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Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby the elephant » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:05 pm

The Conn 8D French horn is widely considered a great design that frequently suffered from very poor assembly (much like Holton tubas). If you are an 8D fan you probably know that the "best" ones (meaning most consistent, not better, just easier to find a really well made one) come from the M and N series horns from 1969 and 1970. These were almost all excellently crafted horns for such a large company; lots of attention to details that count, like tube endings and internal joint work.

So, with that in mind, is there a particular series (or year range if pre-letter horns) for the 2xJ series tubas? Are a few years standouts as far as them being better players or having better intonation? I know we have some super-hyper-freaky-deeky-dyed-in-the-wool Conn fans in the TNFJ who might know whether these horns had a so-called "golden era" where they stood out as being superior to the ones made earlier or later?

Yes, I have asked this before, but the right person (ahem, geek) never came along. I will ask again, and this time I shall occasionally bump this thread if no solid answers appear. (Yeah, I lost the first thread about a year ago. Whatever. So, here we go again...)

I am curious as I own a K series 24J (1967) and an M series 24J (19690, both seem to be good players, but are too beat right now to know for certain whether either is a "find" or perhaps simply just a bowser with heavy bracing and pinched valve ports. Yeah, I know all about aligning the valves, making sure the leadpipes are PRISTINE internally, and no leaks, etc. I am good at all that. I just want to now whether these tubas had a "golden era" as stated above.

Thanks. :tuba:
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Re: Conn Geek Fest

Postby lost » Thu Sep 28, 2017 9:13 pm

I own an M series 24j from 1969.

Plays great.

However when I was a band director, our school had one from the late 50's that played exceptionally. I played a 20j from the mid 60's that was adequate.

I also currently have access to "thee" silver 27j from many a threads here that plays very similar to my current 24j and that is also an M series. Very good....but man the late 50's I would guess (for me) is the golden age.
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby Heliconer » Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:51 am

I will add a +1 for late 50's. There is a gentleman I do repair for that owns a 50's (56, or 57 can't remember) 20J that would make any member of the TNFJ blush. I've played a lot of 20Js, I wish I had that one.
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby edsel585960 » Sat Sep 30, 2017 12:21 pm

I have a 21 J with a C serial number from 1963 I wouldn't trade for the world. Great player. My 22J is from 1936 and still plays wonderfully for its age. Had a 1946 20j that was a good player. Conn changed the 3rd valve tubing on later models to straight as opposed to the curly cue 3rd on older horns. Not really sure if this affected playability. Newer ones had less curves for the air to go around on the 3rd valve loop. I"ve typically found older well maintained horns are better players than the later ones from the 70's-80's. Quality control issues with the decline of instrument makers? In the end I'll take a 2xj over just about anything else for being "the" tuba section and filling the room with that deep, sonorous sound (until I can't pick the $%#@ thing up anymore) :lol:
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby bloke » Sat Sep 30, 2017 1:37 pm

I think they're all about the same.
They were never made anywhere but Elkhart, and I never saw any drop in build quality in Conn until they moved to Texico.

People argue on horn discussion lists about 8D horns, but those arguments aren't very scientific. They are mostly between freak jury laymen who have no idea what's been done to various 8D horns they've played from various (Elkhart-era) vintages prior to the times that they play-tested them.

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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby The Big Ben » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:07 pm

bloke wrote:I think they're all about the same.
They were never made anywhere but Elkhart, and I never saw any drop in build quality in Conn until they moved to Texico.

People argue on horn discussion lists about 8D horns, but those arguments aren't very scientific. They are mostly between freak jury laymen who have no idea what's been done to various 8D horns they've played from various (Elkhart-era) vintages prior to the times that they play-tested them.


It also probably differed if, like some of the Holton tubas, they were taken apart by someone with the skill, interest and ability to put it back together properly.
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby Dan Tuba » Sat Sep 30, 2017 9:36 pm

I currently own an M series 25J and H series 20J. Both the 25J and the 20J play very well for what they are. I have previously owned a 1940’s era 20J and a 1950’s era 24J. From my 2XJ “experiences,” I haven’t found any particular “era” of 2XJ tubas to play better than the other if they are in good playing condition.
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby lost » Sun Oct 01, 2017 7:06 pm

I also played an original silver conn 20j from baltimore brass.. late 30's model ...probably the worst playing horn i have ever played. Nothing visibly wrong with it.

IMHO, there are lousy horns in every run. 20xj's were no exception.
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby the elephant » Sun Oct 01, 2017 10:11 pm

Okay, so I have torn down my K series horn. It has a bunch of, let's call them "shortcuts" that were taken at the factory. Nowhere near the build quality of my wife's 8D from two years later.

I can't wait to tear down the M series one to carefully examine how all the joints were assembled and how well dressed the tube ends are, compared directly. I know I am a geek, but this stuff interests me a lot.

Anyway, I will not be able to have the parts side-by-side because I want one horn to be the model for the other when I reassemble each of them.

My surmise about this whole "golden era" stuff with the horns is that it is true, but ONLY regarding the horns. It must be that Conn had some hotshots building the 8D horns in 1969 and 1970. And they were moved to other parts of the factory after that. I do not think there was a team of tuba builders though they were large enough of a factory that there very well could have been experts on tuba bells and bottom bows and valves and such. They are certainly more consistently built than Holton tubas ever were. So the whole magical M and N series 8D French horns were probably due to the line having the same top dogs for a couple of years and the tubas never had something like that. Who knows? The 8D was *the* orchestral horn at that time. The 2xJ series tubas were never anything like that and were pretty much always a student line horn.

Whatever. I like my horns and will enjoy playing them at some point in the future.
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Re: Elkhart 2xJ Tubas: Were Some Years Better Than Others?

Postby anonymous4 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:53 am

I don't think we will ever know the answer to this question because the 2xJ line of horns does not have the same mystique among tuba players that the 8D line has for horn players. Was there ever a 2xJ being used by an orchestra tubist as a "main" instrument? I think the 2xJ's were never regarded as top professional instruments, and thus weren't dissected and analyzed to the extent the 8D's have been by horn players.

When I think 8D, I think of those old school American orchestra horn sections. I think of 20J, and the first thought that pops into my head is Jacksonville State. Completely different world.
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Re: Conn Geek Fest

Postby TUbajohn20J » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:36 pm

lost wrote:
I also currently have access to "thee" silver 27j from many a threads here that plays very similar to my current 24j and that is also an M series. Very good....


That's interesting because I thought Conn quit producing the 26J/27J in the early 1940's. Maybe they were available in the later years as custom orders only? Hard to believe that 27J is from the 60's.

But I will add that I used to own a 1953 20J that played pretty good. Currently own a 1940 26J/27J that is the best playing horn I've ever played and is in tune. A friend of mine has an early 1970's 25J that plays really good too! So I am not sure, maybe all of the 2XJ's ever produced were during the golden years! I am not sure why people don't consider these "professional" horns. Maybe because there were so many produced and at a great price so schools bought them up left and right. Maybe the 3 valvers wouldn't be "pro" horns which is why they probably got a rep as a student horn, but I don't see why the 4 valve versions would not be, especially the front action versions since that is what most professional players prefer. There just weren't a lot of those made. I think if there were more 26J/27J's produced, there would be a lot more professional players using them in symphonies as their "BAT" alongside all the Holton's and Yorks still being used. I wouldn't hesitate to play mine in an orchestra if I were a "professional orchestral tubist".
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