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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all,
I've been looking for a bari for a long time, and just haven't found a deal yet.

There is a local ad for a 12M that the seller says is from about 1969 judging by serial. There are not many pictures, but the pictures in the ad show a horn that appears to be in good shape. Unfortunately, no real closeup pictures of anything, so I need to take a look at this horn in person. Perhaps this weekend.

But first, a question or three about the 12M. Are the 12Ms this late in the model's lifetime still a decent horn worth purchasing?

From searching about the 12Ms, it appears they were known for playing extremely sharp / mouthpieces were barely on the necks /etc but it sounds like this was more likely with modern mouthpieces on the older horns (1930's-40's IIRC). Would a horn from '69 be more compatible with contemporary pieces?

And the wrinkle is that I've never owned or played a bari and therefore lack the gear (it's all alto and tenor bits). I'll need a mouthpiece to go try this horn, so would a Yamaha 4c/5c be fine for trying it out? I think so, just asking.
 

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First of all, all the information I've ever seen about late 12Ms seems to indicate that their design is identical to the older horns, except for rolling the tone holes. Quality of assembly is probably worse, but on the other hand, now that the one you're talking about is 50 years old, its history and previous repairs/overhauls/repadding probably are more important than the QC of its initial assembly back in '69. If it plays OK it probably is OK.

As to tuning, if you put a high baffle small chamber mouthpiece on it, you will have to pull way out to get it in tune. Don't use that kind of piece. Personally I use a Meyer mouthpiece. Pick something with a big chamber.With a Meyer mouthpiece, these days I'm putting the MP more than an inch onto the neck; but over the last few years my "input pitch" has dropped considerably. Coming from the smaller horns you will need to pay attention to forming a good size oral cavity and using a soft yet firm embouchure, and using a large "warm" air stream. These things apply to any make and model of baritone, though, really. Using a pinched little alto embouchure and stingy little alto-sized breaths on baritone won't yield good results whether you play a moderate setup on a Conn or a nigh baffle duck call raspy grass cutter mouthpiece on a late model Selmer or copy thereof.
 

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Like Turf said, it's the same design as the older ones. IMHO given a '69 was still Elkhart made, I do not feel the precision of construction is any less than a Naked Lady model, myself - this having refurbed around two dozen 12M's (and matter of fact just finished a '68 this week).

Yes, mouthpiece selection will be important. Generally speaking, these are finicky horns in that dept. With that said...LOL...I slapped a 4C on the '68 I have here and it gave me no intonational troubles at all. Keyheights were set 'normally', and the mouthpiece is 7/8 the way on my neck cork and the horn intones fine. I was actually surprised at this, as I have in the past had the sort of mouthpiece-match issues on 12M's which Turf notes above.

With that said, IMHO I would invest in something better than a Yama 4C for this horn if you buy it. A Meyer is a good choice. A George Bundy Signature 3 or 4 is a good choice. A Clark Fobes is a good choice. They will all make the horn sound better than a Yama 4C.

Tips when you see it: take a look at the plumb-ness of the body tube, whether there is any bend of curve to it. Make sure there are no significant dents to the upper bow/crook. Check to see there are no significant dents to the body tube (the lower bow and bellpiece are not that important for dents, since they are easily accessible for a dent rod - but the upper bow and body tube are NOT; thus the cost of removing damage tehre gets quite high since it requires partial disassembly of the body).
Check to see that the bellbrace is not impacted into either the bell or the body tube. Make sure all rollers are free and rolling, none frozen.
See if whoever serviced the horn last properly regulated the Fork Eb (this means that by pressing RH 1 and 3 fingers, you get an Eb - alternate fingering to using the pinky on the Eb spat key).

If any of those things exist....and the horn isn't speaking all that well....unless you have a good tech you know, maybe best to walk from it (unless of course it's $500).

if any of those things exist but the horn plays well...then depending upon the asking price, you might have some grounds for offering a bit less....

Good luck.
 

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Like Turf said, it's the same design as the older ones. IMHO given a '69 was still Elkhart made, I do not feel the precision of construction is any less than a Naked Lady model, myself - this having refurbed around two dozen 12M's (and matter of fact just finished a '68 this week).

Yes, mouthpiece selection will be important. Generally speaking, these are finicky horns in that dept. With that said...LOL...I slapped a 4C on the '68 I have here and it gave me no intonational troubles at all. Keyheights were set 'normally', and the mouthpiece is 7/8 the way on my neck cork and the horn intones fine. I was actually surprised at this, as I have in the past had the sort of mouthpiece-match issues on 12M's which Turf notes above.

With that said, IMHO I would invest in something better than a Yama 4C for this horn if you buy it. A Meyer is a good choice. A George Bundy Signature 3 or 4 is a good choice. A Clark Fobes is a good choice. They will all make the horn sound better than a Yama 4C.

Tips when you see it: take a look at the plumb-ness of the body tube, whether there is any bend of curve to it. Make sure there are no significant dents to the upper bow/crook. Check to see there are no significant dents to the body tube (the lower bow and bellpiece are not that important for dents, since they are easily accessible for a dent rod - but the upper bow and body tube are NOT; thus the cost of removing damage tehre gets quite high since it requires partial disassembly of the body).
Check to see that the bellbrace is not impacted into either the bell or the body tube. Make sure all rollers are free and rolling, none frozen.
See if whoever serviced the horn last properly regulated the Fork Eb (this means that by pressing RH 1 and 3 fingers, you get an Eb - alternate fingering to using the pinky on the Eb spat key).

If any of those things exist....and the horn isn't speaking all that well....unless you have a good tech you know, maybe best to walk from it (unless of course it's $500).

if any of those things exist but the horn plays well...then depending upon the asking price, you might have some grounds for offering a bit less....

Good luck.
What he said. One good thing, the Conn 12M has the superior implementation of the fork Eb of all saxophones ever fitted with it, with a tone hole in line with all the others, so regulation is very straightforward unlike the horns where it's the little tone hole around on the back. I have seen and tested out a Conn bass sax (similar layout) where some knucklehead spent a lot of time and effort to disable the fork Eb, irreversibly. So it is theoretically possible to disable the mechanism but it's unlikely anyone would have done it, because it's right there in the lower stack so it escapes notice. Most technicians have no idea what it is and call it "an extra vent key" or something.

I have never tried one but I bet a hard rubber Otto Link would work well on a 12M too.

Jaye, did Conn go to the straight-gauge stainless steel springs by the time this was made? The 1970 Mexi-Conn tenor I recently acquired has these, rather than the older blued needle springs (ouch! Damnit!)

I do think a Yamaha 4C being extremely inexpensive would be reasonable to just go try out the horn and assess it. Plus later on if you get a high quality piece, the Yamaha could always be the backup.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Like Turf said, it's the same design as the older ones. IMHO given a '69 was still Elkhart made, I do not feel the precision of construction is any less than a Naked Lady model, myself - this having refurbed around two dozen 12M's (and matter of fact just finished a '68 this week).

Yes, mouthpiece selection will be important. Generally speaking, these are finicky horns in that dept. With that said...LOL...I slapped a 4C on the '68 I have here and it gave me no intonational troubles at all. Keyheights were set 'normally', and the mouthpiece is 7/8 the way on my neck cork and the horn intones fine. I was actually surprised at this, as I have in the past had the sort of mouthpiece-match issues on 12M's which Turf notes above.

With that said, IMHO I would invest in something better than a Yama 4C for this horn if you buy it. A Meyer is a good choice. A George Bundy Signature 3 or 4 is a good choice. A Clark Fobes is a good choice. They will all make the horn sound better than a Yama 4C.
...
Thanks for the list of things to look at. Since I don't have any bari mouthpieces, I thought getting a bog-standard Yama 4C would at least let me try it with a known quantity, and cheaply.

In fact, I'm glad you responded to this. I periodically look at 2ndending.com and noticed the Holton bari there a couple months ago. But I have two other horns from 1927 and 1931, and honestly, I don't want a repeat of typical vintage pinky table ergos on the bari. How does the 12M compare to the Holton, since you have both on hand?

I was watching a 50's 12M Naked Lady on EBay, it went for $785 the other day.
I looked that one up. Seemed like a decent buy. Another recently went for $1500 with nearly 100% original lacquer, and a week-old repad job.
Many more went for sub-600 with banged-up bows and loops.

Even though I don't have enough posts to access the marketplace section here on SOTW, there doesn't appear to be a rule against discussing offsite ads.
Mods: Please remove if I missed the rule. Craigslist link: https://austin.craigslist.org/msg/d/del-valle-vintage-conn-12-baritone/6795823774.html

They know their asking price is high.
 

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I was watching a 50's 12M Naked Lady on EBay, it went for $785 the other day.
These are the sorta things which need to be looked at very closely however. I checked out that auction. All one can conclude here is someone purchased a 12M in non-playing condition for $785 plus ship. I am not sure if there was an intimation here that this was a good deal, or that this might reflect some sort of market value (?)

I looked that one up. Seemed like a decent buy.
No, not particularly.

I say this because based on the description, and pics - it appears at best the buyer got a 'project' naked lady 12M with a bellbrace impaction into the body tube...for around $850-875 shipped....which will, in the least likely need a good $500 of work if not more. That's not much of a deal, at the end of the day, although the horn overall looks to be a good candidate for a refurb....

Another recently went for $1500 with nearly 100% original lacquer, and a week-old repad job.
That sounds like a very reasonable asking price.
 

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Jaye, did Conn go to the straight-gauge stainless steel springs by the time this was made? The 1970 Mexi-Conn tenor I recently acquired has these, rather than the older blued needle springs (ouch! Damnit!)
I just shipped off a '68, and it had the old blued needle springs, not the stainless....
 

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Discussion Starter #11
(In response to my "Seemed like a decent buy.")

No, not particularly.

I say this because based on the description, and pics - it appears at best the buyer got a 'project' naked lady 12M with a bellbrace impaction into the body tube...for around $850-875 shipped....which will, in the least likely need a good $500 of work if not more. That's not much of a deal, at the end of the day, although the horn overall looks to be a good candidate for a refurb....
Oh, I got mixed up when I was looking at several auctions. This one had maybe neck pulldown, needed pads, resoldered bits, so yep, it needs some work.

Thanks for your comments.
 

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As for the left hand action, you will find the Conn has somewhat higher forces but much shorter key travel and a far more positive feel than the Selmer style. (To me the tilting low Bb is a classic example of a solution to a problem that didn't exist. I really dislike the way it falls away from your finger just when you really want a stiff positive key action.) For most vintage horns with the left hand keys pivoted on that side, the low C# key is the heaviest, but the Conn 12M has a two piece key linkage that gives it a very smooth action with very manageable key force.

I also believe the 3-in-a-line layout is much better adapted to the way the human hand actually works. On the Selmer style (also the Martin Committee 3 and others) to go from C# to Bb or from B to Bb you have to slide the little finger sideways while pressing down the keys. The muscles to move the finger outwards are fairly weak. On the Conn style you extend the finger further to make those movements, where the muscles that control the finger are very much stronger.

To me the Selmer layout looks like something designed according to a theory that all the keys should move in the same direction, without any account taken of the very different musculature and functional roles of the fingers, whereas the Conn and similar layouts were actually designed to work with the actual human hand anatomy. Then when you add the extreme squishy feel of the Selmer baritone low key mechanisms, it's like playing a marshmallow.

To me, all right hand little finger keys are about the same.
 

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Oh, I got mixed up when I was looking at several auctions. This one had maybe neck pulldown, needed pads, resoldered bits, so yep, it needs some work.

Thanks for your comments.
I just found the one which sold for $785. You see, my point was that in now way did the seller give a really detailed and accurate description - and maybe that was because he/she just doesn't know much about saxes, most eBay sellers don't really. So although the description made this one, at first blush - seem like it might just need a partial repad and a cleaning....the pic clearly shows an impacted bell brace, meaning the body tube is bent to some degree...which starts impacting the freedom of the key movement, and on and on.....

These are the sorta thing which might not be 'obvious' to a potential buyer or even a seller who doesn't play or repair. These are more serious issues when dealing with a BigHorn than any other sax, because as I mentioned earlier.....the only way for a tech to get a dent rod inside the body tube (or upper bow) - is to take OFF either the upper or lower bow (I usually remove the upper).
One need not do this with a S/A/T because access for a dent rod thru the neck receiver (A/T) or bell (S) is easy. But on a Bari, if you have damage to the tube or upper bow....automatically it requires unsoldering a part of the body - then resoldering it BACK on, in PROPER alignment.

That, in and of itself....runs at least $200-300 for a tech to do (this not including any other work - new pads, new regulating materials, swedging, hole leveling, etc) that needs to be done after the dent and tube conditions are attended to....
It is sorta like fixing damage on a Cello or Bass - if the top or back has to come off to just ACCESS the damaged area....it is automatically $500+, without the luthier ever touching (or charging for) fixing the damage yet.

So that was more my point. That's why I like to give folks a quick, drive-by version of what to look for when testing a BigHorn.

In no way was that $785 horn 'a couple hours of tech work' from being in good shape. At the end of the day, to return it to good tack, the owner will have invested around $1350+ ($850 horn and shipping + at least $500 tech repair)...which is close to the $1500 the other horn went for, that one minus all the hassle.
 
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