Cremona violins

November 6, 2007 at 05:48 AM · Does anyone have any comments on how good the higher end Cremona violins are? (ie. sv1500, sv1600, sv1700, sv1800) Would they still be considered advanced student violins or instruments worthy of a professional?

Replies (35)

November 6, 2007 at 11:38 AM · How good? They are the best! Only professionals and collectors with deep pockets can have one.

November 6, 2007 at 02:17 PM · Hi Luis, I think Sean is referring to a brand named Cremona that has diffeent model numbers. Sean, I suspect that they are more than likely nice instruments but would tend to doubt that they are Italian made. I imagine that they are made in China which doesn't mean anything other than the name is simply a brand. In one set up I saw, the violin was nicely flamed and it looked well made. Evidently the spruce was decades old and air dried. However, if you get a chance to play one I would recommend it. The prices are pretty modest - something to the effect of $700 to $1400. You may find that they are very pleasing to your ear.

They are outfitted with Perlon strings which are more than likely Chinese made as well. Generally they are decent strings, but you may even enhance the instrument by using other strings of better quality. Hope this helps. Emil

November 6, 2007 at 11:09 PM · Hi Emil

Thanks for your response to my question. Would you classify those Cremona (higher models) as advanced student instruments or proffesional instruments, particularly the ones around the $1200 range.

Thanks

Sean

November 7, 2007 at 04:26 AM · The $1,200 range is generally not called "professional" (unless you are getting a $3,000 violin discounted 60%). Usually that price is called a step-up violin.

You generally get what you pay for. That's not to say you can't find a fiddle for $1,000 that you can perform professionally with. I'm just saying that $1,200 is not much money for a new violin considering that quality wood and proper craftsmanship costs money.

It looks like Cremona violins come with "perlon" strings. What kind of perlon strings are on the Cremona? Are the Dominants, which are good perlon strings? Octava brand strings are usually used for cheap student violins. Unknown brand names are a tip-off that maybe the violin is a cheaper violin with gimmicks added on. Old wood from where -- near the elps -- and what kind -- such as highly flamed maple?

By the way, if you have a chance to get over to Ontario, a dealer there sells the Cremona line and the Joseph Holpuch and Jan Lorenz Czeck violins (entry-level professional), for tone comparison.

November 7, 2007 at 01:09 AM · Hi Sean:

It is a tough one to say only because the requirements of professional violinists differ. There are actually modestly priced violins out there that are for professionals. Whether the Cremona is or not is difficult to say for certain because I have never played one. The thing to be aware of is that since there is no legal definition of what the standards are for a professional violin, the marketing of violins has been overusing the term 'professional'. Therefore, one can misrepresent a product by saying it is 'professional' but claim that professional is a matter of opinion. What is it that you are looking for and where are you on the continuum regarding beginner to professional?

Emil

March 17, 2009 at 10:23 PM ·

Greetings, my friends.

  I began playing on a Cremona SV-250(?) and was pleasantly surprised by the violin.  The violin I started playing was delivered to a local luthier and "gone over" to refine the setup, which included bridge trimming, nut adjustments, string height adjustments and a new set of Helicore strings.  It was only after this "going over" that I was given the violin.  It certainly surprises most people who play it, including me, after trying some other much more expensive violins.  But really a decent violin that is well set up is what we're talking about here.  When Cremona violins leave the distributor, they are "shop adjusted".  Who knows what that means?  I think it must mean that the violins are placed on a bench while the "adjuster" eats a sandwich. With all due respect to SAGA Instruments, I can't understand why they let instruments leave their shops in such a poor state of setup.  I think it must be an issue of employee training and ego.  The supplied "perlon" strings are really just $20 Chinese strings. Blah.  Don't remove them,  Cut them off so they don't fall into another persons hands.

But back to the topic.  I am impressed enough with Cremona's craftsmanship to gamble on the SV-1600, which SAGA says is a cut above most ot their instruments.  I will order one this afternoon, and have it checked and set up when it arrives and should have some feedback from other violinist friends as well.  If it's a pooch, I'll just ship it right back to SAGA.  If it's a keeper, I'll be sure to let you know, and maybe even shoot you an mp3 file.  I dunno how long it will take for this fiddle to "wake up" in my hands, but I'll play the heck out of it, and we'll see. 

Regards,

RE

 

March 18, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·

Rule of thumb with musical instruments: If it is sold under a model number, odds are it is not professional quality.  Odds are. 

March 18, 2009 at 01:01 AM ·

Someone really should define 'professional' violin...that would make it a lot easier discuss and compare notes.

April 1, 2009 at 04:42 AM ·

Greetings.

I received the SV1600 violin a few days after my last post. This is what I can tell you so far.

Price was $917.00 plus tax. An odd figure, but that's probably cost plus 15%, or close to it.

It comes in the usual Cremona suspension case (foam, green velour, etc.) but this was a bit roomier, more like a GEWA wannabe (or GEWannabe?). The case is light. Lighter than the GEWA but not as protective of the contents.  I just used a GEWA case.  The violin comes packed in the case, in a silk sack, with the bridge down and the strings arranged appropriately. 

Before set-up was performed, the bridge was righted and positioned and the instrument tuned (and re-tuned).  The "Perlon" strings are better than one may find on less expensive factory violins, but it's still a reach to call them "decent".  Really, the only purpose they serve is to keep the tail piece from falling off.   They have to go. 

The violin itself is really very well crafted.  Nice close grained spruce top. Lovely (and I seldom use the word) one piece back--very nice figure to the maple.. and this was a "pig-in-a-poke" violin, not selected from available stock.  It is rather gorgeous.. A satin oil varnish was applied, apparently by hand--not the sprayed "Chinese fiddle" varnish jobs we're used to seeing.   Perfect scroll (CNC machining?) The tuning pegs were relatively normal in their appearance, fit and finish.  Actually, the finish was very good.  The fit was, well, we needed a tiny bit of peg paste (the German stuff) before they came within specs.

So with the factory bridge, we (my accomplice and I) played the thing over the course of the evening.  It took most of that for the strings to settle in.  The first thing we noticed was the violin's projection, which we could only describe as LOUD.   I even used "piercing" once, but I think that may be too strong or give the impression of unsuitability.  This is the loudest violin I have ever played (and my accomplice, who has played many, many violins, said it was in the top 20, he's ever played in terms of sheer projection. 

But: The string height at the nut was too high for the kind of playing we do (~1mm).  A classical violinist with a particularly aggressive attack may need the extra clearance, but we found it annoying.

Same for the bridge height.  And the bridge was a little thick, like the legs of an Irish hag. (Hope my musical preference isn't beginning to show, now, is it?)  The curve was well suited for the classical player, since that is the target audience.  But it was still thick as a brick.  Which made us wonder what this little machine will sound like once that is corrected...it's already powerful.

So at a late hour, we put it to bed and outlined the corrective action necessary to "adjust" the "set-up".

The next day, off to the luthier's shop with it.  Off come the strings.  A drop of peg dope on the D and G pegs.  Not too much.  Pulled a set of Dominant strings (well, is is a step up).  Now the bridge was thinned by about 15-20%.  The curve was re-cut to my preference, which lowered the strings to a comfortable and safe height.  The fingerboard was well-shaped with a little deeper scoop than I'm used to seeing.   The bridge feet were checked against the belly and found to be well fit. The nut was adjusted to lower the string height to .5mm. 

Re-assembled, tuned, Play it.  Oh, how nice to be rid of those "Perlon" strings.  And how comfortable it as become, losing a tiny bit of it's power to the bridge height and picking up a handful of playability. The voice has changed (strings, I think).   Less shrill, more feminine and---what can we say?---rounder?  Sweeter?  Try to imagine singing after just a wee bit of Jameson's.  Not enough to send you pie-eyed and sprawling.  Just a bit, to relax you and perhaps give the confidence a boost.  Yes, I think we could say the SV1600 benefits from a touch relaxation. It has become sweet and robust and playable for the likes of me. 

Conclusion:  Craftsmanship is excellent.  I think among the best I've seen.  The violin suffers from set-up blues as supplied from the importer.  The supplied case and bow are tossers.  Likewise the strings.  Strings are always too high at the nut.  It's just the law of new violins.

You will have to pay a competent luthier to bring this violin into its best form, but it will be an investment worth making.  I will continue to play this machine and monitor its progress.  I am really, really curious about the potential of the SV1800 (Hellier Strad  replica). 

 

Note: I am not a professional violinist or teacher.  I love violin-family instruments.  Just love them.  They are so incredible.  But I will not be fooled by cheap imitations.  It takes one to know one, eh?  I have acquaintances who are luthiers and I often rely on their professional opinions.  But they are not infallable. I have owned six violins to date, and borrowed and played some dozens of instruments.  Few of them are Chinese. Most are French, German and Czech. My personal preference is for the French instruments.  But I have yet to try an Italian violin. 

Of all the Chinese violins I have used, this Cremona SV1600 is probably the best so far.  Better than many of the German instruments, but set-up is so important.  Without proper set-up, there can be no comparison.

April 1, 2009 at 04:47 AM ·

ATTN: Robert,

Just curious...

So, what have you invested so far in this violin?

cost, tax, strings, luthier work = WHAT

April 1, 2009 at 07:03 PM ·

 Hi Sam,

I believe it is about $1,200 USD to this point, exclusive of the case which was already on hand housing a faux Vuillaume. ;-)

Regards,

R. E.

March 28, 2010 at 08:46 PM ·

I have the sv1600 violin.

The violin has an uninspiring sound (hollow, nasty dark, muted high notes..).

It seems to have a nice workmanship but the sound is the most imprtant.

I tried to improve the violin with a new bridge ect with no improvement.  I noticed that it does not obey the stradivarius patern. It's bigger and the wood is thicker.

March 28, 2010 at 10:35 PM ·

I am an amateur violin maker. I wonder from where did they get the 100+ years old spruce.

March 29, 2010 at 02:01 PM ·

As far as I know these are commercial Chinese instruments of student grade.  I don't know personally about the "100 year old spruce" claim, but have read about the use of re-cycled building timbers in some Chinese violin production facilities.

March 29, 2010 at 10:19 PM ·

March 29, 2010 at 10:38 PM ·

>I don't know anyone who graduated from a major conservatory with an instrument that cost less than 25k...<

Not sure where you are going with that statement.  If you are implying that you cannot succeed with an instrument that is less than $25K, then I have to disagree.  I know professional musicians with major symphonies that play on $12K instruments, even made recordings with their "cheap" instruments and they sound fabulous. 

 

March 30, 2010 at 05:58 AM ·

My instrument costs a LOT less than 25K.  Think in terms of orders of magnitude

I hope I graduate =/

(I just realized that this probably doesn't come across online, but I'm being sarcastic)

March 30, 2010 at 02:22 PM ·

March 30, 2010 at 10:29 PM ·

I erased my previous comment, but my point was to say these Cremona brand instruments would not be considered "professional" instruments. Not to say they aren't good for whatever your purpose is, but don't expect concert quality sound.

I know everyone is eager to disprove me with special stories of professionals on "cheap" instruments, but I say this as my general opinion and what I have found to be true.

March 31, 2010 at 01:49 PM ·

>>I don't know anyone who graduated from a major conservatory with an instrument that cost less than 25k...<

I know of a young man who won a seat on the L A Phil at the age of 19 with a violin that cost a lot less than that.  He gave up a much more expensive violin that he had on loan. I also know a number of players in major symphonies, and some touring soloists who play instruments that cost in the $10,000 - $12,000 range.

Lots of instruments by modern makers sound a lot better and play a lot easier than many old Italian instruments in the six figure range.

April 4, 2010 at 03:44 AM ·

The young man that is being mentioned here is Robert Gupta. I believe you can find some videos of him on the internet, look him up. He plays on an Anton Krutz violin, and he does sound fabulous...

 

April 4, 2010 at 12:50 PM ·

SAGA Musical Instruments, located in San Francisco,  is the distributor for these instruments, and carries lines of violins, violas, bases, cellos, mandolins, banjos and all kinds of guitars, acoustic and especially, jazz guitars.  They are the US distributor for these Chinese instruments which are made very well and sold at very reasonable prices.  SAGA has long been involved in providing reasonably priced instruments to communities and to individuals (though the dealers) who might not otherwise be able to start their study of music.  I have been one of their dealers for about 15 years.  I have found the company to be courteous and responsive, all these years.

These instruments are not what has been characterized as "cheap Chinese instruments."  They are playable upon receipt of the instrument.  However, luthiers frequently have reservations regarding them, or more accurately, with a dealer who sells the SAGA products without providing a luthier setup.  I can only speak with surety regarding the violins and violas;  they do benefit from a look by a luthier, a refinement of the bridge and other details, and a better set of strings. If one is in a rural community with a lot of impoverished students, I would not sell any of the higher end Cremona instruments because of the setup issues, but if one has access to a good luthier, I would think they would be worth a try.

I do appreciate the fact that for the art form to continue to flourish, luthiers have to continue with their exceedingly expensive craft.  But the common man can't always afford their services.  My hope always is that the person who starts with the inexpensive outfit will go on to find a teacher and acquire a better instrument.  To this end, I have wanted to offer information which will educate the public about violin.  The same sorts of questions reoccur frequently;  so frequently, in fact, that I have a Quik FAQ which lists the questions on YahooAnswers, questions which repeat themselves daily.  Please see:

http://beststudentviolins.com/Quik_FAQ.html

Unless I'm mistaken, it is a general consensus that the SAGA Cremona SV-175 level violin outfit is the best instrument one can purchase for the under $200 price point.  Great numbers of prospective violin students wish to purchase a violin outfit at this price.  Shouldn't they save their money and purchase a better instrument?  Absolutely;  but many would not start their studies if they had to do that.  It is astonishing the number of people who want to start their study of the violin, but only want to spend $50.00 or $100.00 (and want to know how to teach themselves, which is essentially impossible).  At least with the Cremona SV-175 they get something serviceable, which has some trade-in value, and which will not cause them any immediate problems.  The sound is acceptable for a beginning student.

July 11, 2010 at 09:05 PM ·

Professional violins are hand made, not mass produced largely by power tools, as I'm sure Cremona violins are.

On the other hand, mass produced fiddles have come a long way, and I'm sure these are fine for students and a lot of music making. And yes, changing the strings right away is a good idea.

December 12, 2012 at 03:43 AM · Hi,

Quick question, I currently am in high school, and I own a Cremona-SV-175. It's a nice instrument (especially since I put some obligato strings on it), but I want to get a better instrument, since I am a serious student who would probably like to study in a conservatory one day.

Do you think the sv-1600 would be a good instrument for me to upgrade to? Also, my teacher wants me to find a instrument with a warm sound, would you say the sv-1600 has a warm sound?

Also, where online did you buy this from? Amazon.com? And also, do you know if it is possible to return it if I (or my teacher) does not like it?

Thanks

December 12, 2012 at 12:38 PM · One very important factor that has been overlooked in this discussion, as it frequently is in other similar discussions, is the bow. Numbers don't have real meaning in this context, but if I were to say that a good bow is 50% of the tone, then you'd know what I'm getting at. In other words, the bow needs to be factored into the equation for valid comparisons between instruments.

And while I'm on the subject I'd say that a further tonal 50% (ahem!) is the responsibility of whoever is holding the bow.

December 12, 2012 at 06:02 PM · As a professional residing in Cremona, Italy, I have an issue with Chinese companies calling their instruments “Cremona violins”.

The reason why they call them “Cremona" violins and not “Detroit”, or “Shanghai”, or whatever is because they want to take advantage of a tradition that is not their own, to make an illicit profit – which buyers pay.

You can’t legally call a bubbly “Champagne” if it’s not from that region in France; a “Brunello di Montalcino” if it’s not from that area in Italy, even a “Napa Valley” if it’s not from north of San Francisco.

If you call a cheap (below $200 for a violin is cheap) factory-made Chinese v.s.o. a “Cremona Violin” it is a commercial practice aimed at buyers who have respect for the many talented craftspeople who work where Stradivari used to, but the instruments themselves have no relation. Connie Sunday’s rationale is similar to justifying slapping “Lamborghini” on a go-cart saying that maybe the driver will one day be able to afford a real one.

December 12, 2012 at 11:07 PM · Dimitri, a solution to the problem of non-Cremonese violin makers using "Cremona" as a trade mark may be to register the word as a trade mark for violins and similar stringed instruments, so that only makers in Cremona could use it legally for those goods. If registration is successful then action could be taken against unauthorized users of the registered mark.

Whether registration is actually possible in this particular instance I don't know; only a professional trade mark attorney (which I'm not) could give a definitive answer. It may be worth making enquiries.

December 13, 2012 at 12:41 PM · Trevor, thank you for your input. Trademarking isn’t possible for real Cremona violins because geographic locations aren’t trademarkable. That’s why wines, for example, use a DOP or DOC to testify to their origin.

Cremona violin making was added to the UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity list just last Dec. 5. I was present in Milano at the concert (Vadim Repin playing with the Swiss Romande Orchestra) where the announcement was officially given by Dr. Paolo Bodini, president of the Stradivari Foundation.

So, just perhaps, this issue will take care of itself.

December 16, 2012 at 10:07 AM · Maybe: I think you can patent a locality name - if you are quick enough!

Champagne wine comes only from the Champagne area: even identical wines from just outside the boundary can't use the name.

There is a Swiss village called "Champagne" who can't use the word on the labels of their (red) wine. But what about Cheddar cheese?

It's unfortunately possible that "Cremona" is already registered by the Chinese.

May 4, 2014 at 04:10 AM · I own a Cremona SV-200, and the sound is good enough for me. It was a huge improvement over my old fractional cheap Chinese violins that sounded tinny. However it's not a concert-grade violin but I consider it as something good. I have read some reviewers writing that the varnish is too thick (I've made a discussion about the varnish and my attempt to clean it with alcohol, and maybe it's the cause?) and I believe it, kind of. But for a beginner like me I'm satisfied.

All Things Strings site mentioned the SV-225 model as a good instrument for the violins below $1500 range. Check it out

Regards

Jefta

May 7, 2014 at 07:39 PM · The higher-end Cremona violins appear to be suitable for an advancing student or perhaps a serious amateur. I don't know of any professionals who play on mass-produced violins, except perhaps as a "picnic" fiddle for outdoor weddings.

At the price listed for the SV1800, you might also be able to find a reasonably good-sounding handmade German instrument.

Regarding the value of professional instruments: I'm a professional with degrees from two top music schools, and for the first twenty-plus years of my career, I played on an excellent Josef Klotz valued (today)at around $15K. My current violin also cost less than $25K, although not much less. I would suggest that there is perhaps an inverse relationship between the number of one's children (I have three) and the value of one's violin, soloists excepted. ;-)

May 8, 2014 at 12:04 AM · Id go for one the the Shar Lamberti offerings if ordering something along these lines. Money back guarantee and they stand behind their product.

May 8, 2014 at 12:00 PM · >> ...I would suggest that there is perhaps an inverse relationship between the number of one's children (I have three) and the value of one's violin...

This is a corollary to the well-known Parent Object Observation Rule (POOR).

For example, if I had sent my kids to public school, I would now be the proud owner of a beautifully resonant virtuoso violin instead of a braying VSO.

December 30, 2016 at 01:46 AM · I just looked at a $450 Cremona this evening. The seller said when he bought it, it had the best tone of all the violins offered in the shop. But it definitely sounded like a factory made student violin, whiney and tinny.

I have an $85 Chinese violin that I've been sanding for over a year, basically loosening up the stiff sounding places and getting the tap tone uniform. It works. My sanded violin sounds, head and shoulders, better than the cremona, rich, smooth and resonant.

But I never knew, as you have been commenting, that strings make so much difference. I replaced the wire strings with perlon, and that was a noticeable improvement. But you guys sound like I could improve the tone considerably with more expensive strings. Glad to find out.

December 30, 2016 at 10:05 AM · "Expensive" isn't necessarily "better" on what comes to matching strings to a violin.

My violins range from Tonica (relatively cheap) to Obligato (more on the higher end). I go through a lot of different strings to find the ones I like best when I get a new violin; I always hope the violin will like the cheaper ones like Tonica and Zyex but some have more expensive taste. ;)

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