Re: The Best Sousaphone is......?

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Posted by Rob P-M on May 28, 2003 at 16:23:52:

In Reply to: The Best Sousaphone is......? posted by Jack Kinsella on May 28, 2003 at 13:30:39:

The Conn 20K and the King 2350/1250 are both excellent sousaphones, without question the best two on the market today. They are very different in sound, however. I prefer the Conn, but like the Kings as well.

The King, like King upright tubas, has an almost "sweet" sound which projects well. It is possible to overblow a King reasonably easily - although in my experience horns from the early '50s and older are harder to overblow than the newer ones. (Changes in the brass thickness??) Lots of players like King uprights. If you like the King sound, you will like the King sousaphone. It is also lighter than the Conn.

The Conn 20K is the gold standard by which sousaphone sound is judged. It is the culmination of the design work begun for Sousa's band, refined over about 25 years from the late 1890's to the early 1920's. The only changes in the Sousaphone Grand from about 1920 until today were (1) bell diameter went from 22" to 24" to 26" by the mid-1930s, and (2) the regular valves were replaced by the short action valves in 1934. The best description of the effect of the Conn 20K comes from the old Conn Sousaphone Grand (38K - long valve predecessor of the 20K): organ-like. You can move mountains with the Conn's sound, and it projects very well. As someone else said, "its the horn that lets people know a REAL sousaphone is on the field. It is hard (but not impossible) to overblow a 20k. The 20K is heavier than the King.

If I were buying sousaphones for a high school now, my first choice would be rebuilt Conn 20K's, the older the better, and if I had 38K or 40K in the mix I'd be happy.

My second choice would be rebuilt Kings, 1250s wherever possible, 2350s if necessary. Or possibly rebuilt Conn 14Ks, similar bore to the 20K, larger branches closer in size to a King, and long valves. Joe Sellsmanberger likes them better than 20Ks. They are not bad horns. No longer made.

Third choice new Conn 20Ks. Third because of the cost -- given the fact they'd be dented soon no matter how carefully the kids try (sousaphones are school dent magnets), it would be a waste to have new 20Ks in a high school band. College or service band, OK.

Fourth choice would be new Kings, again because as new horns I would be leary of putting them in a high school.

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