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Yanagisawa Saxophones

10th June 2021

Here at Dawkes Music we stock a wide range of Yanagisawa Saxophones for sale. Yanagisawa are one of the most popular upgrade professional level Saxophones. This is our ultimate guide to the brand, the range and all the differences to help you choose.

The 1990’s saw the introduction of the 900 series which helped cement their hard-earned regard from players and dealers around the world. The classic A901 Alto Sax went on to be a huge seller, directly competing with the popular Yamaha YAS-62 series at the first pro upgrade level of the market. Throughout the 1990’s Yanagisawa continued to push the boundaries of manufacturing by producing bronze and solid silver instruments. Some models even combined both materials to make some very interesting sounding Saxophones.

The range was being chosen by well-known professional players and Yanagisawa began to cement its position as one of the top 3 worldwide Saxophone brands alongside Selmer and Yamaha. In 2014, the new WO series was launched. The Alto WO was first up and in the following years the Tenor & Soprano have followed and most recently the Baritone.

Yanagisawa WO Model Overview – Materials

There are five models of Alto, Tenor and Baritone now available. Soprano has six straight options and three curved. There are spec differences and also material differences. Let’s take a look at the material differences first and how that might affect the sound…

Brass

The Brass models all have a 1 in the model code. For example, AWO1/O10 on Alto, TWO1/O10 on Tenor and so forth. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; each manufacturer has their own preference on the percentages of each material within it. Zinc tends to bring brightness to the sound and copper will bring more warmth. Thus, depending on the manufacturer’s choice of mix, it will produce variations in tone colour. Most wind instruments are made of Brass. This is partly because of availability, cost and how it reacts in the manufacturing process. Also, because it’s historically offered a good balance for wind instruments in terms of projection and warmth.

Bronze

The Bronze models all have a 2 in the model code. For example, AWO2/O20 on Alto, TWO2/O20 on Tenor and so forth. Bronze is a metal alloy consisting of copper and usually tin, although sometimes other elements are also added. Bronze has been used in some Saxophone production, and also in pro level cymbals and indeed on some Organ pipes. It produces a different tonal quality than Brass, and whilst this is a subjective topic, we tend to feel the Bronze offers an extra warmth and breadth to the sound. Perhaps it loses a little direct projection though because of the absence of zinc.

Silver

Yanagisawa were not the first to use silver in the production of Saxophones, but arguably they’ve done it most successfully and most consistently. The WO30/O32/O33/O37 models now offer players a luxurious look and tone that is unmatched by brass or bronze. However, there is always a flip side and there are a couple of things to consider: Silver is around 10-15% heavier than Brass or Bronze, thus making the instrument weightier accordingly.

It’s also more expensive and the WO37 silver models are amongst the most expensive on the market. The payoff is an instrument that really does feel alive, from a whisper to a shout. The silver models feel extremely resonant and responsive. It’s hard to explain in words, it’s something you need to feel and hear.

Model Overview: Spec Differences

So, we’ve established the first choice you can make is around the material difference used on the Sax. Now, let’s take a look at some of the spec differences as you go through the range:

WO1/O2 vs WO10/WO20

These are the most popular models and whilst the choice is commonly framed as being between the cheaper, or perhaps ‘intermediate’ version vs the more expensive ‘pro’ version we’d encourage you to take a different view of these models. There are certain additions on the O10/O20 which may assist in playability (more on that later), but we would argue the real choice here is in the type of sound and resonance you want between the two types of design.

The O1/O2 models are a little lighter because the key pillars are soldered directly onto the body, whereas on the O10/O20 models there are a series of long ribs that run down the body which the key pillars are soldered to. The addition of the ribs adds weight which arguably increasers the density to the sound (O10/O20) but some players actually prefer the lighter, more agile response of the O1/O2 series.

In fact, most of the differences are about weight, the more specs added to the O10/O20 makes them heavier to hold and thus heftier in tonal feel. The O1/O2 models feel brighter and lighter – this is clearly then a choice as to what sort of tone you may prefer rather than a better or worse situation.

The main tech spec differences are listed below:

  • Underslung neck on the O10/O20 offers less resistance and more immediate tone production due to reduced weight on the upper curve of the neck.
  • Double arms on the low B/C keys on the O10/O20 arguably helps those pads seat more securely because it stabilises the pad and avoids ‘bounce’ which can leave air free to escape.
  • The C#/B linkage mechanism allows for a partial slide from the C# to B key making it much easier to slide at speed in either direction because your finger is covering less distance.
  • On the O20 (but not O10) metal resonators are used in all the pads (as opposed to just the palm key pads on all other models). The addition of the metal resonators to the O20 adds a little extra vibrancy and ring to the sound, perhaps this is to compensate the slightly warmer/darker nature of Bronze and the additional density of tone that the added ribs and other spec add-ons give.

Model Overview – WO Series (New) vs 900 Series (Old)

The new WO Series was introduced first with the Alto models in 2014, this replaced the old 900 series. Since then, Yanagisawa have employed a staggered introduction from Alto, through Tenor & Soprano with Baritone being the most recent update. Since the 1970’s Yanagisawa have only had 3 major model family updates; 800 Series, 900 Series and WO Series. So, you can see they’re not exactly trigger happy when it comes to changing things, something we highly commend as consistency is a virtue too few manufacturers seem to hold at the moment.

So, What Changed?

Quite simply, everything! That may sound a little dramatic, but the bore size, tone hole positions and core brass composition all changed. You can’t get more fundamental than that. However, and this is the clever part, despite these fundamental changes, Yanagisawa stayed true to the extremely comfortable, ergonomic layout of the keys and the incredible evenness of tone and sound quality. In fact, they simply improved those already strong points even further.

Full Spec Differences WO Series (New) vs 900 Series (Old):

  • New internal bore shape and design to offer more tonal balance, improved intonation across the whole instrument and projection
  • Different blend of core materials (brass/bronze compounds) to promote fuller resonance and immediacy of response
  • Low C/Eb key angle change to feel more comfortable under the fingers
  • Front F Key shape change to be more easily reached, plus adjustable rocker arm so you can modify the vent height of the pad (to sharpen or flatten the note)
  • Left Hand palm key plate added to body; this adds weight to this area of the tube which gives those palm key notes a little more solidity of tone
  • Extra strengthened feet on right side keys (Bb/C/E) to eliminate any feeling of travel or sponginess in the action commonly found on all Sax side keys
  • New neck plate added to O1/O2 models to add weight and a little resistance to blow against

Want some help? Our specialist friendly team are on hand to give advice on anything Saxophone related. Just contact us and we’ll be in touch.