All Things Saxophone

Yamaha Custom YAS-82Z

Last modified 09/21/08


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The Yamaha Custom YS-82Z comes in the Soprano, Alto, and Tenor models.  The Alto is pictured at the right and below.  It is a top line horn for Yamaha, second only to the YS-875EX.  I spent a week getting to know the Yamaha Custom.  My review is as follows:


Yamaha has entrenched themselves as a quality maker of saxophones since the 1980s.  This instrument is no exception.  The action on the keys rivals that of a classic Selmer, and the

neckjoint with its reinforced nickel alloy sleeve on the body side is one of the best, smoothest fitting I have ever seen.  Its sister horn, the Custom Z Tenor, has the same neckjoint.  The leather on the pads is good quality, but the resonators are plastic which produce a sound with a good edge but not very fat.  This may also be caused by the heavy metal used in the body of the horn.  Listen to the sound produced on Custom Z when I play a  three octave concert E flat diminished scale (mouthpiece setup is a Meyer 6M with a Harrison ligature and a Zonda 3.5 Alto reed):


Listen to the Yamaha Custom Z


Now listen to the same scale played as a benchmark on a classic King Super 20 (same mouthpiece, same reed, same ligature)


Listen to the King Super 20


Very easy to hear the fatter sound on the King and slightly edgier but more timid sound on the Yamaha.  Kudos to the Yamaha, however, for having an altissimo register with cleaner action than the King.  Even so, the intonation of the altissimo scale is better on the King than the Yamaha, which produce highest notes that were a little flat.  With practice a player may be able to adjust for that.  As usual, there are tradeoffs between one great horn and another.


The spatula keys on the Yamaha are “dished” very well and the rollers provide an excellent feel for the player.  Listen to this clip of an exercise that works the spatula keys:


Custom Z spatula keys


Note that the low B flat doesn’t speak right away.  I was not able to eliminate this with practice over the week I had the horn (which is a bad sign), but with persistence a player may be able to smooth this out over time.

Here is a similar exercise played on the King (again the reed, mouthpiece, etc. are the same):


Super 20 spatula keys


The notes are much smoother.  The old King’s touch and feel is not as good as the Yamaha, however.


Now the price — the Custom Z runs about $2800.  That’s about the same price you can get a good used Super 20 alto.  My current favorite, the Buffet 400 Alto is priced much lower.  The Yamaha Custom Z is an excellent horn, but not quite as good as the Buffet or a King Super 20.  Still, being the owner of a Yamaha YBS-62 Bari Sax, I have learned that they require less maintenance than a King, and the Buffet hasn’t been on the market long enough to determine how well it holds up.  So, for the aspiring player it might be appropriate to have a Yamaha to reduce the frequency of “tune ups”.



Yamaha’s palm keys are “built out” in such a fashion that they fit better to the palm than any other sax

Yamaha’s spatula keys are “dished” to produce a better touch and feel for the player

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