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Forum Contributor 2010-2016
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Discussion Starter #1
I recently acquired an Armstrong alto for a pretty good price. It's in reasonable playable condition except for some issues with adjustment, particularly in the bell keys and the lower stack.

I texted my tech and he replied that he wasn't interested in doing any more Armstrong repairs.

I left it at that, but I was in his workshop on another matter and I asked him to explain. He said that all the Armstrongs he'd worked on were just one problem after another - fix one thing and another went out of whack. Because they are budget horns he was reluctant to charge for the actual time spent repairing them because it usually exceeded the value of the horns. So now he just doesn't touch them.

Thoughts?
 

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There may have been some Armstrongs that were made less well than others, but the ones which are Keilwerth copies (or assembled with Keilwerth parts) are very good.

You seem to have more capable techs in Australia, like Simso, maybe you want to get in touch with them?
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2016
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I have not had that experience, myself...I have worked up around a dozen Armstrongs. Nothing unusual in the scope of repair was necessary, as I recall. I mean, it wasn't like by the 5th or 6th one I was saying "what ? THIS again ???"

The altos are not highly regarded, although IMHO compared to a lotta budget asian horns, an Armstrong in good tack arguably a better choice. The altos don't sound all that good, however; a bit thin in tonality. But again, most budget/student asian horns don't, either.

I would have figured the tech would have at least looked at the sax to determine what was needed before dismissing it.

The argument that " the repair costs will exceed the instrument value" on something like an Armstrong, Bundy II, or even a Vito-Yamaha 21/23...is sort of a 'duh'. But it's a 'duh' only because the market values are low...not necessarily because the horn is a piece of crap...

Nevertheless, IMHO if one has an Armstrong and it can be put into solid playing shape for $200-ish, then I suggest - sure, do it.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2012
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Huh, I've never heard that. I ‘grew up' with one of the 3000 model altos as a kid and it never gave me any issues. It wasn't anything special, but it served its purpose just fine.

Any idea which models he was referring to? Maybe he had to deal with a bunch of rental/school beater horns that tainted his view?
 

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Forum Contributor 2010-2016
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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for your views, very helpful. I like this tech and his work, and he's local to me. But it did seem to me that he'd taken rather a "set" against the brand. He's an independent, self employed, in demand kind of guy and he's otherwise been extremely helpful to me, so he's got every right to choose what he will or won't do.

Hell, I do it with lots of things myself where one bad experience can make me dismiss things for a long while, sometimes forever.

But in this case I wouldn't mind throwing some dollars at the horn so I'll just take it to another tech.
 

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I find that my Armstrong sourced 1992 Conn 22M has a bit of rod play which does affect playability over time, but I've never had the horn fully set-up either, just to PC+ with my recent tune-up. That having been said, if it's a later Armstrong, made in the 80s or 90s, it is most likely a JK-derived sax, based on the H. Couf Superbas. I have a post in the Conn forum that outlines the 2 lines of sax that UMI had, but both share considerable attributes with Coufs and Keilwerths. If it's the better of the 2 models, I'd have it overhauled in a heartbeat. If it's the lesser(like mine is), I'd have it overhauled in about 3 or 4 heartbeats after a quick moment of thinking.

They're undervalued horns that I'd consider in the intermediate camp vs standard student fare, perhaps on the level of a Yamaha 475 vs Yamaha 23. The only thing I can think of that comes close to the predicament these horns are in is the Line 6 Spider Valve guitar amps. Those were Bogner tube amps with Line 6 pre-amp technology. Line 6 at the time didn't have a great rep(similar to Conn, post-Mexico) but had a strong boutique manufacturer holding them up behind the scenes.
 

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In the early 1990s, as well as their Couf & Keilwerth stencils, UMI issued a line of baritone saxes that, although they weren't marketed as such, were Conn 11Ms & 12Ms in everything but name. Some of them were stamped "Armstrong" on the bell, while others, which were exactly the same in every other way, were stamped "Conn." I can't speak about the Couf & Keilwerth stencils, but the Conn-Armstrongs were the real deal. Today they can be had rather cheaply — especially the ones stamped "Armstrong" — but they are good-quality instruments and well worth fixing up. I can only talk about the baris from personal experience.

I'm surprised your tech doesn't rate the Armstrongs, but as you say, he's entitled to choose what work he will and won't do. If he's the guy I'm thinking of (three letter surname), he has to refuse a lot of the work he's offered anyway, because he's the best around, and gets offered more work than he could ever keep up with.
 
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