10 Best French Horns. Real Talk.
Posted in Woodwind Instruments | Last Updated on February 21, 2021
Choosing a French Horn from among the myriad of choices can get confusing and frustrating at times, which is why we’ve wrote this review to help our readers through the process. Choosing the right French Horn will depend on your expectations for the instrument, your skill level, and your budget. However, we’ve thought ahead and included options that present a tremendous value to anyone – whether they be just starting out, looking to move to the next level, shopping on a budget, or professionals looking for a top-of-the-line instrument.
Moz - Monel Rotors, GP-642
At an incredibly affordable price, the Moz is a good option for anyone looking to experiment with the French Horn before making the considerable investment that most horns entail. Coming from an unknown manufacturer, you will be taking a big chance in terms of quality. However, the manufacturer does offer returns for the first 30 days, so you’ll want to have the Horn inspected immediately by a qualified technician if you purchase it.
On the bright side, this horn does produce a pleasant tone, and comes with a removable bell which makes storage and transportation much easier. If the mechanics of the instrument don’t fail, then you could end up with an instrument that allows you to progress significantly as a beginning player. The gold lacquer finish makes the Moz quite visually appealing, and will keep your hands from turning green from the brass.
When shopping for double French Horns, anything beneath approximately $3,000 will put you in questionable territory. However, among the Moz’s competition, we found it to be one of the more quality horns, and player satisfaction is much higher with the Moz than with many other rock bottom equivalents.
Yamaha - YHR567
Reliability, quality, and durability come standard with Yamaha instruments. Their YHR567 is no exception, and this horn is a very nice investment for a beginning player. A quality instrument, like this one, will make learning to play much easier and enjoyable for beginners. Coming in right around the benchmark for a reputable French Horn, the YHR567 is pretty affordable compared to many other horns.
A brass body bell gives this horn a bright and crisp tone, and corrosion resistant nickel-silver slides alongside a clear lacquer finish increases its longevity and durability. The fourth rotor (thumb lever) is adjustable which makes playing comfortable for players of all hand sizes including adults and children. With a quick attack, excellent response, a secure high register, and strong projection, the YHR567 is an impressive horn and suitable for large or small ensembles.
This instrument could carry a beginner or new student all the way to the semi-professional level. Professionals will likely need something more specifically tailored to their expectations for the tone and details of the horn. Including a standard hard case and mouthpiece, beginners will definitely be satisfied with this instrument.
Jupiter - JHR1100 (Best for Intermediate Players)
Jupiter have made a name for themselves in recent years through consistently delivering high-quality and dependable instruments. Their JHR1100 model is targeted specifically for intermediates, and includes many professional features.
Featuring a lacquered brass body and rose brass lead pipes, you can be sure the JHR1100 will produce a full and rich tone. The tapered rotary valves and open wrap create a free-blowing and responsive playing experience. The body is specially engineered for pitch accuracy and playability. The JHR1100 produces impressive volume and projection, making it an excellent addition to any ensemble. Boasting a unique wood carrying case, it’s hard not to get excited about this horn.
The JHR1100 is capable of taking students through their collegiate education and up to the professional level. For some players, a drawback would be there isn’t enough difference between their beginner horn and this intermediate one, to justify the investment. A beginner player with a solid instrument might be better off skipping the intermediate option and jumping straight to a professional horn, when the time comes.
Conn - 8DS
A slight variation on the Conn 8D, a very popular French Horn with professionals, the 8DS has all the traditional features of its cousin, the 8D, plus a 12.25” detachable bell and nickel-silver finish. You can expect adept craftsmanship from Conn, and their horns hold their value quite well over time.
Nickel-silver French Horns tend to have darker, warmer sounds than than their brassy and brighter counterparts, and the 8DS is no exception. It’s .468 bore is designed for control and precise intonation. The removable bell makes transporting and storing this horn drastically easier than a fixed-bell-horn. For players who don’t plan on doing much traveling with their horn, the fixed-bell Conn 8D might be the better option, as there is a significant price difference. It has the excellent response you’d expect from a horn of this caliber, and combined with the smooth airflow, you’ll find this horn very enjoyable and comfortable to play.
The 8DS maintains a reasonable price point for its state-of-the-art technology and features, but is a substantial investment. Players will want to be highly committed to their instrument before considering this horn.
Holton - Farkas H179
Deciding between the H179 and the previously reviewed 8DS was hard, as both of these instruments are incredible works of art. Holton is another acclaimed and experienced manufacturer of professional French Horns. Their H179 model is the most popular of their Farkas series, and understandably.
The H179 is fixed-bell, nickel-silver horn with tapered tubing and a wide bell coming together for a heavy, dark, and rich tone. The solid nickel silver gives this horn a very centered tone and excellent response. Tapered rotary valves and a .468 bore make for a smooth playing experience and decreases resistance in the airflow.
Priced competitively with other professional nickel-silver French Horns, the H179 offers a great value. The fixed bell might be a drawback for some players. Beyond the production models we’ve reviewed here today, more expensive custom options exist, but professionals will likely be far along in their careers and have developed very specific styles for a custom horn to be worth considering. For all typical applications, the H179 will excel players’ expectations.
Mendini MFH-20 (Best Budget Single French Horn)
Mendini has managed to make themselves a leading manufacturer of budget band instruments. They offer a 1 year guarantee on the MFH-20, which allows you to relax about many of the typical concerns with buying a budget band instrument. Lightweight and coming in the key of F, the MFH-20 could blend well into many ensembles.
The MFH-20 boasts a solid brass body with clear lacquer finish and 12” bell giving it good projection and volume. Three solid rotary valves make the key action fairly smooth and not prone to failure or sticking that is common across budget instruments. Including a silver plated mouthpiece and deluxe carrying case, this horn is an amazing value.
Although surprisingly centered for a budget horn, the tone is on the brassy side. A .450 bore creates more airflow resistance than its counterparts, and the intonation can get sloppy in the highest register. For a beginning player, the MFH-20 would probably be satisfactory in most, if not all, ways. As players advance, they will undoubtedly begin to want to move to a more expensive instrument.
Band Director’s Choice by French Horn Packs
This is an all in one deal targeted for new students, including a student French Horn in the key of F, custom carrying case, accessories, and an Essential Elements for French Horn book.
The horn itself has a clear lacquer finish, a huge .485 bore, 12” hand hammered bell, tapered valves, and a Geyer style wrap. Between the open bore allowing for very free-blowing airflow, and the thumb ring and pinky saddle, this horn makes for a very comfortable playing experience. This is especially important for beginners, who can easily lose interest in an instrument if it is uncomfortable to play.
The tone this horn produces is bright, but many beginners will not necessarily find it lacking until later in their career when they develop a better ear for the differences. The instructional book it comes with is very useful, and many band directors use Essential Elements for their classes.
At a very affordable price, this horn is a good choice for players who aren’t yet highly committed to their instruments. Players will want to have this horn checked over by an experienced musician or technician for any defects in craftsmanship, so they can be handled promptly if they exist.
Yamaha - YHR 314II
While single French Horns are typically geared more towards beginners, many intermediate players might appreciate this horn. Backed by Yamaha’s 5 year limited warranty, you can rest assured about quality and durability.
Coming in the key of F, this horn offers a fairly rich tone for a brass instrument. It’s specialized wrap decreases airflow resistance and increases comfort. Inner and outer slides are upgraded to nickel-silver making them corrosion resistant. Intermediate players will appreciate the precise intonation this horn offers, especially in the higher registers – you might find many inferior horns lacking in this regard.
Much lighter and less complicated than a double horn, the YRH-314II might be a particularly good choice for a younger player who has shown commitment and already gained basic skills. Complete with a 32C4 Yamaha mouthpiece, ABS carrying case and accessories, this horn is a great value and wise investment for the right player.
Conn - 14D
Another excellent model from Conn, the 14D comes with Conn’s quality warranty and craftsmanship.
The 14D features a yellow brass body and clear epoxy finish. Its tapered valves operate smoothly and seamlessly. This horn has the precise intonation and quick response you’d expect from a Conn horn. The 14D produces a focused and centered tone that many players will find very pleasant. A .468 bore and #2 Conn mouthpiece make this horn free-blowing and easy to play. A 12” bell creates strong projection and powerful reasonable.
The price point is quite low for a French Horn from a reputable and renowned manufacturer, but about the highest that we can recommend considering for a single French Horn, as many players will crave the versatility of a double as they progress.
The 14D also boasts a deluxe hard case for transporting and storing it. Considering the value, this is an excellent investment for any committed player who enjoys the benefits of a single horn.
Roy Benson - RBHR 302
For our final review, we’ve chosen the RBHR302, specifically for the incredible value for a horn of these construction materials. Although Roy Benson is a relatively unknown manufacturer, bringing a horn of this caliber at this price could quickly change that.
The body is made out of a typical brass with a gold-brass lacquer finish. However, with nickel-silver inner and outer slides, and mechanically linked tapered valves, in these regards the RBHR302 compares to much more expensive models.
Including a backpack-styled carrying case, this horn is especially easy to transport, and a good choice for musicians who are frequently on the move. Both beginners or intermediate will appreciate the nice tone and comfortable playing experience this horn offers.
Coming in the most common key for single French Horns, the key of F, you won’t have any trouble finding sheet music that you can play. Professionals and highly committed players might be better off making a more substantial investment, as they might notice the embouchure compensation that is necessary in the higher registers, along with the tone (which might be described as bright, and not too thin but not quite thick or overwhelming full). Overall though, we’re quite impressed with the RBHR302, and its quality materials make it a nice investment that should last for years to come.