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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In the early 1990s, I had an Armstrong alto saxophone, bought brand new in 1991. After a couple of years, I resented not having a better horn (private resentment as my parents didn't have the dough for another), but in retrospect, I beat the hell outta that horn. It hardly ever needed the shop. Always in tune. Marching band out in the heat and rain, that horn still made me first chair in concert and jazz band and performed well in various competitions. It was a bit stuffy but so much darker in tone than the shiny new Yamahas, which is probably why I am so obsessed with finding a budget dark sound today.

I wonder how different it actually was from a Selmer Bundy at that time.
 

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It would be pretty easy to answer that question simply by having the two models side-by-side.

IMHO, having worked on Armstrongs, they were indeed pretty rugged beasts. A lot of the design is based off of J. Keilwerths, so their keywork and general feel was pretty JK New King-ish; although I add the caveat that the body tubes changed somewhat which resulted in a non-JK sound. On the other hand, they also employed some keywork redesign which solidified some of the JK idiosyncracies in that dept.

I think people forget (or actually, fail to realize) that UMI (mother company of Armstrong, King, Conn, and Artley I believe) survived quite well for 20 years, going toe-to-toe with the new Japanese imports as well as Selmer USA.

UMI didn't fold or go bankrupt...on the contrary, from a couple of their very late model horns and the few documents and ads one can turn up online, there were indications they were beginning to vie for the middle and middle-upper market, when Selmer made them a buyout offer they couldn't refuse.

So for Armstrongs, yes they were decent horns...not fabulous sounding, but certainly arguably as good if not better tonally that a Bundy, Bundy II, or Yama 23. Those late horns aiming at higher-shelf...not necessarily successes, market-wise, but still...pretty interesting efforts, and keeping in mind they were US produced thru and thru.

For a solid student horn, a backup horn, or someone who needs a reliable horn on the cheap, they are a reasonable candidate.
 

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JayePDX, you forgot to mention the Conn-Armstrongs, which you've already posted about quite extensively here on SotW.

It seems that after UMI acquired Conn from Henkin, they stopped using Keilworth as stencil saxophones for their Armstrong brand — I suspect because they wanted to avoid paying money to Keilworth — and started stencilling "Armstrong" onto a proportion of their standard production-line Conns.

Fairly recently I bought an Armstrong low-A bari which is a Conn 11M in all but name. Apart from the low-A extension, its body and keywork are almost exactly the same as that on my 1964 12M. The Armstrong bears a Conn serial number dating from 1991, above the words "Made in USA." It's a great instrument, in tune from top to bottom and playing with the renowned big Conn tone. I got it from an instrument shop for US$ 900.00, which is an amazing bargain, given what it really is, a Conn 11M in disguise.

I've been trawling through Reverb.com, which I do quite often, as there are a lot of bargains to be had there. I've just noticed an Armstrong alto sax for sale there. The asking price is US$ 249.00 plus $35.00 shipping. Its serial number is N259771, which is a Conn serial number dating from 1987. It's described as a "student" horn and has been listed for three months already, so an even lower price might be negotiable. I'm sorely tempted…

These Armstrongs get a bad press for no good reason. I don't know whether they were originally marketed as "student" horns or not, but it's a fact that they were identical to already existing Conn models which nowadays sell for three times the price.
 

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Yes. it's actually the Baritones and some Tenors which also still retained the same Conn design as always...the 12M, the 11M, the 16M designs existed very late in the game with UMI. The Altos stayed with the JK-ish pedigree, as did other Tenors. Although when you see an Armstrong with a N serial, that is likely a Henkin-era horn (UMI took over in '84). I have never held a 22M, which displaced the 16M design eventully...so I dunno what sorta design that one was modeled after.

But for the Baritones, an UMI-Armstrong is basically gonna be a traditional Conn 11/12M...although very late in the game (again in reference to the attempts now and then to develop a modern upper-shelf line) there appeared a model (when labeled Conn, it was oddly called the 14M...when labeled Armstrong I believe it was the 31XX or something like this) which broke from the 12M mold.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Mine was sold as a student horn, a bit cheaper than a new student Yamaha at that time. I played the two side by side and liked the tone of the Armstrong better, though Yamaha was of course far more free blowing. My band director told me the Armstrong had been made in Eastern Europe and wasn't very good. He had a dealer at one point bring in an intermediate Yamaha to tempt me and other students to replace their horns.

These Armstrongs get a bad press for no good reason. I don't know whether they were originally marketed as "student" horns or not, but it's a fact that they were identical to already existing Conn models which nowadays sell for three times the price.
 

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That's fine....was the Band Director gonna BUY you all the Yamahas ? If so, that wouldn't have been a bad deal.

But joking aside, I hate hearing stories about teachers who urge their students to spend their own money on a new horn when the one they are using functions OK...that always burns my toast....

Eastern Europe ? Interesting bit of misinformation...perhaps he confused them with Amati (they both have an A and an M in their names, after all :dazed:)
 

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Didn't the letter prefix on Conn (made) saxes ended in 1971-73? Last letter was "R". "N" was on saxes made between 1969-70? The letter prefix was under MacMillan ownership. They sold Conn to Henkin in c 1980. Or maybe I got it wrong.

UMI made baritones that was named Conn Artist model 13M (to low A) and Conn Artist 14M (low Bb). They were based on 11M and 12M but they had a more modern approach. King Model 682 Baritone (low A) and King Model 680 (low (Bb) were the same saxes as 13M and 14M. King baritones had rose-gold lacqer and Conn baritones had clear laquer.

The Conn 22M Bb tenor and King 662 Bb tenor were the same saxes. Keyed to high F#, detachable bow and bell on both brands.

I think UMI worked hard to make good instruments. They didn't reached Selmer, Yamaha, Keilwerth level but they were better than most R.O.C saxes from the mid and late 90's. UMI saxes was entirely made in Nogales, AZ, USA.
 

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No, I believe that's incorrect. N serials went all the way up to '84. So Henkin seems to have continued the N serials, as they appear on the 18M-21M's which are models attributed to that period, and not MacMillan. Most websites have never corrected that information. Member Stocker did a great recordation of the N serial numbers and they go up to around N270,XXX or so....which would be impossible if the N's were only made for a few years....

Also regarding the R serials...I have never found any definitive info of a sax or series of saxes which ever had an R in their serial range. Have you ever seen an image of one, or seen one yourself ? That'd be interesting.

You are right on the Baritones, indeed the keywork was redesigned....those aren't bad horns at all, BTW.

If I am not mistaken, though....the 22M did not have RTH. I think the King 662 does; at least some or most of the versions did, no ???.....
 

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Most King 662s had rolled toneholes. They appear to have been phased out towards the end of production (1998?) but there's not a lot of examples to go by.

I know at least some Conn 22Ms had rolled toneholes. It seems that with the those it was both the early and late examples that didn't have RTH.
 

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No, I believe that's incorrect. N serials went all the way up to '84. So Henkin seems to have continued the N serials, as they appear on the 18M-21M's which are models attributed to that period, and not MacMillan. Most websites have never corrected that information. Member Stocker did a great recordation of the N serial numbers and they go up to around N270,XXX or so....which would be impossible if the N's were only made for a few years....

Also regarding the R serials...I have never found any definitive info of a sax or series of saxes which ever had an R in their serial range. Have you ever seen an image of one, or seen one yourself ? That'd be interesting.

You are right on the Baritones, indeed the keywork was redesigned....those aren't bad horns at all, BTW.

If I am not mistaken, though....the 22M did not have RTH. I think the King 662 does; at least some or most of the versions did, no ???.....
So the info I have is wrong? I was told that after Conn made thier millionth sax?/instrument in 1962 they started with letter + five digits. "A" started in 1962 and it ended with letter R in 1971-73. Maybe I got the wrong info? According to my info the brass was also included with the letter prefix.

I've seen King with RTH but no 22M. I got my info from UMI "Band Instrument Guide" (1997) and they don't say anything about RTH.
 

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They did go to a letter prefix in 1962. But after production was taken out of Elkhart, only the brasswind plant changed the prefix yearly (whether by design or whether by the mass exodus of personnel leaving the saxophone plant(s) with nobody who knew that they were supposed to). From 1970-87, the Conn chart only applies to (most) brasswinds.

1997 was about the time that UMI was starting to phase out the rolled toneholes. Is that guide available online somewhere or do you have a paper copy?
 

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Yes, I was gonna write that all 662's had RTH, but then I think there's one on eFlay now which actually doesn't (at least from the pics, which aren't very descriptive)...so I held up. I have worked on 4 and they all had RTH. The Armstrong 3055 Tenor has RTH as well....
 

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They did go to a letter prefix in 1962. But after production was taken out of Elkhart, only the brasswind plant changed the prefix yearly (whether by design or whether by the mass exodus of personnel leaving the saxophone plant(s) with nobody who knew that they were supposed to). From 1970-87, the Conn chart only applies to (most) brasswinds.

1997 was about the time that UMI was starting to phase out the rolled toneholes. Is that guide available online somewhere or do you have a paper copy?
Thanks. I'll try to upload the page. I followed UMI because they showed us that it was possible to built saxes in USA! I don't know if they were making any money.
 

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Yes, I was gonna write that all 662's had RTH, but then I think there's one on eFlay now which actually doesn't (at least from the pics, which aren't very descriptive)...so I held up. I have worked on 4 and they all had RTH. The Armstrong 3055 Tenor has RTH as well....
I've jsut seen a few King 662 and they were wo RTH. But I've seen on internet that they had RTH as well. Was it the modern RTH type (soldered on ring) or the real thing like old Conn saxes?
 

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Mmmm...good question. Speaking from memory I believe soldered rings, but I cannot say with certainty.

I think UMI was doing OK, financially. I don't think they were struggling, then folded; rather, selmer just made them a good buyout offer so they'd disappear.

I too find it interesting that there were domestic-produced saxes as late as 2002....I dunno what brass/brasswinds makers (fairly large scale) still exist in the US, other than Kanstul.
 

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Getzen is about the only other major manufacturer left. With what I hear trumpet and trombone players say about them, the horns are respectable, at minimum. I wish they'd jump into the sax market but I suspect they'd prefer to stay in business instead.

If you really look at UMI, they did a pretty good job considering where they started from. They managed to not only get back to respectable student sax production but also come up with the Super 21, and they were a year or two away from building pro saxes again when Selmer decided they were too big a threat to be allowed to exist. The Vintage One trumpet/cornet/flugel was so good even UMI's detractors spoke well of it. The King and Armstrong plants are still running, but Selmer has cheapened out everything so badly that even the engravings look awful now.
 

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Wait...are you saying the US factories which were producing under UMI are still operating ? Quick websearch suggests that Conn-Selmer brass instruments are still made here ?
 

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Yes. The King plant in Eastlake and Armstrong plant in Elkhart are still running and still building many of the same model numbers as before. The King brasswinds (and Conn stencils thereof) are still in Eastlake, as are Holtons now.

Nogales and North Main in Elkhart were closed in 2004, but I think all the product lines from those two got moved to Armstrong for a short time - even the UMI saxophones, as there's some odd jumps in serial numbers towards the end. I don't know how long Artley instruments lasted after that, and Armstrong clarinets are gone now.

The president of C-S said in 2010 that "every SKU" built at North Main was still built in Elkhart but we know that to be a lie as all the American-made Selmer saxes were discontinued somewhere between 2005-2007. When the xS500s came out, the American saxes got pushed to the back of the catalog... I've heard a rumor that Selmer was intentionally trying to kill sales so they'd have an excuse to drop them.

What's left of Leblanc is made here, although I shudder at the idea of Vito clarinets being made with the same appalling lack of build quality that the Bundy Resonite/Selmer 1400 is known for. There's even been talk of reviving one or two Leblanc France models in Elkhart (paperclip contras specifically), but I'd be surprised to ever see that happen.

Amusingly enough, though, all the Selmer harmony clarinets ended production - they're rebranded Vitos now.
 

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Interesting...I can find some brand-new Kings online...so you are saying those are not Asian ? I didn't know that.

I cannot find any brand-new Armstrong sax offerings, though...are you sure the name didn't drop the sax line ?
 

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The 6xx brasswinds are still American-made as far as I know, as are the marching brass and what passes for professional-level now. Selmer did revive the "Tempo" name for some cheap imported stuff (model numbers in the 300s).

No Armstrong saxes... I thought those went away in the '90s. All I can find for Armstrong is flute and piccolo.
 
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