- Distinctive fat, dark tone that brightens with volume
- Widely used in Europe, especially Germany
- Good resale value
- Older models inconsistent
- Can sound stuffy to American horn players
- Relatively expensive
Alexander's most popular French horn designed over 100 years ago, the 103 is the de-facto standard horn used in Germany and many other European orchestras. Typically produced in either yellow or gold brass, its rich sound has a dark center that warms up to a brassy tone when played at full volume. It is built with a Kruspe-style wrap, but the sound's focus and brassy edge at high volume distinguish it from the popular American Kruspe Conn 8D, a horn critics may consider "tubby" sounding by comparison. The quality of Alexander horns can vary significantly for those produced >10 years ago. Some are absolute gems while others are stuffy and out of tune. The newer horns are much more consistent thanks to improvements in manufacturing processes at their new factory in Mainz, Germany. Check out this video of the Berlin Philharmonic's Sarah Willis trying different Alexander horns in their Berlin shop -- you'll see that even the new horns each of a unique character: some brighter, others darker. Less popular in American orchestras historically, the Alex 103 may not be the ideal choice for US players because the effort of blending in to a section of typical American horns may limit your flexibility. But even for some US pro horn players, the Alex sound is enough of a draw to overcome such hurdles. The new principal horn of the National Symphony, Abel Pereira, plays a 103 while his section play other horns. To hear the 103 for yourself in concert, view this video of Szabolcs Zempleni playing Strauss 2 on a 103. The 103 is an especially good choice for players in larger orchestras where a combined projection and precision are critical.
Also consider: Paxman's 23 model is a different design, but share's the Alexander's rich tonal core and professional build standards.