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Conn Res-O-Pads . . .

In response to your many questions on the Conn Res-O-Pad we have created this illustrated summary of what real Res-O-Pads are, how they are installed, and why your great old vintage Conn sax just isn’t complete without them.
Flex-Lite at work in alto body ...

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The Incredible Conn Res-O-Pad is one of the most significant saxophone design features ever developed. The Conn Res-O-Pad transcends individual saxophones, perfecting the great Conn rolled tone hole saxophone dynasty. But it didn’t stop there. Conn continued to use the Res-O-Pad on its top models well after the switch to straight tone holes in 1947. While some of the pad life benefits that result from the rolled tone hole/Res-O-Pad union are lost with a straight, sharper tone hole edge, the other benefits that the Res-O-Pad delivers were ample enough reason to keep it in the Conn quality saxophone line up …

Conn Res-O-Pads come in 32nds ONLY. They are only made in the sizes that Conn made pad cups. That makes perfect sense because these pads are a Conn proprietary item, made ONLY for Conn saxophones. Res-O-Pads cannot be ordered in sets, nor can you reliably order a single Res-O-Pad from a cup measurement. The reason is that when Res-O-Pads are properly fitted and installed in a Conn pad cup the metal rim of the pad overlaps the cup rim (click on pic to the right of a Conn Cmel we recently restored to clearly see this overlap feature). Because of this natural overlap, neither a measurable pad diameter nor the cup diameter (inner OR outer) specifies the correct working measurement of the Res-O-Pad that will fit any particular cup – not that either pads or cups are perfectly round, anyway. The part of a Res-O-Pad that is relevant to the diameter of the cup it will fit is the beveled inner circumference of its metal ring. By definition, a beveled metal tube has no single measurement that accurately represents its diameter. Therein lies most of the Conn Res-O-Pad fitting/sizing issue. To make matters worse, though, this beveled metal inner rim is covered with leather. Leather is NOT uniform in thickness – and then there are the folds & wrinkles caused by wrapping the leather over the pad edge in order to pull the pad surface taunt before stitching or gluing the pad together. While the rounded edges of other pads lend themselves to a finite measurement that can be matched to a corresponding cup inside diameter, the beveled edges of a Conn Res-O-Pad do not behave in such a predictable manner. 

It is safe to say that no two Conn Res-O-Pads are exactly the same working diameter – if it were even possible to arrive at exactly what that working diameter is. I cannot tell you how many hours I spend sorting through groups of Res-O-Pads of the exact same NOMINAL size in order to find the right one for a particular cup. The cups are uniform — within reason — but the Res-O-Pads themselves are not. Why bother? Simple: The result is so extraordinarily wonderful when the job is done correctly. The pads stay put without any glue at all (which is really what Conn was after with this design innovation), the horns set up effortlessly, pad life approaches infinity (with proper care & maintenance, of course), there are almost no rim impressions to promote sticking and slow your action (rim impressions act like tiny suction cups, especially when your pads are moist – think about it), and the musical performance characteristics (tonal character, intonation and response) of the sax are maximized.

I could go on about features like no rim impressions and flat pad surfaces as they relate to sound, response, pad life, key speed and intonation, but I suspect the real revelation in that last paragraph is the part about a ‘no-glue’ installation. Yup, Conn designed the Res-O-Pad as a feature that allowed players to replace their pads on the fly. Whether Conn or Buescher spawned this idea is not knowable, though the famed Buescher Snap-On Pad appeared in its more-or-less final form around 1925. Prior to that time Conn was working with pad designs that had a metal rim (the first ones were wire, not a formed metal ring) that overlapped the cup edge, and that had beveled edges. This was several years earlier than the introduction of Buescher’s Snap-On pad. It took Conn until the mid 1930s to finalize their Res-O-Pad design, but when they were finished, Conn had slam-dunked the saxophone pad issue for posterity. The only reason you can cite for the fact that the Res-O-Pad didn’t proliferate is cost. That’s initial cost, cuz the all-in cost of acquiring and operating a sax with Res-O-Pads over a lifetime is MUCH below that of a sax with conventional glued-in pads.

Of course we all know the stories of why the Packard failed as an automobile: Detroit simply did not want us having cars that would last forever. I suspect there is a similar conspiracy at work with our original equipment saxophone pads. We can still beat ‘em, though: Just get yourself a great old Conn RTH saxophone and have somebody who knows what they’re doing — and cares about your horn — install a set of good old Conn Res-O-Pads on it. You will thank me for the advice — and your audiences will thank you for their superb musical entertainment …

(click pix to see expanded view)

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