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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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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Hans Hoyer 6801 & 6802 Review

4.8 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Centered tone with variety of colors
- Plays much like an original Kruspe
- Thumb key movable for different hand sizes

Cons

- Comparatively heavy

Summary

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.


Cost: The 6801 sells for $5,379 new.



Also consider: The Yamaha 668II is a similar Kruspe-style horn that is slightly less expensive than the Hoyer.


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Conn 6D Review

4.1 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Good value for the money
- Eastlake models are well made
- Easier to play than Conn 8D

Cons

- Not considered a "professional horn" like the 8D

Summary

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.


Cost: The 6D sells for $3,300 new.


Comparing used horns? Check out our Used Horn Deal Tracker

Also consider: The Holton H379 is a comparably priced intermediate horn with a good reputation for consistency and playability.


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Yamaha 567 Review

4.3 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Small size ideal for students
- Well made
- Easy to play

Cons

- Tonal flexibility is limited
- Some notes require careful tuning

Summary

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.


Cost: The Yamaha 567 sells for $3,350 new.

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Also consider: we recommend Yamaha's step up from this horn: the 667. Within the same price range, we recommend checking out the Holton H379.


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