• Conn New Wonder Page

    by  • June 5, 2011 • Conn, New Wonder

    I offhandedly mentioned awhile ago that I’m going to try to find the biggest and best pictures of a particular make/model/pitch. Additionally, I wanted to get higher resolution pics, if possible. Hey, when I was building saxpics.com, I had a 15″ CRT monitor and images were considered “big” if they were 800×600. I now have two 22″ LCD flat panels and a 19″ LCD flat panel and have a combined resolution of, well, really big. So, this is my first experiment in doing that. I’ll probably be revisiting this page a couple times to tweak it to look the way I want it to. For instance, I will be replacing some of my “Contemporary Horns” links with my own/newer/better pages as I find them or create them. I’ll also probably tweak the picture galleries when I find better pics.

    Stay tuned!

    I wrote an extensive amount about the Conn New Wonder models at http://saxpics.com/?v=mod&modID=40 and http://saxpics.com/?v=mod&modID=59. Let me tell you about some new developments from later research and give you an overview of some other things:

    The New Wonder is a model produced AFTER the sale of the Conn factory in 1915.  These horns will have:

    * CG Conn, LTD. stamped or engraved on them.
    * Have drawn tone holes, with the Haynes tonehole patent stamped below the right hand thumbrest.

    However, the LACK of rolled tone holes doesn’t mean that the horn’s not a New Wonder.  It seems that feature was introduced around s/n 51,xxx (1919/20): the highest s/n I’ve seen on an alto without rolled toneholes is 50,xxx and 50,85x on a tenor.  Additionally, I’ve found that the LACK of pearls on the “main” 6 keys doesn’t mean anything.  Pear keys seem to have been an option through at least 1916 and probably later.

    Conn New Wonder Models
    Thanks to Bill Kasper
    Production Information
    s/n 41xxx to 237xxx (1917 to 1929)
    Available Pitches
    Eb Sopranino, Curved Bb Soprano,
    Straight Bb Soprano, C Soprano,
    F Mezzo Soprano, F Alto (Conn-O-Sax),
    Eb Alto, C Melody Tenor, Bb Tenor,
    Eb Baritone (low Bb), Bb Bass,
    Eb Contrabass Sarrusophone (16V)

    I mention on saxpics.com that there is an obvious design change around s/n 143xxx (1924): that’s when you get the microtuner neck on (most) altos, the “nailfile” G# key and some tonehole modifications. This is what most people (incorrectly) call a “Chu Berry” model. However, just splitting the New Wonder series into two “groups” really doesn’t do it justice. The New Wonder evolved considerably over the 13+ years it was available. Additionally, that s/n 143xxx split is really only for alto and tenor. Here’s some other changes:

    * The C melody changed from a “tenor style” neck to an “alto style” after s/n 56xxx (1919) and before s/n 61xxx (1920). See examples in the below galleries.
    * The Eb bari got a completely redesigned neck and octave vent after s/n 165xxx (1925) and before s/n 180xxx (1926). Before and after pics.
    * The Eb bari gained single-side bell keys after s/n 208xxx (1927) and before s/n 248xxx (1931). Before and after pics.
    * The Bb bass had the “neck” (top crook) completely redesigned a little before s/n 225xxx (1929). Before and after pics.
    * In 1928, the straight Bb soprano was completely redesigned with a smaller bore (which lead some folks to believe that they had A sopranos) — along with the introduction of the F Mezzo Soprano and Conn-O-Sax.

    In other words, if you look at what I had done with the Bueschers on saxpics.com (e.g. http://saxpics.com/?v=mod&modID=1), I should have done the same for Conn — if I had as many Conn pictures when I built those Conn pages as I do now. However, the “Series I or II” nomenclature can help if you don’t have a picture of the horn you’re talking about: hey, are you more likely to remember the serial number or if it had a nailfile G# key?

    Second, I want to reiterate something I’ve said before: I don’t like New Wonders. I’ve owned and/or played several in all pitches except for soprano and sopranino and the F horns. I’ve even played fully restored horns with an appropriate mouthpiece (my trusty Sigurd Raschers) and I just don’t like them. I used to say that I hated all Conns, but I was offered a chance to play a really, really nice 30M Connqueror tenor and that was the first and only horn that I’ve played that I didn’t feel worthy of playing. It’s not a good horn for me, because I need better keywork and intonation, but the tone is very, very good and extremely easy to play. I can see why people really love Conns over even the vaunted Selmers.

    Considering the current relatively depressed prices in the instrument market, I can’t make a good argument to buy a New Wonder over a later “Naked Lady” Artist model. Check http://worldwidesax.com/photo.htm and compare the prices of restored New Wonders to the 6Ms, for instance. There’s not a lot of difference between the prices for a New Wonder and an Artist.

    While I dislike playing New Wonders, I do love the tone quality of the Conn-O-Sax, especially if you play it like it’s its own instrument and not just an Eb alto sax that happens to be in the key of F. Paul Cohen plays a bit on the very nice CD called Vintage Saxophones Revisited, but he’s sent me some of his not-yet-released cuts and the horn sounds marvelous.

    For the folks that aren’t familiar with Conn New Wonders, I want to mention that there were several interesting finish choices:

    * Chrome Finish: Conn’s name for an enamel finish that could be special-ordered on bare-brass or silver-plated horns.
    * Poly-Chrome Finish: Same as the above, but with more elaborate designs. That’s the beautiful alto from Bill Kasper, featured at right.
    * Artist’s Special: A heavy burnished (“really shiny”) gold-plated horn that you were able to pick the engraving you wanted out of a choice of about 30. Eb altos in this finish almost always had a microtuner neck, regardless of serial number.
    * Virtuoso Deluxe: Same as the above, but with additional pearl inlay on all keytouches (chromatic Bb, C, altissimo keys, etc.) and the engraving was custom and unique to each horn.

    I’ve also seen many horns that are either silver plate with the additional pearl inlay or are a mixture of silver and gold plate with the additional pearl inlay. As I’ve not found a catalog that mentions those specific finishes, I’m just going to say that they’re “Virtuoso Deluxe” variants.

    I’ll also reiterate this: lacquer was NOT an available finish choice, nor was a lacquer body with either silver or nickel-plated keywork. The New Wonders were offered in bare brass, not lacquer. Lots were lacquered at a later date, some by Conn, themselves.

    One insanely interesting finish choice was Pink (“Rose”) Gold, which is also not in any catalog I’ve seen. I’ve only seen one example of this, but it’s interesting enough to be in my 2009 Calendar. Rose gold has also been resurrected as a finish option for the beautiful (and very expensive) Yanagisawa 992-PG horns. Selmer’s also recently released this finish.

    Primarily because of Jim’s below comment, I wanted to write a tad bit more on the 16V Eb contrabass Sarrusophone.

    As an introduction, Conn used the 16V “Eb bass” Sarrusophone, with a single-reed custom soprano sax mouthpiece, as their subsititue for the Eb contrabass saxophone. They also have their own serial number chart, so don’t get confused and think a 16V with a serial number of 1 is from 1895. Conn produced the 16V from around 1917 to maybe 1920/21. If you read on a bit, you’ll find out why it might have been produced longer than four years.

    There is a possibility that Conn and Buescher each produced at least one Eb contrabass sax prototype, but that has yet to be confirmed. Buescher allegedly used the Eb contrabass Rothophone as their Eb contrabass sax subsitute, but I have yet to find one. That doesn’t mean that other companies didn’t produce a contra. Several did. Just not in the US.

    The 16V is a rather good substitue for the contrabass sax: to me, the 16V sounds like a very reedy contrabass sax. It has similar fingerings to the sax, it’s lighter and you can march with it. All those are good things. Price? In 2011 dollars, the most expensive 16V configuration, the Virtuoso Deluxe finish, was $5,535.20. Doing some mathematical gymnastics, the Kohlert Eb contrabass saxophone was $10,222.

    Here are some notes about the 16V:

    I’ve noted that some Evette & Schaeffer (Buffet-Crampon) contrabass Sarrusophones are 16Vs and have 16V serial numbers. This isn’t as interesting as it seems: I’ve seen several Conn and Evette & Schaeffer horns from the 1920’s and earlier that are engraved/stamped with each other’s markings. This seems to have been a way of getting around import/export fees.

    I’ve noticed that two of the main articles regarding Sarrusophone info I had linked to on saxpics.com are no longer on the web. However, there’s an excellent tool called the Internet Wayback Machine. That means I can find the articles. Here are the linkies:

    * Sarrusophone, Rothphone (Saxorusophone) and Reed Contrabass. By Gunther Joppig. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society, Vol. XII, 1986, pp. 68-106.
    * The Sarrusophone – An Update, Part Two. By Dr. George A. Conrey. The Journal of the International Double Reed Society, No. 17, 1989.

    I want to highlight that Conn did make a single-reed mouthpiece for the 16V, although you could use the standard (if an Eb contrabass Sarrusophone can be considered “standard”) double reed. I checked my archives and I found one with the mouthpiece. It’s listed above and you can see it when you hit my Gallery3 link, below.

    I really encourage you to check out Grant Green’s page at http://www.contrabass.com/pages/sarrus.html. My focus is obviously on the Eb contrabass Sarrusophone because it was Conn’s Eb contrabass sax replacement, but the Sarrusophone was produced in several pitches. His article mentions these, links to these and gives you some audio clips.

    Check out YouTube.com. There are quite a few clips there, such as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51lcyVGorYQ&NR=1. Please note that some folks don’t have much of a clue about the Sarrusophone; it is kind of rare, after all. In the clip I just mentioned, the repairman goes through a tuba mouthpiece (wrong), a tenor sax mouthpiece (wrong; the single-reed mouthpiece for the 16V is based on a soprano sax design) and finally a double-reed mouthpiece, which kinda works.

    I’ve become sort-of the in-house expert on the contrabass Sarrusophone at the Woodwind Forum. If you come across any more info, please post there, too!

    Let me tell you about the pictures of the 16Vs on my Gallery3:

    * The relacquered s/n 168 horn pictures from USAHorn.com is one of the best looking horns I’ve seen with some of the biggest pictures I’ve seen.
    * The gold plated (Artist’s Special finished) s/n 286 horn from PM Woodwind is the only Artist’s Special finished 16V I’ve ever seen, which might also mean that it was the only one ever made and it’s got documentation on when it was sold (June 1934). While the date sold doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when it was produced, it just might.
    * The silver plated s/n 303 horn from eBay is special for many reasons: it’s got the “Naked Lady” engraving from the Conn Artist/Standard line, it has pearl keytouches and not only is it the highest serial number I’ve seen, meaning it might be the last horn ever made.
    * The relacquered horn from Quinntheeskimo is one of the insanely few to show off the Conn single-reed mouthpice — and Quinn takes a lot of pics.

    So, for more info on the New Wonders, I recommend that you take a look at the stuff I wrote on saxpics.com many years ago. I have some original pricing info and several catalogs there, as well.

    The New Wonder (hover your cursor over a pic for the pitch/model name; click on a pic for a gallery and info)