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Saxophones Yamaha YAS-280 - Refining a Classic

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 ......

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 .


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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My conclusion on the Horn .......... 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 ! .

Bizarre the ancient stuff they`ve left on this horn , it was pretty odd even by the time the 275 first landed but to make it through to the new 280 is downright weird especially as some of it must cost them more to implement ...
I was not a fan of Yamaha's transfer of manufacturing to Indonesia after playing and working on the Yamaha "Advantage" line. The quality was not nearly as good as the YAS-23, and the sax looked and felt "cheaper" in some respects. Apparently according to this article, they have started to get it right.

I would think it would be proper to give the author of this review the proper credit. It reads a lot like Stephen Howard's work. Is there any way to find out the author or the source? I checked on the U.S. advertised prices which are around $1400---almost £900 at the current exchange rate. What is more interesting is that the YAS-26 which replaced the YAS-23 is $2040 or $2168 in silver plating.
I had a brand new YAS-62 MkIII , the latest model and the 280 is just as well made (even has the same weird solder flow issues) , I played an Indonesian 275 Tenor a while back and know what you mean but they seem to have got things right now .... the YAS26 is the same as the 280 from what I can gather but with cosmetic diffs, dunno for sure as we don`t get them over here

As for the Author - I wrote it today myself straight off the bat after playing the horn for a couple of days ..... there`s no way I`d plagurise someone elses review (it can`t be that good, Kev only gave it 4 stars) - the pics are mine too

Here`s another Pic


And another .. All Copyright - Ads :)
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Kudos to your writing skill and your photography. The pictures are great. I'm looking forward to seeing the first 280 come across my bench to check it out.
Thanks John - I`m a Photographer by trade (Weddings, events, Theatre as well as commercial sector and product work) ,they were clumsy snaps really with a wanton disregard for colour matching etc but did the job :) . I used to write Synthesizer reviews back in the late 80s early 90s and was heavily into HiFi in those days and my style was very similar to the likes of Alvin Gold etc - I do read SH's reviews so stuff will rub off of course ;) ..

The somewhat glowing report is based on a combination of factors including firstly the build, fit and finish of the latest Mk3 variants of the YAS-62 taking a downturn (they aren`t as refined in anyway as the old Mk1 saxes), Secondly being an Indonesian made horn (with the Stigma attached) that I was expecting something more akin to the output from a generic Chinese factory than almost a match for Japan's latest and thirdly that they included a neck which seems to have at least close enough dimensions to mimick the old Pruple era 62 Mk1 neck soundwise (I was expecting the 275-Sanitizer neck at best), this was a big bonus ..

When I had a 275 here last year (a Japanese one) I swapped the necks back and forth from my YAS21 (the octave thingy didn`t work if I remember rightly but playing in the low octave was fine) and the horn livened up no end . as I said in the review, I couldn`t hear any diff between the 62-Pruple neck and the stock 280 neck ..

The actual Lacquer may not be as deep and high quality as the 62`s but to be honest, I wasn't knocked out with the 62 MkIII in this respect either, the lead free soldering as pointed out in SH`s review of my MkIII is the same on this 280 (no better no worse) , the setup however IS infinitely better ! , that MkIII was a disgrace as Steves review pointed out .
I wonder whether there could be an issue of consistency?

A few years ago a semi-professional guitarist friend used to brag that the Stratocaster copy he was playing (not a Squier, just a cheap copy) cost him a mere £85.00 brand new. He explained that he'd visited a guitar warehouse-type shop that specialised in the low end of the market and spent most of a day trying instruments until he found one that was really good. The point he made was that there were good cheap guitars out there but you had to know what you ere doing and take the trouble to find one, otherwise you'd end up with rubbish.
One things Yamaha always were was consistent , lets face it, even the worst of the Indo 275s usually played beautifully from end to end, they just needed to get the Quality standards in place and settled in by the looks of it (Much like Fender in Mexico as you mention guitars) ..

sample variation was rife with Selmer (may still be , dunno) same for other sax makers but with Yamaha and Yani, it`s not been an issue . their setups (in Japan at least) seem to have slipped , someone with a new MkIII tenor reported to Steve the same after reading his review of my Alto.. Yamaha are one of those companies who would likely fix that pretty quick, it`d be interesting to see how the setups are now from Yam Japan ........ Going by this 280, no complaints from the Indonesian plant

One thing China is good at, I mean REALLY good at is making superb guitars, I think they do this better than any musical instrument ( accordions must be their weakest) , they can knock out a les paul copy which is almost as good as a Gibson without breaking a sweat and some of their acoustics which retail at under £100 are breathtaking in sound . the problem as always is Profits . a company often starts out making top notch stuff (Thinking acoustics here such as LAG, Sigma etc) and when they`re established the quality starts to slip so the company can make more cash , the key is to get stuff made in the sweet spot . whether this applies to saxes or not I doubt but it was interesting hearing it from the guitar industry ..

Asian Saxes seem to get better as time goes on, TJ, Jupiter, Conn Selmer etc go from strength to strength though it`s been said that Bauhaus Walstein did the guitar makers trick and that the earlier ones are better ... Companies like Yamaha (and Fender, Gibson, Hohner etc) who build OEM factories in Indonesia and China usually need a year or two to settle in and from what I`ve read so far, rarely slip back
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I couldn`t hear any diff between the 62-Pruple neck and the stock 280 neck .

If that holds true also for the YTS 280 it will outplay the latest incarnation of the YTS 62. Some time back I had a chance to play a non-purple YTS 62 Mk I and I rember it as being rather lively and having some punch. A few month ago I walked into a music store to play my Jupiter 2089 Xo vs YTS 62 III and higher Yam models and a few Selmers. The YTS 62 was quite simply disappointing sound-wise. It was rather tame with respect to tone as well as volume. While the ergonomics were fine and no set-up peculiarities were apparent, I wouldn't consider the YTS 62 III on a shoping list in that price bracket. Anybody with experience of the YTS 280?

How about YAS 280 vs. YAS 480 or 475? The YAS 475 appears to have the YAS 62 Mk I neck. Don't know if they have switched it when moving to the 480 model. Is there a notable sound differnece between these and the 280.

If that holds true also for the YTS 280 it will outplay the latest incarnation of the YTS 62. Some time back I had a chance to play a non-purple YTS 62 Mk I and I rember it as being rather lively and having some

When they put the "62" neck on the MkIII they deliberately sanitized it to appeal to a wider audience so I doubt it`ll ever see a fancier version of the 280 neck though a 280 neck will fit and not expensive to buy at £90 new, the tameness you heard in that tenor is a result of this and is easily fixed with a cheap YTS-32 neck .. non purple Mk1s are the same as purple Mk1s and 32s soundwise ..

the 480 is a 280 with a tilting table, individual guards with adjusters , it`s still Ribless construction and stainless steel springs - IE:- a pretty pointless sax in the range now , I can`t see any point in buying one, I believe the Tenors and Altos are made in Indonesia too so the setup ought to be OK ;) - the Sops (still called 475s and the only sop below the Customs) are made in Japan .

I don`t know what neck is with the 480, the 475 had a cheaper version of the G1 neck (MkII 62) which was a bit tame also but not as tame as the mkIII neck . I`ve been very recently told that the last of the 275s had the 280 neck and Yamaha made it the same Part - I checked at Dawkes and it is^

if anyone wants me to measure the 280 Alto neck at various points I will , I`d even lend it out to YAS-62 owning UK`ers who are seriously considering ordering a neck from Dawkes so long as they pay Special delivery post both ways and don`t keep it too long ..
I am thinking of upgrading my tenor from a G4M. i was thinking of a TJ SR or something similar, should I now be considering a Yamaha yts 280 or a used YTS 62
...475 had a cheaper version of the G1 neck (MkII 62) which was a bit tame also but not as tame as the mkIII neck ...

Stephen Howard says in his review of the YAS 475 it is the original 62 neck on the 475 calling it a sensible re-use of a production line.

Could again be a chronological thing - I read it had a version of the G1 neck., the 32 definitely had the old 62 neck (or a version of it, the 32/475 necks aren`t as fancy) . maybe later 475s had the G1 clone ?. you never really know what is on what as timelines get blurred - the 32 is a prime example of this . Maybe some of the 475s got leftover 32 necks ?. more a sensible use of old stock than anything else ....

Likewise, Dawkes/Yamaha are selling the 280 and 275 Alto necks as the same now - the Japanese YAS275 I had here definitely did not have a 62 Mk1 formula / 280 neck on, you could tell a mile off, my first thought when playing the 280 was "Wow, this has some real life in it, sounds like a YAS21" -- whereas when I first played the Jap YAS275 tha was here last year it was "Ewww, that`s lifeless, where`s my YAS21 neck" ........
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I have just recently decided to give my tenor a bit of a rest and to give alto a try. You guess it, a YAS 475 crossed my way at a reasonable price. It is lively to my ears with a nice bottom end, but I need to work on the upper register which sometimes is a bit restricted with my tenor background. I realize those are different beasts. However, from memory when I tried a YAS 275 the YAS 475 has more substance to the tone. It is not only slicker mechanics on the intermediate horn. I have not yet played YAS 480 vs. 62 III but from experience with the tenor version I wonder if Yamaha may overcharge customers with the 62 based an prior merit of the mark I. One great idea is to put the 82z neck on a 62. I did that with the tenor and it brought the sound almost to the level of a 82z without the full price of the real 82z.

In your review you say: ".. 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 !"

Are you sure your 62 neck is a 62 neck?

I have a Japan 275 here as well as my 62 MkI Purple Logo and the necks are also identical dimensionally BUT there is a design difference in the brace. From your photo above I can see the 280 neck has the same squared-off section brace as my 275 has, below, but my 62 neck has a shallower hollow brace. 275 at bottom in 1st photo below and top in 2nd photo...



If your two necks are exactly the same, both having the squared off brace, then why would your 62 have a different neck to mine when they're both around the same age? I see the 62 Purple in Steve Howard's review, and the MkII 62 & MkIII on the same page, each look identical, brace-wise, to my 62's shallow, hollow one:

I tried the 275 neck on the 62 and vice-versa last week and found the 62 neck made the 275 sound more like a 62 and the 275 neck made the 62 sound more like a 275! Same with both necks on the SA80II. The 62 neck sounded nice on the Selmer, giving it a little more brightness. The 275 neck did nothing at all for it at all.

As everything else is identical between my 275 and 62 necks I guess the difference in sound is due to the different brace design.

Yours both having the squared off brace would account for the identical sound you found when swapping. But how did you end up with a student model neck with a Purple Logo badge on it??? :confused2:
Here's some photos of my 275 & 62 Purple necks, showing identical dimensions...


of course I don`t mean they`re Cosmetically identical :rolleyes: Sheesh man I`m not that Figgin stupid ! - LOL - . I`m on about distances, bores etc, the first thing SH noted about the Mk3 neck was the pip distance and length were different ....... the Pruple neck has a Purple badge inset, deeper gold lacquer, the refined brace etc , if it hadn`t , I`d have sent the thing back ........ don`t you remember me sending you a pic of the badge


I know what I 275 neck sounds like - "safe" (not as bad as the MkIII neck but safe) , or the one I had did, the 280 one like the 62 Mk1 neck is very lively indeed ..... the Brace can`t change the sound , only the bore and pip position can - the YAS21 had the cheap brace and it was the brightest of all necks
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So the brace on your 62 back is the shallow hollow one, yes? And I see your 62 badge is the real McCoy, the deeper purple of the best of the Pruples, same as mine, not the crimson pretender eh? ;)

Odd that the 275 and 280 necks must be absolutely identical but that 280 neck sounds better than the 275? Maybe the metal's a different thickness or a differing grade of brass perhaps? Who knows!
As everything else is identical between my 275 and 62 necks I guess the difference in sound is due to the different brace design
I've read that it may be possible to alter the response of a sax neck with slight differences (bulges?) in internal diameter at various points, although I'm not sure how feasible that would be on mass produced instruments. These subtle variations may not easily distinguishable to the eye, so two necks could look the same but play a bit differently. Measuring the outside diameter with a micrometer at different points along the length of the neck may reveal the differences between them - or not..
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