- Better intonation vs. some Geyer models in high range
- Factory made
- Hard to find used
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-Easy to play
-Popular with pros
-Spots can appear on bell
Engelbert Schmid horns have sky-rocketed in popularity over the last decade, with converts ranging from Phil Myers of the NY Philharmonic to Pip Eastop of the London Chamber Orchestra. What's all the fuss about? This German horn maker is quickly gaining a reputation for innovative manufacturing practices that are resulting in more efficient, lighter weight horns. This is especially beneficial for Schmid's popular triple horns. "Mathematics and physics were my favorite subjects in high school," says Mr. Schmid, who uses digital models to construct horns to exacting standards of measurement.
Schmid double horns are designed using Geyer/Knopf foundation, typically resulting in great smoothness of slurs at the expensive of some intonation issues on certain notes. Schmid has taken extensive efforts to solve the intonation inconsistencies, one reason why pros are gravitating toward these horns.
Another typical characteristic of Geyer/Knopf style horns is a brighter sound. Popular in many American orchestras, the brighter tone is less appreciated in Germany, where Schmid horns are made. Schmid horns have a sufficiently dark tone to win over 8D holdouts and tempt some loyal Alexander players, but have their own sound that is unique. "I wanted to tone down the often aggressive core of German horn playing and to produce a more noble sound," says Schmid. Schmid offers a number of customization options with bell and metal combinations, allowing players to make the ideal sound for them.
Schmid horns have one notable defect that may be especially apparent on used models: the lacquer around the bell may start to deteriorate resulting in small spots. If you prick them with a pin when you first notice them, it can help to reduce the spreading. While these spots don't affect tone quality, it is not expected for a horn in this price range. But spots or not, the Schmid horns are in high demand by top players and as a result hold their value very well.
Also consider: Especially within Germany, the Schmid's main competition is the popular Alexander 103 which has a stronghold on the market.
- Good value
- Newer model
- Not widely played
- Considered a student horn
Jupiter French horn line might be called the red-headed stepchild of the horn world, lacking the popularity and reputation of competitors such as Holton and Conn. Jupiter's sole focus is the mid-low price range market and as a result their horns are not taken seriously and are virtually unheard of in the professional world.
But while other more popular brands have been resting on their reputations without much innovation, Jupiter has recently invested in a new model that's starting to gain some attention: the 1150. A Geyer-style wrap, the 1150 shares many of the design qualities of more expensive horns but at a significant price discount.
The horn has a compact, warm sound that is clear and consistent through the ranges, especially the upper register where the horn really rings. To hear the Jupiter 1150 screaming some high notes, check out this video.The Geyer design makes slurs on this horn especially nice. And at loud volumes, the horn does not lose clarity giving it good projection in a concert hall. More mature players may consider this horn to be limiting in tonal flexibility, however it is a solid recommendation for beginning and intermediate students who want a new horn at a more reasonable price. The detachable bell version is especially attractive compared to competitor prices.
Cost: The Jupiter 1150 currently sells for $3,300 new.
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- Big sound with nuance
- Unique rose brass construction
- Sound can be dark for some taste
The Holton H181 (and its detachable bell counterpart, the H281) is a Farkas style Kruspe wrap horn, whose differentiating feature is a rose brass bell that helps the horn project and resonate with a richer sound compared to the nickle silver H179. The rose brass bell also adds some additional tonal nuance especially at louder volumes.
Because the H181/H281 have a larger bell which already results in a richer sound, some may advocate the "darkening" quality of rose brass exaggerates the already dark tone of the larger bore Farkas design. But for players seeking this sound, the H181 is a good option because it provides some more nuance and flexibility compared to other traditionally dark-sounding horns such as the Conn 8D in rose brass.
Overall, the H181/H281 is a great horn for an intermediate or mature player who is comfortable projecting a strong sound but wants some flexibility to play at a range of dynamics.
- Open sound with ease of control
-Strong low register
- Lower cost alternative to custom Geyer style horns
- Inconsistent manufacturing quality
- High Bb is hard to produce
The 11D is a medium sized Geyer style horn that provides a bit more openness of tone compared to its small-bell cousin the Conn 10D. Both of these "open wrap" Geyer horns by Conn contrast with the more widely known and larger "closed wrap" Conn 8D, emphasizing tonal focus and ease of control over the large sound produced by the 8D. Within the price range and style, the Conn 11D and 10D's key competitors are the Yamaha 667 and the slightly more expensive Hoyer G10. So how does it stack up? Conn's Geyer style horns--a design that's increasingly popular across all manufacturers-- have not gained the same popularity as the Yamaha 667 Geyer horns, in part because the Conn 8D overshadows them as Conn's legacy brand.
But they have developed some traction. Canadian Brass hornist Bernhard Scully plays on a gold plated 11D because Conn is now the official instrument sponsor of the Canadian Brass (just as Yamaha before them), we'll may see younger players gravitating towards these horns. If they're good enough for the Canadian Brass are they good enough for any professional? While the horn design is solid and quite similar to much more expensive horns, players say the build quality is hit or miss. Some have reported some sloppy manufacturing practices, as highlighted in this video from Houghton Horns.
Typical of Geyer-style horns, some notes in the high register are squirrely - a sacrifice many are willing to pay for other benefits. On this horn, the Bb above the staff can be difficult to produce with the standard trigger + 1 fingering. But lower horn players should be pleased with the 11D's comparatively open and clear sound below the staff, which is better than many higher priced Geyer-style horns. Learn more about Conn horns.
If transitioning from a Kruspe-style horn, we recommend trying the rose brass bell version which offers a more similar dark sound than the yellow brass.
UPDATE: As of 2015, the 11D has been replaced by the 11DE. Improvements include a redesigned F branch, offering a more open sound. Other cosmetic improvements a new adjustable pinky hook (a big plus for players with smaller or larger than average hands) and two spit values. Once we have a chance to play this redesigned horn and get player feedback, we'll update this review.
Cost: The 11DE sells for $4,459 new.
Also consider: A similar horn with fewer manufacturing complaints, the Yamaha 667 is a very popular Geyer style horn.
- Centered tone with variety of colors
- Plays much like an original Kruspe
- Thumb key movable for different hand sizes
- Comparatively heavy
The Hans Hoyer 6801 and 6802 Heritage horns are copies of the original Kruspe horns, like the more widely known Conn 8D. Kruspe horns have achieved legendary status in the horn world for their beautiful tone quality. But since production discontinued, there are very few working Kruspe horns in existence today. Conn 8Ds made pre-1969 now carry on the Kruspe horn legacy, but even these Conn horns are getting too old to play and maintain. And whether it is perceived or reality, the consensus is newer Conn 8Ds don't have the same magical tone quality.
The Hoyer 6800 series horns endeavor to emulate the now legendary Kruspe sound but with the added benefit of more modern manufacturing and consistency. The owner of Hans Hoyer, Gerhard Meinl, set out to make this Kruspe copy by working closely with regarded professionals including Myron Bloom and Vince DeRosa who play in the Krupse horn style. The result is a very well made horn that to many is a truer copy of the original Kruspe than even the best Conn 8Ds. This especially comes out in the upper register, which sings more on the Hoyer 6800 horns and is easier to play in. The lower register is also strong, especially on the F side of the horn. The Bb side can be a little stuffier down there.
As a German made horn, the 6800 series horns sent to America are given a longer tuning slide to account for the lower pitch that US-based orchestras tune to. If you are an American horn player purchasing from Europe or vice versa, we suggest you make sure the tuning is in line with what you expect before buying. Buying a Hoyer 6801 used can be a challenge due to both the dearth of horns in circulation and high demand, but this also means the horn will hold its value well if you do choose to buy new.
An added benefit of the 6800s is the adjustable thumb trigger. Many players with smaller hands complain the 8D's thumb trigger is placed in an awkward position. On the Hoyer you can adjust to better fit your hand size.
The difference between the 6801 and 6802 is that the former has mechanical valve linkages while the latter has string. While some horn manufacturers have rather noisy mechanical linkages, the Hoyer horns are very quiet. Hans Hoyer also manufactures a 7801 and 7802 version of this model, the only difference being more specially made value caps and bell. We recommend the sticking with the 6800 series unless money is no object to you.
To hear the 6802 being played, see this video from Hans Hoyer featuring a Hollywood solo artist featured in a recent Star Trek movie.
Also consider: The Yamaha 668II is a similar Kruspe-style horn that is slightly less expensive than the Hoyer.
- Good value for the money
- Eastlake models are well made
- Easier to play than Conn 8D
- Not considered a "professional horn" like the 8D
The Conn 6D is designed similarly to its more popular Kruspe-style cousin the Conn 8D, but the horn is a bit smaller and about 25% less expensive -- making it a popular choice for younger students who find the 8D too unwieldy and out of budget. Because of the smaller size, the horn can feel easier to play and respond. This is particularly helpful when playing quick passages where the notes need to come out right away, or in smaller ensemble settings where an 8D's sound might come across as too big and "woofy". While the 6D does have more of a student reputation, it should not be overlooked by even more advanced players seeking a more controlled tone and ease of playing. In fact, back in the mid 20th century the 6D was considered a more professional level horn. The original Star Trek movie solos were recorded on Conn 6Ds.
As with all Conn horns, you need to be careful about buying used. Manufacturing problems plagued Conn in the 1970s and early 80s when their plant moved to Texas. Any horns made prior to that time in Elkhart are extremely valuable. And those made after 1986, in Eastlake, are generally of better quality. There are many great used 6Ds on the market for a careful buyer at good value.
Bottom line: Because the 6D has not enjoyed the same professional lime light as the 8D, it is perceived as less valuable in the marketplace. Discerning players should use this perceived weakness to their advantage and pick up a well made horn whose ease of playing and strong sound belie its 25% price discount compared to the 8D. The 6D is featured on our list of best cheap horns.
Also consider: The Holton H379 is a comparably priced intermediate horn with a good reputation for consistency and playability.
- Small size ideal for students
- Well made
- Easy to play
- Tonal flexibility is limited
- Some notes require careful tuning
The Yamaha 567 is a Geyer-style horn designed for beginning and intermediate level students. Becoming increasingly popular with professionals, the Geyer design gives the horn a focused, compact and bright tone quality -- compared to the dark "woof" sound of Kruspe style horns such as the Conn 8D. These qualities can make the 567 easier to play than other horns. The smaller bell size is also an added benefit for younger students, whose hands can sometimes get lost in the larger bell horns.
While the 567 may be easier to play, every horn design has some trade offs. Some players complain the middle F on this horn is hard to tune and that the high range can be difficult to lock in on select notes. Additionally, the layout does not give the horn as much projection as a large wrap horn or more professional-level Geyer horn.
But within its price range, the 567 is a strong contender. With a level of durability that other models do not have, the 567 can last a good student through high school without major repair work needed. This build quality also extends to consistency in playability across these horns. Even the smallest manufacturing inconsistencies can alter a horn's playing dynamics, and Yamaha's manufacturing standards are among the best.
- Easy to play
- Good value
- Harder to empty water vs. H179
The Holton H379 is the H179's less expensive sibling. In exchange for some relatively modest compromises, you can pay about $800 less for more or less the same horn. What are these compromises? Unlike the H179, the H379's auxiliary F slide is not removable. This can make emptying water and tuning a little less flexible, but most players will not notice it's gone. Additionally, there is no key built into the lead pipe to empty water from the horn. For more about playing qualities, see our review of the H179.
The H379 is recommended in our buying guide for students and their parents.