Notes are in tune
Good high register
Easy to play
Stuffy low register
Viewed as beginner horn
The Holton H179 (and its detachable bell counterpart, the H279) is one of the staple workhorses of American school bands and youth orchestras, a popular choice for its ease of control and general reliability. This Kruspe-style horn was designed in collaboration with the late Philip Farkas, former principal horn of the Chicago Symphony and author of The Art of Horn Playing, widely considered the bible of modern horn technique. According to his biographer, "Phil impressed everyone with his constant attention to the smallest details and his unflagging search for perfection" while working with the Holton team to design the horn line which includes several other variations on the H179. The Holton Farkas horns traditionally competed with the Conn 8D, both being larger "closed wrap" Kruspe horns. With a slightly smaller bell throat compared to the Conn 8D, the H179's upper register is easier to reach but the total quality remains full throughout most of the range, only weakening a bit in the lower octaves. Horn players who find the Conn 8D too unwieldy often find the H179 a more comfortable alternative. Advocates for the Conn 8D may counter that the H179 is a bit too limited in its total flexibility and sounds a bit more "closed off."
While many horn models have some bad notes, the H179 is surprising consistent: from G below the staff to high C notes are in tune with each other and well slotted. The nickel silver construction makes it harder to dent than its yellow brass brethren. Because of the student horn reputation, you will not find the H179 used by more advanced players, but that may have more to do with the brand perception than actual playing qualities. It is more than possible to achieve fantastic results on this horn, the Holton brand's most popular model. To hear the results you can achieve, check out this this video clip arrangement of John Williams movie soundtracks performed on the H179. Beginning students should also check out the H178 model, which is a little smaller and more controllable. And those on a budget should consider at the H379, a cheaper version of the H179 without some of the frills.
Cost: The H179 currently sells for $4,350 brand new.
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Also consider: There are other variations on the Holton Farkas design including the H178, H180 and H181. We also recommend players in this price range check out Yamaha's offerings including the 668II and 667, both of which have unique playing qualities. For more on other Holton French horn models see our full guide.