Holton H181 Review

3.9 Overall
4.4 Users (2 votes)

- Big sound with nuance
- Unique rose brass construction


- Sound can be dark for some taste


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.

Tone quality
Value for money
What people say... 2 Leave your rating
Not for people with small hands
I just started renting one of these from my local music store and I loved it, except the thumb trigger is very high up. I have small hands so I exchanged it for another horn with a low thumb trigger. Besides the thumb trigger, everything was perfect.
August 25, 2018, 2:18 pm
Tone quality5
Value for money4.5
Holton 181
Before i purchased the 181, I had the chance to try out the paxman series 4. I ended up with the h181. In my opinion, the paxman 4 is a great instrument, however i feel that the sound is rather thin and more to the bright side. It doesnt feel free blowing as the 181 did.
The 181 sound is dark and somewhat mellow but please be careful with the bell. Its rather thin, seriously thin.
I paired the horn with a breslmair wien mouthpiece and as a result the sound is more focused, tone clearer, pitch inproved and less resistance while playing.

I wouldn't recomment the 181 if you're a high horn player. I reckon the 179 would be better for high players.
April 24, 2017, 11:10 pm
Tone quality4.5
Value for money4
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