Help comparing 1k and under violins from Dan Sun, Ming Jiang Zhu, Scott Cao

June 24, 2014 at 04:52 PM · I've been going in circles searching for the best violin value and wanted to get some opinions. I apologize in advance for my long rambling question. I just purchased two T19 violins from Yita for my young kids. I'm a former cello player and decided to go along for the ride and get myself a violin.

The Yita Viollins were fairly nice (1/8 and 1/4). For the price, no complaints but glad I didn't spend a ton. My kids just aren't that careful yet.

After reading a few comments here I initially selected a Dan Sun Opera Master Lord Wilton copy from Old Violin House. For $300 shipped and mostly happy customers, it seems like a great value. I initially wanted one of their $100 IPE Master bows so $400 total. The instrument specs claimed 18yr dried spruce and yes I know, anyone can do spec inflation (4 bazillion thread-count sheets etc).

For comparison though I looked at several other violins for sale. Ming Jiang Zhu gets what look like enthusiastic professional reviews. Granted his 903A model goes for around $1k but you're getting an instrument that with real credibility (near as I can tell), reliable resale if you need so less guesswork. Same perhaps for Scott Cao. I found several other instruments for sale in this range but to my surprise, many were relabeled instruments from nameless Chinese factories. For all I know, Yita or Dan Sun's workshop make them. Is a relabeled $1k violin from any large shop any better than the Dan Sun from Old Violin House (other than perhaps in resale value). I saw Shar has John Cheng line. Who makes those ?

A $400 violin would suit me just fine if it's the same quality. I'm sure there are many other places to go direct to China to eliminate the middleman but where ? As a consumer, you're a bit in the dark.

I'm not a luthier nor have I tried dozens of instruments. I played Cello for 20 years and only tried a handful. I got one I liked and stuck with it. But I know many of you out there have less tin for ears than I do and have tried a huge range. What would you buy for $400-$1000 range (or near it)? I know I'm not going to get a masterpiece and am not looking for that. But if the Old Violin House instrument is going to fool me in a blind test vs the Ming Jiang Zhu, then I'll save myself some money.

I'd love to hear suggestions from the community though for where you'd put your money. Resale matters some too. EBay seems to be full of nameless older instruments in this price range that have been restored from Europe.

I know it's a charged topic. I'd love to refrain from the broad (and charged) debate over Chinese quality. If you know something great in this price range, I don't care where it's made. I know there are many used Gliga's in just about every price range.

Thanks in advance.

Replies (26)

June 24, 2014 at 08:49 PM · 2 articles for you:

A few hints:

Do not trust online reviews - people are paid to write them.

Do not buy online, eBay or otherwise, unless you like the excitement of lottery. The odds for winning are the same.

Take every violin for 7 days trial - first impression fades after 4 days when sound reality kicks in.

Do a blind test if you are comparing 2 or more violins on site or at home.

Do not rely on visual input to choose a violin.

June 24, 2014 at 09:37 PM · what is your exact experience with violin so far? Are you playing anything now? Have you started to learn violin, or are you waiting for this purchase to start? It seems that your question is based on a complex matrix you've formed from reading, but it's difficult to relate to real violins that way. Do you have a violin store around you? Can you rent something to start? I'd suggest finding a way to experience real violins, and form opinions based on those experiences, instead of reviews and articles. Maybe get input from a teacher. At this level, each violin can be quite different, even from the same workshop, so generic advice is probably not useful for a purchase of a specific instrument.

June 25, 2014 at 02:05 AM · I'm a satisfied customer of OVH many times over.

The quality has always been up to par with anything I've seen in the shops for up to the $1200 range or so.

Yes, it's a bit of a gamble. A leap of faith. But it also could very easily save you $800.

No, they probably can't keep up with the high end stuff. But for a great beginner violin. Definitely a good deal in my opinion and experience.

June 25, 2014 at 03:41 AM · Thanks, I have very little experience so far (except with cello). I started shopping for a first violin (again, I've had years on the cello but the violin is enough different it feels completely new). I've admittedly experienced some price creep in my range. A low end Violin to buy in a local shop is priced high enough that I'm fine taking a chance with a reputable one online to last a few years with me or hopefully my kids growing large enough (yeah, I know I'm probably kidding myself a little). Part of my instrument lust is the thrill of the hunt. Having small kids means I have little time to spend in shops. Their teacher is not much of an instrument expert but does great with them.

I know I'm a light weight at this. Thanks for the links above and I can appreciate that online buying can be a crap shoot. I go in eyes wide open but willing to take the best I can with the information available to me.

June 25, 2014 at 06:31 PM · I hope I can make your decision making more effective. My experience with OVH has been very pleasant. Dan Sun workshop violins OVH sells are good violins for the money. I've saved a lot of money spending on a decent instrument.

You might want to think of the value of the instrument you're buying. How long you're planning to use it? Will I need to buy another one in the future? If you can spend a lil more, try checking out Infinite Strings at eBay. A few members here have found it more worth the money than what you pay for maybe a Scott Cao STV violin.

June 25, 2014 at 07:57 PM · Thanks Jay,

I'm unfamiliar with Infinite Strings. I'll have to research their models some but do you recommend a particular one ? I don't care about aged copies. How do the compare with OVH Master violins or even the Ming Jiang Zhu 903,905's ?

Hopefully I'll keep the violin for a good long time.

June 26, 2014 at 06:24 AM · My pleasure to help. I have only tried Scott Cao's STV 750s and 850s. And they sound rather shrill and the projection isn't that great. And its 2 to 3 times the price of the OVH violins. Personally, I don't find them worth buying at all. I have not tried any Ming Jiang Zhu violins. I've read a lot of positive reviews about the 905s. I think your best bet is to go to a shop that carries these instruments and give it them a test.

July 8, 2014 at 01:28 AM · I spoke with Lance at Infinite Strings. I came away impressed with the efforts they make to use high quality wood with not just uniform thickness but flexibility, density, matching adjacent materials to get great sound. I'm sure I'm butchering what he said but it was far more than just using xxxian spruce aged y years, ebony fingerboard etc. Talk is cheap but I believe it was more than just talk. He mentioned many well regarded shops that are merely assembling violins without regard to how it will sound. You see the common photo of the guy with micro-calipers measuring the top thickness etc. Praise may not be 100% but there are certainly lots of customers saying their infinite strings violin was exceptional, not just a good value.

I'm mighty tempted. Whether I deserve it is another story...

I'm happy there's a community of customers of Infinite Strings and Old Violin House to query. It's frustrating you can't search for any real review of the builders such as Yang Wei, Joseph Ding, Dan Sun etc. Most of the search hits you get are their own store. Someone should start a "" site. Judging by the 1000's of used violins on eBay, the market must be big enough. It may not be the end-all-be-all of buying decisions but better than nothing.

July 10, 2014 at 09:20 AM · I was also looking for reviews for Yang Wei and Joseph Ding but didn't find any as well.IMO, I feel that the deal you can get from Infinite Strings is much more worth it. If you are from US, perhaps you can purchase it with trial.

July 11, 2014 at 03:37 AM · I have a Cannone copy from Sun Dan workshop nearly one year. It is very nice look and good tone (to me) similar to what I would get from 1000$ violin from local shop.

Above is the sound sample of violin from OVH. But unfortunately, Sun Dun violins are not in the list.

Plays adagio from Bach sonata No 1 (on Vecchio violin from OVH).

February 27, 2015 at 11:44 PM · Just returned this viola to the person who is selling it here in Toronto:

Opera Stradivarius Viola for Solo Performance

Neck stop: body stop ratio is completely off: the neck is longer and the body stop is not properly placed.

Cheap is not always the cheapest.

Byers beware!

May 15, 2015 at 05:43 AM · The Yang Wei violin I have is deep, open and has a hint of sweetness. With 2 days under my own "play in" device it jumped up to lively and broad sounding. The G string goes tone to a C# right now. I have the Dan Sun Lord wilton and it is only 1 train car behind the YW engine. Not sure if it has the same potential. Their prices just went up so the value must be judged against the M/T 20+ from Yita prices now. As a brand, lets say for $400 delivered, I will be brazen and say Yita= Guarneri character, OVH higher levels are the Strad ideal.

Still they are not fully "open" or really sweet in an old violin sense or master built violin. As far as I can tell, with Chinese violins it is the age and quality of the wood.

May 15, 2015 at 12:02 PM · I told you you'd like the Yang Wei!


May 30, 2015 at 05:44 AM · I actual have my hands on a Ming Jiang Zhu's if anyone is interested. Feel free to let me know I can tell you a bit more about it. Im looking to get something nicer.

January 30, 2016 at 07:21 AM · Seraphim, you were right about the YW and I will buy another ! Stop bidding them so high you rascall!

As many violins have passed across my bench, I am in a long term "play in " device test with one OVH Master Soloist and Yang Wei. They sit and slow cook all day every day in a rotation of different bridge mounted devices - and I will say that after about 3000 hours of treatment...

They don't sound like my 100 yr old , 5 repair German Amati trade violin - nor a 20yr old USA craft violin.

But they, indeed, sound as good loud and deep (not as sweet) as the Ming Jiang Zhu 909 that came through my door.

The MJZ 909 is a really great second or third step violin - the YW and OVH master are violins that will make players want to play and buy a.....

hand crafted violin from their local luthier.

The box of the Yang Wei really has legs -- the nut and fingerboard set up are a lower level - but then again it is not a violin designed, really, to be played past 3rd position with any intent.

January 30, 2016 at 12:50 PM · Glad you liked the YW. I think it is a terrific bang for the buck instrument.

I no longer bid up the prices on these, as I have since switched over wholly to viola playing.

So, I now exclusively bid up the big, juicy, viola offerings over at Yitamusic....

Although the last viola I purchased was a Seidel made in Germany (Glaesel).

February 1, 2016 at 10:45 PM · Rocky makes two really good points (among others) that I want to emphasise: 1) Buying online is a lottery; and 2) Play a shop instrument for about a week, because it can take days to really hear what you've got.

Yes, buying a violin online must be a lottery, and you must be prepared to "not win big". But, if you buy a $1K instrument on line, and you choose something that has a bit of a following, then you are on "a bit of a promise". See what people have to say about the Yita Music T20 and Master violins on this forum.

I had my DXKY DV-850 picked out for me, and it has been money well-spent. It is very good, and will only get better, I'm thinking.

In this thread I have seen my first negative feedback about Scott Cao instruments (middle and high range). Every owner I have spoken to is "pleased" through to "delighted" with these instruments.

However, just quietly, between the two of us, at the stage you seem to be at, get a decent intermediate instrument and then settle into the fun and trials of the violin playing adventure. Agonising too much about buying the wrong violin appears to be a distraction from the opportunities ahead. Perhaps?

March 23, 2016 at 11:12 AM ·

March 24, 2016 at 08:56 PM ·

March 27, 2016 at 03:24 PM · My first violin was a scott cao 750. It never really opened up and the sound was shrill and dull. It could have been a lemon, I don't know. I tried many different strings and tweaks to bridge and nothing. It is a beautiful looking (well done antiquing) violin, slender and not shiny, but the sound was so un-motivating, I almost quit playing the violin. Also, mine came with a barcode sticker (classy!) stuck over the luthier signed Scott Cao label - not sure if the sticker barcode sticker was affixed by the Scott cao workshop or the store I bought it from, Violinpros. At $1,000, the violin was,the most esthetically pleasing in my violin class, but didn't sound as good as other $350 studnt violins others had in my class. I later got a MJZ 909 and I feel like Im playing a Strad. Major upgrade in workmanship too

March 29, 2016 at 04:07 PM · My violin is scott cao stv 750 copy of cannon. It is great a violin which sound is mellow, dark, and deep especially for its D an G. 1 year ago i had copy of 100+ years strad from Germany but unfortunately the sound is very dull (i am not lucky) so finnaly i changed my old violin with scott cao. When you want to buy a new violins the best thing is you must try and hear its sound if you have no experience with them you can ask your friends who have better experience in purchasing violins to accompany you. In my country (Indonesia) scott cao stv 750 is under 1K dollars and MJZ 909 is under 2K dollars (maybe because China closer with Indonesia, but still its very expensive to me to buy one)

March 30, 2016 at 09:23 AM · The problem with buying new violins is that they change so much in the first few months.

Fortunately for me, mine have changed in ways that have pleased me.

But that might not always be the case.

March 31, 2016 at 05:53 AM · I have purchased a few OVH Opera violins the past couple of years and they are wonderful instrument for the prices. I won a master Guarnari model for $150 and resold it for $600. Lo and behold the buyer in turn sold it for $2000. I still have the Dieter-Sun Soloist which I am keeping. I also have Dan Sun's master copy of the French Master which I also enjoy tremendously. I believe and truly believe these Chinese violin will fetch a much better price in the near future as more and more players buy them and play them.

March 31, 2016 at 03:06 PM · Hmmmm... It never occurred to me I could make a decent living flipping "instruments" in the lowest end of the market. Caveat emptor

March 31, 2016 at 06:05 PM · Looks like OVH no longer auctions their violins. They now sell at a fixed price.

April 1, 2016 at 06:23 AM · Yes, they are only putting up the Yang Wei on the auction block right now. I bet they loose money with all others.

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