I have attempted, rather than to describe in detail the specifications of each horn, to link where possible this page with the manufacturer’s page for each of the horns. Occasionally the web site will not have separate URL’s for individual pages but will require a search for the specific instruments, sometimes the flugelhorns do not occupy a single page, so one must scroll through other trumpets or cornets to find the flugelhorns. And then there is Yamaha which seems to revise its website completely every twenty minutes and has product URLs with 439 characters, but I’m trying.
Prices and links were last checked and updated in July 2006.
I have limited myself to the pro quality flugel market. A few manufacturers have “standard” or “student” or “intermediate” flugelhorns. These are generally not worth buying. Their value depreciates steeply and immediately; their playability, intonation, and sound are compromised, and they are unsatisfying to own.
A note about pricing: The prices here quoted are those drawn from the web sites of the large volume retail discount music stores such as the Woodwind and the Brasswind, Music 123, andGiardinelli. I have often rounded up to the nearest round number. Prices change often but usually not by all that much. Where there are particular retailers who offer unusually good prices on particular instruments, I have noted it.
The prices on the high volume mass produced horns are likely to be considerably less at these places than at your local music store and I post the mail order price for their relative cost because the alternative–list prices–are even more misleading. There are many reasons to visit, support, and buy from your local store, but because of their more modest volume and higher overhead per unit, it will likely cost you more even if they discount somewhat from list prices. However, your local music store often provides repair services and supports local school or youth music and you may find that the higher price is justified for the intangibles also purchased. And you never know when you may need a favor.
An important note about flugel bore sizes: With the exception of the Yamaha YFH 631G and the Lawler, the flugelhorns below break clearly into one of two camps, those with small bores (e.g., 0.415 inch) and those with larger more trumpet-like bores (0.457 – 0.460 inch). This is a staggering difference considering that trumpets range from medium bores of, say, 0.445 to large bores of about .464, a difference of 0.021, compared to the more than doubled 0.045 difference between large and small bore flugels.
The small bore flugels play quite differently from the larger bored horns and one should really try one of each, if at all possible, to see which group feels the better to you. The large bore horns, though still sounding like flugels, play more like trumpets, which may or may not be a good thing. You already have a trumpet. They have less resistance, take more air easily, and are capable of more volume, though I am not sure how important volume is in a flugelhorn. The smaller bore horns tend to play easily but can get stuffy when pushed and can be easily overblown. They do tend to force you to play the flugel differently and maybe more flugel-like. There is a reason that the most popular instruments are the small bore flugels in the French tradition.
Few folks seem inclined to spend the kind of money (or the kind of trouble) on a flugel that they spend on a trumpet–and for good reason. The consensus, courtesy of Chase Sanborn’s Brass Tactics, seems to be that
The flugel is your friend,
The trumpet is your spouse,
Don’t mix them up or
You may lose your house.
As a result, the market for less expensive pro flugelhorns is probably dominated by Yamaha. They make high quality products that are priced reasonably and benefit from the market saturation of Yamaha dealers (i.e., they are easy to find, try and buy). The YFH 631G, has a 0.433 inch bore, a gold brass bell, and is available in clear lacquer and silver plate. Its introduction (with a rose brass bell) dates back to the days when Yamaha product numbers had only three digits and 6xx meant lacquer and 7xx meant silver plated. The YFH 631G (in lacquer) lists for $1,939, but is priced around $1335 at Brasswind. Yamaha describes the horn as having “a 6 inch gold brass bell [that] produces a soft, mellow tone characteristic of the flugelhorn.” The YFH 631GS (listed on the Yamaha website as discontinued, but also listed as ‘current’–I give up) lists at $2094, but is street priced at around $1455. The silver finish, Yamaha says, “produces a soft, rich tone ideal for subtle musical nuances and expression.” You have to love these descriptions.
The predecessors to these horns, the YFH 631 and YFH 731 (identical horns except the 731 had a yellow, as opposed to red, brass bell and was silver plated) were in Yamaha’s catalog for decades and thousands of these horns are around. They would make good solid used horn buys.
The Yamaha 0.433 bore is a nice compromise between the two more extreme bore sizes and still is restrictive enough that it encourages quiet reflective playing while maintaining enough openness that it doesn’t feel like the air is backing up.
Most of the Yamaha pro model brasses are made in Japan though a couple of models are made in the United States, including the YFH-631G flugelhorn. You can tell what is made in the US by the serial number. If the number has an “A” following it, the horn was made in Grand Rapids. No “A” would indicate it was made in Japan.
The best alternatives to Yamaha at about that same price are from the House of Kanstul, including the Kanstul Chicago 1025 the Kanstul Custom Class 925 with each having a 0.415 bore and 6 inch bell. The CCF 925 has top sprung valves, like a trumpet, and a unique direct airflow design through the valve casings. The Chicago model, another Couesnon copy, has Monel bottom sprung pistons resulting in a little shorter valve casing (a little more compact feeling in your hand) and the traditional staggered valve port design.
The best place I found for Kanstul products is Tulsa Band Instrument Co. The service is first rate and the prices will meet or beat anybody else’s on Kanstul products. List price on the Chicago 1025 is $1950 for lacquer and $2115 in silver; the Tulsa price $1325 in lacquer, with case. List price on the Custom Class 925 is $1920 for lacquer and $2085 in silver; the Tulsa price for lacquer is $1300, with case.
Once upon a time, Kanstul made two F. Besson flugelhorns for Boosey & Hawkes. The small bore Brevette was nearly identical to the Custom Class 925 with the exception of the traditional rather than amato water keys and the more traditional French taper of the tuning bit. Recently Boosey & Hawkes has spun off or at least reorganized its instrument production division and has terminated some of its older contracts, so I don’t know exactly what the status of these horns or F. Besson are today. It is still in the Besson catalog, but I don’t know who makes it. If you can find new old stock or a used one from the 1990s, go for it, they are great horns..
F. Besson still markets a larger (0.460 inch) bore flugel, the F. Besson Meha also previously made by Kanstul, though like the Brevette, its status is uncertain. It remains in the Besson catalog. If large bore flugels are attractive to you, and you can find new old stock or a used one from the 1990s, go for it, like the Brevette, they are solid high quality horns.
F.Besson has recently released a new Laureate Flugel Horn, model FB30FB, with specifications very close to the Brevette, and executed with the design assistance of jazz trumpet virtuoso Marvin Stamm. At this point, I know nothing about the location of its manufacture or its price, so I hesitate to endorce it. If anybody encounters one of these, please let me know what you you think.
The British side of the Besson family includes the 947-2 flugelhorn, popular with the British Brass band folks. These are pretty rare in the United States, but when found they are in the same $1250 – $1350 price range. They are large bore flugels.
Ownership of the F. Besson name has once again changed hands and the website is currently under construction. It’s a wonder they sell a single instrument given the ownership chaos of the last several years.
Getzen, long a maker of large bore flugels, including the 4 valve model, has released a new small bore (0.420) flugel in 2005, the Custom 3895, street priced arount $1400. It is too early to tell or for many to have tried this, but it warrants investigation. Those who have the opportunity to try it and compare it to others, please let me know.
(street priced around $1300 – $1500)
|Kanstul Chicago 1025||yellow brass
|2 spit valves
Bottom sprung valves
Great 3 horn gig bag
Morse taper tuning bit
|Kanstul CCF 925
|3 Amato spit valves
Top sprung valves
Direct air flow design
Third valve slide trigger
French tuning bit
|F. Besson 15BF Brevette||Yellow brass
Lacquer or silver
|3 traditional spit valves
Top sprung valves
Direct air flow design
Third valve slide trigger
|Getzen 3895 Custom||Yellow brass
Lacquer, sillver or gold
|3 Amato spit valves
Third valve trigger
|Yamaha YFH 631G||Gold brass bell
Lacquer or silver
|2 spit valves
Bottom sprung valves
|Besson Sovereign 947-2||Lacquer or silver||3 spit valves
Stainless steel valves
Two valve triggers
|F. Besson 60MF Meha||Yellow brass
Lacquer or silver
|3 traditional spit valves
Top sprung valves
Third valve slide trigger
Flugels that cost more
For more money, there are four extremely popular flugels that are often thought of as among the best available. The Kanstul Signature ZKF 1525, the French made Courtois 154, the Yamaha Bobby Shew YFH 6310Z and the Conn Vintage One. They each have small bores but maintain better intonation and response throughout the horn than some of the less expensive. These are each priced around $1500 and very popular even at that price point. Many feel the cost difference is justified over the more popularly priced models above. These are among the most popular flugels played by professionals and serious amateurs.
The Kanstul Signature ZKF 1525 heavy wall copper bell flugel (0.421 bore) has proven extremely popular since its introduction. The large (6 1/2 inch) soft copper bell and lacquered brass and nickel is a distinctive look and the horn plays very well with its sound often being described as “buttery.” It comes with a third valve slide. The copper bell is easy to dent and some whose use is more rambunctious have had second thoughts. Priced in lacquer at $1675 at Tulsa Band, without case.
Also among the best is the French made Courtois 154 gold brass bell small bore flugel. Made by France’s premiere brass manufacturer, this last of the real French flugels, the quality of the construction will surprise those used to the old Couesnons. The direct flow air passage, the huge 6 3/4 inch bell and very small 0.410 inch bore combine for a feel different from the others. The horn lists for $2550, but can be purchased for around $1500 usually. The addition of a first valve trigger (as well as a third) and you have the model 155. Used Courtois flugels are common, as are the identical looking flugels Courtois made for G. LeBlanc corporation in the 1960s and 1970s when LeBlanc used to import brasswinds from Paris (while never making any). These are great horns to look for on the used market.
The current top of the Yamaha line is the YFH 6310Z, a small bore (0.413 inch) flugelhorn companion to the YTR 6310Z trumpet with design assistance by jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew. Most believe that this is Yamaha’s finest flugel to date and it is clearly a high quality well designed instrument. Of this group is is probably the lightest and clearest sounding of the group. It is a copy of Shew’s personal old Couesnon flugelhorn, with Yamaha engineering and manufacturing quality. It comes standard with a third valve trigger and has a smaller 5 inch bell which Yamaha describes as “a hammered one-piece yellow brass bell [that] produces a slightly more intense tone with a pure, perfectly-balanced tone with quick response and extra presence. The one-piece bell has an axial (lengthwise) seam, making it a continuous extension of the instrument’s material. This results in pure, uniform resonance and superior tone.” It bears a street price of around $1700 in lacquer, $1800 in silver. The former Yamaha top of the line model is the YFH 635T, a copy, I am told, of an older F. Besson small bore flugel. This horn is also a very fine horn, costing new more than the current YFH 6310Z, and remains very popular among professional players. It would also be a great value in the used market.
G.C. Conn, recently merging with Bach/Selmer and under the design guidance of Fred Powell, has reinvigorated the Conn name with the Vintage One flugel. It is a small bore (0.413), with a six inch rose brass bell, and a third valve trigger (with an interesting wooden handeled lever). It is available in some interesting finish options in addition to the usual bright lacquer and bright silver plate: satin lacquer; satin silver plate, with bright trim; and in gold plate. The Vintage One is available in lacquer for $1680 and in silver for $1850. It has become very popular and ranks, at this price point, with the Kanstul Signature and Courtois.
Holton/LeBlanc recently introduced the F357 Arturo Sandoval Model, which appears to be a copy of the heavy wall copper bell Kanstul Signature ZKF 1525 (see above), the same way that the Sandoval LeBlanc T357 trumpet is an obvious copy of Arturo’s Schilke X3. Street priced at about $1629 in lacquer, the flugel appears to be competing directly with the Higher priced Kanstul and Courtois horns and has had initially good reviews as to both sound quality and intonation. However, I’m not sure why you’d buy one if you could by the Kanstul at the same price…
Flugels that cost even more
The small custom trumpet players also make flugelhorns. Loaded with unique design influences and a passion for experimentation, these are the coolest horns. They are made in extremely small quantities and have an incredibly high coolness factor.
In the spring of 2002, Roy Lawler introduced his handmade flugel. I happened to play one and was so taken with it that it became the first new instrument I’ve purchased in 25 years. It has the classic French flugel sound, round, dark, and mellow, but still clear and clean, and it has the intonation and evenness between the registers of good trumpet. It has flawless mechanicals. The only flugel I’ve ever played that I liked as well was the $3500 Taylor, below, but is $1600 less. Roy makes these one at a time, by himself, and there will be a wait as they have excited many buyers like me. The cost ranges from $1950 in raw brass), and up to $2650 in gold plate. Check the website for prices for other finishes, including a brushed lacquered brass, satin gold, and so forth.
At the even higher price points, the recently released small bore (0.423) Callichio flugel that plays as well as their trumpets, and is available in brass or in an amazing all copper. Limited details are available on their web page at this time. Flip Oakes, maker of the extra large bore Wild Thing trumpet, also makes a flugelhorn. Made by Kanstul, with lots of stolen parts from the Kanstul 1525 copper-belled flugel, Flip’s flugel has a yellow brass bell. LIke all Flip’s horns, it is very carefully prepped for sale and quality control is superb. Available in lacquer for $2575.00, silver and gold available.
The uniquely designed large bore Callet Jazz flugel is made for Jerry Callet by Kanstul, with a truly unusual wrap. It is priced at $2500, comes in lacquer only, and, as a result of Callet’s retirement, won’t be available until late 2006.
Also at that price point are the Smith-Watkins flugels, made in England. Click on Products at the top and then the Flugelhorn. I haven’t played one of these, but I am told they play very much in tune and have a tone suitable for British-style brass band, with slotting of pitches and ease of response similar to a high quality trumpet. Although just released, the Eclipse flugelhorn, also made in England, is drawing some attention because of its extremely fine workmanship.
Another unique English flugel is that made by Andy Taylor (click on the flugelhorn button), with design assistance of Eddie Severn. Much heavier than others, similar to Taylor’s trumpets, with a unique lacquered brushed brass finish, it plays very well with some of the same similar projection qualities of the more popular heavy weight horns. The one I recently tested was perhaps the most satisfying and enjoyable flugel I’ve ever played. Aside from the sound, I particularly liked the little cloisonne images of Mickey Mouse on the valve buttons (an extra cost option, I was told). Available in the US for $3500.
There are still a couple of even more exotic European flugels that I have heard about, but have not yet seen or played.
The Spanish company Stomvi regularly makes two flugels, the Elite and the Master. The Master has a screw bell and comes with a brass and sterling silver bell, at $3210.00 The Stomvi Elite flugel–with just one bell permanently attached–is priced at around $1895 in lacquer, $1975 in silver. Stomvi instruments are usually well made and have high quality fit and finish, though they do have some design eccentricities. The most comprehensive dealer of Stomvi instruments is Horn Haven, in Dallas, Texas.
The Swiss craftsman Thomas Inderbinen makes the Wood model Flugelhorn, currently being played by Roy Hargrove and Randy Brecker. Hand made one at a time in raw brass with stainless steel valves, the craftsmanship is said to be peerless as is the intonation. They also have a unique, not to say unusual, look with lots of distinctive design features. The horns are not officially distributed in the United States but can be purchased direct from the company through the web site for $3670 US. Inderbinen also makes, for the same price, the boringly conventional lookingSera flugel.
The Dutch master craftsman Hub Van Laar also makes an excellent flugelhorn, in small handmade batches. They are very popular in Europe and are just now breaking into the US market. Hiswebsite is very interesting.
There remain a class of European rotary valve flugelhorns that are not common in the United States and about which I know next to nothing.
Flugelhorns that cost less, but that you probably don’t want
Getzen makes three valve and four valve Eterna flugelhorns, at generally reasonable prices. They all have large trumpet-like bores. They are rarely played by pros because of their bore size, uneven manufacture, and poor intonation. The 4th value is kind of cool but it changes the way the horn plays and most people don’t think for the better. But Getzen has recently introduced a more traditional small bore flugel, the Custom 3895, as noted above, that may be worth a try.
Speaking of large bore flugels, Benge during its LA and UMI incarnations made 3 models of flugels, cleverly designed with a horizontally adjusted first valve slide and vertical third valve slide for a unique look. If you want an inexpensive large bore flugel, the old Benges are probably the way to go. The Benge #5 with a huge conical bell is still something of a cult horn. It has the most wonderful sound but the intonation is like wrestling a pair of seals (don’t ask me how I know). The #3 doesn’t quite have the sound, but the intonation won’t scare the children either. Generally they sound pretty good, are cheap at this point, and are readily available.
The other Holton flugel in current production, the large bore F601 Artist, though cheap, is undistinguished and cannot be recommended. The King Legend flugel is in the same category. Blessing flugelhorns are not, in my opinion, worth serious consideration.
Although Bach makes a very small bored flugelhorn (priced plenty high at $1800, in silver), like the Bach piccolo trumpet, it is not a popular choice, even by those who love Bach trumpets. TheB & S Challenger II flugel, pretty much a copy of the Bach flugel, was once a bargain (sort of) at $1000, but is now almost as expensive as the Bach flugel at $1700. Duh.
And what I call third world instruments, growing like weeds at places like eBay, made in Eastern Europe, India, Taiwan (except Jupiter), and China, are an even greater waste of money. This includes Amati, Laval, Monique, Winston, Maxtone, etc., and whatever new names they regularly come up with. All of these are simply money wasted.
Flugels that cost less because they are used
The solution for the under $1000 flugel problem is in nearly all instances, a good used pro instrument. Yamaha flugels are regularly found at between $700 and $1100 for sale used.
Other than used Yamaha and Kanstul flugels, used horns which are good choices are the French made Couesnon flugels that established in the 50’s and 60’s the popularity of the flugelhorn as a jazz instrument. Flugels of that vantage point labelled “Triebert” are made by Couesnon and play just as well, if you stumble on one of these. The Couesnons were popular with players of the time because of their nice sound and inexpensive price. They were also notorious for dodgy intonation and somewhat cheesy construction. Today the classic Couesnon flugel is something of a cult horn and their prices are often higher than other used flugelhorns that are made better and play as well. The Couesnon factory burned down a few years ago and the company ceased or greatly decreased operations. However, Couesnon is now again in production, on a much smaller scale, and high quality handmade flugels are again available, at least if you speak French. For more information take a look at this.
As mentioned, older French flugels made by Courtois, LeBlanc (Paris), and sometimes Selmer (Paris) are good buys and often available. The rose brass bell flugel made by the F. E. Olds and Sons, Co in the 1960s and 1970s, is a copy of the Couesnon, but built like a tank. The are often available used at attractive prices. Bullet holes optional.
FINALLY…. although a good used pro horn is usually a much better investment and more satisfying to play than an inexpensive new flugel, the Jupiter 846 series are good Taiwanese copies of the very popular Yamaha YFH 631. They are available in lacquer from Giardinelli, Brasswind and Music 123 for $709. Many feel these to be worth the money in playability and manufacturing quality. The quality of Jupiter horns has been remarked by many to have been greatly improved over the last few years reflecting the recent investment of millions in dollars by Jupiter to upgrade and improve their manufacturing facility and techniques. Correspondent Michael Camilleri, a recent purchaser of the 846R model, notes that the alphabetical pre-fix to the serial numbers of the Jupiter flugels change with each design change. The more recent “D” and “E” horns are clearly after the quality step-up. Beware of horns made before then. The addition of the rose brass bell and the third valve trigger in the 846R raise the price about $150, but he feels it was worth it.
Schilke once made an eccentric flugelhorn but it was laughable and was discontinued.
© 1999 – 2008 by James F. Donaldson
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