My search has brought me to this beauty – the Yamaha Custom 82Z. I’m looking for a new tenor saxophone myself, so I want to know – which is the best pro Yamaha tenor sax?
I’m really grateful to Yamaha for lending this new Yamaha Custom 82Z to me for a few weeks to test.
Over the years, I’ve played Yamaha saxes quite a bit. My alto is a Yamaha Purple Logo YAS 62, which I bought new in the eighties – and I love it! But the Yamaha tenor saxophones I’ve tried before didn’t have the sound I was looking for.
In this review, I’m looking at:
as well as playing it in 4 different styles and comparing it to the other Yamaha tenor saxophones I’ve been testing.
The Yamaha Custom 82Z vs the Yamaha 875
A lot of people have been asking me about the difference between these two Yamaha saxophones. As I understand it, the 82Z is better suited to a range of playing styles, whereas the 875 is more of a classical saxophone. This is why I chose to test the 82Z. It’s also got some updated features compared to the 62, which caught my eye!
I’ve played a Yamaha alto for a long time, so I’m a little biased, but I think the mechanism on the Custom 82Z is fantastic. It felt really familiar. I think Yamaha mechanisms are very accurate and even, and there are no struggles with the little fingers. It feels balanced, and as you would expect with a pro–level saxophone, it’s well set up.
You might have seen my blog where I test the Yanagisawa WO10 against the Silver and Bronze 9932. I actually prefer the Yanagisawa mechanism to this Yamaha – they are both really great, but for me, the Yanagisawa just has the edge.
Overall – a plus for mechanism.
Whereas the sound on the 62 tenor never really grabbed me, this sax has an excitement in the sound which I really like. It’s not overly commercial, and it’s not a classic Selmer Mk VI sound. It’s more contemporary, but it’s versatile. The Custom 82Z has an updated neck compared to the 62, so this might be what makes the difference, but I like it.
When I listened back to recordings of this saxophone, it did sound more commercial and bright compared to some of the other saxophones I’ve tested – but that’s just my opinion.
Overall, another plus for sound.
Overall the intonation on the Custom 82Z is fantastic, as you would expect from a Yamaha. It’s consistent all the way up into the altissimo.
The altissimo on this sax also pops out well – I would say it is better than on the Yanagisawa that I tested. Both are great, but on this tenor sax, it felt more natural – maybe this is because I play a Yamaha alto.
The overtone series sounds very easy as well, definitely easier than on the Selmer Reference 36.
In England, the Yamaha 82Z is about £4200 or about US $5400. This makes it cheaper than the Selmer Reference 36 or 54 at £6500 (US $8300). But, this saxophone is over £1000 more than the Yanagisawa WO10 at £3300 (US $4500).
I haven’t made up my mind yet, and the sax you choose might depend on the particular sound you are looking for. But this is an interesting sax to compare, as on price, it sits right in the middle of this pro range.
Have you played the Custom 82Z? What did you think?
I’m playing 4 different pieces from our Sax School lesson library.
- Ben Webster – I Got it Bad
- Wilton Felder – Street Life Solo
- Sam Butera – Buona Sera Solo
- Rimsky-Korsakov – Flight of the Bumblebee
I’ve spent some time warming up and getting familiar with this sax, but I’m playing through all these in one take. So that will show up anything I’m struggling with!
I’m using the same mouthpiece throughout – a Theo Wanne Slant Sig Size 8 Hard Rubber and a Légère Signature 2.5 Reed. I’m using the Rode RT1A mic, and I’m not using any effects on the recording either.
So what did you think? How did it compare in the different styles?
As I was playing, I really liked the “barkiness” of the sound in the Wilton Felder Solo. In the jump-jive Buona Sera Solo, I felt like was started to get towards the sort of sound I would like – and with a bit of work, I could get a big fat bluesy sound.
I could get quite a round vintage sound, but it’s definitely not a vintage saxophone. It takes a lot of work to get close to a warm, Ben Webster sound, but the Theo Wanna Slant Sig mouthpiece makes it a bit more flexible.
Overall, I like the 82Z. I’ve got a few more saxophones to test, but I think this is a great horn, especially if you are looking for a more commercial sound. If you’re playing in a funk or pop setting, or if you’re a professional saxophonist looking for a sax that is really versatile, then this Yamaha is fantastic. The mechanism is great, and it’s down to what you choose to create with the saxophone.