Posted on July 1, 2015
On The Bench: Yamaha YTS-32 Tenor Saxophone
This is a Yamaha YTS-32, which is basically a Yamaha YTS-52 for the European market. Originally marketed as an intermediate horn, much like the Yamaha YSS-475 intermediate soprano it is actually every bit as professional in playing as its big brother, the 62, with the only notable subtractions to my mind (though there are quite a few differences) being the lack of engraving and plastic key touches rather than genuine pearl. But in playing, this is a really great saxophone.
I do have to admit when the owner told me he wanted a full mechanical rebuild and was willing to wait on my waitlist, I was a little surprised. This is not the kind of horn I typically work on- while I do see saxophones all over the map when it comes to market value, typically I am working on horns that are quite a bit older than I am. This one is not that old (from the 1980s) AND it had been kept in immaculate condition by its original owner- it would have been a fairly easy thing to repad it for a lot less almost anywhere else- which I told the owner. But he would not be dissuaded, and wanted me to go full-bore and make the horn as perfect as I could. I suppose that the original owner still owned and played it should have given me a clue, but it took getting the horn in my hands and overhauling and playing it to become a believer.
The overhaul went quite smoothly as you might expect for a modern Yamaha that had been babied, and the end result was satisfying indeed. The owner of this horn absolutely loves this saxophone and did not want anything to change (except to improve it), so I went with a fairly traditional setup, keeping nearly everything OEM style, including plastic domed resonators, synthetic cork for adjustments, and natural cork for a lot of key feet. Luckily these more traditional techniques have been something I have been paying special attention to over the past few years, and I am beginning to believe more and more that high-quality natural cork is a fantastic material when used intelligently but that is a topic I will address elsewhere at a later date.
Post-overhaul, the horn feels snappy under the fingers, quite comfortable ergonomically, and the sound is even and powerful without being too bright. Quite a nice horn to play, and quite an easy horn to play. It just does what you ask, and gives me the feeling that it will be quite a long time before it needs work again. Like a reliable little Honda, its hard not to fall in love with such a trusty steed.
In any case, this saxophone looks and feels great, and I am as excited as I ever get to see what the owner thinks of it. Its a high bar to spend a few weeks with a saxophone and try to either refresh and duplicate or improve every nuance of a horn that has been an extension of another human being for 30 years, but I didn’t choose to do what I do for a living because its easy.