as you know, I live in Germany, and I'm looking to buy a new double horn this year. I've played on a Hoyer 801, a Geyer-Style double, for the last 8 years. My next horn should last a very long time, and so the price isn't really relevant. Here are some of the experiences I made during testing horns. I should note these are all my opinions and not to be generalized on all horn players.
I began testing in January at my local music store that always has the complete range of Hoyer horns available. The best horns there were a DK121 and a 7801. The store had a few Holtons as well but they were inferior to the Hoyers by far, starting with the positioning of the keys being unergonomic and the playing feel and sound feeling stuffy. The DK121 is a good Geyer-style double with evenness throughout the range, good response and an easy high range. The 7801, a Kruspe-style horn (like an 8D), surprised me with a glorious, warm sound.
I have always considered myself to be a fan of Geyer horns with medium-sized bells, but I was literally blown away by the sound possible with that 7801. Always having found 8D-style horns a bit difficult to center and play high up in the range (g on the staff up to high c), I was positively surprised that the 7801 didn't have any of those flaws.
In Germany, the most popular professional french horn is the Alexander 103, with about 80% of professional orchestra players. Therefore, I've played about ten different 103s over the years, but I didn't really like any of them. Some were quite good, but there always were better horns (for me) around.
Two weeks ago I went to the big music exhibition in Frankfurt, and tried out a lot of horns (my embouchure was absolutely finished at the end of the day). Of the Alexanders, I liked the 403S the best, kind of a Geyer-style horn with the f/b valve in the middle of the back of the horn. The weight distribution in particular was very good. Of the Paxman horns I was disappointed. All three horns, the 20, 23 and 25, felt terrible, like something was stuffed in the horn somewhere. The new 182 model by Dieter Otto was one of the best horns at the show, especially the high range was sensational. The Yamaha horns were quite OK, but I won't pay as much for a Japanese 667V as for a German, hand-build piece of craftsmanship.
The best horns on exhibition, though, were those by Dietmar Dürk (www.duerkhorns.com). The D3, a recreation of the Alexander 103, as well as the Geyer model was very good. The very best horn though was the D8 (yellow brass and nickel silver), a Kruspe-style double. Built like jewellery, enourmous sound, incredibly free-blowing and most importantly, a sensational response in all ranges, all the way up to high c. Even in the "problem zones" of the horn (c on the first line below the staff and downwards to low C), all notes just responded perfectly, centered and controlled with great sound. All in all, the best horn I've ever played.
I didn't yet try out a Schmid (I'll do that in a few weeks), but I can't imagine it to be any better than that Duerk D8. It is expensive (8000€ the way I want it), but I think it's worth the price. You even get a guarantee for 30 years of yearly free service with the horn.
Nice work. This is what buying a horn is about. You play as many as you can and take notes over a period of time. The Durk D8 is a good choice. Onviously you do have to play a schmid or two first to be absolutely sure. Thanks for sharing this little snippet of your experience.
I went to Dürk Horns yesterday and played 7 horns back to back together with my horn teacher. In the end, we agreed on a D3 to be the best one (looks exactly like an Alex 103). What I quickly realized is that you have to have a plan to test the horns. You have to play a series of excerpts that test every aspect of the horn, from high to low and from pp to ff, and you have to play those exactly alike on every horn. Also, you have to write down how the horns feel to play. Finally, after 3 hours of testing, we came to a conclusion. A D3 in yellow brass, unlacquered, with detachable bell (non-hand-hammered) and gold-brass mouthpipe (size 1) was the optimal combination. Now I'm waiting for it to be fully polished and the shipped (4 or 5 days can feel like a LONG time)....