Did I Spend Too Much on My Sax? Better Sax Alto v. Yanagisawa

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 a fraction of the price.

So today, I’m going to compare the 2 and we’ll find out what you get for that extra money.

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.

Summertime Comparison

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.

The Difference

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.

Also be sure to follow BetterSax on Facebook, InstagramLinkedIn, and YouTube to stay up to date with us for news, giveaways, and other saxophone tips and tricks.

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6 thoughts on “Did I Spend Too Much on My Sax? Better Sax Alto v. Yanagisawa”

  1. Jay,
    Hey, I love your site and youtube channel. You are the best.
    A while back a learned on an old Conn Director that I (thought) I had gotten for a deal at $180. I’ve kept my eyes out for a good deal, and I just picked up a YAS-23 in very good shape, with a Selmer C* mouthpiece (a bit chewed up, though), and paid the asking price….$75.
    I guess I you can get a good deal on a sax, and maybe have enough money to purchase a better mouthpiece!!!
    (and no, it isn’t hot, and no, I don’t want to sell it to anyone).

    1. Will you be coming out with a Better Sax tenor? Also, are these made in the old Conn factory in Indiana where the classic Conn Naked Lady saxes were made? I love your site – thanks!

  2. I received my better sax alto April 9. First I did a mechanical test. I don’t have leak light. All good, neck fitment is very tight, play in the rods, and in the pads, corks, looked at fasteners, finish, flex in the body and body to bell. Ergonomics is very good and action also. My only issue is fitness to my Dukoff D7 mouthpiece, too tight, easy fix, and I had to push it in quite far to be in tune. I tested the horn through the range with my tuner app I use on my piano and good also. Palm keys, thumb res, pinky keys,,biss, good. I am glad there’s no high F#, I never use it and it’s just one more pad to leak. I did have a little problem with highF# being at bit edgy , but A and C were clear, I did not test high G, which for me is the edgiest. haven’t played for a while, so those could be on me. I did have issues with the supplied Selmer mouthpiece as far as play. Below low D the pitch would flutter. I may need to work with more.(I have 6 alto mouthpieces, hard rubber and metal to compare with) it seemed perfect one the Dukoff.
    I have owned and played many pro level horns for decades and this one is a great deal. I’ve had and played Bundy horns over this time and this is the one I’ve had the best experience with. Octave mechanism good, pads good, all good but what I mentioned above. One rod had a little play in it, but was not directly connected to the pad, so no big problem.
    Astectically, I love the Honey Gold finish and the underslung neck. The pads look great and the quality springs are a nice touch.
    The case is very nice with a separate place for the mouthpiece and neck and the compartments. But the lid won’t stay open, my only real gripe. Other than holding the body mouthpiece and neck in place it’s like apiece of luggage. The zippers are the first thing to fail. Initial feel is good, but only time will tell.
    I did not try the neck strap, I have 6 protec I love.

    1. Larry,
      Thanks for posting your thoughts on the sax and also for examining it in such great detail! I’m glad you are happy with the BetterSax alto. Congrats on the new horn!

  3. very good idea this elaborate test it confirms what I already thought that the gap between a good study sax and a pro sax is not so huge. It happened to me one day during the balance to drop my selmer SAII and to bend a key it became unplayable one could find me in a rush a study yamaha for the concert and I admit that I was surprised when listening to the recording of the concert of the sound quality while during the concert I thought it was going to be miserable

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