Saturday, December 3, 2022

Yamaha’s YDS-150 digital sax puts functionality before performance

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There is a movement perfected by members of the college orchestra – primarily clarinetists, in my experience – that emerges directly after a musician makes a jarring mistake during a performance. The player will stop and look at their instrument in shock, as if they have just become sensitive and created the old villainous sound of their own free will. They’ll shake their heads as if to say, “Damn, it’s so hard to find a reliable instrument these days,” then join the performance, hoping their audience will buy the number.

I thought about this phenomenon while I was playing Yamaha YDS-150 Digital Saxophone the other day. I played alto and tenor saxophone regularly for about 10 years, from fourth to fourth. fanfare and orchestra in my last year of high school. After that, I played less often, and nowadays I rarely touch the tenor which is hidden in my closet. It’s been over 10 years since the last year, and honestly, when the YDS-150 arrived on my doorstep, I wasn’t even sure if I would remember how to read sheet music.

Turns out I did. I uploaded some songs to Dish and gave them a try on the YDS-150, and the fingerings flowed naturally. I was about halfway through the solo of “Oh Bondage! To you! »By X-Ray Spex, happy to play again and incredibly happy to have retained some skill, when suddenly the sax stopped making sound. I increased my air pressure and – nothing. I pulled the instrument away from my mouth and looked at it in confusion, as if it had developed a mind of its own.

Only this time it was. The batteries of the YDS-150 died in the middle of my song and the sax died out. It made me think these college kids might be on to something, after all.


“The sax is extinguished” is an odd phrase to type, and I find it hard to express the exact sense of surreality that accompanies changing the batteries on an instrument that, to my mind, is solidly acoustic. But it’s my own decision. After swapping out the four AAA batteries above the thumb rest and restarting the sax, I quickly forgot my anxiety over the relentless advancements in technology and continued to have a fantastic time playing old favorites. .

The YDS-150 is striking: it’s closer in size and shape to a soprano sax, and its body is matte black with pearly accents and a brass finish on the bell. The contrast between black and metal is tactical and sharp. The YDS-150 is also light – so light that I didn’t feel the need to use the neck strap for most of my playing time. As a recovering tenor player, it’s a dream. come true.

The electronic advantages of the YDS-150 far outweigh its potential to turn off in the middle of a song, especially since it flashes a warning light when the batteries are low and is delivered. with a micro-USB power cable which can let it work as long as it is plugged in.

Yamaha YDS-150 Digital Saxophone
Benefits include reading unnamed books on your YDS-150 until late at night.


The saxophone can connect to speaker or headphones through stereo mini cable, and it can receive grab via Bluetooth from a phone, tablet or computer. This allows players to hear and play alongside the backing tracks of these devices. However, he cannot production sound via Bluetooth, which means connecting wireless headphones is not an option. Wired headphones work great, but it feels like a missed opportunity for the AirPods era.

The instrument has 73 pre-programmed voices for soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and non-sax sounds, and it also allows players to enter and save custom channels. These are editable in the YDS Controller app which is incredibly handy. After connecting the saxophone to the app via Bluetooth, players can change the voices, as well as permanent settings such as tuning, key response, reverb type, breathing pressure resistance, and breathing response , which are all applied immediately to the instrument.

Yamaha YDS-150 Digital Saxophone


There is a separate tab just for fingering information and editing, allowing players to search not only for the preloaded standard parameters, but also to change the button layout for any note. This is useful for accessibility reasons and also provides potential shortcuts for performing delicate or experimental songs. The coolest feature of the fingering tab is how it responds in real time to any buttons a player presses on the connected YDS-150, automatically scanning the associated note diagram.

This feature is especially useful for people who use the YDS-150 as a practice instrument, and this is where I see its benefits. While the diversity of voices and settings of the YDS-150 is impressive, the sounds that emanate from the instrument are thin and sound like keyboards. While some vocals are more realistic than others, this thing shouldn’t be confused with an acoustic saxophone. The YDS-150 isn’t quite performance grade, from my point of view.

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

And that’s closer to what I can get from it:

The YDS-150 costs $ 1,078, much more than a mid-range alto or tenor, and Yamaha markets it as a studio instrument. And, hey, that’s right. The YDS-150 is impressive; it contains a wide range of voices in a range of styles, from jazz to electronic to classical, and it packs four separate instruments into a sleek, lightweight container. The sax’s carrying case is thin enough to slip over your shoulder like a yoga mat. It is magic.

The YDS-150 is worth the price of admission, although it is no substitute for an acoustic soprano, alto, tenor or bari saxophone. It’s a ridiculously customizable practice tool, an unprecedented performance device, and a beautiful instrument all around.

Even when its batteries die.


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