Violin case shells: high-tech plastics vs. wood laminate.

November 29, 2012 at 07:07 PM · Two respected magazines, Strings (USA) and Music Teacher (UK) have recently published almost simultaneous articles extolling the virtues of violin and viola cases with shells made out of plastic (ABS, carbon fiber, fiberglass, etc.) while basically dismissing wood laminate to the old-school of thought where, and I quote, “heavier is more protective” (sic).

As a professional case maker for the past thirty years I find it questionable that some people think they know enough about case shell materials to make such judgments and influence other people’s choices, simply because they play the violin too.

I mean, how many of those who write the Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Case have any notion about the kinematics and the studies of Bela Barenyi? Or how about the fields of plasticity and elasticity within a system defined by continuum mechanics, i.e. the stress of deformable structures? How about the thermal conduction characteristics of materials used for shell construction, or the study of the air mass contained within a closed case? Yes, all this is necessary study for a superior product.

And, for those authors who “don’t do” physics, how many of them have at least interviewed various case makers on these subjects? (Or violin repairers…)

My guess? Zero, and yet they give you advice on what case to buy.

Now if you listen to all the hype about plastic cases, the first thing they tell you is that thanks to all of this wonderful technology they are lighter and stronger. Well – surprise - they are not. One of the most famous and advertised oblong violin cases of this variety weighs, with music pocket and according to their own website, 2.8 kg. or 6.2 lbs..

That’s not so light at all. There are in fact several case makers who are able to craft wood laminate cases that weigh considerably less than that, while offering greater measured crush resistance. One maker offers a model that weighs only 1.8 kg. So up to here the score is: wood - 2, plastic - 0.

Properly designed and built wood laminate cases also offer better thermal insulation and don’t bounce, subjecting your violin to excessive G-force, if by mistake you drop it or your strap breaks. If you leave a laminate case near a light bulb it won’t melt, and the integral protective cover can be replaced in the future allowing you to keep the case longer, a long-term savings. To make a case air-tight, one of the selling points of these products, is a mistake because it will become a pressure cooker if left near a heat source or in the sun. So by this yardstick, the score that tallies up to is: wood - 7, plastic - 0.

So why all the hype about these plastic cases? I suspect that the deal is – as always – corporate profits. It costs less for a machine to stamp out a plastic shell than to have a highly-skilled worker spend a couple of hours crafting one out of specially milled materials to millimetrical tolerances. It’s also a whole lot easier to industrialize a plastic product, just invest in more molds and machines, and you can make hundreds and even thousands of them.

Of course then it’s up to the marketing people to creatively convince us that plastic cases are better. Plastic is more modern and high-tech than wood, it’s cool, it’s got stripes, it’s the future, etc., and they do that through the purchase of advertising space by the square foot and sponsoring infomercials. But if Boeing uses a certain material to build a 787 Dreamliner, does it necessarily follow that you can make a good violin case out of it?

Here’s the acid test. The totality of high-end violin and viola case makers today – Caballero, GL Cases, Negri, Riboni, and the others – all still exclusively use wood laminate for their top-range case shells, meaning it could truly be that it actually is a superior material for this purpose. Cost obviously isn’t the issue. These makers can’t all be retrogrades stuck in the past, clinging to dusty old traditions. In the 1980s I myself experimented for two years with carbon fiber, Kevlar, Coremat, ABS, polyeurethane and fiberglass, making over 120 cases with these materials but ending up convinced that they were valid for cases for cello but not for violin or viola.

So think about it: if we were all to buy into such absolutes like “new is better” without rational criticism, Stradivari would be “old school” and there’s a good chance we’d be playing plastic, multicolored violin-shaped-objects.

Replies (63)

November 29, 2012 at 07:27 PM · Negri is now making cases with carbon fiber shells replacing their wooden shells (but with the same exterior and interior fittings), at the same weights as their wooden cases, but with guaranteed 150 kg crush resistance, as well as a valance groove closure along the lip of the case.

Also GL Cases has their "Combi" case which is perhaps their most popular case (although, it is admittedly their cheapest case), made of polycarbonate, although they have not released data on the crush resistance of this case.

I'm not trying to argue your point, I'm just pointing out that these two high-end case making companies have successfully experimented with composite materials! I personally use a Musafia and a Bobelock case myself (I use my Bobelock when I have to leave my case unattended for long periods of time, and I'm afraid of somebody stealing my Musafia); my Bam composite-shell case cracked after being knocked off of a chair just once.

November 29, 2012 at 07:40 PM · Negri's website www.negricases.com mentions that they are working on composite shell cases, but if I'm not mistaken their model lineup does not include them at this time. In any event the top-of-the-line Diplomat and Royal models have a laminate shell.

The GL cases website http://www.glcases.com.tw/about_us/index03.php says, quote "The shell of the cases is plywood. It provides stability and well protection as well."

To be perfectly clear, my point is that a certain part of the press seems to be endorsing composite plastic cases without having the necessary technical competence.

November 29, 2012 at 09:32 PM · Good stuff, Dimitri.

I own maybe a dozen wooden shell cases which I use for shipping and approvals, but no plastic violin or viola cases. Well, maybe a couple of old ones, but they were free. ;-)

November 29, 2012 at 09:53 PM · Perhaps its appropriate to make an analogy to the contents of that case: its possible to make a much more durable violin out of plastics and carbon fiber too but... we don't decide on that alone either!

I really appreciate your topic as I've currently been trying to figure out whether I should hang onto my old (yes heavy) wood case or 'upgrade'. One post that caught my referred to our Canadian winters and the prediction that the violin is protected from sudden extreme temperature changes much better by wood than plastics. I think cases should come with specs detailing the temperature/humidity/impact and pressure protections...

November 29, 2012 at 10:34 PM · In the Strings Magazine it says, "plywood remains a favorite for many case makers and players thanks to its proven durability and protection."

I personally prefer plywood.

I've owned an American Continental case for about five years and I love it. It is heavy, at 8 1/4 lbs. the heaviest of the cases reviewed in the Strings but I don't mind the weight. One of the testers asked if there could be too much interior storage. My answer would be a resounding NO. I love all the storage space but that's an individual thing. The digital hygrometer was about 10 points off; Shar sent me a replacement for free and it was only 9 points off! The humidifier tube that comes with the case is worthless. It releases moisture way too slowly to be of any use. It is nearly impossible to open with only one hand, but violinists usually have two hands.

It seems that I'm pointing out all the negatives but I do love it! I bought it hoping to get maximum protection for my violin and I think that's what I got.

November 30, 2012 at 01:11 AM · In response to Elise's comment, "I think cases should come with specs detailing the temperature/humidity/impact and pressure protections...": I agree. Tempo makes a violin case that actively and automatically controls its own internal temperature and relative humidity levels using advanced electronics and high tech digital sensors that constantly monitor and respond to the real-time conditions inside the case. The case is lined with one of the most highly insulative materials in the world, and it is airtight so that it can isolate the internal climate of the case from the outside environment - which is really the only reliable way to accurately control temperature and humidity conditions in any environment. If your case is not airtight, air moisture and heat will flow in and out of the case as the conditions in the surrounding environment change. If you can control the temperature inside the case, then pressure is really not an issue at all.

In response to Randy's comment, "The digital hygrometer was about 10 points off... The humidifier tube that comes with the case is worthless.": These "humidifying" devices have no way of monitoring or responding to the actual humidity levels inside the case. They are simply designed to release air moisture into the case on a constant basis until they dry out, so even if they are able to release air moisture quickly and in large volumes, the amount of moisture that they release is unregulated, which can lead to unsafe relative humidity levels. As David Burgess explains on his website, "I've tested probably 50 hygrometers, and ONLY ONE was within two percent of the correct reading. A hygrometer that isn't accurate is worse than useless; it's a hazard to your instrument!". The Tempo violin case uses extremely sensitive and accurate, rapid-response, scientific digital sensors to monitor the internal temperature and relative humidity levels. The case is designed to maintain relative humidity levels in the ideal 40%-60% range in both dry and humid environments by releasing or absorbing air moisture as needed, and without exposing your instrument to the dangers of liquid water.

The Tempo violin case controls its own internal temperature automatically by gently circulating warm or cool air as needed, ensuring that the internal temperature never goes below 60F (15.6C), even when exposed to sub-Actic temperatures, or above 94F (34.4C), even in external or "ambient" temperatures above 120F (49C). It is important to remember that "relative humidity" is "relative" to air temperature, so in order to accurately control relative humidity, you also need to accurately control the air temperature.

I have lived in Montreal, and like Elise I have spent a lot of time in Toronto and other parts of Ontario; I know just how extreme the temperature and humidity swings in Canada can be - as well as in many parts of the Northern US. As most string players know, it is dangerous to open your case upon entering a warm building if the temperature inside the case falls to the same temperature as the air outside in the winter. Many musicians are forced to wait around for long periods of time before opening their cases in the winter. The Tempo case eliminates that concern, as it is able to maintain a safe internal "room temperature" continuously for hours, even when exposed to outside temperatures of -15F (-26C) or lower. The case also includes a waterproof external LCD screen that displays the internal temperature, relative humidity, battery level, climate control mode, and important safety and security messages in real time, so that you always know what is going on inside without having to open the case.

The Tempo violin case uses proprietary software to constantly monitor the conditions inside the case, and the case will send you text messages and email alerts to notify you immediately of any safety concerns. For example, the case will notify you if it is in an environment so intensely hot that it is no longer able to cool itself below 95F (35C) (the temperature at which some sensitive varnishes can begin to soften). These alerts let you know that you should move your case to a cooler location immediately so as to protect the instrument and bows from damage. The case will also send you other important messages via text message and email - for example if the battery is low, if AutoSafe Shutoff fail safe mode has been activated for any reason, and others.

In response to Darrett's comment, "I use my Bobelock when I have to leave my case unattended for long periods of time, and I'm afraid of somebody stealing my Musafia": The Tempo violin case includes fully-integrated, cutting edge GPS tracking technology that allows you to track its location in real time on a custom-built, satellite-based mapping platform. This platform allows you to securely log into your own personal account from any computer. Once logged in, you can activate Motion Alerts, which arms a high tech motion sensor inside the case that will notify you by text message and/or email (depending on your settings) if anyone moves your case without your knowledge. Once a Motion Alert has been triggered, the case will continue to track its own location on the map until you deactivate Motion Alerts (which can be done with a single click of your mouse). You can also activate different tracking modes so that the case will report its location every 5 minutes, on demand, etc. You can track your case's location in real time if it is ever lost or stolen, and the GPS hardware is discreetly embedded inside the case so you can track it without the thief ever knowing that he is being tracked.

The Tempo violin case has a lightweight, proprietary alloy hard-shell exterior that provides exceptional protection against impact. The hard-shell material is designed to absorb and disperse the energy of an impact, as opposed to shattering, like some other materials. It is completely waterproof, and it will not break down over time like some other materials. Unlike cases with nylon fabric exteriors, which can tear, the Tempo case has no water-resistant coatings (which will wear away over time) and no zippers, which can easily break or get stuck.

November 30, 2012 at 01:36 AM · "The Tempo violin case controls its own internal temperature automatically by gently circulating warm or cool air as needed, ensuring that the internal temperature never goes below 60F (15.6C), even when exposed to sub-Actic temperatures, or above 94F (34.4C), even in external or "ambient" temperatures above 120F (49C). It is important to remember that "relative humidity" is "relative" to air temperature, so in order to accurately control relative humidity, you also need to accurately control the air temperature."

Where does the case get this "warm or cool air" to circulate?

What's the price of a case like this?

November 30, 2012 at 02:13 AM · Randy, the Tempo violin case includes high tech temperature control elements that are able to safely generate warm or cool air inside the case as needed. The technology used in the case is proprietary and patent-pending internationally, but the circulated air is always kept at a temperature that is safe for your instrument and bows. There is a small fan that gently circulates the warm or cool air throughout the interior of the case to ensure even distribution of the air - and as a result, even relative humidity levels. When the case senses that the internal air temperature is becoming too hot, it immediately begins to generate cool air while simultaneously expelling hot air through a custom ventilation system designed into the side of the case.

If the case senses that the internal relative humidity levels are outside of the ideal 40%-60% range, the internal fan will automatically begin circulating the internal air (without warming or cooling) so as to help the humidity control system work more quickly, and to ensure even distribution of the humidity levels throughout the interior of the case.

You can see pictures, including pictures of the ventilation system on the side of the case, at www.tempocases.com. I would recommend viewing the website on a standard computer, as opposed to a tablet or smart phone, so that you can see 3D interactive Flash images of the case on the home page. More pictures are posted at www.facebook.com/tempocases, including pictures showing how we test the warming and humidity control features of our cases inside a "deep freeze" commercial freezer that is set to -15F (-26C).

Pricing information is available at www.tempocases.com - click on the "Shop" link to see the many options for customization, as well as the the various pricing options. The price of the case is well within the existing market for high end cases. I will be glad to send you links to similarly-priced cases, as well as to cases that are more expensive, so that you can compare. We are also offering special holiday discount pricing until Dec. 31 - if you order by Dec. 31, we will take 10% off the total price of your order. More information about these special pricing offers is posted on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/tempocases.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

November 30, 2012 at 02:21 AM · As an engineer, I look at the case as protection. As a woodworker, I look at the case as a structure. Why do I say that? The suitability of a material depends on both its composition AND its intended use.

Carbon fiber and other composites really came into their stride in the aviation industry. CF is light, strong, and resilient. But as Dimitri pointed out, there is a cost to that resilience: it's flexible, and it moves back into place, after it's deflected. For something like a golf club or a fishing rod, or even a CF bow, that's pretty snifty. For a stringed instrument case, there are some downsides.

The deflection+snap that makes a CF golf club add extra punch might not be such a good thing for a box with a fragile instrument inside. On impact, the "give" that prevents damage to the case material will impinge on the interior space. So as the case top flexes, so do the bows that ride against it. The same for the other contents.

In all fairness, CF cases can be reinforced, or have ridges (like ruffles). Adding such reinforcement increases assembly effort, cost, and weight.

It's also worth mentioning that not all "space age material" cases are made with graphite (or other carbon) fiber. Composites can use a variety of fibers, including glass, nylon, or whatever. The resin could be epoxy, or it could be polyester, or some other plastic (the English translation of "space age material"). Polyester resin with loose glass fiber is what we normally think of when we hear "fiberglass." Pretty clunky stuff.

Quality, void-free plywood is somewhat resilient, while maintaining rigidity with lots of strength. Plastics tend to flex to a point, then have a fairly brittle breaking point. Plywood has a less well-defined breaking point. It's worth considering that modern plywoods are pretty high-tech, too. They use impressive adhesives and can be curved or arched to increase strength with little increase in cost or weight.

And I don't think that extra weight is all that bad a thing. In an auto collision, it's probably better to be in a Suburban than a Fiat 500. Think of the weight as insurance. :-)

So I second Dimitri's comments. Every once in a while, I look at high-end composite cases. But then I see the price, and appreciate the value in the plywood. I'm not into paying a premium for "cool looking."

November 30, 2012 at 02:36 AM · The price listed on the Tempo web site, at least from my location, for a 'Prodigy' violin case with a black standard interior $3.850.

November 30, 2012 at 02:47 AM · Elise, that is correct. Each case is meticulously hand-assembled in the USA by skilled craftsmen and electrical experts, and all cases are made to meet the needs of each individual customer. We can also program the software to meet the needs of different customers. For example, we can program the LCD on the outside of your case to display the internal temperature in either Fahrenheit or Celsius - whichever you prefer. In addition, we are currently putting the final touches on a new version of our software that will allow us to update and make changes to the software inside each individual case remotely over the air, regardless of where you are located.

Our offices are located in Boston, Massachusetts, and we do not sell through distributors - only direct to customers. That means that you do not have worry about dealing with a third party retailer for customer service, and you can call or email us directly if any issues should arise. All shipments come from the USA, and if you ever want to add a new feature to your case that was not included in your original order, you can send it back to us in Boston and we will gladly take care of that for you.

November 30, 2012 at 12:36 PM · Despite this being a discussion forum, and so perhaps solicitation for business might be better placed in the appropriate threads, Mr. Gunsberg brings up an interesting point with these “smart cases”. It just happens that I can speak with some competence on this matter, because several years ago I was asked to participate in the SATRAM project.

SATRAM was an acronym for Safe Transport of Musical Instruments and the project was initiated and organized by the Superior Institute of Territorial Systems Innovation, a branch of the Polytechnic University of Turin (Italy) with funding by the San Paolo Foundation.

What we came up with was a strong, protective case, with geo-positioning and constant monitoring of temperature, humidity, acceleration (i.e. bumps and vibrations), data uploaded to the internet via GPRS technology where the information could be accessed from the other side of the world. While it did not attempt to manipulate temperature or humidity conditions, it could be described as the world’s first “smart case”.

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but why, after considerable investment as one can imagine, didn’t we bring our “smart case” to market? One of the reasons wasn’t cost or technical, but philosophical. Putting this kind of technology into a violin case was considered opening a veritable Pandora’s box of emergent properties, posing new risks, but especially new potential liabilities. And bear in mind that that our “smart case” was essentially passive, not active.

All of a sudden, new gremlins could appear to try to disturb the well-being of your precious violin. Not just issues like battery life, household electromagnetic fields, or cellphone network overcrowding, but also cat hairs, your neighbor’s garage door opener, Windows Vista, metal detectors, the parking sensors in your rear bumper, an iPhone you placed in the accessory compartment, curious TSA officials at the airport, you name it: all these factors and more would try their best to apply Murphy’s Law to your violin. No matter how perfectly engineered a system is, one simply cannot predict every possible danger to it, and these dangers increase with the complexity.

I know that many people believe strongly in the wonders of technology, but I for one just cannot accept the existence of fool-proof systems. Ocean liners sink, brand-new bridges collapse, computers freeze, cars catch fire or suddenly stop for no apparent reason, etc. because some engineers placed too much faith in technology and underestimated the importance of the unforeseen.

For example, last summer I bought a really neat watch made by a multinational leader in the field. It picks up a radio time signal from any of three different transmitters in the world and is accurate to the split second. Yet I can’t even count on it for the alarm to wake me up in the morning. Every now and then it resets itself to 12.00 AM Jan 1, 2005. In doing so it loses all its settings so it can’t pick up the signal any more to correct itself. I sent it to an authorized repair center but to date I haven’t heard from them, meaning even they probably don’t know what the problem is.

Then there is also the user-interface problem: despite millions of dollars worth of navigation equipment, coastal radar, and satellite shipping tracking, the captain of the cruise ship that went onto the rocks at Giglio Island was reportedly distracted by a blonde and wasn’t paying enough attention to the controls, causing among other damage the death of 32 people.

So in final analysis, not all the participants in the SATRAM project liked the idea of lawsuits deriving from stray cat hairs or a distracted musician late for a concert, having to correctly program his case while the phone is ringing, the kids screaming, the taxi already outside, and the wife in a foul mood.

For me, technology is nice if it makes your life easier, but less so if you must depend on it, even if it is just to wake up in the morning. By definition, there is no such thing as 100% fail-safe, or 100% anything for that matter.

Or am I wrong?

Cheers! Dimitri

November 30, 2012 at 02:33 PM · I own about 10 violins and about 20 cases! Some are antique collectables on display by Hill etc. but most are modern cases, including a number of doubles. I am still looking for the perfect double case that is strong, light, reasonably helpful thermally, and that I won't have to finance like a car. (So, for example, the Gewa "Idea" is for me, cost-wise, a bad idea. I've heard mixed reviews re Hima, but at any rate can't find one now.)) If anybody has any suggestions, please chime in! I'm open to different materials, as long as the results are good. I have several wood doubles that are way too heavy for me and one double that is only about 5 pounds - but both zippers have btoken and I don't like that it has bow spinners ar the point as well as at the frog end. I also suspect that it is made with styrofoam and maybe not very strong.

Weight is a serious issue for those of us who are not natural Schwartzeneggers and want to remain felxible for playing - no matter how we carry the case. Dimitri - you make some of the most beautiful cases I've ever seen. But even if price were not an issue for me, the weight would be. Once a dealer was extolling one of your cases to me and said that it is the Rolls Royce of cases, and that at such a level of quality and protection, weight just isn't an issue. But it is. If we're comparing a case to a car - not a bad analogy, with the violin(s) and bows as the passengers - there is one major difference: the cheapest car, indeed the cheapest cart - has wheels. And people with Rolls Royces often have chauffeurs. I can't afford a chauffeur for my car or a caddy for my case.

In this day and age is there still no material that ticks all the boxes, of strength, light weight, shock resistance and thermal protection? And is there no case so made that won't cost us an arm and a leg?

November 30, 2012 at 02:58 PM · "In this day and age is there still no material that ticks all the boxes, of strength, light weight, shock resistance and thermal protection? And is there no case so made that won't cost us an arm and a leg?"

Well, I think the case has been made (sorry!) for plywood, both by Mr Musafia and the Bobelock company. I have several cases from each of these two, and while the perfect case has not yet been made, these offer, within their respective price points, as much as can be expected in an imperfect world.

The Bobelocks are certainly stout, well-made cases, and serve the purpose for which they were designed. The Musafia cases take it to a higher level, both in fit & Fitting and design excellence. No one can doubt Mr Musafia's pursuit of ever-increased protection, nor his commitment to beauty of design.

I also have high-end cases made for mandolins; Calton and Pegasus. Neither is in any way light-weight, but their solid design and impressive hardware differentiate them from lesser competitors. Still, the old wooden cases were considerably lighter, although not designed with the same level of protection that modern cases can provide. Nonetheless, most of the instruments they were made to hold have survived the century or so since their construction. The reason I've upgraded is for the added padding and design improvements now available.

I have no problem recommending Bobelock to anyone who needs a case and whose budget is limited. I do not hesitate to say that the and effort put into making the Nusafia case the gold standard in violin suvivability and protection has paid off, to the extent that it is in the absolute first rank for the transport and storage of fine violins. (And mine, as well).

November 30, 2012 at 04:19 PM · But there is still the issue of weight. I have several good, solid, protective wood cases, single and double that are, especially with the doubles, too heavy for consistent comfort. I also have a Bobelock half-moon fiberglass case that is heavier than any of my wood single cases!

November 30, 2012 at 05:01 PM · To David: your posts always manage to sum up fifteen paragraphs in three lines. Chapeau! Occam’s Razor applied.

To Elise: the reason why case manufacturers don’t usually supply any information about actual protection as measured in scientific terms is that I don’t really think many do much testing at all.

To Randy: I won’t now say that heavy cases are necessarily better than light ones (I’d get quoted on that one from here to Eternity!) but there is something called inertia having to do with weight and it’s not all necessarily bad!

To John: one winter I took a vacation in Gstaad, Switzerland, and in the covered municipal pool I noticed that all the load-bearing structures were plywood. Probably very high-tech plywood too, considering the sheer size of the place, but they must have had their reasons for that choice.

Cremona's new Violin Museum, which opens officially next March, has an auditorium with impressive use of plywood (see here: http://www.museodelviolino.org/auditorium.html) which really stands out.

Wood is NOT obsolete!

November 30, 2012 at 05:17 PM · I didn't choose my case because it was heavy, I chose it because I thought it offered the most protection for the money. The weight was just there....and like I said, I don't mind the weight at all. I could very easily lighten my load by taking stuff out of the case, but again, I like the storage capacity and intend to use it.

November 30, 2012 at 05:18 PM · [quote]I own maybe a dozen wooden shell cases which I use for shipping and approvals, but no plastic violin or viola cases. Well, maybe a couple of old ones, but they were free. ;-)[/quote]

But, David-- you're biased on this one, as you can't even make plastic violins as good as your wood ones.

November 30, 2012 at 05:25 PM · To Raphael: while I could make you a single violin case in wood laminate that weighs less than a lot of composite cases, I can't make you a lightweight double case. The reason is that safety being the first priority, the numbers don't work out for a shape with those dimensions: it's too big, it has too many unsupported surfaces, it has too few structural members.

There is such thing as an unsolvable problem, you know. Think of political corruption, the Middle East, employment and happiness for everyone, excessive taxes. A lightweight double case would seem a cinch in comparison, and yet...

November 30, 2012 at 05:29 PM · Making plastic violins was going to be my retirement project.

Oh wait, violin makers don't get to retire. They usually just die at the workbench, and somebody needs to pry their tools out of their cold dead hands. LOL

November 30, 2012 at 05:45 PM · Hey, it's getting close to dinner time over here. Plastic pasta anyone? Less carbohydrates :-)

November 30, 2012 at 07:02 PM · With all due respect to Mr. Musafia, it seems to me that the entire purpose of this thread was to solicit business for his wood cases because of negative comments made in magazines that were unrelated to this website or these forums. I was providing relevant information in response to specific comments made by others. I had no intention of making this personal, but he seems to insist on slinging unwarranted insults.

When the car was invented, people who made horse-drawn carriages decried the dangers of the automobile. When cell phones were invented, people who made payphones and other telephones declared that cell phones would be the death of us all. Now there are billions of cars, trucks, and cell phones in use every day. We should not allow purveyors of outdated technologies to try to scare us away from progress in an attempt to block competition. Technology can sometimes be scary if you are unfamiliar with it. But it is called progress, and eventually everyone comes to realize that it is the way of the future, and it is better. To say that older methods and materials are better and more reliable simply because they have been around longer - despite their shortcomings - is shortsighted and almost always false. Do we still fight disease with blood lettings and hocus-pocus?

The fact is that there are now self-directed robots on Mars and cars that can drive themselves: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car. "In August 2012, the team announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free... Google expects that the increased accuracy of its automated driving system could help reduce the number of traffic-related injuries and deaths, while using energy and space on roadways more efficiently."

We drive our children around in cars that are controlled by dozens of internal computers. These cars include safety features such as air bags, anti-lock braking systems, tire pressure monitors, and many other safety features that are powered by computers. Are you going to ride around on a horse - which, incidentally, can throw you, get sick and die, or kick you in the head - because you are afraid of the computer-controlled safety systems in cars? That sort of attitude simply makes no sense in this day in age. The smart phone that you carry around in your pocket every day runs on computers, and it contains a battery. The air conditioning and heating systems, security alarm, fire alarm, and carbon monoxide alarms in your house run on computers. The fact is that fail safe systems and monitoring systems exist, and they work well. Without these systems, we would be decidedly less safe. The same is true for your valuable instrument.

The Tempo Prodigy violin case includes extensive fail safe measures (just like the Google car, which has never crashed despite having driven around for more than 300,000 miles using only computers). For example, Tempo cases include redundant temperature sensors that not only monitor the temperature inside your case in real time, but which also monitor each other to ensure accuracy. If the system senses that one of the sensors is off in its measurements at all, it will immediately shut down the warming and cooling system to ensure that no unsafe or inaccurate warming or cooling occurs. It will then send you text messages and email notifications alerting you that the system has shut down, and it will tell you which sensor is causing the error. If the system senses that one of the sensors has become disconnected, it will shut down the climate control system in the same way, and it will send you the same sorts of alert messages (you can control your text message and email contact information from the convenience of your computer). Wouldn't you rather have a case that can literally tell you if it is in an environment that is too hot, or that your instrument is in danger, rather than guessing or hoping and then suffering the consequences of being wrong? More information about the extensive safety and fail safe features in available on the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page of our website.

To address some of Mr. Musafia's concerns directly (since he seems to be so afraid of technology and dismissive of it as a solution to "unsolvable problems"):

Battery life: The battery that powers our cases has one of the safest internal chemistries in the world. You can literally throw our battery against a wall, put it in the oven, and drive a nail through it and it will not explode or release any dangerous chemicals. Our case will send you text message and email alerts notifying you if the battery level is low, so you will know when the battery is going to run out even if you do not have the case with you. Our case also displays the battery level and Low Battery Alerts on the exterior LCD screen in real time. In addition to its safe internal chemistry, our battery has one of the longest cycle-lives of any battery in the world. It will recharge to nearly full capacity even after thousands of recharge cycles. And, just like any other product that runs on a battery, you can replace the battery at any time.

Household electromagnetic fields: This simply makes no sense. Nearly all of the products in your house, car, office, etc. run on computers and batteries (including the computer that you use to visit this website), and not one of them is disturbed by the electromagnetic fields of the others.

Cellphone network overcrowding: This does not make sense either. GPS systems that use cellular communication to transmit data do so by sending that data in extremely short, microsecond bursts - it is not a long phone conversation. Also, as anyone who lives in a city knows, the best cellular signal reception is often found in urban areas with high concentrations of users. There is no "overcrowding" issue on the cellular networks.

Your neighbor’s garage door opener; parking sensors in your rear bumper; an iPhone you placed in the accessory compartment: Seriously? When was the last time your car's breaks stopped working or the air conditioning system gave out out because of the parking sensors in the rear bumper, a garage door opener, or an iPhone? With all due respect, these types of references demonstrate a lack of knowledge with regards to the technologies used in today's moderns systems. It is like saying that the internet is a "series of tubes".

Windows Vista: Windows Vista has been obsolete for more than a decade, and it has been replaced by many operating systems that work well. What kind of reference is this?

Metal detectors; curious TSA officials at the airport: I, and many others, have traveled extensively with the Tempo Prodigy violin case. I have never had any problems with metal detectors or TSA officials, nor has anyone else. Period. In fact, many TSA officials have asked me what the case was, and they were extremely impressed when I told them that it was a climate controlled violin case. I flew over Thanksgiving with a Prodigy violin case and a TSA official gave me a high five (literally) because he thought the case was such an interesting product. He did not open or or touch it other than to give the outside of the case a quick swab with a soft-tipped brush, as they might do with any computer or other carry-on item. I breezed through security without any problems.

Cat hairs: ???

With regards to the Italian cruise ship that Mr. Musafia references, he disproves his own point. The Italian cruise ship crashed because of human error, which is not a "user-interface problem". The captain decided to take the ship too close the shore, so it crashed. Thousands of ships safely cross the oceans every day using advanced navigation systems with countless sensors and automated technologies. Is he somehow suggesting that we should go back to schooners and sail boats, and give up the technologies that have allows us the benefit from the most advanced global shipping network the world has ever seen? Or that we should give up air travel because it relies on computers? I don't mean to be glib, but these arguments against technology and fail safe systems are poorly founded. Museums use advanced climate control systems - which are run by computers and electricity - to protect priceless objects, including musical instruments. It's time to accept that technology is the only way to achieve real protection in the modern world.

November 30, 2012 at 08:43 PM · Mr. Gunsberg, nothing personal on my part, but you miss my point entirely. If you look at the top of this thread you will see that I started it because “a certain part of the press seems to be endorsing composite plastic cases without having the necessary technical competence.” You took advantage of my thread to try to promote Tempo cases. That’s irrelevant to the subject and in violation of the etiquette of this web forum (see Point 6 of the Rules for Writers).

Since you mention it, I’m not at all afraid of technology per se: in fact I design my cases by computer (CAD) and precision-cut their parts using a laser plotter that cost as much as a full-sized Cadillac, and is almost as big too. In addition, believe it or not, I have also spent 10 years designing software (you can verify it at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) and so maybe, just maybe, I know a thing or two about technology.

For these very reasons I am afraid of someone microwaving their Strad because some unforeseen interference triggers some software glitch to turn the heat up in their “smart case”, and I believe you should be too.

I really don't think this is a problem that can be solved technically. There are just too many variables out there to be accounted for 100%, and with a Strad, 99% simply won't do.

If your cases are so fail-safe, then may I respectfully ask why do you offer only a 2-year warranty? Doesn’t that imply that after the warranty expires some of this wonderful technology could possibly fail?

PS. Since you asked, cats like to curl up in cases left open, and during research we found out that cat hairs clogged the air intake of our temp sensors.

November 30, 2012 at 08:50 PM · Mr. Musafia, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree. Our cases have been tested extensively in professional electronics and materials testing labs, and they are extremely safe. We currently have musicians with extremely valuable violins and bows using our cases, and they are very happy with the protection that the cases provide. One such violinist, who was using her case in the deserts of New Mexico, was very pleased with the way that it actively cooled the interior in the hot desert sun.

We feel that the current technologies (or lack thereof) and the materials used in other violin cases expose instruments - especially Strads and other very valuable instruments - to far greater dangers than our cases do. We do not recommend leaving your case open unattended, so we are not worried about cats crawling into them. Also, our temperature sensors would not in any way be impeded or blocked by exposure to cat hair. All the best.

November 30, 2012 at 10:20 PM · Mr Gunsberg, I like your case verrrry much...Unfortunately my budget won't be able to support my desire. :(

At 10 lbs. it's a little on the heavy side, but that does not bother me at all and I really like all the features you have built into it.

November 30, 2012 at 11:06 PM · From what I've read throughout this post, I did not find Mr. Musafia was soliciting his business at all. His posts were defending wooden cases based on his experience and know how. I did not read anything in regards to the Musafia brand of cases. Whereas from Mr. Gunsberg's post, it seems his answers were sales pitches advertising the features of Tempo cases. So in that regards, I think there needs to be some respect to the rules of this forum.

In terms of oldschool vs newschool. I think its all a matter of opinion and ultimately its the buyer that decides whats best for his/her needs and budget. From a technical side tho, there is no better or worse between composite or wooden cases. Each has its strengths and drawbacks. So its a matter of designing for the application. And each design has certain assumptions on the conditions of use. And each person will use their cases differently.

A crash helmet is made from FRP. That said, not everyone can design and make a proper safety helmet. Same goes with violin cases. You can use whatever material you want, and unless you have a good/proven design and manufacturing process, you won't have a good case. And I think this is why Mr. Musafia started the thread because he believes the press has given a misconception that composite cases in general are better than wood cases.

Technology is good. But if you dont apply it to the right application, its redundant and basically garbage. Look at the self-parking feature on cars. Its a great product of technology, but is it necessary and useful? I dont think so. If you cant park a car then you shouldn't be driving in the first place. Same with violins. If you can't care for your own violin then no case will be good enough to protect it. If you can't play a violin properly, no strings will make your playing sound good.

The quality of the product depends on the user's needs and application. There is no one-size-fits all. My 2 cents.

November 30, 2012 at 11:47 PM · Paul, it was not my intention to solicit, but rather to inform about the options available for musicians who are looking for something different than what has traditionally been available. I am aware of the rules of the forum, and I respect them. I can point you to many other posts on this website that specifically describe products and services offered by other manufacturers, including posts by Mr. Musafia.

I absolutely agree that it is up to the buyer to decide what is appropriate for him or her at any given time, including any budget constraints that might apply. I am in no way trying to force anyone to buy a Tempo case - how could I? Our cases might not be right for some people, particularly for those who play inexpensive instruments.

I take issue with your comparison to the self-parking feature on car, however. As you must know, musicians are constantly struggling to battle the effects of temperature, humidity, impact, the dangers of travel, the threat of theft and loss, the problem of long-term storage, etc. There are posts all over this website by people looking for solutions to these issues, and there are reports in the news about violin theft all the time. "Why are there cracks developing in my instrument? Why is the angle of the neck of my instrument changing? I feel like the sound quality of my instrument is changing and I don't know why. What can I do to protect my instrument while traveling, or while in storage?"

I personally know a professional oboe player with a $1,200 case who wraps her instrument and the case in blankets and puts them in the cupboard during the winter in a desperate attempt to protect her instrument against the effects of temperature and humidity swings. I would certainly not call her incompetent; she is just doing what she feels she has to do to protect her instrument because it is invaluable to her, and because she is concerned. She invested in an expensive European case, but she feels that it does not offer the protection that she requires. Would you say that Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, and other world-class musicians who have lost their instruments, or had them stolen, did not know how to properly take care of their instruments? These are simply real-world issues that people face every day, and they are not inconsequential. Thank you for your feedback.

November 30, 2012 at 11:49 PM · Thank you for your comments, Randy! Hopefully we will be able to help you in the future. Please keep in touch.

December 1, 2012 at 12:27 AM · Gabriel, by no means am I against you or your product. In fact I think you do have a good product. You have features in your cases that are unique and are solutions to many problems violinists may have. Altho I do believe there could be situations where a certain feature of your case may not solve a certain issue as ideally as you have designed it, I do not need to address that here because that is not the context of this thread. This is not about Musafia cases vs Tempo cases. The original post is about how wooden cases as a whole needs to be defended against misleading marketing of composite cases. A plea that there are well designed and well made wooden cases out there (not limited to Musafia), and that there's more to making cases than just old-school vs new tech materials. Theft is a global issue regardless of material of the case. The conditions the cases and instruments go thru is present regardless of the material of the case. Mr. Musafia's original point is that a well designed and well made wooden case should not be disregarded just because composites are advertised as the next best thing.

December 1, 2012 at 12:46 AM · Paul, you are certainly entitled to your opinion and I respect your point. I cannot speak to other people's opinions with regards wood vs. plastic or other newer materials. I do disagree with some of the points in the original posting, however, particularly with regards to superior insulation and protection against impact. As I said, I was responding to specific statements made by others in the thread.

I would be glad to answer any questions or concerns that you might have about the individual features of the Tempo violin case through private messages. I have not exaggerated or overstated its capabilities in any way. Thank you again for your feedback.

December 1, 2012 at 01:30 AM · Gabriel, thanks for all your feedback and contributions. I know I didn't make very good examples in my comments. None the less, I felt the thread was getting side tracked towards advertising of your cases thats why I wanted to make a few comments myself. No offence intended.

Although I don't own a million dollar strad, I value and treat my own violin like one. I understand different people have differnt issues with caring and transporting their instruments. You feel you have the best solution. And I don't doubt the ability of your cases either. I was looking into getting a new case not too long ago and I stumbled upon a thread where you have contributed and mentioned about the Tempo case. That time I looked at your website and was impressed with what you have created. I was impressed that somebody actually took the violin case to the next step.

However, I did not consider your cases because one, it is not in my budget, and secondly, considering what I was actually looking for, there are other options to me that will solve my issues. I read a few posts here on V.com and ended up getting a Mooradian case cover instead because that was really all I needed. In fact one of the deciding factors was a post by Mr. Musafia himself suggesting to the poster to get the Mooradian case cover because that was a good solution to that poster's particular problem. That to me, showed respect to the users of this forum. So my point is that lets just stick to the context of the original post.

December 1, 2012 at 01:38 AM · Paul, fair enough, and I'm glad that you were able to find what you needed within your budget. Obviously not everyone can say the same with a simple case cover, but of course finding what works for you is what matters in the end. All the best.

December 1, 2012 at 02:56 AM · As the Marx Brothers song goes, "I just came to say I must be going!" I came back on a brief respite from a crazy schedule, and tomorrow must go once more into the breach. (v. my current blog.)

I must say though that we should indeed be cautious on this part of the forum about plying our wares. Accordingly, I willl NOT tell all of you what an accomplished violinist I am, who is available for a limited number of cancellations - er, engagements! And I won't tell anyone what a wonderful teacher I am who is currently accepting a limited number of new victims - er students. Yes students, that's it. But no plastic students, and no wooden blockheads need apply! ;-)

Happy Holidays!

December 1, 2012 at 07:06 AM · To Mr. Gunsberg and in general. I thought I’d say that, my previous comments notwithstanding, I am truly impressed with the features and capabilities of the Tempo case. Really – I love high tech stuff! And having contributed to the SATRAM project I know how much effort has been put into it. Trying to protect Strads and even normal violins is what a conscientious case maker should do.

So no hard feelings – I just have different views based upon my experience and research, and this being a discussion forum, I expressed them. But focusing awareness on instrument protection is a cause that I have been fighting for since time immemorial, and it's good to see others join the ranks. Anyway good luck and I hope to see a Tempo case some day in person.

PS. You’ll really bowl me over though if you can solve Raphael’s double case problem!

December 1, 2012 at 06:34 PM · Mr. Musafia, I appreciate your comments. Despite our differing opinions, I respect where you are coming from and your dedication to the cause of instrument protection. No hard feelings, and I would be glad to show you a Tempo case at some point in the future.

I am not familiar with Raphael’s double case problem, but I would be happy to learn more about it.

December 1, 2012 at 09:11 PM · I remember lugging my wood double violin/viola case around Manhattan to a rehearsal on a hot, humid day. I thought how heavy that case was. Then to compare, I picked up a wood tenor saxophone case. It was twice as heavy! And this musician, who is in his late sixties, was also carrying his clarinet and flute.

So hey, violin players who cry about the weight of their cases, toughen up!

December 2, 2012 at 01:50 AM · Yeah, gol-dang it, toss a few bales of hay, and then decide if your case is too heavy.

December 2, 2012 at 02:43 AM · ... toss a few bales of hay ...

Yeah: the round ones!

Pump iron. It's amazing how it helps with little things like picking up a gallon of milk, a cafeteria tray, a double case...

:-)

December 2, 2012 at 02:59 AM · Dimitri,

Wooden structural members are very popular. In The States, laminated beams are referred to as GluLam.

It's like plywood, but the plies are thick enough to be boards, rather than veneers. Check out these pix.

I've seen wood laminates used for chairs, rifle stocks, and large furniture items. Curving wood laminates provides remarkable strength and protection.

December 2, 2012 at 07:42 AM · John,

Boats and yachts used to be made out of wood, but then plastics took over, and for a good reason: maintenance. Many years ago my father owned a wooden Herreschoff sloop and the adage in those days was, one weekend sailing, three weekends varnishing. And it was true!

When cost isn’t an issue, however, wood boats are still being built today. One example is Hodgdon Yachts in Maine, boatbuilders for the past 200 years, where they build yachts using wood laminate and the WEST System. Their largest yacht to date, “Scheherezade” , measures 155 feet overall, with almost 10,000 sq. ft. of sail area! See here for some building details: http://www.westsystem.com/ss/scheherazade/ , it's interesting.

Cheers!

December 2, 2012 at 07:56 AM · That raises an interesting question. How similar/dissimilar is ship-making to violin making?

December 2, 2012 at 08:10 AM · Imagine a closed wooden structure with limited openings, in which just about every part is structural. It is optimized for lightest weight, but has to endure the considerable pull of cables which direct a force downward, through the top panel to the bottom, helped by beams and a single pillar. While essentially rigid, the structure must have “give” in order to work correctly.

Did I just describe a classic sailboat, or a violin... or both? ;-)

December 3, 2012 at 02:26 AM · Aye, aye on the boats.

Here's another application...

I recently watched a documentary on the construction of a Steinway model D piano. The main body is built up from thick wood laminations, steamed, then glued while bent onto a form. It's levered into place, then tightly clamped. Think of plywood with hefty plies.

Pianos are structural challenges, but plywood works well, in that case (case... get it?). :-)

December 3, 2012 at 06:32 AM · I can't offer any technical insights to this thread, but I can speak to personal experience.

Among other cases I own a Bobelock case, with a plywood frame, that has just celebrated its 26th birthday. That case has been in multiple car accidents, an accident with a train, being knocked off a piano and other unfortunate incidents. Every time my instrument was in the case,and every time I took the cover off and had the case checked out to make sure it wasn't damaged. Not one time was my instrument damaged and the case is still completely functional.

I have purchased other cases over the years, both plywood and fiberglass, and none of them have lasted like that case. I don't know anything about case specs, and I am not plugging any brand but that plywood case has my complete respect and adoration.

Just my thoughts...

November 4, 2013 at 04:29 AM · Interesting thread, everybody. I enjoyed reading it. Here are my two cents, a year late:

I have never been interested in plastic or fiberglass violin cases. They are heavy, cumbersome and cold.

Living in a cold and rapidly changing climate(Canada), insulation is a priority, in addition to strength and durability. We use styrofoam for insulation with coolers, so it makes me wonder whether the cheaper styrofoam cases, while offering less protection from bumps and falls, might actually offer better insulation from heat and cold. Anyone have any knowledge on this?

I would love a Musafia case one day. The day I find a fine violin, I will get a Musafia. For now, I am still using a Continental American Case Co. dart. Too bad they went out of business or got bought out. They sure made a quality and fairly affordable case. The Tempo case sounds fascinating but at $4k, they are not accessible to very many people. I am afraid I would be one of those people who would find it too complicated. We are bombarded by electronics nowadays. We have become too dependant on this. One of the reasons why I play the violin is because it is a living material, manual, acoustic....,.,I am in control. Wood can survive hundreds of years. What electronic gadget can do that?

November 4, 2013 at 01:55 PM · Functionality at war with modernity? We don't always want what is 'best' - sometimes we want what is new/stylish/different.

Then you have cost factoring in - I can't necessarily afford what is best either...

...and finally...when do you need the best...and when are you better off (in the big picture) getting something that will just 'do'?

To date my favourite case has been a very cheap oblong one I bought, sight unseen, to ship a violin in. It was lightweight and sturdy...and is only now starting to show signs of wear - it's seen 10 years of regular use.

I travel primarily by car...so it might have been a different story if I was bussing or using a subway or biking, etc.

Part of my point is that most of us inherently want something new...and are drawn to new technology/appearance. With the violin...where we are also warring between the very traditional...and finding ways of keeping the tradition alive and fresh...there are additional issues involved.

So yes...we love playing 300 year old music on an instrument that hasn't changed appearance in that long...but we also want to be new and current in some aspect of that tradition...to show we aren't stagnating.

I grew up with the 'old-fashioned' violin shaped case...which I personally dislike (because I consider it old-fashioned?)...and saw the oblong as 'new' and more practical. I have to admit to being quite surprised when I first realised that the oblong case has been around since the beginning too...

So seeing the interest now...especially in carbon fibre violin/dart shaped cases is amusing (to me). However...if I were travelling on a subway, and needed something lighter in weight (and carbon fibre having a slick surface might also be a benefit) I might have to reconsider.

The bonus would be that cat hair wouldn't stick to it...or does it go all static-y? ;)

November 4, 2013 at 07:01 PM · Depleted uranium (DU) is the only way to go.

November 6, 2013 at 02:42 PM · John Cadd wrote :- "Dimitri , have you ever thought of making a case which will hold a violin with the shoulder rest still attached?".

Room for cooperation here. David Burgess should build plastic violins with integral shoulder and chin rests, Dimitri could manufacture plywood cases to fit, then someone who shall remain nameless might then make available to those of us who need one an expensive optional attachment for blowing hot air.

November 27, 2013 at 04:16 PM · Been shopping for new lightweight cases for my kids, and came across this fine, interesting (at times humorous) thread (amongst others).

Almost pulled the trigger on a discounted BAM HighTech Shaped Case from Shar the other day for my son who has the greater need of traveling daily by subway plus the hustle and bustle of navigating a gigantically populated high school (the size of Macy's in Manhattan) throughout the school day -- and no viable place to store it AFAIK. :-/

Didn't pull the trigger mainly because his instrument probably isn't quite valuable enough to justify the cost although he might eventually upgrade to something that would justify it -- it's an unappraised 90-yo Juzek that'd probably normally cost $3-4K to replace I imagine (although I paid much less than that myself plus it's sadly seen a lot of wear since my son started using it).

Also previously considered the Tonerali fiberglass cello-shaped cases (for both violin and viola), but there seems to be just enough caveats to keep me away at least for now. Yeah, between my 2 older kids, I'm actually shopping for 2 pairs of violin and viola cases -- though the viola case issue is lower priority for now.

Just noticed that Howard Core also makes a few such composite cases -- mainly less expensive knockoffs of the BAM ones -- but there aren't any reviews or noteworthy comments about them. That plus they seem like they come and go very quickly -- perhaps that's why there aren't any reviews/comments about them...

Would love to some day consider a Musafia or similar or checkout that Tempo or the like, but they are probably beyond my reach for the forseeable future. Maybe one of my kids might some day go that direction if they continue w/ their studies well into their adult lives and warrant the expense...

Meanwhile, if not one of the <=$200 (street) composite cases, what lightweight wood cases should I consider?

I also almost pulled the trigger on the $50 BF special Heritage Go moonshaped (foam) case from Shar yesterday figuring I'd just accept the $50 loss if it falls apart too quickly (as happened to the last such case I tried a few years back on top of some other oblong ones that also didn't last too long).

Sigh...

Thanks for any help on this...

_Man_

November 27, 2013 at 04:40 PM · Be happy that there is as much selection as there is for stringed instrument cases. I've been bassoon case shopping. The current case is coming apart on the inside and is insanely heavy...if I have to carry it all more than 100 feet I start to desparately look around for idle pack mules...

November 27, 2013 at 08:52 PM · N.A., a perfect opportunity to practice the Caber Toss.

November 27, 2013 at 09:17 PM · If I can't get a handle on my low Bb, it might just come to that...

November 29, 2013 at 08:32 PM · Has anybody heard of a European case company called IKA? (Not to be confused with the furniture company, Ikea!) They seem to make a double case that ticks most of my boxes - except for cost. The company offers it and so does an outfit called Blue Danube.

BTW, I'm surprised to see so few doubles with built-in walls that protect the ribs of each violin from the pegs of the other knocking into them. (Even when the violins are snugly strapped-in, that's always a possibility, if you have to stop short in a car, etc.) Bein & Fushi has such a case, but I don't otherwise like it. And my cheap, light-weight Chinese foam double (whose zippers I finally had repaired) does. What I otherwise do is use strips of bubble wrap where needed.

November 30, 2013 at 07:14 AM · Looking at IKA's cases it seems their viola/violin double case has walls between the instruments, but the two violin case does not. And the viola/violin case does not look like the viola "section" is adjustable to accomodate different sized violas.

I would like to have a double case that is adjustable enough to accomodate either viola/violin or two violins in the same case. Perhaps with a removable insert or something.

November 30, 2013 at 07:40 AM · Walls to stop the pegs from hitting the opposing violin are not strictly necessary. If the case is properly designed, there simply is NO way that contact between the instruments can occur during transport.

My preference is to create enough free space between the instruments so that even if the case is crushed no damage will occur. If on the other hand, the instruments fit closer together and rely on the separation wall for protection, they are actually more at risk in case of impact.

To Raphael: I am familiar with IKA cases, they have been on the market for many years now and their quality seems to be good. I suspect however that the declared weight of the double case (2.2 kg) is a misprint, because not only is it the same as the 4-violin case, but they say the single violin case weighs more! You might want to check that with the IKA people.

November 30, 2013 at 10:01 PM · Dimitri: you make an interesting point re the wall. But I'd still feel more comfortable either with built-in walls or my own makeshift ones, even where there was more room. Also, wouldn't the extra space make the case wider, adding to concerns about the overhead accommodation in a plane? Or is it how you angle the spaces for the violins, somehow in your double cases?

Re the Ika double, I had more success communicating with the Blue Danube people - up to a point. Based on the not very clear photo, I had some questions which they never answered even after 2 requests.

November 30, 2013 at 10:40 PM · Maybe we need some guidelines too...for example how much should you spend on a case relative to the value of the instrument?

...and yes...you can spend how much or how little you like...I'm just looking for a for a suggestion to use as a reference point...

December 1, 2013 at 11:43 AM · Raphael: the available variables are width and violin angle, as the length is determined by the bow in the end and height makes no difference. Since instrument safety is a high priority for me, I make my cases 2cm wider than the IKA and subtract a little bit of space from the accessory compartments, moving the instruments further apart. It makes little difference from the point of view of practical usage, but the instruments are happier!

N.A. Mohr: I can suggest two guidelines. The first is how much a case will cost you over time, meaning you should factor in durability, repairability, and eventually also resale value. The other guideline is the value of your instrument, and its eventual cost of repair should it be damaged during an accident. If your $300 case falls off a chair and the neck of the violin breaks because it was inadequately protected, costing you $3,000 to fix, then you're paying $3,300 for that case.

December 1, 2013 at 09:55 PM · Yeah, would be nice to have a reasonable guideline for how much to spend on a case. But I can definitely see Mr. Musafia's point, which is why I ended up giving serious consideration to something in the range of the BAM HighTech and GL Combi for something lightweight, protective and durable even though our family's violins aren't nearly as valuable as most others here.

In our case, I figured w/ so many violins in the family, a very durable, lightweight case can also be reused by different members of the family (rather than resale) depending on who needed it more during any given period -- eg. my subway commuting, lug-all-day-at-school son during these next few school years.

Actually, I ended up ordering a pair of Embassy Ambassador Contoured/Shaped wood cases (at deep discount) plus a Cushy shaped bag (for occasionally needed extra protection) and a discounted GL Combi to try out. My older daughter can use the Embassy case while my son will choose between that (plus the Cushy perhaps) and the GL Combi -- I'd try the BAM HighTech Contoured too, but didn't really want to order both unless there was real likelihood I'd actually keep both. Even if my son ends up going w/ the Embassy shaped case, I can still keep the GL Combi for my own violin (or eventually pass it to my youngest child though it'll be at least another 3-4 years before she's ready for a worthwhile enough, fullsize violin).

Definitely don't want to keep trying the $100-or-so lightweight foam cases -- they fall apart way too easily and/or are prone to cause problems even though we hadn't needed anything stronger til now. Also don't care for the cheap "thermoplastic" stuff I see some use (mainly for very cheap violins).

But given our limited resources and the number cases needed, have to make the most of what we can realistically do -- we also need cases for a pair of "step-up" violas too, and I ended up ordering a BAM Stylus Contoured case for my daughter who's been complaining about lugging the old Heritage oblong wood case alongside her hefty backpack for school (though it's only walking distance for her).

We don't have aspirations for our kids to become professional musicians -- fine w/ us if they do choose that for their careers (and actually progress far enough to make it work), but definitely not what we're pushing for. Still, I don't want to skimp too much and wish to do what's really best for them, including good choices for instrument cases...

Well, at least none of them are playing cellos (though they were all given that choice on multiple occasions)... or GASP... the bass... although I half-joked w/ my son about adding that so the cousins can eventually form a quintet to play the Trout together... ;-)

Next thing to shop for will be a pickup for my son's violin so he doesn't need to keep using Mark Wood's Viper electric at school... which probably wreaks havoc on his posture/habits and technique (as if switching between violin and viola isn't enough already)... :-p

_Man_

December 1, 2013 at 10:05 PM · I recently received a a Tonareli hard case I had ordered via EBay ($109).

The case arrived, and looked as fantastic as I had expected. The storage really is quite meager. Room enough at the end for a rosin and your shoulder rest. A package of strings doesn't even fit down there.

Anyhow, what made me send it back was that the upper bow holder held the bow in such a way as to have it come clanging down on the bridge of my violin when I shut the case! Yikes!!!

I tried repositioning things in case it was due to my error, but alas, no dice. The bow was aligned over the bridge no matter what I did.

Very disappointing that such a cool case was ruined by a very basic layout flaw like that.

The lower bow holder was fine, but the upper one would have ruined my bow/bridge in no time.

December 1, 2013 at 10:27 PM · We also considered the cool-looking Tonerali cello-shaped cases. In fact, we were all set to order them as our 1st choice, but changed our minds after finding various lackluster comments/reports about them -- also not so sure I like the durability of fiberglass for this (particularly from a lessor known maker) after doing a bit more digging on the net.

Still, I suspect the $109 one you found on eBay is likely a "B" stock or knockoff -- yes, they are apparently popular enough to have knockoffs now despite the modest pricing of the originals, and I almost mistakenly bought one off Amazon.com before taking notice.

If you like the case other than the faulty bowholder issue, you might wanna try again for the original from a reputable dealer instead...

_Man_

December 1, 2013 at 10:42 PM · Did the Tonerali come with an interior blanket as standard to protect the violin? If not, that would be a major design/marketing fault in my view.

December 1, 2013 at 10:43 PM · The $109 item is a cosmetically flawed item direct from the Tonareli US distributor. So, it is not a knock-off.

It came with a blanket that covers the body of the violin only, not the neck and scroll.

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