What's a good replacement for Pirastro Passione strings??

January 23, 2012 at 03:56 PM · I've got an old German violin strung with Pirastro Passione strings.

I think I will probably replace them soon, but am unsure what with. I have dominants with Pirastro Gold label E on my other violin which suit it very well, but don't suit this violin.

I would like to try Evahs but because they apparently don't last for long, I am rather reluctant. Maybe Obligatos or Infeld Red... I'm not sure.

Replies (31)

January 23, 2012 at 05:15 PM · Your post raises several questions, most of which your luthier is in a better position to answer than we are, because we cannot hear your violin with the Passiones. What do you like/hate about the Passiones? What kind of sound are you seeking? Would you prefer to stay with gut or switch to synthetics? You will often hear that Obligatos are the most comparable synthetic to Passiones or gut, which is probably generally true. However, different strings sound different on different instruments, so yours may be the exception to the generally accepted wisdom. Your post is likely to generate a large number of well-intentioned responses urging you to try a particular string that works for them or works generally. This will not gain you much insight; going to your luthier will. Good luck!

January 23, 2012 at 05:30 PM · I used to use Passiones and have (on my teachers suggestion) switched to Larsen Tsigane. They are amazingly stable and sound very good indeed on my instrument.

January 23, 2012 at 06:27 PM · I must say, Tom - although a luthier can hear an instrument, they can't always know how the instrument will be affected by certain strings - and they may have their own personal preferences, as well.

Because of those limitations, I wonder if it may be worth it for some musicians to forgo getting a luthier's opinion on strings.

January 23, 2012 at 06:45 PM · I agree Andrew - the only real way is to try them out and see how they sound to your ear (and hopefully someone you trust). Of course it can be an expensive proposition ....

January 23, 2012 at 07:52 PM · Andrew/Elise - I did not mean to suggest that the luthier listening was infallible. You are correct that you have to try strings. However, the luthier who hears the strings you have is in a much better position to make an educated suggestion as to what strings might work than people who cannot hear the violin as currently strung. That's all I meant to say. Maybe I am wrong about that too, but my experience suggests not.

January 23, 2012 at 08:06 PM · I think its a very interesting question Tom. I mean intuition would assume that the luthier would be the expert on the setup for the violin. I'm sure that is true to some extent but perhaps luthiers, who spend most of their time making the instrument, are less experienced at selecting strings than pros - or maybe even dealers. I've found the best string advice right here! Not whats good on my violin specifically but, of the vast choices out there, what works well on someone's violin and hence is worth a look.

January 23, 2012 at 08:14 PM · Hanan, out of curiosity, why do you want to move away from the passione's?

January 23, 2012 at 08:26 PM · I'd recommend trying Vision Solo, which is what I switched to after coming away from Passiones. I have a collection of violins and in most cases have found these strings to work well with all of them, providing brilliance, character and stability.

That said, I agree with others that the chemistry of string, instrument and player is unpredictable.

January 23, 2012 at 08:35 PM · Raphael, why did you switch from the passione strings?

January 23, 2012 at 09:11 PM · Elise - for general information on what is out there and works generally, v.com already provides that information: http://www.violinist.com/wiki/violin-strings/. What I find with these threads is that you get at least one vote for almost every brand of string out there, which really does not advance the inquiry. Only someone who is trained and can actually hear your violin can give a more educated guess as to what might work best on your violin, and not on mine or on Raphael's. Vision Solos or Tsiganes might be terrific on your violin, or maybe not. That is why I suggest going to your luthier. You can certainly learn from the url above what possibilities could work and suggest them to your luthier, but on hearing your violin, your luthier will be in the best position to give an opinion as to which are most likely to achieve the sound you want.

January 23, 2012 at 10:09 PM · One thing my luthier explained to me was the role of tension (high/low) in string sound. I had the irritating problem of a whistling E, which went away when I changed to higher tension lower strings--but he explained to me that it was the tension, not the combination of brands (as I'd been told by others) that made the difference.

Maybe the luthier can't give final advice, but s/he can help with the principles of selection from a different perspective than ours. I pay attention to tension now.

January 23, 2012 at 11:26 PM · Luthiers have to be concerned about which strings will sell the instrument, rather than complement it. I don't mean to be cynical, but their objective is that. Which is why Evah Piratzis must be rather attractive as they give a strong musical sound...

Actually, thats an interesting question: which strings do luthiers put on their instrument as they leave the shop for, say, a dealers consignment?

January 23, 2012 at 11:47 PM · There is no perfect replacement for Passiones. They are what they are, like any other string.

A lot of good advice has been given already. Strings involve various compromises, and tastes in sound vary, so to know what works (yes, experienced luthiers can make some educated guesses), you will ultimately need to try them on your own fiddle.

January 24, 2012 at 01:54 AM · Have you looked at Warchal Ametysts? I've heard they sound really close to gut strings. I have a set and they are very stable in pitch and are loud but not piercing. Overall they are great strings. Also they cost only $33 so it doesn't cost much to try them out.


January 24, 2012 at 03:02 AM · Just to give another name, On MY violin the strings that i like besides the Passione are the Thomastik-Infeld p (pi). Unfortunately the Pi are really expensive. I tried them only once. They never agreed to send me a trial set whereas Pirastro provides an excellent customer service. Pirastro sent me a trial set for the new Passione and they also sent me a replacement for a G and a D.

January 24, 2012 at 03:23 AM · @Arnie,

Passiones are really nice strings. The low tension make them easy on the finger tips, and they tend to have a warm, rich sound on most (not all) fiddles. The main downside has to do with the fact that low tension strings (Passiones included) cannot withstand a lot of bow pressure. The sound cracks more easily. I doubt you will find any touring pro's with Passiones on their fiddles. If you need to project in a large hall, or stand out when soloing with an orchestra, you need a higher tension string such as Evah Pirazzi.

January 24, 2012 at 04:04 AM · Smiley, I'm not sure that's true - I believe Julia Fischer is using Passiones (or at least she was for a little while)...Aaron Rosand favors weich-gauge Dominants or gut, and I'm probably missing some other prominent soloists.

January 24, 2012 at 04:10 AM · Aaron Rosand uses Dominants in the summer and Passiones the rest of the time.

January 24, 2012 at 04:11 AM · Hi Arnie. For many years I was a gut man. I mostly used Pirastro Eudoxa. I liked them for their warmth and complexity. For a while I tried basic Dominants. I found them to be reliable, certainly, but for me, they had no particular color or quality. And few people use their E string, with its soft core. I remember preparing Zigeunerweizen. In practicing the left-hand Pizz. passages I went through 3 or 4 Dom. E strings!

I occasionally tried Pirastro Oliv strings, and really liked their sound - similar to Eudoxa, but better: more focused and concentrated. But I didn't like their higher price, nor their instability. I had 2 of the very expensive G's quickly break, and the A's would sometimes start to unwravel in 2 or 3 days! For a while I used D'Adarios, which were OK - more colorful than Dominants. I also experimented with Infeld Reds and Blues (- sounds like drugs!). I indeed found, as they suggested, that the blues would help brighten a darker fiddle, and the Reds would help darken a brighter one.

Then I heard about Passiones. For a while I liked them quite a lot. They were similar to Olivs, but more stable - for a while. I found similar unwinding problems as with the Olivs. I never liked Evah Pirazzi - too stiff and unyielding. I've also found that if you have an otherwise good fiddle with a somewhat stiff G, that Pirastro Tonica can sweeten it a bit. But when I tried the Vision Solo, I found that they combined the brilliance of the Blues with the warmth of the Reds - they seem to cover a broad spectrum.

I've experimented with a lot of E's. The Visions are good, but cheaper ones like Westminister, Goldbrokot, and Corelli are probably just as good, if less long-lasting.

I tried one set of Peter Infelds. I won them for free from the Strad Magazine once, when they published a letter of mine as letter of the month! Some have almost called them the Messiah of strings, and others charletans. I found them to be just OK, and would certainly not go to the expense. Also I haven't found the more expensive Vision Titanium to be better than Vision Solo.

There are almost too many strings on the market!

January 24, 2012 at 09:12 AM · I was talking to a very fine quartet leader after a concert yesterday and I asked him if he was still using the PI's. He said yes, in the winter, but in the summer with more humidity he uses the Vision Tit Solo.

He plays on one of them Chinese fiddles, called I think a Guadanini ... Made in Parma, a well known town in China (wink).(The quartet are based in the USA, but tour on and off quite a bit).

January 24, 2012 at 01:37 PM · Hanan, I have an old German violin too. Mine has the traditional deep belly, which is different to my French violin, which has a flatter belly. It is said, and seems to be true to me, that the deep bellied violins are a little quieter volume-wise, than the flat bellied ones. This is why Evah strings are sometimes recommended for these old German models, to increase their sound. However I found that mine didn't like the Evahs at all, they sounded too harsh. But it likes Dominants well enough, and really does well with the Peter Infelds by Thomastik. So my French violin got the Evah's, and it seems a match made in heaven, a little loud, I'll admit, but I like that too. I am on my third set and have found each set to last around 7 months. I only play around one to two hours a day. The Peter Infelds seemed to have a lifespan of around 6 months, (except the E string), and I also used three sets of those. They are both quite expensive string sets but I find nothing else has compared, for me anyway. And the PI platinum E string, is just heavenly to play on and seemingly lasts forever, with no whistling notes. So now my German violin has all PI's and my French one 3 Evahs' with a PI E string. These setups work quite nicely at the moment but I wonder if I begin to play a lot more, whether I'd be forced to look for longer lasting strings, in order to be somewhat economical price-wise.

January 24, 2012 at 01:47 PM · Aaron Rosand, oddly enough has recommended Dominant Weich. Glenn Dicterow has recommended Vision Solo. But before anyone rushes out to experiment on their own del Gesus, it's still a matter of unpredictable chemistry between instrument, string and player.

For a long time Rosand used a bare gut A. Heifetz used to use bare gut for both A and D. Many soloists still like Dominants - my least favorite in some ways.

The moral of the story? Dang if I know!

January 24, 2012 at 02:52 PM · To my knowledge, Dicterow has never actually used Vision Solo; I hear he kept using Dominants until PIs came out, and he then switched to those.

January 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM · Am I the only one here currently using the Larsen Tsiganes? Whats the moral there...

January 24, 2012 at 03:56 PM · Elise - the moral is that they sound good on your violin. I have never tried them, so I have no idea whether or not they would sound good on mine. I know that Passiones and Obligatos sound very good on mine, so I do not experiment at this (after years of trying different strings).

January 24, 2012 at 05:53 PM · At one point Glenn endorsed Vision Solos in an ad that I'm sure he approved. I can't imagine him lying about that. But it is certainly quite possible that he changed his mind, as so many players do, and started using something else. I'll ask him eventually what he uses.

January 25, 2012 at 01:46 AM · @Andrew, if you are correct about Julia Fischer, then I stand corrected. One other thing I don't like about Passione's (or gut strings in general), they are not as pitch stable as synthetics. Gut strings are about 5 cents sharp when you first take your fiddle out of the case. They take about 10-15 minutes to settle in.

I was busy last week and didn't touch my fiddle for almost a week. When I took it out of the case, the strings were exactly in tune. It is strung with Dominants. No way it would have been perfectly in tune if it were strung with gut.

January 25, 2012 at 03:25 AM · I heard that in that ad, Dicterow's violin was strung with Dominants, so they had to crop the photograph so that the distinctive wrapping at the tailpiece wouldn't show.

I got to see his del Gesu from really close up a few months ago, and it was strung with PIs, and when I visited my luthier a couple weeks ago, he told me that that's what he's still using.

Another time, when I happened to be at the shop at the same time as Dicterow, he suggested for me to try the Peter Infeld silver wound D string in conjunction with the G string which I was using on and off.

January 25, 2012 at 03:43 AM · Yes, Brian, it's true about that ad. But I think some people made a mountain out of a mole hill, as that was probably just an older publicity photo. But Dominants, PI's. and Visions are all from the same parent company, I believe.

It's back to the basic idea that you just never can be sure what's going to work best on a particular fiddle for a particular fiddler - and for how long.

January 25, 2012 at 04:00 AM · I believe that for those who are looking to try Evahs and Visions, they should also try the Warchal Brilliant, or Brilliant Vintage, according to their instrument needs. My "generic" 1892 french violin sounds amazing with the Vintage set (although I am using a Goldbrokat E, because I just love them so much.) And I was in a similar position as the OP-needing a replacement from Passiones (which I most certainly love), but needing something a bit more affordable at the moment. I didn't want to go to to Evah's not because they are bad (they are great), but because of the tension, and ditto with the Visions (I haven't tried Vision Solos yet, though.) The feel of the passiones was amazing. And although they are not Passiones, the Warchal Brilliant Vintage have given me lots of power, tons of shades, extremely impressive response in all strings and positions, amazing evenness, and just a superlative tone. The feel is superior than any other synthetic I've tried, and came closest to the Passiones I was replacing (a lower tension is not always a bad thing-the tone is certainly not lacking with these strings, but due to the differences among violins and players, your mileage may indeed vary.)

Having said the above, as good as the better known Pirastro and Thomastik sets are, the playability of the Brilliant Vintage is truly magnificent, and they are usually a bit more affordable. Haven't tried the Karneol or Ametyst, but the Brilliant Vintage set is what a synthetic violin string set should be (IMHO, and IME), and then some.

January 26, 2012 at 09:49 PM · I just play for myself, and once a month in a string ensemble, so no halls where i need to bear down/project. I've been thru 2 sets of the passione solos and i really like the sound. Dark, responsive, minimal buzzing on the lower strings. What i don't like is the price. For me they last about 3 to 4 months.....so at 350.00 per year, it gets hard to justify. i had dominants, but the d string was dull on my violin. tried evah's, which took a couple days before my ears could tolerate them. infeld reds were good, warchal brilliants were not bad, but a bit bright for my tastes. i tried the eudoxa's, but found them unresponsive. I hear an overabundance of string noise, rather than the sound the string is supposed to make. Currently i have obligatos which i think are the closest to the passione solos.......the passiones are still my reference standard. I have to admit though.......if i spent as much mental energy on practicing as i do on fussing over strings, I'd probably be a better player.....

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