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YAMAHA YAS-280 Saxophone Review

Yamaha is a pioneer in the music industry, well-reputed for manufacturing the highest quality of instruments. The extraordinary history and years of experience make the company a reliable and credible brand. Since its inception in 1887, Yamaha has been producing an incredible variety of instruments including a number of superb saxophones, one of which is the subject of this YAMAHA YAS-280 Saxophone Review.

So, let’s take a look at its features, specs, pros, and cons, as we decide if it’s the perfect saxaphone for you…

Yamaha YAS-280 Saxophone

Our rating:4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

What Is The Yamaha YAS-280 Alto Saxophone?

Yamaha describes this saxophone as the perfect training tool for beginner saxophonists. One feature that guarantees this is its ergonomic design, it gives a player a comfortable grip and allows them to access notes more easily, especially when compared to the previous model, the YAS-275.

YAMAHA YAS-280 Saxophone Review

Key Specifications

  • Body Material: Yellow Brass.
  • Body Finish: Gold Lacquer.
  • Key buttons material: Polyester.
  • Key: Eb.
  • Auxiliary Keys: Front F, High F#.
  • Thumb Hook: Adjustable.
  • Mouthpiece: Yamaha AS-4C.
  • Case: Lightweight Hard Case.

Out of The Box

The case…

From the outside, nothing has really changed. But, in fact, the Yamaha alto saxophone case is actually better than it’s predecessor. The zips have a nice and very solid feel to them. And it features two hard plastic handles, making it perfect for anyone who takes their saxophone everywhere they go.

The outside is quite rigid and durable. And there are adjustable backpack straps to stabilize the case and reduce the weight when you are carrying your sax. These straps are also easy to fold away if not needed.

YAMAHA YAS-280 Saxophones Student Alto saxophones

What’s in the box?

As well as the saxophone body, you have a Yamaha size 4C mouthpiece which we think is perfect for beginners. This has a narrow-sized tip opening for a clear tone and smooth response. It also comes with a well-crafted neck, a neck strap, cork grease, an owner’s manual, a polishing cloth, and a ligature, which holds the reed in position onto the sax’s mouthpiece.

It is supplied with a Strength 2½ reed. However, this may be too resistant if you are just starting out. We always advise beginners to start off with a Strength 2 or maybe 2½ at a push, or even a Strength 1½ reed if they are a younger player.

The Build

This model is made in Indonesia. However, one thing we noted immediately, is that the pads are a bit sticky but they do look and feel nice, and feature plastic resonators, which are common on Yamaha saxophones.

The horn is well designed. The YAS-280 does not include ribbed construction but has a post to body design. In other words, each post is fused onto the body of the sax separately. They look like the old Yamaha sax models with the same body to bell brace. However, we did not see any engraving on this model other than the Yamaha logo, unlike older models.

YAMAHA YAS-280 Saxophones Student Alto saxophones

The saxophone has adjuster screws for fine-tuning the action and quickly fixing leaks.

Let’s talk about the tone holes…

These look great. However, inside we found some small lacquer flakes which could cause corrosion and badly-fitting pads. We assume the flakes came from the body itself. However, they can easily be cleaned with a wiper cord, so as long as you clean the sax thoroughly and regularly, you should have no issues at all.

We also noticed that the pad of the high E has an extremely large flat spring and it was slightly poorly finished on the model we had, although, to be honest, for a beginner sax, this is not a significant drawback to the instrument.

One thing that sets Yamaha apart from other saxophones is the design of the octave key. And it does not protrude outwards as is seen in other models: instead, it is flush with the top of the unit. Thus, it is less likely to break or bend. The higher notes are the hardest to play, but this adjustment makes it easier for younger players with smaller hands.

The saxophone also features stainless-steel springs which allow the keys to snap back swiftly, making it easy to play without straining your fingers.


This sax is set up nicely and the mechanisms are tight and crafted to a professional level. However, the highlight of the YAS-280 has to be the pads. Featuring a synthetic coating, they are very well cut and look great and fit nicely. Another feature we liked is the felt bumpers for your low keys, they have been carefully designed to reduce noise between the keys and the other keys or the body.


This instrument has been built to play smoothly, easily and comfortably through each register with impeccable intonation on all the notes.

This sax will grow with you as you master it, therefore it won’t need to be quickly replaced, which is a common and expensive issue with a lot of student instruments. This will take a budding student happily through to mid intermediate level without any issues.

How Does The Saxophone Sound?

The YAS-280 comfortably fits in your hands comfortably and tunes well, although we did find that the middle D is a little high. This is not uncommon for a lot of saxophones, especially student models. But overall, the sound is uniform and a pleasure to listen to.

Careful with the neck receiver…

It is easy to over-tighten the screws on the neck receiver of your saxophone, especially if you are a beginner. This, in turn, may break the screws or even the receiver itself. To protect your saxophone from such damage, Yamaha has built a  very solid neck receiver that will be almost impossible to break due to overtightening of the screws. In fact, the Yamaha YAS 280 is one of the few student saxophones that boasts of such a sturdy neck receiver.

Easy to use mouthpiece…

The mouthpiece fits on the neck cork beautifully with a perfect tight fit. It is also comfortable and easy to play, which is always a bonus for beginners.

YAMAHA YAS-280 Saxophone Pros & Cons


  • A lightweight, yet sturdy frame.
  • Easy and enjoyable to play.
  • Great sound for a student sax.
  • Gold lacquer coating for a professional feel and look.


  • The pads are a little sticky at first.
  • More expensive than other beginner saxophones.

Some Essential Considerations

If you are buying a saxophone for a beginner, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, they will be using the saxophone for long periods and will need to adjust to it. Using a saxophone that is difficult to hold or heavy will prevent the new player from practicing effectively and may even cause them to give up.

This saxophone has been build with this in mind and is ergonomic, lightweight and easy to play. Therefore, making the tough early stages on the instrument as simple and enjoyable as possible.

So Many Saxophone Choices

If you want to consider some other options of superb saxophones then take a look at our Best Beginner Saxophones reviews, our Best Yamaha Saxophones reviews, our Best Alto Saxophones reviews, our Best Soprano Saxophones reviews, our Best Tenor Saxophones reviews, and our Best Selmer Saxophones reviews.


The Yamaha Yas-280 saxophone is an impressive looking and sounding instrument that has been designed for the beginner, making it very easy to hold and play. The manufacturer has also included a quality mouthpiece, creating an instrument that is a pleasure to learn on.

This model is highly recommended for children and teenagers. However, it is not the cheapest student saxophone available, but you are paying for the build quality, ease of play and the sound. Also, remember that it is unlikely to need replacing for many years until the student is at the mid-intermediate level.

Quality never comes cheap, but without a doubt, this saxophone is quality and will help any beginner saxophonist, regardless of their age reach their musical dreams.

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