Double French Horns: The Buying Guide for New Students and their Parents

So you’re looking to buy your first double French horn? It’s easy to be intimidated by all the options available online and various price points. In this guide, we break down the key things to know and direct you to models that make the most sense for students.

New players typically start out on a single French horn in F (in America) or Bb (more common in Europe), either renting from their local music, using a horn on loan from the school, or buying a cheap used model. Depending on the student’s progress, he or she will require a double horn (F + Bb combined) after 1-2 years of playing a single horn. If lucky, his or her school music program will have a double horn on loan to start learning on. But even if the school has horns on loan, you will want your own horn sooner than later if you’re a serious player.

How do you choose the best horn for a new student? Below is a brief rundown of popular models manufactured by well-regarded student-level horn brands: Holton, Conn, and the increasingly popular Yahama models. While these three makers all produce a variety of great horns, the one you choose will depend somewhat on the student’s size and playing style.

Holton

H379: This horn is Holton’s intermediate student model. It’s design is based on the original “Farkas” H179 model horn, named for famed hornist Philip Farkas (who wrote what’s now considered the bible on horn playing: The Art of Horn Playing). Made in nickel silver, this is a medium-sized bore horn with a focused tone quality and dark sound. Read more about this model on our review page.

 H179: Holton’s most famous and widely used model, this is horn looks nearly identical to the H379 in design but about 30% more expensive, with some more manufacturing flourishes. While horn players may have trouble telling the difference between the H379, the devil is in the details: with a bit more care going into the horn making, owners may find it lasts longer and perhaps even more importantly, will have higher resale value due to its stronger brand name. Read more about this model on our review page. Also check out the Holton H178, for a slightly smaller version of the same design.

Bottom line: Chose a Holton horn if you’re looking for a well-rounded produces a pleasing sound and is relatively easy to play.  Holton’s are of medium size, suiting many players from 7th grade and up.

Conn:

6D: The Conn 6D is the 8D’s less famous, smaller sibling with quite different playing qualities. While has a reputation for being a more beginner horn compared to the 8D, that’s more due to its size than sound. The layout of the horn is similar to the 8D, but the bell throat is smaller, making the horn more comparable to Holton‘s sizes. It has strong intonation and all the notes come out easily. Read more about this model on our review page.

 8D: The Conn 8D was popularized by professionals in the mid 20th century, found among some of the best American orchestras. While it has since gone out of vogue in the professional world, replaced by more expensive custom horns, the newer Conn 8Ds are still regarded as professional level horns. One of the larger horn models, the 8D requires more air support to play, but its advocates believe that extra effort is worth the big, dark sound it gets. We would not recommend the 8D to the typical beginner due to the size and air support needed, but an advanced beginner with a larger frame may do well with one. Read more about this model on our review page.

Bottom line: We recommend beginners take a look at the Conn 6D, which is more reasonably priced than the 8D and easier to play.

Yamaha

YHR-567: Yamaha’s student-level “Geyer wrap” horn, the 567 may be one of the easier horns for newer students to master thanks to its smaller size and play-ability. More advanced players may find the horn lacks some tonal nuance, but a good student could get a lot of mileage out of this horn — at least through high school. It’s also one of the best value for money horns you may find. Read more about this model on our review page. Also see the Jupiter 1150, a similar model that is a few hundred dollars less.

 

YHR-667: If your budget is more flexible, check out the 667 which is a very similar to the 567 in design, but noticeable step up and used more widely. It is around the same price as a Holton H179, but regarded by professionals as a more advanced horn. Read more about this model on our review page.

YHR-668II: Yamaha’s answer to the larger Conn 8D style of horn, the 668II is a fantastic horn for a more mature beginner who can handle its larger size and the air support needed to sustain it. Read more about this model on our review page.

 Bottom line: Most beginning students will be best served with the smaller wrap YHR-567 model, but those looking for something to grow into should strongly consider the 667 and 668II.

 Ultimately, choosing a horn comes down to a combination of price and the best “feel” for you. If budget is a primary concern, we recommend sticking with the Holton H379, Conn 6D and Yamaha 567 — all in the mid $3,000 range new (mid $1000s pre-owned) and fantastic horns. For more on bargain-priced horns, check out our top low-cost horns article. If looking in the $4,000 range (around $2000-2500 pre-owned), the higher end Yamaha horns are worth strong consideration especially when buying new as they hold their value well. If looking at used horns, the Conn and Holton models can often be found for better deals due to greater supply.

Next steps: read our top 9 horn buyer FAQs and check out our Used Horn Deal Tracker.