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Other Yamaha YDS-150 Digital Instrument in a Sax-like Body

There have been plenty of demos and discussions about this, and much of the discussion has been negative.

I do not consider this a saxophone at all, any more than my midi keyboard is a piano.

Keep reading through, there are many comments and updated information. Nearly four months have passed since I got the YDS-150 and much has been learned. There are now 25 audio tracks of several music styles, and 13 YouTube videos after several days with the YDS-150.

(Original post): I have had about two hours total to play around with this, and I intend to do several other tests, but this is an initial first look.

The instrument has its weak points, amply discussed elsewhere (sounds aren't particularly good, it doesn't do MIDI, it doesn't have a lip sensor, etc.), but I will try to discover the less obvious things and hands-on feature evaluations. It's obviously a solution to practice when your living conditions don't allow you to play your saxophones. I think practicing with this is useful, but others may not. What you are able to practice is fingering and coordination between breath and hands.

The YDS-150 Digital Instrument


[EDIT: it does MIDI via USB and it works very well, especially via USB]

It comes with a soft case, an extra 'reed' and a set of three 'O' rings for the neck that holds the mouthpiece.

For all the technical information, you can get the owner's manual PDF in several languages from Yamaha. I will try to answer any questions anyone has.

There's a tube in the bell that releases the condensed moisture, see the little round thing in the photo. I mention this because certain trumpet or soprano stands, like the Hercules have a knob at the top that will interfere with the tube. I bought the K&M "Legs in Bell" trumpet stand which is a good fit. The tube is flexible and will move a little to accomodate the stand.

TDS-150 moisture outlet tube

The feel of the instrument

It's nice and light, but feels very sturdy in build quality. In the hands, it's very close to the feel of a saxophone. I find it feels very nice. I also think that it should have been in a bright color, but I can think of many reasons they wouldn't do that. The mouthpiece seems to identical to a Yamaha 4C alto piece. Pulling the mouthpiece off reveals no cork, but three O rings holding it on. There's a reed and ligature. The manual tells us not to use any other mouthpiece, so naturally, we tried, and it plays fine with my Syos 3D printed piece. I mention this because maybe some players would prefer to use a mouthpiece they are used to. It makes no difference to the sound, because the reed isn't vibrating or controlling the sound. In fact, it played the same with a one centimeter gap between the tip and the mouthpiece tip! Disconcerting, but nothing matters but wind.


Pairing needs to be fixed.


Setting up with the app

I had and still have trouble pairing the bluetooth connection in order to make changes to voice settings. I don't know if it's normal, but the app re-pairs with the instrument every time you try to connect. There is a check box asking if you want the YDS-150 to have access to your contacts and call history. I can only think that this is something to do with standard Android apps, because it would be insane to check that box!











Sound (voice) parameters YDS-150
You can save sets of voices and fingerings

Because the YDS-150 has space for user-configured sounds, it also has a way to save them under a name, so it's possible to have several sets of user sounds. Unfortunately, this would only be of interest if they update the firmware some day with better or different sounds or effects.

The interface to set these voices (user sounds) is pretty buggy and glitchy. Buggy in that the transpose thing doesn't always update the number of half steps of transposition. Glitchy, because it's easy accidentally hit the extreme end throwing you to the highest or lowest note. This needs to improve. The sliders should be replaced by someother mechanism.

I'm guessing the app itself will be updated for that, and hopefully soon. This is how beta products usually evolve. Picture the size of a phone and your finger on the transpose gadget in the voices settings in the screen shot below.






The Sounds

Well, here we are. Only a few are usable as is, and unhappily, they do NOT include a saxophone! That's right, there are a couple of flutes and harmonica sounds that I actually like. The rest are far inferior to a Yamaha sound module like the VL7m, but then, that's a box you have to drag around with a power supply, an amp and a proprietary cable. The YDS-150 is, if nothing else, very portable!

Playing with the speaker and Recording with a microphone

The effects don't appear to be on when using the speaker. I recorded two short segments for demonstration. They are probably as good (or bad) as any first-day tests. I added reverb and distortion to get sounds I "like". But they're not really saxophone sounds, are they? Also, note that when recording with a microphone, there may be key click sounds because the TDS-150 speaker output level is much softer than a saxophone, even at low ballad levels.

https://soundcloud.com/randulo%2Fsets%2Fyds-150-files-by-randulo View: https://soundcloud.com/randulo/sets/yds-150-files-by-randulo/s-H2B8GuhKKA4


Practicing with the speaker is handy. You don't need headphones, but you don't disturb the other people around even playing through the built-in speaker, because it's not loud at full volume, and you can adjust it even lower. I believe practicing with the instrument is helpful, but many will probably not find it so. I tried playing with headphones, and that sounds better, as you have the effects. Unfortunately, like the sounds, the effects are not great. And one really bad thing is that vibrato automatically comes in on longer notes on most of the patches. There are only a few that do not do this, and they're all saxophone patches. This is a terrible idea, there should be a switch to turn that off! I understand that it would be more fun for beginners, though.

The Keys

The keys feel great. Surprise, there's a low A 'key'. Also surprise, you get low A by using the bottom part of the octave key. The WX5 has octaves both up and down, but the YDS-150 is up or low A. The YDS-150 plays an A when you finger it that 'key' with a low Bb. Another bad decision in my opinion, although I do like having a low A. The octave key takes a lot of getting used to, which is why first day trials won't be briliant, but I know you can get used to it.

Analogue controller
The Analog Controller

This is how you can bend notes, but that effect is definitely in synthesizer land, not a scoop. It's at 1 half step by default, but you can go full synthetic and set it to more distance. This is going to take a lot of practice, as it is next to the thumb rest. I found it harder than the WX-5, but it is certainly doable after some practice. I'd like to see Yamaha add a 1/4 tone and maybe even an 1/8 tone option to this parameter. That would make falls and scoops more realistic.













Odds and ends

I don't know how long the batteries last, but you can adjust the time before the instrument goes into standby mode. This is important, because if you go to answer the door or turn off the kettle, you might forget the instrument is on. There are several other things
I want to test and will add to this review:

  • Use with a wireless transmitter/receiver pair.
  • Use with effects pedals
  • Getting familiar with using the keys for configuration. I only was able to turn on bluetooth with difficulty! There are other configuration parameters like breath strength-related settings, tuning, etc.
  • Using the app in all possible ways
 
Last edited:

Mutley

New Member
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Lincoln
Hello,found these at Quick3D.co.uk who will do me one of each of the 3 different angles for £20 total plus postage so happy days,thanks for the previous link Mutley
No problem I had the the yds _1stl made and works a treat, I read that was the most like for like to an alto on a social media group so went for that one
 

Päng

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Location
Sweden
I speculate hopefully that they may use more advanced printing tech i.e. laser-sintered. The cheaper 3D printing which is widely available is perhaps all of the standard 'heated and pushed through a nozzle' style.


No doubt you already know about the Travel Sax, which pulls ahead of the Yamaha on this one issue.
Hi yes, got the travel sax. Cant beat it in terms of size but I must say the keys are very flimsy especially the palm keys. Its good for practice when traveling and size really is the deal breaker but otherwise I still bring a soprano and play the 90% air and 10% tone thing. .
 

Yansalis

New Member
Messages
28
Location
USA
I got my YDS yesterday. I am impressed with the vast dynamic range, and there is more articulation effect picked up by the breath sensor than I expected. I now understand better the inclusion of a mouthpiece and plastic reed. I'm looking forward to understanding better how much of the expression data gets into the MIDI signal. If all the information the YDS uses to control its onboard sounds ultimately can get mapped to MIDI it's not obvious to me what else one would ask for in a MIDI controller (but then I repeat: I know very little about digital music making.) If something gets figured out for improve the higher ranges of onboard sax sounds this thing could become very useful indeed.
 

randulo

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I started a post here which I hope anyone with experience will add to:

 

Yansalis

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USA
The printer is a service. Normally you'll send the design to them to print (design linked several times in this thread). It is possible if you contact them they may know the design from having used it recently, and you might not need to link it, but it is more efficient to do the normal process of sending them the link to the file.
 

shamba504424

Member
Messages
109
Location
Edgworth near Bolton
Hello Rodolfo,if you use the one for the company I posted they already have the file so just need to contact them with your details but I see you are in Brazil so if you just send your chosen printer the link to the file that is posted in earlier pages in this thread and they can use the info from that
 

ubizmo

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Messages
5
Location
Philadelphia
I've been playing the sax for over 50 years, and although I still have much to learn, my interest in the YDS-150 isn't as a way to learn to play the sax. I realize that the YDS can never actually duplicate an acoustic sax, but I do wonder how well it can, with a little coaxing, pass for one. I've watched many YouTube videos, and listened to Randy's very helpful Soundcloud recordings, and I'm starting to get a feel for what the YDS-150 can and can't do.

I have to agree that, at this price point ($800 US), it's inexcusable to have obligatory auto-vibrato on any of the voices.

The absence of a bite sensor is an issue, but shouldn't be a dealbreaker IF...and only if, the same pitch-bending work can be done with the analog thumb controller. I gather that, at the current time, it can't be, because the minimum pitch bend is a semitone. But here's question number 1.

1. Does the analog controller allow you to control manually the duration of the pitch bend? Or is it more like a trigger than activates a bend of a preset duration?

2. A nuanced acoustic instrument sample should be layered, so that timbre changes with breath pressure. Stronger breath pressure should produce a brighter sound, with more overtones. Yamaha certainly knows how to do this, in their digital pianos, for example. What about the YDS-150?

3. Related to the last question, a hard attack on a note on an acoustic sax produces a sharp sound, due to the brighter timbre of the forceful air flow. How well does the YDS-150 do this? One of Randy's Soundcloud samples had some fairly hard note attacks, and the YDS-150 vs Real saxophone video also has some, and I think I hear some decent attack response, but it would be nice to see this explicitly tested and demonstrated.

4. Legato. This is tricky, because the "space" between one note and the next is what has to determine the attack on the following note. Below a certain threshold, there should be little to no attack. Listening to sample videos, etc, my impression is that the YDS-150 does something to achieve legato, but not quite enough. Is that a fair observation?

Again, it's not a real sax; never will be. But the things I've mentioned are doable, and in an $800 instrument purporting to be a digital sax, they should be done. For example, the SWAM sax voices, which I've used, somehow are smart enough to convert breath vibrato into real sax-style vibrato, and they handle attack and legato just fine.
 

Yansalis

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USA
Hi Ubizmo,

1. Analog controller works exactly like a joystick, you control duration and degree within the parameter setting. I think you could get pretty fine with the control.

2-3. There are tone changes with tonguing and dynamic changes. I haven't tested all the voices in depth but I have noticed as many as 2 textural changes fading in and out with dynamic changes on some voices. I find playing with dynamics to be super easy on this thing.

4. Perhaps we are used to a certain "something" an acoustic micro-softness between notes on a real sax (?)--on the YDS the notes change instantly which may feel comparatively like a hint of attack, like the 'pop' of very cleanly fingered legato on a violin? One could perhaps develop tonguing techniques to soften these transitions?

Lobo - however useful some other option may be, practicing fingering on the YDS translates very easily to the real thing and has effectively quadrupled my practice time.
 

randulo

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Appreciation of the YDS-150 is as nuanced as choosing a mate! Once you have played a saxophone, you can never feel like you're playing one on any digital instrument I've ever seen or heard of at any price. That means a digital instrument is always going to be some kind of compromise. Like your partner who is charming but requires a lot of material things, of the one you love whose charms aren't physical.

The YDS has a certain practical sense, but she also has pretty bad teeth (sounds). She costs a bundle, and needs special skills on your part to make certain sounds. Enough with the analogies.

The analogue controller sounds very much like a synthesizer, because that's what it is. I find it's excellent on the harmonica sound. I've tried to do falls with it, but you're right in that I'm annoyed that it can't be adjusted to a half tone. There does't seem to be a way to get feedback to Yamaha. Irritating, that is, because there are two big things they could fix in software: that bloody vibrato and the smaller steps on the analogue pitch control. Both would make a significant difference.

I've already expressed my personal satisfaction with it, but I'll list the traits and use cases again:

  • Look ma, no cables at all. (Although that sound isn't loud enough or very good.)
  • Try all the saxes (Bb, Eb...) for range when learning or creating.
  • Transpose to any key you like
  • Program weird or alternative fingerings
  • Silent practice, or quiet practice without earphones.
  • The midi out via USB allows very good midi use with a DAW.
  • Using that MIDI, you can play into a DAW and then print a melody or a part
  • The audio out via USB is superb, if you have sounds you want.
Note that in the sax sounds, the bari works as a background part with effects. Think of "You Ain't nothing but a Hound Dog" with a bari sound playing that iconic ostenato lick.​
  • soprano is another "almost win" with effects supplied by you.
  • You can get some modern synthy sounds that keyboard players use, and some octave and fifth stuff sounds good for a minute.
  • Horn parts: I think you could record bari and tenor parts, then add a real alto. That usually makes the "section" sound more realistic

And the cons:
  • TURN THE VIBRATO OFF!
  • Give us smaller units for the pitch controller
  • The sounds are atrocious for the most part
  • A pretty steep price for what you get

Or to be even more concise, the physical part of the instrument is very good. The software part could be improved considerably. Good sounds would probably be hard to fit in the unit of this size and shape.
 

ubizmo

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5
Location
Philadelphia
I was listening to this guy last night...
View: https://youtu.be/fpixth9CW8o


He tries hard to use that analog controller to do scoops in a natural sounding way. Mostly he fails, and they end up sounding too synthy, but a couple of times he does better. This suggests that there's a skill to it that could be dialed in. I used to own an Aerophone AE-5, and I found that setting the bite sensor to about a third of a tone (35%) gave me the best results. The YDS-150 should allow it to be set to as little as a quarter tone, as someone has already suggested in this thread.

Speaking of the AE-5, the instrument sounds on that were much worse than the YDS-150. That's why I finally sold it. I just didn't much care for the whole Frankenstein situation of needing to connect to a DAW with additional sounds to get decent output. I ended up buying the SWAM sax suite, which set me back some money, then not really using it.
But the SWAM sax voices show what's possible, which makes it even more frustrating to settle for junk sounds.

For what it's worth, having now listened to dozens of different YouTube efforts with the YDS-150, my reaction to the sounds isn't as harsh as yours, randulo. Except for the soprano, which does sound pretty bad to me. The soft tenor has a pleasing sound, and would be even better if you could get rid of that vibrato, or at least delay its onset. Is that adjustable through the app?

I also agree that the flute sound isn't bad.

As a sax player, I'm put off by the use of a real but non-functional mouthpiece and reed. This is useless for embouchure training, so what's the point? They might as well put one of these on it:
images.jpg

That's the alternative "recorder" mouthpiece for the Roland Aerophone mini, which also has no bite sensor. In fact, it would probably make sense to add a tip like that to the 3D printed bent necks you guys have been discussing in this thread, and be done with the whole mouthpiece and reed canard.

As you can tell, I'm interested in this instrument. I play sax, flute, recorders, ocarina, etc. in church, and also at open mics. I'm not formally trained on sax, but I've played most of my life and I'm comfortable with it. My flute playing is erratic and generally weak. But often a flute or some other "classical" C instrument is needed for the church stuff. And occasionally alto or bari parts are useful. I don't even own an alto or bari sax anymore; just the tenor. So the YDS-150 could potentially be very handy.

When I had the Aerophone AE-05, I tried sending the sound via aux cable to a portable 25W Aomais speaker, and the result was perfectly fine for church use. About the same volume as the acoustic sax without amplification. It's also fine for music circle jams, etc. So that would also work with the YDS-150, and if I ever need something with more power, I can get it.

But I'm still on the fence. Some of the negatives are pretty negative, and the price is non-trivial for me.
 

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