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Personal Review of Strings...

Instruments: There is a lot of talk about strings and what's out there at the moment. Having tried a lot of stuff, this is my personal review.

From Christian Vachon
Posted March 7, 2005 at 05:52 AM

Review of Strings...

Since I have joined this site, I have seen a lot of talk and inquiries about strings. Over the last few years, I have made it a point to try out many if not most brands of strings available on the market and I have always wanted to do a review of strings, and I thought this might be a good and useful avenue. I thought that I would write a personal review based on my experience (and try to maintain some measure of objectivity). For those who may be interested in exploring, this might be a good place to start. Bear in mind that this is based on personal experience and is therefore not definitive by any means.

Everyone knows the categories : plain gut, wound gut, synthetic and steel. Here is the list of what I have tried and my reviews.

PLAIN GUT : There are several companies that make plain gut strings. The top three are Pirastro Chorda, Kürschner and Dlugolecki. I have personally only tried the Kürschner and found them to be excellent strings and the price is great (much less than Chorda or Dlugolecki). The quality is somewhere between the two others. I think that anyone who hopes to understand the classic sound of violinists like Heifetz and Milstein needs to try these. They are excellent strings although pitch stability and durability are an issue for sure.

WOUND GUT : Of these I have tried only the three Pirastro brands. Here is my review.

Pirastro Gold : Comes in only one gauge. The quality control is not as great as Eudoxa and that is immediately evident in both the pitch stability and tone quality. They are good strings, a little brighter than Eudoxa, but too unreliable for me to use. The E seems to be a favorite for Dominant users or Olive or Eudoxa users who want a plain steel Pirastro E.

Eudoxa : The standard before Dominants. Eudoxas are a great string and in my experience the most reliable of the Pirastro wound gut strings. The sound is warm with a huge range of dynamics and colours. The wound E is a little dull. I find that like the violinists from the 50’s and 60’s the Goldbrokat E is a good match as is the Kaplan Golden Spiral. In my opinion the best overall string for orchestral playing.

Olive : At the risk of offending people, I did not like them as much as the Eudoxa, as they are less reliable pitch-wise. They are more powerful and tight than the Eudoxa and will take more bow pressure. Great range of colors and huge range of dynamics. The Gold E is very powerful but whistles a lot and tends to break very easily. I find again that a plain steel E is better. The A is a problem. No matter what gauge it is very unstable pitch-wise. A thinner gauge is better, but the sound cracks. I think that using something else for the A is better, though the D and G are very good. Excellent range of colors in these strings, but very unstable, much more so than the Eudoxa. The best soloist gut core string.

SYNTHETIC : In recent years the market has been flooded with new products claiming to be the next great thing. I am not convinced. Here are my impressions of the strings that I have tried.

Dominant : The first and the standard for synthetic strings. They are the most popular by far. Dominants can sound metallic at first but settle after a day or two. They are meant to reproduce the feel of gut, but without the pitch instability. They are excellent strings and affordable. In my opinion, the E is not as good. The best match seems to be the Jargar Forte E, which reduces the metallic quality of the Dominants making them more « gut-like » while keeping the rest of the qualities intact. Not the longest lasting synthetic but an excellent one.

Infeld : Comes in Red and Blue. The Blue is brighter and more powerful, the Red darker. They were designed as an improvement over Dominants but fail in my opinion. They are longer lasting, but the tension is a killer and there is a loss in range of dynamics and colours over the Dominants.

Vision : I have little experience so far. They seem very thin for synthetic strings. The regular Vision seem similar to Dominants to me, but break in quicker. The Titanium are powerful but harsh and were designed to compete with the Evah Pirazzi. The Titanium E is very thin and expensive and not worth the price as the difference over a steel E is not significant. Reported to have a long life.

Evah Pirazzi : It’s becoming one of the most popular synthetics, and many soloists are switching there from Dominants. Personally, I don’t like them. They are loud with a limited range of colour. I do appreciate the power and edge, and if you are playing concertos it’s great, but otherwise, I find them inflexible. The high tension requires one to press more, and they don’t blend all that well in ensemble. If your instrument needs brightening up or if you are playing a concerto and need power and edge, they are good. The life-span is not that much longer and the price high.

Obligato : The new core type predecessor of Pirazzi in the Pirastro line. They were designed to be longer lasting synthetics, and they have a close to the Eudoxa. They emulate the Eudoxa well, and they are probably the longest lasting synthetics that I have tried. They blend well in ensemble playing. They are more tense than Perlon core strings, but not overly so. The gold E is the best of the two, and the aluminium D seems to work better as well than the Silver D. The draw-back : They lack power and projection. Great for playing in orchestra though.

Tonica : Pirastro’s third and most successful Perlon-core string designed to compete with Dominants. Close to Dominants although darker and less powerful. In my opinion they don’t measure up to the Dominants, and seem to die out quickly. However, they do blend well. The short life span and lack of projection needs to be factored in. However, the price is good.

Aricore and Synoxa : The first answers of Pirastro to Dominants. The Aricore is dark with little edge and kind of dull. There is an Aricore/Eudoxa A designed to go with the Eudoxa, but it’s not all that great a match. The Synoxa is better and brighter. The E is identical to the Pirastro Gold (different color). The A is good and blends well with Gut core strings, especially the Olives, but the D and G aren’t on the same level quality wise.

Corelli Crystal : Dark and warm strings, that can be dull. They take a few days to open up. Very cheap and OK overall. A good budget Perlon-core string and they are not too bright making them good ensemble playing strings.

Corelli Alliance : Recently reformulated into the Alliance Vivace, which is a totally different string. The old Alliance were similar to the Obligato although a little brighter and somewhat less tense. The new ones are much more tense and flat sounding but very good in terms of pitch and clarity of intonation. Personally, I could not get used to the high tension of these strings. The E isn’t as good, but I found that the Goldbrokat E works well.

D’Addario Zyex : With a core made of a material designed to replace gut in tennis rackets, these strings were first promoted as being the best replacement for gut strings. That is not the case. They have the advantage of being quickly tuned and highly pitch stable, probably the most pitch stable synthetic. The draw-backs : The dynamic range is from loud to louder. Also they are extremely tense (I had pains in my hands after only 30 minutes of playing on them). If you want a lound long lasting string that never goes out of tune, that is a good bet.

Larsen : Perlon core strings that are overall excellent. They are more powerful and punchy than Dominants but not as warm. A very good string that is not too tense and that goes well when playing concertos as the sound carries well and they are very stable. The draw-backs : Less range of colour than Dominants and the D and G have a very short life span (no more than 4 weeks with anyone I have met). They are also expensive.

STEEL : I have little experience with these, and will give comments on the few brands that I know.

D’Addario Helicore : Currently the best steel string on the market. Surprisingly warm and very pitch stable. The sound is on the clear side. The range of color is limited but the pitch stability is excellent. They seem ideal for viola, and a lot of violists have switched to them as they bring clarity to that instrument. Long lasting strings.

Piranito and Chromecore : Bright strings that I would recommend for small student instruments. Long lasting and very bright. Better in my opinion the Standard Red Labels that most people use.

Jargar : I have tried only the A and E. In my opinion the Jargar Forte E is probably the best on the market and the best match for Dominants. A favorite of current soloists. I have tried the thin A. Good warm string overall. Blends well with gut or synthetic D and G. Should be used with a fine tuner.

E strings : Why the special category? Because most people use them with other strings. In my personal opinion some E strings work better than others depending on what you use for the G, D and A. The E does affect the overall sound of the instrument as it highlights different overtones for better or for worse. This said, here are some recommendations based on personal experience...

Goldbrokat and Golden Spiral : Similar although the Goldbrokat has more punch and edge. In my experience these two are the best match for gut-core strings and they seems to add some brilliance and edge and are quite flexible strings.

Gold E strings : Various by various companies. Good and brilliant, but they tend to whistle a lot and in my opinion do not have the round sound of steel E’s. However the power can be amazing, especially in high positions.

Westiminster : One of the most powerful E’s out there. Favoured by many, especially the heavy gauge. In my experience it is a good, but brash string.

Hill : Not as powerful as others but very sweet sounding. I used it with Olives and it seemed to be a good match.

Jargar : Many soloists have switched to this E, especially the heavy gauge. Seems to possess the qualities of the gold and metal E’s without the evils. It doesn’t rust or tarnish, is very round in sound, and powerful but not harsh. My favorite in a set with Dominants and Larsen’s. Really helps to round out the Dominants, making them less metallic and more gut-like.

I hope that this will be helpful to some. Please bear in mind that this is based on personal experience with my instrument (and the experiences with my students), and on my style of playing and bowing. Some may find otherwise. But, I think that overall it’s a good start. I have a few combinations and favorites that I personally prefer. If anyone is interested, please let me know.

Cheers!

From Johnathan Honcerita-Le-Van-Ho
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 07:00 AM
thanks. that certainly cleared things up a lot. im using the zyex strings right now. and i totally agree with you. they are just loud and loud.....thats about it.
From Dominic Hahn
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 07:53 AM
thank you so much for your post.
however, could you compare the Evah Pirazzi and Dominant Strings a little bit? After they acquire their sounds(break in), i hope you could share your thoughts on as to which is more metallic and other characteristics.
Also, have you tried the Universal E string and the Larsen E string?
I currently use an Evah Pirazzi and feels like the Larsen E matches them pretty well.
THanks!
From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 01:16 PM
Hi,

Dominic: The Pirazzi and Dominants are really two different kinds of strings. They have a different type of core and they play differently. I will get to compare/contrast in a second. In my experience here is what I saw. I tried the Pirazzi for a while. They seemed bright and edgy, although they had a lot of brilliance and projected well. I tried them with the Pirazzi E and a Goldbrokat, but didn't notice much difference. Then recently, a student of mine came in with Pirazzi/Goldbrokat thin E and it gave me a chance to try them again. As for Dominants, I went back and forth for years. I tried just about every E with them: their own, the Goldbrokat, Golden Spiral, Pirastro Gold, Hill, Westminster, but somehow it didn't work, so I kept looking for something else. Then a soloist friend of mine suggested trying the Jargar Forte E, so a few months ago I tried it and they were like a new string: warm, flexible, non-metallic and gut-like - I was impressed! I guess that the tension in that E string brings out different qualities from the Dominants and eliminates some of the evils. So far it's the best match in my experience, and with my students. I wouldn't recommend anything else.

This said, here is what I think (comparing here Dominants w/silver D and Jargar Forte E, and Pirazzi w/Goldbrokat E). I would say that the Pirazzi are slightly more stable in terms of pitch. However they are also more tense than the Dominants. I find that the Pirazzi are more metallic and edgy and bright. I also find that they are rather loud and seem to react well to bow pressure and lenght rather than speed and contact point. You can dig in a lot though as they will take tremendous bow pressure (unlike the Obligato for example). The Dominants in the combination that I used seem more flexible and less tense. You can get more colors and do more with bow speed and contact point than with the Pirazzi. You don't need to press with the Dominants, although they will take bow pressure and you can "dig in" if you want. The sound is still powerful (perhaps not as much as the Pirazzi) but darker and more complex to my ear and on my violin. I also find them to be with the Jargar E a better overall string and more adaptable. You can play well as a soloist and in big chamber music, and yet, still blend in orchestra (the Pirazzi seem to stick out more). And one last point, I find it easier to play a long fast light bow on the Dominants than the Pirazzi. Because the Pirazzi are more tense, I find that the bow doesn't adhere and track as well. In the end though, I think that it depends really on your instrument and also on your method of sound production.

As for the Universal E and Larsen E... I haven't tried the Universal E (except for once on a colleague's instrument), so I can't tell you much - I remember it as resembling the Gold Label E somehow. As for the Larsen E (I am assuming you mean the gold E here... - I usually use the Jargar E with the Larsens at a friend suggestion) I liked it (although mine snapped quickly), and remember thinking that it was probably a good gold E: not as bright and warmer than the Pirastro ones. Can't say much about it though since I didn't get the chance to try it much, and quickly had to use the metal E. I have had too many problems with the gold E's (except the Pirazzi) and usually avoid them.

Hope that this helps and answers your questions!

Cheers!

From James Kim
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 03:24 PM
Thanks for an excellent post. I have tried different strings for years, and my experience is that you HAVE to experiment depending on the violin. Whenever I have switched instruments, I found that the prior strings I loved often don't work well. Same with recommending to others-- they need to experiment.

That said, some broad generalizations are in order since buying strings are expensive. If you have an warmer instruments, usually older instruments with lots of overtones, then more brilliant strings are better. Use the guide above, but I like Pirazzi's the most.

If you have a more brilliant instrument, usually modern ones, then something more warm and mellow, such as Obligatos, can provide balance.

If you're unsure and have a limited budget, Dominants work well in most situations.

From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 08:46 PM
I'd just like to add a couple of things. Pirastro also make chrome steel wound variants of their Aricore and Obligato strings. They are a good alternative if you tend to destroy strings with perspiration. Of all the chrome steel strings I've tried Obligato would have to be the warmest, with the chrome Aricore being more silvery, brighter (and seemingly) able to take more bow pressure.

I think my main "issue" with the latest Pirastro Strings is that in comparison to others I have tried like Infeld and Larsen, they are seemingly less responsive. By that I mean I find it is harder to get the tone "to go" than it is with the Thomastic or Larsen strings. This makes it more difficult when for example playing sautille where a very quick string response is extremely helpful.

I currently have Violinos on my D and G. I tried Obligato but they were way too warm on what is already a dark instrument. And I have stayed away from Pirazzi because there have been so many reports here that they go dead very quickly. I would probably like to try a Pirazzi string if I thought I might get a few months out of it, but it sounds like that might be wishful thinking if other people's experience is anything to go by.

I'm wondering if anyone else concurs with these observations or whether this is a characteristic of my instrument (ie that it is more responsive with Thomastic strings than it is Pirastro).

From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 09:41 PM
Hi,

Jonathan: First of all, thanks for the info on the chromesteel Aricore and Obligato. I didn't know that. As for your observation, I concur. Except for the Pirastro gut-core strings, I find the others considerably less responsive that Thomastik or Larsen. Plus, you have to press into the Pirastro to make them sound, and I am not partial to that way of playing. I have tried the Violino. My experience was that they are great for what they were designed (i.e. student instruments), but I have the same problem of responsiveness on my violin.

Cheers!

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 11:28 PM
Greetings,
has anyone tried these new Czech strings whose name I forget, yet?
Cheers,
Buri
From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 7, 2005 at 11:37 PM
Thanks very much Christian! I am quite relieved you concur. Traditionally I have never been much of a Thomastic fan, but this probably goes back to my student days when Eudoxa ruled the market and the very first Dominant formulations were a real rarity and to be truthful did not seem to sound like they do today.

So notwithstanding the actual sound differences, do you believe I would be unlikely to get any response gains from trying Pirazzi over Violino?

I have tried Larsen and they are nice and responsive under the ear but in recordings they come out fuzzy and unfocused compared to Pirastro strings. And I am pretty much forced to use an Aricore chrome A and Universal E since these are the only "non steel core" strings on the market that my perspiration does not wreck.

I was sort of content with my strings but now I am tackling the Telemann Fantasias which are full of delicate off the string strokes in the middle and lower half, the response shortcomings are starting become a bit of a thorn in my side. Just that very slight reluctance for the string to immediately vibrate becomes quite noticable in this sort of repertoire.

From kimberlee dray
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 12:27 AM
I just put on my last set of Correlli Alliance strings yesterday (I got a bunch of them a while ago, but then they changed the string!). I really love this string on my violin, but, as luck would have it--THEY CHANGED THE STRING--ARGH!

Christian, this post was so informative I thank you. Do you have an opinion about which strings I might like now that I will have to change?

From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 02:43 AM
Hi,

Kimberlee: Thanks! Actually, I have not found one string that is quite like the old Corelli Alliance. In terms of feel, the closest is probably the Larsen. In terms of sound, the closest one I found was the Obligato. However neither of them can compare really, as the Larsen is brighter and the Obligato more tense. Sorry for the bad news...

Cheers!

From Dominic Hahn
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 03:55 AM
hi, Im kind of thinking to go back and try dominant strings on my violin. You talked up there about using medium gauge for A,D,G then Forte E Jargar rite?
Then for the D string... do you have experience with both the Silver and regular Aluminum?
if so wut is the difference in sound?
thank you!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 04:51 AM
Christian, that is a very thorough and well thought out review that you wrote, and I thank you for it. I have only one point to add. I live in an area (near Washington DC, US) where the weather varies tremendously from one day to the next. There are frequent changes in both temperature and humidity, and different strings cope to varying degrees with these changes. Most violinists around here use Dominant or Pirastro Tonica strings.
From Alan Wittert
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 05:28 AM
The above discussion has finally convinced me to replace the Home Depot twine I've been using with some real violin strings. Thank you all.
From James Lapihuska
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 05:54 AM
Yes, and make sure they are violin strings and not banjo strings. They really don't sound as good, plus it takes forever to wind them.
From Johnathan Honcerita-Le-Van-Ho
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 06:16 AM
Im using the Zyex strings. They cost me 53 canadian dollars (with a silver d). That was a complete waste of money. I bought them 2 months ago. The sound is still good....but its too loud...and my fingers are developing calluses that hurt way too much. Its such a waste. I dont want to take them off becuase its kinda wasteful...only using them 2 months...but i dont want to keep them on either!
From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 06:30 AM
I might just add a couple more observations on E strings, since some questions were raised about the Larsen E and Pirastro Universal E.

I generally agree with Christian's summation of the Larsen Gold E. I have used three gold type E's in the past (Olive, Obligato and Larsen). Unfortunately it has been so long since I had an Olive E in my posession that I can't remember too much except (i) they were prone to breakage (ii) they felt quite "tough" under the fingers and (iii) sounded quite bright and penetrating. Of the gold E's I have found the Larsen to actually be incredibly warm and almost muted for want of a better word. The tone is extremely soft, so I guess it would suit a bright violin.

The Pirastro Universal E is very good for people with perspiration problems. For me, even after 6 months, the string is just as pristine as the day I put it on (it is coated with chrome steel). As for the physical "feel" of the string, it feels a bit tougher under the fingers than, say the Pirastro Gold or Kaplan Golden Spiral, but it seems a bit thicker too. So it's not like it wants to bite into your fingers. But like all Pirastro strings, it sort of has this tough "feel" about it (and the low tension one is too easily squashed under bow pressure for my style of playing).

My Universal E's always seem to last 6 months, at which point they dutifully break. Same goes for a friend who uses them. Soundwise, I would consider them to be fairly neutral (neither too bright nor too warm). They might be a little overwhelming on factory fiddles though, in which case a gold E would help. The Universal has good volume and a fairly good representation of the overtones. For all that, the main reason I use it is for it's durability. I destroy ordinary steel E strings literally within a matter of hours.

Larsen also make a steel E as an alternative to the gold E. Personally I have found this E to have the best sound of any E on the market. It is powerful and very clear. The only reason I can't use them is because I ruin them from perspiration after a few days.

From Dominic Hahn
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 07:11 AM
Yes i definitely agree. Larsen E steelstring is my top choice as well for a STEEL string. I currently play on Evah Pirazzi with a Larsen steel E string. I used to favor the gold strings' clarity and power, but gradually changed my mind ever since i started to realize that they whistle too much. ever since then i just pondered through almost all sorts of steel E strings on the market.
Evah Pirazzi is bright, somewhat clear, but still whistles too much as a steel string on my violin.
Universal like you said is overall very well balanced. But i am not sure about the long durability you mentioned up there b/c after about a month the Universal string literally whistled on every single chord i started to play. well that could be just in my case.

The recent 'non-whistling' E string from D'addario is truly a non whistling estring. but i thought that lacked some clarity, esply when you get up at a very high position. Also, since it is not pure steel, but winded just like most A,D,G strings, i feel that they tend to have a slower response and projection.

The Gold label Pirastro is overall a good choice although when i compare it to the Larsen Steel E string, it feels like Larsen has more of a 'punch' and clarity at higher positions.

The Eudoxa Steel E, i tried as part of my curiosity. Somewhat bright, but i think it has a tendency to whistle at some occasions.

There's more that i tried, but those are the general thoughts i have on Non gold E strings.

My primary focus for choosing the E string is rite now probably "non whistling", but along with that i also try to find a string that has clarity and projection, even at high positions.

So far i have come to a conclusion of using the Larsen Steel E strings.

They don't whistle as much as other Steel strings, has a clear sweet tone+punch at high positions.
Hope this kinda helps players looking for a good Steel E string.

From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 02:06 PM
Hi,

THANKS EVERYONE for adding on to this list!

Dominic: In response to your above post. I have tried the Silver and regular Dominant D. The Silver D is thinner and somewhat brighter and more focused that the regular D, especially in higher positions. The price difference is small. I have used the Silver D recently, but have ordered a regular one just for kicks.

Jonathan: I will give the Universal E and Larsen E's a try. Have you tried the Jargar (especially the Forte gauge)? Like you I have perspiration problems, and this E does not rust or tarsnish since it is a chromesteel E. I use to burn through Goldbrokat E's like you wouldn't believe in the past (in the summer, 2-3 weeks and that was it - thank god they were cheap). For me, it's the best solution. Plus, it sounds great.

Pauline: Thanks for the info. I used to live in Baltimore and for a while tried to play on Olives there, and you are right: the climate is drastic and it was a disaster! Incidentally, what do you use?

Cheers!

From Carl Fulbrook
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 05:15 PM
I have a question:

Do unused strings (still in their packet) have any kind of expiration date? I have some Dominant strings that are about 7/8 years old (I'd forgotten I had them until recently) and want to know if I can still use them.

Carl.

From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 07:09 PM
Hi Christian,

I used to use the Jarger E's in the early 1980s at the recommendation of my luthier. I remember back then they were more resistant to perspiration damage than, say, the Pirastro Gold, but I think I still only got a couple of weeks out of them.

As you can probably sympathise, as an E string gets tarnished from perspiration damage, it goes dark, gets thicker (is it rust or what?) and perfectly smooth shifts become harder when you are running over the worst of the damaged areas.

Maybe Jarger has changed their formulation in the last 23 years? If it is chromed steel, you are right - it should not be a problem. Do they still use those relatively chunky balls at the end of their strings? I think I might possibly have trouble fitting it to the end of my bois d'harmonie tailpiece.

Carl, I think the main issue with storage life and synthetic strings would be the state of the windings. Both aluminium and silver deteriorate when exposed to the elements, but synthetic materials such as perlon, nylon, kevlar, etc probably wouldn't deteriorate much more than a plastic bag. I guess with silver you could always clean an oxidised string up with Silvo cleaning polish. I've done that before and not suffered any after effects. Not sure about aluminium though. At a guess, I think chrome steel wound synthetic strings (ie Obligato chrome, Aricore chrome, Universal E) would have - for practical purposes - a very long shelf life indeed.

From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 8, 2005 at 07:46 PM
I just thought I should add that Larsen also make a steel A for the violin. I have one on my second violin at the moment. It has the typically high tension and tough feel of a steel core string, but it isn't particularly bright or anything. It is quite nicely balanced. I think anyone substituting it for the standard A would have more trouble getting used to the high tension than they would the sound. It seems to be very durable, but for long lasting A strings my votes still go to the Pirastro Obligato chrome and Aricore chrome. These latter two are nice and soft under the fingers and have much more complexity to the sound than ordinary steel strings.
From John Moir
Posted on March 15, 2005 at 02:27 PM
Thanks to the many people who commented on this thread! What a wealth of information. As an individual who is a:'returning to playing a string instrument after marriage, children,finishing the DMA in Voice (and maybe a mid-life crisis?)' sort of guy, I have forgotten more than I remember about playing violin/viola in jr. high, high school, and college- though the teacher all say it is coming back...

If violinist.com did nothing more than exchange information of a like nature, it is worth its' weight in cyber-neutrons. Thanks - a'recovering violist'

From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 19, 2005 at 10:30 PM
Dear All :

Since my original post, I have revisted many of the strings, using different brands and labels and trying out different combinations on different instruments. Pirastro was helpful in sending strings for me and my class to try and for review. It gave me a chance to formulate my opinions in a more objective way, and get a clearer idea of things. We tried different strings on different instruments, including mine. Here are my personal observations.

Of the Pirastro synthetic, we tried Violino, Obligato and Evah Pirazzi. The Violino worked on only one instrument, which corresponds to what they were designed for. On most instruments they were dull and unresponsive, but on one bright instrument with a hard tone, they warmed it up and took away some of the hardness, thus fulfilling their description well.

The Evah Pirazzi are still not a good string overall in my opinion. Much too tense, with little range of colour or dynamics and they require too much pressure to respond. They are loud and louder. They were a dismal failure on my violin, and two others. However, on one cheap Guarneri model low end fiddle, they seemed to work. I guess the instrument needed the extra tension to respond. But overall, I don’t recommend them, unless you just want loudness and brightness and want to press into the fiddle, which I hope no one wants to do.

As for the Obligato, my initial opinion remains. I have not changed it. It seems to be the best Pirastro attempt at a synthetic string so far, though the lack of power is worth noting.

I have also revisited the Corelli Crystal, as I was short on cash and needed something cheap quickly. It came out better than the Pirazzi, but not that great overall. Problems with tonal distortion.

So, the bottom line: the standards are still the best. For synthetics, the best overall string is still Dominants with a Jargar Forte E (the best E for Dominants). The only other ones that I would use aside from that in my opinion are the Larsen (with a Larsen gold E or Jargar Forte E), as they have some qualities that the Dominants don't have although they aren't as warm. I might on occasion use the Obligato in ensemble, should I need to.

Then, I played again on the Eudoxas and Olivs. Both great strings. Still no comparison in terms of range of colour and dynamics. The only synthetic flexible enough to compare was the Dominants. I had a student play on the Eudoxa and Olives and he loves them. The Olives are brighter and more "soloistic" in the modern way. The Eudoxa are darker and more subdued but still very resonant and rich. The Eudoxa are still more stable than the Olivs, and the ones I got were as stable as I have ever seen gut-core strings be (I think I got lucky). The good old time proven idea of using a Goldbrokat E or Golden Spiral E (both medium gauge) with gut-core strings is the best match.

So, it’s funny that in the end, I found myself going back to the good old standbys. There is a reason why strings hold their reputation for a long time: they are good and stand the test of time.

So my votes are this :

Gut-core : 1- Eudoxa (with Goldbrokat medium E or Golden Spiral medium E)
2- Olivs (with the same choice of E’s)

Synthetics : 1- Dominants (with Jargar Forte E)
2- Larsen (with Jargar Forte E or Larsen Gold E)

In my opinion and most of our trials these seem to be the best overall and most flexible strings for classic violin playing, with the best range of colours and dynamics. Everything else, unless your violin has a particular issue that needs to be dealt with is simply a waste of money.

This was fun. I am sure that many will disagree. Again, I disclaim that this is a personal opinion (or personal opinions) based on a series of comparative tests by a few people, including myself with a few instruments both in the studio and a hall, and in some cases, under battle conditions.

I hope that this helps and can save some time, money and frustrations.

Cheers!

P.S. I did not include plain gut A's and D's which are great, but harder to use and find, and a totally different kind of string. I still think that anyone who wants to understand the sound of people like Heifetz and Milstein needs to try these. But, they are a seperate thing altogether, and I would recommend them only for very advanced players or even professional violinists.

From Frederick Rupert
Posted on March 19, 2005 at 10:56 PM
I read a joke once that "the true test of someone's intelligence is how much he agrees with you." I had that reaction in reading your article. It agrees with my experience.
Regarding Evah Pirazzi's, I tried a set of the medium gauge a year ago and disliked them--they were hard to play and tired me out. I just bought a set of a weich (light) gauge as an experiment. They are still bright and metallic, but more responsive. My experience with Olive's is a little better than yours. I see little difference between the Eudoxa A and the Olive A. The Olive G is a fantastic string--except for the price!!
The Infeld Blues--on my fiddle at least--were intolerably bright and edgy. I left them on the violin and within a month they became dull and were starting to go false, even thought they looked fine. Surprisingly, I like the Infeld Blue plain steel E a lot; it's very sweet sounding and has held up well.
The Obligatos are very nice, especially the Aluminum D and the G. The A to my ears lacks color and the tension seems high. I do wish Pirastro would publish string tensions on their website, as do D'Addario and Thomastik-Infeld.
Nice article!!
From Clare Chu
Posted on March 20, 2005 at 12:21 AM
Christian, thanks for posting your experiences. I think a lot of trying strings and such has to do with our innate curiosity, and the "what if there were something better" syndrome. I too have gone through many string sets (my beginner friend ends up with all my strings and she saves them). I've gone through two sets of Evah Pirazzi and they just didn't seem to have the edge for too long and had the tension to deal with. Since my setup has high action 5mm e string, I actually prefer Vision mediums as they have the same sizzle with less tension. I can't really decide what I like better and it seems to vary with the season. I have Infeld Blues/Gold Larsen e on one violin, and Visions/Thomastik stark e on the other. I have a reserve set of Dominants/Gold Label e that I can always fall back on if I get too strung out on strings. Some of these experimental strings have too much overtones and can cause overtone overload (at least for me). :-)

Thanks for sharing!

From Peter Kent
Posted on March 20, 2005 at 04:14 AM
Thanks much for the string review....rivals the article in STRINGS MAGAZINE a few years ago...without the commercial hype...Bravo !
From Marty Jara
Posted on March 21, 2005 at 07:32 PM
Regarding violin string discussion no mention was made concerning fine tuners. The tail piece on my violin has four fine tuners. I want to replace my strings (Infeld Reds) with Dominants plus Jargar E. Any potential problems with the fine tuners?

Thanks, Marty

From Bill Platt
Posted on March 21, 2005 at 08:54 PM
Hi Christian et al,

This is a very informative and interesting thread. It got me to thinking, especially regarding overtones and color. I wonder to what extent some otherwise seemingly minor technique variations, especially location of the contact patch between string and hair, might affect the results.

As an analogy, if you have ever played or just experimented with guitars, mandolins, or ukuleles etc, you will know that where you strum the string has a profound effect on the overtones: strumming at mid-length produces the fundamental with virtually all of the harmonics suppresed; playing toward the saddle increases the harmonics. As you go closer to the saddle, the sound becomes more tinny.

Yet there are more nuances: at certain locations, you will once again accentuate a certain harmonic; e.g. the fith above the fundamental (1.5 time fundamental), the octave, etc.

Now, to the even more interesting part: While what I said above is true for both nylon as well as for steel strings (e.g. classical versus folk) there is a profound difference in the extent to which these rules apply. A nylon string never produces anywhere near the upper harmonics that a steel string will.

In one experiment, I was playing around with open tunings, and I discovered that with the steel string guitar, if I strummed hard, at the location where the peak of the second harmonic would be, it brought out that harmonic (octave) (on the e string in this case) so strongly that it was virtually indistiguishable from placing my finger at the octave location and strumming! The same experiment carried out on a nylon rig brought no where near the level. It was astonishing--I could virtually "octave" a cord merely by strumming it in the right spot/right way.

I suspect that some of these same dynamics apply to the violin. Yet, to what extent does anyone pay attention to the precise location of the contact patch with respect to variations in sound production? (I am just a hack and can't remember if I ever knew this in my youth)?

Regards,

Bill

From Mike Harris
Posted on March 22, 2005 at 03:23 PM
On either instrument the player is always stopping the string, constantly changing the length. The sounding point matters, of course, but one could never relocate the right hand or bow quickly enough to attack at the same relative point for every note.
We all need to find strings we are happy with...but, considering that Heifetz used a pure gut A and Oistrakh used steel (plus a fine tuner on his A), we should only give string selection so much importance, don't you think?
From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 22, 2005 at 09:21 PM
I agree Mike. I think as violinists we are really spoiled for choice nowadays. As I have said here a few times before, back when I was a student it was pretty much Eudoxa or Chrome Steel and that was it. Of course there were other types around, but they weren't readily available. It's funny you mentioned Oistrakh and the steel A, because I was only thinking of that yesterday since I am also trying to find a good steel A (in the name of durability and in seeking particular characteristics). Of course Kogan did the same thing in using the top two steel strings. And Kogan and Oistrakh are amongst my favourite players of all time - it certainly didn't do them any harm. In fact a good quality steel A has certain advantages over synthetics or gut, not only in terms of durability, but also the playing pressure it is able to take without "crushing" - if your technique happens to be biased that way. I am currently trying out a steel Larsen A on my violin. It's the medium gauge and it is really quite tough feeling. But it shows an awful lot of promise in many other respects and I would be curious to try the soft one.

Anyway, in my own opinion once you get into a large concert hall, the actual strings used don't really make that much difference to the audience. I know people here have had contrary experiences, but I don't think I could honestly tell if someone playing in a concert hall 30 or more feet away had changed their strings, although I would be more likely to notice on a recording. Then again, I remember buying a recording of one of my favourite contemporary violinists and swearing he had either changed his bow or strings or both - the sound was so much better - much more clear, focussed and silvery. I wrote to his manager querying this and he replied that the artist hadn't changed anything. So I guess it was just better sound engineering. I think strings make much more difference under the ear and certainly make a significant difference in playing feel. And I might be shot down in flames, but in my opinion, the main difference a listener might hear due to different strings is not so much the innate "sound" of the strings themselves, but the fact that their different characteristics enable to the artist to modify their technique to suit the strings. For example, some will take more pressure, some react more quickly, some are more tolerant of sounding point, etc.

In the end, when I finally figure out what strings I will end up using, my choice will be based on (i) what they "sound" like when I make a test recording (ii) response (iii) physical feel under the fingers and (iv) durability.

From Christian Vachon
Posted on March 23, 2005 at 02:36 AM
Hi,

I am even more involved in strings these days than ever, conducting experiments with my class. Incidentally, the first person to use and advocate the use of the steel A was Carl Flesch. It is clearly audible on the recording of the Bach Double he made with Szigeti in the 1930's. As for Kogan, legend has it he used all steel on all four strings.

Jonathan, I agree with you. I depends on the instrument. Mine reacts violently (really, for real) to different strings. At the moment, I have Obligatos on, and it's crushing the sound.

Steel A's... If you like warm, I would try something like the Helicore. It's the best modern steel string. A little more old-fashioned but warm and quite good is the Jargar thin A. The other steel strings that I have tried, I wouldn't recommend actually. There is also an Eudoxa steel A, which I haven't tried, but heard is very durable.

Bill: I don't know really enough to be able to compare, but violins and guitar are dramatically different instruments. Part has to do with the different string tension and amplifying means of each instruments(bridge height, and soundpost vs. no soundpost).

Cheers to all!

From Jonathan Parle
Posted on March 23, 2005 at 06:20 AM
I'm going to try the "soft" Larsen steel A and I have also ordered a Helicore A to try. The Larsen steel medium A is actually a tremendous string with incredible dynamic range, power and presence, but it is a tad over the top for the Obligato D that I also had lying around and have just put on to test. Maybe the "soft" steel Larsen version will mesh a little better. It's been ages since I looked at any Jargar strings but I have a strong suspicion they still use those rather large brass cylinders at the end of their strings. Those large cylinder ends aren't likely to fit the bios d'harmonie tail pieces unfortunately.
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on April 23, 2005 at 05:57 AM
You don't give justice to Violino. It is an excellent string. Very stable for tuning. Good tone and projection. I put these on my handmade Chinese violin, and they improved the tone quality substantially. Made it sound from a cheap instrument up to a decent instrument. Even my professor was impressed. My violin has now tone and projection, which fills a concert hall well. In fact, the volume is too great for a small study room. Violino is designed for students who have student quality violins. They deliver exactly the sound and performance advertised by Pirastro. I would recommend these to any serious student up to advanced level.
From Christian Vachon
Posted on April 23, 2005 at 02:12 PM
Hi,

Ron, you are right. The Violino do exactly what they were designed for. The only problem is that on non-student instruments the results are inconsistent, and my personal experience with them was not great. However, one of my students has the kind of Chinese violin that you described and he uses those, and I recommended that he stick with those. For those kinds of instruments, they are a great string.

Again, I want to state that my review is personal and based on my personal trials with strings and with my students. They are the result of what we look for in sound.

Cheers!

From Danielle Goatley
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 12:21 PM
Hi

Thanks for the post, it was very informative. However i don't agree with people saying Oliv's go out of tune frequently. I live in Toledo, Ohio were the weather can go from 40 to 80 in two days. Mine very rarly go out of tune.

Thanks

From Christian Vachon
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 12:37 PM
Hi,

Danielle, with the Olivs, experience is variable depending on a lot of factors I am finding out. They are not affected as much by temperature changes, as by fluctuations in humidity. I remember the humdidity as being quite consistent during my couple of trips to Ohio.

Also, the warmth and perspiration of one's hands has a lot to do with it. For example, Heifetz's luthier said that his plain gut A's and D's lasted for a long time because of the fact that he didn't perspire much. Also, as a result, they were quite stable with him. So, I don't know anymore. More than any string, gut strings tend to be a personal experience for everyone.

Glad you liked the review though. Thanks!

Cheers!

From Christina Wilke
Posted on April 24, 2005 at 11:02 PM
I would have to agree with what has been said. I have recently had most of my strings go false so I decided to tryout several different types.
I tried a Larsen E string which did not work well with my violin. However, my violin is a Paul Bailly and already has a lot of power to it and is more bright then many violins, esp. the Italians from around that period (I have found).
I also tried some Evah Pirazzi's. I have gone back and forth between those and Dominants in the last eight months and although I do like the Pirazzi's, they do not last as long as Dominants and I find them, in general, to have less colors than the Dominants.
As a side note, I also believe in mixing up the Dominants with a Pirastro Gold E string- I find the E to be brilliant but not too tinny or metallic. I think it's an excellent comination.
Again, these are just my thoughts- I know many who use other strings and are quite happy.
From Jonathan Parle
Posted on April 25, 2005 at 08:31 AM
Christian,

Just a couple of updates for you and others. I tried the Jarger E but it rusted away after a few days. In this case it wasn't any better than most E's I have tried unfortunately. Larsen apparently don't make a soft gauge steel A for violin (they only make medium), so that really leaves the Jargar and Helicore as the best steel A strings to try in my opinion. The Larsen steel A is so incredibly high in tension that using it is really tiring, even though it does have absolutely enormous reserves of power. If your hand and fingerboard can take the punishment, then by all means try it! I'm currently trying out both the Helicore light gauge A and the Jargar soft A. Both seem to be very good, with the Helicore being brighter in tone but less complex and slightly less warm.

I have recently had great success with the Pirastro Olive E (in both medium and thin gauge). They sound quite unlike any other gold E I have tried. They are very pure, brilliant and clear and so far have lasted a couple of weeks without my perspiration damaging them. They might be a good alternative on a violin that is either "neutral" or leans to the warm side. I found that changing from medium to thin guage on the Olive brought an improvement in response and brilliance and the trade off was very slightly less volume and slightly less warmth.

As for Violinos, I have an update on those as well. As my 6 month old violin has played in more and more, I have found it likes the Violinos less and less. Now the violin is acquiring it's own depth and warmth to the sound, the Violinos are turning out to be too much of a good thing, and are now too soft, warm and fuzzy for the instrument. But when the instrument was new, they were excellent strings. Additionally, other strings are now sounding far better on it than they did before. Now it seems to be a battle between Larsen and Obligato for the D and G strings. I still think Violinos are great strings and definitely worth a try no matter instrument you have. The results could be suprising. I intend to keep using them on my second factory fiddle. Interestingly though, Pirastro tells me that the Violino is constructed to be a very easy to play string in comparision to their Obligato. But I have found the low tension Obligatos are actually easier to play than the Violinos. As Pirastro says, it all depends on the violin and the player's technique.

Back to E strings, and if people are not yet aware, Pirastro are currently bringing out a new E string called Wondertone Solo. It is supposed to be an improved version of the Wondertone (Gold) E. Additionally, I am told it is much more resistant to perspiration than the Wondertone Gold and has improved playing charateristics.

From Michael Molnar
Posted on May 3, 2005 at 08:22 PM
Oh my! I use the standard Dominant string package on my Ling Wang 906 violin and upgraded per Christian's advice to the Silver D and Jarger Forte E. The difference is incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kudos to Christian.

From Christian Vachon
Posted on May 6, 2005 at 11:21 AM
Hi,

Michael: :=) You just made my day and it hasn't even started yet!

Cheers!

From Danny Gee
Posted on May 7, 2005 at 12:11 PM
Have you tried the gold plated dominant E string?

(I find it to bring a lot of ring and color to the rest of the dominants and the tone is very clear but has a lot of power.)

From Adam Wasiel
Posted on May 7, 2005 at 12:18 PM
Bought a set of Evah Pirazzi's today - madest strings, I really like them...
From Carolyn Shields
Posted on May 17, 2005 at 12:16 PM
The information on strings here has been really helpful. I picked up my violin after a LONG time away from it (the most recent package of strings in my case was a Pirastro Gold Label E--with a price of $1.25 marked on it!).

My experience was with wound gut, so I had much to learn about the new strings, none of which had the wonderful sound I remembered. My bow quivered with Larsens and to a lesser extent with Obligatos but has been OK with Dominants. Is this likely a function of the higher tension strings? Is there a site that compares the tension of violin strings? The bow problem could be attributable to the last bow repair and not the strings. The Obligatos gave a tubby sound to my instrument (nineteenth century Del Gesu copy by unknown maker) that it never had before and the gold E whistled, as others have noted. I think I will end up alternating Dominants with Gold label steel E and Eudoxas.

From Pieter Viljoen
Posted on June 5, 2005 at 10:54 PM
I tried my first set of Evahs. Definately more powerful, but lacking the complexity of Dominants. I think I'll stick with dominants and the Jargar Forte.
From Rick Basil
Posted on June 5, 2005 at 11:01 PM
I prefer evahs to dominants on my instrument. With dominants, I have to use more bow pressure on my instrument, and with evahs, the sound is more powerful, reacts more to bow speed, and contact point. But, that's just on my instrument
From Wilhelm Klingenberg
Posted on June 6, 2005 at 12:14 PM
Christian, thank you for your excellent review of the strings ! One question :
Can you order by string pressure the following strings :
Dominant strong
Vision middle
Heliocore light

Is there an absolute measure for string pressure and how big are the differences for different gauges within a given brand ?

Thanks, Wilhelm.

From Allan Speers
Posted on June 7, 2005 at 07:52 PM
This is a great thread, but I have a major problem with the whole thing:

What are you folks basing your decisions on? Are you recording the instruments? Are you listening from 20 feet away while someone ELSE plays your violin?

-Or are you making judgements based on the sound in your left ear?

If the latter, then this could all be a somewhat wasted effort. Well, not a complete waste, as it's great to know how various strings relate to each OTHER, but you get my point.
(CHRISTIAN, I DO APPRECIATE YOUR EXCELLENT POST AND THE CONSIDERABLE TIME AND THOUGHT BEHIND IT.)

I am a recording engineer, and VERY interested in how various strings sound from a short distance away. My experiments to date are insuffient to make any recomendations, however one glaring example of the problem became clear: I wanted to try the Vision titaniums, since they are stable and break in fast. It is important for me to be able to put on a set, and record the same day. -But I read so many reports that they are harsh. Well, yes, they are indeed harsh in the left ear, but from five feet away, that harshness is quite attenuated and they simply cut through the music well. I found this on both my cheap violin, and on a studio pro's very expensive one.

I'm not saying that Vision T's are the best, or whatever. Other strings are certainly warmer, but I am pointing out the problem in auditioning strings. -Same goes for buying a violin, when you get right down to it.

-Just some food for thought.

From Allan Speers
Posted on June 7, 2005 at 07:59 PM
Received an email today from Joe Maj , in which he emphasized the importance of how the e-strings affects the tone of the other strings. (Thanks, Joe.) While this has already been mentioned above, it merits repeating. It's just one more frustrating piece of the puzzle, making accurate comparisons difficult.

On a positive note, I am now hopeful that I may find a replacement e-string that will warm-up the Vision-T's.

More interaction problems:

The same holds for bows: If auditioning expensive bows, the type of strings you have installed could drastically affect which bow you prefer, both regarding tone and feel. One could easily make a "mistake" this way: Assume that you have picked the best bow, for a given violin and strings. You are happy with the resultant tone & feel. However, changing the strings to a brand that sounds / feels worse with that bow might result in SUPERIOR tone / feel with a different bow, superior to what you have now with what you thought was the best available combination.

-and vice-versa.

Try auditioning strings with various bows. Better record the whole thing for future reference, because human aural-memory is not quite what we'd like to believe.

Enough to make you nuts.

Enough to make you switch to bagpipes.
.................... Well, maybe not THAT bad....

From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on June 14, 2005 at 02:42 AM
Hi to all again!

Well, my violin came apart at the seams (literally) caused by the high humid summers and low humid winters here in Shanghai. I was permitted to upgrade (for more $), so now I have what my prof says is good enough for a pro. I'm not a pro, but this violin definitely sounds better.

Anyway, I had to change strings, as the Violinos were getting old, and they are not improted here. So, I went with the Dominants.

I don't see why people rate these strings. They took a full 2 weeks to settle, and it was very frustrating having to retune every 5 minutes. Now, they hold tune better, but they are definitely affected by the higher humidity and warm temperatures here. At first, they sounded thin, but now sound much warmer. The G, D, A strings play and sound well - as Christian writes. The E string is definitely not a good match for sound - thin and harsh. It is wound very thickly, and does not fit into the fine tuner. After 3 weeks of fiddling, I decided to remove the fine tuner, and mount the E string into the tailpiece the same way as the others. This actually improves the sound of the E - sweeter! Tough to tune though, so now I have to search for tuner to fit the E (frustrating).

Overall, I find these strings have good tone and dynamics, but are very finicky. Definitely old technology. The Violinos are much better build quality - truly immune to weather, and perform as advertised. I will try Obligatos next.

On a different topic, I bought a new Carbon Fibre bow, locally made. No more warps! This creates a much mellower sound than the wood one, and s much easier to play. So, people are right about the string/bow combination!

Thanks for reading my 2 bits. Best wishes to all!

From Mike Harris
Posted on June 14, 2005 at 05:32 PM
Is it possible that what you're noticing about the carbon fiber bow is the absence of higher frequencies rather than a greater presence of lower frequencies? If you like that sound, you'll love the obligattos.
From Patty Rutins
Posted on June 14, 2005 at 06:25 PM
When I bought my violin, it had John Pearse strings on it (A, D, and G). It's the first time I've encountered them, but I really like them. They're extremely responsive and have rich, full tone with good dynamic range.

I also tried the Thomastik Vision strings on this fiddle, and found them more powerful but with a harsh edge. Good for solo work, but the Pearse strings are really just velvety to play.

Because I took the strings off and then put them back on (not very carefully), I can't really tell their longevity from this set.

From Ross Christopher
Posted on June 15, 2005 at 02:26 PM
I love the warm velvety sound of the D'Addarrio Helicore Strings! I tour playing Helicore's and I have great response. They feel amazing under your fingers and sound like buttah! Give em' a try if you get the chance.

I know lots of violinists that only change strings either when they break, or every 4-6 months. Strings die out! The great sound of new strings wear away over time and I reccommend changing monthly! I tour about 120 shows each year and I change out my strings every 2 shows. Its a great habit to get in. It's expensive, but it strengthens your art!

-Ross Christopher
www.rosschristopher.com

From Ryan Beauchamp
Posted on June 17, 2005 at 01:21 AM
I do have to agree.. the Corelli Alliance Vivace always do sound a tad flat. It gets so annoying!!!!
From Danielle Goatley
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 06:04 PM
What is a good all round string? Almost everyone where I live Ohio uses Dominants.
From Francis Browne
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 07:16 PM
Of course any answer to this question will be a simplification, but here are a few possible answers. I am assuming that you have tried Dominants (probably for years) and don't like some aspect of them. If you can describe which aspect of Dominants you don't like on your instrument, it might help to recommend something. Myself, on my current instrument, I found dominants to require a lot of pressure, lack subtlety, and have a somewhat metalic, hard sound. I perfer a somewhat darker, deeper sound on my basically bright and very strong instrument. So I have had good luck with:

1) Eudoxas with a goldbrokat E
2) Violinos with Evah Pirazzi Gold E
3) All Evah Pirazzi (with gold E) - these have a _lot_ of power, but can be a bit metallic. Very Soloistic.
4) Vision Titanium (you can save a lot of money by using another E...I think I used goldbrokat with them to good effect). Also very powerful, soloistic strings that I found very similar to Pirazzi.

All of these combinations are excellent all-around strings on my instrument (and probably on a lot of instruments). I am currently using #1, and will probably continue, but all are superb. Violinos are probably the cheapest option, and also by a bit the darkest tone color (and don't be confused by the "student" label or the price...they are superb strings).

Oh, one note (noted elsewhere): if you use Eudoxas, they will respond very differently to bow control than the synthetics. This is neither a bug nor a feature IMHO, just something to be aware of.

PS It can be hard to find most makes of string in stores. I get most of mine from Southwest Strings (www.swstrings.com) online. I've lived in OH, PA, and NY, and very few shops stock Pirastro strings, which I usually prefer.

From Clare Chu
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 07:19 PM
Re: good all around strings

I'm wondering how Visions (regular) are being regarded, now that they've been out a year. Have they replaced Dominants as an all around string, or is the jury still out?

My limited experience is that they last a lot longer than Dominants (had my current ones since January), and at the beginning they sound a little metallic and irritating, but they break in to a wonderful edgier sound. The tension is relatively low compared to Pirazzi's and they allow the sound to flow out rather than having to be pushed out.

I've noticed Visions on sale so I'm wondering whether others have adopted Visions as their default string, or have gone back to Dominants or whatever they had before.

From Rick Basil
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 07:33 PM
How do the infeld blues sound in comparison to the Evah pirazzis, or Vision?
From james doolan
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 07:34 PM
Has anyone tried the Warchal E string that came with June's Strad issue?
From Michael Molnar
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 09:29 PM
You really have to experiment with your violin, bow, and playing style. Some strings may be better than others on any violin, but you must determine which works best for you and your setup.

BTW, try Tonica for a first. They are inexpensive, but very good. Tyr to keep notes as you experiment.

Keep us posted on your findings.

From Peter W
Posted on June 20, 2005 at 10:39 PM
this is a great discussion! i like dominants with jargar e string. gut-core strings take forever to settle in.
From leo knoll
Posted on June 21, 2005 at 06:18 AM
How soon do you recommend before a performance that strings be changed so that they are
"broken in", so to speak ? And what is the general consensus about mixing sets by different companies? Ex.Pirastro with Dominant
Is it good or bad doing this?
P.S. I agree this discussion is very helpful,Im glad other people are sharing there experiences about this topic.
I hope it remains an on going topic for discussion.
From Francis Browne
Posted on June 21, 2005 at 02:28 PM
I haven't tried the Warchal E from the Strad yet (that goldbrokat just keeps on going...it's outlasted 2 sets of other strings so far), but intend to soon. I am curious about their sound - the Karneol set sounds worth experimenting with.

As far as changing strings before a concert, I wouldn't do it less than two weeks before a solo concert, or one week before an orchestra concert if using synthetics, but that's probably a bit conservative. With some synthetics (Evahs set in fairly fast), I imagine you could get away with 3 days in a pinch - but I wouldn't take the risk myself unless the old strings are audibly false, in which case you just weight the two risks, I guess.

From victor zak
Posted on June 22, 2005 at 02:37 PM
Clare: re: Vision (plain) strings

I've mentioned my response to Vision strings in other threads so my apologies if repeating myself here.

Like you, the Visions were surprisingly bright when I first put them on my violin, somewhat metallic and harsh. Apart from that, I was impressed with their resonance, clearness and focus. Great in upper positions. Nearly eliminated the wolf on the G string's C#, making them almost worth it for that reason alone.

After a few days, some of the metallic and harsh sounds settled down, still leaving the clear, strong sound.

Until the Visions, I had tried several brands, finally settling on Dominants. However, I believe I've been sold on Visions for my current instrument. Haven't tried any other strings that come close. I've no idea how general response to Visions are. They're probably a bit bright for general acceptance. They've quite a different character than Dominants and I very much doubt that they'll be a wholesale replacement for them.

Regarding longevity: I'm only on my 2nd set at the moment, the first lasting about 4 months. In the past, it's been the A string that unravels ('D' position on the A string). However, with my first set of Visions, the D string unravelled as it crosses the bridge, perhaps being my fault when installed or not having the bridge lubricated enough, etc. Even 4 months is a reasonable amount of time for a set of strings I suppose.

From Danny Gee
Posted on June 23, 2005 at 03:31 AM
Hi, i had asked this earlier in the post. I was wondering, does anyone has an opinion of the new Dominant Gold E string in medium and heavy gauge?
From Alexandra Soumm
Posted on June 23, 2005 at 10:33 AM
my strings are all different: G string Thomastik Titanium, D string INfeld Blue A string Prim and E string Westminster.
on my violin its the only combination that works !! was hard to find it... :) but now its ok.
From Alan V
Posted on June 24, 2005 at 02:05 AM
Great review and discussion going on here.
Has anyone tried the new pirastro wondertone solo E? It claims to have more warmth, but how about projection/power?
From Willie M
Posted on June 25, 2005 at 03:05 AM
I am not sure if this has been answered yet but: I have a dominant E that squeaks horribly. what would be a good replacement that has a similar feel yet doesnt squeak?
From Thomas McEvilley
Posted on June 25, 2005 at 04:41 AM
I like the Vision strings; they have quicker response than regular Dominants. E string whistling is more due to technic than to the string brand, imo.
From Jackie Jones
Posted on June 25, 2005 at 04:23 PM
I'm planning on changing my strings from what the violin came with - and was thinking of going with Dominants. I'm interested in going with the Jargar E though, they're the strings I used back when I was first learning. But I was wondering what the difference was between the different gauges. I know the forte has been recommended but I'm wondering if the medium would also work with the Dominants.

Thanks in advance.

Jackie

From Preston Hawes
Posted on June 25, 2005 at 08:18 PM
I am surprised by the amount of support for Violino strings. When they first came out I sent for a trial pair along with the survey to send back to the company.

I remember giving them a VERY bad review. They lasted all of two weeks before going false and generally crapping out on me.

I have never given them a second thought. Perhaps I should put them on a different violin and see what I think.

Preston

From Francis Browne
Posted on June 27, 2005 at 06:09 PM
Somebody (Pirastro?) has an E string that's supposed to eliminate squeeks and wolf tones. I've not used it, but I have found that some Es squeek more than others.

(There is definately a technique element, though...when I sqeek, usually either my attack is imprecise or my first finger on my left hand is brushing the [open] E.) It especially gets me on three and four note chords that end on open E, and sometims for those I radically slow down my bow speed before hitting the E, so I use 90% of the bow on the first 3 strings and just hte last bit on the E. This is a pain, though, and isn't always practical.

From florian donderer
Posted on June 28, 2005 at 10:47 PM
Very interesting thread!thanx for all the information!
Where to give all the used strings?At home I have a few hundred used strings which are not good enough to play in concert but would do poor musicschools good.
I remember talking to musicstudents in Cuba after a concert.They showed me their broken violinbows, just taped to last some more years, and told me they couldn't get hold of proper strings.
Any ideas for adresses?
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on July 30, 2005 at 05:02 AM
well, after 4 months the Dominant strings finally crapped out. So, I went to the shops here in Shanghai looking for different strings. Would you believe this - no one carries anything but cheap Chinese steel string and Dominants? So, I was forced to buy the Dominants again. Same troubles as before, except this time the strings were covered with oil (to prevent oxidation in this humidity - so I'm told). BUT, I did manage to get my hands on a used Jargar forte E. Christian is correct! - the Jargar E string does sound much sweeter then the Dom E, and the Jargar does seem to improve the overall tone of the violin. Truly surprising. But the Jargar whistles very easily, so one must have very good technique. Overall, the Dom/Jarg combo seems good for sound, but still too bright for my violin. When I do find the Obligatos, I'll post my results. Thanks for reading my 2 bits.
From Allen Liang
Posted on July 30, 2005 at 04:43 PM
Try the Westminster E... It significantlly improved the overall balance and sound of my violin ; I can really focus on my playing now instead of having to worry about unballanced notes on the E. : ) Not to mention the HUGE and surprisingly BEAUTIFUL sound it produces.
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on August 14, 2005 at 03:41 AM
If recent experience means anything, I conclude the matter of strings is psychological, biased, and subjective. I got my hands on a new set of Obligatos. To me, these sound better than the Dominants on my violin. For fun, I did an experiment with some accomplished players, all of whom play only DOMs. First, I played the DOMs in a chamber hall. The audience agreed the sound was very good. Then I played the OBLs. The audience to a person said the OBLs lack sound. Yet to me, the OBLs produce a much mellower, sweeter, rounder sound than the DOMs, without any loss of volume. So, who to believe?
From Gary Kroll
Posted on August 14, 2005 at 04:44 AM
Ron,
It's probably best for us as violinists to trust what other musicians hear in our tone. One example. My teacher had the use of a strad for several years. At first he didn't like the sound of the instrument. But his colleagues, not realizing he had been loaned a strad, praised his improved tone quality.
From Mike Harris
Posted on August 15, 2005 at 03:20 PM
Is it safe to say, from all this, that there's a tradeoff between power and sensitivity, warmth and brilliance, distinctiveness and blend?
From Tom Holzman
Posted on August 15, 2005 at 03:54 PM
Probably a safe statement concerning trade-offs. When I asked my luthier about strings to make violin sound both warm and brilliant, he responded, "That will cost you about $60,000."
From Mike Harris
Posted on August 29, 2005 at 07:44 PM
Tonica users: on another thread it is mentioned that Aaron Rosand uses the thick or strong gauge...are you guys using middle or strong?
From Christian Vachon
Posted on August 30, 2005 at 11:47 AM
Hello Tom,

Actually, Rosand used the weich gauge of Tonica for a while, but is now on Dominants weich. I think that the middle gauge would be best with these strings since they are not overly responsive and a thick gauge would make them even less so.

Cheers!

From Mike Harris
Posted on August 30, 2005 at 02:17 PM
Christian,

thanks for the info.

ps--know of anyone using a perlon E (there must be a reason dominant makes them)? Also, any more info on steel A's would be appreciated. I have a lot of old European fiddles with very different traits and I'm interested in these two extreme scenarios.

From Donald Mcnaught
Posted on September 17, 2005 at 08:41 AM
I agree that it depends really on the instrument. I prefer the qualities of gut strings but they dont please everyone. Olives are too expensive and eudoxas can be overpowered by orchestral colleagues hammering away at their steel titanium whatevers so I use eudoxa rigid in a slightly thicker guage and then there is all the power you need but still with all the gut qualities. As I live in gloomy U.K. not exactly known for it's temperature extremes(!) I don't really have a stability problem with gut core strings.
From James Franco
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 12:43 AM
Hey! Just as a heads' up, don't try the Vision Titanium strings! My luthier put these on my violin as a gift when I had it in for repairs. They sound exceptional for about the first three weeks; they had a nice clear, powerful, and warm feeling. But after the grace period of a mere three weeks, they sound so incredibly metalic, words cannot discribe my disgust for them. They also loose their polished coating very soon.
So, I am now on the prowl for the next set of strings to try. Anyone have any suggestions. My violin is extremely bright and responsive on the A and E register, but fairly neutral and the G and D. Hope this helps, and thanks.
From Henry Flory
Posted on November 16, 2005 at 11:20 PM
I have a 1948 violin, with a dark and very powerful sound. I have been using Infeld blue, which work quite well, but I was wondering what you all would reccomend. I'm thinking of trying Tonica (rec. by my teacher) titanium vision solo, and oliv. Basically, I'm trying to balance out to a certain degree the dark sound of my violin. response is also a bit of an issue with my violin...sometimes it can be difficult to get a fast response.
From ilya gringolts
Posted on November 17, 2005 at 10:49 AM
So I finally found time to re-string my baroque hybrid with a set of Dlagoleckis...It's been 3 days, and I have to say that at least three out of four have passed the test with flying colors. I haven't given up on a D, but it looks as though it needs a very different touch - it has a sort of velvety tone and takes a bit of pressure when played on by itself. However, when fast string crossings are involved, it doesn't speak very well, and is prone to all the usual plain gut malaise - it's hard not to scratch even with my feather of a bow. That said, it is still a whole different ballgame when compared to Kuerchners or Tonicas...The other three are everything you may desire from your strings - gritty, resonant and durable (E hasn't even started to unwind yet, and it's already been over 3 days:) Last, but not least, they are user-friendly too - no fussing with knots, they have been pre-tied by the maker. Damian proved very helpful too exchanging some very helpful tips with me over email.
IG
From Tim Johannessen
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 11:12 AM
Hi!
I've been playing for about a year now and I guess it's time to change my strings.
Naturally, I do not play in an orchestra or give concerts. I only practice at home. So I would like to have strings that have a warm sound but that are not very loud.
Any advice? I liked what I heard about Dominants, so I was thinking of getting those.
And oh, I practice about an hour a day, if that might be of importance.

Thanx, Tim

From Christian Vachon
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 01:23 PM
Hi,

Ilya - I had missed your post... Thanks! :) I need to find some plain gut that is good for something later this season, so I will give Damian Dlugolecki a call. If you find a solution for the D, please let me know.

Thanks and all my best!

Christian

From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 01:50 PM
Tim -- if you are practicing an hour a day, you probably should be changing your strings every 4-6 months. To find out what will work best for you, go to your luthier. All violins react differently to different strings. S/he can play your instrument and advise you, based on what s/he hears, as to the best string for you to try in search of the tone you want. Dominants might work, but they might not. Obligatos are good for a warm but not too loud sound, but on your violin they might not do the trick. You need to consult your luthier.
From Igor Yuzefovich
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 04:38 PM
Christian! Geez man - you got some time on your hands!!!! Let me know when you are in town - a drink is wayy overdue.

Congrats on the Annapolis gig!

To all: I have been using the Universal E srring for a few months now - courtesy of pirastro - and have been really loving it. I don't think it has whistled once yet, and the tone is powerful - yet sweet.

As for Pirazzi's - I have been using them also - again, courtesy of Pirastro - but have enjoyed them more than Dominants. I think they have more to give than a regular Dominant. In my mind - a Dominant is like a Honda Accord - while the Pirazzi to me is more of a Lexus.

Enjoy!

From Pieter Viljoen
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 07:38 PM
Pirazzi is nice after about one week, and only on certain types of violins.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 08:02 PM
I'll be sad when this thread is archived.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 09:42 PM
Emily -- don't worry. Before long there will be a new thread on strings.
From Ryan Beauchamp
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 10:54 PM
I have been thinking about putting a set of Obligatos on my violin. It's a brand new modern instrument, and I think Obligatos will give it a more deeper resonating sound.... does anyone have any suggestions to breaking in a deep and richer sound on a modern instrument.
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 11:02 PM
I've been thinking about putting strings on my violin.
From Evil Linda
Posted on December 2, 2005 at 11:22 PM
Perhaps you should put hair on your bow first...
From Emily Grossman
Posted on December 3, 2005 at 03:50 AM
Soundpost check!
From Christian Vachon
Posted on December 3, 2005 at 02:24 PM
Hi,

Igor - a beer does sound good. However, for the Annapolis gig, wrong Christian (it's the other one). In any event, you're the one with the ultimate gig! Go dude!

On the subject of strings, I did revisit old favourites in the last few months. First Olivs, which Pirastro sent. Great sound, great range of colour, but the stability is too much of a problem for me. The A is impossible, though I tried a ball end Oliv E for a change which I liked better than the loop end. I returned to Larsen's then with beloved Jargar Forte E. I think that I might use those in the future. On my instrument, they bring a range of colours and focus that no other synthetic can. I am now on my old combo of Dominants w/Jargar Forte E. Still great. More open perhaps then the Larsen, but without as much clarity. I did try briefly the Thomastik Vision (regular ones) and something must have been wrong with the set - it went false, dead false after 9 days, and that during the course of teaching a lesson, after which nothing could be done. I am not inclined to that route again.

Cheers to all as this thread ends! I hope that you all find your string sound!!!!

Christian

From Mike Harris
Posted on December 3, 2005 at 03:18 PM
Cheers to you, Christian...thanks from all of us for sharing the results of your ongoing exhaustive search for the holy grail. It's been quite an education and a lot of fun as well.
From Abraham Artzi
Posted on January 17, 2014 at 07:33 PM
Hi,the review related to violin strings had a significant added value for me.
I use Obligato strings excluding the E (Jargar).
As for the A, the Obligato is not stable/warm enough and a recommendation will be appreciated.
BTW - I play with a puglisi violin 1920
many thanks
From Jim Hastings
Posted on January 17, 2014 at 09:33 PM
I bookmarked this thread several years ago and refer to it from time to time.

About Pirastro Olivs: Based on info in this discussion, and I'm sure in other threads, I have so far avoided Oliv E-A but have done well with D-G -- although these have to be the stiff versions; I won't use regulars. Ditto for Eudoxa D-G -- they have to be the stiff ones.

New strings keep coming on the market periodically, and I'm always curious and open to trying new combos. FWIW, these are what I currently use on three older hand-made fiddles:

1921
E - Westminster Heavy
A - Vision Solo
D - Peter Infeld - Aluminum
G - Peter Infeld**

1883
E - Goldbrokat Medium
A - Wondertone Solo
D - Oliv Stiff
G - Oliv Stiff

1869
E - Goldbrokat Medium
A - Eudoxa
D - Oliv Stiff
G - Eudoxa Stiff
____________________
**Infeld Red G gave better bass response on this instrument -- planning to use it again at next string change.

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