Yamaha-Custom-82Z-Soprano-SaxophoneThe 82Z embodies everything that we have come to expect from Yamaha, expert build, flawless finish – tangible tone. The gold lacquer (black lacquer and silver plated also available) finish on a one piece neck and body with a straight fixed crook (there is also a curved crook model), harks back to the much loved 62, which continues to be one of Yamaha’s most sought after sopranos. As you might expect, keywork is solid and dependable and the 82Z comes with some useful and subtle adjustments to key placement. The Eb key on the lower table is set slightly further away from the D key, which adds greatly to the playability in that area, while the palm keys are also larger and set at a more acute angle which aids the flow and functionality in the top register.

Fitting the supplied custom mouthpiece with its standard ligature and a Rico Jazz Select 3 reed, the 82Z proved to be a smooth and easy blower and beautifully even across the full range. Intonation was perfect and there was the usual Yamaha brightness to the overall sound. However, the 82Z has a depth and warmth to its sound that is really quite unique, particularly for an instrument with a straight crook – we wonder what levels of sweetness and warmth the curved crook model might produce. Having said that, it is still possible to coax dry, wiry “snake charmer” sounds from the straight crooked 82Z, which were particularly effective in the lower register. Shipped in a rectangular, hard shell, plush lined fitted case with a fine denier cover, double clasp locks and latch, two grab handles and substantial nylon feet to both the end and base of the case, this is a five star package that performs in every sense.

For more go to www.uk.yamaha.com

Odyssey-Premiere-Reeds-Woodwind-ReedsOdyssey has just released the Premiere Reed series to complement their recently launched Premiere series of woodwind instruments. Crafted from the finest French cane by one of the world’s leading reed manufacturer’s (on which we’re still laying bets!), these reeds have a balance, timbre and response that is really impressive and a texture that would seem to indicate longevity. No doubt cheaper than the branded product, they cover clarinet, alto sax and tenor sax and range in strength from 1.5 to 2.5.

For more go to www.jhs.co.uk 

Antigua-AS4230AQ-SaxophoneAntigua as a brand has been around for some time, but it’s only now that players are beginning to appreciate the qualities of this mid-range saxophone. The 4230 is typical of the marque – a beautifully finished, solid, easy blower. Our particular sample came with the Antique lacquer finish and certainly looked the part with the touch pieces inlaid with contoured abalone. The action was good, with the premium leather pads seated in the domed metal resonators, although we would have perhaps ideally lowered the D, E and F right hand keys. We particularly liked the layout of the top table which was solid and secure, while the positioning of the palm keys was perfect – at least it was for me! Using the house 4C mouthpiece with a Rico Jazz Select 3 1/2 reed, the immediate response was one of clarity and power – that large flare on the bell (they call it a PowerBell) really works. The 4230AQ has a lovely warm, rich tone and played over the full range with ease – particularly in the altissimo. There was plenty of scope

Antigua AS4230AQ saxophone in the dynamic range too. Balance and handling was also good with the adjustable contoured thumb rest being particularly useful. This horn is a real treat to play! Coming in the now ubiquitous, shaped, semi-rigid, plush lined, denier covered case, with a 3/4 zip, grab handles and strap, this particular model has seen some upgrades with two deep zippered front pockets and a harness cover made out of ribbed ballistic nylon.

For more go to www.bandm.co.uk

ANTIGUA-PRO-ALTO-PRO-1-SAXOPHONESAntigua Winds (as they used to be known) have been making quality ‘intermediate’ level saxes for many years and this move up to the pro market has been eagerly anticipated by both players and pundits alike, but there’s some heavyweight competition from the likes of Mauriat and Conn at this price point. Solidly built, the Pro 1 has the Antigua stamp of quality craftsmanship written all over it, from the Pisoni pads and the Peter Ponzol designed neck to the ‘hybrid’ rolled tone holes, which provide better contact on the lowest five bell keys. There are also a couple of interesting design details. The G sharp mechanism has a substantial ‘anti-flutter’ spring/ bar configuration similar to that of the Keilwerth SX90 and the side keys are set in a higher position that reflects the design of the Selmer Super 80 (not to every player’s taste!).

Setting up with a Rousseau JDX7 mouthpiece the Pro 1 had excellent intonation and a good dynamic range with an action that all but allowed the instrument to play itself. Much is made of the Vintage Reserve Alloy body material which is said to replicate the metallurgy and grain structure of the post war French saxophones – i.e. Selmer. The Pro 1 certainly has a warm, full, centered and well focussed sound and when required can deliver quite a bright tone with a defined edge. But it’s not exactly that rich, distinctive sound with the projection of a late-1940s/ early-50s Super Balanced Action.

Packed into a stylish semi-rigid, padded, shaped case covered in the highest quality 600 denier ballistic nylon with one small and one large outside pocket, hideaway back pack straps and a padded back cushion, it will be interesting to see if the Antigua Pro range proves to be as popular as it’s immediate competitors – or for that matter – its cheaper ‘intermediate’ stablemates. For more go to www.bandm.co.uk

VANDOREN-M O-LIGATURESThe M/O ligature fuses the best features of both the Master and Optimum ligatures, with a quick response and a crisp articulation that players have come to expect from Vandoren products. Constructed from a lightweight brass, the basis of the design of the M/O ligature is that it should freely interact and sympathetically resonate with the reed, rather than impede and constrict its motion. To this end, the M/O has been given a unique double-track mechanism that provides uniform, symmetrical suspension across both sides of the reed with a single screw inverted on the opposite side of the reed, that delivers sufficient torque to hold it in place without suffocating it.

There is also an independent collar with a formed channel that has two small contact points, so avoiding any side contact or lateral compression that might interfere with the reed. Using the Optimum ligature special thread design also means that it only takes a few turns to tighten the screw, a real advantage when you need to quick reed change. With a model for every sax and clarinet, this is one ligature that certainly deserves a test run.

For more go to www.vandoren.com

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