[The 901 and 991] went through the most major of any upgrade on any manufactured saxophone today. A complete re-tooling was carried out to facilitate the re-positioning of the tone holes and taper for the ultimate in pitch and action.
When talking to anybody from the Yanagisawa Company as to what they think is the most important priority in a saxophone, the answer is always “The sound”. When you talk to most saxophonists and you ask them the same question the answer again is “The sound”. So many musicians play on very old saxophones because they have “that sound”. Unfortunately, many musicians have to compensate for the inadequacies of the tuning and older actions of these saxophones in order to get “that sound”. That is the sound that we love to hear on some of our favourite albums. (Barnes & Mullins Archive.org Article.)
The last 900μ and 990μ altos and tenors I have pics of are from 1997 and the earliest 901/991 horns are from 1997/8. Most other sources say that the 901, 991 and 992 were released together in 1995, e.g. MyMusicTalkSax, which does mesh with the introduction of the 901BL horns. Considering that the 902/992 would logically be released after the horns they’re modeled on, I think 1995 is an incorrect date.
There are so many theories as to why brass today should be so different to brass of yesterday, but really no one knows. Not accepting the general consensus that it could not be done, Yanagisawa began experimenting with different metals and alloys to achieve a sound close to the sound of the older saxophones. Having narrowed the field down to bronze, they built prototypes with different grades of bronze before deciding on which one would be the most acceptable sound. This was the birth of the -992 series. The -992 series, with its comfortable fast action, precision tuning and “that sound”, was launched in November 1998 (Barnes & Mullins Archive.org Article.)
In the Year 2000 …
[In 2000, t]he range was supplemented with the 902 series. The S-902 Bronze Soprano was introduced as the first bronze version of the intermediate 901 series. Alto, Tenor and Baritone followed in 2001. the dark sound coupled with fast, easy response have made these saxophones the choice of many advanced players. (From The RiojaSax Blog.)
A newly-designed bronze thumbhook and thumbrest were also introduced in 2000. This “innovation” is literally translated as “The Wizard of Sam” or as “Samfukku,” on some Japanese to English websites. Just in case you see the phrase again. The idea behind this is to increase resonance.
The B-9930 BSB was released in 2000, as well. This is a clear-lacquer & silver-plated finish. The neck, upper bow, and body are sterling silver with a clear lacquer finish. The lower bow and bell are bronze, with a silver plated finish. It even has a floor peg.
There have been a couple of 9930 BSB-Z limited horns available, as well. I’ve seen the alto and tenor variants.
In 2000 and 2001, Yani released a few 901 Limited models. The only difference that I can see between these and normal 901s are copper (arguably, it could be pink gold) thumb rests.
Finally, Yanagisawa launched the bronze-bodied, gold plated 992gp series horns in 2000.
Serial Number Information
For the majority of horns, you’ll see a serial number starting with “00” that does not have an embedded date.
Check out my thread on the Woodwind Forum for these serial numbers and some odd ones that I’ve found.
A-9933 solid silver bell and neck
A-9932Z Peter King solid silver bell and neck
T-9937 sterling silver
A-991 silver plate from Howarth of London @ flickr
A-901 lacquer from Howarth of London @ flickr
Black lacquer A-901 from woodleywonderworks @ flickr
Lacquer T-901 from rbradley1971 @ flickr
Solid silver SN-9930 from Howarth of London @ flickr
A-991 black lacquer, sn unk from chucksphotos45 @ photobucket
A-9937 sterling silver, sn unk from Charlie Phillips (lilddrkid) @ photobucket
T-9930 sterling silver, sn unk from jodaboda @ SOTW
Solid Silver SN-9930. From http://www.howarth.uk.com.
Lacquer SC-991. From http://www.howarth.uk.com.