Holton H379 Review

3.9 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Easy to play

- Good value

Cons

- Harder to empty water vs. H179

Summary

The Holton H379 is the H179's less expensive sibling. In exchange for some relatively modest compromises, you can pay about $800 less for more or less the same horn. What are these compromises? Unlike the H179, the H379's auxiliary F slide is not removable. This can make emptying water and tuning a little less flexible, but most players will not notice it's gone. Additionally, there is no key built into the lead pipe to empty water from the horn. For more about playing qualities, see our review of the H179.


The H379 is recommended in our buying guide for students and their parents.


Cost: The Holton H379 sells for $3,450.


Also consider: The Yamaha 567 is a similarly priced horn, but with different playing qualities such as a brighter sound. For more on Holton French horns see our full guide.


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Holton H178 Review

4 / 5 Overall
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Pros

Easy to play
Solid pitch
Strong high range

Cons

Limited tonal flexibility

Summary

The Holton H178 is ideal for both beginning and intermediate players seeking a well-rounded instrument that responds well in the high register while keeping notes locked into the correct pitch. The bell and "throat" of this horn are a bit smaller than the more widely played H179, producing a brighter tone but retaining the warmth of the classic Holton sound. Because of the smaller size, the H178 is a hybrid of brass and nickel silver material unlike the H179 which is completely nickel silver. The brass helps the darken the bright edge that the smaller bell can produce. The medium throat and closed Kruspe wrap can make the horn feel more restrictive than larger closed wrap horns like the Yamaha 668II or Conn 8D, or open wrap horns such as the Yamaha 667. But for someone with more average air support and strength, the H178 is a great option that will feel much more natural and easy to play than the bigger horns. Holton also sells a paired down version of this horn, the H378, targeting students. A few bells and whistles are missing such as a separate Bb tuning slide, but the cost difference is likely worth it for beginners.


Cost: The Holton H178 sells for $3,349 new.

       View on eBay >>


Also consider: For players seeking a more focused sound like the H178, we recommend looking at the Yamaha 667. For more on Holton French horns see our full guide.


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Paxman 23 Reviews

4.5 / 5 Overall
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Pros

-Tone centers well
-Rich tone quality
-Strong projection

Cons

-Less flexible pitch

Summary

Paxman's interpenetration of the Geyer-style horn design, the 23 still retains some of the traditional Paxman horn design features including the "Merewether system" which allows air the flow in the same direction on both F and Bb horns. This hybrid design gives the 23 some of the best qualities of the Geyer horns while also compensating for some typical weaknesses of Geyer horns such as slippery slurring and volume limitations. The result is a horn with the typical solid, silky Paxman sound that some players may find easier to handle especially in the upper registers along with a great ability to center notes. Used professionally in many orchestras, the the 23 projects quite well without sounding sloppy at high volumes. One of its advantages is also a disadvantage for some players: the well-centered notes lock in, which may seem too limiting for the player seeking seeking more tonal flexibility. This horn comes in 3 size variations: 23M, medium; 23E, Europa; 23A, American (New World). Click here to hear a professional, Tim Thorpe, playing the 23.

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Holton H180 Review

3.9 / 5 Overall
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Pros

-Dark, resonant tone
-Good build quality

Cons

-Less responsive than H179

Summary

The Holton H180 shares the same design as the more widely played nickel silver H179 model, but its yellow brass construction makes it ideal for a player seeking a darker more resonant tone quality. But this advantage also has a disadvantage: while the sound may be darker, the horn is also a little less responsive due to the brass metal. Additionally, yellow brass horns can dent more easily. For this reason, we recommend sticking with the H179 for beginning students -- even if the gold color makes the horn look more appealing. But for a more advanced player seeking a more complex tonal quality, the H180 may be the better choice.


It used to be quite popular for more advanced players to purchase an H180 and upgrade its lead pipe and bell with higher quality materials from makers like Lawson. But due to price increases, the cost of upgrading an H180 would be not be so much lower than buying a new custom horn.


Cost: The Holton H180 sells for $4,349 new.

Buy it New           View on eBay >>


Comparing used horns? Check out our Used Horn Deal Tracker

Also consider: A medium sized alternative to the H180 is the H178. Also in yellow brass, its smaller bell may be more comfortable for some players.


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Yamaha 668 II Review

4.6 / 5 Overall
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Pros

Strong range with good intonation
Easy to play
Well-made, tight values/rotors

Cons

Dents more easily due to thinner metal

Summary

The 668II the newest incarnation of Yamaha's Kruspe-style French horn. While they have not managed to surpass the Conn 8D in popularity just yet, professionals regard them more highly than post-Elkhart 8Ds. But even vintage Elkhart 8D fans may have met their match with the newer 668II, which wins praise from professionals for its dark mellow tone combined with good flexibility. The 668II's success may steam in part from being a more literal copy of the original Kruspe horn vs. the Conn 8D. The thinner metal, slightly larger bore and consistent construction are some of the qualities that may contribute to the playing differences vs. the Conn 8D. Areas where the 668 II excels include focused low range and along with greater smoothness through range transitions. The high register on large bore horns can be a little tougher to get out, and like the Conn 8D, the 668II will require some more effort in that range especially above A.


Due to the thin metal on this horn, it may not be ideal for beginning students or those playing in a rowdy school band. But build quality is strong and Yamaha horns have an especially strong reputation for manufacturing high quality rotors -- an added benefit when comparing with the arguably less consistent and stringent standards of competing brands in this price range such as Conn. This also means used Yahama horns hold their value well.


Cost: The Yamaha 668II sells for $4,426 new.


While priced at the advanced student level, the 668II can be found in professional settings where players are seeking the original Kruspe-style horn without risk of shoddy manufacturing and cut corners. If your budget can go a little higher, we also recommend the similar Hans Hoyer's Kruspe-style horn, the 6801/6802.


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Conn 10D & 10DE Review

3.4 / 5 Overall
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Pros

Good value for money
Focused, compact sound

Cons

May not blend as well with a section of 8D horns

Summary

Not to be confused with its more widely-known sibling the Conn 8D, the 10D is very different horn for a player seeking a more "compact," bright sound vs. the 8D's large, dark tone. A copy of the famous Geyer wrap, the 10D may be attractive to players who find the 8D too unwieldy and tubby sounding. The Geyer-style horn is becoming increasingly popular in the professional world, and the 10D is priced more attractively than custom horns featuring a the same layout. Gene Standley, former principle horn with the Columbus Symphony, played a 10D. Pros say that with a little custom work the 10D can match the sound of the best Geyer style horns. A smaller bore horn, the 10D is also a great choice for younger or lighter framed players. For players seeking a somewhat more open sound, the Conn 11D is worth considering. It is the same Geyer layout as the 10D but with a larger bell resulting in less resistance and a more open sound. Unfortunately, Conn's manufacturing standards have slipped over time so these horns can be inconsistent in build quality, requiring some tune ups by an experienced workshop. Some players also complain about security of high register notes above A. Learn more about Conn horns.


UPDATE: As of 2015, the 10D is now the 10DE. Improvements include a redesigned F branch, offering a more open sound - likely to be particularly helpful on this smaller bell horn. Additional 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 10DE and get player feedback, we'll update this review.

Price & Specs           View on eBay


Also consider: the Yamaha 667, a comparably priced horn with a similar Geyer-like wrap that has more consistency in quality.

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Paxman 20 Review

4.4 / 5 Overall
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Pros

- Famous "British" horn sound
- Well made with good resale value

Cons

- Can lack some evenness between F and Bb sides
- Due to smaller bore, lower register can be more difficult

Summary

One of Paxman's most popular models, the 20 is a medium bore horn used widely among professionals in the UK. While many horn makers today produce nearly identical copies of the famous Geyer or Kruspe horn layout, the Paxman 20 is more unique, featuring the "Merewether System" which keeps the air flowing in the same direction on both the F and Bb sides of the horn. This helps to reduce the amount of disruption from the rotors.

The bore sizes on the F and Bb sides of the model 20 are both the same size, available in in medium or large. Some players may find the transition from F to Bb sides of the horn bumpy and the mid-low register a tad stuffy, issues Paxman's model 25 aims to solve. The 25 model uses a dual bore approach: a larger F bore opens the mid-lower range and matches the Bb side's resistance for a smoother transition. If you're a higher horn player, you may prefer the model 20 due to its ease and clear tone in the upper registers - on a level that most horns cannot match. If you're a 2 or 4th horn player, you may find the more balanced 25 model better meets your needs. To get a sense for the Paxman sound, listen to this recording of Radovan Vlatkovik playing Hayden's horn concerto on the model 20. Players seeking a more free blowing horn and compact tone may also be interested in Paxman's model 23, which is closer to a Geyer-style design but still retains the unique Merewether System.



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Alexander 103 Review

4.1 / 5 Overall
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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 (6 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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