Yamaha YAS-26 vs BetterSax EAS112 – NOT the Best Student Saxophone Anymore?
The BetterSax alto saxophone has been around for a little over a year now and it’s already made a huge impact in the student and lower cost saxophone market.
Lots of people have been adopting these, based on the build quality, sound, look, and confidence in the Conn-Selmer and Better Sax brands.
For a long time, the Yamaha YAS-26 has been considered the number 1 student saxophone available.
I had always recommended them to students and their parents when asked what to start with.
When I was a working as a repair technician the Yamaha instruments were always among the easiest to keep in good playing condition.
Now I know what you’re thinking…
“Jay, your brand is on the saxophone why should we trust your video comparison, you’re just going to tell us to buy the BetterSax in the end.”
And you make a good point, that’s why in this video I’m just going to stick to verifiable facts and give you as accurate a comparison as I possibly can so that you can make up your own mind.
Yamaha vs. BetterSax
Now you may be surprised to find out how they stack up on paper.
Disclaimer: I earn money if you buy the saxophone with the name of my company on it obviously, so it’s not easy to make this kind of video and come across as fair, but I’m going to do my best.
If I leave anything out please let me know in the comments below.
First thing is the price. Now prices vary and depending on when you watch this video they may have already changed, but as of this writing, the BetterSax EAS112 sells for $899 over at Sweetwater while the Yamaha YAS-26 is priced at $2,428.
That makes the Yamaha 2.7X more expensive.
Let’s try and find out.
Let’s start with what they have in common
They both come with Sweetwater’s 40-point inspection, free shipping and a 2-year warranty. All of that is awesome of course.
Both have post to body construction. This means that each individual post is soldered onto the body separately rather than in ribbed construction which is where several posts are part of a rib which gets soldered onto the body all at once.
Post to body construction saxophones are lighter since they have considerably less metal on them.
And that is where the similarities end.
Let’s have a look at what’s different.
Personally I don’t have a strong preference for metal or plastic resonators, my professional Yanagisawa saxophones come with plastic resonators standard. However, most saxophone players will tell you that they prefer metal resonators.
Both stainless steel springs and blued needle springs will get the job done but the blued steel is what you will find on all professional model saxophones made today including pro level Yamahas.
High F# key
Now personally, I don’t use the high F# key very much any more, but when I was studying classical saxophone I had to use it all the time. Plus, I know this key is a requirement for many saxophone teachers when evaluating potential student saxophones.
Again, most saxophone players prefer a horn with the high F# key.
Lacquer and Octave Key
The Yamaha YAS-26 has nickel plated keys and gold lacquered neck and body. I honestly don’t know why they do this because it doesn’t really add any benefit I’m aware of and the nickel plating gives it (in my opinion) the look of a student instrument. Nickel plating is commonly used on student clarinet keys and flutes for example.
The BetterSax has a darker cognac lacquer as well as an underslung octave key.
This part of the design was done specifically to give this horn a look that didn’t suggest it was made only for middle school band students.
Obviously the look of the instrument is highly subjective, so I’ll leave it up to you which one looks better. Let us know your preference in the comments.
The Yamaha has this one piece key guard that protects all of the bell keys. While this may help them lower the cost of production, it is another feature that suggests student saxophone while not providing any particular benefit.
The BetterSax key guards are in the more traditional configuration as you would see on most professional saxophones.
Neck Tone Ring
The Yamaha neck cork comes all the way up to the end, while the BetterSax neck has this soldered on tone ring here. This is another feature found on the professional Yamahas but not this student model.
The Yamaha YAS-26 comes with this basic latched case with a handle.
The BetterSax comes with this zipped soft shell case which has a spacious exterior pocket, hide away backpack straps, a shoulder strap as well as an extra what we call subway handle.
Mouthpiece & accessories
Both saxophones come with a ligature, mouthpiece cap, a reed, cork grease, polishing cloth and a neck strap.
Country of manufacture
The Yamaha is made in Indonesia, while the BetterSax is made in China. There are lots of opinions out there on where things get built and how that affects the quality. What I have learned is that the quality of any given product depends on how well quality control standards are maintained and how high those standards are.
Tesla for example makes cars in the US, Germany and China, and they are able to maintain the same level of quality in all three places.
Play Test Comparison
I’m not going to give my opinion on this, I’m just going to play the same thing on both. Each individual will have their own preference when it comes to the sound, ergonomics and response.
All I will say is that they both play very well, have great intonation and response across the full range.
As you listen, Please let me know in the comments which of these 2 instruments you think is a better value.
Now let me try to be fair. Yamaha has always made great instruments. And I have always told people you cannot go wrong with a Yamaha and this includes their student line of instruments.
In fact during the design process of the BetterSax we had this exact saxophone in mind as the gold standard.
We set out to create a saxophone that could match its quality but with a much lower price tag and more pleasing aesthetic.
While I made his video to help you understand how these saxophones compare it’s important for me to examine the competition carefully.
The biggest criticism of the Yamaha I have is the case. At that price they should really be offering something with shoulder straps and an exterior pocket.
You can’t go wrong with either of these horns but the BetterSax will leave an additional $1,529 in your pocket.
Now when you are shopping for a saxophone one of the most important things to consider is how well it’s set up. Watch this video next to learn the process these instruments go through at the Conn-Selmer factory and the 40-point inspection they receive from Sweetwater before they go on sale.