Why consider a Russian style A?
Before the advent of synthetic strings, it seems that many Russian players used a metal core A string. Presumably the attraction was the greater stability, responsiveness and durability when compared to gut. According to Bohdan Warchal, who used this style of A as a student, some players also felt that it offered a more seamless gradation of tone between the treble timbre of the E and the more alto timbre of the D.
With the advent of synthetics this practice seems to have died out. But from the early days of the Warchal venture, Bohdan set out to develop a string that combined the responsiveness and durability of the Russian style A with the tonal qualities of a good modern synthetic. Apparently it's been a challenging project, but as you may have noticed from the ads it's finally ready for release. Warchal have kindly sent me a string to review.
So the question is, have they achieved their ambitious goals?
The string, and my setup
This is a thin string, to the point that it arrives fitted with a bridge protector. The winding is a very smooth chrome. Warchal can't supply tension figures, but it feels pliant and surprisingly pleasant under the fingers, given that it looks like cheese wire! I strung it onto my 2 year old Martin McClean del Gesu model. This is a powerful, well balanced instrument that prefers Dominants or similar low tension, neutral strings and sounds great with gut. As you'd expect the pitch settled rapidly.
Claim 1: unmatched responsiveness
Full marks here - as an intermediate player I find it notably more responsive than the Dominant A in all positions. It speaks instantly with the lightest of touches, and articulation is effortless. I've been plodding away for weeks at a passage with very rapid string crossings and suddenly I can play it cleanly - it's so much easier it almost feels like cheating!
One issue though - with the hard and smooth winding the choice of rosin is critical - you need something with bite that doesn't build up on the string. If you do get build up the sound can become gritty. Warchal have conducted tests and can advise on rosin choice if you contact customer support.
Claim 2: warm and mellow tone with seamless gradation to the E
With my setup, I've been very pleasantly surprised. The timbre is, subtly, more treble than the Dominant - but not in an unpleasant way. My instrument prefers a pretty meaty E and with the Dominant A there is a noticeable difference in timbre as I change up. As Warchal claim, the new A does provide a smoother bridge between the D and the E. I'm getting a huge dynamic range - silvery legato with a fast and light bow, and impressive punch if I dig in. Best of all I'm getting plenty of synthetic-like complexity and overtones. I carried out a little blind listening test, and no-one guessed it was a metal string. My luthier and I tried Helicores on this fiddle and they were woeful - flat and uninteresting. This Warchal A is working far, far better for me, and really does seem to offer the tonal qualities of a good synthetic.
Claim 3: exceptional durability
Too early to say, obviously, but Warchal are claiming long life in their testing. The new A is not cheap so it would have to last well to be economic. But it would be good to find something more relable than the Dominant A, as I don't think I'm alone in finding it problematic.
So will it be staying on my fiddle?
Personally, I'm finding this a pretty beguiling combination of benefits. The playability really is striking, and the tone is more than acceptable. So yes, this looks like the start of a long-term relationship. IMHO, a worthwhile innovation that's well worth a try.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.