As COVID-19 started with all the limitations, I decided to get back to my hobby from the past - saxophone. My neighbors wouldn't appreciate if I started blowing an acoustic horn, also, I mainly have free time in the evenings, when my family sleeps. That is why I was looking for an instrument, that would be very close to a saxophone, but I could play it in my headphones.
Initially, I wanted to buy Yamaha YDS 150 and spent long months waiting for it. However, the supply kept being postponed in all the EU shops I checked, so I did a research again, and Roland Aerophone AE10 caught my attention. It's funny, because I've read later, that Yamaha wanted to bite off a part of Roland's market, but, ironically, because of their supply problems I made a research again and actually bought a product of Yamaha’s competitor.
DISCLAIMER: I haven't played acoustic sax for ~9 years, so if I compare an Aerophone to a sax, you should read it as: comparison of an Aerophone to how I remember playing sax 9 years ago. Also, my sax is in a different country now, so I don’t have a possibility to compare.
The instrument is awesome. I really enjoy playing it.
The keys are quite comfortable and I felt it even comfier than my sax as I remember it. I was surprised, how the futuristic-looking keys would feel so good. The only thing I don't like is the small Bb key of the 1st octave, it's quite far from the B, which makes it tricky to press both B and Bb with one finger.
I’ve seen in reviews people were complaining, that there is no rollers in the low not keys (e.g. G#, C#, B, Bb), but I didn’t have any issue with that. Because of the angled shape, it’s pretty comfy to move finger from one key to another.
You can set sensitivity of the keys, which essentially means the delay (or discrete interval) to let you change the keys for a different note. To give you an idea: if you set it to 0, and your fingers are not well synchronized to press all the keys simultaneously, you may catch some overtone fingering in between the notes. I set sensitivity to 0 to practice better, how I press the keys. Also, I like to play (or want to play :) ) fast things, like bebop, and although, I’m not sure if it really makes difference, I decided to eliminate any delay.
Right hand thumb lever - I disabled it, as I don't like the random effects, if I touch it with my thumb unintentionally.
Mouthpiece, bite sensor, breath sensor:
I was surprised how it felt similar to sax, at least how I remember it. I used to play 3.5-4 reeds with quite a big mouthpiece opening, so I was looking for a similar feel.
Breath sensor - you can change in the settings different strength of breath. So, if you are looking for that sax resistance in the feel - you can get it. In opposite, you can set it to the lowest, if you don’t care about similarity with sax feel. I configured it to H1 (on the scale L3-L1 M H1-H3, where L is low resistance, and H is high).
Mouthpiece and bite sensor. First day I spent several hours playing with them. I felt like I’m missing intonation, and had really hard time, as the pitch of a note would be constantly changing and react on a very small lip tension change. Later, when I washed mouthpiece and put it back, I understood, that it might be because the mouthpiece was not positioned well, and I didn’t readjust after removing the instrument from the box. So pay attention, how it’s set. After I put it right, it was absolutely different experience. You can set bite sensor sensitivity or even turn it off. I really enjoy how it works, as by feel it’s really similar to how acoustic mouthpiece works.
The mouthpiece is plastic and very easy to scratch, I played for 2 min and already leaved my teeth marks. So make sure to buy sax mouthpiece cushions together with your instrument. I don’t know, why Roland didn’t include at least one.
First of all, I haven’t experimented with the sound, as I was buying a practice instrument to replace sax, so I just stick to alto-sax sound, and play it. The built in speakers are horrible, so you need to either buy a separate speaker, or you can play in your headphones (that is what I do). If you plan to play in your headphones, you need the 6.3 mm to 3.5mm jack adapter. The sound library is great, I enjoy the sound quality. I like how smartly it’s made, for example, like in a real sax, the timber would change dependently on how hard you blow into it.
It has 3.5mm in port, where you can connect your metronome or play-along from a phone or computer, so the sound from that source will be combined with your playing in the speaker/headphones.
I haven’t experimented with the midi-port and haven’t created/modified custom sounds, I just stick to what is already there. Though, I know, this option exists with an external equipments/software, and then you can save it on the Aerophone.
The mouthpiece is removable, and you can wash it. However, it’s still a big question for me, what’s going to happen in the long run with the instrument. It has a long pipe going through the instrument from the mouthpiece to the very end, where it has a small hole from where condensate is dripping. Cleaning and wiping my sax regularly, I feel uncomfortable, that I can’t access this pipe to clean it. I couldn’t find any information in the internet, how to clean it from inside. So might be, it can start stinking in longer run.
Really good instrument, in my opinion, can be used both as a practice and a gig instrument. Talking about practice: you still have to have your embouchure trained on an acoustic instrument. Aerophone is not good to train it. However, if you are looking for a tool to exercise scales, arpeggios, leaks, in other words, key technique, it’s great. It’s also a lot of fun trying different sounds. I have a lot of fun, playing it, and after watching more reviews and comparisons in the Internet, I’m happy, that I bought Roland Aerophone instead of Yamaha YDS 150.