This is third a generation version of the classic Conn 88H Symphony trombone made in Elkhart, Indiana, USA. The 88H New Vintage model has a few distinctions from the Gen 2 88H, including a different bell and modern open wrap F-attachment. As played by Achilles Liarmakopoulos in the Canadian Brass.Specs
88HNV: Second Look
The writing below under First Look was after receiving a preproduction 88HNV. There were some alignment issues. Late October '21 I received a new production model, and it has problems. The hand slide quality is lacking because it's not finished inside. It's rough. The trigger bridge is soldered in the wrong location, placing the trigger paddle fairly far to the left, an uncomfortable reach. The angle of the linkage rod is not the most efficient. The case has an additional piece of foam so the slide door buckle does not hit "as hard" to the hand slide.
This instrument can be fixed, but after nearly two decades I am done fixing Conn trombones. It's not satisfying work so I'll return it and call it done. Not to worry: these trombones are commodities. You can buy this model at any big box store and it'll be an ok instrument. Budget a couple hundred dollars with your favorite technician to get it up to standard: bend the linkage, glue the paddle, tune the slide.
The issues are small things: ergonomics and hand slide action. But I find these to be most important, and attention to these details make the difference between an ok trombone and an incredible trombone. It's so disappointing because after 20+ years of Gen 2 Conn, I wanted this one to exceed my expectations.
Right now I don't have a recommendation for a high quality Elkhart Conn style trombone.
88HNV: First Look
This is a colorful trombone with rich rose brass, beautiful buffing and shiny lacquer finish.
The molded plastic case is well padded and has optional backpack straps and small internal storage. It will fit 88HNV, 88H, 88HO.
Hand slide is the standard model: rose brass (bronze) with nickel trim and end crook. Rotor is the standard from the 88H and King 4B. The 88HNV open wrap F-attachment is more compact than the 88HO, allowing you better maneuverability in opera pits and choir lofts. The 8.5" rose brass 2-piece bell has extensive special engraving, a nice touch.
The ergonomics are unusual with the new style trigger paddle. The larger diameter paddle is higher, further away and to the left of where I expect it. The trigger throw is longer than it needs to be. Substituting several stock parts from another Conn model could fix this. I might modify it if I were taking it to a gig.
Hand slide action is good, 8 of 10. Alignment is good, it's clean, action is rough in seventh position. It's from a honing-deburring process they do to the outer slides at Elkhart which gives the slide tubes a rougher texture at the the open end rather than smoother. This one may get a tune-up at Sandhagen's.
88HNV assembly is ok with several misaligned joints in the bell section; it's done freehand. Nothing major, it's good quality, not quite heirloom, about the same as the other 88H models. The tuning bow fits off axis into its ferrules. Some other brands may be assembled straighter, but they also cost more, so this is still worthy. Tesla with a misaligned door panel is the same thing.
Besides engraving I don't yet know the difference in the bell between the 88HT and the 88HNV. It could be the hand-worked seam shown in the closeup photo. Otherwise the rim is soldered and it has a large rim wire, so it's not quite vintage-style. The 2-piece bell is welded between stem and flare, same as the 88HT. We remember the bells from Conn back in the day which had an unsoldered rim like Holton, K&H, a few others. That style of bell is also prone to lacquer blemishes, so the economics of avoiding returns and warranty work may lead a maker to offer soldered-rim bells as on Bach, King and this trombone.
An additional feature of the case is that the metal snap from the hand-slide door strap bangs against the slide tube each time you open the case, so beware of this.
Is it a Player?
Photos by Steve Ferguson.