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Yamaha YAS-475 alto saxophone

Yamaha YAS475 alto saxophoneOrigin: Japan (
Guide price: £1200
Weight: -
Date of manufacture: 2004
Date reviewed: February 2005

Yamaha's intermediate horn, combining elements of their pro horns with a slightly lower price tag

Intermediate horns tend to live a little in the shadows of both the student and the pro horns.
Unless the pricing is spot on they can sometimes seem like a comparatively poor deal. For many years, Yamaha's intermediate horn (formerly the 32 or 52 series) has sat nicely in the middle of the range - but with recent price drops on the 62 series the question to be asked is whether the 475 gives the best value for money.
For just under £1000 you get a very respectable instrument. The 475 has undergone a few improvements over its older 32/52 series siblings. Yamaha quote it as now having a 'classic 62 series style neck' - which I take to mean it now has the crook that used to come with the MKI 62. If that's correct than that's a nice bonus - and a very sensible use of an old line.

The horn shares some other features with the 62 series, such as the tilting bell key spatula arrangement and the removable bell clamp - along with the sturdier bell brace.
I note the relatively small sling ring (as fitted to the 275). It looks neat, but it really could do with being slightly larger to accommodate a wider range of sling hooks - especially the locking variety, which tend to be rather bulky.
The pillars are fitted on individual bases (as opposed to the strap system used on the pro models), and these bases are both generous in size and well fitted to the body. The same is true for all the other fixtures and fittings, maintaining Yamaha's usual reputation for build quality.
The epoxy lacquer finish is excellent, and with not a sign of corruption after a year's use.

The keywork is good - a cantilevered octave key mechanism, forked side trills and the aforementioned tilting spatula arrangement make for a positive and responsive feel. I'm not so impressed by the plastic key pearls though - a lot of players, myself included, find them a bit slippery when the going gets hot.
Proper point screws have been used throughout, which allows for adjustment down the years as the action wears. Stainless springs are used throughout.
I noted that the keys seem softer than on previous incarnations - but not so soft that it should cause problems in normal use. In the hands of a less than careful student it's quite possible that keys might get bent - but then again it can be argued that it's better to have a key bend than have it snap off a pillar.
A top F# and an adjustable thumb rest complete the horn.

The setup was typical - the action was a little too high, and the springs were set quite hard. These horns benefit enormously from having the action lowered a tad and the springing backed off. It improves speed, response and feel without detriment to the tone. I haven't yet come across a client who wasn't thoroughly pleased with the results.

YAS475 low D keyAlso noted was the usual problem with the low D (shown left) and C key cups whereby the cups are perhaps a tad too small for the corresponding tone hole - with so little overlap there's precious little spare pad beyond the seat impression, and unless these pads are set spot on they're inclined to show leaks. Even an extra millimetre on the diameter of the key cup would improve reliability of the seat.

The horn plays very well indeed. Tonewise it has more body than the 275 series, but not as much 'polish' as the 62. There are many players who like the cut of the 275, and the 475 retains just enough of it whilst giving you a little bit extra in the midrange, along with a slicker action.
The usual Yamaha precision is in evidence, along with a nice sense of attack and clarity to the notes - and all nicely in tune.
The 62 crook cleans up the altissimo range nicely, and just brings out a little extra warmth in the lower end without smudging the horn's bright and breezy approach.
As an 'inbetween' horn it fulfils its brief with ease.

The case is as supplied with the 275 series. I've commented in that review about the tendency of the case to appear closed and locked when it fact it's no such thing. It's something you should be aware of.

So, as an intermediate horn the 475 easily makes the grade. For many players this could be all the horn they'll ever need - but with prices on the 62 series being quite close (barely another couple of hundred quid) you'd be well advised to try them both if your budget can run to it.

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