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Yamaha’s YDS-150 digital sax puts practicality over performance

There’s a transfer perfected by center college orchestra members — primarily clarinet gamers, in my expertise — that emerges instantly after a musician makes a jarring mistake throughout a performance. The participant will cease and look down at their instrument in shock, as if it had simply grown sentient and created the previous nasty sound of its personal volition. They’ll shake their head as if to say, “Jeez, it’s so hard to find a reliable instrument nowadays,” after which rejoin the performance, hoping their viewers purchased the act.

I considered this phenomenon whereas I used to be enjoying Yamaha’s YDS-150 Digital Saxophone the opposite day. I performed alto and tenor saxophone often for about 10 years, from fourth grade by way of marching band and orchestra in my ultimate year of highschool. After that, I performed much less typically, and these days I hardly ever contact the tenor that’s stashed in my closet. It’s been over 10 years since senior year, and actually, when the YDS-150 confirmed up at my door, I wasn’t even positive if I might keep in mind find out how to learn sheet music.

Turns out, I did. I loaded up a number of songs on Flat and gave them a attempt on the YDS-150, and the fingerings flowed naturally. I used to be about midway by way of the solo from “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” by X-Ray Spex, completely happy to be enjoying once more and extremely happy that I had retained some ability, when all of a sudden, the sax stopped making sound. I elevated my air stress and — nothing. I pulled the instrument away from my mouth and regarded down at it in confusion, as if it had developed a thoughts of its personal.

Only, this time, it form of had. The batteries within the YDS-150 had died in the course of my tune, and the sax shut itself off. It made me assume these center schoolers may be onto one thing, in spite of everything.


“The sax shut itself off” is a wierd phrase to kind, and I discover it tough to precise the precise feeling of surreality that comes with altering the batteries on an instrument that, in my thoughts, is solidly acoustic. But, that’s my very own hang-up. After swapping out the 4 AAA batteries above the thumb relaxation and booting up the sax once more, I shortly forgot about my nervousness over the unceasing progress of know-how, and continued to have a unbelievable time enjoying previous favorites.

The YDS-150 is placing: It’s closest in dimension and form to a soprano sax, and its physique is matte black with pearlescent keys and a brass end on the bell. The distinction between black and metallic is tactical and sharp. The YDS-150 can also be gentle — so gentle that I didn’t really feel the necessity to use the neck strap for many of my playtime. As a recovering tenor participant, this can be a dream come true.

The digital advantages of the YDS-150 far outweigh the potential for it to close down in the course of a tune, particularly contemplating it flashes a warning gentle when the batteries are operating low, and it comes with a micro-USB energy cable that may preserve it operating so long as it’s plugged in.

Yamaha YDS-150 digital saxophone
Benefits embody studying anonymous books to your YDS-150 late into the evening.


The sax can connect with a speaker or headphones by way of a stereo-mini cable, and it could possibly obtain enter by way of Bluetooth from a cellphone, pill or computer. This permits gamers to listen to and play alongside backing tracks from these units. However, it could possibly’t output sound by way of Bluetooth, which means hooking up wi-fi earbuds isn’t an choice. Wired headphones work simply effective, however this looks like a missed alternative for the AirPods period.

The instrument has 73 pre-programmed voices for soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and non-sax sounds, and it additionally permits gamers to enter and save customized channels. These are editable within the YDS Controller app, which is extremely handy. After connecting the sax to the app by way of Bluetooth, gamers are capable of edit voices, and in addition everlasting settings like tuning, key response, reverb kind, breath stress resistance and breath response, all of that are utilized instantly to the instrument.

Yamaha YDS-150 digital saxophone


There’s a separate tab only for fingering data and enhancing, permitting gamers to not solely search for the usual, pre-loaded settings, but additionally change the button association for any observe. This is helpful for accessibility causes, and it gives potential shortcuts in performing difficult or experimental songs, too. The coolest operate of the fingering tab is the way it responds in real-time to any buttons a participant presses on the linked YDS-150, robotically sweeping to the related observe diagram.

This characteristic is especially helpful for folk utilizing the YDS-150 as a follow instrument, which is the place I see its profit. Though the variety of voices and settings within the YDS-150 is spectacular, the sounds that emanate from the instrument are tinny and keyboard-like. While some voices are extra lifelike than others, there’s no mistaking this factor for an acoustic saxophone. The YDS-150 isn’t fairly performance-quality, from my perspective.

This is what one of many saxophonists who helped tune the YDS-150 can do with it:

And that is nearer to what I can get out of it:

The YDS-150 prices $1,078, considerably greater than a midrange alto or tenor, and Yamaha is advertising and marketing it as a studio instrument. And, hey, that’s honest. The YDS-150 is spectacular; it comprises a breadth of voices in a spread of types, from jazz to electronica to classical, and it packs 4 separate devices right into a glossy, light-weight container. The sax’s carrying case is slender sufficient to sling over your shoulder like a yoga mat. That’s magic.

The YDS-150 is definitely worth the worth of admission, although it’s not a substitute for an acoustic soprano, alto, tenor or bari sax. It’s a ridiculously customizable follow device, an unexceptional performance gadget and a phenomenal instrument throughout.

Even when its batteries die.