Review: the new Warchal Russian Style A

December 3, 2011 at 04:25 AM · 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.

Replies (50)

December 3, 2011 at 04:55 AM ·

December 3, 2011 at 07:51 AM · I'm interested in trying this new A as well. Which set of their strings is this A from?

December 3, 2011 at 10:30 AM · Hi guys

Brian - I haven't found the need for a fine tuner. Because of the relatively low tension I've had no problems using the peg. I think you could work the ball out of the loop, but I'd suggest contacting customer service to confirm. I know a couple of fiddlers who play on Prims and what I've heard hasn't motivated me to try them. I'm after a fuller, more classical sound. This Warchal A is another thing entirely - not really to be compared, I think.

Michael - it's a stand-alone product. They say that most of their dealers should have them by now, or you can purchase direct from the Warchal site.

December 4, 2011 at 05:10 AM ·

December 4, 2011 at 06:07 AM · I tried this kind of setup when Pirastro released their Wondertone Solo set a few years ago (with a steel A) as well. I'm interested in trying the Warchal version soon (I used both their Brilliant and Karneol sets with good results lately).

While it sounds nice, the thing that drove me nuts about the Pirastro steel A is that the size of the "target" for natural harmonics seems to be smaller.

December 4, 2011 at 11:00 AM · I haven't had Prims on my instrument, as I said, but I have played them a couple of times when mucking about with other people's fiddles. To be fair they weren't good instruments, but I got the impression the Prims are easy to play but nasal and one-dimensional, as you say. Top players can get a good sound from pretty much anything, but I doubt the Prim A makes it easy for them...

In my experience the Warchal A is a much, much better string than the other metal cores I've tried. The more I figure out how to get the best from it, the more I'm liking it! So if you've got any interest in this kind of setup my feeling is that it's got to be worth a try.

Brian - one thing I didn't mention in the review is that Bohdan feels the new A will add a useful option to anyone with a problematic A on their instrument. Sounds as if this might apply to you.

As for the harmonics, I'd say that the Warchal offers a slightly narrower "target", but it's easier to get it to speak cleanly. And even under my rather uneducated hand, the sound is lovely.

December 5, 2011 at 12:24 AM · Question: where did you get this string? I can't find it where I normally buy strings though they sell Warchal strings.

Edit: Never mind, I see you're in Europe so you can order from the manufacturer.

December 5, 2011 at 01:07 AM · Joseph

They're just distributing them now, I think. If you contact customer care with your location I'm sure they'll be able to put you in touch with your nearest stockist. I've found they respond to emails pretty promptly.

December 6, 2011 at 04:33 AM · I mentioned this to my professor and he said to try the Jargar A. I am still trying to get the Warchal A in the U.S. but I was wondering if anyone else had a good experience with the one by Jargar.

December 6, 2011 at 07:05 AM ·

December 7, 2011 at 01:30 PM · Maybe I should be more open-minded about the Prim. I'm liking this kind of setup, so when the Warchal wears out I may give it a proper try.

But it does seem unlikely that Warchal's would have invested in developing the new string unless they felt it was a significant improvement on existing options. They are a small business, and as someone who runs a small business myself, I know that you are pretty careful about where you invest your development resources when the money is coming out of your own pocket!

December 7, 2011 at 07:14 PM · What would this A be compatible with then? almost anything? more specifically compatible with Dominants? Or would that all depend on the violin? I'm using vision titanium solo's right now which I like, but I just got a set of Passione which I've never tried and haven't even got them on yet. So just wondering if you'd have to not only experiment with the Warchal A but also with G, D, & possibly E to go with it??

sounds rather intriguing. I've used Infeld Prasizion & Super flex before and a full set of steels can be good for Swing & blues on some fiddles. The thought occurred to me that a string like this might make a smoother transition between the afore mentioned genre's and more melodic stuff.

Side question For Brian Lee: Your current fiddle, the one that likes Dominants, was it strung with Doms when you first tried it out/accepted it?

December 7, 2011 at 11:05 PM ·

December 8, 2011 at 12:13 AM · Hi guys

I've tried it with a mellow E (John Pierce Artiste) and a more meaty E (Larsen Tzigane). For the D and G, with some aging Artistes (quite a dark string) and with new Warchal Karneols (quite neutral). As Warchal claim, it did seem to blend fine with both setups. Can't see any reason why it wouldn't work with Dominants, which aren't that different from the Karneols.

I'm speculating, but I'd have my doubts whether it would blend with a metal D/G setup, as it does sound more like a synthetic.

As for the Karneols, I'm trying them for the first time. Didn't like them at first: they were extremely resonant and it was just too much for my instrument. Also, they do stretch a lot the first few days and need frequent tuning. But after a week they have settled down and are sounding quite good. A bit more responsive, I think, than the Dominants, and a touch darker.

December 8, 2011 at 01:31 AM · Brian: thanks for checking that compatibility thing out. One might expect them to say that, but reports so far tend to confirm it and I tend to believe them. Likely end up trying one, one of these days.

Geoff: just a comment about Karneols. I agree the sound nearly explodes off the strings.. a bit too much for me. also found them quite bouncy, at least for my bowing skills.

...another side note. After a couple of hours I could tell the Passiones are a no go. Solo's are back on, much better on my fiddle and for the way I play. Oh well!

December 8, 2011 at 02:47 AM ·

December 8, 2011 at 04:00 AM · pardon me for a moment Geoff... here's my defence. Over the past couple of years after switching back to acoustic from electric, I've gone thru 98% of the complete lines of D'Addario, Infeld & Pirastro, with 4 acoustics. Musta spent 1k in strings. I'm unabashedly claiming that I don't need a few days to tell whether a set is going to work for me. Admittedly, Passiones take longer to play in than average, but after 2 hours I knew that the G&D were going to be too "heavy" for me, and the less forgiving characteristic of gut, not worth the effort. These things weren't going to change that much over a few days imho. The PI's were a different story. I played on those for a few days, weighing the pro's & con's compared to the Ti-Solo's. The PI A & platinum E I liked, But I liked the sweet focus of the solo G & D better. I may take another run sometime with PI, but I'm done with Passione.

1k in strings excessive? It's my second hobby. I'm fascinated with the myriad differences in violin strings. but what drives me nuts is every set is just that much different on each fiddle.

Geoff: next thread I start, I'll donate you some posting space, ok? (smiles)

December 8, 2011 at 09:37 AM · Don't worry Dave, I'm pretty good at OT posting myself! Actually, in my exerience the OT postings here are sometimes the most interesting, (or the most amusing) as someone is following up their personal passion.

I do hope you gave the Karneol's more than a couple of hours though, as they change radically over the first few days. The price and playability are good, so if the sound suits your fiddle they might be a genuine candidate.

January 16, 2012 at 09:10 AM · I must agree with Geoff in that the Warchal A is a wonderful string! It definitely does not sound like a steel core string. It is warm yet powerful. Right now I am using Olive stiff G and D with the Warchal steel A and a Eudoxa wound E string. I will continue to experiment with the E strings. When the Olives are done I will swithch to Gamut Tricolore G and D. My fiddle is an Ettore Fort Venice 1923.

January 19, 2012 at 12:10 AM · A quick update - 6 weeks in the Russian A is still sounding great. The Karneols haven't worked for me - they dropped dead after 2 or 3 weeks.

January 22, 2012 at 01:29 PM · "The PI A & platinum E I liked, But I liked the sweet focus of the solo G & D better. I may take another run sometime with PI, but I'm done with Passione."

I've been playing on PI's (A,D,G) for about 8 weeks now and I'm beginning to wonder if they are going a bit false with some notes occasionally not sounding. This was particuarly noticeable this morning after a heavy session of chamber music yesterday.

Anyone else notice this 8 week period as a typical life span for these strings?

January 22, 2012 at 05:58 PM ·

January 22, 2012 at 11:38 PM · Thanks Brian - I will stick with the PI's for a bit longer and see, but as I have some concerts coming up I may change if I feel they are losing it!

January 23, 2012 at 01:12 AM · If one's on a tighter budget, they don't get PI's:)

John

January 23, 2012 at 03:36 AM ·

January 23, 2012 at 03:42 AM · If that's the case for you, I can see your point. For me personally, when I used to use dominants (I didn't know any better) they lasted for at least 3 months.

John

January 27, 2012 at 12:29 AM · I've tried the prototype of the Russian A a while back and I quite liked them. Especially the response. Back then I was using Vintage Brilliant G D & A with Eudoxa E. That worked well for me except the A was 'nothing special'. I contacted Warchal and they kindly sent me the then prototype metal A. It worked great from the get go. Great response and nice tone. Beautiful warm sound all the way up the fingerboard. Goes well to both the D & E. Tuning stability was good in summer and ok during fall with more flucutations in temperature.

One of the problem I had was that if I string up a thick aluminum D and thick wrapped E, this A is so thin that it poses a risk of unintentional contact with other strings if I do fast crossings or if I put more pressure on the bow or play over the fingerboard. That could be a problem with my bridge curvature and/or bowing technique tho. So YMMV in terms of compatibility.

All in all this is a good sounding string and something I would use again. The only reason I dont use it anymore is because I cant find a retailer for the Russian A. So I tried a Helicore A after using the Prototype metal A, and my instrument seem to like them both. Slight edge to the Warchal metal A. I've since returned to using synthetic core A for tuning stablity and also can ditch a fine tuner.

April 2, 2012 at 09:20 PM · I just tried the Warchal Russian A string on my old German fiddle. Prior to this, I was set up with a Gold E, Dominant regular D and G and light A. The Warchal A is very smooth and warm, but clearer than the Dominant light especially in the higher positions. It really is a good bridge between the E and the D and helps quite a bit with clarity and string crossings in the higher positions. It really doesn't sound like a steel string!. On my violin, it smooths out some of the unevenness between notes (hence the use of the light dominant A in the past) I have tried other steel A's before (helicore, Wondertone, Chromcor/Eudoxa). The Chromecor/Eudoxa was my favorite for solo work and it is brighter, closer in character to the Gold E. I think the Warchal E is a better overall blend and feels a little thicker under the finger.

I just put on a Peter Infeld D and G and their more focused character has also changed the Warchal A. It now blends perfectly with this combination! With this set, now everything sounds clearer in the high positions. Much less fighting and easier to play cleanly.

December 4, 2012 at 05:43 PM · I have to say that the Warchal Russian style A is still holding strong after 11 months!!!. I now have it on my violin with the Tricolore medium wound D and G. This A string blends so well with wound gut......very impressive

Cheers

Jack

February 16, 2013 at 12:09 PM · UPDATE

Amazingly, the Warchal A is still on my fiddle and performing well after 14 months.

My instrument is particularly sensitive to strings - when they are fresh it sounds wonderful, but when they go off it falls off a cliff and sounds like a cardboard box. So I would have noticed if the A had degraded much.

I'm not a pro, but I do practice a few hours a week so this is seriously impressive - I've got through 3 or 4 sets of G/D strings in the same period.

The long life more than offsets the high cost, and I'm going to stick with this string long-term. I've had a vellum protector fitted to my bridge so I can ditch the somewhat odd Warchal bridge protector that it ships with.

Although they did kindly donate the string for review I'm not a Warchal shill - I also tried the Karneols and for some reason on my fiddle they died far too quickly. But the Russian-style A has been an unqualified success. Well worth a try!

February 16, 2013 at 12:21 PM · I tried the russian style a a few months ago. In terms of responsiveness it was indeed unmatched. Also the sound was very pleasing. My only two problems with this string were, that it resonates so much, that my violin started to scream and wolf notes came out even worse than usual. But I can imagine, that this string can be a keeper with the right setup and violin. Although its very special. It feels very soft and thin.

February 16, 2013 at 01:29 PM · Yes - the feel is odd at first - soft and thin as you say. But it's just a question of getting used to it - feels normal to me now! After all, the E is even softer and thinner...

February 16, 2013 at 04:26 PM · I gave one of these strings to my teacher to try (he's been using a steel A since the 1960s) but he still hasn't tried it.. I will post his review when he does

February 16, 2013 at 07:30 PM · "I gave one of these strings to my teacher to try (he's been using a steel A since the 1960s) but he still hasn't tried it.. I will post his review when he does."

If he's been using the same A since the 1960's he may well not change it for another 20 years so we may have a long wait!

February 6, 2014 at 03:27 PM · What color is the silk winding on the Warchal Russian A?

February 6, 2014 at 04:22 PM · as far as I remember its red

February 6, 2014 at 06:30 PM · Mine is dark red.

February 6, 2014 at 07:04 PM · Thanks.

How are you guys still liking it?

February 6, 2014 at 07:16 PM · it was too loud on my violin. But very responsive. If one needs a boost on the a string...

February 6, 2014 at 08:23 PM · I tried a Pirastro Permanent A on mine for a while, since I had a set of Permanents already. It was interesting, but definitely still had that steel string sound. Not bad, by any means, but not like a synthetic.

I was just wondering how much different the Warchal Russian could be from the Permanent (also referred to as a "warm" steel string")

February 18, 2014 at 09:17 PM · As one who has tried the Helicore A, Pirastro Permenente A, and the Warchal Russian A, the Warchal Russian A wins for me every time. This is on a nice modern del gesu copy, a Kogut 5-string and a Dudley 5-string. I have had one of them on for well over a year and I have the Warchal Russian A string on all three instruments now and I am not looking back. I use the Amber E string on all three instruments too. I have to jump through some pretty big hoops to get those.....dont ask my opinion of Thomastik-Infield right now.

I use various synthetics for the rest of my sets depending on the violin. The bottom line is the Russian A string seems to work very well with a wide selection of D and G strings. It even sounds great with Helicore D and G strings.

David Blackmon

February 19, 2014 at 04:13 PM · Seraphim - I've had a couple of other steel As on my fiddle now, and on my setup the Warchal A is very much more complex and interesting.

Well worth giving it a try, especially since the price has come down since the initial batches.

I've recently tried a review set of the new Cantigas, and was impressed - particularly by the D and G. They work well as a set but I think I'm going back to the Warchal Russian A - it really is an innovative string, with its combination of steel-like playability and gut-like sound. Hopefully it will sound OK with the Cantigas.

February 20, 2014 at 05:34 AM · Thanks for the feedback. I'm definitely tempted.

February 22, 2014 at 10:49 AM · The Warchal Russian A is truly an excellent string, created (I think) to be a better A string for matching to other brands. But for me, the best strings so far are the Warchal Brilliants with the Amber E. This combo is truly remarkable.

March 4, 2014 at 02:30 AM · Bought one.

Wow, it is a skinny string! I'm. I will wait until my A gives out before giving it a try.

Anybody know if it is a rope core or solid core? I'm guessing solid from the diameter.

March 4, 2014 at 08:45 AM · " it really is an innovative string, with its combination of steel-like playability and gut-like sound"

Seems I had a senior moment there - I meant "synthetic-like", as you probably figured...

March 26, 2014 at 01:51 PM · My A string was finally annexed by the Russian A.

First impression was that it didn't create much of an impression.... in other words, it seemed to blend well (Zyex G, D, with wound Tonica E), perhaps a bit of a metallic edge, but it was a morning quick practice, so hard to know what exactly was what. But it certainly didn't scream out "HEY YOU GUYS, I"M A METALLIC STRING OVER HERE!", the way most steel strings are often shouting from the rooftops.

The Russian A certainly didn't jump out as the odd string out on the violin. When I had previously tried a Pirastro Flexocor A, that string definitely was proclaiming that it was different from the rest, stronger tone, different timbre.

The string is definitely thin. It looks quite similar to it's next door neighbor the wound Tonica E. I measured with a set of calipers, the Tonica is .31mm dia, the Russian A .42. But it seems quite pliable, and not at all an issue for finger comfort due to it's soft nature.

As has been noted by others, the response seems quite easy.

Looking forward to seeing how this develops...

April 13, 2014 at 01:23 AM · This is a very good string. The sound is bright, but not in a bad way. It is incredibly easy to play and makes complex passages feel far easier than gut or synthetic a's. This past winter I used it in a performance of the 3rd movement of the Mendelssohn concerto. It has plenty of cut and was able to be heard over the orchestra I played with. It is not as complex as some synthetics or guts, but is still pretty warm and complex. The best part is the fact that it is wound with stainless steel. It quite literally never wears out.

April 13, 2014 at 01:24 AM · This is a very good string. The sound is bright, but not in a bad way. It is incredibly easy to play and makes complex passages feel far easier than gut or synthetic a's. This past winter I used it in a performance of the 3rd movement of the Mendelssohn concerto. It has plenty of cut and was able to be heard over the orchestra I played with. It is not as complex as some synthetics or guts, but is still pretty warm and complex. The best part is the fact that it is wound with stainless steel. It quite literally never wears out.

September 21, 2015 at 09:52 PM · The Russian Style A is an excellent string. It has a warm and strong sound, and as others have said, is very responsive. I am using it with an aluminum on gut D and silver on gut G. The string's transition across from the E to D sounds good.

It is less bright sounding, and thinner, than the other steel A's I have tried, e.g. Spirocore, Prim, Jargar. On the other hand, I think it brighter than the Pirastro Permanent(aluminum on steel) A.

The Spirocore is more complex sounding, and also brighter. The Prim A is just brighter. I haven't used a Jargar A in years, but recall it as being much like the Prim. The Permanent is darker and less resonant than the Warchal string; to my ears the Warchal has a more interesting sound than the Permanent.

The string is very thin and you definitely should have a parchment bridge protector with it.

The peg end silk is blue, the tailpiece end is half dark red and half black. Ball end.

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