At AMEA in January I saw a new double horn that should be a model that generates some interest out there, the Nirschl D-500 3/4 size double horn. This illustration is linked from their website. It is a compact double horn with an 11 inch bell and string action valves that is very well suited to young hornists.
The horn I first tried had a valve assembly problem, so when the representative for Nirschl was back in the area today he brought one by my office at Arizona State to try again. My first impression was very positive; it is much better than any comparable single F. A good single F retails for toward $1800. This compact double horn retails for example at Woodwind Brasswind for only $1419!
What they have done is make a double horn that is compact and suited well to a young player in late grade school or junior high. It plays much better than any student model single F on the market and is cheaper than most single horns. The instrument is made in China. Over the years I have tried a few Chinese horns, and while this certainly is not a professional quality horn, it looks to be solidly constructed, is much better than the Chinese instruments I first tried roughly 15 years ago, and is certainly worth consideration by band programs and parents of young hornists. I would much rather see young hornists on an instrument of this type than on a single F, they will have a better start.
One of my larger goals is to see more players start on the horn and in particular to see fewer beginners quit. The single F horn is simply hard to play (any teachers that are in doubt, just try playing one sometime) and is also a different instrument than advanced players use. There are good arguments to be made for the use of the single B-flat with young beginners, but it seems to be rarely discussed as an option and is not well understood by band directors. I have more on the relative merits of each in this page, with the overall desire to as quickly as possible transition players over to the double horn. This new compact double horn is a great idea and at a great price point. It can be used with young students to start them on the double horn, thus avoiding the transition and giving them a better start.
One other note, they have put the instrument in an appropriate case for a youngster as well, it looks protective enough but is light and easy to carry. Too many beginners are saddled with a bulky, heavy case and a horn that is bottom of the line and very hard to play. If you are looking for a horn that will give young horn players a better start, check out this horn.