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Thread: Good quality cheap used horn

  1. Good quality cheap used horn

    I'm looking for a cheaper horn to play out with a NOLA/Balkan style brass band. I don't really feel comfortable taking my Willson out. I'm finding the amount of listings on ebay to be overwhelming and was wondering if I could have some guidance on what brands/models/years I should be looking for. I prefer a bell-front design for the type of music I'll be playing, and something <=$500 though I'd be willing to go extra. I know it's a tall order, but my goal here is to find a good quality horn for the cheapest possible price. Cosmetics aren't a huge concern, in fact I kind of like the worn-down look of vintage instruments.

    A few I'm watching include this Holton:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-195.../163895249232?

    And this one (why is it so much cheaper?):
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Holton-185-...QAAOSwCONdcsbB

    This Olds:
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Olds-Ambassador-3-Valve-Baritone-Horn-Ser-208686-with-Detachable-Bell/264656292171?hash=item3d9ebe894b:g:AR4AAOSw4KdeWBB d


    Could anybody let me know if I'm on the right track or looking in all the wrong places? I'm feeling pretty blind out here...Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Of the 3, my favorite is the 3rd one. The other 2 mention mechanical problems with valves and/or slides. You would probably need a gig bag. The missing bell screw is easy to replace - if you aren't fussy about looks a hardware store might help, but these may be laying around some repair shops, too.

    That's my best guess, anyway. There are usually a few horns like this on eBay, and they are usually in similar condition around this price point. Between Olds and Holton I don't see a preference in the used market - condition is more important than brand as long as you are looking at Conn/King/Olds/Holton.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
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  3. Thank you very much! Your insight on condition vs brand is very helpful.

  4. First, I would avoid horn #1. From the description text it is apparent that the seller is not particularly knowledgable about musical instruments. I am implying no dishonesty, but they probably cannot give you a good assessment of the horn’s playability. Of the other two, I would agree with Dave and pick the Olds. The Olds Ambassadors were very stoutly built. There are a lot of them still in use after 40 years of school service. The lack of lacquer is not unexpected. Olds horns used to come with a sheet of paper that said that the lacquer on the horn was to protect it, “Until it gets into your hands.”

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    It's true that there are a lot of the Olds Ambassadors out there. SOME of them are in good condition and playable. But many have been "used, abused, and put up wet" (as my wife has described some old horses). Many were used as school instruments and not maintained well. This often included the failure to oil the valves on anything approaching a normal schedule. So beware of serious valve leaks in any horns of that vintage.

    In full disclosure: Some years ago I bought via Ebay a Martin baritone virtually identical to these Olds horns. 3-valve, removable bell. The finish was worn, as I could see in the picture, but it wasn't dented much. I knew it would require some rehabilitation and was planning on doing that. Alas, when I got it, it was quickly clear that the valves were shot. If you put vasoline on them you could pretty much play a scale a few times. Otherwise not. Rebuilding the valves would have cost me more than the horn was worth and more than I could likely find another used horn that was actually playable. Since I bought it as a "project" horn, I regarded it as no great loss and ultimately donated it as a wall hanger to a local elementary school.

    You can indeed get some of the old horns in good condition that are playable and inexpensive. But how do you tell? And then what do you do if it won't play and you're told that a valve restoration will cost you $500+. Just a thought and a caution.
    Gary Merrill
    Wessex EEb Bass tuba (Denis Wick 3XL)
    Mack Brass Compensating Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J9 euph)
    Amati Oval Euph (DE N106, Euph J, J6 euph)
    1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba, modified Kelly 25
    Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/112 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
    1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)

  6. #6
    Here is another option. It is branded as Elkhart and is silver plated. It looks like the typical American euphonium of that era and was probably made by Buescher as their student line instrument. I had a similar Conn student level horn before I got my 4-valve King and it was a nice instrument. The trim is not as fancy, but the basic design is the same as the more expensive models. Bid is at $125 now. Often you can get these for a very reasonable price if the bidding doesn't go crazy. This has a good-looking case, so that would be an advantage.

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/184212317568

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by davewerden; 03-16-2020 at 11:06 AM.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  7. Thanks for all the help! I moved kind of quickly on the Olds, maybe it was a rash decision but I will have 30 days to play it and return if necessary. That particular seller is a music store and they seem knowledgeable enough, though I could be mistaken. I will be sure to check the valves and slides thoroughly when I get it. The Elkhart looks fantastic too and I've added it to my watch list. I do have a bell-front gig bag so the case is not a necessity, though the hard one would be nice to have. I will post an update when I've received the Olds. Any other suggestions are of course still welcome!

    A bit of background- I'm used to playing my Willson 2900TA which I played through college and I know nothing will compare to that. A little bit concerned that playing a 3-valve horn again will be a bit of an adjustment. I think if I continue playing with this street band I'll eventually consider getting something like a Constellation or a King 2266. Right now I just want something so I can get out playing ASAP without worrying about damaging my nice one.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by mood indigo View Post
    A little bit concerned that playing a 3-valve horn again will be a bit of an adjustment. I think if I continue playing with this street band I'll eventually consider getting something like a Constellation or a King 2266. Right now I just want something so I can get out playing ASAP without worrying about damaging my nice one.
    The suitability of a 3-valve may not be much of a problem, depending on the needs of the music. Using 13 instead of 4 works pretty well for most things, but 123 is really not great if you have an exposed B (C# treble). In the Coast Guard Band we virtually never marched with our Bessons - they were heavy and awkward to hold while on the move. For a while we used 4-valve kings, but they were heavy for long hauls. So we traded them in for 3-valve King Clevelands, which are the "student" line of King. MUCH better for marching and long ceremonies (are there any other kind?), and we had no problems with the 3-valve configuration.

    Quote Originally Posted by mood indigo View Post
    I do have a bell-front gig bag so the case is not a necessity, though the hard one would be nice to have.
    Of course, if your NOLA/Balkan group gets a gig in Europe, you'll want a hard case for the plane! (Gotta think positive, right?)
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
    Facebook: davewerden
    Twitter: davewerden
    Instagram: davewerdeneuphonium

  9. Quote Originally Posted by mood indigo View Post
    Thanks for all the help! I moved kind of quickly on the Olds, maybe it was a rash decision but I will have 30 days to play it and return if necessary. That particular seller is a music store and they seem knowledgeable enough, though I could be mistaken. I will be sure to check the valves and slides thoroughly when I get it. The Elkhart looks fantastic too and I've added it to my watch list. I do have a bell-front gig bag so the case is not a necessity, though the hard one would be nice to have. I will post an update when I've received the Olds. Any other suggestions are of course still welcome!

    A bit of background- I'm used to playing my Willson 2900TA which I played through college and I know nothing will compare to that. A little bit concerned that playing a 3-valve horn again will be a bit of an adjustment. I think if I continue playing with this street band I'll eventually consider getting something like a Constellation or a King 2266. Right now I just want something so I can get out playing ASAP without worrying about damaging my nice one.
    Good luck with your new horn. I'm playing an old Conn right now that I bought from them. The repairs cost much more than the purchase price. There were five leaks including a large hole in the leadpipe covered by silver tape. After repairs I have a nice playing old horn that will get me by until I decide on what will be the next step.
    Last edited by Richard III; 03-16-2020 at 03:10 PM.
    Richard

    1935 Conn 64I Baritone
    Mouthpieces: Too many to list and growing

  10. Dave, you make an excellent point! Thank you for that information Richard. Just curious, when you bought the horn from them was it listed as being in good playing condition and having the valves in good working order?

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