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Suspicious Engineering

PNut

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Canada
I own a Yamaha YAS - 23 Student Model. Great sax to learn on for the past 3 years.

My sax was definitely a learning curve, but when I entered the realm of the altissimo it’s only now I can barely hit a high F#; hitting a G is impossible.

I found out the lower note issue was fixed with the twist of a screw!

I later came across this video regarding sax price v. quality (sound).

View: https://youtu.be/MxRsf_awTNE?t=60



If they can build a sax that can play perfectly without much effort eg. the first one in the video a Selmer Balanced Action, why not a student model YAS - 23 or other lower priced saxophones?

Are they engineering out quality sound especially with respect to low and high end notes? Why should the price make any difference?
 

Terrytoolpath

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Rugby
Like most things in life you get what you pay for, but then occasionally you don’t pay for what you get
 

Greg Strange

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Hamilton, Waikato, North Island, New Zealand
Nothing wrong with the Yamaha 23 series of saxophones...

Yamaha YTS23 tenor sax review

Altissimo G is a hard note to play on any saxophone - what fingerings are you using and what fingerings have you used? With playing altissimo it's all about overtones and working on the voicings on your particular saxophone. Practice and patience is the key here...

also when was the last time your saxophone had a set up or a service...

Good luck,

Greg S.
 
OP
PNut

PNut

New Member
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Canada
Thx for your reply. Did you watch the video? She is an experienced sax player. The difference is obvious.
 

Greg Strange

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Hamilton, Waikato, North Island, New Zealand
Thx for your reply. Did you watch the video? She is an experienced sax player. The difference is obvious.
I hope the difference is obvious - comparing a French made late 1940s / early 1950s professional alto saxophone to an Indonesian made 21st century student alto saxophone is hardly fair - it's like comparing a classic car for example 1960s Aston Martin or Ferrari to a 2019 Toyota Corrolla...:confused2:

If you practise diligently you can become an experienced player like the young woman in the video...:thumb:

Good luck,

Greg S.
 
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PNut

PNut

New Member
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Canada
My point as demonstrated in the video... she is experienced. That should translate into her being able to reach the notes on the lower end saxophones.
 

Ne0Wolf7

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551
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Long Island
When you say without that much effort, are you referring to how hard the player works, or how diffficult it is to manufacture?
 
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PNut

PNut

New Member
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25
Locality
Canada
The video demonstrates what happened. View it.
 

Ne0Wolf7

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551
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Long Island
I did, but I thought the sentence was a little unclear. You talk about both playability and manufacturing in the original post.
If you were asking about the manufacture and engineering of saxes, I'm not knoledgable enough to give a meaningful answer.
As for playability, its going to depend mostly on the player. When I bought my sax, a yamaha 62, I tried it along side a selmer (and others), and I thought that it was the selmer that made it harder to hit high and low notes, which is the opposite of what she thought.
 
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PNut

PNut

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Canada
I understand the nuances of the saxophone. Tone holes, pads, set up, reeds, mouthpieces, player etc. Anyone or more can affect the sound of the instrument. I am assuming those instruments in the video are all set correctly. She uses the same mouthpiece, and reed for each sample run. It would seem logical to me when a saxophone is designed, and engineered, and built; in the hands of a professional player, all notes should sound out. Isn't that the purpose of building the instrument in the first place? Sure the type of metals used vary affecting the "quality" eg. silver sounds sharper. I hope I've clarified my position.
 

Ne0Wolf7

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551
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Long Island
I think this comes down partly to differences in reeds and mouthpiece and how they interact with the instrument. She is a jazz player and presumably uses equipment made wit jazz in mind whereas I am a classical player and use equipment intended for that use. Even equipment made for similar purposes, or the very same equipment where the only difference is the person playing it, will interact differently with each sax. So, when you consider the infinitely many ways different people form their embrasures, support the breath, articulate, etc. it would make sense that some saxes will be preferred by some people.
When a company like yamaha makes a student line and professional line, I can't say with any certainty what the differences really are, but the thing that effects the sound an instrument makes is the internal dimension of the tube. It could be that the "student" instrument had a lot less research and development of that aspect (along with possibly inferior production methods and materials) than the "professional" model did and that's what accounts for the price difference.
 

Halfers

Finger Flapper
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Hampshire
I can't answer the technical side of your question, unfortunately. I'm sure a techie can explain the differences in manufacturing and the work and expertise that goes into getting perfectly performing Sax.

There's the possibility that the SBA, being an expensive and 'star of the showroom' instrument had been fettled to within an inch of its life in order to play perfectly and attract that starry eyed Dentist with a space on his wall to fill, and the Yamaha and Jupiter were just removed from the plastic wrapping and hung on the wall. Also, In fairness, the reviewer did mention that her own particular Selmer demanded more work than the SBA on the high and low end.

The declaration that the Yamaha 'was a bit sharp' on notes, was interesting, as the reviewer had simply plopped on the mouthpiece without tuning it. Appreciating it's a vox pop of a review.
 

saxyjt

I have saxophone withdrawal symptoms
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I watched the video and I'm no wiser. She didn't prove anything. Just gave her quick impression on a few horns.

The sax you are used to is often better as you unconsciously adapt yourself to it. I just finished the overhaul of an old Martin Indiana that is a student model. I didn't like it so much as I only picked it up once in a while and it felt strange. But the more I play it, the better I feel about it. I'm pretty sure that if I pick my usual Yamaha, it will feel like coming home.

She's no different and that's what she says a few times in fact. Finally, her mouthpiece may be better suited to the SBA than to the others. Sopranos are known to be very mouthpiece sensitive, but altos are also prone to respond better to some mouthpieces.

Then if a 4000£ horn plays better than a 1000£ horn, that's rather reassuring. The contrary would be quite upsetting!

Now, what is it that makes a difference?

Build quality. That means better quality at every step of the process. If you ask the techs here, they will attest that the low end Yamahas like 23, 275, 280 are very well designed and built. But if you take a 62, it's even better. More robust and with more refined tuning elements, like bumper felts on screws or front F adjustment screws.

When building something like a saxophone, more refined built tolerance must be expensive. Do they use different material for parts? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised. That explains part of the price difference.

Then there must but some marketing influence too as prices vary from 1000£ to over 5000£ and I'd be curious to know the actual costs and margins.
 

Stephen Howard

Well-Known Member
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1,878
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UK
If they can build a sax that can play perfectly without much effort eg. the first one in the video a Selmer Balanced Action, why not a student model YAS - 23 or other lower priced saxophones?
They can - and the YAS 23/280 will do it...provided it's in good working order.
If you can't get subtone on a Yamaha, either your embouchure's not up to it or the horn's got a leak somewhere. And these days it holds true for pretty much any horn.
The Jupiter 500 isn't the best budget horn out there but it's still a capable instrument - and I noticed that she fluffed the low notes before she realised that the mouthpiece wasn't on far enough (which will nearly always knacker the low notes). She corrected the mouthpiece position but then didn't return to the low notes to see if they had improved.

I'm also a bit puzzled that she didn't notice much a difference between the feel of the action on the Yamaha and that of the Selmer.
The factory setup on a Yamaha is very much on the strong side. Five minutes with a springhook is one of the easiest and most effective upgrades you can make to a new Yamaha - and I think I'd be a bit disappointed if I tweaked a Yamaha, handed it back to the player and was told they couldn't feel a difference. In fact I'd be bloody amazed.

It's also not that surprising that an experienced player can struggle with different makes of horns. When you spend a lot (or all) of your time on one horn, you do rather tend to get locked into the way it responds - and that can make switching between brands quite challenging. It takes time to get the feel of a horn...and even for someone like me, who gets to play a huge variety of horns on a regular basis, there are still times when I have to learn to find the core of a horn. And this can be true for vintage and modern horns alike. The first time I tried a Yamaha 480 soprano I thought they'd made a huge mistake with the body tube because I could hardly play a scale in tune. Half an hour later I was wondering why I'd had any problems with it all...it all just came into line.

The fact is, there's really not that great a difference between a budget horn and pro one in terms of playability (assuming good setup/build quality) - and what that extra grand or two gets you is really quite an incremental change in the great scheme of things. What you have to decide is whether that slight improvement is worth the price you're being asked to pay. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't - which is why we all end up with different horns.

.
 

spike

Old Indian
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Half way up a hill
Video blond daft if you ask me.
When I buy a new horn I don't just take a couple off the wall and end up with that one.
I play at least a half a dozen of each. They're all different. Price tag to my mind is totally irrelevant.
My present gig horn is a JK SX90 bought it in 1998/9 I tried 5 supposedly identical models - none hit the spot.
I went back a week later and went into the warehouse and found a perfect diamond fresh out the box.
It's now 20 years old needs a tweak every now and then and still suspiciously wonderful.

Couple of weeks ago I bought a Chinese Take-Away as a back up horn for a 10th of the price of my SX90.
Once again I played everything my dealer had in stock. Must've been around 8 or 9 supposedly identical models.
The tech wasn't on duty at the time and I bought the best of the bunch.
Took it home and tweaked it myself it was only the Bis, G#, F# mechanism that was a bit iffy.
Okay maybe the component parts may or will not be as hard wearing as my JK but it's still a crackin' horn.

Bottom line for me:
If yer gonna hammer yer horn 12 hours a day, 7 days a week then it's probaly advisable to spend a little more.
But don't just buy the first one off the wall. Try 'em all.

And if yer an internet crawler trying to find the cheapest deal, you'll get what you pay for and you'll kill off the local music shop with every peny you save. Grrrr.

Must agree with Stephen's last paragraph:

The fact is, there's really not that great a difference between a budget horn and pro one in terms of playability (assuming good setup/build quality) - and what that extra grand or two gets you is really quite an incremental change in the great scheme of things. What you have to decide is whether that slight improvement is worth the price you're being asked to pay. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't - which is why we all end up with different horns.
 

jbtsax

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Beautiful Springville, Utah USA
My current understanding of the acoustic differences between different makes and models of saxophones is based upon what I learned from reading Benade and this scientific study Some Aspects of Tuning and Clean Intonation in Reed Instruments. A summary is as follows:

According to Benade each tone contains a fundamental and a series of overtones or harmonics. Ideally the frequencies of these harmonics are exact whole number multiples of the frequency of the fundamental, but often this is not the case due to the interior geometry of the saxophone. The term for this is "inharmonicity".

The fundamental and the harmonics closest to it form what Benade calls a "regime of oscillation" in which the frequencies that are whole number multiples combine and share energy. When frequencies that are not exactly whole number multiples of the fundamental are pulled from their peaks to line up with the fundamental in the "regime of oscillation" they lose or "give up" part of their energy.

This result of this "inharmonicity" is that in order to produce the same intensity of sound the player must put more energy into the instrument, ie. blow harder/use more air. Musicians often refer to this as the "response" of their instrument. All saxophones and set-ups reach a point where if played any louder, the reed closes off. In other words they reach their maximum energy level. Saxophones that are extremely well designed and manufactured will allow the player to generate more decibels before the reed closes off because the "harmonicity" of each of the notes means less energy is lost and the sound production is more efficient.
 

altissimo

Well-Known Member
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3,356
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leicester
comparing saxes is always difficult - unless they've all been set up the same and all have no leaks, one can play better than the other irrespective of make or price.
The best sax in the world won't play very well if it's leaking, the low notes in particular will suffer. Even if a sax plays perfectly when it leaves the factory, it may not do so by the time it's traveled a few thousand miles.
Chances are that the £4K vintage Selmer has had a lot more attention from a woodwind tech than the straight out of the box student Yamaha.
..
Your YAS 23 is probably over 20 years old - Yamaha have changed the model number on their student saxes a few times since then,
If it's not been overhauled recently then it may not be in optimum playing condition.
Having said that, the ability to play altissimo is rarely affected by leaks - my horn's full of leaks, but I can gliss an octave and a bit in the altissimo register just by using my embouchure. A mouthpiece with an accurate facing curve and the right kind of embouchure will get you up into the upper stratosphere. If you just rely on the fingerings alone and don't adjust your embouchure then life will be more difficult

I also think that the assumption that you can work your way up sequentially in the altissimo register may not be the best approach - some notes are a lot harder than others, so maybe better to get some confidence playing the easier ones and get your embouchure used to the peculiarities of altissimo playing. than struggle with one of the hard ones and wonder if the instrument's to blame.
 

Colin the Bear

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13,019
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Burnley bb9 9dn
A well regulated cheap horn will play better than a poorly regulated expensive horn.

A leaky horn will have poor tone and intonation.
Any well regulated horn will play well and easily.
I'm of the opinion that a quick play test compares the regulation, not the horn.

It takes quite a while living with a horn to find the best set up, to regulate out all the little niggles and to lip the best out of it. Only then can you decide if you like it. Better or worse is so subjective as to be almost meaningless.

All my gear4music saxes play easily from top to bottom. Sometimes 10 mins with a screwdriver, cork, glue and felt are involved. The Weltklang baritone sometimes needs pliers and a toffee hammer.

A saxophone can go out of regulation between solos. A novice player will assume it's them. An experienced player with a familiar horn will look what 's fallen off, moved or come loose. I would never assume a horn was well regulated if it won't play easily and strongly.
 
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