Review alto saxophone Yamaha YAS-280

  • Posted on: 16 June 2015
  • By: Mark

Review alto saxophone Yamaha YAS-280

brand : Yamaha
Type : YAS-280
Serial number : L12865 (Made in Indonesia)
Bought new : december 2013
Reseller price (april 2015) : 979 euro
Review date: 9th april 2015

The Yamaha YAS-280 is the successor of the YAS-275. This is the entry-model (study sax) Yamaha and is widely used by students. The reseller (dealer) advertises with the following text:
This saxophone has a relatively thin wall which weighs less than the average sax and easily appeals. These features on the instrument are therefore very suitable for children. The sound is smooth and bright, easy tuning. The keywork (operation) is modern and very comfortable. Very solidly built of quality materials. Perfect finish, leaving little maintenance.

This alto sax was received by MRO saxophones early April 2015. Customer purchased the saxophone new from a reputable vendor in the middle of the country in December 2013. The customer was not completely satisfied on the set-up, found that the sax began to loose control. That was also observed directly; many pads were sticky and delayed the action of the sax.

Initially the sax looked fine. No dent in sight, and almost no scratches. However, a lot of dust between the valves work, and a lot of dried water marks on keywork and body. Initial inspection of the pads was a direct hit: all pads at the top were dried out and contaminated. Gis and low Eb pad were completely black and clogged. They needed to be replaced. And that after eighteen months of normal operation... .. Too bad Yamaha saxophones are equiped with poor quality pads. I've seen this before on other Yamaha horns as well......

Test play : from low D not playable. Very heavy left pink plateau keys. Pad on low Cis does not fit on tonehole and wobbles. Keywork setup is generally very high. Spring tension is on the high side. Octave mechanism is opening too far, uncomfortable.

This was even more evidence of wear during disassembly of the sax and accurate inspection of each individual key. Many pads were already hardened and rather rough, just as cheap Chinese pads. Missed opportunity for Yamaha (number one ....). The oil has already become quite thick and sluggish after eighteen months, so we removed all oil and applied new oil with the correct thickness during assembly. What is striking is the poor quality of the material used for the rods (many scratches). Keywork finish is generally good; also the laquer looks fine. All dirt could be effortlessly removed without scratching: this sax looks new again after cleaning.

The problem with the low register is due to the malfunction on the Cis key. Removing this key takes more effort than expected. It seems the rode freezes into the shaft; the lid is crooked. No visible signs of damage, but this has to be restored. I'm shocked by the flexibility of the material of the key. I did not expect this from Yamaha! They applied a weaker alloy on the YAS-280 to save on material costs; that is obvious. We see more items of production saving. Here's a brief summary (see the pictures):

- No blue steel needle springs are used, but simple steel springs (with poor workmanship).
- Solderings on the body look really thin. I have strong doubts about the strength of this on the long term.
- Laquer on the body on the transitions is thin. You can see the solderings through it.
- Some studs are very susceptible to damage. In particular, the upper stud (3-piece) is a common source for potential problems. Just one touch is enough to make the whole sax unplayable, and through the thin soldering it can break off easily.
- No imitation pearl on Gis key, as with most saxophones.
- Simple (but working fine) left little finger plateau.
- Cheap-looking key guards, without embellishment.
- Simple pants guard, without embellishment.
- Simple bumper on bottom bow.
- No engraving on the bow, except Yamaha logo (thankfully not printed).
- Made in Indonesia, not made in Japan. That"s obviously because of labor costs....

Ok: let's continue with this sax. After disassembly the body is inspected. Tone holes look good; lacquer inside the tone holes is good too but they are full of tiny laquer flakes. They create pollution and non-fitting pads ...... Presumably, these flakes come from the sax body (which is always cleaned by the customer with a wiper cord). Inside body looks clean but lacks a lot of laquer. Hence the flakes ... .. The tone holes are easy to clean and they are staight. The tone hole of the low-Es and the Gis are also fine; I'm therefore wondering why the pads are completely shot.
All pads are cleaned and impregnated so they can take a while. The pad of the high E is completely shot and is replaced. About this key : the flat spring of the key is way too large and poorly finished.....

After a complete cleaning the sax is assembled again. I am not in favor of felt with a sticky side that release quickly. I found it at various places so I replaced it by tech cork. Low Cis mechanism is fine again now but the padding does not close completely. I solved it by mounting a piece of heat shrink tubing over the existing mechanism (standard solution). No other issues, the assembly is progressing well, it's an easy sax to work on. The point screws are factory sealed, so I do that also. Little slack on the axles; thoughtful design of Yamaha. Too bad this sax suffers from this high spring tension! Key height can be adjusted by a technician if desired, and the adjustment of the valves is simply the adjustment screws. Prima!

Then the octave mechanism. Simple and effective. Nothing wrong with it.... On the neck, the octve key opens way too far, the thumb control is not adjusted properly. Again, this can be solved rather quickly and simply, the sax is playing much better now. The neck itself is just fine, though it looks all a bit cheap.

The sax can now be tested extensively and plays smoothly. It fits in my hands comfortably and is tunig rather well (except the middle D, which is too high). Sound is homogeneous and very nice, a bit flat: the typical Yamaha sound. The factory-included mouth piece should be thown directly into the trash can: invest in a good mouthpiece like a Selmer C *. The sax is equipped with a high-Fis key. Nice, but not absolutely necessary for students.

Conclusion: The Yamaha YAS-280 is basically a fine playing instrument. With some minor technical adjustments and a good mouthpiece this sax plays much better as the standard factory settings. It's very well suitable for children. The price however is too high for the quality delivered. Yamaha uses his good name to build a rather low-costing sax and sell it for a lot of money. The advantage is that this sax remains a good value as occasion, as opposed to a cheap Chinese sax. It is important that the sax is properly maintained and must be handled carefully. The precursor (YAS-275) is better build and will last longer. The same conclusion applies for the YAS-23 and YAS-25.

Personally I would not buy this YAS-280. For a significantly smaller amount of money you can buy a good occasion YAS-23 (or YAS-275) that has been completely overhauled and will do just as well for the young student. Moreover, these saxophones are more robust. They look perhaps somewhat less attractive because they are occasions......
For lovers of cheaper alternatives and bling-bling: see the most amazing adds on eBay. Remember: Warranty up to the front door ......

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