Yamaha 62II Alto and Tenor Saxophones

Today’s musicians aren’t very realistic when it comes to buying new instruments. On one hand they demand instruments be made of the finest materials and offer all the bells and whistles technology can provide. They also want a great case; a cool, retro look and a sound that harkens back to the instruments of yesteryear. But they also want these instruments to be cheap. To cater to this demand we have seen a flood of new instruments, many coming from the production mills of Taiwan, each one offering “the world” at a price that can not be refused.

Where these companies may produce fine instruments they cannot offer the consumer the one element that they so eagerly crave: a track record of performance. In the 1980s Yamaha made its mark with the YAS- (alto) and YTS (tenor) 62, professional saxophones that set the modern standard for quality and sound. As many players put it, the Yamaha 62 was the new Selmer Mark VI.

As time went on Yamaha changed its production line and offered new models such as the 875 Custom, 82-EX and 82-Z lines. While each of those is a fine instrument the discontinued 62 left a void. Thankfully, Yamaha has reintroduced the line, with some modern advances, and calls it the 62II.

The 62II is an outstanding professional model saxophone. Having played the 875 Custom and 82-Z models, I find the 62II to be in the middle in terms of sound. For the player who demands a saxophone that produces a full sound with focus but not too much edge or darkness, the 62II is the perfect fit. Players who play classical and jazz should really take note of this instrument. The tone is rich and centered with tremendous projection. Both the high and low registers performed effortlessly with outstanding altissimo and effortless sub tone. The very first time I played it I was able to play 12 partials of the overtone series with no effort at all.

The feel of the 62II is solid with excellent key placement, especially in the palm keys. The feeling was smooth with particular ease coming in the low spatula keys (low C sharp and B flat). Movement between low C sharp and B is the smoothest I have ever played. The right-hand side keys (side B flat, C and high E) and palm keys fit my large hands so well that I was sure they would cause problems for some of my students with smaller hands. They didn’t. In fact the smoothness of the keys was one of the first compliments my students paid to the 62.

I had the pleasure of playing both the alto and tenor versions for over a month in a variety of classical and jazz settings. Both performed amazingly well. I even recorded the 62II performing both jazz and classical excerpts. In a blind comparison with the Selmer S-80 II, S-80 III and Mark VI, the 62II produced the preferred tone 72 percent of the time. I was even fooled when one of my students put my trusted Selmer up against the 62II. I couldn’t tell the difference. But don’t be confused; the Yamaha is its own master.

So, what major changes has Yamaha made to the old 62 horn to create such a fine new instrument? Not as many as you might think. The biggest change comes with the new G1 neck that Yamaha has found recent success with in the 875 Custom and 82-Z. (Note: The 62II’s neck is not handmade like the 875 Custom or 82-Z’s, rather it is hydroformed, a process of shaping the neck using high-pressured water). Other small additions are blue steel springs, silicon coated pads and a richer lacquer with tasteful engraving.

Your local repairperson will appreciate the U-shaped brackets on the side C and side B-flat keys, the angled low C-sharp and B keys and the redefined octave mechanism. I appreciate the adjustment screws on the low B key and on the back arms of the left and right hand keys.

There is one more thing you, the consumer should know: the price. These horns list between $3,146 and $3,346, meaning you can pick up an alto for about $1,800 ($1,900 and change if you desire the silver-plate finish). That’s right, a silver-plated gem for under $2,500. While I only I auditioned the lacquered models I can only imaging, rather dream of what these beauties must sound like in silver.

In this player’s opinion Yamaha did it all, coming through with consistency, sound and price. Is the 62II is the perfect horn? No, but after playing the 62II it is hard to imagine what the perfect horn is.