New violin (Kallo Bartok, KJS, Jay Haide a l'Ancienne?)

February 5, 2008 at 05:13 AM · I'm a HS student in 11th grade, and I'm wanting to buy a new violin to replace my (1982) suzuki nagoya violin + $40 bow that I have :)

$3,000 is the maximum I'm going to spend. I was only planning on spending 2,000 but if the price difference is worth it, I might as well spend a bit more now ;)

So I was looking for violins in this price range and saw posts about the Kallo Bartok, KJS, and the Jay Haide a l'ancienne.

What do you guys think about these violins, and are there others as well that are just as good if not better in this price range? Do they tend to be too dark?

And another thing, people were saying the kjs premier artist violins were going for $2,400 but I checked on shar's site, and they are going for $2,650 (I can get the jay haide outfit for $2,700)

If I were to get the Kallo Bartok, I could get a codabow classic or so. With the Jay Haide a l'ancienne, I'd probably get a codabow aspire.

Is there really much of a difference between the classic and aspire?

Just basically trying to get some tips here, I don't want to make a mistake on this, heh. ;)

Replies (29)

February 5, 2008 at 05:27 AM · You should definitely go to a shop and try violins for a few months before going mail-order. Don't worry that the shop's violins are too high priced. It's the learning that is important. That way when you get the instruments on trial, you'll have a basis for comparison. You'll already know what you like, dislike, and how responsive the violin is for you. Also, you might find a violin at the shop that might be older, that is still within your price range and able to carry you further in your career.

Having tried and bought many violins, I actually think buying a $3000 violin by mail order is making a mistake. But that's just my opinion. Of course I'm also lucky that I live in the neighborhood of Scott Cao's shop in California (and also a few others), so it's easier for me to go try a variety of violins in that price range.

February 5, 2008 at 10:55 AM · The main violin shop we have here is bernhardt

If you go to their sales page, you can see that they basically just sell eastmans, sofias, and others. :(

I'll still go and see if they have something, I could get a home trial from these sites and then go and compare them

February 5, 2008 at 02:27 PM · In my area you can get a decent older vln. for the money you have to spend. Put $2000+ on the vln. and the rest on a bow. I would not encourage you to buy any of the vln. outfits mail-order. It's one thing if you can get to a shop, play on some & compare with other instruments. Many shops will ship you vlns.on approval. You call them, describe what you like in tone & volume, and they choose according to your description. I can recommend my local luthier, String House of Kanack, in Rochester, NY I don't get a cut or kickback, I just think they do a good job. Sue

February 5, 2008 at 04:28 PM · StringWorks, Shar, Johnson String are all violin shops who will ship instruments with an approval trial period. Same for their bows.

If you have a violin shop that is within travel distance then by all means go there and test some of their instruments. I'm a small business owner myself so I want to encourage you to support your local violin shop. But, don't limit yourself to buying from a local dealer if you can get more instrument for your money elsewhere.

The smartest thing to do would be to get 4 or 5 violins that you like, and take them to your teacher and get their opinion on what will work for you and your playing. Most important though is that YOU have to love the violin.

But try as many instruments as you can so you get a feel for what qualities you want.

February 5, 2008 at 04:30 PM · On the carbon fiber bows, don't set your sites on a particular bow until you've played with it for a few days.

Concentrate on getting a violin first. Then start trying bows to go with your instrument and your playing style. Bows are as variable as violins. Not every bow is going to match up well with your instrument. You have to try several/many and hope that you find the one that brings out the best in your instrument.

February 5, 2008 at 04:53 PM · The KJS Premier Artist blows away the Kallo Bartok without a doubt, but in fairness it is now $2,650 compared with the KB's $1,800. I never tried the Jay Haide but I did try the Kallo Bartok, KJS, and a Gliga Maestro. I liked the KJS the best but the Gliga was the best value by far at $1,200. My new violin teacher tried my Gliga Maestro yesterday and couldn't put it down, he couldn't believe what I paid for it and had me give him the name so he could recommend it to his students.

I updated a review on the SW site that has reviews of these instruments:

Stringworks IMO has been having issues with attention to detail. I frequent the board and I read a lot about peoples preferences not being taken into account as in fittings, one piece or two piece back etc... I've read enough complaints that it isn't one simple mistake it is a pattern. And if you're paying nearly $2,000 for an instrument getting a violin with the wrong fittings, tailpiece, and a one piece back when you wanted a two piece back won't cut it. The person will always want the violin they ordered.

But like someone already said Sharmusic and stringworks give trial periods you may lose a bit in shipping costs, but spending $80 to ship multiple instruments is worth it. You may try the same instruments and love the KB no real telling unless you try them out.

Oh and Shar just raised their prices on the KJS Premeir Artist, it was $2,400 before Christmas.

As far the bows I would put my neck out there and say (and people will disagree with me especially if they own a Coda Bow Classic) that there is very little if any difference between the Aspire and Classic model, they are carbon so the stick is for all intents and purposes identical it isn't wood there are no variations in the sticks. The frog is identical, the only differences are the windings and the price.

February 5, 2008 at 05:00 PM · Also I would tend to agree that going into a shop instead of online would be the best, but if that isn't possible then use a place that ships the instruments on approval with like a 14 day trial, you still get to test the violins out and you're not buying site unseen.

Like me I live in Goshen NY and there are no violin ships within an 80 mile radius of me (at least ones I could locate, and not in Mahattan near Juliard and Lincoln Center), so I basically had to go the online route.

February 5, 2008 at 05:30 PM · You might want to consider some of the American violin makers. You might find that you can find a high quality handmade instrument in your price range. Check the maker's list that is on this website and look at some of their information.

February 5, 2008 at 05:16 PM · Do not buy into the myth that an older violin is better than a new one, especially in this price range. And the vast majority of new violins under $2500 are Chinese (or a significant % is made in China), which is neither good nor bad, it just is the economic reality. While some excellent older violins can probably be found at your price point, I would suggest looking at Heinrich Gill and Scott Cao as well the others you are considering (after recently trying ~30 new and old violins between $1300-$2500, violins from these two companies were much better than any others that I played in that range, IMO - others have also rated them well consistently). Use your remaining funds to buy the best bow possible. Keep in mind a $1300 violin with (the right) $1000 bow may be a better instrument than a $2700 violin and a $200 bow.

And definitely buy only a violin/bow you can play at home on trial.

February 5, 2008 at 06:25 PM · I kinda agree with Mike Martin, I think there is a tendency to prefer an older instrument based a lot on nostalgic reasons. it is cool to think who played this instrument 200 years ago and where it has been. Tonally though after a new instrument "opens up" it can sound just as good as an older instrument.

I haven't been playing that long but I tend to think that there are nostalgic reasons for prefering an antique instrument.

February 6, 2008 at 04:26 AM · You are in a VERY strong position, because you seem to be wisely narrowing down your choice between multiple good choices. Your biggest problem may be wondering if you are happy enough -- as compared to others who feel depressed because of a dumb decision with a flawed violin because they did not think much about the decision.

My personal opinion is that Eastern European makers are making quality violins under $3,500, because the labor costs are lower, they have nearby access to well-known quality woods that originate from that part of the world, such as Bosnian maple grown in the Alps, and they do quality work. I think the Bartok violin you mentioned is now made by a maker in Eastern Europe -- or a model close to it -- as are other East European brands such as Sofia and Holpuch. Search for those names on the Internet to get a sense of the prices. Otherwise, you have to look to China for value in the price range, although you might be able to scrounge up an old German manufactured violin -- but then you have to worry about repair risks. (I fall into the camp that prefers new for that price range.)

I have heard the Jay Haide cellos are excellent and probably better than cellos priced higher, but I don't know for sure about the violins. If you could get it for $2,100, you probably have a great deal. I heard that Heinrich Gill is good but the last I checked the prices had gone up -- probably because of the weak dollar versus the Euro. I am surprised that other European violins have not increased in price as much as I would have thought. Judging the sound quality, inspecting the quality, and getting a feel for the playability of several different violins is important. Also be sure you have a good set-up.

The website your mentioned looks orderly and the selection seems very smart, including brands I recognize as quality. Perhaps you should listen to a few in your price range. Let your ears, perceived quality, and playability guide you. You can maybe use your price shopping as leverage to maybe get a slightly better deal.

By the way, I have a high opinion of the German bow maker W.E. Dorfler. My daughter owns the 19a or 19b model, or something like that, and it has the better "carefully selected" stick usually found on the more expensive pure silver bows but without the (expensive) pure silver, so you save money by skipping the silver.

People who play those Coda bows seem to love them for the money, so you probably could not make a big mistake with one (unless you decide later that you wish you had a nice Pernambuco stick).

UPDATE: The Man Claudiu violin and NOT the Kallo Bartok is the violin that is now made in Eastern Europe, I checked, and it sells for $3,200. So that gives you a sense of the price point to look at for that type of instrument, including Sofia "Grande" at your local shop. Tell them you want something like that plus the Coda bow (either one) for $3,000 -- take it or leave it. Just a suggestion.

By the way, this website lists the Sofia Grande at $2,350, which seems too low and is maybe outdated:

But again, let your ears be the judge.

February 6, 2008 at 12:26 PM · I bought a viola in this price range recently, and I bought a Rudoulf Doetsch with a Codabow Classic. I've been really happy with its sound, it stood out as clearly better than the Eastman and a couple of others that I tried. I tried all the carbon fiber bows and I agree with the person who said that there didn't seem to be much difference between them other than looks, so I bought the least expensive model. I thought that the feel and responsiveness was a big improvement over the brazilwood rental that I'd had before.

The caveat with this is that I'm new to the viola, have only been playing it a little over a year (after playing violin for a long time) and I'm not necessarily viewing this as my final viola that I'll have for life. However, for the stage that I'm at with viola (community orchestra and small community-based performances) it's great.

February 6, 2008 at 03:27 PM · 100 years for a violin to "open up" LMFAO O.K. I suppose Stradivari's and Amati's violins were garbage until 100 years after he made them then? 100 years to open up is an absurd statement, since you sell older instruments I can't blame you for trying to feed people a line like that.

No one is telling the OP to go get a Yitamusic violin off of E-Bay or anything, but there's no doubt there are some great makers coming out of Eastern Europe and even China. You're acting like a snob Lyndon...

I'm still chuckling at the statement that a violin needs 100 years to open up, classic...

February 6, 2008 at 04:29 PM · Lyndon, your comments smack of xenophobic (and possibly racist) hysteria. And I know that this now only my second post on, but that does not disqualify me from offering my fairly informed opinion regarding his situation, as I recently shopped for violins in his same price range. In my ignorance, I was initially set on getting a "older" violin of European or American origin, after all, what do the Chinese know about making violins? I researched on the internet, and more importantly, I spoke with two of my area's best-regarded luthiers/dealers, and the general consensus was that while it may be possible to find a good older violin in this price range, it is rare. It seems that there is a gap between old factory models that are suitable for beginners under $500 or so, and that decent older violins begin around $3000 and up. Anything in between there and you are probably paying for the fact that it is old and European, unless you happen to get lucky. I know there are strongly held opinions as to the general quality of Chinese instruments, but at the price range the OP is talking about, he has few options for a quality instrument other than one from China or Eastern Europe (many of which start out in china anyway).

My main point was to shop around and try as many violins as you can in that price range, and don't discount a violin merely because it has a Chinese name attached to it - believe it or not Lyndon, there are some highly skilled luthiers who live there. I suggested he look at the two makers that in my admittedly limited yet fairly informed experience were far superior to everything else that I played under $2500, and stood up favorably against some $5000+ instruments that I played. In the end, it is only one guy's opinion, your ears will let you know when you have found the right one for you.

February 7, 2008 at 02:52 AM · thanks for the great tips guys

I might try that with the Sofia Grande, Todd

and yes, I wouldn't exactly agree with violins taking 100 years to just open up, lol

any more opinions/suggestions are welcome :)

February 6, 2008 at 09:34 PM · sorry, double post (got a server error when I first hit submit)

February 7, 2008 at 03:00 AM · Mauricio,

According to Lyndon you either need to get a violin over 100 years old or a new violin in the $30,000 price range in order to have a quality instrument. I disagree with that rubbish whole heartedly but I'm just a loud annoying newbie just like my instrument so what do I know? :)

February 7, 2008 at 03:04 AM · Just $27,000 more to go, LOL

February 7, 2008 at 04:20 AM · What I've heard is that any old violin that is any good has had 100 years to have its price bid up already. The ones you can find for low prices have been rejects for 100 years. I know because I have a few. They're fun and nostalgic because they're antiques, each one has its issues, and so I don't use them for my main violin. Their stories were most likely, "I've been lying in the attic, all the livelong day, no one's ever heard me singing, except the day I was made." (sung to the tune I've been working on the railroad)

February 7, 2008 at 04:32 AM · That said, a new violin could be just embarking on its 100 years in the attic story.

And to be fair, the old violin is, what you hear is what you get. It's not going to change on you. And yes, its sound is immediately more open and out there. They are also in general easier to play.

Buying a new violin is trickier because you have to know how the sound will likely change. How do you separate the ones that will open up and sound gorgeous in 5-10 years, from the ones that will always stay stuffy, boxed in and nasal? No one knows except by hindsight (or should I say hindsound).

So my suggestion is just try try and try until you find one you absolutely must have. Good luck!

February 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM · I have to agree with Lyndon. I am a violin maker and quality violins get better with age. The more they are played the better they get. The thing I have noticed about Chinese violins are the inconsistency. On will be OK and the other will be a dog. Chinese maple can be very pretty but it can also be very soft. I still say you can find a handmade, high quality American in your price range.

IMHO there are violins being made by todays makers that are as good or better than those we revere so but only time will prove my point. So many makers and armchair makers, search for the secret that Strad had to make his violins so wonderful. The secret was his craftsmanship and the violin being played for 250 years.

I have violins that are 2 years old that have been play by professional musicians, so they have a lot of playing time on them, that have opened up and already developed wonderfully. They will continue to improve through some point in time.

Most people in an audience can't tell the difference between instruments but players can.

There are many high profile professional players in symphonies and on stage playing well made modern instruments. The difference between reality and a romanticized perception is sometimes startling.

February 7, 2008 at 12:53 PM · Well you've heard it OP it's either a 100 year old violin or a $30,000 new violin or it's "garbage" to quote Lyndon. And he's been selling violins on E-Bay for 15 years so he is the authority. Apparently the "new violins" are exempt from Lyndon's wrath as long as they cost as much as a Cadillac. I'll buy a violin on how it sounds thanks not some arbitrary year cut off or price cut off like Lyndon thinks. My violin is Romanian BTW not Chinese and I'll take it over some piece you found on E-Bay tossed a set up on and try to resell at a 500% mark up...

There are plenty of 100 year old violins that sound fantastic of course, but there are even more that are good for nothing but maybe a wall hanging. I would say the same goes for violins few years old.

Not to mention for a newer player who doesn't want to deal with opening seems, multiple cracks in the body, a new violin can be a cost effective way to get a very nice instrument.

February 7, 2008 at 01:04 PM · This is ridiculous. Everybody knows that violins improve with age, and that is NOT what is being debated here. We all know that spending $5 million on a Strad is going to sound great, but what is being discussed is that someone is looking to buy a good violin for around $2,200. I'm sorry, but a good, old violin is going to sell for at least $7,000. Look at the Roths from the 1920s that originally sold for hardly anything that regularly sell for $8000 to $9000, and even those German manufactured violins are getting bashed here as not old and good enough.

Arguing that violins get better with age does not belong in a discussion about buying a $2,200 violin.

And by the way, a new violin in that price range has less risk of having to need repairs. Old violins can be one nightmare after another, and you do not know what has been done to them over the years. There are books written about tricks to alter old violins so they sell, such as thinning the walls or covering up serious structural defects.

February 7, 2008 at 01:53 PM · This was Mike Martin's original statement that I agreed with:

"Do not buy into the myth that an older violin is better than a new one, especially in this price range."

I think it's accurate, there's no reason to believe a $2,000 100 year old violin will be a better instrument than a new KJS or Kallo Bartok simply because it's 100 years old.

Of course a $40,000 200 year violin will be a fantastic instrument but the price range is $2,000-$3,000 and for that you couldn't even get a 1920's Juzek Master Art. I was about to buy one on E-Bay the other day as a project. The thing was a complete mess with a crack running right up the front of the body, no saddle, it looked like it's been sitting under someones mattress for 20 years and it still sold for $3,600, not to mention the $600 or more of work it would need to become playable.

February 7, 2008 at 05:20 PM · Okay, Michael, Mike, and Lyndon. Calm down! You both have your ideas and views, and I see both sides of them. Lyndon, you are correct that new violins open up over time, and it may take 100 years, I've heard cases of that before.

Michael and Mike, I understand your argument about Lyndon saying that you need to be getting a new 30000 dollar violin in order for it to be good. I also did not like his statements about us being loud and annoying newbies. Just to let you know, my violin in French, 15000 dollars, and about 70 years old, and it sounds amazing!

But. this is a thread about a player looking for help in finding the right violin for her. You three are acting quite immature by insulting each other.

P.S. I only realized this by realizing I had also been immature on this site. Read the joshua bell posts....

February 7, 2008 at 09:32 PM · for HER? lol, I'm a guy

February 7, 2008 at 11:13 PM · My suggestion would be a Gill model 58 with a Coda Aspire bow, and a nice case. In the 2-3 K price range this is one of your best bets for a fine sounding violin that will appreciate with age while is serves you well. This is going to be easier to sell or trade when you want to move up.

If you were to move into the 3-4 K range you would have some nice choices for top made Chinese workshop violins from Snow, Zhu and Cao. You might gain some power and a little better sound. But the Gill Model 62 is also in this price range would be a great choice also.

Good luck with your search!

February 8, 2008 at 01:15 AM · My bad, Mauricio. It's the internet-we don't know what you look like. Sorry!

February 8, 2008 at 09:42 PM · Not true. First of all, violins are different from cars. You kind of contradicted yourself, saying you would rather keep your old car alive than get a new one (at least that's what I read, it was kinda hard to understand). Cars DECLINE in quality as they get older, while many violins INCREASE in quality.

Also, why be so biased against Chinese violins? Some of them are great-I tried a $7500 chinese violin that was absolutely AMAZING-about as good as my violin, new, and at half the price!

I really respect your opinions, though, Lyndon. You are not necessarily wrong, you just have your own views. I just suggest not being biased against some instruments-especially new Chinese ones. You can be pleasantly surprised.

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