Olds Special

Discussion in 'Vintage Trumpets / Cornets' started by nowherenearadouble, Dec 26, 2003.

  1. nowherenearadouble

    nowherenearadouble Pianissimo User

    Nov 12, 2003
    What is the Olds Special cornet like?
  2. sparke

    sparke Pianissimo User

    Jan 10, 2009
    I am considering buying an Olds Special or a Super, but opinions on these seem to differ. At first I was under the impression that the early Special's were great jazz horns comparable to the Martin Committee, but then I read something about the Super being superior to the Special (with the Recording still better, of course), and the Special not being a real professional horn.

    I want the horn for jazz playing. What are the Special's/Super's like for this? Which is best, leaving aside the question of whether it fits me personally? If I go for a Special, how old should it be? Is mid-60's "old enough"? How about for the Super?


  3. Brass crusader

    Brass crusader Mezzo Piano User

    I play a Special as my main jazz horn, with a 22B also in there occasionally.
    The Specials were manufactured "below" the Supers and Recordings and such, but are a very very very very good horn. They are different from Committees, I love the Committees, but the Special is a little brighter and lighter sound.
    If I were you, get a L.A Special, preferably pre-'50 if you can, these were true lightweight horns, and they are great!
  4. sparke

    sparke Pianissimo User

    Jan 10, 2009
    Thanks for that quick reply! LA vs Fullerton was going to be my next question. So the difference is great between the two?

    How are the Super's for jazz? Or generally? What is the relation between Super's and Super Recording's, if any?

    I see you have a Couesnon flugel as well. I'm looking into these, but have mainly seen early 1900's horns. Do you know how these compare to the later one's like yours?

    Thanks for letting me exploit you :-)
    Brass crusader likes this.
  5. A.N.A. Mendez

    A.N.A. Mendez Utimate User

    Oct 25, 2005
    Sunny Ca.
    The special is closer to the super than the Ambassador.My opinion is in the next 50 years all of these Olds models will be the holy grail of trumpets/cornets. The super is very versatile, and the special is right there, different bracing and trim, no pearl nibs, a few other things but play very close. Here is a super rant that has become legend from another site a few years ago

    Posted: Tue Jan 25, 2005 5:26 am Post subject:
    This question clearly calls for a reprint of Perry dAndrea's posts from Jan 2002 on this subject. Sorry for the formatting, but Here it is:

    "The diff between a Recording and Super Recording is just the "tone ring" around the end of the bell. I don't think it makes much of a difference, actually. It is just a little more rare."

    OK, ....

    This is one difference between the two, but far from the only
    difference. They are truly not the same horn. I have two of
    each, and *of* each model, I have both an original unaltered
    condition version and a restored version. They all play

    I have over a dozen Olds trumpets, from a near-mint original
    condition 1930 "The Olds" to Ambassadors, a Special, and a
    Studio.. Seven of the horns are Supers, Recordings, and
    Super Recordings.

    I have a restored 1956 Recording and an original 1962
    Recording. Also there's a '54 Super (restored), '56 Super
    (original), and a 1940 Super (original). And I have two 1946
    Super Recordings which were, in all likelihood, made directly
    in succession, one right after the other, as far as Super
    Recordings go. The serial numbers would indicate this,
    supported by the fact that ALL Olds trumpets AND cornets (AND
    flugels?) of each and every model were stamped in the same
    single serial number sequence. That there would be another
    Super Recording with a serial number between these two seems
    unlikely. Just an interesting tidbit. I got 'em on two
    completely different occasions from two completely different
    parts of the country.

    The grandaddy of all these models is the INCREDIBLY underrated
    Olds Super.

    The Supers, since the beginning, have had the extra metal
    engraved tone ring just behind the rim of the bell, about 1/2"
    wide. I believe that, from the 40's onward, these rings were
    made of, or plated with, nickel. The very early Super tone
    rings (or at least a great number of them) were brass, just
    like the rest of the bell. The font, style and wording of the
    engraving was identical from the late forties through the late
    fifties, stating that it was a "Super Olds" made in "Los
    Angeles" even years after the plant moved to Fullerton.

    ALL other Olds horns from Fullerton on were engraved
    "Fullerton, Calif" except the Supers which still said "Los
    Angeles" until the late 50's or 60's. Guess they had a major
    surplus of those tone rings when they moved down near Disney.
    The style of engraving on my 1940 satin silver Super, though,
    is sort of block lettering, but the font on the tone rings of
    my two 50's Supers (again, one original '56 and one restored
    '54) was the more recognizable scripted font that remained on
    the tone rings of the Supers for the last 30 years of its

    The "Super Recordings" all had the tone ring that the Supers
    had (They are listed in some of the earlier catalogs as a
    "Recording," WITHIN the SUPER line of Olds horns- that's the
    confusion. There were actually no "Recordings" per se built
    prior to 1950, and no Super Recordings built after 1950). The
    departure from the Super design was the forward placement of
    the valves and the offset second valve. When the Super
    Recording gave way to the Recording, the tone ring was
    dropped, and the bell section (along with the leadpipe) was
    made with rose brass.

    But there's more to it than that. The Super Recordings were
    built with apparently the best level of craftsmanship and
    attention to detail that those guys could muster, and I'll
    tell you why I think that aspect of the Super Recording is a
    notch above all other Olds horns later in this post.

    First I gotta say a little more about the Super, itself.

    The playing characteristic of an Olds Super, particularly from
    the 50's and 60's is really unique: they play like a fireman's
    hose on full as opposed to a car wash jet spray- the tone is
    the densest I've ever heard on any model of any make of horn
    I've played to date. But I say fireman's hose as opposed to
    garden hose because it IS a big, hugely projecting sound. The
    ONLY reason this unbelievable model of horn is not revered far
    and wide TODAY like the Recording is, in my opinion, because
    the horn doesn't produce a very "wide" or "fat" sound. But
    hear me good, brothers and sisters, it aint no small sound
    that the Super produces. In fact it's bigger than the sound of
    the average trumpet, but it stands far apart from the new ones
    in that it's tone is as thick and dense as iron. If you were
    painting a wall with the sound of a 50's or 60's Super versus
    most trumpets, you would only need one coat. The other aspect
    of this incredible horn is that it plays solid as a rock all
    over the scale, particularly on up past high C, with NO
    indication that you're entering the "next zone". Not to say it
    plays all by itself; I have to be in good shape to take the
    Supers up there, but when I do, they are dead center, tuning
    wise and tonewise. Moreso than any other horn I've played to
    date. John Lynch, developer of the Asymmetric mouthpiece, has
    said that the Super plays more centered above high C than
    perhaps any other horn ever made. It's like the road gets
    steeper up there, but it's the same exact road in every aspect
    of its pavement. That's the 50's and 60's Super. It is an
    absolute solid powerhouse.

    My 1940 Super has a darker sound to it with more warmth and
    doesn't seem to play quite as densely as the 56 and 54 when
    the volume is poured on (the early Supers are also noticeably
    lighter in weight), but it is a SWEET as HELL horn when
    playing jazz rides. No wonder Jonah Jones swore by the Olds
    Super to the end. The Olds Super is truly the Rock of
    Gibraltar among trumpets.

    Here's the difference I notice between my Recordings and my
    Super Recordings.

    The Recordings, no question about it, have a "bigger" and
    "fatter" tone to them than the Supers or Super Recordings.
    Maybe even potentially a more searing edge. They seem to push
    the envelope just that one notch farther in the paint peeling
    department and seem to have an endless capacity for more
    volume and huge sound, limited only by the player. Since, in
    THESE days, "big" and "fat" seems to be the vogue sought-out
    sound in a trumpet (and unfortunately, too many new, modern
    top-line horns have just that, at the expense of a great deal
    of tone core density and richness), it's no surprise that the
    Recording is experiencing a major revival. But the revival is
    indeed justified: these babies STILL have a WAY more *dense*
    tone quality in their *fatness* (a difficult feat in trumpet
    design) than new modern horns have, HANDS DOWN.

    Just make no mistake about it- the Supers do produce even a
    denser core to *their* sound than the Recordings- they just
    don't have that big wide aspect that the tone of the
    Recordings have.

    Now- the SUPER-Recordings.


    These horns are pure magic. I think some sort of elven fairies
    fluttered their way into the Olds L.A. plant in the middle of
    the night back in those days and whispered magic spells onto
    the Super Recordings that were sitting on the workbench. It's
    very hard to put their playing characteristics into words, but
    I'll try to put it into down-to-earth terms. Thes horns play
    masterfully. They play with unrivaled precision and evenness
    of response throughout the range of the horn. Compared to the
    Recordings, my Super Recordings have a much more sensitive and
    quick response. When going through a high-speed run, there is
    a slightly higher degree of solidity in the "footfall" and
    slotting of each note, but it also has a more fine-tuned
    ultra-precision responsiveness in its playing that is found
    only on the very very VERY best hand-crafted horns in the
    world. The tone, though denser and thicker than the tone of
    the Recording, is noticeably warmer and broader than that of
    the Super.

    And it really IS an amalgam of the Recording and the Super,
    but that amalgam delivers a tone resultant that ONLY belongs
    to the Super Recording, not either of the other two- a
    diamond-dense core with a warmth and richness, coupled with
    the ability to soar at full throttle in a combination that is
    hard to find on any other horn. It's no wonder that this model
    stole the heart of Raphael Mendez and sold him on the Olds
    line. God only knows why he then specified an
    Olds-manufactured Besson copy as the Olds model that would
    carry his name. And Who KNOWS why they cancelled the Super
    Recording in 1950, other than the probability, in my
    suspicion, that they simply could not afford to spend so much
    time handmaking Super Recordings and keep the price affordable
    for even the most discriminating trumpet-buyers. If only they
    could've held out until THESE times, when folks are apparently
    willing to fork out more than $5,000 for certain models made
    by Leblanc-Courtois, for example, that are, forgive me,
    absolute pieces of metal ****.

    The verdict? A tie perhaps? The way my Recordings, and Super
    Recordings play:

    As for my two Super Recordings, the one in all-original but
    used condition plays with a gorgeous rich, dark, warm tone and
    an excellence in its response that I would stack up against
    ANY new trumpet made. Vintage One, Monette, whatever. The
    Super Recording I have that was restored to new condition has
    practically as good a response, but with a slightly bigger,
    fatter (though less dark), edgier, more modern tone. Both
    Super Recordings have the best valve action of any trumpet
    I've ever played. Probably a tribute to the painstaking
    handwork of that model.

    The two Recordings are like this: my original but very-used
    condition '62 Recording has a dark but fat tone with an edge
    that will hurt the listener if they're not careful- I'm
    serious- this baby can peel. As for my Recording that was
    restored to new condition (the '56 Recording), this model,
    though maybe not as exquisite as the Super Recording in its
    perfection of response, and though maybe not quite as dark as
    its brother (the original '62 Recording), this '56 Recording
    has the biggest and most powerful tone with this level of
    density of any horn I've ever A-B'd it with, topped with an
    edge that is an absolute danger to society. And I've A-B'd it
    in countless instrument stores in front of store staff who
    invariably say- "Wow- that one's got a much bigger sound!"
    This has happened with Schilkes, Yamahas, Bachs, Kanstuls,
    Vintage Ones, Getzens, Benges, Callichios, on and on and on.
    I've yet to find any new horn anywhere that can top it in that
    respect. It's just huge and monstrous. A product of both its
    marque AND the fact that it was overhauled? Yes, I think so.
    When you overhaul a trumpet, you're changing it. But in this
    case, if it was a compromise in its sound, I'd give anythng to
    hear how big she sounded originally.

    The Recordings, like the Super Recordings, and seemingly much
    moreso than the Supers, are capable of a much wider range of
    timbres, limited only by the player. Under this heading, the
    Recording probably has a wider range of sounds and may be
    where Olds wanted to go with this whole thing.

    So, an oversimplification:

    EARLY Olds Supers - dark yet very focused, rich sound

    50's and 60's Supers - densest tone in all of trumpetdom, big
    (but not a wide or fat) sound, rock solid response with thick,
    solid tone up above high C that matches an octave lower in
    terms of response (though not ease, of course)

    50's and 60's Recordings - Big, Wide, Fat tone that is uncanny
    in its density by today's standards, with an edge that will
    slice through tungsten steel, and an ability to produce a wide
    variety of tones and timbres

    40's Super Recordings - maybe in some respects the finest made
    trumpets in history, uncanny precision of response and warm
    purity of tone that doesn't weaken when pushed into the
    fortississimo range of intensity. I consider myself very
    fortunate to have two of these models- they are absolutely



    Super - Workhorse
    Recording - Showhorse
    Super Recording - Unicorn

    Perry D'Andrea
  6. Brass crusader

    Brass crusader Mezzo Piano User

    Well, I think of it as Mt. Vernon Vs. Elkhart for Bachs. But not really.:cool: The L.A horns are A) More desirable to collectors, and B) I think, better built. These were built during a time when all horns were really very well made. Better craftsmanship, better materials, less horns being produced, so a better product.
    The Super is a great horn, very full and dense. These horns can be used in any setting, they are a bit darker than my Special. The Super Recordings are very rare, if you find one, buy it. These are terrific horns for jazz and anything. The Supers are fantastic, I really like those horns a lot.
    The Couesnon, unfortunately, is in the shop, I got a call today, but I had a recording session that lasted all day. I'll pick it up this week, it was having a few new felts put in and such. I haven't had enough time on that horn to tell you how it compares, but I've played a few other Couesnons, and the later ones are a bit more solid than the early ones. They tend to have better playing characteristics, and are often in better shape, with fewer structural problems. If you're in the market for a flugel, you cannot go wrong with a Yamaha, and Olds L-12, or a Couesnon. All fantastic horns.
    Good Luck, and have fun!
  7. sparke

    sparke Pianissimo User

    Jan 10, 2009
    Wow, this is all invaluable information! Thanks! Will be keeping my eyes open for Super's and Recording's as well then. Looks like I'm about to begin a little collection :-)

    Can I ask what reasonable prices are for Specials, Supers and good Couesnon's?

    Last edited: Jan 10, 2009
  8. sparke

    sparke Pianissimo User

    Jan 10, 2009
    Thanks again, Brasscrusader. I had problems replying to your message for some reason... You have been extremely helpful, and I'll keep in touch!

    Any chance you would PM me your email? For some reason the PM reply screen doesn't work for me. Promise not to hassle you!
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2009
  9. A.N.A. Mendez

    A.N.A. Mendez Utimate User

    Oct 25, 2005
    Sunny Ca.
    Re: Olds Special supers etc.

    you said....

    Brass crusader likes this.
  10. sparke

    sparke Pianissimo User

    Jan 10, 2009

    Thank you! As a new forum user, I'm amazed at the amount of knowledge and willingness to share it that I've found here!

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