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Saxophones The Conn 24M, review

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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New Mexico, US
Just wanted to share this for posterity sake, this is another model which will be somewhat obscure to most folks as it was a Conn produced in USA between '85-'03 or thereabouts, under UMI ownership. So, post-Mexico. And post Mexico Conn models, complete redesigns from their Elkhart predecessors, rarely get any "air time", although in their day they apparently sold pretty well and competed in the US market with the Yamahas and Selmer USA's.

This is the 24M, which was the model which came after the 18M/20M produced under Danny Henkin's reign as head of Conn/King/Armstrong/Artley from '80-'84...those models having replaced the Shooting Star 50M's of the 60's and 70's. No particular pedigree relationship to the earlier models, UMI went with a redesign on most of their horns, some based off of a Keilweth model which Armstrong had knocked off in the 80's. So it was the student/second shelf Conn model of the time.

It was also marketed as the King Empire.

The 25M was it's top-shelf cousin, and I have yet to have a 25M on my bench although it appears to be a 24M with a few more bells and whistles.

This is a 'modern' horn in all common design respects related to the term....offset lower stack, right hinged pinky table, redesigned palmkeys, etc. Key engineering is good, pivot screws nicely crafted, posts robust, spring sizes appropriate and I only had to swedge one key. The bell has a slight tilt to the right in orientation.

Very well-made instrument, quite sturdy and a bit on the heavier side for a modern alto when compared to, say, a YAS 23 which feels lighter and less substantial under the fingers. Keywork placement is very good, ergos are comfy. Although the spats are flat and sorta 'blocky looking', under the fingers they are nicely placed and feel OK.
One thing of note is that the pinky table is based off of more the Keilwerth shape/model as far as orientation and placement goes, so it feels different than your typical asian student horn table a'la the Yama 21/23. Not worse, just a bit different. So for those players who tend towards a rigidity of acceptance in the pinky table, this might not be the best choice for them.

On the other hand, like the other JK-inspired King and Conn horns made under UMI, the tonality is its greatest asset. This is a much richer-toned, darker, wider spread horn than its asian contemporaries. I ain't gonna say it sounds like a JK New King or Couf, but it definitely leans towards that sonic character as opposed to the brighter, reedier, narrow focused tone of its contemporary asian competition of the time.

These generally show up on US eFlay as project horns for around $150-200-ish, and sell in serviced condition for around $450-550ish. A price point which the horn is certainly worth. They may never be a model which someone is going to go searching for, but if one happens to cross your path or someone inquires as to its worthiness, you can use this entry as some sorta yardstick.
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I am always interested in discovering sax models which fall into the category of "good suggestions as alternatives to the ubiquitous 'just get a 23' advice".....and there are a decent # of models out there, some of which I have mentioned before (Buffet, JK ST90, etc).


 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
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Sweden
Thanks JayeNM. Intersting and good information. I've never seen or played a UMI made sax. It was possible to make a saxophone in USA in the late 90's with using old tools. Lots of bad writings and attitudes against UMI over the years. They killed the great American brands and saxophone makers. To be frank, they were already destroyed many years before UMI was formed.

Now I'm picky! The UMI Conn American Model 24M share the same model number as Conn F Mezzo Soprano 24M. I don't know why UMI had old model number on thier new saxes?

Conn American Model 24M was the same as Conn Conntinental Model 25M but range to high F, centered octave key, nickel plated keys, fixed thumb hook.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
2,469
Locality
New Mexico, US
Thanks JayeNM. Intersting and good information. I've never seen or played a UMI made sax. It was possible to make a saxophone in USA in the late 90's with using old tools. Lots of bad writings and attitudes against UMI over the years. They killed the great American brands and saxophone makers. To be frank, they were already destroyed many years before UMI was formed.

Now I'm picky! The UMI Conn American Model 24M share the same model number as Conn F Mezzo Soprano 24M. I don't know why UMI had old model number on thier new saxes?

Conn American Model 24M was the same as Conn Conntinental Model 25M but range to high F, centered octave key, nickel plated keys, fixed thumb hook.
Right all around.

I would say UMI actually tried to SAVE US sax manufacturing rather than tank it, the way Selmer USA/Selmer Inc. eventually did. Danny Henkin's intention was to re-establish US manufacturing (going completely against the grain of Reaganism at the time) and he got that done but according to sources was so unhappy with being the head of the Conn/King/Armstrong ship he wanted out - but insisted on a buyer who would not just offshore everything and reverse what he had begin to re-establish.
The Conn Elkhart plant was gone by that time (not the building but the tooling and equipment, most of which ...but not all...went to MX)...but Henkin/UMI still had a fully functioning King Eastlake and Armstrong, Elkhart plant for saxes. They may or may not have also had a Conn Nogales, US plant still...it's a bit fuzzy.
I read a quote online somewhere from the head of UMI referencing their sellout to Selmer Inc, he stated they didn't do it because UMI was failing, matter of fact they were competing pretty well in the market according to him - they did it because Selmer made 'an offer which we couldn't refuse' as far as dollar amount.

Now the interesting thing here is...some of these UMI Conns and Kings...they aren't Armstrongs just rebranded. There's a significant difference between a Conn 24/25M, Conn 22M, Conn 34M, King 662, King Empire, etc... when compared to the typical Armstrong in all respects...precision of build quality, specifications, tone, etc....
So they were definitely not just rolling one design off the line and simply selling it under three different brand names.

(yes, it IS funny tho...they did re-use some vintage Conn model numbers (they also made a Baritone called a 14M, lol - pretty good Bighorn, too)...not sure why they did that....plenty of numerals available even by the 90's :oops:)
 

PigSquealer

Connoisseur of applesauce
Café Supporter
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Los Angeles
Thanks @JayeNM for posting. interesting timing.
In the last couple weeks I have picked up two of these. Never had one in my hands before. First thing I noticed is how well the key work feels compared to a Yamaha. Actually I think it’s better. The second I was considering as Parts horn. Now I’m having second thoughts. It only needs a couple bits to make it complete again.
Should be interesting to have one of these on the bench. You’re spot on about the beefy build. They are a little bit heavy.
Guess I need to get at least one neck with a cork on it. Now you have my curiosity.
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thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,783
Locality
Sweden
Now the interesting thing here is...some of these UMI Conns and Kings...they aren't Armstrongs just rebranded. There's a significant difference between a Conn 24/25M, Conn 22M, Conn 34M, King 662, King Empire, etc... when compared to the typical Armstrong in all respects...precision of build quality, specifications, tone, etc....
So they were definitely not just rolling one design off the line and simply selling it under three different brand names.
UMI invested millions of dollars in new technology, tools, machines, computers... to built better instrument. Maybe they earned more money making new technology than building saxes? In the 90's many other brands manufators came out on the market. Small workshops that suddenly made lots of saxes. And not only Selmers copies. The guys behind UMI were working in countriesas well, and not just buying parts or saxes.

Sten K Johnson was an interesting person. Played horns and saxophone.

 
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