be well inspired to have the horn you buy checked by a sax tech.

I have (too) many 23s/25s to in both alto and tenor flavors and they are very good.

Can the sellers provide more pictures?
Frankly, buying a starter sax for a 9yr old girl isn't about sound. It's about playability. She'll sound terrible for ages. Sax sound is 70%player, 20% mouthpiece and the rest the sax. Even if there is a difference, if won't matter and is more likely to be down to manufacturing variation, not age.

Buy the one that's in the best playable condition. Get a decent starter mouthpiece and some lessons. You'll be amazed at how good she will sound in a couple of years. If she works at it.
says he can send more pics in an hour. Appreciate it eh. And yes the kid is going straight into lessons and meantime is reading and watching stuff on what to know before getting it, what to do once she gets it etc....practicing is mandatory in this house...commit to learning long term is a must.
The first one is in much better cosmetic condition. Worth the $75 difference IMO. Both are at a fair price. I would recommend a Yamaha 4C or Fobes Debut mouthpiece for her to start on.

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