Yamaha 667 Review

4.3 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (6 votes)
Pros

Easy to play with well slotted notes
Same layout as today's popular custom horns
Good value for the money

Cons

Can run a bit sharp
Tone has less complexity than some other horns

Summary

The Yamaha 667 has grown in popularity over the last 20 years, owning to its consistent quality and Geyer-style design that's becoming more widely used in American orchestras. A custom-made variant, the 667V with a modified Bb slide similar to the intermediate 567 model, is used by many professionals today. Priced about 40% lower than the "V" version, the 667 will suit most everyday players just fine. Its ease of playing and focused sound make it a top choice in both chamber and lighter orchestral settings. The tone quality is on the brighter side, which makes this horn a contrast to the larger, dark Conn 8D and Yamaha 668II sound. Because of the smaller wrap, the 667 only comes in yellow brass which helps to counter the bright tone the smaller bell produces. Note that some players find the yellow brass bell dents too easily. If you are switching from a more sturdy nickel silver horn, be gentle.


Because of its strong reputation in the professional world, a used Yamaha 667 will hold its value well -- better than a comparably priced new Holton or Conn. And thanks to Yamaha's exacting manufacturing methods, you can expect this horn to last a long time with proper care. Some owners claim this horn doesn't project as well especially at loud volumes with an orchestra. The Berlin Phil horn section switched to the Yamaha 667 in the late 1980s for a few years, then switched back to Alexander 103s. They felt the 667 sounds great close up, but not far out in the concert hall. But keep in mind that the "loud" horns tend to be heavier and a bit less flexible. And what's needed in a large professional orchestra may be different than most playing situations. Intonation on the 667 is strong, however players transitioning from larger horns such as a Conn 8D may find it plays sharp. It may simply take a little adjustment to find the horn's center, which is well in tune with itself. Overall, the 667 is one of the best Geyer-style horns you get get for your money.


UPDATE: As of March 2016, the 667 and 667V horns are discontinued by Yamaha. They have been replaced with 671 (pro) and 871 (custom) models. Read our review featuring the new models.


Price & Specs           View on eBay


Also consider: If the 667 or 671 is out of your price range, check out Yamaha's intermediate version, the 567. Players looking in the same price range may also consider the Conn 10DE or Conn 11DE.


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Alexander 103 Review

4.1 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (15 votes)
Pros

- Distinctive fat, dark tone that brightens with volume
- Widely used in Europe, especially Germany
- Good resale value

Cons

- Older models inconsistent
- Can sound stuffy to American horn players
- Relatively expensive

Summary

Alexander's most popular French horn designed over 100 years ago, the 103 is the de-facto standard horn used in Germany and many other European orchestras. Typically produced in either yellow or gold brass, its rich sound has a dark center that warms up to a brassy tone when played at full volume. It is built with a Kruspe-style wrap, but the sound's focus and brassy edge at high volume distinguish it from the popular American Kruspe Conn 8D, a horn critics may consider "tubby" sounding by comparison. The quality of Alexander horns can vary significantly for those produced >10 years ago. Some are absolute gems while others are stuffy and out of tune. The newer horns are much more consistent thanks to improvements in manufacturing processes at their new factory in Mainz, Germany. Check out this video of the Berlin Philharmonic's Sarah Willis trying different Alexander horns in their Berlin shop -- you'll see that even the new horns each of a unique character: some brighter, others darker. Less popular in American orchestras historically, the Alex 103 may not be the ideal choice for US players because the effort of blending in to a section of typical American horns may limit your flexibility. But even for some US pro horn players, the Alex sound is enough of a draw to overcome such hurdles. The new principal horn of the National Symphony, Abel Pereira, plays a 103 while his section play other horns. To hear the 103 for yourself in concert, view this video of Szabolcs Zempleni playing Strauss 2 on a 103. The 103 is an especially good choice for players in larger orchestras where a combined projection and precision are critical.



Also consider: Paxman's 23 model is a different design, but share's the Alexander's rich tonal core and professional build standards.

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Conn 8D Review

4 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (13 votes)
Pros

- Big "Hollywood" sound
- Used by students and pros alike
- Good resale value

Cons

-Can be too large for smaller players
-Out of fashion in professional world

Summary

First manufactured in 1937, the Conn 8D is a Kruspe-style horn that quickly established itself as one of the top models for professional hornists in America. Especially renown for its prominent role in Hollywood soundtracks, the Conn 8D has a distinctive tone quality that counters what its evangelists consider the more stuffy Geyer style horns. If you hear a big silky, soaring horn line in the next big block buster film, chances are it was played on an 8D.


Horn players generally agree that the earlier "Elkhart" models--manufactured in Elkhart Indiana between 1937 and 1969--are of superior quality, especially compared to those made in Texas from 1970 to 1986. And that the newer versions, while improved over Texas-made models, don't quite compare. But you'll be increasingly hard pressed to find an Elkhart model in good working condition. Whether due to these manufacturing changes or general shifts in taste, the Conn 8D is starting to lose some of its stature in the American horn world -- with many players moving to custom-made Geyer horns at the professional level. But it still has its hardcore loyalists and remains one of the most popular American horns.


While many Conn loyalists are caught up with the Elkhart models, the truth is that newer 8Ds, made in Eastlake Indiana can be decent horns -- but not for every style of player. Because of their large bell, we would not recommend an 8D to a student starting out due to the large volume of air required to sustain it (younger horn players should check out our Conn 6D and Holton H179 reviews). But for high school players looking for an upgrade to a professional level horn, the Conn 8D can be a great choice if you love the traditional big, dark American horn sound.


Cost: The Conn 8D sells for $4,809 new.


Comparing used horns? Check out our Used Horn Deal Tracker


Also consider: Alternatives to the Conn 8D include the Yahama 668II and the Hans Hoyer 6801/6802. These horns are known for better manufacturing consistency and have a similar sound quality.


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Holton H179 Review

4.1 / 5 Overall
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (5 votes)
Pros

Notes are in tune
Good high register
Easy to play

Cons

Stuffy low register
Viewed as beginner horn

Summary

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 $4,589 brand new.


Comparing used horns? Check out our Used Horn Deal Tracker


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.




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