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It is very difficult to recommend something as personal as a musical instrument when so much depends on the individual tone you wish to achieve. When so much relies on the skill of the musician, it seems to be difficult to justify several thousand pounds on a new instrument when a bit of practice is often far more beneficial.
However, the Yanagisawa justifies every penny of its rather large price tag. The quality of its craftsmanship is evident not just on the instrument but even down to the case. The saxophone fits very snugly inside and the interior is carefully covered with a velvety material to avoid scratching or damaging the lacquer. The case is incredibly solidly built and covered in padded leather, which not only looks very stylish but gives an added layer of protection. Mine has survived plenty of rough train travel and a coach tour around Germany with absolutely no problems. For the security conscious, it is also possible to lock the case as well.
The standard mouthpiece is possibly the only disappointing thing for the calibre of the instrument. It is best suited for classical playing, a produces a very round, even tone and is easy to blow. However, you will probably want to get something a lot more individual to give a more unique tone but despite this, it is a perfectly functional.
The Yani comes with low B flat to high F sharp keys, which are fairly standard on 'professional' range instruments. One of the big advantages of this saxophone over similar competitors was the ease with which the 'rolling' mechanism between the side keys works and how, despite having very small hands, all the keys are still easily accessible. Another great feature of the keys on this saxophone is the lovely white pearl finish and how they are indented, so even with the sweatiest hands from performance nerves, you won't find your fingers flying everywhere.
The action on this sax is also very impressive. Although it feels a little high after playing the magnificent Yanagisawa T992, it is very smooth and ideal for playing quick, fiddly passages. This is definitely a saxophone that will never work against you when you are playing.
Some of the fuss about Yanagisawas comes from the 'underslung' mechanism on the crook. It isn't a true underslung mechanism but is definitely a lot sturdier than the traditional design making it a lot more durable. This is another nice added bonus as octave mechanisms get far too easily bent.
I've owned my A991 for over seven years now and been incredibly impressed by its reliability. Minus a few screws needing tightening and having to get the crook re-corked once, it has needed absolutely no work done. I have had no problems with leaky pads or any bending of the main pillar. The lacquer work is still in very good condition as well. I have heard a few comments about Yanagisawas being a little notorious for easily damaged lacquer, so if you are one of those people who seems to have an acid touch when it comes to saxophones, it may be worth taking the extra effort to keep the sax clean after playing.
Although it is very easy to fall in love with the engineering of this sax, the tone is possibly even more superb. The sax is very free-blowing and responds perfectly across all of the range. Although the bronze model, the A992, is possibly a little more powerful on the bottom of the instrument, the 991 is still far from disappointing.
The 991 is very versatile, and I've found it is possible to get nearly any tone you like with a bit of embouchure adjustment and a different mouthpiece. I find the saxophone is very responsive to varying reed strengths as well, so it might take a little experimentation to find exactly what kind of set up gets the results you like.
Another nice little bonus is the fact that the Yanagisawa range is generally a bit cheaper than the equivalent Selmer and Yamaha saxes. However, the quality of this saxophone really does sell itself and if you are looking for a saxophone that is entirely reliable and dependable without being boring, this really is the sax for you.