Digital saxophones are a great modern-day instrument, both easy to learn and fun to play.
And whilst their acoustic counterparts aren’t going anywhere, top digital models such as the Yamaha YDS 150 saxophone can be an interesting option for both the forward-thinking professional or the noise-conscious beginner.
This model was only released in late 2020 but has already become a popular option.
Yamaha is iconic for their saxophones and synthesisers, and the YDS 150 is a perfect combination of both. The YDS digital saxophone pairs a regular saxophone with a wind synth to make a high-quality electronic instrument with great sound and plenty of customisation available.
To make things easier for you, we’ve broken down some of the YDS 150’s features and specifications, as well as what we like about it and what could be improved. So let’s get started!
The Yamaha YDS 150 is a straight and rigid saxophone, with its keys along the body going down to the bell at the bottom. Visually, it most closely resembles the soprano saxophone.
The keys and tone holes, though, are in the same position on all saxophone types though, so there’s no big problem moving from this sleek instrument to a more common one like alto or tenor, as the saxophone fingering stays the same regardless.
The understated colour scheme makes for a great-looking sax, with most of the body and keys in a solid black, while the bell (and some highlights along the body) are a shining brass.
Size And Weight
A digital saxophone doesn’t have the same physical restrictions as a regular saxophone.
While an acoustic sax needs a specific size and shape to produce the correct sound, a digital saxophone can do away with this bulk, leaving you with a much less cumbersome instrument which can easily be carried in a soft case.
The YDS 150 is much lighter than the average Yamaha acoustic saxophones, weighing around 2.2 lbs.
It’s also only about 4 inches in diameter, making it a lot more manageable. And at just under 2.5 feet long, the Yamaha YDS is easy to carry, hold, and play.
This lack of bulk doesn’t hinder the sound, however.
Not only that, but you can also play the same massive array of sounds available to other wind synths, all of which come through in a clear, smooth tone.
The speakers in the bell and the neck have great sound quality, or you can also plug your saxophone into an amp for more volume and depth. You can even plug in a pair of headphones to practice anywhere, providing an efficient alternative to a saxophone mute.
Along with the wide array of sounds available to the wind synth, you are also able to create your own sounds by using the YDS Control mobile app.
The app also allows you to edit different sounds and effects (such as ambient reverb) and map an entire instrument’s worth of notes with a custom set.
This editability makes the Yamaha YDS 150 an incredibly versatile instrument with plenty of sound options available to amateur and professional players alike.
How It Works & Plays
The YDS 150 plays in almost the exact same way as a regular saxophone.
The keys, tone holes, and octave pin are all in the same places, and the mouthpiece is functional. However, there isn’t the typical curved bell.
While the real brass bell on the end of the YDS 150 doesn’t provide much functional use, it does contain one of two speakers for when you’re playing without an amp.
It also adds a little bit of charm and sets it apart from other wind synthesisers.
The mouthpiece has breath pressure resistance, which means that blowing lightly produces a quiet sound, and blowing harder makes a louder sound.
However, the mouthpiece doesn’t really allow for manipulation of the sound itself. The reed is made of rigid plastic, held in place by a ligature, and doesn’t have any bearing on the note it produces.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t manipulate the note at all, though.
There’s a switch on the body called the ‘Analogue Controller’ which allows you to add some expression to the notes like pitch bend or vibrato playing.
By using the YDS Control app, you can easily change your saxophone’s sounds and even create your own custom notes. You can then start playing straight away, through the built-in speakers, an amp, or earphones.
The YDS 150 is also compatible with some music software, letting you compose as you play.
What We Like
There’s plenty of things to love about the Yamaha YDS 150, from its design and features to its natural playability.
By combining the key layout of a regular saxophone with the functionality of a wind synth, Yamaha made an incredibly versatile and easy-to-play instrument.
You also have a wide array of sounds available to you. Not only do you have a traditional saxophone, but the capabilities of a wind synth.
Additionally, the instrument settings allow you to create your own custom sounds and upload them directly to your saxophone.
There are other great features that allow you to manipulate and experiment with your sound.
The breath pressure resistance lets you emote through different pitches and volumes, while the Analogue Controller gives you the power to alter and distort your notes.
The great sound quality and ease of use are the icing on the cake, making the Yamaha YDS 150 one of the best and most innovative digital saxophones available.
What Could Be Better?
That said, there are a few things that could be improved upon. One of these is the mouthpiece – while you can manipulate a note with the Analogue Controller, you aren’t able to alter the sound with the reed.
As mentioned previously, the stiff plastic reed doesn’t have any practical use.
This may be an issue for professional players who are used to adding vibrato through the mouthpiece, or amateur players who want to learn these techniques.
If you’re used to playing an acoustic instrument, you might also need to adjust the key sensitivity.
The YDS 150 has the option to increase or decrease the sensitivity of the keys, but the default is much less responsive than a normal saxophone.
Despite these flaws, the Yamaha YDS 150 is a great digital saxophone, and a great choice for both amateur and professional saxophonists.