Liu Xi violin update

May 13, 2013 at 07:38 PM · There have been lots of discussions concerning Chinese violins. Some are of good quality but most do not meet expectations; however there are some good values to be found. One example is the Liu Xi violin, I have come across two and purchased one for myself. The build quality in general is good, the scrolls well cut, the size and fittings have been close to the dimensions outlined by Stobel and found in the MENC (now NafME.org) specifications. By the way , just an aside but when did MENC stop publishing their specs? If you don't have some of their old material you'll be hard pressed to find any on their website.

Back to the violin: The finish is warm and glowing without being cheaply glossy. I found the varnish still slightly soft when new and care must be taken in handling. The instruments will quickly improve sonically if proper care and set-up is undertaken. I posted a sound clip of the violin when new and now again after three months. The sound has definately matured; gone is the sharp tonal edginess many of these imports are known for and was so immediatly distracting when new. The dominants helped and if I were to restring I would go with something even more sonorous like Pirastro Obligatos. If I didn't already have a darker sounding Guarneri patterned violin, I may have also left the Despiau Superior bridge a shave heavier. So for your listening ear here is a short sound sample with a video of the violin:

This is a link to YouTube.com

Replies (27)

May 13, 2013 at 09:59 PM · I have two of these violins. I got one for $153 and the second for $155. One with oil varnish is warmer but doesn't have the projection that the second one with spirit varnish has. The one I regularly play is darker. I love the spirit varnished one. I like it so much I named her "Rosa" because it reminds me of Rosa Ponselle, a late opera singer. I've had a $3500 german strad copy that was old. This violin sounds a lot better. It has projection and excellent overtones equally in many different keys. I may buy another violin in the future, but I won't give this one up.

May 14, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Wow you really got a good deal! The two others I saw were a T19 and T20 model, I was told they were $325 and $425 + $55.00 Shipping. The one I purchased was $375 plus shipping, then with better strings, French boxwood fittings, adjustment and new bridge I guess I have about $550 in a nice sounding instrument. It can't touch my 71 Roth but it's only one sixth the cost and where I might be hesitant to take the Roth out to certain events, this one can go worry free. I'd be more self conscious due to my lack of practicing than the sound of the instrument.

May 14, 2013 at 09:34 PM · Yep, I just checked and both of mine are T-20 models. Do you have a little dowel in the back near the neck? I've never seen this but it just looks like some form of fastener. It's between a 1/8 and a 1/16 of an inch in diameter. It's in one of the back plates right at the heel of the neck.

I got my deal because of the time cycle I think. Everyone was bidding during a different time frame or at least most of the counters were like 3 am my time. I'm in Fuquay Varina NC and it just worked out for me. I had paid $500 for a Shar Franz Hoffman outfit and it was cheap in comparison. I was lucky and turned that around at Cary School of Music to another student.

May 15, 2013 at 02:47 AM · David Whitehurst said:

I have two of these violins. I got one for $153 and the second for $155.

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You did well, the ~$150 USD level is as cheap as they'll allow their T19 violins to sell for, and usually the T20s go for at least $200.

May 15, 2013 at 07:28 AM · There's a difference - the T19 and T20 violins are from Liu Xi workshop - there are also "Master" violins made by Liu Xi himself. I bought a T20, which is very good, and then bought a Master violin. It's really in a different league. Our quartet leader tried it, and luckily there was another Master violin on sale, and he bought it immediately and this is now his main instrument.

May 15, 2013 at 01:56 PM · Big jump in price for the master level as well. Like $1000 or so, right?

Anybody care to comment about the differences between the 19 level and 20 level?

I had a 19 for a while, and it was a bit shrill and piercing.

The violins I have purchased from Old Violin House have all been much more well rounded tonally.

May 15, 2013 at 07:46 PM · Malcolm Turner says:

There's a difference - the T19 and T20 violins are from Liu Xi workshop - there are also "Master" violins made by Liu Xi himself.

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How many of the Yitamusic violins have you played? I too would be curious to know if there is a legitimate difference in the T19/M19 versus the M20/T20 or if it's mostly a marketing and pricing gimmick.

May 15, 2013 at 09:16 PM · Lyndon Taylor says:

I recently worked on one of these Liu Xi, looked pretty good for a cheap factory violin but the sound was not that good

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I trust your judgement, but N=1 is no way to make a proper assessment of an entire line.

I myself have no experience with Yita other than monitoring what they sell for(sort of a financial experiment I conducted) but from accounts of others who are well-versed, these violins can range from absolute crap, to legitimately multi-k sounding instruments.

It seems it's a roll of the dice when you buy one of these fiddles, but you're only paying $200, so the risk surely isnt great; and new strings and a proper bridge are a given.

May 15, 2013 at 09:58 PM · Mr. Gomez:

I agree fully. I have two of what are supposed to be the same model from the same shop (Lui Xi) and they are very different. I am pleased with both, but one of them is a really good instrument. And, it suits "me".

David

May 16, 2013 at 12:36 AM · $150 Yita + $150 setup.....carry the one....=$300

Is it a surprise that he would be impressed by a violin costing 3 times that much? Or really impressed with one 6 times that much?

Automobiles used to be hand crafted and available only to the well to do. Then along came Henry Ford and his assembly line. Soon after that McDonalds drive thrus and traffic jams...but I digress....

The Chinese are the Henry Fords of violin making. Sure, a Ford may never be a Mercedes, but it also won't break the bank either.

May 17, 2013 at 12:22 AM · Would anyone else be willing to post a video of their Liu Xi, with sound so we can see and hear?

May 17, 2013 at 01:19 AM · Seraphim Protos says:

The Chinese are the Henry Fords of violin making. Sure, a Ford may never be a Mercedes, but it also won't break the bank either.

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I have to agree. I just think it's not generally well-known yet how good some of these Chinese "Ford Motor" factories are. I first became curious with these things when I heard on this forum and others that there were some very experienced folk and/or professionals who used a Yita basically as a "beater violin" or a violin for outdoor playing and summer engagements. I've heard of people buying 4 or 5 of them for a grand, picking the one that's really good, then selling off the other 3 or 4 and being quite happy with the result. At any rate, I think this would be the route I would take for beginner instruments were I outfitting for a school rather than making a bulk purchase of a low-quality model through Sam Ash etc....

January 8, 2014 at 03:41 AM · I dont have a Yitamusic violin. But I found the folliwng

M20 Ma Zhibin violin

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AUpwRUT3z18

Ning and Ivanov violin by Old Violin House

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM2sPQjTbpQ

Vacchio master violin by Old Violin House

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOUjGnW_FGA

Qi Anghong master violin by OVH

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU89OF0TgZk

All of the above violins sound very good. I did not to find recordings of recent version M20+ and Liu Xi, Ma Zhibin master violins.

Although I want to, I am not quite yet in the position for recording to share. I am beginner and just bought a Cannone copy of opera workshop from OVH. The above links are excellent performances, I just want to share and listen opinion on those violins.

January 8, 2014 at 11:38 PM · I bought a T20 Strad copy from Yita recently for $162.50. There were 20 bids. Shipping and customs added another $80 to the price. With the factory setup it sounds pretty good to my ears, but the finish appears sprayed on and needs to be rubbed out. After about six months I'm going to take the bridge down and rub out the finish then have a professional setup done on it. I'm certainly not sorry I bought it.

January 9, 2014 at 03:39 AM · Yes, I have two excellent violins purchased from China but you do have to be careful of the finish. Om some of them, they have not cured properly. So if your violin has a very strong varnish smell when you get it then do NOT put it back in its case ; leave it to dry on the wall (hanging from the scroll) for a few months. On second thoughts, leave it out of the case anyway....just to be sure.

I put mine back in the case for a few months while I was breaking in the other instrument and now the back of the violin has been messed up by contact with the inside of the case. I am not worried as it still sounds great but had I been warned then this problem could easily have been avoided.

January 9, 2014 at 09:06 PM · There was no varnish smell from mine, but the chinrest was stuck to the varnish. I carefully removed it and then had to put new cork on the chinrest. The finish has an "orange peel" effect like you sometimes see on automobile paint jobs. When I eventually take off the strings and rub out the top, I'll try to remove the cork remnants.

January 10, 2014 at 10:51 AM · I have a full size Master model made by Liu Xi, I think he made this 'independently' from Yita as the label only has his name and no connotations to YitaMusic or T or M models.

It is a beautiful looking violin, sounds good and is loud.

I do have a violin made by contemporary maker Christopher Rowe which I prefer undoubtedly so that is the only violin I play, however I do like the Liu Xi and I keep it as a spare. I have to say that if I was not fortunate to own the Christopher Rowe I'd happily settle with the Liu Xi

I am an adult learner at approximately grade 8 so am not such an experienced player 'yet' but am a bit 'fussy' with violins by now, when I first started learning they all sounded the same and did the same job LOL

September 29, 2014 at 09:00 PM · Hello to every one. I would like to ask if anyone has a liu xi master viola? Do you think that the master instruments by liu xi are for professional use and have soloistic sound? Does anyone uses these instruments for solo, quartet or serius professional orchestra? Recently they gave me a t20 viola guadagnini model as present to use it as second instrument in the outdoor concerts (I play in a national radio orchestra). The instrument is very good value for money but not enough for my job. Does the master have big difference from the t.20?

September 29, 2014 at 09:00 PM · Hello to every one. I would like to ask if anyone has a liu xi master viola? Do you think that the master instruments by liu xi are for professional use and have soloistic sound? Does anyone uses these instruments for solo, quartet or serius professional orchestra? Recently they gave me a t20 viola guadagnini model as present to use it as second instrument in the outdoor concerts (I play in a national radio orchestra). The instrument is very good value for money but not enough for my job. Does the master have big difference from the t.20?

September 29, 2014 at 09:34 PM · Well I can't speak for the violas, but the two violins in our quartet are both Liu Xi master violins and I'm quite happy using mine for what professional work I get nowadays.

In preference to the modern(ish - 1933) English violin I used when I was a full-time pro. The Liu Xi one is far more even across the strings and especially up the strings.

September 30, 2014 at 10:47 AM · Thank you malcolm!

June 19, 2015 at 02:51 PM · I just acquired a Liu Xi (T20) from Yitamusic -- partly because of good reviews on this site. Envisioned it as a second fiddle for outdoor jobs etc. It's really good -- one of the greatest bargains of my life.

This is the "Cannone" model with oil varnish. Label says signed by Liu Xi but at this price ($260) it's got to be a workshop effort. Yita says the T20s get highest quality wood that's been properly aged.

The workmanship and setup is very competent. I thought I'd have to get a bridge cut immediately, but the the bridge that came with it is well done and quite serviceable.

I did put strings on it and worked hard to find the right bridge location. Tonica G and D, Vision Titanium A, and Westminster 27.5 E.

Anyway the play is really good, astounding considering the price. Nothing like a student instrument. Terrific overtones, resonant, not dark or harsh, just sweet and warm, good brightness where you need it.

It's a joy to play. You can't crush it but it will project excellent volume without straining, a really sweet sound, and just enough punch in the high registers. In that sense reminded me of old Italian violins I've tried.

Here's the thing -- the Liu Xi might be a better violin than my No. 1 which is by a well regarded American master and which which I've played for 25 years. I'm fairly amazed. It is undoubtedly in the same class. And it may get better -- it's still opening up.

June 19, 2015 at 04:02 PM · Thomas, did you get your Yitamusic violin through their eBay store?

June 19, 2015 at 04:48 PM · Yes I did. I searched Ebay prices for past sales of similar violins from Yita, and the prices were lower if you did the auction. So I bid on a couple of auctions for the model I was interested in and snagged this violin. But if the auction puts you off, you can buy them for the fixed price, it just costs a little more.

It air ships from China (mine arrived in 5 days). They do take returns but you have to pay to ship it back obviously. So that's really the risk of buying Ebay - you could be out about $100 for the round trip shipping.

By contrast, some of the other Ebay sellers, I think Old Violin House is an example, has facilities in the U.S. so shipping and returns might be easier. I pickd Yitamusic mainly because of the reputation of the workshops they represent. OVH might also be a great choice as well.

The other thing is -- pay close attention to the descriptions and photos. While it's a workshop there is actually a lot of variation, at least in the varnish. They give each one a little different look. Yitamusic does a good job of trying to describe the violin and its qualities.

Most of the M20 and T20s come with boxwood pegs and tailpiece. Mine has ebony pegs -- maybe it was meant to sell at a slightly lower price point.

I have heard of people buying 3 or 4 of them, keeping the best one and selling the others.

June 19, 2015 at 05:26 PM · Thanks Thomas. Given that the prices are so low, one could buy three and donate the other two for tax deduction if they can't be sold. Getting a decent student violin at a shop is already $1K at the minimum.

June 19, 2015 at 09:15 PM · That's a nice idea.

There is something to be said for buying from a local shop especially if you're not savvy about violins. You support the shop, they'll be there to support you when you have a problem. Your kid's bridge falls and you don't know what to do, it's nice to have somebody to call.

Plus the local shops typically have trade up policies and very generous terms for returns if something doesn't work out.

I wouldn't advocate Ebaying violins as a general rule. But I am thrilled with my recent experience.

June 19, 2015 at 09:40 PM · Buy the $300 violins from EBay.

Buy the $75 string sets locally.

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