I'm in the market for an upgrade fiddle, with champagne taste and a beer budget. So for the last month or so I've been studying many of the archived posts here and elsewhere, and perusing luthier websites.
I have a respectable but uninspired student instrument (early 20th German factory model). I'd like something sweeter with more range and, hopefully, better projection.
So I'm going to take the plunge, buy myself a ticket to the online instrument lottery (figuratively speaking), and try a Chinese fiddle.
After a month of studying archived posts here and elsewhere, plus perusing Chinese workshop websites, I've narrowed my shops down to four: Yitamusic, Capitalmusic, Old Violin House and Infinite Strings.
My budget is $500-$800. If I go with Yita, I'll see whether I can wait patiently and snag a Master model within my budget in open eBay bidding. (Their Master models generally go for $900-$1300). I understand there is a marked quality difference between "Best (T/M20)" and "Master," so it's worth waiting and saving up.
There is also a mystery story about an extension or offshoot of Yita, Wave Violins, which produced high-end fiddles retailing for $3,000 a few years back, but it appears to be shut down. Occasionally I do see one of their models, the Lakemont, floating around at a price point of about $1500, and I am curious about it. Anyone have any light to shed on that story?
Capitalmusic (brand name CStar) I don't know much about, except that their detailed listings indicate a fair amount knowledge and care about the craft. However, I don't see much about them written independently on the Net. Their eBay feedback indicates a far greater proportion of satisfied customers than Yita...that said, their production is only a fraction of Yita's volume (some 2400 instruments a year as opposed to Yita's 24,000). They don't make such specific grade distinctions between the different levels of quality; they say that each instrument is priced according to the quality of its tone, and their pricier ones are either the ones made from antique woods and/or made by their master luthier. Their prices also range from $160-$1300.
Old Violin House, which is only selling from its website and no longer on eBay, has gotten stellar reviews from some in this group in the past. However, I no longer see violins being offered by Yang Wei, who was their star luthier. He's now in a consultant role, and I don't see any of his work (or any specific individual's, for that matter) offered on the website nor directly on eBay. Their Master level violins from their Opera workshop are $600-$750.
However, an individual is selling their Yang Wei Master Strad copy online for $600, so that is a possibility as well.
Finally, there is Infinite Strings. Their mid-range price point for their Bench Copy level is higher than the Master level for the other three--$850 - $900.
I hear more about Yita than any other brand, but Old Violin House still gets high praise, and the fans of Infinite Strings are INTENSE in their enthusiasm.
Any advice, experience or recommendations you have to share would be greatly appreciated.
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