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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.

YDS2crop


[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.

IMG 20201022 170000  01

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.


Screenshot 20201022 104003


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!











Screenshot 20201022 183556
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.

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.

Analogcontro
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
 
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10kvClockMan

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Something I forgot to mention - also the audio output of the MacBook comes out to the headphones through the YDS-150 using MIDI. This means that once you have selected an instrument in GarageBand and play along to a YouTube backing track or a MP3, you hear in your headphones the instrument you have selected in GarageBand, this is extremely cool as for example you play a synthesiser and hear it in your headphones. This vastly extends the range of instruments available.

If you connect it to GarageBand (GB) and put the headphones on. The output of GB instruments comes into your ears. So if you are playing a Clarinet instrument it sounds great in your ears when you are playing the YDS. Also if you put the backing track into GB and get the beat right, you can play along to the backing track and record. I have had to do a bit of learning to get this to work in time, but the results are great. You can then replay the tracks and add additional instruments like trumpet trombone or bass guitar.
 
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Related news: Since I also own a WX5 and VL70m, I purchased a "WIDI" wireless MIDI adapter pair. (Just under £94 for the pair. That link is an affiliate link. Should you purchase through it, I get a few pence.)

The WX5 becomes far less unwieldy without that cable. The VL70m has more and better sounds than the YDS-180 and a lip sensor, so the question is,

"Do I regret spending a large chunk of change on the YDS?"

The answer is no. Neither one of the electronic instrumens is anything close to a real saxophone, but they both have their place, they both do interesting things in certain contexts.

The WX5 will actually work better on stage, because the sound module will go through the PA, whereas the YDS would need a cable to get decent sound,and that cable has to connect to the sound system. On the other hand, the YDS can sit next to you and be picked up on a whime from practice or recording.
 
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YDS would need a cable to get decent sound
Although I did try a wireless guitar pair that works, so it can be done. The YDS feels and reacts more like a saxophone. The WX has extra octaves both above and below so the octave key on it needs to be mastered.
 
10kvClockMan

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I have been playing with this now for a few weeks and although I am just a beginner, I have found it most enjoyable. I do not like the digital sounds in GarageBand so I tried something new. I put the sax into Tenor mode T04 which is quite breathy and then using a iRig2 took the analogue output from the sax to the recorder. The results are much better as the YDS-150 has a great Tenor sound. By creating a mic track in GarageBand I was able to input the digital sax live and then playing with the settings get it to sound a little more mellow. I also tried some of my own improvisations which sort of worked. Anyways here is the final result full recognition to Dan Short who provided the backing track on YouTube , be kind ...... https://soundcloud.com/10kvclockman%2Fwonderful-world-full View: https://soundcloud.com/10kvclockman/wonderful-world-full
 
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nigeld

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Yes - most people have complained about the sax sounds on the YDS-150, but that tenor one is pretty good.
 
10kvClockMan

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Yes - most people have complained about the sax sounds on the YDS-150, but that tenor one is pretty good.
I wonder if there will be a firmware update with new features and sounds. I can't seem to put this down. I have tried to see if the practice plays out on my Conn M10 naked lady tenor and it does. However the breathing and embouchure is something that can only be done on the real thing. This means that my neighbours still start screaming and sobbing uncontrollably at 3 in the morning, banging on the walls.
 
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More power to you in what you are doing, but at 3 am, even if you played like an angel, they'd be in the right.
 
hedgehog

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https://soundcloud.com/10kvclockman%2Fgeorgia-impro-22-05-2021-16 View: https://soundcloud.com/10kvclockman/georgia-impro-22-05-2021-16

Oh I am not great but I love this sax sooooo much. I tried improvisation and got it all over the place but I am gaining confidence. The only 'voice' I like on the entire sax is T04 which is Tenor Sax breathy. For any other sound I play it in midi to GarageBand and choose an instrument from their soundbank.
That really does sound good. You may have convinced me to at least take this to the budget committee. Nice playing, too.

if I just plugged in headphones would the sound be the same? That is does the iRig change the sound at all?
 
saxyjt

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I'm a bit frustrated as I've been considering buying one of these for a while now, but every time I look, they are out of stock with no estimated delivery date. And I hate that! So I keep postponing the purchase...

That would most likely help me practice more than I do today... :rolleyes:
 
10kvClockMan

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That really does sound good. You may have convinced me to at least take this to the budget committee. Nice playing, too.

if I just plugged in headphones would the sound be the same? That is does the iRig change the sound at all?
Hi the iRig just lets me take the input into my macbook. If you have a line in on your pc then there is no need for the iRig interface. The instrument has an analogue 3.5 mm jack and a usb. This analogue headphone jack lets you record, I use a double adapter to my headphones so I can monitor the output of the sax. Also wonderfully, the backing tracks from the mac come to the sax through the midi usb connection so when I play the sax mixes the backing track with my tuneless offerings
 
10kvClockMan

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I'm a bit frustrated as I've been considering buying one of these for a while now, but every time I look, they are out of stock with no estimated delivery date. And I hate that! So I keep postponing the purchase...

That would most likely help me practice more than I do today... :rolleyes:
I also drove myself mad trying to get one and eventually bought a brand new un opened one from a seller on eBay in the states. With import duty it cost me about £850 which is well over the RRP price here but there was no stock anywhere and still no sign of any coming in. I did a search tonight on eBay and found the same seller Yamaha YDS 150 DIGITAL SAXOPHONE BRAND NEW SEALED IN THE BOX!!! | eBay
He has raised the price!!!! I could find nowhere else when I was looking.
 
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Hmmm, maybe I should sell mine for £900 ! It's brand new condition. But it's too handy and I enjoy it too much. By the way, be sure to save backups of voices and fingerings as they occasionally mess up, I find.
 
10kvClockMan

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Latest piece "My Way" recorded with GarageBand. https://soundcloud.com/10kvclockman%2Fmy-way-31-05-2021-18 View: https://soundcloud.com/10kvclockman/my-way-31-05-2021-18
The big difference here is that I have found that you can upload the backing video to GarageBand and then create an analogue track to record the YDS-150. By setting the preferences in GarageBand to SAX MIDI input but connecting the analogue output from the sax to the macbook, the sax is recorded in its track without the backing track. Next step (proving tricky) is to export the sax only backing track and convert that to midi and then to add the midi track to the project. If I am successful with this, I would then be able to use the midi file to re voice the sax to say violin. Will let you know how I get on.
 
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Sounds great! When I record the audio from YDS-150 toLogic, I just have one stereo track that is the backing. I create an empty audio track, set it to record. Then I mix the level of the sax if needed, then export to a stereo audio file. It sounds like you are going through at least one extra step. Logic is the big sibling to Garage Band, they're very similar in operation.
 

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