All Things Saxophone

Yamaha Custom YTS-82Z

Last modified 10/04/08


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Yamaha, once considered a newcomer in the circle of quality saxophone makers, has entrenched themselves as an established manufacturer since the 1980s.  The Custom Z Tenor is the best representative I have seen from them — EVER.  This horn has me thinking about making a switch and that’s something to consider for a guy who’s been playing the same horn (a 1967 King Super 20 Silversonic Tenor) since 1984.


· Construction, look & feel

The action on the keys rivals that of a classic Selmer Mark VI, maybe better, and certainly a notch better than the King Super 20.  Like its sister horn the Custom Z Alto, the neckjoint with its reinforced nickel alloy sleeve on the body side is one of the best, smoothest fitting I have ever seen.  The leather on the pads is good quality, but the resonators are plastic — I wish they were metal.  If they were, I believe the sound on this horn would equal or outshine


my King.


· Sound

The horn produces an excellent sound—nearly as good as a King Super 20.  Here’s a sample of the sound I produce on the Custom Z Tenor (mouthpiece setup is a metal Runyon 7 with ligature and a Zonda 2.5 reed):


Listen to the Yamaha Custom Z


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


Listen to the King Super 20


As you can hear the sound on the King is a bit better but the Yamaha’s sound is very competitive — much more so than I expected.


As another benchmark, here’s the same motif played on the Cannonball Vintage Tenor (same mouthpiece and reed setup)


Listen to the Cannonball Vintage Tenor


· Intonation

This is one of the characteristics that makes this horn stand out as the best Yamaha I’ve every played.  Of course the regular scale is very good (I would expect nothing otherwise), but the altissimo intonation is noticeably better than my King, and this is where this horn really shines.


· Price

Now the price — the Custom Z Tenor runs about $3500.  That’s more than a Cannonball Stone Series or the new Cannonball Vintage, but certainly less than a Selmer.  The Yamaha Custom Z is an excellent horn, perhaps even better than a King Super 20.  A little more time getting to know the instrument and I will know for sure.

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

The Yamaha Custom Z bell sports an insignia engraved in a classic style

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The Yamaha Custom Z Tenor Sax (YTS-82Z)