Last Thursday I had the enjoyable experience of shopping for a violin. I had done my homework. I knew what sort of sound I liked. I knew that I wanted to find a top notch student violin, or a decent intermediate violin. That gave me a general expectation of cost, and a budget that I wanted to stay within. I had read through numerous online articles and watched YouTube videos related to buying a violin, and I had a strategy in mind to find the violin that was right for me.
Now, I can’t claim that I was completely unbiased. Even though I'd read numerous recommendations that suggested Chinese made violins have vastly improved in more recent years and might even be the better choice, I was leaning toward a European made violin; whether it be new or old.
However, I had decided that my bias would not be the primary factor in selecting a violin. What I learned from others was that violins are as individual as the people who play them. I was determined that I would choose a violin based on what I heard and liked, and not based on appearance, cost (within my budget), or the opinions of others.
I had identified a luthier string shop about a three hour drive away, and had called down several times to discuss options and to plan for a visit. I arranged to work with one of the staff to spend some time playing through a selection of new and old violins that fell into my general budget.
When the big day arrived, I was excited entering the string shop for the first time. The smell of aged wood filled the air and it was a treat to see so many beautiful sting instruments of various kinds lining the walls and floor of the shop.
We started with a line of hand carved violins, made in Germany by Heffler Musical Instruments. There were three Klaus Heffler models on hand: Klaus Heffler 400, 500, and 600. The 400 & 500 are student models, and the 600 is an orchestra violin. The Klaus Heffler 400 had a nice warm tone, and was the favorite of the salesperson. But I found that it lacked a bit in clarity, and didn’t project as well as the others. The Klaus Heffler 500 was very bright and had great projection & clarity, but it was a bit too bright for me. I was looking for something that was on the bright side, with warm accents and good clarity & projection. Then we tried the Klaus Heffler 600, and I knew immediately that I preferred it over the other two models. I would say the Klaus Heffler 600 fell right in between the other two models in terms of tonal quality. It was on the bright side, intense, and lively, but had warmth & richness as well.
There were also several older violins in my price range as well. We tried a few German Strad copies of various ages, and all had great distinctive tones & individual character. But playing each of them back to back with the Klaus Heffler 600, none of them captured my favor. We also tried a highly regarded Chinese student model violin, the VL305 by Eastman, which was being consigned at a very nice discount. The VL305 was very warm but lacked clarity, which seems to be a common theme with warmer violins. In fact, the only violin I heard that day that sounded better to me than the Klaus Heffler 600 was an 1890’s French made violin with a much heftier price tag. It was one of those rare gems that was completely rich & warm in its tone but had fantastic projection and clarity. At $5000 it was a far better instrument than I deserved or could justify.
At the end of the day I took home the Klaus Heffler 600 Orchestra violin, which I had fallen in love with. It didn’t hurt that its such a beautiful violin either. Here’s a look….
The Klaus Heffler 600 Orchestra Violin
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