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Our exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of today's best-known violinists, including Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne Akiko Meyers, Maxim Vengerov, and others.


Carbon Composite - Carbon Fiber bows

Instruments: What is the difference between carbon composite and carbon fiber bows?

From LyeYen Tien
Posted April 18, 2008 at 03:00 AM

What is the difference between carbon composite and carbon fiber bows? Is carbon composite a mixture of carbon fiber plus other stuff?

Also, anyone tried the low end carbon fiber bows (up to US200)? Any recommendations? BTW, I am looking at fractional sizes.

Thanks.

From Benjamin K
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 04:27 AM
In general, yes, carbon composite is non-carbon fiber material reinforced with carbon fiber, for more detail check out these two articles ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fiber
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Composite_material

As for CF bows in the range of up to 200 USD, I have tried some but I didn't really like them. Although, I didn't like the wooden bows I tried in that price range either.

Instead I found the CF bows starting at or around 400 USD to be far better value for money and far more desirable. In that price range and even above, I found the CF bows to be of better quality than the wooden ones in the same price range, that is, amongst the ones I tried, so your mileage may vary.

One thing that can be said about CF bows with a fair amount of certainty is that they are more consistent than wooden ones, that is to say one CF bow of the same make/model is pretty much like any other CF bow of the same make/model. With wooden bows there is much greater fluctuation simply because no piece of wood is like another.

As for recommendations, try out the Coda Aspire, I think that is slightly more expensive than 200 USD but I venture to guess it would be worth the extra 75 USD (?) or so. I never tried the Aspire but I use a Coda Conservatory which is one or two models above the Aspire.

From Juda S
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 10:00 AM
Have you tried a hybrid pernambuco bow with carbon fiber core,Benjamin?Does it really have the sound of a pernambuco bow?
From Benjamin K
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 10:49 AM
No Juda, I haven't, so I am unable to comment on those hybrids and how they feel/handle/sound.
From Andrew Victor
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 01:51 PM
Juda S

At one time I tried the the entire line of Finkel "hybrid" bows and bought a Jumeau. I felt the bows were priced fairly, with that priced like a Coda Classic playing about the same way.

The Jumeau and Finkel (silver) had similar sound levels - on my fiddle and the Finkel would have been a better bow, but at the time I could not manage the higher price.

I found the higher priced Finkel hyprids harder to use than the lower priced ones, but it did not take too long to adjust my bow-handling style for each bow.

http://members.aol.com/bowedstrings/violin-bow-review.html

Andy

From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 01:52 PM
Beware of marketing terms. "composite" can mean anything as can "carbon" "graphite" etc.

The devil is in the details. Really, the devil is in the sound. You just have to try it.

From Man Wong
Posted on April 18, 2008 at 09:07 PM
If you're looking for fractional size, maybe check out the Coda Prodigy I guess. I haven't tried it (w/ my kids), but I've seen one or two good comments for it -- and would've probably bought it used (at under $200) for my daughter who recently moved up to 3/4 size, if I didn't miss the bidding on eBay one time.

I have a Coda Aspire violin bow and Coda Conservatory and Classic for viola (and also Coda Classic for cello) -- all bought used (to varying degrees) off eBay. :-) I like my Classic on the viola (as did my teacher) -- haven't played w/ the Conservatory viola one much, but I do notice a diff and prefer the Classic even though I'm still basically just an adult beginner. I don't actually play cello, so can't really comment on the Classic cello bow, :-p but I expect it to be pretty good anyway.

But going back to the Aspire (for violin), which would be closer to your range, well, I only got mine recently -- and it's basically brand new (w/ the warranty sticker still on it, etc). I'm not sure I like it yet -- my teacher thinks it's pretty good for the $. I think I prefer my <$200 Johann Krausch bow from Stringworks on most days when it's not very humid. :-) The JK offers more nuance and flexibilty, but the tone is not as focused and powerful as the Aspire -- I guess the main diff between them is the heftier weight plus stiffer stick of the Aspire.

Currently, my daughter is using an el cheapo 3/4 Presto CF bow (bought from Shar). It's serviceable for her currently playing needs, but it certainly could be a bit stiffer, IMHO -- and definitely not as stiff as I would expect from a "real" CF bow judging from the various Coda's I own. If you want something on the stiffer side, then avoid the basic Presto bow -- not sure how the higher models are.

Hope I helped some w/ what little I know. :-)

_Man_

From LyeYen Tien
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 12:37 AM
Thks Man. I think I'll look at Coda Aspire or Prodigy. Hmm.. good idea to look at ebay for used bows too. Thks again!
From Juda S
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 10:02 AM
Is carbon fiber technology really getting better?
I mean what is the different between a 1999 Coda bow and a 2008 Coda bow?
Or what is the different between a 2004 Luis and Clark violin and a 2008 Luis and Clark violin?
From Benjamin K
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 10:34 AM
I can't comment on the Luis & Clark violins, but as far as the Coda CF bows are concerned, if it is the same model, for example a Coda Classic from 2004 and a Coda Classic from 2008, they should be pretty much the same, as CF bows are fairly consistent.

However, Coda have recently launched a new series of CF bows, the NX, SX and GX line, those are different designs, so if you compare a Coda Classic from 2004 and a Coda SX from 2008, there will be a significant difference. In fact I tried all the NX, SX and GX against the Classic and Conservatory and I liked the latter two better than the new NX/SX/GX line.

From Man Wong
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 12:20 PM
Benjamin,

Can you expand on what you liked better about the older model Coda's? Thanks.

_Man_

From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 02:48 PM
I am so sick and tired of hearing the refrain, "a $200 carbon bow is better than any wood bow up to $2000."

This staetment is a total falsehood.

"Better" how? It is subjective.

A bow constructed of carbon-epoxy composite (which is most of the carbon bows) has totally different physical properties from wood--regardless of the quality of the wood.

They are as different as a wooden organ pipe is from a lead organ pipe.

Carbon bows do not sound the same as wood bows. Period.

From Benjamin K
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 02:57 PM
@ Man

I liked the way the Classic (and also the Conservatory) feels, the handling. I felt more in control of the bow than with any of the NX, SX and GX.

@ Bilbo

"I am so sick and tired of hearing the refrain, "a $200 carbon bow is better than any wood bow up to $2000."
This staetment is a total falsehood."

Where did you read that statement? I cannot see any post here where anybody made any such statement.

From Bilbo Prattle
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 03:32 PM
I've heard that statement or similar at least 10 times in the past year, here or on other lists.
From Benjamin K
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 03:33 PM
that may well be so, but not in this thread
From Juda S
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 03:39 PM
You must be kidding me,Bilbo,I have read a lot of discussion on Violinist.com and rarely do I see that kind of statement.
Many said that a carbon fiber bow handled better than a wooden bow at the same price.
I myself prefer the look of a wooden bow to a carbon fiber bow.However,at 1900$,there is no gold mounted wooden bow.
From Bob Annis
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 06:49 PM
My granddaughter had a Coda 3/4 bow that came with her Doetsch violin. She liked it well enough for me to get her an Otto Musica CF bow when she upgraded to 4/4. (We auditioned about a dozen various CF bows at the time). That bow served her well in various student orchestras, while a good pernambuco might have suffered some abuse. She now has a pair of decent Arcos Brasil pernambucos, which she likes. We keep the CF for backup and outdoor venues.

In addition I bought a Rolland Arpege CF viola bow off ebay for a song. Makes a good backup bow, pulls good tone, but is too soft. So what?

In addition (2) I recently bought one of the Rolland Spiccato adjustable bows, very cheaply, from a local shop (Potter's, $550; they have 2 left, if you're interested). The adjustment mechanism is neat. I got it to use as a trial bow for the various violins I keep finding, figuring that varying the camber of the bow will give me a better idea of the violin's response, and using the same bow for all my testing will eliminate a variable. At least, that's my excuse.

They ain' Tourte, but they ain't bad for the money, and when someone insults my playing I have a weapon at hand to assuage my honor. So watch what you say.

From LyeYen Tien
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 07:36 PM
Bob, your grand daughter is a lucky lady! :)
From Man Wong
Posted on April 20, 2008 at 07:41 PM
Bob,

I like your thinking there. If it were me though, I'd just blame on the bow for being too stiff or too bouncy or whatever. ;-) Of course, if it's carbon fiber, it's harder to blame it on the weather on top. :-p

_Man_

From Andrew Victor
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 02:20 AM
I presume there ARE $1900 gold-mounted wooden bows, since i remember ussing a gold-mounted Scott Cao gold-mounted pernambuco cello bow on a < $1,000 cello. With it the cello was pretty playable, which had not been the case with the $50 wooden bow Scott had originally handed me.

The Berg (synthetic-material) bows are made to look like wood. So much so that one luthier thought it was a fine wooden bow for the few seconds he first examined it. Fine, it should have been, as a $4,100 Berg Deluxe.

I've used a Rolland Spiccato in multiple performances recently (Mendelssohn "Midsummer Night's Dream" , as did the professional sharing the stand. Very effective for handling the spiccato requirements of that music. Other bows I have may sound better, and handle as well, but the have value I do not take into orchestra chairs.

I think the composite bows were strongly hyped and got a good reputation a decade and more ago because at similar prices to previous, low-cost wooden bows, theyu offer great handling advantages. I remember being exposed to some very poor-performing, European-made bows. A $100 Glasser Composite, was a far better bow for spiccato, sautille, saltando than a similarly priced wooden bow.

In my experience, ther sound from a very pricey composite/CF bow is not as good as a comparably priced pernambuco bow. But there are situations in which a CF bow will give you just the sound you want.

On the cello, I have found that my ARCUS Concerto cello bow creates sound that blends better with other instruments in string quartet and piano trio than my Paul M. Siefried, which is, however, a better bow for solo playing.

On violin I find that my pernambuco bows do a better job of creating "rich" tone, but in some halls, especially wooden-walled ones, the ARCUS Concerto violin bow emphasizes more overtones that ring in the hall. Of course, it depends on what violin I use - and i pick that according to the venue and the music. Same as for the bow.

Andy

From Juda S
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 09:52 AM
Do you know any gold mounted hybrid bow for 1900$,Andrew?
The Fusion(hybrid) silver bow of JonPaul is about 1000$ and they do not make gold mounted Fusion.
I'm bound to buy either carbon fiber or hybrid bow because there is no such thing as musical instrument insurance in Viet Nam,damn.
From Andrew Victor
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 02:37 PM
Juda,

I do not know of a gold-mounted hybrid or CF bow at that price. In fact, when one buys a gold-mounted bow one is trusting the maker to have honestly evaluated the bow as being of superior grade, worthy of the gold. In the Finkel line of hybrid bows, as far as I know, only the J.S. Finkel bows are also available with gold mounting, at prices comparable to his wooden sticks - at least $4K and above. I think the wood on the hybrids is as much at risk as in a 100% wooden stick and would not use mine in risky situations.

The added price of gold mounted bows has always been much greater than the added value of the gold metal (even at today's price for gold) and is really due entirely to the quality of the stick.

Andy

From Bob Annis
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 04:11 PM
Juda, if you've determined that youmust go with a CF bow, I strongly suggest you consider one of the remaining Rolland Spiccato bows. The price is the lowest I've ever seen, thr internal adjusting mechanism gives you great latitude in bow stiffness, and they are becoming unavailable as they're no longer being made. It sounds like an ideal bow for your particular circumstances.
From Juda S
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 04:23 PM
I have heard many good thing about Spiccato bow,and that price is amazing,however,I am living in Viet Nam and have to buy it online,and another thing is I have no money right now(used all my money to buy a Luis and Clark violin recently).
JonPaul said that their hybrid bow is more durable than a wooden bow due to its carbon fiber core,Andrew.
From Bob Annis
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 04:50 PM
How are you liking your Luis & Clark? I was tempted to buy one, but didn't have enough $$$.

If you get some money you can order from Potter's. I'm sure they have an 800 number, and a website.

From Robert Courteau
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 08:57 PM
For the initial question: while technically different, "carbon fiber" and "carbon composite", when used to refer to the construction of something like a bow (or bicycle frame, or golf club, or...) is one and the same thing. All of these products are manufactured using fibers ("carbon", "graphite") impregnated with a resin (epoxy most of the time, sometimes polyester). This technique yields a "composite material", in which a plastic resin holds together a fibrous material. You can have composites with glass, carbon, kevlar or whatever fibers, sometimes mixed. What makes the characteristics of the resulting material is the fiber length, fiber orientation, resin used, resin/fiber ratio, etc. Having a wood core also makes the whole thing a "composite material". You could as well have a hollow or foam core.

All this to say: talking about "a carbon bow", or whatever other variation, is about as precise as stating "a wood bow". It tells you about the main material, nothing about its specifics, even less about its quality or performance.

From LyeYen Tien
Posted on April 21, 2008 at 09:24 PM
Thks, Robert for the explanation. It makes much more sense now. Reminds me of the good old chemistry classes.
From Juda S
Posted on April 22, 2008 at 09:45 AM
I love my Luis and Clark,and I think all the owner of Luis and Clark love it.One big plus for Luis and Clark violin is that you won't have to buy insurance.
You should definitely try it out,Bob,by the way,if you take all the screw on the fine-tuner out,the sound will be bigger and warmer.
From LyeYen Tien
Posted on April 25, 2008 at 10:16 PM
Incidentally, has anyone tried the K. Holtz CF bows? Some say it is comparable to Coda at a fraction of the price? The Eastmanstrings website quotes that a famous cellist by the initials of YY-M owns one of those Holtz bows.
From elise stanley
Posted on November 6, 2011 at 12:35 AM
Just to bump this topic; I just came accross one of those carbon fiber bows with a pernambuco core - its Knoll Duett made in germany. The Knoll company makes a full range of wooden bows and has since discontinued this one. I wondred if anyone else here has one and could comment? It seems very responsive and is rather similar in character to my primary bow (an early 1835 german signed bow).