Yamaha YCL-650 Pro Clarinet

Yamaha YCL-650 Pro Clarinet[YCL650WC]

AU $2,499.00 AU $2,095.00
Date Added: Friday 01 May, 2020

by Philip Wheatland

The YCL-650 is the next step up in Yamaha's range from the YCL-450, and as such invites comparisons against its little brother. It's also separated by only $200 from the Buffet E12F, so consideration of the European clarinet is relevant here too. The YCL-450 is an excellent instrument, and in my view leads the current crop of clarinets in the intermediate class. So let's take a look at what you get for an extra $600 for the YCL-650.

In my review of the YCL-450 I commented on the bulkiness of the case. With the 650 Yamaha have gone to the other extreme and have produced a compact and elegant hard case with a soft cover. This is a much more professional approach and allows the player to determine how much protection the instrument needs on any given day. In its presentation, the 650 has a more lustrous finish to the body compared to the 450, and elements of its keywork are taken from the Custom instruments from further up the Yamaha range. The visual impression alone suggests a more professional grade of instrument over the 450, and one could make the same comment as well in comparison to the Buffet E12F. In the Buffet the staining of the body is so deep as to take away some of the Grenadilla wood's natural character.

If you're used to playing with a sling, you might want to double check that the thumb rest on the 650 has an eye for a sling hook. On the instrument I played, the thumb rest was adjustable but didn't support a sling (even though the YCL-450 has this facility).

The 650 comes with the basic 4C mouthpiece as opposed to the 4CM provided with the Custom instruments. You'll need to factor in the purchase of a professional grade mouthpiece in order to do justice to a clarinet of this calibre.

As expected the playability was excellent with exemplary intonation and placement of keys.

So now to the comparison. Against the 450 I was able to detect a more immediate responsiveness in the clarion register, and a touch more security in the altissimo range. I think also there's a greater dynamic range throughout the compass.

Where I wasn't able to see much difference over the 450 was in the tone. Both instruments have a full classical sound, and I'd be happy with either of them. But in my review of the E12F I make the point that the Buffet has a complexity of sound unrivalled in this segment of the market, and for me this holds true even against the YCL-650.

As the most expensive instrument of the three, the YCL-650 has the most professional visual presentation and comes in the most practical case. Whether the higher price is justified depends on your own experience when you test it yourself against the YCL-450 and Buffet E12F.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars! [4 of 5 Stars!]

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