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Sousaphone suggestions?

Postby ArnoldGottlieb » Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:23 am

So, the older I get the less fun carrying my really heavy but great sounding 1930's (ex Chuck Jackson) King sousaphone is. I've heard plenty of talk about a Conn 14K's and I'm definitely looking for one. I'm wondering if anybody has any other suggestions for sousaphones that: play in tune, are on the lighter side weight wise, and of course sound great.
Thanks in advance and if you have anything for sale please PM me.
Thanks.
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Postby windshieldbug » Fri Aug 24, 2007 11:46 am

I don't know what you use it for, but you might consider an Eb sousa, like a Conn 26K brass. The one I have has a very nice, clear, tuba sound.
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Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 12:41 pm

A good (meaning, pre-Macmillan era) Conn 14K is really no lighter than your King. If you have to go really lighter, don't get something like a new flimsy Jupiter or such. You may have to go with an Eb, at the expense of some lower register notes. But Conn souzys are really good for "false" pedals, and the Eb may actually have good "real" pedals as well, although I've not had the pleasure of playing one. As I have posted before, pull 3 so 23 combinations are in tune (if you need to, as some of the older souzys, like my 38K, already have 3 made long for this very reason), have the top loop of 1 converted to a slide so you can pull 12, 13 and 123 to pitch, and you don't need a 4th valve, also saving weight. 3rd ledger line Ab on the Eb souzy is played open as a "false" pedal, and everything goes down chromatically from there: G-2; Gb-1; F-12; E nat-23; true pedal Eb-open.

Then there's the other extreme: work out and get those shoulder and back muscles built up to carry "my" 38K on a regular basis, which weighs 30 pounds!
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Postby WakinAZ » Fri Aug 24, 2007 1:32 pm

A 14K should be about 25 lbs. Others on this board have recommended a fiberglass Conn with a brass bell for a good lightweight compromise.

I will tell you that I saw a guy play the hell out of a fiberglass souzy of unknown key/origin at Disneyland this summer. He had spraypainted the whole thing (except brass parts) with a glitter gold paint. In context, it looked and sounded pretty good. He was in the "New Orleans" part of the park in a walking jazz combo.

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Postby iiipopes » Fri Aug 24, 2007 4:00 pm

WakinAZ wrote:I will tell you that I saw a guy play the hell out of a fiberglass souzy of unknown key/origin at Disneyland this summer.


A friend of mine who used to play down there tells me those particular horns were/are custom made lightweight carbon fibre Yamahas to weigh as little as possible since the guys playing them have to wear them all day.
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Postby tofu » Fri Aug 24, 2007 6:30 pm

I find that my Conn 30k Helicon works really well for most Sousaphone type gigs. My municipal band has those old Kings and my Conn weighs a whole lot less. I think the ergonomics are much much better and how the weight is distributed on your body makes a huge difference in your comfort and well being.

Doing a parade or a standup gig with a Sousie and my neck/shoulder/back hurt for days.
With the Helicon I could play all day with no pain - plus it has a huge sound, easy to play and good intonation with just middle C being flat with first valve but very workable with 1-3. I regularly do 3 hour jazz gigs with it and also use it for the Municipal Band parades although the director doesn't like that because it doesn't have a shiny bell. :roll:
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Postby bloke » Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:53 pm

The Conn model 14K was specifically designed (almost to a fault...particularly for school use) as a "lightweight" version of the model 32K (standard 4/4-size sousaphone).

The Elkhart-made sister instrument, the 36K, is a featherweight.

I spent a pile of dough putting a trick finish (black sparkle "chameleon") on one, and will (if I can EVER dig out from under my customer repairs and do the last eight-or-so hours of work needed on the already-rebuilt valve section) be using it for most "2nd" line gigs and stand-up/outdoor-acoustic jazz band or stand-up/outdoor-acoustic polka band gigs.

Those who "hate" the 36K fiberglass instruments have probably encountered some with stuff jammed down into the body, missing the brass-to-fiberglass O-rings, repair-guy-ruined valves, terrible leaks in the bits/gooseneck area, or other problems. There just isn't a terribly significant amount of difference (except price) between the way a "high-tech" carbon-fiber instrument vs. a fiberglass instrument resonates.

remarking on King 4/4 brass sousaphone vs. Conn 14K sousaphone weight:

These two different sousaphones just might (??) weigh about the same. It's pretty hard to dispute that King sousaphones (if they've never buffed down / referring specifically to the ones made through the 1960's) were made of significantly thicker brass than the Conn 14K, but - with the standard King being a smaller sousaphone overall - the King just might (??) have enough less overall surface area to end up (EVEN WITH the 2-inch larger bell diameter) weighing "about the same" as a Conn 14K.

intonation Conn 14K vs. King:

Neither are perfect (duh...They're toobuhz!) I prefer the few/manageable quirks of the Conn to the King. I REALLY grew WEARY of the "sharp-6th-partial" issue when I owned a Rudy Meinl tuba for a few years, and just about ANY tuba with that trait (including King sousaphones) kinda bugs me.

Comparing Conn-to-Conn, the (no longer made, just in case you didn't know) Conn 4/4-size Elkhart production 14K sousaphone offers CLEARLY FAR SUPERIOR intonation to the Conn 6/4 size 20K sousaphone.
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Postby WakinAZ » Fri Aug 24, 2007 10:16 pm

Believe it.

Eric "who followed Bloke's advice on the various Conns and Kings when he bought a souzy (Conn c. 1930 32K) and did not regret it" L.

I ended up selling it because I didn't play it that much, and boy do I regret it. Is anyone getting tired of me whining about that from time to time?
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Postby tofu » Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:55 am

bloke wrote: The Elkhart-made sister instrument, the 36K, is a featherweight.


How much do you estimate a 36K weighs and what roughly does a 14K weigh?
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Postby WakinAZ » Sat Aug 25, 2007 12:23 pm

bloke wrote:missing the brass-to-fiberglass O-rings


As long as we're picking your brain, Joe, is this common? Were there "Monday" and "Friday" horns that came off the Conn assembly line, or did they disappear during repairs/restorations?

Eric "who notes that silver spray paint will brighten the sound" L.
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Postby iiipopes » Sun Aug 26, 2007 7:55 pm

And in addition to the Conn 14K, if you see one of its older cousins, a Pan American or a Cavalier, it's basically the same instrument with the same construction. But those two probably have a bit thicker brass on them as well, and so there is no weight savings. But great intonation, only a slightly flat 5th partials, and great "false" pedal tones.

I concur with the valves on the 20K. Having played my 38K all summer, which has the larger bugle but conventional valves, my opinion is that the problems with the intonation on a 20K is the valve block having the ports reoriented for the shorter throw. Besides, it's a souzy. If you want short valves, play a trumpet.
"Bessophone" w/Griego 325XD, Imperial Blokepiece w/ extender, Taku Lite,
Reynolds 'glass souzy w/Kelly 18
Fanned fret electric and bass guitars
If you ever see a King Super 20 trumpet
in silverplate serial #330XXX,
please let me know!
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