The saxophone is one 0f the more recent instruments to be created, going back only about 150 years. And it wasn’t until the 1920s that it became accepted as a serious instrument. You will only occasionally find it an orchestra as the classical works were composed before it was invented.
It was in the 20s that the jazz guys took over, and people started taking notice. And it is a staple in jazz music to this day.
It entered the world of ‘popular music’ in the 50s. With songs like ‘Money Honey’ by the Drifters and ‘The Girl Can’t help it’ by Little Richard.
They though had little impact when compared to what happened when Bill Haley and his Comets arrived with ‘Rock Around the Clock.’ We had never seen a saxophone player playing lying on his back, waving his legs in the air before.
Some of the biggest names have recorded using the instrument. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Billy Joel, The Temptations, Bruce Springsteen, to name a few.
We all have our favorite sax solo. It is one of the few instruments to be able to tear your heart out. Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Baker Street’ and Paul Simon’s ‘Still Crazy After all These Years’ both masterpieces. Here’s to Raphael for ‘Baker Street’ and Michael for ‘Still Crazy.’ Both now departed, but what a legacy.
Of course, if there is a musical instrument to be made, then Yamaha will probably make it. 1967 saw the first branded Yamaha saxophones, and they have continued to produce quality instruments ever since. So, let’s take a look at what they offer. The Yamaha Saxophone is here, so let’s find the perfect one for you…
Top 8 Best Yamaha Saxophones of 2023
1 Yamaha YAS-480 Intermediate Eb Alto Saxophone
The YAS-480 is an alto sax that has many of the attributes of an instrument with a bigger price tag. It has a great intonation that is precise and accurate and has a rich, warm tone. The bell keys are nicely balanced and give a good positive response.
It has a very accomplished design and certainly has the visual appeal of a high-level instrument. The hand engraving on the bell, adding that extra bit of style.
This saxophone is in the key of E flat and is not really designed for a beginner. Although, of course, a starter would definitely benefit from the sound and great playing action. This sax, though, is aimed more towards the intermediate player.
The body of the instrument is made of Yellow brass, and it has a YAS-62 style neck. The keys are also made from yellow Brass with polyester buttons. The mouthpiece is an AS-4C design with a plastic cap.
Yamaha has redesigned the left-hand seesaw key to make it more comfortable to use and taken some basic design features from their higher-end saxophones to influence the 480. And why not? The Yamaha saxophone is a respected instrument.
They have also re-designed the octave key system to allow the player to choose certain neck options. To improve the adjustments, Yamaha has fitted separate keyguards. These have screw cap stoppers that may be adjusted.
Yamaha makes exceptional instruments in whatever discipline they work in. But the saxophones are respected everywhere. The YAS-480 is a great instrument and one that an intermediate player is going to appreciate and enjoy.
- Excellent build quality using good materials.
- Rich, warm sound.
- Going to be expensive for some.
2 Yamaha YTS-62III
The famous Yamaha 62 model. ‘The’ B flat Tenor Sax. These models from Yamaha have changed the way the saxophone market operate to a certain extent. They give great quality and yet do so at an affordable price for a top level instrument. And the YTS-62111 is that…
First from Yamaha came the YAS 61 in 1969, followed in 1979 by the YTS-62 and the YAS-62, Alto saxophone. The ‘62 range has become a standard use instrument ever since. They are the choice of professional musicians and the preferred sax of band leaders everywhere.
But whilst Yamaha built a gem with this instrument, they have always looked for ways to improve it. The new model has a slightly thinner bore. This gives the player a balanced, comfortable flow of air, thus giving greater control over the sound.
It provides a solid tonal base from which to play. They have also improved the link between Low B and C#. The improved action gives a better seal and thus a clearer response through the lower ranges.
On the quality of the build, they have added some extra engraving on the Bell, which adds to the already stunning appearance of the instrument. It still has that stunning lacquered finish.
This is not a beginner’s instrument at all. It is listed as a ‘Professional’ instrument by Yamaha, but that, of course, is a marketing term. They probably call it that because it is second on their list of saxophones. It is, though, an instrument a pro would definitely use. Sounds great and has an ease of playing that is smooth.
A great saxophone that fulfills the reputation that precedes it. It is a Yamaha saxophone and possibly the most well-known of their range. Expensive? A little but not maybe for a pro who knows what they are looking at.
- Exceptional build quality.
- Superb warm and rich tone.
- The price will make some think twice.
3 Yamaha YAS-23
The Yamaha YAS-23 is probably the most popular Alto sax that is recommended for beginners. Wherever you look, teachers, players, all recommend it as a great start up instrument. This is interesting because it is not a cheap instrument to buy.
Usually, people will recommend what is a cost-effective purchase for a starter. Not in this case. The YAS-23 is a quality instrument, and the opinion seems to be if you can afford it, get it!
It has a very good build quality. It has a gold lacquered body over a yellow brass neck, body, and bell. Nickel-plated power forged keys and tapered pivot screws. The keys have a very smooth action and nicely designed shape and size.
It has some extra features you might expect to find on higher level instruments. It has leather pads that have wool felt and Front F auxiliary keys.
The build is what you might call typical Yamaha. Good materials well put together, some extras you might not expect and make in Japan, so no surprises there.
Yes, it is well-made, and it is easy to play, but there must be something else. There is.
The intonation of this saxophone is outstanding and performs way above this price tag. Intonation is vital, and on a saxophone is sometimes shall we say, challenging. On many saxes, the E in the second octave can be sharp. The C# sometimes flat.
That is not a problem you will face with this instrument. If the intonation is excellent, it isn’t going to confuse a student as to why they sound out of tune; it’s because they are out of tune.
It comes with a plywood case and some products to care for the instrument.
A great saxophone, but is it the best Yamaha saxophone for beginner? It’s an incredible starter instrument. It is a Yamaha saxophone, after all. And certainly a contender for best Yamaha saxophone.
- Very high quality build.
- Precise intonation and very good sound.
- Only the price, which some will think is high for a starter instrument.
4 Yamaha YAS-280
When you are considering buying a saxophone for a starter, there are some things to consider, In our introduction, we mentioned a few, but there is an essential item to think about. As you don’t want the beginner to have a bad experience, the saxophone has to be comfortable to hold for what might be lengths of time.
There are a few issues with a saxophone that might cause it to be uncomfortable to hold. As you do want your student to enjoy the experience and therefore keep playing, it needs to be lightweight. The build quality needs to be good, but it needs not to be too heavy.
There are ergonomics involved in saxophone design. A poor design will make your hands ache. The attitude and angles between hands, fingers, and keys are important. Not only for comfort but for ease of playing.
None 0f those problems with this saxophone. It is built with the comfort of the student in mind. It even has an adjustable thumb rest. The imitation mother of pearl keys is an added attraction to the look.
It features a tough neck receiver, which will forgive you if you over-tighten the screws on the receiver and easy access to the notes. It has a low B to C# connector as well as a high F# key.
As a Yamaha saxophone, this is what you would expect from them. Quality in the build, quality in the design, quality on the playing style, and sound. Possibly the best Yamaha saxophone for a student player. A great instrument. Certainly a contender for best saxophone from Yamaha and easily one of the best alto saxophones on the market.
- Great build quality and design.
- Easy to play and comfortable to hold.
- Quality does not come cheap.
5 Yamaha Custom YSS-82Z Series Professional Soprano Saxophone
The Soprano saxophone always looks more like a clarinet in some ways to us. Albeit a very shiny one. It is though a beautiful extension of the saxophone family of instruments, if not as widely known as the Alto and Tenor.
The YSS-82Z. In saxophone circles known affectionately as the ‘Z.’ These are a special breed and are considered by many to be the best Yamaha soprano saxophone. For those players who go back far enough, these saxophones bring back memories of vintage instruments. They have a similar design to the classic ‘62 models.
They have a very lightweight feel being constructed from a special brass alloy. This adds a natural, comfortable playing feel to the saxophone that is so important to a woodwind instrument.
Its build quality is supplemented by the flexibility of tone only achieved with quality instruments. It has a wide dynamic range but still produces an even sound across all the ranges. You, as the player, are in total control of the instrument. You can give it as much power or be as subtle as you wish.
This saxophone will handle it all in all musical genres.
In these later models, there have been some improvements. The keys have been slightly re-designed to make them more comfortable to the touch. The thumb rest has a little more adjustment potential to get the comfort exactly right. Finally, there is some new engraving to the bell, adding a new refinement to a very refined instrument.
This is not an instrument for a starter; this has been built for the serious player. The response and intonation are exceptional. The price point reflects that. Just a superb saxophone that is going in the mix for best Yamaha saxophone as well as being one of the best soprano saxophones you can buy.
- Quality build and design.
- Excellent feel and sound.
- Very expensive unless you are a pro.
6 Yamaha YAS-62 Professional Alto Saxophone
There is no doubt about the quality of the 62 range of saxophones from Yamaha. Introduced in 1979, they set a standard that others had to aspire to. The standards went up for the manufacture of woodwind instruments, but especially for the saxophone. But with the 62 range, it wasn’t just about the quality of the instrument; it was also about giving it a competitive price.
The proof of their quality is that four decades later, they are still one of the most popular and recommended saxophones on the market.
Yamaha, though, does not just accept the fact they have created a great instrument. They are always looking for ways to improve it, to make it better for the players. But they always make sure the traditions of the instrument are maintained.
One subtle improvement is that they have made the neck a bit slimmer. This gives you much more control and provides a much quicker response rate. It brings more benefits in that the flow of air becomes steadier and allows players to achieve great tones.
Yamaha has changed the mechanism slightly from Low B to c#. They wanted to improve the seal and give a much more accurate response.
This is not really an instrument for a starter. It is better suited to a player who is already experienced. It comes with a semi-hard case.
It will be considered so by some. We would like to make one final point with this instrument. As with all great instruments that are desirable, in whatever musical field. People make copies and sell them as the original. This can happen with saxophones, as well.
Always ensure you buy such a prestigious instrument from a recognized dealer. If you see one with a price that is too good to be true, it probably is. Get the real thing, and you have got a great instrument. One that must be considered as the best saxophone by Yamaha.
- Great build quality and design.
- It produces great sounds and is easy to play.
- Not cheap.
7 Used Yamaha Yas-475 With Case From Japan
Yamaha is able to produce some great horns for all levels of abilities. From starters through Intermediate to the Pro levels, they are all recognized as being quality instruments. However, most of the attention is given to the Starter and Pro levels, and the Intermediate levels can get a bit lost.
This is quite understandable to a certain extent. The starter saxophones are such good quality that some players stick with them until they are ready to move up a level. They sometimes then bypass the next stage, the Intermediate, and go straight for the Pro level.
Another element of this scenario is that with price reductions in recent times of the 62 Pro class, they have become more affordable. This makes the Intermediates like the 475 less attractive. This is a shame because the Intermediate level 475 sits well between its two popular cousins.
For the money, you get a very good instrument. Built with typical Yamaha quality, it has been improved and shares a lot of design features of the 62 series instruments. It has more of a 62 style neck than previous versions and a removable bell clamp. The key design is excellent with its cantilevered mechanism, and it has a thumb rest that is adjustable and a top F#.
This saxophone really plays very well and has a great, typically Yamaha tone. It is stronger in sound than the level below but without the superior quality of the 62 range, which is what you would expect. Intonation is good, and there is a great tonal balance.
A very good instrument that ought to be considered as you move up the quality scale. It comes with a nice case.
- A well-made instrument with some nice features.
- Great sounds and playability.
- Not cheap for a second-hand instrument.
8 Yamaha YAS-82ZII Custom Z
Looking for the best Yamaha Alto Saxophone? This could be the one. The Custom Z series of instruments were introduced in 2003. Most stood back in admiration of an outstanding instrument. Since its inception, Yamaha has done what they usually do with their instruments. They study their performance and then improve them where necessary.
The improvements have been impressive, but Yamaha has still managed to stay faithful to the instrument’s origins. The origins that made it the preferred instrument for a lot of working pros. Its silver plated style still looks great.
Keeping with its tradition, the 82Z now has a one-piece bell. The sound is now warmer at the lower end and gives a broader dimension to the overall sound. They also re-designed the engraving. Resonators are an important part of any sax and its sound. The domed metal versions on the 82Z make the sound clearer and make it easier to play.
The taper of the neck has been made more efficient and allows more expression, and there is an improved low B-C# connection giving a better seal. This gives a better sound response through the lower registers. The Front F key has also been improved. It has kept its fast playing action. The slight adjustments to the manufacture have meant it now has a smoother playing style.
When you are looking at great instruments, you can appreciate their worth. Not only to the player but also the listener. This is one of the instruments. Well designed, it is an instrument that allows players to reach their full potential. Actually encourages them to do so with the way it feels to play and the sound it creates.
Expensive some will say, and yes, it might be thought of in that way. But when you buy quality, you always have to pay for it.
It comes with a hard case.
- Superlative instrument.
- Great build and sound, and an industry standard.
- Some will think it is just too expensive.
Best Yamaha Saxophones Buyers Guide
Buying The Right Yamaha Saxophone…
This is not an easy task. This is because Yamaha produces great instruments right across the board. It is made even more difficult because there are actually 14 different types of saxophone: Alto and tenor saxophones being the most common.
There is very little difference between the Alto and Tenor. The two principal differences being the size, the Alto is smaller and is pitched to E flat. The Tenor to B flat. The Tenor is, therefore, five musical steps below. That doesn’t matter only in that the Tenor plays lower notes.
Get An Instrument Suitable For Your Level
If you are a complete beginner, there is little point in choosing top of the range instruments. There is a learning curve to go through, and a starter instrument is always the better choice to help you through it.
A big choice as a starter in which saxophone to start with. There are four main types, two of which are the most common. You will sometimes see a baritone sax or a soprano sax, but Alto and tenor will be the most commonly available.
For a young beginner, the Alto is possibly the best choice. Smaller and lighter, it is easier to hold, and its size means you need a little less puff. There won’t be an awful lot of difference to the starter’s ear in the sound, though the tenor, as we have said, does have lower notes.
There are some scale and playing issues where a Tenor is a good option. But by the time you get you to those, you will have a reasonable level of proficiency. If you are already an experienced player, you will know exactly what you are looking for.
New Or Second Hand?
A difficult question to answer. The new instrument is obviously usually the better option. They will probably be in better working condition and will not have the wear that a used instrument might have If you decide to go for a used instrument check for signs of any moisture damage.
Saxophones might seem big and tough instruments, but they are vulnerable if not taken care of. With a new instrument, you are likely to get a warranty in case something goes wrong. There are second hand Yamaha’s around for sale. They are good value if they are in good condition, but please check them carefully.
Try Before You Buy
You might not be able to make much of a tune if you are a beginner, but you will know what it feels like in the hands. Your local Yamaha dealer will be only too pleased to show you the instrument and help you make your choice.
Again, if you are a seasoned musician, it is likely you will know exactly the instrument you want. But it still doesn’t hurt to give it a blast in the shop.
We touched on this in one of our reviews, but we are going to reiterate. If you are buying without seeing the instrument, be aware of forgeries. They are out there. It is a testament to the high regard that these instruments are held that people copy them and try to sell them.
It happens to only the best instruments, be they guitars, basses, or saxophones. Usually, the larger companies that trade online will be fine, and if something goes wrong, they will sort out the problem. Therefore always buy from reputable companies online.
So, What Are The Best Yamaha Saxophones?
We are looking for the best Yamaha saxophones. Is there one that sounds out in amongst so many excellent models? There is really. A totally professional instrument that has it all. Our choice as the best Yamaha saxophone is the…
It is a wonderful instrument with a great playing feel and sound.
The best of the best Yamaha Alto Saxophones, and our choice for the Best Yamaha Saxophones.