The new phantom adjustable shoulder rest -luthier opinion

October 5, 2011 at 08:51 PM ·

 I recall my luthier saying that he wasn't fond of centre fitted chinrests becasue of the pressure over that area of the violin (I think that is what he said).  If that is the case, then what of this new Phantom shoulder rest, which is fitted with a slide down clamp over the end button - it would carry a fairly strong leverage if the player pulls down against it, does it risk damage to the violin?

I like the look of it, but then I don't mind the look of a simple shoulder rest.  I am also unsure of the fit - it looks a bit bon musica to me, going over the shoulder and I really hate that feeling, its so restrictive.

Replies (33)

October 5, 2011 at 09:10 PM ·

This video shows the tonal difference between using the Phantom Adjustable and conventional bridge-type shoulder rest. It sounds nice. Not sure about the fit though.

October 5, 2011 at 09:22 PM ·

From their website, it says the player was using a Joseph Rocca violin, so it should be okay?

October 5, 2011 at 09:43 PM ·

If you've ever seen an end button snap off during playing, as I have, you'll know how spectacular that event can be with the strong possibility of a damaged top table, a broken bridge, and almost certainly the sound post going down. Remember that when the end button snaps about 50lbs (22kg) of string tension are suddenly released in a small fraction of a second. From the engineering point of view the only thing that can be safely attached to the end button is the tail gut.

That Joseph Rocca violin had doubtless been well set up, but how many of us, perhaps playing an old violin, know the exact mechanical condition of its end button?  It tends to be a forgotten part of the violin's anatomy.


October 5, 2011 at 10:07 PM ·

I wouldn't do that. The button is just stuck inside and the mechanics of this shoulder rest will tear it outwards as it seems. Not very smart thing to do with a good violin.

October 5, 2011 at 11:18 PM ·

I also think that changing to a better bow alone can have a more dramatic effect on the tone than changing the shoulder rest.

October 6, 2011 at 01:46 AM ·

Apart from other concerns, it looks as though the violin would not be in touch with the player at the collar bone--and that seems a problem; even the Mach One or Kuhn allow for that basic, essential contact.

@ Trevor: on another thread on this topic you say you use the Phantom; here you seem to disparage it;  I'm just a bit confused--unless the original has a very different set up from the adjustable?  Please clarify for the puzzled one in the corner! 

October 6, 2011 at 03:42 AM ·

 think Trevor was being a bit cheeky on that thread :)

October 6, 2011 at 03:44 AM ·

I would love to know if the phantom shoulder rest is 'safe' to use on our violins. Because of my constantly aching collar bone I would be thrilled to finally find a rest that protected the collar bone from the violin. I've tried many versions, with the playonair being the closest I have come to comfort, but I still seem to have a permanent bruise in the middle of the bone. Any cloths I put there just slide around.  I can't tell by the website if the adjustable one is much different to the original one, but I am tempted to get one to try it out. The whole endpin thing has me hesitating, though.

October 6, 2011 at 05:42 AM ·

Are they available anywhere other than ordering from the Phantom website?  I'm curious because they don't mention any return policy. 

October 6, 2011 at 06:20 AM ·


the whole point about a phantom is they return when you least expect it...



October 6, 2011 at 12:37 PM ·

 @ Sharelle, thanks.  I don't know the people on this site well enough to 'hear' the tones in the emails!  Well, the growlier ones are usually distinguishable, but not the ironies.

October 6, 2011 at 01:05 PM ·

@Majorie, Sharelle is quite correct, I was being a little cheeky!  That post of mine on the other thread, being interpreted, means that I don't use a shoulder rest at all, and on my folk fiddle I don't use a chin rest either. 
I don't think "Phantom" is an ideal name for the new shoulder rest, it's too open to misinterpretation and ambiguity (possibly deliberate, as I demonstrated), quite apart from the important technical concerns that are being raised here.

October 6, 2011 at 04:14 PM ·

 Because I think the original question is important, I asked on the website, and heard from one of  the makers of the Phantom, Dr. Paul Cheng.  He emailed me back the same day.  Here, in part, is his answer (I'd asked him about suitability for viola, and have omitted his response to that:

"As to your concerns of the safety of attaching the shoulder rest to the end button. It was also my chief concern when the idea of attaching the pad to the end button three years ago. However, after studying the structure and construction of the end block and end button, I came to the conclusion that it was physically impossible. Since this seems to be the chief concerns amongst a lot of our potential users on the blog, we will address this in our new FAQs section on our website.

To discuss with you briefly, and I value your inputs also, the structure of the shoulder rest, i.e the right angle part of the shoulder rest that wraps round the lower end of the violin where we have the end button, is such that any force pulling the end button out is transmitted to the horizontal bar of the pad pressing on the underside of the violin where the end block is, effectively counter-balance or cancel out this force pulling the end button out. We have tested this by applying brute force trying to pull out the end button, it turned out that we could only damage the U clamp that wraps around the lower end of the end button without any effect on the violin at all. My thinking is unless the end block is already weakened for any reason, termite?  (this is not possible in a normal violin), it is close to impossible to pull the end button out.
I will illustrate this in our website with diagrams and hope to explain this physics better.
Please let me know if you have further queries. I must say, in the three years I have tested this shoulder rest in its various prototypes, I have not experienced any problems with the end button. My friends in our local orchestra to whom I have made the earlier prototypes for them have not had any problems with their instruments too. I hasten to add that my drive to design this shoulder rest is because of my intractable neck pain that I had with the bridge type of shoulder rest. In the three years that I have switched to my design, there has been no further neck pain. I hope you will find my shoulder rest helpful to you too.
Paul Cheng (Dr.)
I am a Memorial Kettering trained medical oncologist currently practising in Hong Kong and an avid violin player."
Hope this at least provides some information for the discussion.

October 9, 2011 at 12:06 PM ·

It's good  to see the manufacturers have addressed a potential problem, and solved it.

October 10, 2011 at 07:02 AM ·

 And good to see their interest in addressing concerns from potential customers.  i find myslef considering for the current violin.

October 10, 2011 at 12:53 PM ·

 Sharelle, I emailed them and had an answer within 24 hours.  My reasons for probably not getting one is that (a) they don't have it for viola, and I need same set up for both instruments and (b) I don't think the instrument would be in contact with my collarbone the way I'm used to.  But it looks like an idea with potential for someone without these issues (and I may be wrong about the second). 

October 13, 2011 at 02:57 AM ·

Not to mention if the rubber of the "horizontal bar of the pad pressing on the underside of the violin where the end block is" wears out what kind of damage would happen to the underside of the instrument... A bonmusica left a nice gash on the belly of my student instrument from having it too low. Needless to say I was too young to pick up on this until it was too late...

I assume a lot of pressure would be applied to this end block area, which as a positive argument is, structurally speaking, safer than an off-ballance attachment on the side (anyone who has ever found damage around the various areas people attach chinrests to that aren't over the end block would agree).

I remember seeing (and trying out) a similar design which mounted underneath an end block chinrest mount - it was crafted out of steel and had a nice big leg which extended under the belly moving the shoulder rest pad further away from the collar bone. It was very bouncy, and felt like being on a trampoline; the phantom design seems to have fixed two of the faults of this type:

a) it doesn't rely solely on the health of the chinrest mount

b) it has no steel leg which, if the chinrest mount was inadequately secure and failed, would puncture a nice hole through the belly of the instrument.

I assume if the phantom's U-clamp wears thin the worst that could happen is a bit of an insecure connection to the instrument as opposed to the instrument falling onto a steel bar.

- Tristan

October 14, 2011 at 12:18 AM ·

 Oh, yeah. This looks very similar to the device I use to yank out end buttons that are in too tight. I wouldn't touch this thing with a ten-foot pole.

October 14, 2011 at 01:20 AM ·


I never met a ten foot pole.



December 21, 2011 at 03:55 PM · I used to use a shoulder rest but I had a couple lessons with a teacher who persuaded me not to...and soon after I got a center chinrest. For a while I liked it (well, I still do) but I would like something to fill the gap a bit to allow my left arm/shoulder/side to relax more and counter the temptation to bring up the left shoulder too much when I've been playing long periods of time...normal shoulder rests change my sound too much and are kind of uncomfortable and awkward with how I hold the violin...the phantom shoulder rest looked interesting and like it would work for me (for one, it's closer to the neck so it won't slip off of my shoulder,) but I wonder if anyone here has actually bought and used one, because I don't want to accidentally damage my violin, and the phantom shoulder rests are expensive. :-/

March 12, 2012 at 07:42 PM · Well since no one here even HAS one to comment on I thought I'd put in my $0.02 since I actually own this shoulder rest. For anyone scared that this is going to pull out the button I thought I'd share. The actual clamping mechanism is a fairly stiff rubber. It will actually pop off the button before it will even start to pull it out. I first tried this on a VERY cheap ($50 amazon) violin with an already known loose button, and it would not pull it out. Hope this helps.

March 12, 2012 at 09:42 PM · thankyou for responding. Do you feel like there is much pressure being transmitted upwards from your body onto the rest? and how adjustable and comfortable is it for you - had you already been using some type of rest previously?

March 12, 2012 at 10:50 PM · Personally the way I look at it there is so much padding all around it any pressure that is applied is spread out. Not only do you have the long strip of thick rubber under it, but you also have an almost equally thick pad that backs the U part that slips onto the button. All that padding though DOES make it feel a bit spongy to me personally. Think of a shoulder rest with built in suspension. it has a bit of give for quick arm movements without upsetting the violin. On the counter to that until you get used to it you might find yourself applying more pressure

While on the subject of the padding I remember someone commented on the possibility of it wearing out in an earlier post. I'd like to state for the record that it comes with a spare U pad, and the bottom pad IS replaceable with just two screws.

March 12, 2012 at 11:32 PM · The violin does not contact the collarbone. That's enough to nullify the device for me.

March 12, 2012 at 11:43 PM · @ Michael Pijoan

It actually does press into the collar bone. Just not like a hard bare wood wedged in so you get a bruise feeling. If that's the kind of thing you like then I can't see any shoulder rest being suitable for you.

March 13, 2012 at 01:35 AM · @ Albert Sanders

If someone is getting a bruise on the skin over their collarbone then I believe they are clamping down too hard. My shoulder rest just provides some extra support on the shoulder but the actual edge of the violin always sits on my collarbone and I have never gotten a bruise there. So no, that is not the kind of think I "like", nor is it something that I experience. I was trained to play with no shoulder rest and I am still capable of doing so, but since I had a neck injury it has been more comfortable to use a rest.

March 15, 2012 at 06:05 AM · What kind of rest do you use that still allows you to have the violin on the collar bone? This is one of the problems that I have with most rests.

March 15, 2012 at 01:43 PM · No matter what shoulder rest I use, I make sure my violin is still resting on and being supported by my collarbone (i.e. in a similar position that it would be in if I played without a shoulder rest). I've been able to do this with the various kun rests, artino rests, playonair, wolf (although those take some more playing around with), poehland, little red sponges, Mach One, viva la musica...

October 2, 2012 at 07:30 PM · I ordered this rest and received it today. I must say the packaging and the pouch bag is very nice, and the construction of the rest is very solid. Now, I've read all the information about it not damaging the button, but the rest (at least on my violin) doesn't fit effortlessly in the button, you need to use a slight amount of pressure. The rubber/padding present in that part of the rest prevents any damage but I couldn't stop thinking it would suddenly remove the end button from its place (specially the first attempt putting the rest on, where it kind of made a torque "pulling" force in that area).

Now to the fitting. As previously mentioned you CANNOT rest the violin on your collarbone with this shoulder rest so the first impression was a very odd feeling of something between me and the violin (the violin also stays a little bit higher which for me is unacceptable).

It bends fairly easily, much bendable than the wolf rests (very nice material wolf could use in their future products).

My conclusion, this is a rest that FORCES you to a good violin position which is good (the shoulder rest rests on the collarbone and it's located at the very edge of the bottom of the violin; it's like an extension of your collarbone), but if you already have a good position, resting your violin on your collarbone, then you'll find this rest very uncomfortable, unless having it a little bit higher and loosing the feeling of the violin touching your collarbone is something that doesn't matter to you. Another thing is that I couldn't move much with this rest, you get a rock solid stability, a free left arm (specially E string ultra high positions) but the violin is very hard to move, it's almost glued to its position (which is a problem in ultra high G string positions)

Now, so you get an idea of the reviewer's preferences, my ideal rest right now for a 4/4 violin is a Wolf Forte secondo VIOLA rest (it has 2 moveable ends!! and the rest is THE SAME SIZE AS THE VIOLIN ONE) with the padding foam removed and slightly bent, just a bit.

Rests I have tried:

Kun Super, Wolf Secondo Standard, Wolf Forte Secondo 4/4, Kun Voce (nice but the lowest setting is incredibly high on the chinrest end), Conford shoulder cradle gold (Excellent rest if you tend to put the violin more in front of you, highly recommended), Gewa-like pad, a piece of foam, completely restless but with a Flat Flesch chinrest (nice but Flesch rest puts the violin extremely high on the shoulder which made G string very uncomfortable and I couldn't make fast passages easily with it). Now I use a guarneri with thick corks, and restless is very uncomfortable with it.

I think by far Wolf is the most customisable one; you shouldn't expect to find the ideal rest that best suits your body, you should modify it so it's the ideal one, and wolf lets you do that. If you worry about the long screws of the legs, you can cut them with a saw that cuts metal(I had to since they were pressing and hurting my shoulder and chest). Also if the metal part of the leg is hurting you violin, you can also cut it with a saw and leave just what's needed for your violin size/setup.

Also, you cant find a proper shoulder rest if you don't know what a proper violin position is. And I think that's something you get by placing it on your collarbone and finding a comfortable balance there. You can try 1hr of restless playing a day, or using foam for a while, until you learn the best place for the violin. This is something I think you CANT skip. If it weren't for the loss of volume I would stick to the pieces of foam which I think are the most comfortable thing to play with, and my wolf setup is almost identical; but it took a long time of research and trial and error.

Well those are my 2 cents!.


October 4, 2012 at 05:05 PM · I ordered this rest for a friend of mine to try. We ordered the 'adjustable/bendable' one. It arrived from Hong Kong, and we tried it out. The first thing we noticed was that the fitting on the end button was rather tight. It did, however, yield a much freer, livelier tone from my friend's violin, so tone-wise, I would say that the rest definitely delivers. I played with it also and found the rest to be very comfortable and the violin to be exceptionally responsive with the Phantom rest versus the Wolf Secondo that my friend normally uses.

However, I think that perhaps my friend's style of playing involves some 'squeezing down' on the violin between his neck and shoulder at certain points in his playing. After only 5 minutes or so of playing, the u-shaped clamp on the rest which attaches to the end button failed, and the rest came off the violin. My friend re-attached it, with the same result that it fell off almost immediately. When we examined the rest, we found that there was abrasion damage to the U-shaped clamp, so I emailed Phantom rest people. They responded very quickly, and I sent them some photos of the abrasion to the u-shaped clamp. They said they really hadn't seen that type of wear before, and they offered a refund if I sent the rest back, which I did. I received a refund for the rest, though they did not refund the shipping charges for either direction, so I was out about 17 dollars or so.

Customer service-wise I was pleased that they responded quickly and refunded the price of the rest. I'm not sure if this rest just wasn't appropriate for my friend or if others might experience the same issues. I have to say that we really loved the sound of his violin with the rest on, so if Phantom can make a rest that will hold up under all conditions, I think they will have a winner.

October 4, 2012 at 06:35 PM · I have not seen this - but from your description it is not a shoulder rest at all(which sits, er, on the shoulder) but a collarbone rest - and I would have thought that a very bad thing.

Whether you have a long or a short neck the violin should sit on your collarbone - the idea of the shoulder rest is to fill the gap between the violin and yes, your shoulder.

But maybe I'm misunderstanding?

October 4, 2012 at 10:42 PM · Elise - I also thought a shoulder rest was to fill in a gap between violin and shoulder. My understanding is this:

Length of neck/shape of jaw determine the height/type of chinrest

Size/shape/slope of shoulders determine the height/type of shoulder rest, if any

October 5, 2012 at 02:39 AM · Makes sense to me, Major League :))

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