Developed as a synthesised electronic instrument for saxophonists, the YDS 150 sports a black polymer body and keywork and a brass bell.
Straight out of the circular case (more of that later), it is extremely lightweight, and we found no need for a strap – although one is included. It feels very comfortable in the hands and over the keys, which are for the most part in the correct position.
As there are no linkages, all the keys have a consistent operation, which is a little odd, but good when you get used to it. There is potential for easy fast-moving fingering (provided that the software is up to it!), and it is a great improvement to have a bottom ‘A’ key on all instruments, and not just on the baritone!
Not having rollers in the correct positions was odd though, and we think that the instrument would benefit from these rather than moving the ‘pinkies’ around on the keys without them.
Power supply comes from either four AAA LR03 batteries or the USB connection. The control buttons on the instrument are sensibly placed and can easily be operated, although white markings on the embossed motifs might have been helpful for those with poor sight. While the buttons give functionality, the instrument really needs to be used with the Yamaha YDS Controller app, which does everything you need and is practical to operate.
The gem is the fingering assignment, with the ability to define your own choices. This is very useful for altissimo fingerings as they have to be the same on all instruments, which initially might seem to be a little confusing, but is in fact a great advantage. There is also fingering sensitive adjustment, which is certainly helpful for beginners as it is less reactive to the player fumbling over their finger movements. We did however notice that there is a problem with latency above zero.
The supplied mouthpiece is fitted with ‘0’ rings and not cork, so using your own mouthpiece might not be practical. But in simple terms, the saxophone-specific mouthpiece and reed need not be there, as you can use the settings to control the volume with volumetric pressure and the sound with the control of the air flow. However, any hope of using the nuance of the reed is disappointingly not there.
Tuning, as you might expect from an electronic instrument, is spot-on across all ranges, which is a bit spooky when you get into the altissimo register, as notes are in tune without effort.
The internal speakers are functional and adequate, but we suspect that the YDS 150 is designed to work primarily with headphones or an amp.
We found that the ‘headphone/output’ and ‘aux in’ on the side – although looking practical – creates a problem with trailing leads and a left-hand bias. We would have preferred to have seen them set centrally to the back of the instrument.
When it comes to sonic output, we found that to our ears, the baritone was the most realistic. The synth’ sounds are ok if that’s what you are looking for, but they’re limited. Where for instance are the flutes and the clarinets? Although the YDS 150 does have a dynamic range, it is sadly not that of a traditional instrument.
An unusual instrument demands an unusual case, and the ‘wrap over’, zippered, bespoke nylon denier case with its heavy-duty clasps and adjustable shoulder strap is certainly that!
Although there is a useful inside zippered pocket, we felt that more interior protection would have helped. Care also needs to be taken when opening the case, as you could easily find your instrument flying across the floor!
In conclusion, we feel that the YDS 150 is fine for practice (particularly if you are not in a soundproof environment) and studio work, but it’s unlikely to set a live stage alight.
For more info visit www.uk.yamaha.com