First impressions were good. They both arrived in good, solid looking cases with cool features like the large external pouch and backpack straps. The horns were well-constructed; I could not find any visual flaws with either. They felt the same, too. I'm not sure I could tell them apart by feel without much more experience with them. This is pretty rare. Even among good brands like Yamaha and Selmer, I find that two horns of the same model will still feel different, sometimes dramatically. The first notes were exciting, and again both horns felt very similar. There was enough of a difference, though, that I was able to pick a favorite, sign it out, and take it home. The horn I left behind had slightly fuzzier tone, and low register response was not as good; it might have just needed a good setup.
Now that I have lived with the horn for a week, I have some meaningful thoughts to share. I will say, though, that one week is still not enough time to truly get to know a new instrument, especially one of a different brand than you normally play. In my experience, some pros and cons don't reveal themselves clearly until you have played a horn for a long time, seen how it breaks in and holds adjustments, and how it responds to different music. That is why I call this a "First Impressions Review." I will be updating the lists below over time as more becomes clear.
Pros- Build quality: I still have not found a flaw in the horn's construction. It is beautiful.
- Action: This is some of the smoothest, quietest, most refined action I have ever experienced in a new saxophone.
- Comfort: With a couple exceptions listed below, this horn is every bit as comfortable as my Yamaha, which sets the standard in my opinion. I might like the Yany's front F key better, and the left hand pinky spatulas are awesome. I can nearly trill low B-C#, and I can trill low Bb-B.
- Tone: Beautiful sound that is exactly what I am looking for in the classical realm. It is in the same sound family as the new Yamaha EX with the V1 neck. In fact, when I recorded the Yanagisawa and the Yamaha back to back, it was difficult to tell the two apart. I don't think most audiences would hear the difference. For me, however, the Yanagisawa is slightly more even throughout the range, with a touch more clarity and focus. I love the balance of harmonics. There are enough high frequencies present to give good color and resonance, but it never sounds buzzy or thin.
- It has a lyre mount. I wish all Yamahas still did. This is an important consideration for high schools and military bands.
- Reasonable price that is between Yamaha and Selmer.
The Jury's Still Out- Intonation: Quite different than my Yamahas. I am having to raise the upper register and lower the low register more than I am used to. I think this is going to end up being in the Pro list, but more time will tell. So far, I think this may be one of the easier saxes to play in tune.
- Response: Initially I was having some trouble with the low D# bobbling, but this seems to have gone away now that I am getting used to the horn. Also, the overall response, especially when navigating big descending intervals, seemed a little sluggish, but again, this may be improving as I get accustomed to the horn. Similar results in the altissimo register. All notes up to the F an octave above the palm keys come out fine, and with the fingerings I am an used to, but they respond differently than my Yamaha. And right now, I am still missing the target more often, though this seems to be improving. Playing the overtone bugle call is pretty easy.
- Build quality: It is still too early to know how well this horn will hold up over time and hold its adjustments when it does need some work. There is a clunk sound that only shows up when I play extremely fast, Le Api, for example. When the first finger in the right hand opens very quickly, it allows the connector rod to slam a bit. I'm not sure how they would fix this without using a material that would compress too much over time.
- Jazz sound: I have not yet played enough jazz on it.
Cons- Palm Keys: D and D# are too pointed at the top and dig into my hand just a bit, though not as bad as some earlier model Yany's.
- High F# key: This is not comfortable for me, and I keep nearly missing it. Crunch G is very awkward. For those who are not familiar with Crunch G, it is a special fingering for altissimo G that allows one to play the note very softly and in tune. It is called Crunch G because the right hand has to grab the first finger F key, the high F# key, and the side Bb key (RSK 1) at the same time, which sort crunches the hand. I can do this comfortably on my Yamaha, but not yet on the Yany. BTW, I use this fingering all the time; it is one of my favorites for high G.
- The neck cannot be secured tightly enough and moves on me while I am playing.