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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 ......
Yamaha-YAS280-4.JPG



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 .

Yamaha-YAS28.JPG


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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Yeah, all 62 necks have the flat brace - I think there`s a Bore difference between the Proper 275 neck (Japanese) and the 62 one David, the 280 one must be the same as the Mk1 62 ... The brightest of all is the 21 neck which has the cheap brace etc ......... I say "cheap" brace but it looks more expensive to make and implement than the simpler flatter 62 one and probably more effective too .
 

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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

I`d definitely put them on the list - a used 62 would set you back about a grand, a used 32 about £500-600 , I`ve never seen a used YTS280 , in fact this is the first used YAS-280 I`ve seen, if you call being left on a stand as an ornament "used" - SRs seem to go for about £800-£900 used ......... I`ve not played the SR but if it really is to the Sig Custom what the Yamaha 280 is to the 62/82Z then it`s got to be a realty good horn too - play them off and see which gets the hairs standing :D ..

It`s a shame that two members here both had Brand new SRs passing through for sale and neither opened them to try then and give an opinion compared to well known horns (inc G4M) ..
 

Nick Wyver

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Regarding the 2 necks. Have you tried checking their respective volumes? See if they hold the same amount of water.
 

dref

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I have three horns ,G4M tenor Thomman soprano. and Carmichael alto. They are all decent players and the three of them together didn't cost as much as a decent student instrument. So I think I have achieved state of the art value for my money if not state of the art saxophones. You have got me interested in this new Yamaha YTS 280.is the tenor as good as the alto. If those horns are roughly equivalent to older 62 models at half their price They may be the best value buy in the saxophone world today.
 

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If the old Mk1 62 is widely regarded as better than the II or III, I'd be amazed if Yamaha are doing themselves out of high value sales by making a student sax far better than their current pro model 62.
 

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"Better" depends on whether you like the Bright Mk1 sound - and judging by Yam's move to sanitize the model in greater degrees as the model progresses, you`d think that most people in the big wide world of Sax buyers probably Do Not .... if you do then you`ll like the YAS-280 a lot more than the 62 Mk3 (Otherwise you`d need to buy a Mk1 neck for the Mk3 like I did - or just get a proper Mk1 horn in the first place) .....

Keywork wise, there isn`t the big gap between the 280 and the 62Mk3 that there is between an '89 Purple logo 62 and the 280 feel , speed and slickness wise ...... remember that my 62 Mk3 had been through the state of the art workshop of Stephen Howard !! - this 280 is as it came from Indonesia apart from me lightning the lower stack and the RH pinkies a bit . Lets face it, all the Yams are superb under the fingers after a setup.

There are loadsa cosmetic diffs of course and niceties on the 62-3 such as the better bell brace and the Ribbing (which is a moot point - losing it keeps the weight of the tenor down and is of doubtful advantage in an alto) the ribbing may alter the sound a bit (maybe that`s where the diff in midrange comes from) but it`s not night and day .
 
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You have got me interested in this new Yamaha YTS 280.is the tenor as good as the alto. If those horns are roughly equivalent to older 62 models at half their price They may be the best value buy in the saxophone world today.

They`re equivalent in sound to the MK1 models (the Alto is anyway) the keywork is more like the Mk3 models from having owned both Mk1 and MK3 62s - the Mk1s have slicker more refined keywork than the Mk3 has .. Whatever, it`s a great buy for £700 given that there are YAS21s still playing on which are 40 years old, YAS23s still gigging hard up to 35 years old , I see no reason why a 280 wouldn`t go the distance ..

Whether you like "That" sound in a Tenor is another matter - I prefer it in Alto but a thicker deeper sound from a Tenor (hence wanting to change my YTS61 for a RAW - which seem to combine the Depth of a MkVII with the cut and bite of a Yamaha .)
 

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Yeah, the G1 neck (62 MkII) and "62" neck (Mk3) offer a warmer tone but lose a lot of the life .. my suggestion is to try one as standard first against what you`re used to and anything else in the shop ............ if the action feels a bit heavy , it`s a Yamaha setup thing, the 62 is the same, though it`s a lot more noticeable on the Altos .

People look down their noses at the 21/23/25/275/280 because they`ve been inanely labelled "Student" horns (not least by Yamaha themselves) - and "Student" would appear to mean "Low end crap" which is the last thing these are , IMO they`re full on BUDGET professional horns capable of taking a kicking and keep on ticking for many decades as has been proven ..

Rant mode on ...

I remember reading about a sax learner saying that their 275 had taken them to grade-6 before they moved on to an 875 or a Yani 9932 or some other Ponce-o-matic blingathon which costs as much as a decent car .. Feck-man, full time Pros are giggng these 2 series horns day in day out .......... Colin the Bear does this with his G4M !! (an even lowlier beast) ,

The "student" tag is merely a means to shame burgeoning Sax newbies into spending more cash . if you can`t get to whatever the highest grade is (dunno about all that, I`m graded on by that I`m still in the band !!) without buying the top of the range sax then either the player or the grading system is seriously at Fault ..

That`s not to knock high end horns, we all love them and most want to own them and there ain`t nothing wrong with that - but Necessity depends on what you`re playing and if it really the horn that`s holding you back .

Rant mode off ........ ;)
 

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The "student" tag is merely a means to shame burgeoning Sax newbies into spending more cash . if you can`t get to whatever the highest grade is (dunno about all that, I`m graded on by that I`m still in the band !!) without buying the top of the range sax then either the player or the grading system is seriously at Fault ..
Yep. Did grade 8 clarinet on a tatty old B+H Edgware (this was in 1976-ish. If other exams are anything to go by it won't have got any harder since then). Got a distinction. A posher horn would have been nice, and I've got posher saxes than that now 'cause I like 'em and can afford it, but definitely not necessary. The principal clarinet in the LPO at the time (forget his name) played a week at Glyndebourne on a plastic B+H Regent. Nobody noticed.
 
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I bet they didn`t notice either .. things like less than perfectly balanced jewelled precision keywork , the nth degree of shaping of the pure MOP touchpieces, the fine tuning of palm key angles and the other stuff they bung on the top of the range horns like Four figure model Yanis (9932 etc) and any Yam with EX on the end are just the dusting of sugar on the icing on the cake

nice to have but any player worthy of being referred to as such could play a well setup battered 80s Yani-500 or new Yam 280 just as well as the fancier models after a short while getting used to the horns .. The best notes are the ones played slowly with passion, you don`t need EX-Custom (or Boosey symphony 1010) Keywork for that .
 

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Review now updated with a Jul1 1st Addendum (a week later)
 

dref

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I told my tutor about this review. He is an expert saxophonist and a fine jazz musician but he tried to talk me out of buying a yts 280. he said if i want a Yamaha I should look for a purple logo or, Yanagisawa or maybe a used Selmer. I know he hasn't even seen or heard one of these new Yamahas. Is this mere brand snobbery or does he know something that I don't
 

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Guess Ads will reply, but I'd expect he's basing his opinion on the 275 predecessor and hasn't yet been able to play/compare. Ads really covered the differences between the different models in a lot of detail and showed, at least in my opinion, why they're a really good alternative to the purple logos.

But... The real answer is to set a budget. Try as many saxes as you can in that price range and see which works best for you. Bear in mind reviews like this and others. Do you want new/shiney, or is old, scruffy OK, maybe even desired?

By Ads account (and he does have a Yamaha bias, especially for the earlier ones) you're getting a new purple logo for a substantial discount over a well used original. That's a pretty strong statement, especially coming from him.

Yanagisawa are excellent saxes, so are Selmers. I doubt you'll find anything from either maker that will match the price of a 280, unless you buy something pretty beat up that needs a lot spending on it. Is it worth spending extra? Your decision. Prestige may play a part. Does for a lot of people. But do they offer an advantage that's worth the price difference? It's for you to decide after trying them all.

The only downside I can see in the 280 is that they're only available new, so you have to take the first year depreciation into account if you want to sell soon. Whereas springing for a purple logo, you should be able to sell on in future for what you paid, or even turn a profit. But there are no guarantees either way.
 
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firstly , I don`t think even Andy Sheppard would describe himself as an "Expert Saxophonist" (whatever the rest of us think of him) .

Your tutor has a valid point but it depends on how much money you have and if its going to be your only/main horn - Purple Logos 62s are superb but the last of them were made in 1990 so 25 years old so make sure it`s OK and isn`t on the verge of needing a re-pad, out of the three this is cheapest option between £1000 and £1400 . new Yanis cost a (relative) mint even for the cheapest one (around £2000) and a used Selmer SA80-II about the same .. Try the TJ Sig Custom RAW while you`re at it (Arguably better than all three) these are all great "Horns for life" if that`s what you want .

I`d not buy a new horn unless cash wasn`t an issue (it always is for me so I buy used) and I`d certainly not buy a new low end horn like a YTS280 - there ought to be quite a few used minters with few miles on the clock about from failed "try-it" beginners but I`ve yet to see one .

My suggestion is to try as many as you can , there can`t be any hurry surely, @Colin the Bear plays and routinely gigs a Gear4Music Tenor year in year out without batting an eyelid and doesn`t seem to have aspirations towards elite horn ownership - high end horns are lovely to own (I`ve had a couple) but having one isn`t essential even for a gigging Pro .
 

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By Ads account (and he does have a Yamaha bias, especially for the earlier ones) you're getting a new purple logo for a substantial discount over a well used original. That's a pretty strong statement, especially coming from him..

Soundwise yes (it`s that neck) , as I said , the action isn`t as slick as a sweet spot (late 80s) Purple logo 62 , how much of this is because the 89 horn has been well loosened up with age I don`t know, the 62-III and 280 may feel like this in 25 years time.. I wasn`t knocked out with the action on the 62-III I had even after Stephen Howard had "Sax-Whispered" it compared to the Japanese 275 given the massive price difference , it left me expecting more for the £1800 the things cost new ...

To the OP -- also the review is pertaining to the Alto , the Tenor may be a pile of poo, there certainly is a big difference between a YTS275 and a 62 Purple logo Tenors I`ve played , sadly even with Yamaha (and Yani) , you can`t automatically assume that a model is great because another size of horn of that model is good - for instance, the YSS-475-II Soprano is a Damn sight closer in feel and build to a YSS-875EX than the Tenor versions of the two model numbers are .

For me , as a Tenor player who only "hobbies" on Alto the YAS-280 is good enough for me to sell the Purple Logo 62 (and it leaves me breathing space to add something totally diff like an SA80 as well) .... for an only tenor (I gig) I`d prefer a Purple Logo or a RAW or a MkVII - Why? because I WANT one .

Stephen Howard (Haynes Sax manual author and one of the top Sax Techs) who is a better sax player than I`ll ever be exclusively played and gigged a YTS-23 which is a cruder, simpler older version of the YTS-280 , I`m sure your tutor would choke and splutter if you said you`d set your heart on one of those :eek::confused::rolleyes: ;)
 
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DavidUK

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@dref - Don't forget the player, their experience, and their own sound has a lot to do with what sounds good and what doesn't. I recall a pro player (ex) member here saying that an Elkhart DeLuxe alto was as good as anything he'd ever played. I found one to try and it was terrible, for me. I doubt there would be much difference between individual 280s or DeLuxes for that matter so it must be personal idiosyncrasies that are the major factor in choosing what's best, along, of course, with thousands of MP/reed combinations.

Recently I was advised to try my SA80II neck on my 62 Purple. I did, and thought it sounded great - just a little more sparkle than the Selmer itself but not as bright at the 62 with its own neck. I then played both set ups to my tutor and he felt the Selmer with its own neck was MUCH better. So, when choosing, take someone with a musical ear with you to listen if you can. Especially at a retailer where the staff may be biased.
 

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Agreed David , hence my pressing the point to try them himself - and also that the Tenor 280 (which I`ve not tried) may not be as good as the Alto regarding closeness to the current 62-III model .
 

dref

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Thanks for your advice David Kev,and Ads, what you say really makes sense. The thing is I cant justify spending much over £1000. I am beginning to get some nice sounds from my G4M. I suppose GAS is the main reason i wish to change.I would jump at a decent used Conn m10.which seems to be much cheaper than used Selmers.Most of the Conn bargains I see are from America. Is it worthwhile buying from America
 

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