Sunday, December 19, 2010

Conn 36K - The Gold Standard

The Conn 36K is one of the best fiberglass Sousaphones, and it should be. The fiberglass Sousaphone was invented by Conn in 1948 (source: New Langwill Index p.70). Through out the history of Sousaphone production, many companies have tried to capitalize on fiberglass Sousaphones, but none are quite as good as the two that Conn produced, the 36K and the 22K. During the 1970's production was moved from Elkhart, Indiana to Abilene, Texas. Some players prefer the Elkhart horns over the Abilene horns, but I think that both are excellent Sousaphones. In 1986, the Abilene plant was closed and production moved to Eastlake, Ohio when United Musical Instruments was formed. Any 36K's manufactured after this time period are actually King 2370 fiberglass Sousaphones.

What separates the 36K from other makes and models is overall quality and durability. The fiberglass that Conn uses for the body and bell spout is extremely durable, especially when compared to its competition. The bell flare is made of an ABS composite that is extremely tough. The bell flare is more likely to chip than it is to crack, which in my opinion is a good thing. When bell flares crack, they can be repaired, but even the best repair is likely to open up again at some point.

The valve section is secured to the body by 3 strap braces. The brass connects to the fiber with 2 rubber O-rings. The valve section is IDENTICAL to a 14K cluster, and parts are interchangeable and abundant because of how many Conn 36Ks and 14Ks exist.

The 36K plays very well. While fiberglass lacks a certain power that you can get from a brass model, a 36K can still produce a rich, warm tone and cut through when you need to be heard. You can still get a big sound even if you are carrying a lighter instrument.

The image in the background is a closeup shot of a 14K valve section.

Bell Flare: 24"

Bore Size: 0.734"
Weight: 16 3/4 lbs

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't say it's "lacks a certain power" as it can overwhelm other brass sousaphones. Rather the vibration of the fiberglass sounds different because the vast majority have come to associate the sound of brass instruments with the brass metal. It's the same sort of deal with carbon fiber (like the Canadian Brass tuba), wood (Roger Bobo's massive wooden tuba), and other various attempts with tonally different materials.

    These do tend to last longer under abuse than the newer, post-1980s brass sousaphones.