27 Sets of Violin Strings Compared

July 3, 2023, 7:25 AM · This is my second round of reviewing strings – the review on the first 12 sets can be found on this earlier blog post. I now added another 15 sets of strings to my YouTube video, in which I (mis)used the first eight bars of Bach’s Sarabande from the second partita for the comparison. The video is linked below, followed by the list with the compared sets. Click on “Watch on YouTube” if you’d like to be able to easily click on the time stamps for each string set. See the bottom of this blog for more on the process of making this video. Below the video, I discuss the 15 newly tested sets, and I also compare them with the 12 sets I had reviewed earlier (those sets are marked with an asterisk *).

Thomastik Dynamo
Thomastik Dominant*
Thomastik Dominant Pro*
Thomastik Infeld Red
Thomastik Vision Titanium Orchestra*
Thomastik Vision Titanium Solo
Thomastik Vision Solo
Thomastik Vision
Thomastik Ti
Thomastik Rondo*
Thomastik Peter Infeld*
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi (green)*
Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold
Pirastro Passione
Pirastro Oliv*
Pirastro Perpetual Cadenza*
Pirastro Obligato*
Pirastro Violino*
Pirastro Tonica
Warchal Karneol
Warchal Amber*
Warchal Timbre
D’Addario Pro Arte
Corelli Crystal
Larsen Original
Larsen Virtuoso
Larsen Tzigane*

I’ll start with the best: I’ve been playing the new Dynamo strings by the company Thomastik (from Austria) for three months now. They are expensive, but I think they are worth every Dollar / Euro / Swiss Franc. They do not sound metallic, plastic, hard, loud, soft, gut-like, or synthetic. For me, they are the most neutral set of strings, adding almost nothing artificial to the sound. If anything, I would call their sound and feeling warm; a sort of warmth that reminds me of the feeling of soft stones like soapstone (steatite).

The only other set in which I observed such a stone-like warmth are the regular Dominant* strings. But in comparison to Dynamos, Dominant strings felt and responded a bit sluggishly and seemed to have a certain twang, probably due to their very low tension. If I remember correctly, Dominant Pro* strings were louder and less focused than the Dynamos, and, well, a bit too dominant for my taste.

I’m sure there are other good strings out there! But I have currently settled on Dynamos, the only set of strings in which I found nothing disturbing so far. I’m still happy about them whenever I pick up my violin, in particular about the G and D. The A is ok as well, and I use them with the Pirastro Gold E. In the first three months, during which I played about one hour per day, the strings lost a bit of their volume, like other strings seem to do as well (which can be good or bad, depending on whether one wants, or needs, loud strings). I then added a new Pirastro Gold E, and this let the Dynamo strings shine somewhat stronger again. For a more detailed discussion on the Dynamos, see my review about them.

One set I wanted to try for its reputation of having a warm character were the Infeld Red. Surprisingly, they seemed to have a relatively hard sound to me. They did not have a metallic component in their sound, but there was a rough, artificial hardness that did not blend well with the other instruments in my lay orchestra and reminded me of the artificial background hardness I described for the Evah Pirazzi in my earlier blog. Fitting this sound character, the Infeld Red E was one of the loudest E strings I have encountered (and very prone to whistling, probably because it is gold plated). They also did not stay well in tune for the six days during which I played them, which I found unusual for a synthetic string.

I was similarly surprised when I tested the Vision Titanium Solo, only this time in a positive way. I had expected a metallic sound character, partly because I had experienced the Vision Titanium Orchestra* as sounding extremely metallic for the first few days; and partly, I guess, because the Titanium Solos have a metallic element in their very name. The Titanium Solos, however, needed almost no time for break-in. They had a warm and full sound right from the start. Like the Dynamos, the Titanium Solos offered great dynamics, allowing to play a smooth pianissimo as well as an impressive fortissimo. Unlike other soloistic strings I tested, they did not seem overly loud to me.

So far, I think the Titanium Solos may be a slightly brighter sounding version of the Dynamos, only they were developed about 17 years earlier and now cost less than half the price of the Dynamos. The Vision Titanium Solos are probably my favorite among the four brands of Thomastik Vision strings, and I’m looking forward to playing them for longer than just four days.

In contrast, I thought that the Vision Solo are not my cup of tea. Like the Vision Titanium Solo and other modern Thomastik strings, they had a very short break-in time: After about one hour, their pitch and sound remained quite stable for the four days that I played them. The first thing I noticed was that unlike the other Thomastik strings (with the exception of the Dynamos), Visions Solos had almost no metal in their sound. Further, my fingertips almost hurt when playing them for a few hours! I thought that the Vision Solos are either thicker or harder than most other sets I have played. I also did not really like their sound when I played string quartet; they were too loud and a bit one-dimensional, not offering the huge dynamic range of the Vision Titanium Solos, Rondos, or Dynamos.

The Vision strings were the least surprising to me: as suggested in the original Thomastik sound chart, they were bright and focused. Further, they were easy to play both in the right and left hand (much easier than Dominants), and they were immediately ready to play, with no perceptible change in sound characteristics within the three days that I played them. I liked them, but their emphasis on high frequencies was too strong more my taste.

The same was true for the Ti strings that seemed like a modern version of Visions to me – too bright for my taste, my ears were ringing because of the high frequencies, so that in my little practice room, I felt the strong desire to play with a mute. Although the Ti sounded very similar to Vision strings, they felt slightly thicker and more solid in the left hand.

Thomastik Rondo* and Peter Infeld* strings were already discussed in my earlier blog; I now have played the Rondos for about six weeks in total. They are great strings, but still have a bit too much emphasis on high frequencies for me. Note that I’m talking of high frequencies rather than “metal”; as I will discuss below, prominent high frequencies (treble) can be a good or a bad thing, depending on personal taste, on the character of a violin, and on whether you are playing in a large hall or a small practice room.

violin strings

I’ll now switch to Pirastro strings (from Germany) and start with comparing their probably two most popular sets: As discussed earlier, I was not a fan of the Evah Pirazzi* (green) because of their, in my ears, somewhat artificial background hardness (they have been on my violin for about six weeks in total). Their sister set Evah Pirazzi Gold still seems to be very popular, at least among ambitious lay musicians. I can see why: they had reduced treble and a striking and addictive bell-like sound for the first couple of days, making pure sounds that were at the same time warm and bright. After a few days, they settled to become some variant of Evah Pirazzi greens with less higher frequencies, but the reduced treble also meant that the Golds did not have the sweet sound that the Evah greens can produce. I only played the Golds for one week, and I did not become a fan of them either.

In comparison to Thomastik Dynamos, the Evah Golds felt somewhat thicker under the left hand; compared with Evah greens, they seemed easier to play (to require less pressure). However, I thought that they offer less dynamics: I could not play as loud, and not as soft, as with the Dynamos (and probably with the Evah greens); with the Evah Golds, I could not easily produce low volume tones that are sweet and beautiful. When playing Bruckner’s string quintet, I thought their sound at lower volumes was simply too hard and unsatisfying. This might change after some time, but given what I’ve read, or heard, about those strings, it might as well not change, at least not for the better.

And here’s another set of strings that many people have grown to love: Passione, which are said to be a hybrid between synthetic strings and gut-core strings – although it is rather unclear what that means, and Pirastro is not explicit about it (as was discussed here). On Pirastro’s website, one could once read “The combination in manufacturing of modern synthetic and traditional gut technology made it possible to retain the sound beauty of gut core strings and to increase significantly the tuning stability and the break-in-time”, but this sentence has in the meantime disappeared from the webpage. In any case, the Passiones really sound, and feel, like a mixture between Pirastro synthetics and gut strings. However, during the two weeks that I played them, this mixture was not what I aim for. I thought the sound was mostly like synthetics and had a similar hardness as I described above for the Evah Pirazzi Gold, especially when playing piano. Apart from the tuning instability, the only thing that reminded me of gut strings was the relatively poor bow response, i.e., I had to work harder to get what I wanted. Maybe all this would change after some more weeks or months of playing. I’ve heard that the Passiones last forever and develop synthetic-like tuning stability within one year, but I simply did not have the patience (nor the passion) to work for more than two weeks with a sound that I did not really find interesting.

In contrast, one day I will certainly go back to play Oliv* strings that have a pure gut core and not only feel but also sound like gut strings. I’m also curious to revisit the Perpetual Cadenza*, mostly for their feeling of exactness for the left hand that I described in my earlier post.

Further, I did not particularly like Obligato* strings, because their mellowness meant less precision to me, nor Violino* strings, because they had the hard background sound of the Evah green, but not their beauty. The Pirastro Tonica strings are the cheapest set I have tested. They sounded pleasant, had good bow response and were relatively loud, but I found the dynamic range was limited; it was not possible for me to go beyond a medium forte, at least not within the four days that I played them.

An alternative to Pirastro Tonicas, at about the same moderate price, might be the Karneol strings produced by the company Warchal (in Slovakia). They have a relatively full sound, but were a bit too direct for me, as though one could hear the material of which the strings are made. The Karneol E string whistled more than any other E string I tested – no wonder Warchal developed their fantastic helix E strings with their warm sound and greatly reduced whistling for other sets. This helix E string is included in the Amber* set, still some of my favorite strings. One reason is that, although they are synthetic strings, I think they come closest to the sound of gut strings – in my view, closer than the gut-synthetic hybrids Passione. The only thing I still don’t like about Ambers is that they sound a bit thin; compared with the Dynamos, they are indeed a lot thinner, sound-wise but also physically.

Warchal Timbre strings are a different beast: a satisfying, full sound, and yes, I thought they developed some gut-like feeling already on the second day of playing. So far, I have only played them for four days, because their soloistic character and pronounced treble were too much for me, playing in my little practice room. When I played them in the orchestra, however, they did not stick out in any way. They might be my favorite set among the bunch of more soloistic strings, combining an emphasis on high frequencies with full-bodied lower frequencies.

We are now briefly leaving Europe, to speak about the only American set that I’ve tested: I was curious about the D’Addario Pro Arte strings, because I’ve read they would offer a warm sound at a moderate price. This is the only set I played for only two days, because … they were stinking. Yes, they sounded warm, mellow and forgiving; they also sounded a bit dull, had a slow bow response, and felt wobbly under the fingers. They came shrink-wrapped in plastic and were tightly rolled up. All four strings smelled like burnt rubber, and the G string smelled the strongest. Sorry, this does not sound very friendly, but I really had to take them off my violin after two days. Maybe I got a set in which something went wrong.

Back to Europe: Corelli Crystal strings (made by Savarez in France) are another relatively inexpensive set with a warm and forgiving sound. They also provided some moderately emphasized high frequencies, and they did all that at a reduced volume, compared with the other tested sets. Again, this might change if one plays them for longer than just three days, but so far, I thought they might be a good choice for people who want to tame the sound of their violin, for example if the violin is too loud or too bright, the practice room too small, or the ears too sensitive. Like some other “cheap” sets, Crystal strings do not offer a wide dynamic spectrum; I could not go beyond a moderate forte.

Last, not least, three sets from Larsen (in Denmark): I played the Larsen Original strings for five days and enjoyed their neutral sound quality without conspicuous high frequencies. I found them more focused than broad and noted that I particularly liked the E string. Again, I thought the Originals had reduced dynamics compared to other sets, and they seemed to be physically thicker than, e.g., Karneols and Dominants. They were relatively hard to play, and bow response was worse than with many other sets.

If you want a kick in your relationship with your violin, try the Virtuoso strings! They are the only strings that I could hardly play without using a mute. They were almost immediately pitch-stable, and I thought they were Vision Solos on steroids: quite hard under the fingers, but an extreme exactness for the left hand and a fantastic crisp bow response; both features probably have to do with the low tension, which also reminded me of the Perpetual Cadenzas. Virtuosos are very loud at the ears – I could hardly bear the combination tone that arose when I played the double stop g-a in the second bar of the Sarabande. I guess, or hope, that they would calm down if they were played for more than five days. The Tzigane* strings that I reviewed earlier had similar crispness but were less fatiguing, if I remember correctly.


It looks like I prefer the sound and feeling of the two most expensive sets of strings: Thomastik Dynamo and Pirastro Oliv. Both are of course very different (Olivs have a gut core). As a third preference I might add Warchal Timbre, but I need to play them for longer, to see whether I can bear their soloistic character and the emphasis on high frequencies.

Among the medium-priced sets, I will probably revisit the Thomastik Vision Titanium Solos, which may be seen as a cheaper and brighter version of the Dynamos, and I might continue to compare Larsen Tzigane and Pirastro Perpetual Cadenza, two low-tension sets with precise feeling in the left hand and a striking bow response.

I’m not sure which of the cheapest sets I should recommend, but maybe Corelli Crystal is worth a try. However, if you are in Europe, you can buy Thomastik Vision strings for about the same price or less, in which case this would be an easy decision for me, because Visions feel and sound like fully grown-up strings with a wide dynamic range.

Some more general points: I always thought that my not-so-expensive violin is fairly limited in its dynamic range; I remember when my professional violinist-friend tried it and mentioned that the top of the dynamic range was reached quite quickly. However, this was when I still had Dominant strings on my violin that were several years (if not decades) old. In the meantime, I have come to realize that the dynamic range is one of the things in which sets of strings really differ, and that changing strings more regularly can make a huge difference also to amateur musicians (fresh Dominant strings have a wide dynamic range). After all, it’s the strings that make the sound!

I'm quite sure I would have been happy with almost any of the sets in the long run. One reason is that strings develop their character with age, and my suspicion is that different sets of strings differ most in the first few days and then tend to converge in the direction of a less individualistic, more general sound and feeling. Further, our brains get used to slight differences in sound very quickly, and we may also adapt our way of playing to the strings. Indeed, one of my arguments for trying a new brand from time to time is that we can learn different things about our violin technique from different sets of strings.

A few words about “soloistic” strings, like Evah Pirazzi green or Warchal Timbre: I found that I had to work somewhat harder with them to get the sound that I desire; but for soloists this probably means that they can push the strings to higher volumes. Further, both mentioned sets do have an emphasis on higher frequencies that I find fatiguing when playing at home. But this treble emphasis might be necessary for soloists so that “projection” is enhanced and the sound balance at the back of a concert hall is more correct (as is nicely explained in “Does your audience hear the same sound that you hear when you play?” by Bohdan Warchal).

However, for an amateur musician, who’s concert hall is usually the living room, large projection doesn’t really matter. I guess that is why I see more amateur colleagues playing Evah Pirazzi Gold than Evah Pirazzi green. Thus, I would kindly ask Warchal and other companies to develop amateur strings without an emphasis on high frequencies that do have a full sound and moderately loud volume if needed but can easily be played with low volume. I think Thomastik achieved this beautifully with the new Dynamo strings – but their price tag is not what amateur musicians would dream about. Whether Dynamo strings are also suitable for soloists in large halls, I cannot say.

My process for making the video

I bought all tested sets in 2022/2023. In January 2023, I strung my violin again with one set after the other, to record the same piece of music (the first eight bars of Bach’s Sarabande from the second partita for solo violin). Those first 12 recordings were already published on Youtube and discussed on violinist.com. Here, I added another 15 sets of strings, recorded in April 2023 using the same procedure:

After changing to each new set of strings, I played for roughly 30 min before recording (I recorded up to four different sets per day). To get the strings in tune quickly, I played a few full strokes of the bow on each string close to the bridge. For each new set of strings, I gently passed my bow across a cake of Cecilia A Piacere rosin twice (once up and down) and then used a toothbrush to clean the bow hairs from too much rosin; I passed the toothbrush across the bow once).

Recordings were made in the same room, using the same violin, bow, and bow hair, and the inbuilt microphones of a Zoom H4n Pro recorder with the same recording level. I aimed to play fairly consistently (and boringly), using no vibrato at all. Other circumstances that I held as constant as possible included my position in the room and the position of the recorder. I combined the 27 recordings using Audacity but did not otherwise edit the sound in any way. I’m an amateur violinist and bought all sets with my own money, so this was a purely private research project.

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July 5, 2023 at 05:29 AM · Thanks for your detailed review. I enjoyed reading it.

One thing I was surprised to read is your take on Vision Titanium Solo strings versus Dynamo strings. I find them to sound very different from each other, with Titanium Solo strings being much more brilliant and focused versus Dynamo’s relative broad warmth.

July 5, 2023 at 08:37 PM · Thanks, Andrew – I’m not very sure about my take, since I only played the Titanium Solos for four days. What reminded me of the Dynamos was the warm character and the bow response, although the Titanium Solos had more treble (more brilliance). I’m not so sure about the focus. I find the Dynamos quite focused, compared, e.g., to Dominants. It rather seems to me Dynamos offer lots of layers in depth, a bit like gut strings.

All these are quite fuzzy and subjective descriptions. I just realize that I have read similar discussions on internet posts about headphones, which can have a wide (broad) soundstage but less depth, or considerable depth and a narrower soundstage.

July 6, 2023 at 03:27 AM · Thank you for taking the time to test out all these strings and to share your opinions. It was helpful to me. I was taking notes while I was listening to the samples, for the next time I have to order strings. Of course, every violin is different, but it's helpful to have a starting point.

July 6, 2023 at 11:46 AM · Thank you for the time and effort you put into this! I'll finish reading this when I get home from work. Hopefully I can use your article as a , baseline, when considering strings. I live in Laramie, Wyoming. In these parts my violin's tone and sound can get rather 'fickle' due to the higher humidity in the warmer months & the arid, dry, cooler months. Even though I keep the humidity and temperatures at a constant at home I have to allow my violin to adjust when I'm out playing. Switching strings is like changing the set of Winter tires for the Summer tires.

The results that you got from, 'your,' violin are different than mine in regards to strings that I have tried over the years. And that's to be expected. I also use a 19th Century Ludwig Bausch bow which draws the best tones for me plus my violin's response is like a bat out of the grave! Passione and Dominant strings have been the best for my violin, both with ringing overtones and some nice undertones too, with neither dominating the tone. It gets the complements! I bought it from a Luthier in Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.A.

Again, I'm looking forward to reading this article in full later today as well as look up any others that you have posted.


R.M. Faina

July 6, 2023 at 03:29 PM · @Royce: Sounds like in Wyoming, you are probably not a fan of pure gut strings :-)

I agree the choice of strings depends a lot on the violin, and on personal taste. However, I assume that the relative character of the different sets remains fairly similar, i.e., Visions will be brighter than Dynamos regardless of the violin. But maybe even that is unclear because people perceive sound so differently!

July 8, 2023 at 04:41 PM · Thanks for doing that rather expensive research project for the rest of us. The optimum set of string varies for each violin and player, but your list can provide clues for what Not to try.

July 8, 2023 at 07:54 PM · @valentin Amrhein, just curious on average how many hours a day do you play and how long will you last until you feel you need to replace your Dynamo strings?

I know there are different factors at stake and what is for you may be different for me but I'd like to know regardless.

I play on average only 1 and a half hours a day and I tend to change my strings (warchal brilliant vintage) every 3 months..am going to try the Dynamo and wondering if they may last me 4 months (or longer?)

I don't like keeping strings on forever I can hear the sound going dull and feel they are not as easy to play as I approach 3-4 months, perhaps I am a little 'spoilt'don't know LOL

July 9, 2023 at 08:05 AM · @Valentin - thanks for this detailed resource. It must have been quite an undertaking in both time and money for you to do this.

I have long been a fan of Ambers because I like their sound and unlike the Tzigane's I used previously, they don't go dead after three months (I went through innumerable sets of them and each of them displayed this characteristic).

But listening to your review, I tend to agree the Dynamos sound better than the Ambers.

Do you have any feeling about how long the Dynamo's last before they need to be replaced?

July 9, 2023 at 10:23 AM · @Jo and Tony: Yes, this was an expensive undertaking caused by mild addictive behavior (which in my case is confined to buying CDs and violin strings). One reason I made the recording was that I had a bad conscience because I spent so much money! And I guess the money is not wasted because I now have enough strings for the next ten years or so.

On average, I think I play roughly one hour per day. I bought the Dynamos beginning of March, which was about the earliest date one could buy them. Thus, for an opinion about how long Dynamos last, we would need somebody chime in who plays a lot more than I do or received a test set before the official release.

For me, after about four months, the Dynamos still sound beautiful. It could be that the dynamic range has been reduced a bit in the meantime; but I'm not sure. I would probably have to use a new set of Dynamos to find out how much the old ones have changed.

July 9, 2023 at 10:54 AM · Thank you Valentin

yes it makes sense, it seems like I hopefully will be happy with them for at least 4 months.

hey we all have our 'thing' which we spend money on, for you is strings and CDs for my husband is his smoking habit...I know which one I prefer :D

for me is also violin related stuff :)

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