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Thread: Best american-style bellfront euphonium/baritone brand?

  1. #1

    Best american-style bellfront euphonium/baritone brand?

    Dear fellow readers, I am from Germany and I took a liking in the american style bellfront euphoniums/baritones. I recently purchased a pretty banged up and neglected King H.N. White Cleveland (serial no. 182..., three valves) in the original wooden case. Usually playing a german-style oval rotary-valve tenor horn with a quite mellow tone, I enjoy the more brassy sound these euphoniums produce.

    My question: Is there a certain brand or time period of these american-style bellfront euphoniums, which are considered to be premium or sought after? Comparable to these discussions in the trombone section, where they discuss heavily the time period and provenience of their instruments ("Hey, what do you think about my Mt. Vernon bone from year XY")...

    Perhaps someone can share some insight in this matter? I really would like to learn more about these instruments and possible quality differences of the brands and models. Thank you very much and have a good day.

  2. One of my favorite marching bands, Bethune Cookman University, uses the Yamaha YEP211. The specs are 11" bell and .571 bore. Another great band Ohio State University uses King 625 horns: 11" bell, .562 bore. I personally have a King Cleveland horn and the Yamaha YEP211 copy which is the Holton B601R.

    I was told several years ago that the King has a bigger sound I believe. In my personal experience, the Holton sounds closer to a euphonium and is darker, but the King has a bigger echo when I play it outside. I wonder if the curvature of the bell throat accounts for some of the difference? This doesn't tell you which one is better, but hopefully gives some insight!

    Also the Besson New Standard bell front euphonium might edge both of these horns out, and is the most conical I believe: 12" bell, .580 bore, and 11lbs. The King and Yamaha/Holton weigh less than 9lbs if I remember right.
    Last edited by ivanhouston; 04-01-2023 at 05:30 PM.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelBavarian View Post
    My question: Is there a certain brand or time period of these american-style bellfront euphoniums, which are considered to be premium or sought after? Comparable to these discussions in the trombone section, where they discuss heavily the time period and provenience of their instruments ("Hey, what do you think about my Mt. Vernon bone from year XY")...
    As someone who went through public school playing these instruments, here are my impressions.

    The big 3 were Conn, King, and Olds. Holton and Buescher were less common, although they were nice enough instruments. Reynolds and Martin and some others were kind of rare.

    All the big 3 were easy to play and had good intonation. (Conn, King, Holton, and maybe others could be built today on the model of the King 2280, but that is a different type of instrument than the font-valve instruments.)

    Conn was regarded as having the prettiest sound, which is generally true. I played a student-model Conn in junior high. Conn was the lightest to carry around, but was the easiest to dent.

    When my parents offered to get me a 4-valve higher-level horn, I chose a King. It seemed to have a more robust and open sound. In the artist-level horns, the King was unique in having a non-adjustable curved bell. Straight bells were offered, but I didn't see many.

    The Olds was not as open sounding as the King and not quite as pretty as the Conn. But the tone was rock-solid and had more center.

    If you have to play very loudly without a mic, get a King (not the Cleveland, which was a cheaper line). If you expect a lot of collisions, the Olds or King are best. If you don't need to play over a loud ensemble and like a pretty sound, or if you have to stand with it for long periods and are concerned about getting tired of supporting the weight, the Conn is for you.

    There is a nice King on eBay now. It is like the one I bought back in high school, except this one has a straight bell:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/256028747928

    Look at the photos for that instrument. Notice the rolled ends on the tuning slide receiver tubes and the more shapely braces. I think those are different from your Cleveland, right? I believe the upper valve caps are different as well. Those were signs of the higher-level instrument, which was the top of the line at that time. Note also that there are cheaper versions of the Olds (Ambassador) and the Conn (Director, for one name). The upper-level versions played just a bit better.
    Last edited by davewerden; 04-01-2023 at 06:21 PM.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    Alliance Mouthpiece (DC3)
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  4. #4
    I don't have much experience with other brands, but as far as Conn goes, the sweet spot is something like 1956 to 1960 or so. Lucky students (like me!) might have had the chance to use a 20I or 22I from this era. The short-action valves are a real luxury, and the sound of these instruments is really something I cherish. I really wish I could get a 22I, but what few times they appear, they're mega expensive.

    Late 60s Conn instruments are not known for being very high quality. The company started having major financial troubles and so a lot of instruments were made with cheap soft brass. I have a couple of Conns from this era (14C and 5I) and yeah. You can repair bends in the bell almost entirely by hand. Subsequently, you can put a bend into the bell by just barely tapping a music stand with it. So why not go with even older horns? Well, they are really high quality with very heavy brass. My 1938 20I barely weighs less than my 1979 5I. Also, Conn was using crazy proprietary shanks on everything, so that's fun. But hey. You're in Germany, and Josef Klier has already been dealing with my stupid orders. You can order custom stuff from them, and you won't have to pay the "first time" fee for anything I already had made.

    The Cadillac of these instruments was the Connstellation 24I. Or that was the reputation. I think I would rather have a 22I. The 4I is pretty much a 24I without the derpy slide plunger device, and rearranged valve slides. You're supposed to be able to pull the 1st and 3rd valve slides from the top, but it's not exactly comfortable. 24I, 25I, 4I, and 5I all have the Connstellation floated leadpipe. It sounds different and uses a proprietary medium shank (11.8mm @ 1:20, nothing special).

    Concerning the Besson models, I've never heard or played the Brevete (front-action), but I have the New Standard style tilt bell, and it is nothing like an American Euphonium.

    If you want the real traditional sound of the American Euphonium, then you need to consider a period accurate mouthpiece. When these instruments were super popular, mouthpieces were really small. AFAIK, it wasn't until British Euphonium started to get popular that anyone was really using anything larger than a 6.5AL. Of course, a Euphonium is a Euphonium. You can use whatever mouthpiece you want, basically. Some of the classic mouthpieces that I've encountered...
    Conn 2 = Basically a 12C
    Conn 3A = Even smaller than a 12C, with "deep" (not really) v-cup.
    King M21 = 12C rim, with cup depth like 6.5AL, but small throat.
    Conn 5 = The Connstellation stock mouthpiece. Like a Bach 5G, with tiny throat, and trash backbore.
    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.

  5. I played 3 valve Conn, Olds, and Selmer (Bundy) through middle school (8th grade). In high school, we had Conn 24i Connstellations which I also played through my sophomore year in Junior College. Once I started using the 6 1/2 AL Bach mouthpiece, my sound got a much better. In the last 20 years, I have owned an American bell-up/valves-up 3 valve (1932 Pan American 56i), a Conn 24i, and a 1941 Holton double bell. Of those, the 24i was the best instrument.

    None of the American bell front horns respond well to large mouthpieces. Using a Wick 4AY (which works great on a Yamaha 301 or 321) on my 24i made the high range difficult and out of tune. I almost always use a 6 1/2AL or a Bach 5G (at most) on these kind of horns.

    Doug
    Adams E3 0.60 Sterling bell - Prototype top sprung valves
    Concord Band
    Winchendon Winds
    Townsend Military Band

  6. #6
    Thanks for asking this question Michael, I am enjoying reading opinions about these horns. When I was in high school I played a school-owned King 2268 similar to the one David posted in the eBay link above. I wish I remembered more about how it played and sounded. I'm pretty sure the horn was basically new so would have been made sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s. All I remember is it was the nicest horn I had ever played up until that time and that I was jealous of the kid who was a year older that got to play the also new King 2280 which had the top action valves, and in my mind was "better" because of it. (Why are we so foolish when we are young???). I did get to play the 2280 my last year in high school and did in fact feel more "serious" when I would go to All State and things like that.

    I hope one day to add an American-style horn to complement my New Standard, maybe a nice King 2266?
    Last edited by aroberts781; 04-02-2023 at 12:03 PM.

  7. #7
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    I played what I think was the King 625 back in H.S early 60s. It had just 3 valves with a strengthening rib on the back side of the bell down toward the bottom bow. They were fairly light and not bad to march with.
    Rick Floyd
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