Re: Re: Conn's 14K and 20K: Why so great??

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Posted by Rob Perelli-Minetti on May 30, 2000 at 21:50:43:

In Reply to: Re: Conn's 14K and 20K: Why so great?? posted by Joe Sellmansberger on May 30, 2000 at 20:55:42:

Joe: You need to caveat your praise for the 14K by specifying that you are talking about pre-UMI 14K's which are a large bore horn like the 20K (.734" bore), not the smaller 14K made under UMI which had a .687" bore and was similar in sound to a King 2350 or the old 1250).

I prefer the 20K in part for the short action valves, but mostly because it is a very good sounding tuba. Its predecessor model was the 38K, which was identical to the 20K, but with long stroke valves. (the 20K replaced the 38K in the mid-1930s). In literature for the 38K, it stated that the horn was made to the exact proportions as the original Sousa specification. 4 valve versions of the 20K, which would be 24K, exist, but are exceptionally rare. (I've only seen one -- my high school had one some 40 years ago). There were also 4 valve versions of the 38K (I can't remember the model # for it). There was also a lightweight version of the 38K (22K?) that was about 10# lighter. These are quite rare also.

The 40K was a larger bore (.750 or .770") "jumbo" Sousaphone with 4 valves. Also quite uncommon, but Klaus B who often posts here recently bought one through Witchita Band Instrument Co. I hope he will write more about it. [King also made a "giant" sousaphone with a .750 bore, available with 3 or 4 valves -- I've only seen one, a 3 valve version our local high school band director owns. That horn is also very nice playing.]

The 20K is probably the horn you are most likely to encounter of the big Conn sousaphones. Together with the King 1250/2350 (old/current model#s), they make up the bulk of the extant brass sousaphones. Both are excellent horns, but they have different sounds. The King sousaphone has a sound I would describe as sweeter and perhaps a little more focused. The Kings have a .687 bore (the same as the 1240/1 (old#) 2340/41 (current#) upright BBb tubas, which are among the best American made tubas. They have a bigger sound than you would expect from the smallish bore.

Joe alluded to a woofy sound for the 20K. I would rather say the 20K projects more difusely, more of an organ-like sound. The combination of the large bore and the 26" bell (28" used to be available) are probably the reason that most 20Ks are less focused than a 20/4J with a 24" bell. If you want big, felt as much as heard, bass for an outdoor performance, the only thing that compares to a like of 20Ks would be a line of 38Ks and 40Ks.

Curiously, the intonation on the 20Ks is generally very good. Joe mentioned in another post the tendency of the 20J (the tuba equivilent of the 20K) to have some real bad notes (esp the F below the staff, but the 20Ks I've played have been good here. (I always recommend a Conn 2 mouthpiece to start with on the 20K -- that was what has always come with the 20K, it's cup diameter and shape (though not the outside) are almost identical to the Conn Helleberg 7B, according to Ron Phillips. If that mouthpiece is too small, try a regular Conn Helleberg or, if that's still too small, a Conn Chief.

I agree with Joe that I would not take a sousaphone to a sit down serious gig, but purely on the basis of sound, I think that the best 14K, 20K and 38K horns (especially the rare 4 valve versions) compare favorably with any BBb tubas.

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