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Last updated: January 26, 2021
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The French horn is a popular choice for a wide range of music, especially symphonic bands, and the orchestra. It is highly preferred for its mellow, slightly less brash sound, and when it is played alongside other instruments, it stands out with a large voice. Without the right information, choosing the best French horn can be a mixed bag of experience, especially with all the endless options saturating the market.
We came up with a refined list of some of the best-rated French horns you can buy. Some of the crucial aspects we considered in our detailed reviews include material it is made of, bell and bore size, wrap, fixed/detachable bell, and rotary linkage. All these parameters and features determine the horn’s overall performance and quality. For instance, the bell size and material affect the tone of sounds produced by the horn, while detachable bell determines its portability.
"A double French horn with Kruspe wrap and detachable nickel silver bell that offers an excellent response and a smooth airflow.Tapered rotors and bearings.Adjustable lever bridge.7708DS fabric-covered bag case."
"A single F French horn with silver plated mouthpiece, yellow brass bell and body that offers you great airflow resistance.Solid rotors with mechanical linkage.Comes in pro-deluxe hard case.12” bell diameter."
"A single F French horn with yellow brass leadpipe and turning pipe that comes with a premium case, a polishing cloth, white gloves, and piston oil.12” bell diameter.0.450” bore.Perfect for beginners or students."
This scooped the top spot for all the right reasons. The JHR-1100D utilizes a state-of-the-art technology in its build that checks all of your quality and efficiency boxes. It packs a couple of professional features and is thus suitable for serious players. Its body is meticulously designed for pitch accuracy and playability.
The horn boasts a stunning design with a super-attractive exterior. It features a lead pipe of Rose brass for added durability. The Rose brass pipe also ensures the horn produces warm tones.
What’s more, the double horn features a rotary valve that is tapered with precision and an open wrap for a free-blowing and responsive performance. It also has a detachable bell and a tonal color for different types of performances.
What we liked: Intermediate players can make the most out of this Jupiter horn. It is one of the best double French horns out there. It uses advanced technology to provide you with unmatched playability at the most accurate scales. It also comes with a wooden carrying case for easy portability.
What could be better: Some players argue that there isn’t much difference between this horn and the beginner options available.
This is the cat’s pajamas among all the French horns and a famous go-to among professionals as well. It is a slight variation of its cousin, the Conn 8D. As expected, the 8DS has Conn’s adept craftsmanship, and there are absolutely zero qualms about its longevity.
Like all the nickel-silver French horns, the 8DS has dark and warmer sounds than the brassy brighter horns. It features a 0.468-inch bore, specially designed for control and precise intonation.
Moreover, the horn features a removable bell, which makes it easily portable. This makes it perfect for an on-the-go player. Plus, it comes with a fabric-covered bag case that you can use to tote it around.
The 8DS offers an excellent response and a smooth airflow that makes it incredibly enjoyable and comfortable to play.
What we liked: What’s not to like about this horn? It has a solid build and is easy to store and transport. It is enjoyable and comfortable to play, and it produces dark warmer sounds.
What could be better: The horn has a premium price tag. You must be really committed to playing a horn if you are considering the Conn 8DS.
This is another incredible work of art. Holton is an acclaimed brand that has made a name for itself by producing top of the line professional French horns. The H179 is not an exception. It is the most popular model in the Farkas line.
The horn offers a heavy, dark, and rich tone owing to the combination of its remarkable features like the wide fixed bell, a tapered tubing, and a nickel-silver construction. The nickel silver gives it a special centered tone and exceptional response.
Even more, you will enjoy a smooth playing experience with reduced resistance in the airflow thanks to the tapered rotary valves and the 0.468-inch bore.
What we liked: This horn will excel your expectations with its professional features. Besides its top performance, it is a beautiful piece of equipment to own. Its price isn’t that bad either, as it is competitively priced with other professional nickel-silver French horns.
What could be better: Some players find the fixed bell a nuisance, especially when they need to move around a lot.
Yamaha is also a popular brand with immense contributions to the music industry with top-quality instruments. The YHR-314II is another proof that the brand doesn’t compromise on quality and longevity.
The horn is built for hard use with nickel-silver linings on its exterior. Its tapered design on the mouthpiece offers excellent intonation and great response. The wrap is meant to give you a comfortable hand position when playing the instrument.
The valves on the horn provide implausible rich tones, and with the single F key, even a novice can quickly wrap their head around the instrument. This is why it is highly recommended for students.
Other things that make it a worthy student French horn include its flexibility, easy response, excellent airflow, and accurate intonation. Plus, thanks to its 0.472-inch bore and medium-sized bell throat, it produces rich and warm tones.
What we liked: You can never go wrong with Yamaha, and with a 5-year warranty backing, it can’t get better. The horn is simple to use because it is much lighter and less complicated than a double horn. It is also incredibly durable as the nickel is less likely to corrode soon like brass. It is packed with features that make it a desired choice among students and intermediate players alike.
What could be better: There aren’t any complaints about the horn so far.
Levante is an upcoming brand that took the market by storm with this double French horn. It is an elegant work of art, and it’s almost impossible to go unnoticed with it. The great-sounding instrument provides bright sounding tones, and whether you are a beginner or an advanced learner, you’ll be in safe hands.
The double horn is built to last and remain shining over time with nickel silver slides. Unlike brass, nickel doesn’t corrode as fast. Its clear lacquer finish and 12-inch bell give it excellent projection and volume.
Its .468 bore does an excellent job of creating airflow resistance for a seamless enjoyment when playing the horn. It also offers precise intonation and great control.
Double horns are feared to be complicated, especially by beginners. This Levante horn is an exception as it is much lighter than most and its features are easy to get around.
What we liked: Levante maintains a reasonable price point for this double horn’s top-notch performance and high-end features. It is a pretty solid investment, especially for a beginner or intermediate player. It holds its value superbly over time thanks to its durable nickel silver construction. The sound quality and excellent volume projection makes it a worthy consideration.
What could be better: The fixed bell on the horn could be an issue to some players, especially if they are always on-the-go.
Mendini is one of the best French horn brands. It is famously known as a leading manufacturer of budget-friendly band instruments. The MFH-20 is the ideal portable French horn best suited for the run-and-gun player. It even comes with a pro-deluxe hard case that makes storing and transporting it a breeze.
The horn can blend well into various ensembles owing to its lightweight build and the single F key. It has a volume projection that is out of this world, all thanks to its 12-inch bell. Its solid brass build with clear lacquer finish guarantees you long-lasting performance.
Moreover, the horn has 3 solid rotary valves that make the F-key action incredibly smooth. Most budget horns tend to have a key action that is prone to failure and sticking, but with the 3 valves, the MFH-20 is an exception. It also has a brassy tone and a high airflow resistance, which is quite a surprise for a budget horn.
Another huge plus is the crazy number of accessories the horn comes with. You get a mouthpiece plated in silver, a polishing cloth, a deluxe carrying case, and a pair of gloves. And, as if that’s enough, you get a metronome string tuner.
What we liked: This is hands-down one of the best budget and portable French horns out there. It offers as many features as the premium models at a reasonable price point. It also comes with a ton of accessories that offer you the most enjoyable and comfortable playing experience. With a 1-year warranty back-up, it is hard to beat the MFH-20 as an excellent beginner choice.
What could be better: The horn’s intonation can get sloppy in the highest register.
Our final contender, a pretty fair one, is an unrivaled option when it comes to value for money. It produces brilliant sound thanks to its phenomenal features. It is a prime choice for beginners or students and intermediate players.
The horn has a stunning and durable brass build with a premium finish to last you a lifetime and remains looking fresh for long. Its shiny gold lacquered finish makes it such an irresistible heartthrob.
The horn is much lighter and easier to play than most double horns. It features 3 rotary valves that make key action such a breeze. They also enhance the horn’s responsiveness.
Further, the horn has an impeccable sound projection thanks to its -450 bore and 12-inch bell. It also comes with a myriad of accessories like a polishing cloth, piston oil, white gloves, and a premium case that you can use to store and transport it.
What we liked: Ashthorpe is a popular brand, known and loved for its budget instruments that don’t compromise on quality and convenience. This French horn is no exception with its superior quality build and brilliant sounds. It is a perfect option for student musicians and advanced learners. Quite simply, the horn is an amazing value.
What could be better: Nothing could possibly get better with this horn.
Things to Сonsider
Choosing the best French horn can be one hell of a task for just about anyone, from the enthusiastic novice looking to get his first instrument to the seasoned player who has some knowledge of French horns. This segment has got great pointers to help you make the best-informed choices. You will get to know the different types of French horns and how to choose one.
Types of French horns
There are a couple of things you need to consider before buying a French horn, but first, the different types available:
These are highly preferred by beginners. In fact, they are exclusively used by beginners because they are lighter and less complicated to play than their double-horn counterparts. Their only drawback is accuracy, plus they are not the ideal long-term investment as you would be required to upgrade when your skills advance.
The double horns French horns are more common among advanced learners and professionals. They feature a full horn in F and another in Bb, which are switched by a thumb lever. They are more versatile, costlier, and weightier, thus not popular among young students.
Basically, this is like a double horn with an extra horn, the alto F. it provides a better response in the high registers, which is a desirable trait for professional players. Its weight and relatively steep price tag are a deal-breaker for some players.
Simply put, this is a double-horn that combines the alto F horn and the Bb horn. It offers a greater stability in the upper registers. It is best suited for seasoned players who perform music that focuses on the upper registers and doesn’t seem to care much for the middle and low ranges. Also, it is much lighter and has a friendlier price tag than the triple horns.
Here is a little fun fact; as gorgeous as the wrap of a standard French horn is, it cannot work if you play it while marching. Luckily, someone thought of creating a marching horn. The marching horns have a specialized body design that you can hold straight forward like a trumpet.
How to choose the best French horn
A lot goes into choosing the best French horn, but here are a few crucial aspects you must consider to make the best buy:
The rotor linkage can either be string or mechanical. The rotors are designed to rotate and connect several tubes together. They are connected to the keys either by metal rods (mechanical linkage) or a super-strong string (string linkage).
String linkages have the quietest operation, but they often need replacement when the string breaks. Mechanical linkages are a top preference for many because they don’t require any replacement as much as they can be heard in quieter passages.
Bell throat size
This is the area where you get to place your hand while playing the horn. A small throat gives you an easier time controlling the tone, except the timbre will be less resonant and much thinner. On the other hand, a larger throat will give you a more projected full-bodied sound, but it is a tad difficult to control. Also, French horns with small bell throats tend toward progressively brighter tones, while those with larger throats tend toward warmer sounds. A 12-inch bell diameter like that of Mendini MFH-20 is an ideal bell throat size.
This is the cylindrical tubing of a horn. Most horns have a bore size ranging between .450 and .472. The bore size affects sound projection and resistance to airflow. Essentially, a horn with a large bore size relatively has a large bell throat and vice versa.
Any serious layer can attest that materials make a very significant difference in the sound quality of the horn and its durability. The most common materials used to build French horns include; yellow brass, rose brass, and nickel silver.
Yellow brass is the most popular material. It is pretty tough and can hold up well to regular use. It is associated with medium-dark sounds and a very snappy response. However, when pushed, it can produce bright tones.
Rose brass isn’t the toughest material. It is a bit softer than yellow brass, and therefore, you should be extra careful to avoid dents and all. It produces much darker tones with little flexibility. Its response is also somewhat less-defined.
Nickel silver is the toughest material. Unlike most silver-plated trumpets, nickel silver horns are not plated. They have no silver parts, and their color is from the nickel. Nickel-silver horns create a bright sound, and that’s why they usually have larger bell throats.
There are 2 types of bells: detachable and fixed bells. The detachable bell can be removed by twisting it off the first branch of the horn. It is a popular option because it allows the user to fit the horn into a small carrying bag when moving from one place to another. If you want a highly portable horn, be sure to check it that it has a detachable bell-like the Jupiter JHR1100D.
The more accessories a French horn comes with, the better because you get the best value for your money. Other than enhancing your user experience, you get to save some pocket change that you would have spent on them. The most basic accessories any good French horn should feature include; a carrying case, a mouthpiece, piston oil, polishing cloth, and gloves. Some, like the Mendini MFH-20, even comes with a metronome string tuner.
Lacquer or no lacquer- this is a matter of personal preference and practicality. French horns with no lacquer require more care than their lacquered counterparts. Rumor has it that lacquer dulls the sound, but it is not proven. If you are a student or a professional not keen on sparing a few hours of your time for regular care and maintenance of your beloved French horn, then a lacquered one is a rime option.
It is a musical instrument with an intricately coiled metal tube and a huge flared bell with a mouthpiece on the other end. It has a lower range than trombones and trumpets and is highly preferred for its mellow, slightly less brash sound in the orchestra and symphonic bands.
The prices vary across brands and models, but standard beginner horns range somewhere between 1200 dollars and 3500 dollars. The intermediate or step-up models range between 3500 and 4500 dollars. The pro-level horns, which are played by professionals and advanced learners, cost anything above 4500 dollars.
With all the options available and a lot more to consider, buying a French horn can be the most disconcerting experience ever. That shouldn’t be the case, though, if you take all the hints and pointers on our guide seriously. Better yet, you can escape the whole hassle of going through the options by choosing any of the top-rated products on our list.
In the top spot, we have the Jupiter JHR1100D. It is an all-around choice that befits both the enthusiastic novice and the seasoned player. It’s simply one of the best double French horns out there, with all its professional features. Its detachable bell and reasonable price point make it a favorite among many. Our premium pick is the Conn 8DS. Conn is a respectable brand, and this is one of their brilliant gems that doesn’t compromise on quality and convenience.
Our third choice, the Holton H179, is one of the best nickel silver French horns for professionals out there. Its durability is unquestionable, and its string rotary linkage makes it one of the best French horns for a quiet performance.