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Thread: Super Short Guide to Soviet Horns (and how not to hate them)

  1. #1

    Cool Super Short Guide to Soviet Horns (and how not to hate them)

    I'll keep this first post brief and add more information as it's requested. I have four of these Soviet horns now. Two altos of different sizes, a Tenorhorn, and a Baritone. I know these aren't exactly high quality instruments, but (like most obscure instruments) the real deal killer is the mouthpieces. Original example mouthpieces are horrible and nothing you buy in the US is going to be suitable.

    Also worth reminding you that these are military instruments designed for outdoor use. They are capable of being insanely loud. I have never overblown any of them. I'm quite sure that I would damage my own hearing if I tried. Depending on the time of day, I might also summon the boys in blue.

    From smallest to largest...

    Орфей Eb Alto Horn : ~8" bell, ~.506 bore. They sure look dumb, but the signature Орфей rotor stops are pretty clever. This horn sounds like an alto Conn Euphonium, tbh.

    You need a mouthpiece with 10mm shank. This is pretty typical of European Flugelhorns and alto things. On a Flugelhorn, this wouldn't be much of an issue, but this horn has a rather deep insertion depth, so a normal Alto Horn mouthpiece (9.8mm shank) isn't a good fit. This horn responds better to shallower mouthpieces than its big brother.

    Recommended: Josef Klier 210-2 or PA1D 10mm (or similar options).

    ЗДМИ Eb Alto Horn : ~8.75" bell, ~.511 bore. This is basically an Alto Tuba. Nearly unbearably loud.

    The hardest part of making this horn playable is even finding a mouthpiece to fit. It responds well to large alto mouthpieces. That doesn't mean that you can use your Alto Trombone mouthpiece and call it a day. You need something appropriate with a 10.5mm shank.

    Recommended: Josef Klier PA1B 10.5mm

    КЗРА Bb Tenorhorn : ~9.5" bell, ~.545? bore. This is the long wrap version. The compact wrap version is probably considerably different.

    This horn isn't really all that picky, but it uses a 11.5mm shank mouthpiece. You can use a Bach 381 adapter to achieve this, but it's better to get something proper. Throat size needs to be small. I had a custom mouthpiece made for myself which sounds really good, but I could have gone with a smaller cup and throat.

    Known working: Custom JK Exclusive TH14F-B (5.6mm throat)
    The cup size of this mouthpiece is similar to a Benge 12C. 11.5mm shank mouthpieces tend to look like they hang out a mile. This is the correct fit.

    Орфей Baritone : ~11.25" bell, ~.546" bore. Really large bell for a Baritone, but also small bore. Hateful instrument, this one. Really pitchy, but functional false tones and great sound.

    Now we get into the world of really wacky shank sizes. This horn requires a 12mm shank mouthpiece. This is not Besson medium shank because medium shank is not standard 5% taper. A medium shank will sort of fit, but since you need a small throat, you might as well look for a real solution. Anything over 1/4" throat or having anything even remotely like a v-cup will sound disgusting. Thankfully, combining the two doesn't summon a gate to hell. If you're interested in deafening loud vomit induction, go with the medium shank KELLY 5G.

    Known working: Custom JK Exclusive TH12D (5.6mm throat, 12mm shank)
    Wasn't cheap, but this mouthpiece was my successful attempt to mimic the Schilke 44E4 with appropriate back end. I admit, it's a bit difficult to play up to high concert Bb with this mouthpiece, but the sound is addictive. If you need the range, go with something shallower. The Soviet examples of 12mm mouthpieces that I've seen are really shallow.
    Last edited by notaverygoodname; 02-27-2020 at 03:24 AM.

  2. Wow, this really motivates me to go out and purchase some of these instruments!
    Sterling Virtuoso 1065HGS & Adams E3 Prototype 0.70 Top Sprung valves
    Sterling Virtuoso 1050HGS baritone
    New England Brass Band
    Winchendon Winds/Townsend Military Band

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Hidden Valley, AZ

    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original
    2019 Wessex Tornister

  4. #4
    Snagged another one on my quest to acquire one of everything. It's an absolute gem.

    ЗДМИ Корнет : ~5" bell, ~.433" bore, .436"/.470" tuning slide. Absolutely magnificent instrument. They don't make them like this anymore.

    In Russian, if it's not a труба (Truba/Trumpet) it's a корнет (Cornet). If you look in the old catalogs, they don't bother using a word for Flugelhorn or anything of that sort. You might have seen the Rotary Cornets that come out of Ukraine, but this is not one of those. This is a legit Soprano Horn. It's much smaller than a run-of-the-mill European Flugelhorn, but still possesses a functional first partial! Really great player, despite the absolutely atrocious build quality.

    I managed to snag one with the case and stock mouthpiece, and the mouthpiece isn't garbage (for once). The stock mouthpiece is ~17.1mm cup, cup size and throat approximately the same as JK FL2C, and the shank size is what I'd call "long shank 10mm". Same length as Trumpet shank, but measures 10mm instead of 9.8mm. I don't detect any issues using regular Trumpet or 10mm Flugelhorn mouthpieces, so if you need a mouthpiece, don't spend money on custom work for no reason.

    ЗДМИ Trumpet : ~5" bell, ~.430" bore, single bore valve block and tuning slide. Nothing out of the ordinary for a Rotary Trumpet.

    Pretty good instrument. Would have been better if it didn't sit in customs for almost 90 days. I don't know what to say about the difference between a perinet and rotary, but to say that it feels like any other rotary instrument. I like this much more than I like a normal Bb Trumpet. As all other Soviet instruments, this horn is ridiculously loud and you shouldn't acquire one to use as a practice horn in an apartment.

    Same 10mm shank receiver as the Корнет. Same "don't bother" mentality of it. Use an appropriate mouthpiece type for your own sake. Sounds like a Trumpet, regardless.
    Last edited by notaverygoodname; 08-15-2020 at 04:57 PM. Reason: added Trumpet specs
    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2020
    SW WA, USA
    Any possibility you could add photos? Thanks!

  6. #6
    OK. Finally got the last one that I as looking for.

    ЗДМИ Тенор (Bb Tenorhorn in Kinderform) : ~9.25" bell, ~14mm bore, etc

    As expected, this instrument is very different from the normal ovalform Tenorhorns made in the Ukraine. It's also much bigger than your brain tells you it is. Overall size is only a little bit shorter than the Ukraine model, and the size profile is a little bigger. In fact, it's only marginally smaller than Baritones at the small end of the spectrum, and considerably bigger than any British Baritone Horn. You can expect the same unrivaled power as all of the Russian brass, and a sound that is maybe a little bit harsher than an American Euphonium. In general, this instrument is extremely free-blowing (almost to its detriment) and plays as you might expect a compact Euphonium to play. Good soloist instrument for someone bored with dark tone quality, unless you absolutely require playing squeaky high.

    PROS: Giga power in all available ranges. Loud enough to spend the night in jail. If you like that harsher/punchier sound, you'll love this.
    CONS: 5th partial is really flat. High range not as good as the regular ovalform Tenor. Super free-blowing + open throat mouthpiece requirement = wind vacuum.

    This horn uses the same 11.5mm shank (Bariton Schaft) as the Ukraine Tenor, but the bore profile is not compatible with a "proper" Tenorhorn mouthpiece. Just use a normal Trombone mouthpiece with Bach 381 adapter. Sounds great with JK Exclusive Trombone 12G. Can just about, but not quite, get away with a Euphonium mouthpiece.

    And for the curious, I included an image of all of the 6.5'Eb and 9'Bb instruments side by side. If you're wondering how they stack up to more familiar instruments, the Alto Tuba is pretty much the same size profile as a British Baritone Horn, and the Baritone is larger than all but the most tankiest of Euphoniums.
    From biggest to smallest: Orphej Baritone, KZRA Tenorhorn, ZDMI Tenorhorn, ZDMI Alto Tuba, Orphej Alto Horn

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Hobbyist. Collector. Oval rotary guy. Unpaid shill for Josef Klier mouthpieces.


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