Yamaha 671/871 Review

Overview
4.6 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Unbeatable build-quality for a factory horn
- Lightening fast, quiet values
- Consistency from horn to horn
Cons
- Less complex sound vs. handmade alternatives
- Cut bell case options more limited
Summary
The 671 and 871 (custom version) are Yamaha's newest models geared toward intermediate to pro players. Based on years of research, these new variations more closely replicate the traditional Geyer design favored by many professionals. While they don't play quite like an original Geyer, they're well-made horns that project and center nicely. One long standing criticism of Yamaha's prior 667 model was its lack of projection. The new models aim to solve this with a slightly heavier bell and thicker wire. Some players may feel the horn lacks some nuance, while others may appreciate how it anchors the tone and cuts through the orchestra with greater power than the older 667 model. Like its predecessors, the new models are in tune and have a focused sound. Check out this YouTube video featuring the 671 version.

One key benefit of any Yamaha horn are its valves. Lightening fast and quiet, players switching from other brands will be pleasantly surprised how much easier it is to play fast passages. If you get the cut bell version (671D or 871D), note that the horn may not fit in all case types. Yamaha cuts its bells taller than most.


The 871 is Yamaha's custom version of the 671. This means greater attention to the manufacturing process by a top-tier technician, but also some changes in the construction. Most notably, the inner tubes are made of gold brass, giving the horn a richer tonal quality. Additionally, the 4th rotor is hollow, which is purported by Yamaha to offer some tonal benefits across the full range.


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Hans Hoyer G10 Review

4.6 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Good projection/sound quality
- Better intonation vs. some Geyer models in high range
Cons
- May not fit in some smaller cases
- Factory made
- Thumb trigger ergonomics
Summary
The Hoyer G10 is German-made Geyer-style horn targeted to players seeking quality at a price point below custom, handmade horns. Although the G10 is one of the more expensive factory made horns on the market today, it's earned a solid reputation and devoted fan base over the years. While many flavors of Geyer horns exist, the Hoyer G10 is designed to closely model the original Carl Geyer design. This legendary design is known for its well slotted notes and strong sound projection. As with all Geyer horns, certain notes can require some fine tuning to pitch correctly but the G10 is better than most in this regard -- with a good high F to Bb range. You'll want to play with the slide positions to ensure matching between F and Bb sides. It has a lovely tone quality as you can hear in this demo video. The horn is neither overly bright or dark sounding, making it an ideal horn to blend with any section. The low range is also quite good. Despite being a medium bell horn, it has a fairly large circumference, so be careful about what case you buy as sometimes it won't fit. For players switching from a different horn, you may find the trigger position takes a little time to get used to, but it is adjustable. The horn also includes an adjustable pinky finger hook. You won't find many G10s for sale used because buyers tend to keep them. Hoyer also makes a Kruspe-style horn called the 6801.

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Yamaha Xeno 882O & 882OR Review

4.4 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Flexible
- Notes slot in well
- Well made
Cons
- Sound is less distinctive
Summary
Yamaha instruments are known for exacting engineering and built with an eye toward making optimizations on competitors' models. The Xeno models are top-end horns designed in close collaboration with professionals in the field.

The YHR-882O tenor trombone, designed with Peter Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Symphony, includes a few number of features that differentiate it from competitors like the Conn 88H and Bach 42B. At 8 and 2/3 inches, the 882O bell is slightly larger than the typical 8 1/2 in this competitive set, which adds some openness to the sound. Yamaha's design optimizations have resulted in a very playable horn with notes that slot in nicely. Traditionally, players have complained Yamaha trombones (the 600 series) don't sufficiently distinguish themselves tonally, caught in the center spectrum between the Conn 88H's richness and the Bach 42's clear boldness. But the Xeno 882O, thanks in part to the larger bell, has a traditional bright tone that opens up nicely. To add some more color to the tone, consider the 882GO model that features a gold brass bell vs. the standard yellow brass. Keep in mind that you'll sacrifice some projection with this model compared to the yellow brass. The 8820 features a more traditional narrow slide that adds to the horn's flexibility. While perhaps not as distinctive as some competitors, the 882O is extremely well made and plays reliably -- something that can't be said of some major horn manufacturers today.

Yamaha's updated 882OR appears outwardly similar to the 882O, but is designed in collaboration with a different artist, Larry Zalkind, of the Utah Symphony. Typical of Yamaha, the devil is in the details - but these make a big difference to the sound (see a comparison image here). Unlike the 882O, the 8802R features a wider slide --meaning a little less flexibility-- which helps the horn produce a more contemporary, dark sound. Additionally, some adjustments the F and Bb slide positions have been reversed (hence the R in the model number) to allow the bell to vibrate more freely, according to Yamaha.


Which horn is right for you? If you like the traditional compact sound of the Conn 88H, you'll likely be happiest with the 882O. While if you prefer a more modern dark sound with a little less flexibility similar to the Bach 42B, the 8820R is the Yamaha model for you.

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Bach 42B Review

4.1 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Strong projection
- Good sound quality
Cons
- Less ideal for solo work
Summary
Made from a single piece of yellow brass, the Bach 42 Bb/F trigger trombone is known for its ability to keep a consistent tone quality at the highest volumes of playing - even more so than top competitors such as the Conn 88H. This can be especially important in symphonic environments where the trombones must project over a large orchestra. The 42B is especially popular in American orchestras, where a big but controlled sound is the norm. Due to its yellow brass construction and light hand slide, the 42B is a touch brighter sounding and to some ears in the upper range - a matter of taste depending on your playing style. With its superior loud dynamics, the 42B may not feel quite as flexible on softer tones. The horn can handle a lot of air! As a result, players may feel more comfortable using this horn in an orchestra compared to solo work. Bach has also introduced a 42BO version of the horn, with an open wrap F attachment that helps to open the lower register (though watch out for dents as it extends the horn further behind your head).


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Conn 88H Review

4.3 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Good tone quality
- Strong for both symphonic and solo work
Cons
- Newer models are not manufactured to same standards
Summary
This enduringly popular Conn tenor trombone, first produced in 1954, is an evolution on the original 8H, adding a trigger to an F branch and a rose brass bell that darkens the tone. Is 60+ year production run is a testament to its ability to adapt to different symphonic sound concepts - from powering the core of an orchestra to virtuosic solo performances. But competitors such as the Bach 42B have given the 88H a run for its money, especially in America, where orchestras are demanding an even bigger sound than the Conn. Players seeking more balance in both loud and soft playing though may prefer the 88H, however. What about the 88H's design gives it this versatility? According to The Horn Guys, a narrower hand slide vs. competitors such as the Bach 42B helps to give the tone a more stable anchor, especially given its large bell/bore, while the mix of bronze metal adds just the right color to bring out solos beautifully. In the 1990s, Conn added additional options (GEN2) to allow the 88H to adapt to modern playing, such as the open wrap 88HO (open F side gives the horn less resistance especially in lower register - though also more tubing behind the head), the thin-belled Conn 88HT (adds some additional resonance), and the Conn 88HY (yellow brass bell to brighten the sound). While these new iterations are popular, the original may still be the best mix of sound, playability and ergodynamics for most players. Unfortunately, Conn's manufacturing standards have slipped in recent years and the newer models, made in Elkhart since 2015, are not as consistent. For this reason, we recommend finding a good used model.


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Holton Merker Matic Review

4.4 / 5 Overall
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Pros
- Nice consistency through range
- Compact design
- Strong high register
Cons
- Values can get sluggish
Summary
On first glance, Holton's Merker Matic series horns are hard to distinguish from the popular Holton Farkas line - but for the characteristic dome-shaped rotor caps. But pick the horn up, and you'll notice it's a bit smaller. Ethal Merker, former associate principal in the Chicago Symphony, designed this series to appear especially to smaller-framed players who want the richness of the Conn 8D without its size and heft. The dome-shaped values are not all show; they add extra weight to the value cluster, helping to add more richness to the sound. The Merker Matic series are dual bore horns, meaning the F and Bb sides of the instrument are different sizes: .468 on the F side and .460 on the Bb side. This helps facilitate easier playing in the high register without sacrificing richness in the mid range. Some players complain that earlier models have sluggish value action, so consider oiling this horn more often than others.

The Merker Series, now discontinued, come in several different models: the H175 (nickel silver), H176 (rose bronze bell), H189 (larger bell nickel silver), H183 (brass), H292 (Geyer-style). The H175 and H176 are the most popular variations.

To hear the Merker Matic in action, check out the following video: Gliere Horn Concerto, Steve Park.


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Schmid French Horn Review

4.4 / 5 Overall
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Pros

-Light
-Easy to play
-Popular with pros

Cons

-Expensive
-Spots can appear on bell

Summary

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.

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Jupiter 1150 Review

4 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Good value
- Newer model

Cons

- Not widely played
- Considered a student horn

Summary

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.



Also consider: The most direct competitor is Yamaha's model 567. Another horn in this price range worth considering is the Holton H379.


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Holton H181 Review

3.9 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Big sound with nuance
- Unique rose brass construction

Cons

- Sound can be dark for some taste

Summary

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.


Cost: The Holton H181 sells for $4,350 new.


Also consider: The Holton H180 and H179 are similarly designed models with different levels of responsiveness varying tonal colors. See our Holton French horn guide for more models.


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Conn 11D & 11DE Review

3.8 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Open sound with ease of control
-Strong low register
- Lower cost alternative to custom Geyer style horns

Cons

- Inconsistent manufacturing quality

- High Bb is hard to produce

Summary

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: Before discontinuation, the 11DE sold for $4,459 new.



Also consider: A similar horn with fewer manufacturing complaints, the Yamaha 667 is a very popular Geyer style horn.

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