'Neutral' Strings

April 16, 2015 at 09:02 PM · I recently bought a new violin. It was set up with a set of Evah Pirazzi Golds when I was trialing it (with the silver G, all strings medium gauge). When I bought it, I put on a fresh set of strings, again EP Golds but with the PI platinum E, which has been my usual set-up on my other violin.

It sounds great, but I observed when the strings were breaking in that when the instrument was tuned to a lower pitch, it had a lot more resonance; I suspect it would like less tension. I've also found that the PI platinum E seems to be overdrive for this instrument, at least with the rest of the combo; it sounded better with the EP Gold carbon E. Plus, this is an especially expensive combination of strings (if I were using the gold G instead, it would be the most expensive string combination on the market).

Two different luthiers have now suggested to me that I should just use Dominants on this violin -- that the instrument doesn't really need anything "extra", and a basically neutral, lower-tension string would probably be best (and that the extra resonance of the EP Golds make it sound a little boomy). However, I dislike the metallic harshness of new Dominants during the breaking-in period, and in any event I'd need a different E string. (Back when I used Dominants on another violin, I had the usual Wondertone Gold Label E.)

So now I'm pondering what to use instead. The instrument has excellent projection and resonance, fast response, a well-balanced sound, and an interesting combination of brilliance and warmth. I'd like strings that pretty much just let the natural qualities of the instrument come through.

Any thoughts?

Replies (58)

April 16, 2015 at 09:55 PM · I should say stick to nylon rather than "composites":

Tonica, Synoxa (which I have yet to try); Aricore (warm & smooth); Crystal "light"(warm but textured)

All if these sound nice straight away, but like Dominants, need time to settle.

April 16, 2015 at 10:02 PM · Don't forget the new(ish) Cantiga from Corelli, and regular Larsen strings!

April 16, 2015 at 10:14 PM · Synoxa, IMHO. By chance I was looking for the same characteristics recently, because a fairly powerful setup I recently used was perhaps too resonant (though the tone was good.) Synoxa are nylon, VERY similar in feel on the left hand, similar bowing feel, and sound quite beautiful and clear without being dull-very well balanced tone.

Tone won't be boomy. They are not "shrill" despite being bright like Dominants (I believe that Dominants are not neutral, but lean towards brightness, which Synoxa also do.)

There are other options of course, but the Synoxas are winners in my book. There is no metallic edge-strings will sound slightly different the first day, but they impressed me on how good they are sounding until even today (I switched strings early March, so my comments are "fresh" in my mind, so to speak.) It's even an addicting tone, even though you can tell they are nylon core. Play very easily, perhaps easier than Dominants, though their tension has not been made public (AFAIK.) To be fair to Dominants (which I don't hate),I used them recently on ANOTHER violin while my own was being worked on, and that violin had higher action, thus naturally the Synoxas did feel better (I don't think Dominants medium or less are too tense for most violins, however.) And of course, I am used to my violin. Still, Synoxas feel way easy on your hands, as you will find out for yourself if you ever try them. Excellent quality strings that are worth using/trying-they are no so-called "student strings."

I offered an in-depth (more or less) review on Mr. Boucke's string review website. Quite honestly wasn't expecting to be impressed that much ( especially since I also love and prefer gut core strings), but these may be the "best" Dominant alternative (talking about a similar core and hand/bow feel) with its own, rich, beautiful tone.

As I said elsewhere, Tonicas are cheaper (and newer) but I doubt their new formula is "identical" to Synoxa, despite both being nylon core. Price is similar to Dominants anyway.

(The Synoxa E is a Medium "gold label" in Fuchsia/Pink-which of course you don't need to use but does go well with the set, much like they also tend to do with Dominants.)

I cannot say they will last forever, but they are lasting and sounding exceedingly well with many hours of play by now.

I would choose them over Dominants moving forward, and with all due respect to all the great people that use and will keep using them forever. Dominants are great, of course, but need not be THE nylon/person core of choice for everybody in the world.

April 17, 2015 at 02:35 AM · I'm quite fond of Dominants on a good and well setup violin. I understand you don't like the break-in period sound, though.

You could try maybe Infeld Reds -- they are similar to Dominants in many ways and break in faster. Regular Visions might be an option too.

I tried Kaplan Amo / Vivo samples I was given and they amazed me in that they didn't have any initial harshness. I'm not sure what the tension ratings on these are but they felt very comfortable in the left hand (not always an indicator of tension).

Corelli Cantiga's are sort of neural -- reminded me of a blend between Evah Gold's and Dominants.

Vision Titanium Orchestra's are great and have a lot of Dominant like qualities, but they also have a rather harsh break-in period. It's shorter than the Dominant break-in, but even more harsh.

The new formula Tonica's might be an option. They are less processed sounding than Evah's or Obligatos but in that same family.

I use Dominants though :-) Alternate E's, of course.

April 17, 2015 at 03:00 AM · I've tried a lot of strings on my previous instruments but I've always been trying for more projection, so it's a little odd not to be optimizing that way this time. Also, this instrument is much louder under my ear than my previous violins, although as far as I can tell the sound is less refined under the ear than it is to the listener. (Interestingly the loudness under the ear is much less pronounced when I'm playing in orchestra though.)

April 17, 2015 at 05:06 AM · Yes, sometimes under the ear "harshness" is perfectly OK if the violin is good, which in your case is a fact.

Since your violin is powerful as it is right now (projects well) I don't think it "needs" Evah Pirazzi and family. That said, many soloists prefer Evahs because they like their tone and are indeed among the most powerful strings. One cannot be honest with oneself and say that every player and violin in the world prefers Dominants, as many a Strad is currently strung with EPs (not that people must use EPs or Dominants only, of course.) Yes, Mr. Shaham uses Dominants, but Mr. Repin uses EPs... I don't really think it wise to criticize-or even pay that much mind to-other people's choices just because we wouldn't prefer them ourselves on our instruments (for the record, no one in this thread has done this.)

Believe me, I would consider using Evahs again (I like their power and they sound good, IMHO), if only Weich, because I acknowledge medium tends to be tense. My violin can deal with medium EPs because it's rather easy to play, but I don't prefer how they feel under the bow vs gut or nylon (odd, I know.) I do not dislike the EP "modern core" tone-I just seem to like better the playability and even the sound of nylon at this time, understanding why Dominants are an attractive choice besides being "the first".

My most powerful setup ever, which I tried recently, was Westminster 27.5, Prim Orchestra A (steel), and Evah Pirazzi G & D, Weich. So that we have an idea of EP's power, the Weich were very even in tone and volume with the... Prim Orchestra A (thick). It didn't actually sound harsh, just loud from top to bottom, and very resonant-which unfortunately pronounced a wolf tone on the G string which "wasn't there" before. After trying Dominants on the other, loaned violin, I loved their "classic" feel and tried the Synoxas for something similar but different (at least the Synoxa comes with a great E as a set. :P )

I don't think I am missing the power going back to nylon, because at least as far as Synoxa are concerned, they are also brilliant and open sounding, and while Gold Label Es are not as powerful as Westminsters 27.5, they have a very penetrating, ringing tone which seems to project well. It's a very good E, despite it's old age (I do love those Westminsters, though... also you prefer Platinum Es, which is perfectly fine.)

Considering how many great players project well with Dominants and/or gut strings like Eudoxa (which aren't the most brilliant), I don't think we "need" that much reserves of power, though I must admit, I tend to be a "loudness addict" myself. I don't enjoy dull, muddy/dark, or nice but muted strings (no offense intended, dear violinists.) But I feel nylon is more than enough power/projection for most players, at least in my experience.

And as an update to what I said above, Synoxa's are not tame, much less dull-just not as resonant or powerful under the ear than Evahs... but honestly, there are only a handful of strings in the market with that kind of power, and usually it's not any nylon core sets.

Another thing to try for a bit more power with nylon, as SO MANY people do, is to use a high tension E with their nylon (usually Dominant) strings. Most of us have done that in the past, of course. Jargar Forte, Westminsters heavies, the usual E suspects. Usually makes the whole violin sounds fuller and very ringing/powerful (which we may or not need.)

If not "married" to nylon, I found the Warchal Brilliant Vintage to be rather powerful and super easy on the strings and bow, but I played them more than 3 years ago. Have not tried Amber so far.

Mr. Bevan also mentioned many valid choices, though I find most non-nylon, Thomastik synthetic cores a bit tense-just not as much as Pirastro's modern core. Infeld Red/Blue, Visions, and Titaniums are more tense than ye olde Dominant (which doesn't mean they are hard to play, but something to note as a fair comparison.) I never hated the Titanium Solo strings, for instance, which so many people hate-good volume, though with time they can also get relatively "boomy", and is still a different bowing feel vs Nylon/Dominant/etc.

I am intrigued about Corelli/Savarez Cantiga, but am afraid of trying them and liking my current set more. :P In any case, once my current set dies, I may try more gut strings, since they last for so long in my experience, contrary to popular belief-but that's for another discussion.

(I feel a bit uncomfortable speaking "badly" about modern cores, as I still believe they are good and even great for many players and violins. Many of them sound so good, though each one has their own "tonal envelope". I just don't feel that we must accept that older strings must be necessarily "outdated", JUST because there are many other good, modern alternatives. Modern or nylon, one should choose according to personal needs, not just because it's the newest and "most current" string to use.)

(Talking about great players... most of them can make most string sets sound great on their instruments, anyway, and that not just because their violins/bows are usually excellent. Sometimes just having strings that work well enough is actually enough.)

April 17, 2015 at 08:00 AM · hi Lydia

suggestion to give the Warchal Ametyst a try

best and congrats on the new violin

April 17, 2015 at 12:11 PM · Projection is partly the player and partly the instrument and its set-up. Many great players project well with Dominants simply because their instruments don't need the added power of a string like Evahs (and may even do better with lower-tension strings). There's a certain penetrating quality to instruments chosen by soloists, typically. Projection is not merely loudness; it's also the overtone series produced.

That said, you'll often see excellent instruments set up to show with either PIs, EPs, or EP Golds.

Also, I expect if I were playing a concerto with orchestra, I would probably prioritize projection over many other tonal qualities. Since I'm not currently doing so, playability, color, and sound quality are my priorities, as the instrument's natural projection is fine for other use.

April 17, 2015 at 12:49 PM · I agree that setup is a large part of this. In fact many people probably experiment with strings until they find something close to what their violin was setup for in the first place. It is my understanding that a violin setup for Evahs, for instance, is quite different than a violin setup for Dominants.

All the strings you mentioned -- PI's, Evahs, Golds, Dominants -- are all good professional strings. It might be good to take your violin to someone who is excellent at setup and tell them what you're looking for. They can probably advise what would work best and also tell you if there is anything that might need slight modification (nut, string grooves, post adjustment) to get it working correctly.

April 17, 2015 at 01:38 PM · The set-up is already what it should be, given what it's strung with, I think.

April 17, 2015 at 02:37 PM · Given what has been mentioned in this thread, is there anything you might be willing to try? If you want to keep the setup the same, you might be into a bit of a trial phase to see what works.

An interesting option might be trying Dominants as a baseline for a month, even though you don't like the break-in period. This could give you an idea of where to go, and if the violin does indeed respond to more neutral strings.

April 17, 2015 at 05:46 PM · If I end up with significantly lower-tension strings, I'll have the instrument adjusted (it's fine now, but given summer and its humidity a couple more weeks and it might be less happy anyway).

I probably won't change strings again until June, given that the EP Golds sound okay and this is a $120 set of strings. But I am information-gathering now. :-)

April 18, 2015 at 12:59 AM · Sounds like a plan! Have you ever tried Passiones?

Can you tell us more about the new fiddle? And congrats!

April 18, 2015 at 02:03 AM · I've tried Passiones on my previous violin. I really liked the sound but my teacher thought they were too unfocused. (I adore the sound of Olives but hate the instability, so I do like gut.)

The new violin is a Strad-pattern JB Villaume, 1855. Sounds fantastic, plays really well. It's very responsive but also completely unforgiving, for better or for worse.

April 18, 2015 at 05:14 PM · I like Passione's as well although I don't use them regularly.

Were the ones you tried regular Passione's, or Passione Solo's? Solos have a little more volume/focus and a bit of what I like to call the "evah push" to the sound.

Might be an interesting option, though no less expensive that what you are using.

April 18, 2015 at 07:10 PM · I used the regular Passiones, prior to the introduction of the Solos. I still find the Passiones less stable tuning-wise than I'd prefer, although they're bearable.

April 19, 2015 at 11:06 PM · I think Douglas's suggestion is spot on: try the Dominants for a while and see what you think. After all, this is what two luthiers who have been able to see and hear you violin as currently strung have suggested. This thread contains a number of good suggestions from people who have not seen or heard your violin. If the Dominants do not satisfy you, go back to these luthiers (or some other luthier) with the violin strung with Dominants, and let them hear the instrument with those strings. Then when you explain what does not satisfy you, they can hear what the instrument sounds like and make suggestions. Good luck!

April 20, 2015 at 03:31 AM · Pirastro Eudoxa are known for their neutrality.

July 8, 2015 at 04:02 AM · I thought I'd update now that I've changed the strings. The new combination:

- Warchal Amber E

- Warchal Avantgarde A

- Warchal Brilliant Vintage D

- Warchal Brilliant Vintage G

Resonant and lovely combination, and relatively inexpensive (about $60, around half of what my previous combo cost).

I've had the A and E on the violin for about a week, paired with Evah Pirazzi Gold silver D and G strings. This was an interesting combination, very resonant and rich, but the G and D definitely felt like higher-tension strings; there was a real mismatch in speed of response, and the lower strings had a kind of metallic fuzz to them that did not improve as the strings broke in.

The Brilliant Vintage lower strings seem perfectly matched to the upper strings, on the other hand. They're quick-responding and the whole instrument has a long after-ring. They've been on the violin for just a few hours now and still have a touch of the kind of metallic edge that you find on new Dominants, but not bothersomely so. They're soft under the fingers, sound with minimal effort, can take a lot of pressure, and modulate well. They do not have the power or richness or complexity of the EP Golds, but they have greater clarity and focus, and a nicely warm sound.

I particularly like the Amber E, which is nearly impossible to make whistle, yet has brilliance and resonance. It feels good under the fingers, as does the Avantgarde A -- a nice pairing.

We'll see how it sounds in a week's time, but thus far, I'm pleased with the combination, especially for the price. Overall, I would consider the sound signature to be very neutral. Note that the overall effect is very much synthetic (in the Dominant sense); this is not a gut-like sound at all.

July 8, 2015 at 06:18 AM · What about Warchal Karneol? Some people on Maestronet raved about it.

July 8, 2015 at 02:31 PM · PIs top to bottom. The choice of D string can matter a lot-- if the aluminum D is too bright and EP-like, the silver will be much better and will mellow out the whole instrument.

July 8, 2015 at 07:57 PM · @Kevin, Karneol is definitely better then Dominant. Warmer, with more texture and there is much better E string. Unfortunately it is not so easy to get.

July 8, 2015 at 09:23 PM · Glad to see mention of Warchals here. I switched to Karneols from Infeld Blues a while ago. I find them similar, but warmer, more playable, and neutral -- great for orchestra.

June 19, 2016 at 07:41 PM · I thought I'd update this thread with what I ended up doing.

I really did like the Warchal Brilliant Vintages with the Avantgarde A and Amber E, but then I decided to give gut another try.

I tried Passiones for the D and G, with the Avantgarde A and the Amber E. I thought this was actually remarkably similar to the Warchal lower strings initially, but the tone mellowed after a few days.

I ended up deciding that it was better for the color break to be between A and E rather than D and A, so went with the Passione A the next time I changed the strings. I kept the Amber E, though.

I've ended up settling on Passiones for G, D, and A, in the medium gauge that's the set default, along with the Amber E. The tuning stability still isn't entirely what I wish it was, but it's close enough to synthetics that it doesn't bother me. On this violin, the sound of the Passiones is rich yet clear, without any of the fuzz that they had on my previous instrument.

They also have plenty of volume; I'm not at all concerned about whether they have sufficient projection, even for concerto-with-orchestra playing. (I did a Brandenburg 5 where being heard was effortless, and indeed, I had to be careful about balance. I'll use this combo again later this year for Lark Ascending, where I suspect it will also be fine.)

June 20, 2016 at 04:15 AM · I would try Passione Solo again were they any more affordable. Most other gut-core options are more sensible on this regard. I never disliked the Solos, though they did sound less warm than the original. My main qualm about the excellent Passiones is that I don't find stability that big of a deal, so maybe some players could do with Eudoxas or similar gut strings just as well, for less money (with the obvious Oliv G exception, of course.)

As it is, I am currently trying affordable Pirastro Gold Labels (envelope version, for what it's worth), and for some reason they stretched even faster than what regular or Solo Passiones did for me (3 days). Not "weak" sounding either. I wonder if they just manufacture them differently nowadays. They shouldn't be advertised just as a "value" string, IMHO, as I think that deters most players from even trying them in the first place.

I loved the Oliv A I used some months ago. While I also enjoyed steel As, gut As can also be very stable, bright, AND powerful.

And truly, I am convinced people can project immensely with many of the string options, INCLUDING gut. Of course Evahs are among the loudest under the ear, but I am 100% sure many good players are able to project well with gut-in fact, Gil Shaham noted in an interview last year that, while he didn't use them for all his complete solo Bach recitals, when he played Pirastro Oliv they were NOT really any less powerful than the Dominants he usually uses. I don't think lack of power is that much of an issue with gut, as much as I appreciate the EPs-I think that besides volume, synthetics are usually just generally more convenient to use for many soloists and other violinists.

(That said, I wouldn't use the Silvery Steel A either included in most of Pirastro's modern offerings-it's just a nice sounding string that somehow fails to convince me, as much as I like two of Pirastro's older steel Es.)

Glad you are finding the regular Passiones a great fit for your instrument.

June 20, 2016 at 04:12 PM · I'd actually love to try a set of Olivs on this violin, but I've never liked the stability of gut in a hot, humid, variable climate like the DC summer, and Olivs are now so expensive that I'm not keen to toss a set of strings if I find they don't work well. Even the Passiones are irritating going from my nicely humidity-controlled house (I have a dehumidifier) to rehearsals and whatnot. This violin loves low tension; tuning to a lower pitch improves resonance and projection both.

February 11, 2017 at 08:17 PM · Another strings update... Just changed the lower two strings -- the Passione D and G were sounding tired after almost 5 months on the violin, and I replaced them with a Larsen Tzigane D and G. Extremely loud and resonant, and they woke up the whole violin -- I ended up not feeling like I needed to change the upper two strings. Interestingly, they were only minorly unstable for the first two days. Day three, they settled in completely and are totally stable, but they've also lost that brilliant sheen of resonance that they initially had. Nice, though. Clear and less complex than the Passiones, slightly faster and easier response, and can take a lot of pressure. The G is a little less free than I would like, but the D is terrific.

I'm wary of their lifespan, though -- I'm wondering if I'm going to have to change them in just a couple of weeks.

February 11, 2017 at 09:22 PM · I am wary of going back to synthetics, just because they usually wake up my lone wolf on the G string (usual location-high C.) I know I can play around it, but it's something less to focus on. Hope the Larsens last well for you, but synthetics just eventually die faster than gut regardless brand, IME. That said, I ocassionally go back to synthetics on a whim, and appreciate what they are meant to achieve and how some sound.

Olivs are not "neutral", but nice ($$$)-Eudoxa Rigid are probably practical only at their thickest, as Eudoxa in particular have very low tension (lower than Gold, Oliv, and Passione.) Currently using Eudoxa G&D (16&17) with no complaints about projection and "crush resistance", for about 3 months, with no *apparent* tonal degradation-they also project well and are not really tame.

Best of luck.

February 12, 2017 at 08:01 PM · Do we really want this "after-ring" ?

The whole point of gut strings, including those on tennis rackets, is that they are better damped. This allowing the bow to stop and start the vibrations when we want.

February 12, 2017 at 09:19 PM · You want to be able to keep the string vibrating deliberately without effort, in my opinion. It's harder to keep the string vibrating, than to stop it from vibrating when you want to.

February 13, 2017 at 01:46 AM · Which is why trying out plain gut dramatically improves your bowing. :)

February 13, 2017 at 02:02 AM · I don't know, many great violinists do have good bow control despite playing on synthetics. Also, many wound gut strings are difficult to adapt to for those who have never played them, despite the windings.

That said, it is true that you MUST adapt to gut, wound or not, to play satisfactorily, and that IMHO it can help with a more nuanced and advanced bow control. BUT once you go back to synthetics,you must then once more bow a bit differently, because most synthetics take more effort (pressure) for the sound to be drawn out.

(Nothing against pure gut, however.)

February 13, 2017 at 03:01 AM · I've actually never found wound gut (specifically Eudoxas and Olivs) to be difficult to play. I've not felt like I had to do anything significantly different from the synthetics I've used.

February 13, 2017 at 04:22 AM · It's more subtle when experienced. It is a fact, though, that most medium synthetics require more pressure than speed for the tone to "go", and while I can also "press" normally with gut, something like Evah Pirazzi requires even more to draw the sound. Once you are used to switching core types, it's no big deal either way.

(Indeed, while it's more challenging for the gut newcomer switching from synthetics, gut cores are actually easier to play than most synthetics, in my experience.)

Nothing wrong about "pressure", and I myself also don't have problems "crushing" Eudoxas/Olivs, but I suspect many "gut crushers" find the string defective/problematic, when it falls to us to adapt.

However, super low tension gut can more easily be "crushed", which is why I wouldn't recommend them for most so-called "modern" players. Oliv very light tension don't count, as even at their lowest it's not that low, and they resist heavy bowing well. Eudoxa Rigid are also harder to "crush", though given their low tension, I personally would be wary using anything lighter then "medium-heavy".

I need to repeat, however, than I am not a gut zealot and have no problems with people using whatever they like that helps them enhance their playing and make the best music they can.

March 4, 2017 at 11:37 PM · Anyone here have experience with the longevity of the Tziganes?

After about a week, that really great resonance was gone although they still sounded nice. Now, after 3 weeks on the violin, representing roughly 60 hours of playing time, it's taking just a little bit more effort to get them started and the after-ring is mostly gone.

(Interestingly, tuning-wise, they aren't any more stable than the Passiones I had.)

March 5, 2017 at 03:46 AM · I tried them a while back on a different violin than I play now. They lasted me about 3 months (~252 hours) before getting dead and sluggish.

If you're looking for a neutral string that lasts a long time, you might try Corelli Cantiga.

March 5, 2017 at 07:39 AM · At the moment I just want something that will stay resonant yet stable through my next concert. After that it'll probably be time for a new string experiment, or alternatively a return to the Passiones, or Warchal Brilliant Vintage.

March 5, 2017 at 01:15 PM · I found Larsen Tzigane strings were useful on violins that made other G strings lousy sounding and relatively unresponsive above the first octave.

I talked with Richard Ward at Ifshin Violins about Tziganes when they were first marketed and he had not yet found a good reason for using them.

Other than the two troublesome violins I successfully tried them on I found them bad on instruments that did not need them.

I also found I could overcome those G string troubles by using a PI platinum E on those "bad" violins with other string sets - it was a sort of revelation and the main reason I use now PI platinum E strings with every violin and string combo.

March 5, 2017 at 03:42 PM · For the first couple of days, they were really lovely on my violin, which likes less tension. Then they settled in and were less resonant. I feel like the loss of ring is more a string-wear issue at this point but it's too short of a lifespan.

I'd previously used the regular Larsens on another violin and found that I needed to change them every 4 to 6 weeks for them to sound acceptable, but they were terrific during that time. I'd hoped that the new strings would have more longevity.

March 6, 2017 at 07:00 AM · Have you tried the thin-gauge Dominants? With regular or light Gold Label E they can get nice results.

March 6, 2017 at 02:57 PM · I'm not as much of a fan of Thomastik strings in general, I think. I've tried most of their strings (Dominants, Infelds, Visions, PIs, etc.), albeit not on this violin, and don't really like the feel under my fingers. (I did try PIs on this violin, and they turned out to be godawful soundwise. The tension problem seems to choke the fiddle.)

My luthier prefers Dominants, though. He seems to think the whole string market is a racket geared to sucking money out of kids with student fiddles. :-)

March 6, 2017 at 05:31 PM · I think your luthier may be right to some degree. Expensive strings are engineered to add to or filter a violin tone in some way. Violin need more brightness? Buy some strings that add it! Need more depth and richness? Get some rich-sounding strings. The problem is that as the strings die out, the violin is left with only what it had to begin with.

I went from a series of pretty good violins, during which time I tried nearly every string on the market, to a contemporary instrument that I and others consider absolutely stellar, on which I can keep a set of Dominants for months with little change in the sound quality.

March 6, 2017 at 06:10 PM · Unless the instrument is really great, in which case each string can make a huge difference by allowing the exact right colours to shine through (usually gut used on an older instrument).

March 6, 2017 at 06:38 PM · A violin-shop owner recently talked me out of putting a set of Olivs on this violin (1855). :-)

In general, I've kept string sets on this instrument for relatively long periods of time and they still sound good, but every time I change the strings, I'm reminded how much more it can give.

March 6, 2017 at 08:19 PM · While I think Dominants are good strings, it's a bit annoying to have them pushed as the standard and "one string you need". There's more to this world than the tried and true-nevermind that gut was once THE tried and true. Dominants are reliable, but you HAVE to make concessions in order to get that reliability, as no string is faultless, especially depending on who you ask.

If I were to use Dominants, I would likely do so in their light gauge.

Personally like Pirastro more, including many of their synthetics. The one Thomastik I liked a lot but is a bit too tight is the Titanium Solo, though eons ago I sometimes used Infeld Red. I also don't find Dominants to be "neutral"-only relative to others, but they are bright and edgy, which is not necessarily a bad quality. To most Thomastik's offerings I can find a Pirastro that I like more (good experiences with Warchal as well.)

Pirastro also has crazy good customer support, treating you with utmost respect and great generosity at times.

(To be fair, it's hard to describe how a neutral string should sound like, as I assume most have their own idea of a "flat" frequency response for their instruments.)

March 6, 2017 at 08:35 PM · I don't think anyone is pushing Dominants, they are just indicating what works for them. I think the Vision lineup and PI sets are also great, depending on what you need out of a set. Whether you like it or not though, Dominants are probably still considered the reference standard.

Pirastro has an interesting sound family as well. I find Evah Greens and Golds to start coming apart too quickly, especially the A string at the nut (this is well known in professional circles). Passiones / Passione Solos are amazing sounding strings, but lack the stability that most professionals seek. And most don't play on Eudoxa/Olive because of even more instability.

What does that leave us from Pirastro?

March 6, 2017 at 09:00 PM · Tonica, Obligato, Synoxa, Wondertone Solo?

March 6, 2017 at 09:13 PM · I have found my Passiones to be just as stable as Dominants, if not quite as stable as Evah Pirazzis. They do need longer to adjust to a significant delta in temperature or humidity, but many synthetics do too. The stability difference is present but minor enough that most players probably won't notice. I find the stability issues with Olivs to be more significant, but livable in a stable climate.

Ironically, I think for many of us, our perception of "neutral" is the sound of Dominants, or perhaps for older players, the sound of Eudoxas.

March 6, 2017 at 09:23 PM · To each their own-Thomastik is fine.

But Passiones are super stable IME, and Gold/Eudoxa/Oliv are perfectly capable to be used reliably in concert. "Most professionals" are just passing on hearsay, or didn't give gut a fair shake-additionally, if you have been playing Dominant/EP (neither bad) since infancy and it works for you in concert, some of these players don't have the patience to try something else, with all the "if it ain't broke" sentiment. This doesn't mean that just because they represent a big majority, gut is "irrelevant" for the "modern professional" (indeed, IME, I have seen a big renaissance of gut core using younger players, through the Passione line.)

As mentioned above, Synoxa and Tonica are pretty good, and Obligato has a HUGE following. I never thought that EP (green) was a bad quality string-they die faster sound wise than physically on my violin, and never by the nut (most of my winding problems occur near the bowed area, just above the bridge.)

Not disagreeing to be annoying, though-I know that Thomastik is not a garbage company, and that Dominants and others can sound pretty good.

March 6, 2017 at 09:46 PM · I think all strings (except clearly crappy metals and poorly constructed strings) all posess great qualities. It all depends on what you want and how well it meets your needs. I also think that a lot of people stick with one combo if they're satisfied while others continue to search for a different sound. Personal tastes can change over time.

March 6, 2017 at 10:19 PM · Interestingly my new violin seems to have the same string behaviour.

On my old fiddle (wich was a modernised baroque violin) I really liked PI and Vision Titanium Solo. So i strung them up on my new one only to find out they dont sound good on her at all. It really is liked the sound gets choked. My new violin has a very solistic character but still is nice to listen from close distance. The PI seem to be very peaky, without any depth. It is really exhausting to listen to.

I have now tried Larsen Tzigane with the same results as yours. Larsen Virtuoso felt like 4 week old Tziganes from the beginning.

Olive are fine sounding but my problem is, they get unstable as soons as i start breathing in direction of my violin (which sometimes I do).

Currently I use the Dominants (which are shocking unstable), but after your review I might try the Passiones. I used to like EP, but they go dead pretty quick in my experience...

I just got the feeling, that die Dominants are not optimal, but I havent found a better solution yet. Also I got some responding issues with the Dominat G, it sometimes takes quite some time for the note to settle (might be my fault though, but I got the feeling that the very stiff Arcus CF bow is playing a role in it too).


Showing the slow response of the g-string. Never had this issue with any other string.

March 6, 2017 at 10:28 PM · Ella Yu Said :Tonica, Obligato, Synoxa, Wondertone Solo?:

Yes, they have those too. But those don't have nearly the user base as the ones I addressed.

Lydia -- I find Passiones to be more stable than Eudoxa/Olive, but still less than a Pirastro or Thomastic synthetic. They also have a much longer break-in period for me according to my notes. I do love the sound of Passiones, and if I was playing purely for my own enjoyment, I might be inclined to deal with them.

Adalberto - Passiones are super stable -- compared to other gut. I think they are great warm sounding strings, most just don't want to deal with them where a good synthetic will work. EP greens sound fantastic and I love the response, but they do suffer from a quick decline in sound quality and some winding separation issues.

Overall, I think the violin and the setup are more important, which is what I was stressing above in my original statement. It's not the strings -- it's the string-er!!

March 7, 2017 at 03:18 AM · That's pretty interesting. How stable is your environment? I generally figure the Passiones should get 10 minutes to acclimatize to the room, and as long as I tune them after that, they'll stay in tune through a two-hour rehearsal, for instance, or even all day if I leave the violin out. Break-in time is about as quick as synthetics -- stable enough for me to not have to tune constantly after about two days. I live in Maryland, which has horribly hot and humid summers, dry and moderately-cold winters, and unpredictable autumns and springs.

March 7, 2017 at 01:06 PM · My entire house is humidity controlled, although that only gets it in the ballpark of where I want to be. In the room where the violins are kept, I have additional humidification/dehumidification and monitoring via some custom software on a Raspberry PI. I'm able to keep it relatively close to 45% year round.

In my Riboni case, I use the supplied large humidifier tube in the winter and Boveda two-way packets in the spring/fall. Recently, I started using the D'Addario Humiditrak to keep data about in-case humidity and temperature (before than I was using one of Burgesses calibrated units).

I live in Pittsburgh, so a similar climate to you Lydia.

March 8, 2017 at 07:38 PM · Marc -- thanks for the edit and video. That looks like a technique issue to me. Watch your sounding point and the way the bow engages the string at the beginning. You appear to be coming in "from the air" where that passage should have a definitive on-the-string bite.

March 8, 2017 at 08:06 PM · You are right, i can make it sound easier if I move closer to board, but I want to have the sound closer to the bridge. You are also right, I am comming from air. But this seamed to be the only way to make the string resonate fast enough, what is quite strang, I know.

When posting this vid I had my wooden bow for rehairing. I got it back now and I dont have as much issues with the wooden bow.

BUT you are surely right, my technice is not very good and I should look at this point before looking at the equipment (I am a hobby player, cleary). The only thing is, this is only occuring with this particular string. Using any other string I dont get this issue, so I may cause it by bad technic but it is also at least supported (in a bad way) by the string.

March 9, 2017 at 05:06 AM · Has anyone tried Thomastik Infield's new strings, "Handmade Rondo"?

I saw the their ad in the March edition of the Strad.

Experimenting with new strings can be expensive and it would be nice to hear some feedback.

March 9, 2017 at 01:53 PM · Afaik the rondo strings are part of the "secret" line from Thomastik.

The goal is to give violin makers the chance to buy a big pack of them cheaper to string up the violins for sale. There are two of which I know, the others are told to be close to Dominant, the rondo are close to PI, some say with a touch of vision solo.

Resale is not alowed via internet or phone. You can only buy them at the store, not many have them.

I hope they will come to regular market someday, might be an interesting choise.

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