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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
 
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h4yn0nnym0u5e

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I just used what I had in front of me, probably not the best. Big, heavy Senneheiser. But I think whatever you find comfortable will be fine. I wonder if they'd work with bluetooth? I think not, because it won't pair, but I haven't tried.
I think the Bluetooth audio is an input to the YDS-150, isn’t it? So you can play along with backing tracks. They would probably be the risk of a bit too much lag if it were an output.
 

randulo

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I haven't been able to connect Bluetooth audio to anything, even though it tries to connect to the phone. Because the app connects via bluetooth, i have Not tried to unpair and repair. There's no help in the manual or anywhere else I can find yet.
 

SaxJack

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I got my Yamaha yesterday. I have found that sometimes some keys don’t work. I have changed setting like key responce and breath responce. And finally return them back. The keys 4-6 work better than 1-3. Could thre be a bug in the software? I’m beginner so my blow technic is far of good. But it is very strange that when e.g. I play notes B,A,G,B,A.. sometimes these work properly but sometimes nothing happend when I push them. If I don’t find the solution I go to show it the dealer on Monday.
 

saxyjt

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Remember it's not a keyboard. You need to blow into the small end to produce sound, like in a real saxophone. :rolleyes:

No wind, no speed! Like a sail boat... ;)
 

SaxJack

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Remember it's not a keyboard. You need to blow into the small end to produce sound, like in a real saxophone. :rolleyes:

No wind, no speed! Like a sail boat... ;)
Remember it's not a keyboard. You need to blow into the small end to produce sound, like in a real saxophone. :rolleyes:

No wind, no speed! Like a sail boat... ;)
So I'm thinking that the problem may be blowerand not the instrument.
 

randulo

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I got my Yamaha yesterday. I have found that sometimes some keys don’t work.
I have had it for 11 days now. I'm not an experienced saxophone player, but I know a lot about switches, software and "keyboards". If you blow steadily into the mouthpiece (an achievement in and of itself!) and play a short scale that uses the suspect keys, they should all fiunction. Also try moving between just a few of them at a time, up and down on three or four notes. Or memorize a short exercise and practice it. Is it getting any better? If so, then you need to practice. If they keys still don't seem to function properly, there may well be a hardware or software problem.

I've looked at a lot of demos by very advanced, experienced saxophonists. I can occasionally hear a few very slight "miskeys", and these are people chose to demonstrtae, sometimes brand ambasadors. Remember, they could have done retakes or edited until there were no such things oin evidence. When I play mine, it's the same, the fingering of switches will never work exactly like a traditional instrument. In fact, my mantra from the start was, and is still:

The YDS-150 is NOT a saxophone.

So, in short, I wouldn't say it's your fault, but you probably need more practice. The coordination and accuracy on this digital instrument is actually more demanding than the saxophone. But there could be an issue with the unit you have.

Here's me testing the fingering response via MIDI which has even greater triggering lag.
https://soundcloud.com/randulo%2Fyds-150-midi-only View: https://soundcloud.com/randulo/yds-150-midi-only
 
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Miles Green

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Hello, I'd like to ask those who have used the YDS150 what they think of it as practice instrument.
I've been playing the soprano, almost 2 years now. I know it won't help embouchure, maybe even the opposite.

My main question is regarding the keywork: is it close enough to a real sax so that it could help with exercises? I see no rollers, for example. I would gladly practice scales, and maybe the method exercises with it, if it helps me with the real instrument.

If that works, it might be a go for me, i will definitely need a silent practice instrument in the summer.

Thanks for the input!
 

randulo

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I haven't tried the other brands' products, such as the Roland AE models, but I have a WX5. The YDS-150 feels much more like a real saxophone. Practicing and working out melodies is a pleasure. Embouchure and lip control are unfortunately not at all in play. I never noticed the lack of rollers! It feels about the same. The decision boils down to wanting to pay a price that could give you a used alto. How important is the sound? They're pretty bad. How important is silent practice? It's excellent! The weight is low. You can play at very low volume. Using effects works better because the real sax sound can be turned off.

I'm enjoying the experience, now I use the YDS-150 part of the day and the alto at different times. I believe practicing on it is worthwhile, because accuracy is more important in this instrument, a small glitch will not sound like a grace note.
 
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Vadda

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I agree in everything with Randulo.
I had a Roland AE-05 and it is absolutely not comparable, it had really bad ergonomics.
With the YDS, the feeling is that of a sax with very very light keys, you don't miss the rollers
The silent practice is absolutely pleasant and very useful.
 

randulo

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Here's another little detail: If you use the fingering for Bb LH1 RH 123 it works, but you can't slide between the notes Bb and B. It's software-switched on the YDS-150, one or the other note will sound.
 

Miles Green

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Here's another little detail: If you use the fingering for Bb LH1 RH 123 it works, but you can't slide between the notes Bb and B. It's software-switched on the YDS-150, one or the other note will sound.
For the lower Bb?
Because of the lack of roller? Hmmm. Fortunately it's not that often i need to do that. Thanks for the alternate fingering tip.

If i need to do B->Bb I usually roll my entire left hand, pressing the Bb spatula key with the entire length of my pinky... The roller, at least on my sax, doesn't make it very easy to roll. But maybe that works on the YDS150?
 

h4yn0nnym0u5e

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Not low, middle. LH 1 finger, RH 123 (or any of 1, 2, 3)
Any one of RH123, or any combo? I’ve been known to use LH1+RH12 for an A# when there’s an E soon before or after, seems to confuse my tiny brain less... (out of the box, obviously - I know you could set it up).
 

randulo

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You (one or both or you) may be missing the point. The YDS hits the proper notes, but you can't slide between them like you can on a saxophone. You have to play a Bb and slide up one half step to B with the analog controller.
 

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