Is the Better Sax Alto better?
Now that I have the new Better Sax Alto, I think I spent too much on my Yanagisawa saxophone..
Last year I bought the Elite Yanagisawa WO33 alto sax. It has a solid silver neck and bell, and is about as good as it gets when it comes to new professional saxophones being made today. It’s got a whopping price tag of about $6,500
Meanwhile, I just released the Better Sax alto saxophone which sells for 1/10th that price – an introductory price of $649.
So today, I’m going to compare the 2 and we’ll find out what you get for that extra $5,850.
The Better Sax v. The Yanagisawa WO33 – A conversation between saxes
Since getting my hands on this final production model of the Better Sax, I’ve been playing it every day. If you follow me on YouTube or Instagram, you’ve no doubt heard me play it a bunch.
All this time, my other new sax, this beautiful Yanagisawa WO33 has been staring at me saying “when are you going to play with me again?? Come on I’m worth 10 times that thing!”
And I said, “I’m sorry but I’m afraid if I play you my new saxophone will feel really inadequate. I mean, I paid so much for you, you have to be vastly superior!”
Last night I decided that the time had come for the moment of truth when I finally play these horns back to back and literally face the music.
So I recorded a solo chorus first with the Better Sax over this backing track for Summertime.
I listened back and thought it sounded great, but I know when I play the Yany it’s going to be another world of awesomeness.
So I switched my mouthpiece over and recorded a chorus over the same backing track on the WO33.
And to my great surprise and relief, they weren’t nearly as different as I expected them to be.
I mean I didn’t feel a significant difference in playability. Ergonomically they are strikingly similar, and the intonation is pretty much the same.
There was only one very clear difference I could feel and hear – take a look at the video above and do a blind test, see if you can figure out which is which! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Personally, the main difference I feel and hear is that the BetterSax is brighter and edgier, while the WO33 is darker, rounder, and heavier sounding.
Why is that?
This is to be expected since the Yany has ribbed construction and some extra metal braces on the neck. This can make a horn feel and sound heavier or darker. The post to body construction of the Better Sax combined with the no high F# configuration makes for a brighter and lighter horn.
Now this perceived brightness and darkness can be balanced out in the choice of mouthpiece. For example if I wanted the WO33 to play brighter I could use a brighter mouthpiece, and if I wanted to darken the Better Sax I could choose a darker mouthpiece.
So you can cover the full spectrum of bright to dark on either saxophone when paired with the appropriate mouthpiece.
So what do you get for all that extra money when buying a pro horn?
Well, the law of diminishing returns is in full force here and the Better Sax has really reset the bar on which price point things start to get extremely interesting.
Let me tell you a quick story.
I used to work as a repair technician alongside Peter Jessen who builds his own saxophones, mouthpieces and necks by hand in the legendary saxophone shop in Copenhagen Denmark, iK Gottfrieds.
Years ago, Peter did an experiment. He took an old student Yamaha tenor sax and disguised it so no one could tell what it was. Then buffed out the logo and serial number, removed the lacquer, made custom keyguards and put his own neck on it.
He would tell people it was a prototype he was working on and let them try it.
What do you think was the universal reaction from everyone who tested this?
Everyone who played it, and I mean people like Michael Brecker and other world renowned saxophonists that passed through the shop regularly, thought it was a great horn.
That student Yamaha in disguise is still Peter’s main horn today.
We are so conditioned to expect more expensive to translate into proportionally better.
The truth is that is not always the case.
Honestly, listening back to this first comparison recording, I can’t objectively say that I prefer the sound of my very expensive Elite Yanagisawa. I still love that saxophone, but I won’t feel as though I’m missing something when I play on this Better Sax, which is now my main alto.
Please let me know your thoughts on the comparison below! Would love to hear what you all have to say.
Interested in more information about the Better Sax Alto? Check out this post here.