Can You Hear the Difference Between a Cheap and Expensive Violin?

August 4, 2017, 3:27 PM ·

Replies (31)

August 4, 2017, 3:50 PM · Sound doesn't always equal price, but you can hear the difference between all violins, pretty much.
August 4, 2017, 4:08 PM · And, who buys the violin? The player! So it is up the player decide what is good or bad for him.
August 4, 2017, 6:26 PM ·
Yes I can. I also can tell the difference between an antique violin that is over priced and a good sounding violin that is a good deal.


August 4, 2017, 6:29 PM · Depends on the set up and the player.
Edited: August 4, 2017, 7:08 PM · They all sound awefull because the recording set up is not good, but the $50 one sounds the worst.
August 4, 2017, 7:09 PM · Thanks for posting that. Nice clear differences between the instruments.
August 4, 2017, 7:22 PM · Now play the expensive one with five different bows ranging in price ranging from a $500 CF and a $50,000 Peccatte and let's compare the difference in sound there too. It is alleged that the difference will be as "night and day."
August 4, 2017, 7:31 PM · again: cheap and expensive are poor variables in violin comparison.
August 4, 2017, 9:08 PM · Whoa 50K for a Peccatte? What a bargoon!

Students often have difficulty moving beyond that boxy, wooly sound of inadequate instruments. But the difference is clear.

August 5, 2017, 7:27 AM · Yes, there is a discernible difference. The difference is largely in resonance and overtones that the $62 instrument lacks. However, the difference between the "expensive" instruments is much more subtle and not easily recognized given the actual recording.
August 5, 2017, 11:28 AM · Let's have a discussion about plonk wine and a fine Pinot Noir. They taste just the same? If yes, the responder has an untrained palette. If cheap VSOs sound like fine violins I would go further... cloth ears, and an untrained mind!

Cheers Carlo

Edited: August 5, 2017, 1:23 PM · I'd be more interested in Rob Landes' impressions.
August 5, 2017, 1:25 PM · The recording setup on this is terrible--a shame, it would have been a pretty good video otherwise.
August 5, 2017, 2:24 PM · The cheapest violin has a "pleasant" sound, but the low melody lacks colour, and the quick high passages have difficulty sounding.

It is a pity that the next violin is so much more expensive. It would have been useful to hear some costing e.g. 1000, 5000, 20000 dollars before jumping over th 100000 range.
From the second violin onwards, the choice will be a matter taste, not price.

August 5, 2017, 5:20 PM · In this price range I definately vote for the Lambo Huracan sound. Sorry. :P
August 5, 2017, 8:08 PM · Oh yeah! Let's see, a cheap Chinese knock off compared to a Guarneri. If you can't tell the difference you better get your ears checked.

And yes, if they compared the Chinese version with a 1 or 2 thousand dollar violin, the difference will be considerable as well.

Price someone spends should depend on intentions and budget.

August 6, 2017, 7:00 AM · It has been show time and again that price is not necessarily an indicative of sound.

Many violinists will prefer modern violins, made by a contemporary maker, over expensive antiques.

This being said, a 100k violin can, in principle, have the same sound of a 10k.

I wouldnt say the same about a 10 and a 1000 usd violin though, simply because the quality of materials

August 6, 2017, 10:45 AM · It's hard for me to hear the difference over my bank account screaming in agony!
Edited: August 6, 2017, 6:45 PM · The set up was wrong. If they really want to know how people really feel about these fiddles, they would have set up the experiment in a double-blind way.

As it is, it is just a cheap advertising trick.

August 7, 2017, 3:32 AM · I think the sound mostly differs based on the bow, string, how kept the instrument is, bridge, position of the sound post, rosin, etc. I agree that it is a advertising trick..
August 7, 2017, 6:50 AM · There is a lot of paper going to waste (or perhaps computer screens) with all this talk. There are just good fiddles and bad fiddles, and a few in between. Get on with learning how to play the damned things and stop dreaming about them!
August 7, 2017, 7:03 AM · I would also say that the video comparing the violins was ridiculous! They went from a $62 violin to a one hundred and thirty thousand dollar instrument in one step. This is just a joke! And why have comparisons to cars which are just so much junk! (And will be worth nothing in 50 years time). And we only heard the D string and E string on each instrument! There must be something in the water in Salt Lake City that screws their sanity!
August 7, 2017, 12:56 PM · To be fair to them, I do agree the one they said had the sizzle did indeed; it sounded the best and had a great depth to the sound. Wish they had played the Guarneri too, though.
August 7, 2017, 2:02 PM · Granted, there is a lot between $62 and $30,000. The longer you play the violin and the more you begin to do with it, the more your ear will start discerning the subtle but important differences. I don't think all too many people get the privilege of beginning with a high-end instrument, so most people will trade up over time, as their teacher encourages it or as their own ears start demanding more.
August 8, 2017, 3:26 AM · Life is too short to drink bad wine and playing bad instruments... Of course that what is good and bad will depend on the player's ears and technique.

We know this cake is good and that one is bad because we had many different cakes in our life, so we developed a "reference table" to judge cakes. The same happens with musical instruments, we have to play many many in order to develop a reference table to judge sound, playability, style and craftmanship.

Edited: August 8, 2017, 8:01 AM · I'm no violin expert, but I would venture to guess that violins in the 5-10K range would be much closer.There are some nice sounding violins below that number.

Much of the sound is a moving scale on any violin, all depending on the strings, setup, bow and even the player.

All other considerations aside, this supports one of my prior minor contentions.

If cardboard and plastic can be made to sound this good at this price with 15.00 or 20.00 of that including the cost of the case and accessories, then it isn't such a jump to believe better quality can be had for much much less than 100,000.

I question why they thought it was productive to make the video, unless it was to show that a person can actually get a song out of mass produced cardboard and plastic. If anything it shows the gulf is much too wide IMHO.

Two guys with too much time, a video camera, one very inexpensive violin and a handful of nice violins ;)

I would be afraid to sneeze holding a 100.000 dollar violin.

Whenever someone talks about violins in those ranges you might as well tell me about the abominable snowman instead. IOW It's outside of my reality.And c'mon, we know I'm not in the minority.

Lyndon, I'm sure the 62.00 violin would have been a hit with a better recording :O)

August 8, 2017, 9:28 AM · "I would be afraid to sneeze holding a 100,000 dollar violin."

Remove the violin from under your chin, and hold it off to one side. ;-)

August 8, 2017, 1:44 PM · @Timothy. Sneezing is not the issue. Just common sense.

I have owned cheaper violins as well as more expensive. I treat them all with the same care. Avoid getting knocks and scratches on the instrument, clean after use, store in a good case, never leave unattended, and pay for good insurance.

I don't get hung up with the $ value but concentrate on the music instead.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: August 9, 2017, 7:12 AM · @David LOL. Just a quirky way of me saying that playing a high end violin would make me concerned. If it's extremely high end, then I would be playing someone else's violin for sure.

@Carlo, A great approach. This is also how I want to go about it.

August 9, 2017, 7:35 AM · Between the storage room acoustics and the terrible way he was auditioning each violin, I couldn't watch the whole thing.

Why was he scraping away furiously on the E string like that? Was he doing his best David Garrett impression? Why couldn't we hear the G and A strings? A simple 2-octave scale would have been better.

September 1, 2017, 11:45 PM · I can tell the difference between a $50 VSO and a $5000 violin, but no way could I pick a $50K from a $100K one.

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