You’re a student (or parent) on a tight budget and want the best horn for your money. Where to start? New horns are out of the running if you’re looking to spend less than $3,000. But the good news is you can find great used horns for much less — and often at a better value.
The difficulty is not finding cheap horns, but separating the wheat from the chaff. Maybe you’ve already browsed some used listings, flooded with plenty of low-cost horns. Brand new double horns from China typically go for a few hundred dollars. Temping right?
Let’s start with what to avoid. If it seems too good to be true it probably is. Be suspicious of any new double horn for less than $3,000. Chances are it either is junk or has little to no resale value. Also be suspicious of ultra-cheap horns less than $500. Chances are it will require thousands in repair work (which may be worth it for the right horn, but you need to know what you’re doing) or fall apart on you.
There are a few well-regarded used models that consistently show up for sale at bargain prices of $1500 or less . Here’s what we recommend by brand (in order of our preference on the cheap end of the spectrum):
H179/H178/H379/H378 : The reliable “Farkas” horn design, you should be able to find it used in usable condition for under $1500. The H37X models are the H17X’s cheaper relative but plays about the same (see our review). Check current used listings.
6D: While less popular these days, the 6D was a mainstay earlier in the 20th century (see our review) before the Farkas and Conn 8D horns stole their thunder. That means you can get it for less. Lots of these on the market, many in okay condition for around $1000. Check current used listings.
Eroica: Similar to the popular Conn 8D, but less popular and no longer made. Has a a bit of cult following among low horn players. These still show up on the used market at great prices, often under $1300.
Contempora: Designed as a competitor to the Holton Farkas horns, the Contempora holds its own as a well-made instrument and can be had for under $1400. Like the Eroica, it is no longer made but show up occasionally used.
Once you’ve found the perfect horn, be sure to vet it. Ask the current owner: how is the value compression and smoothness? Does it need any dents removed? Has it had any major work done? Just like you’re buying a car. Unless the previous owner had it cleaned up, you’ll likely need to budget a few hundred dollars for basic repair or cleaning work at your local music shop. This goes with the territory in the sub $1000 range. Good luck and happy horn hunting!
Get started and start searching used horns.
Have more than $1500 to spend? Check out our general buying guide for students and parents.
Further questions? Check out our top 9 horn buyer FAQs.