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Discussion Starter #1
I notice many folks on here post questions regarding 14m or 16m "shooting star" horns, some made in Nogales, some in Mexico, and some in Elkhart, IN.

How can people test the quality of these horns? I've heard some say that the metal was cheaper/softer in the non-Elkhart models. Is there a way to test this, maybe with a small file or tool? Is there something visual that can give it away?

I do believe my 16m was an Elkhart model, with wire key guards, USA marking, 94XXXX, serial number... it feels good to me, but can I test its quality? How do repairmen check?

Thanks all.
 

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The quality became less consistent after production left Elkhart. So yours should be fine. But the real test is in how it sounds and plays and holds up. If it sounds and feels good, and things are not constantly falling apart or going out of adjustment, then the quality is good. Anything else - lacquer, serial number, scratch tests, special alloys, weight, etc. is B.S. The proof is in the pudding.
 

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I believe all the wire-guard models of tenor and alto were made in Elkhart long before production moved to Nogales, AZ or Mexico. Sheet metal key guards were introduced many years before the move. I believe only the 12M bari had wire after moving to Mexico.
 

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Why overthink it? If your horn is good, it's good. I had one like yours and ugly as they come. Played great after a full pad job. I also replaced the right hand thumb hook with a Jupiter part for comfort. True, it may not be as powerful (or as expensive) as a 50s 10M but it plays with the right character of sound and response. I sold the horn to hep pay for a Chu tenor, but I often wish I had it back. That horn had great tone and response.

Best of luck with your horn.
 

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The wires disappeared about 1963. I find the biggest problem with the later Conns from 1970ish on, is key wobble. Some are pretty tight and others not so good. If the horn is fairly tight and straight, good padding can make these a bargain.
 

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Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2013-
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I got one of these, only a Mexiconn. My tech said it had too much play in a couple of the rods (he thought that someone put some cheaper rods in to save money in manufacture), and he replaced them with ones that fit better. Other than that he said it was good metal. It plays great now that he fixed it. It cost under $100 to fix the rods and a few other small items that bothered him. I doubt if the wire guard models had these problems.
Another problem with mine is that the joining process for the bow was not done cleanly. The flux (?) bled out around the joint and looks ugly. Solid, but not proper craftsmanship.
 

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Click noted one of the biggest issues...Bruce and others touched on the other yardsticks.

IF your Director has wire guards, it was Elkhart-made and really, as far as quality-control goes.....these are just super-solid instruments.

IF your Director is post-'62, it was either Nogales az. or Nogales MX made. So now, you look for:

1) Does it read 'usa' on the bell ? Then it was from the Best plant in az. If an Alto, this makes it a 50M, not a 14M.

2) if it doesn't read usa, it was an MX horn. It doesn't need to read "Mexico" to have been an MX horn...although most do.

So, as click noted...play in the keywork is one of the more common problems. This often requires some swedging, and in the worst-case scenario a resoldering of a post or two. To this I will add: some poor regulation out of the factory (for example, the keyheights established are not consistent - not to say that over time someone misregulated them...but rather to say that the keys themselves somehow came out of the factory that way). This, again, is correctable to a significant degree.

Secondly...maintaining regulation. The later model MX ones are reputed to go out of regulation more often. Personally, I have NOT experienced this myself (but granted, the Directors I buy and rehab tend to be '60's ones, rarely 70's ones ~ and these tend not to stay around here for more than a few months as they are popular sellers).....but suffice it to say that there has been enough reputable feedback on the regulation issue that it should be taken seriously.

With that said....I have played some really #ss-whuppin' MX-made saxes (I sold one memorable 16M recently to Bandmommy's son-in-law)....and a few 'eh' ones....while the Elkhart ones have really all been pretty darn good....as were the vast majority of the Best-produced 50M's.

Easy to do some visuals (although your Director is an Ekhart, so I doubt you will find much of this): wiggle the keycups of the backdoor keys (RH palmkeys) and see if they stay put....same w/ the LH palmkeys. Then move the barrel of the Pinky Table C# up and down and see if it moves. You can do the same with ANY of the stack keys (in the open position). Lastly, look at the height of the bellkeys in relation to one another, and see if there's any sign that those keytouches have been significantly bent in order to regulate the coordination of the keys. Keeping in mind that, of course, on a 50-year old horn....some of these issues are natural wear and tear, anyway....
 

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Bandmommys' 'son-in-law' is LOVING his "Mexi-Conn" 16M tenor.
I haven't given it a blow yet, but if HE says it's a Kick *A* horn.. I'm not going to argue!
 

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I don't know about the Conns, but those Mexicans sure can make a mean burrito!
 
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