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 Yamaha clarinets
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-11-26 01:43

I have an eye out for an upgrade to my YCL34 and possibly going for a pair.
I've seen plenty on the various auction / classified ads sites, plus 2nd hand instruments listed in shops sites, but feel I'm lacking in some knowledge. I know the basic scheme of Yamaha is the 2- numbers are student, 3- and 4- are intermediate and 6- /custom are pro, but is there any more detailed information out there?
For instance one seller was claiming the 64 model is better than the later 650, more like Custom level. Another had a pair where one was Custom cs and the A was just Custom. I'd really like to know approx dates and specs for the whole Yamaha lines but can't find much other than current marketing blurb.
Any insights?

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Bob Barnhart 2017
Date:   2019-11-26 07:06

The current Yamaha line is described at their US home page:

https://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical_instruments/winds/clarinets/index.html

I have played a pair of A/Bb CSGIII-Hs for 13 years and still find them the best instruments I've tried. Before buying them I tried a YCL650 (their entry-level pro instrument) and felt that it played as well as the Buffet R13s I bought at the Buffet factory in 1970. A friend of mine now has the new Artist Bb and it is really nice as well.

I would be skeptical of the claim that the 64 is better than the 650, but I suppose any given instance of a particular model might play really well. However, the 650 is a fine instrument. I'm not familiar with the other current intermediate/student models, but based on my experience so far with Yamaha, I think you would be well served for the money with most/all of their instruments.

Good luck!
Bob Barnhart

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-11-26 12:12

I tried a whole lot of Yamaha clarinets and buffets and other things before I found mine. This was a year ago.

It seemed to me that the Yahamas sounded nicest and were best for me ergonomically. I tried working my way up the Yamaha series assuming that they would get gradually better as they got more expensive. However, in my hands, I found that there was no benefit to going above the Yamaha Custom CX, and that the more expensive one above that didn't bring additional benefit. The CX was clearly much better than the 650 both in sound and ergonomics, I thought.

I tried the Buffet equivalents up to the one that was priced at £2400 and the Yamaha CX was still making a much nicer sound and was better ergonomically for me. My husband was there as a second opinion and agreed on the sound.

I spoke to a professional clarinettist in person at the time, who had bought a more expensive Yamaha pair and wished they had bought the CX, which they felt, with hindsight, was actually better, even though it was cheaper.

Hope that helps.

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-11-26 20:37

Bob,
There's 2 sellers I've found who are saying the same thing about the 64 but I suspect one probably copied the gist of the other. They're saying the 64 is rare in the UK and the 650 was a step down.

Sunnydaze - thanks for your input - very helpful! I've played my Yamaha since the 80's and it took me from grade 4 to grade 8 then through a Music degree and just keeps on going! I had a full overhaul a couple of years ago and it felt like a new instrument. I think it will last forever! But I'm hankering after a better model now. I've got ano old B&H A which is annoying as the barrels can't be switched, so thinking of trading up and getting a matching pair but it's a considerable investment!

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-11-27 07:56

I've tested a lot of their horns. Most of the American sym level players, since you are wishing for both the Bb and A, are playing on the CSVR's as first choice. The SEV horns are right behind offering a slightly bigger bore. It also costs a shade more but not that much. The CSVR-ASP has an extra left hand lower joint key, also a bigger bore? Why? I'm not sure, but carries a price tag double of the CSVR. Is it worth? List price is over $8000. Not sure if it's worth it. I can afford any horn on the market so test out different models before buying. Don't take my word. I'm happy with the CSVR's.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-11-27 14:45

Bob, what about the Custom CS - is that just an older CSV?

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Jack Kissinger 
Date:   2019-11-27 21:40

Yamaha used to have information about discontinued models on their USA website but I haven't been able to find it more recently.

Here's some information I took from the Yamaha website around 2006.

The YCL-72(72A where the "A" designates an A clarinet) was made from 1985-87. It was succeeded by two models, YCL-72CS(CSA) and the YCL-72CX(CXA), which were made from 1988-94. These evolved into the Custom YCL-CS(CSA) and Custom YCL-CX (CXA). These dated from 1994-??. All were listed as discontinued back in 2006, though the Custom CS and CSA were also shown on the website as current models! The Custom CXA was listed as discontinued with no current equivalent. The only difference between the CS and CX models (according to Yamaha) was that the CS had integral tone holes and the CX had inserts.

From what I have seen, the original 72's are identified by a 72 in the logo. The 72CS and 72CX are identified by a CS or CX in the logo (my CS has no 72). Since I have seen a 72CS logo on eBay, I infer that Yamaha dropped the 72 from the logo sometime during the model run. The Custom CS and CX have a very large "Custom" in the logo.

As I recall, the Yamaha UK and Yamaha Europe websites showed some models as current that were shown as discontinued in the US. Also, there were some models available in the UK and/or Europe that were never listed as available in the US (e.g. a YCL-650 A clarinet).

I have never heard before that, nor do I know of any reason why a 64 would be superior to a 650. The 650 (not one of the Custom models) was the direct successor to the 64. It's possible that Yamaha changed the design when they went to the 650, in which case some players may prefer the 64 to the 650 but, in my experience, Yamaha has never deliberately reduced the quality of their instruments when "upgrading" a model in their product line. I don't think its in their DNA. On the other hand, also in my experience, some sellers will say anything to induce a higher price for the item they have for sale.

IMO, the 72/CS/Custom CS clarinets are hidden gems. I have a pair of CS clarinets that I bought as practice horns/backups 15-20 years ago. I paid a little over $600 each on eBay (separate auctions). The first one I bought was the A. When I got it, I couldn't put it down. I practiced everything on it, including Bb parts. It is a wonderful instrument. My Bb is almost as good. I now use always use them when I am in a pit, or outdoors, or traveling.

About a year ago, a very good local professional (college professor who plays for traveling musicals and summer stock but rarely orchestra gigs) who had borrowed and loved my A, needed an A for Into the Woods. I pointed him to a 72A on eBay which he bought for around $US 1,100. He couldn't have been happier with his purchase.

I think Yamaha clarinets probably have the highest value/cost ratio among the big 4. New, the 72CS and 72CX clarinets sold for about the same price as an R13 but, except for the extra Eb key, are closer to a Prestige in features. The 650s were priced comparable to an E13 which (coupled with the lack of a matching A clarinet in the US) caused some clarinetists (myself included) to assume they were high end intermediates. They are not, they are entry level professional models, IMO quite comparable to the R13.

Best regards,
jnk

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-11-28 03:42

Thank you Jack for taking the time to write such a detailed and useful answer!
I have taken the plunge and just bought a pair, CS A and CS Custom Bb *unseen* from that auction site for £1500.
I am not sure whether I've grabbed a bargain or I'm about to be ripped off big time, watch this space!

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Hank Lehrer 2017
Date:   2019-11-28 04:59

Plonk,

I have played Yamaha CS Custom clarinets for many years as well as a Yamaha 475 tenor. These are tremendous instruments. I had an older CS Custom that served as my backup for many years and sold it a year ago since I am in the autumn of my playing days (but have a LeBlanc L200 - a rare and wonderful 1980s instrument - as my backup).

The CS Custom that I sold off went for $1250 to a private buyer. It was in perfect condition and had tremendously even intonation and a gorgeous sound. I seem to have been a clarinetist that several years ago "took the path less traveled" in selecting my clarinets by not taking a Selmer or Buffet although I play a Model 65 bass and have owned several Selmer saxes.

Yamaha does an interesting thing with its sax and clarinets in that improvements in the higher priced models slowly filter down to the lower models. I've played 400 and 600 level clarinets and they are really an outstanding value.

HRL

PS I have a Yamaha surround sound speaker system for the living room and several other Yamaha receivers as well. Yamaha does it right although their bass clarinet needs a major upgrade.



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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-11-28 06:45

Hi Plonk,

I haven't played the CS or the CSV's. Just the new models as they come out. The factory is only about 45 minutes from me, so I just call them and make an appointment to test the latest.

Here is what I do know. Late every January there is the NAMM convention in California and almost always Yamaha has a new updated horn come out.

I'd rather play their latest horns, not that the older horns are bad, they are not. If anything they play really well new and remain that way for many years. As long as people take care of them they will be great horns similar to the golden age Buffet's.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: anonrob 
Date:   2019-12-04 19:18

As the professor referenced by Jack, I liked the 72A so much I bought a Bb CSVR a couple of years ago and my Buffet is in the closet.

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-12-05 05:51

anonrob - Yes I agree, I sold several Buffet's a few years ago. I think I sold about 16 R13's. If I had to choose another horn, besides a Yamaha it wouldn't be a Buffet anymore. There are a lot of great horns around $4000 to $6500.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-12-06 01:08

The clarinets are mine!

Quite a funny back story. The guy I bought them off doesn't play clarinet at all. He bought them for his girlfriend 2 years ago, but then they split up. (They split up before she knew what she was getting for Christmas - who knows if it would have made a difference!!) As he doesn't play, he was treated to a demo by the guy he bought them off, and was suitably impressed with their tone and condition. They've been languishing in a cupboard since then.

Fast forward to last week. I bought them blind, but as he lives fairly near to me he offered to deliver them to my home itself, which was great. He told me the story thus far, and I opened up the box. A pair of pretty dusty clarinets, but still looking fairly good. I checked them over and quickly saw the A had bent r.h. pinkie keys - bent so much none of them did what they are supposed to. Playing low E produced F#! He was pretty devastated by the news, mostly because he'd been duped by the guy who obviously just played something that avoided those keys. He offered to refund me, but I took a gamble and said I would keep them. Took them into to WWR Cambridge and they sorted it in 5 mins, so all is now good!

The difference between the Custom CS and my YCL34 is immense. The tuning is much better, but it's the clarity of the tone which blows me away. The rubbish notes on the 34 were e.g. C# (fuzzy), weak throat tones, really difficult high altissimo, flat lowest notes. All of these were instant fixes. They feel so nice - very responsive, big sound with a wider dynamic range, so much fun to play!
I do find the Bb a bit heavier than the old one, and can feel some pressure on my right thumb which I didn't have before, but hopefully this will ease off.

I've dusted them as well as I can, and got an impregnated silver polish cloth to buff up the key work. They keys weren't too bad, but starting to go a bit black in places.

My question now is: how to buff the bell rings - the cloth doesn't do anything on them. Would they be a different material? They are pretty tarnished. Purely cosmetic I know, but...

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: SunnyDaze 
Date:   2019-12-08 20:41

Hi Plonk,

I just realised that I live 20 minutes drive away from you. I'm in Cambridge. Also a regular visitor at WWR.

Jen

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: TomS 
Date:   2019-12-09 21:59

One of my teachers and local university, in the early 1980s was a Buffet die-hard. Tried all the alternatives and rejected them until someone turned him on to Yamaha ... and he switched over and sounded great! I was gob-smacked!

Right now, I have an R13 on consignment and when it sells, I will turn that into a CSVR.

Is there a dealer that is really, really, really into Yamaha, knows all the little tweaks and enjoys working/customizing them? I know you can sell Yamaha right off the boat and most are good, without having to do much at all.

Tom

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Plonk 
Date:   2019-12-11 01:03

Sunnydaze - small world! :o)

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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: Bob Bernardo 
Date:   2019-12-12 00:51

Tom, good questions.

Yes the Yamaha's play pretty darn well right out of the case. We know Buffet's often need work, when new. But not the Yamaha's. They all play really well. You don't have to sift through 10 horns to find that 1 good one. I really appreciate this Yamaha workmanship.

The thing I don't like too much are the pads in the upper register, they seal great, but feel spongy so I do my own repairs and I put cork pads on. The harder pad also helped with the sound. Other than that I looked around for a better in tune barrel for the A clarinet and finally got one from Yamaha that works well.

I'm playing on the CSVR's. The horns don't really need anything else done to them. You may like the softer leather pads on the upper register joint. Most players are very happy with the horn, as is. This was my choice to use cork pads and I'd change to cork pads on the upper joint on any horn.

The sound is a bit different compared to Buffet R-13's and I actually prefer this sound. It took about 3 weeks to learn how to blow through the horn. Once you adjust to it I'm sure you will love the horns. The altissimo took a few days to enjoy. It's so free and easy to play up there, compared to Buffet. There isn't that Fear Factor of over blowing some of these notes and hitting the overtones. You can attack these notes and not squeak.

Well these are my findings. This is why I am with this company for life.


Designer of - Vintage 1940 Cicero Mouthpieces and the La Vecchia mouthpieces


Yamaha Artist 2015




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 Re: Yamaha clarinets
Author: TomS 
Date:   2019-12-19 10:28

Thanks Bob!

I have stories about Yamaha's other items ... I used to repair Stereo equipment at a very, very good establishment. (It was such a great place to work and the wages were so good that I quit my more prestigious job as a Jr. Electronics Engineer with a company that made mil-spec and space-rated absolute position encoders, thick-film hybrid circuits and weapon management systems for helicopters).

We sold Yamaha, Macintosh Labs, SAE, Klipsch, B&W, B&O, Crown, AKG, Dual, Teac, Tascam, Celestion, Stanton, EPI, Shure, Kloss Video, etc. ... We had a great shop and our service manager was a former engineer at Tektronix and Klipsch and Associates.

None of the other manufacturers came close to the support and professionalism that Yamaha provided. If you got stumped on a repair, their technical support was the best. We would get a box of service manuals in before the product was even available for sale ... and Yamaha would foot the bill for several days of service school, including room and meals, usually in Dallas or Oklahoma City. The only other manufacturer that ever provided a school was Klose Video of Boston.

Oh, and Yamaha broke less than anything else, and when it did, was easier to fix.

Yamaha has it together.

Tom

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