Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Alto Saxophone / Old Conn Alto (Help)

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Steve W.
User ID: 1125704
Mar 20th 4:49 PM
I just had an old Conn Alto sax given to me, it appears to be in great shape. It is silver satin finish. The serial number is 130653, which according to Steve Goodson's site makes it about a 1924 vintage. It has a curious looking thing on the neck where the mouthpiece attaches. Looks like a air hose "quick connector" It plays OK, some of the low notes are tough, must have a small air leak. My question is, what is the model name or number, what is the thing on the neck, and is this horn anything more than a "wall hanger"?
mark m
User ID: 8973393
Mar 20th 4:59 PM
It's no wallhanger, 'though many of us might want to convince you so:) This I believe would be what's known as a "New Wonder", and the quick-disconnect is a threaded tuning ring, which may need some internal cleanup and lubrication to function if it's not been used for a while.

Great horn, worth rebuilding or whatever if it's not beat. Maybe even then...
Steve W.
User ID: 1125704
Mar 20th 6:04 PM
Thanks Mark for your information on this horn. I looked at USA horn website and saw a old Conn Alto with the tuning ring and it was Chu Berry. This horn still plays and I have noticed since the first post it has rolled tone holes. Do you think the year of 1924 sounds resonable? If you have anymore information or suggestions on where to look I would appreciate it.
mark m
User ID: 8973393
Mar 20th 6:12 PM
I'd go by what you found on the Goodson site, re vintage. I believe this is a "pre-Chu". Very similar to a "Chu".
Steve W.
User ID: 1125704
Mar 20th 6:30 PM
Ok Mark, thanks again. I am having lots of fun researching this horn. I can't believe the shape it is in, there are NO dings or dents anywhere. Goodson's price guide says these "new wonder" altos go for about $1000. WOW, I thought it just a wall hanger. Can you tell me how those microtuner necks work. I have played alto for 30 years, I have a 1970 MK VI, never had the opportunity to be around one of these old Conns.
Steve W.
User ID: 1125704
Mar 20th 7:44 PM
Another question about this horn, as I get deeper and deeper into the research, I have found that CONN made many different variations of their saxophones. If my horn is a "new wonder" why does it NOT have a "nail file" G# key? It does as I have stated before have the Micro tuner neck. The engraving on the bell is just C. G. Conn, Elkhart , Ind. If anybody can help me with more information I would greatly appreciate it.
Jack W.
User ID: 2860674
Mar 20th 9:33 PM
That's funny, I just scored an earlier but very similar horn on eBay. It's an 80k serial alto, from 1921. It arrived with some shipping damage, but nothing my repairman/magician can't handle, and the prognosis is good. It's just like you say, has the front F key, rolled tone holes, tuner neck, smooth G# key, and small palm Eb key. These are both "pre-Chu" horns, and I bet will play great once set up properly.

The tuner neck works by turning the mechanism to tune the instrument, rather than by moving the mouthpiece on the neck cork. Turning the mechanism moves the mpc in or out as necessary.

I have never owned a Conn sax and am looking forward to the results when mine comes back! How does yours play, aside from the leak? (Which may admittedly be like asking, "How does your car drive, aside from the bad ignition system?")
Steve W
User ID: 1125704
Mar 21st 4:03 AM
Well Jack, with the octave key pressed the tone sounds pretty good. The few vintage horns I had played before had, in my opinion, a rather stuffy sound. This Conn sounds pretty good to me. The keywork will take some getting used to , not like my MK VI or Yani Bari. What kind of finish is your horn? I think mine is nickel that is dull looking, maybe a satin nickel. Well it is fun to researh and I will take it to my horn doctor for a good looking over and repair.
User ID: 0345364
Mar 21st 7:10 AM
As far as I know, the satin look makes it silver-plate, not nickel. I have only ever known Nickel plating as mirror finish. Anyone disagree ? Also, if there is black tarnishing evident anywhere, definitely silver-plate (easy to polish off the tarnish). Not a rare saxophone, but well worth having, and putting some dollars into bringing it back to life again. Peace
User ID: 8464923
Mar 21st 7:23 AM
Steve Goodson's estimates of value are estimates based on mint condition and function-$1000 is hardly the "going rate" for a pre-Chu, whether silver or nickel plate.
A couple, maybe a few, hundred dollars is a much more realistic estimate of value.
We have a silver preChu, and had another lacquered one. I can tell you the silver New Wonder had a very sweet, vintage sound compared to either a silver Chu (loud edgy) or a lacquered 6M (smoky mellow.)
They are good horns with big tone-they just are very plentiful and not worth a whole lot.
The nail file G# appears on "Chu" New Wonders (1925) and a few transitional horns just before that date.
Look in Paul Lindemayer's book, Celebrating the Saxophone, for some very detailed pictures of Conns and New Wonders.
Roger Aldridge
User ID: 0735934
Mar 21st 7:31 AM

It sounds like you got your hands on a really interesting Conn alto! From your description it appears to me that it's a transitional model between Wonder and New Wonder. In other words it could be called a "Pre Chu".

It's my understanding that New Wonder or "Chu Berry" horns started in 1925 with something close to a 150,xxx serial number. The neck microtuner, rolled toned holes, and nail file G# key are typical features of the New Wonder model. Your 1924 alto is an earlier model. That's why it doesn't have the nail file G# key.

This could be a good playing horn after it's been to a good repair tech. One thing to check out: Does it have an L below the serial number? Chances are, it is a low pitch alto. But, it's a good idea to make sure before you invest some money into having it restored.

I have a 1925 Conn alto (155,xxx) that's an early Chu. It's a great horn. The intonation is a little quirky in places. But, its powerful tone and projection can't be beat. This is a horn that wants to wail!

When I got my Conn alto I had to ask Bootman how to use the microtuner. I, too, had never played a vintage Conn alto before. This is how I do it: Turn the micotuner so that it's all the way in. Put your mouthpiece all the way on the neck. (There will probably be about an 1/8" space between the mouthpiece and the microtuner.) Then, carefully turn the microtuner outward as you bring the horn up to pitch. I follow Gayle's method of first tuning to middle and low F.

One of the nice things about a microtuner is that once you have your horn in tune you can leave the microtuner in that position and simply put the mouthpiece on. Of course, you'll want to recheck your tuning.

Steve Goodson or Saxpics should be able to give you more information about your horn. It might be helpful to post a note about it under Vintage Saxophones.
Steve W
User ID: 1125704
Mar 21st 4:36 PM
Thanks to everyone for your information about this horn. I am taking it to my repair technician tomorrow for an estimate on what it needs, which I don't think will be much at all. If anyone has anything else to add or more advice, please drop me a line at [email protected] All information and advice are appreciated.
User ID: 9495963
Mar 21st 8:40 PM
I have a Conn C melody from 1921 with straight neck/ tuning roller and front F key. This horn plays very well indeed.
Steve W.
User ID: 1125704
Mar 22nd 5:12 PM
Just back from my repair tech. He put the leak light in the old gal and found that most of the pads are leaking. It is a silver satin finish with a bright front to the bell and inside the bell. He said the following, " It would be a shame not to fix this horn up because of its excellant condition". The damages, $280.00 for a complete repad and and extra $80.00 to polish it all up. How does that sound to everybody? Any suggestions as a alternative? Can you put anything on the pads to make them more pliable as a temporary solution? Thanks everyone for your help
mark m
User ID: 8973393
Mar 22nd 6:35 PM
Bootman I've got about the same C-Melody, a 1924. Love it. Just got a '30 silver Chu alto, a close cousin (little sister?). What a cutie.

Here's a question for you, since you seem to be all about these horns. I think my alto sounds just a teeny bit stuffy. Not a lot, just a little. Any opinions as to the most likely cause of this?

As I'm just starting after not playing for a long long time (20 yrs), Jody sent me a #6 that I'm using to get back into it. I was thinking it could be that or the key height, but what do I know. Thoughts?

I'm curious because I recently got my mexiconn alto out of the shop and it came back sounding stuffier to. Maybe I'm getting stuffier...I never used to be:(
User ID: 9495963
Mar 22nd 11:16 PM
I would be looking for a leak, probably on the F key or the forked Eb key. The leak will be very slight. If you have done all the mpc positioning tricks then it will be a slight leak somewhere.

I have a Conn curved sop from 1921 too which is the biggest sounding small saxophone I have ever found or played. Enjoy the horns and let your tech re-check the horn over with you. Play the horn after he has adjusted it to see double check. The Key heights could also be a potential problem area too.
User ID: 0707654
Mar 23rd 12:28 AM
Mark M,

I have a 1932 art deco design transitional conn that I just had fully restored by Tim at Sax Alley. He had suggested opening the neck up a bit (from .465" to .472") to make it blow a little easier. It plays so smooth with little effort and no stuffiness now at all!

Just a thought, Glen

User ID: 3703074
Mar 23rd 8:38 AM
Steve W. That's a decent price for a repad and adjustment.
David Mekan
User ID: 0345364
Mar 23rd 9:16 AM
Bootman I also have a C.G. Conn made in 1921.I don't know if it is a alto or a C melody.Its bigger than my altos are.It has a L by where the serial number is.Iknow that the L stands for Low Pitch.Does that mean it is bad.It needs to be repadded.I played it about ten years ago.It has just been sitting around.It certainly has a different sound.It sounds like those old horns in those old cartoons in the 30's.Kind of like a gazoo.Is it worth repading.
mark m
User ID: 8973393
Mar 26th 12:12 PM
Bootman and Saxm - I don't know why but some posts I made a couple days ago never showed up.

Boot - thanks for the suggestions. I do suspect there is some slight leakage somewhere in my horn. I'd not known, however, that a leak could cause any muffling of the tone. I'll have a tech take a look at this - thanks. As far as leaks and key heights, I guess I should get a book on repair/maintenance and learn a bit more so I can do some of this stuff myself. Maybe I can find something online.

Glen, was the neck enlarged near the mouthpiece? I think I'd try everything else in the world before changing the geometry of the horn, although I'm glad to hear it worked for you. Or maybe find another neck to play with... Interesting how sensitive horns are to these little dimensional changes - cool. thanks

David - if it's bigger than an alto and smaller than a tenor, I don't know what else it could be but a C-melody. Low-pitch is what you want, and these are nice horns if you have a use for a horn in C. Worth repadding, but you might have it checked and find that only a few pads need replaced...
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