The Conn New Wonder Series II
There are essentially four varities of New Wonder instruments, and I discuss these on seperate pages:
- "Standard" New Wonder models: (Discussed on this page.) These are instruments with "standard" Conn engraving (one of about four "standard" designs, ranging from just "CG Conn, Ltd." to the very elaborate) and without additional pearl keytouches on side keys. These horns are sometimes called "Chu Berry" horns, but they shouldn't be: Mr. Berry played a "transitional" model tenor.
- New Wonder Artist's Special models: An official model name from Conn referring to a finish: the heavily engraved, gold-plated version of the New Wonder horns (occassionally referred to as "finish 00" in Conn catalogs or, unoffically, the Portrait model). I have decided to extend this definition and include elaborately engraved silver-plated and silver plated horns with gold keywork or gold highlights with these models. Note also that the elaborate engraving is similar to the New Wonder Victor model brasswinds. ("Perfected Wonder", a model name I had used in the past, actually refers to Conn's "perfect" cornets. Please check out www.vintagecornets.com.)
- New Wonder Virtuoso Deluxe models: An official model name from Conn referring to a finish: the heavily engraved, gold-plated New Wonder horns that boasted additional pearl keytouches (occasionally referred to as "finish 000" in Conn catalogs). I have decided to extend this definition and include elaborately engraved silver-plated and silver plated horns with gold keywork or gold highlights with these models, to distinguish them from "plain" New Wonder horns.
- "New Wonder Transitional" models (s/n 235xxx to 262xxx): Conn referred to these horns with just a model number (e.g. "6M" for an alto), but during this period of manufacture, both split- and same-side bell key horns were available, and they have a variety of engraving differences from other 6M models, so this is an invented, albeit quite common, name.
All of the "Series II" horns had rolled tone holes and "nailfile" G# keys. Most altos had microtuner necks (the ones that do not have a microtuner in this serial number range are said to have a "New York Style" neck and are somewhat rare) and baritone and tenor models had tuneable mouthpieces available from the factory (there was a C melody tuneable mouthpiece available, although I have yet to find a C melody from this serial number range -- see below). (Thanks to SAXTEK for the picture of the tuneable mouthpieces)
In any event, these horns typify the Big Band sound: you can put a lot of air through them and get a big sound, but not necessarily one that is dead-on for intonation :)
These horns are generally more technically advanced than others of the same era and were produced in extremely large quantities (excepting the enamel, gold wash and finish 00/000 models). This means that you can get an extremely high quality professional horn at a relatively low price -- and that you can find a lot of them, mainly in silver plate.
WARNING! Note that that Conn produced HIGH PITCH horns until about 1940. Modern instruments, except for some instruments used in concert orchestras in Europe, are LOW PITCH, with A (the tuning note used in orchestras) =440 hz. Some high pitch horns from other manufacturers can be used, if you've got a good ear, because they're tuned to, say, A=442. Conns are pitched around A=457. In other words, you can't play a Conn high pitch horn with other instrumentalists because you'll be seriously out of tune with them! Luckily, Conn did include the stamp "HP" or "High Pitch" above the serial number for these horns that had the odd tuning.
- Models (odd numbers would indicate high pitch -- e.g. 11M tenor -- and are not included):1
- 20M Straight Eb Sopranino (they called it an "Eb Soprano")
- 2M C Soprano
- 4M Bb Soprano, Curved
- 18M Bb Soprano, Straight
- 22M F Mezzo Soprano
- 24M Conn-O-Sax (F Alto)
- 6M Eb Alto
- 8M C Melody Tenor
- 10M Bb Tenor
- 12M Eb Baritone (low Bb; low A not available until 1955-ish)
- 14M Bb Bass
- 16V Eb Contabass Sarrusophone
Conn experimented with a variety of different designs and pitches, including the F Mezzo soprano, Conn-O-Sax (F alto) and the rumored A, D and G sopranos. (The F horns are discussed on a seperate page.) The jury is still out as to whether Conn actually produced the anything other than C and Bb sopranos.
Please remember that Conn never produced a contrabass saxophone -- they offered the Model 16V Eb Contrabass Sarrusophone as an alternative.
- Finish Choices (all from a March, 1922 catalog, unless otherwise marked):
- 000 - Virtuoso Deluxe: (introduced around 1922 for the C melody and on all models by the end of 1924 ): "Furnished only on special orders and prices quoted on request." Heavily gold plated over all, hand burnished over all. Each and every key inlaid with special choice and carefully selected pearls. Highest class hand engraving on bell of instrument, as well as a greater portion of the body, all of which is a special design and of the highest character.2
- 00 - Artist's Special ("Burnished Gold"3): Heavily gold plated, hand burnished over all, pearl inlaid keys, pearl rollers, bell richly hand-engraved. Inside of bell, engraving background, keys, posts and ferrules hand burnished.
- 0 - Artist Finish ("Satin Gold"): Heavily gold plated over all, pearl inlaid keys and rollers, bell richly hand-engraved. Inside of bell engraving background, keys, posts and ferrules hand burnished.
- 1 ("Silver & Gold"): Body heavily silver plated, sand blast velvet finish, bell richly engraved, pearl finger tips, pearl rollers. Inside of bell, engraving background keys and ferrules gold-plated and burnished.
- 2 ("Silver, Gold Bell"): Body heavily silver plated, sand blast velvet finish, bell richly engraved, inside of bell gold plated and burnished. Engraving background, keys, posts and ferrules hand burnished. Keys inlaid with pearl and pearl rollers.
- 3: Quadruple silver plated over all, sand blast finish; interior of bell and points hand burnished, finger tips pearl inlaid, and on saxophones, pearl rollers. On woodwinds this finish symbol represents heavily silver plated keys, posts and rods, hand burnished. (Not advertised in any catalog I have.)4
- 4: Highly polished brass throughout, pearl inlaid finger tips and pearl rollers.
- 5: Gold brass, highly polished, nickel-trimmed. (Not advertised in any catalog I have.)4
- 6: Body heavily nickel plated and highly polished, pearl inlaid finger tips, pearl rollers.
- Chrome Finish was the trade name for a colored enamel finish. Available colors were red, white, blue, green, Old Rose ("dark pink") and black. This was available as an add-on for any style of plating for a mere $15 extra, in March 1922 dollars.
- Poly-Chrome Finish was the trade name for the CHROME finish, but with added "beautiful designs on bell or body of flowers, vines, etc. in various colors" and cost $25 extra, in March 1922 dollars.
Conn also saw fit to enclose a NOTE: "The Chrome or Poly-Chrome finish will last according to the care given the instrument. Should the owner desire to remove the colored finish, send in the instrument to the factory or obtain our advice on same. The original finish will not be affected by the chrome finish after the latter has been removed."
There are at least seven standard engraving styles, that are slightly varied as this series progresses. There were (allegedly) around 30 engraving patterns for the Finish 00 horns -- and the engraving on the Finish 000 horns was supposed to be unique.
Please note that there are later relacquered examples with a lacquer body with silver or nickel keys. This is NOT original. In the late 1950's, Conn produced their first horns with a lacquer body and nickel keys. Conn then continued this finish choice for years. So, it seems that when some people brought in their old Conns for refinish work, the repairman would look at the horn and say: "Relacquer? Yep. All the new ones have a yellow body and nickle keys ..." not realizing the variety of plating choices Conn had. I've seen a couple of horns refurbished by Conn themselves relacquered this way!
Additionally, it is almost universally thought that lacquer was not introduced until the 6M "Naked Lady" models, starting around s/n 260xxx (1934). It seems to have been a common practice to get old bare-brass horns lacquered in the 1930's to protect the finish, but this was not original -- it may have been done by Conn themselves, but it's aftermarket.