New viola strings

December 15, 2015 at 03:53 PM · There are some new strings for viola that have either recently been released, or are coming out in the near future.

Recent releases: Peter Infeld for viola, Warchal Amber for viola.

Coming in January: Dadario Amo and Vivo for viola.

Exciting times to be a violist! (it's always a thrilling experience being a violist, though, isn't it?)

My new set of Warchal Ambers just arrived today!

Replies (36)

December 15, 2015 at 05:18 PM · Well, I think you just need to try them all. After all, what's money for?

December 15, 2015 at 05:33 PM · Maybe get a new viola for each set while I'm at it, right?


December 15, 2015 at 06:01 PM · Yeah that way you could create a huge matrix where you have a row for every viola and a column for every set of strings. And of course we can't forget the third dimension: The bow. Different bows are not only "matched" to the viola but also to the unique timbral characteristics of the strings. That brings us pretty quickly to SRs and rosin. There goes your mortgage and your IRA.

December 15, 2015 at 06:51 PM · Loaded up the Ambers at lunchtime.

Initial impression: resonant and full sounding. Obviously they need to be played in. But the Brilliants I had on prior, the C took a little warming up before it sounded "right". The Amber C sounds fine right out of the box.

I went with the synthetic core A, not the new steel wavy A. I had liked the sound and tension for the synthetic A for my Brilliant set I had on prior to this, so I kept with that category. The fine tuner isn't at all needed for a synthetic core A, but I left it there anyhow...

The windings are very classy.

December 15, 2015 at 08:56 PM · Oh dear oh dear! I was just getting my best out of Obligatos,; now I shall have to start all over again.

December 15, 2015 at 09:43 PM · I am sure these strings will sound fine on someone's viola. I will stick with Obligatos. Adrian, we need to form a defense perimeter.

December 15, 2015 at 10:15 PM · Obligatos go for like $115 a set!

You can get the first set of Ambers for about $50.

Just saying....

December 16, 2015 at 05:15 AM · A local pro advised me to try obligatos on my viola too, dominants on there now.

December 16, 2015 at 03:14 PM · First day:

Full sounding and rich. Not at all muddy or dark. C and G are sounding great right out of the gate. The whole set sounds nicely matched.

I love both the Warchal Brilliants and these new Ambers.

The Brilliants I thought were THE strings for me: great value for the sound you get. Not overly bright or sharp as one may imply from the name. C and G are surprisingly warm and full sounding. Highly recommended strings.

But...these Ambers may dethrone them. We shall see....

My analogy so far:

Brilliants: Clear and strong, with warmth like the sun shining on an autumn day in New England with a bright blue sky, yet a certain crispness to the air, and the leaves on the trees in full splendid color.

Ambers: Full and rich, the warmth of an early June sun, the air full of earthy bouquet of the new grass and the trees verdant with fresh leaves swaying in the spring breeze.

December 16, 2015 at 06:27 PM · I'm rather colour-blind, but I love the smell of autumn: I'll start with the Ambers (with the synthetic A.)

December 16, 2015 at 06:54 PM · What about Karneol?

December 16, 2015 at 08:32 PM · I haven't had the chance to try them.

December 16, 2015 at 09:10 PM · Another new-ish viola set is the Dadario Kaplan.

I would characterize those as very strong and powerful. They do not come in light tension, nor are they sized for an extra large viola such as I have (17.5"). So the tension, and thus response were not quite optimized for my setup.

But once I got those strings moving, they had a deep, warm resonance. The C is awesome, like a " Phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range"

Warmer and deeper sounding than Helicores.


Powerful, warm, strong. Full sounding, but with a steely core.

I recently got a 15.5" viola for travelling. I may try the Kaplans on that when I get the chance (it came with a set of Dominants).

January 1, 2016 at 01:56 AM · OK, Amber set follow up:

I had the Ambers on my 17.5", and a broken in set of Brilliants on my 17". I played a couple of selections snd asked my son for his feedback on which he preferred (I didn't let him look).

Bang, no doubt, he said the viola with the Brilliants (the 17") was projecting more, more powerful and full sounding. Repeated a couple of times, same result. As the guy playing them, I concurred with his assessment.

It seems that now that some of the "newness" has worn off the Ambers they are now lacking much of the ringing richness they seemed to first possess (and which the Brilliants still maintain).

I ordered up a new set of Brilliants ( $46 from Johnson Strings) and just mounted them up. The power and fullness is now evident again.

I'm going to be sticking with the Brilliants for the foreseeable future it looks like...I absolutely love those strings.

I'm sure there are violas out there that the Ambers may suit much better than mine.

January 10, 2016 at 02:08 PM · I put the Ambers on my "travel" 15.5" viola, and they once again sound great.

Will they maintain this? Will they lose the ring as they did on my 17.5"?

I'll keep this updated. They seemed to add richness to what had previously sounded a bit "boxy" especially on the D and A (Dominants previously, the G and C Dominants sounded very good). I'm using Amber C G D with a metal Brilliant A that seemed to add a bit of ring to the whole set over using the synthetic Amber A.

January 11, 2016 at 10:22 PM ·

January 12, 2016 at 01:46 AM · Personally, on my two main violas and on my instructors viola the Brilliants are total winners. Fantastic long lasting strings.

January 12, 2016 at 04:47 AM · Seraphim. I'm curious, just how many instruments do you have?!

January 12, 2016 at 02:53 PM · @Steven: I currently have Three violas (17.5", 17", 15.5") and four violins, of which I'm trying to sell two.

I also had a 15.75" viola, but I traded that with my instructor in exchange for extended lesson time.

January 13, 2016 at 03:58 AM · geez, I wish I could have the luxury. I still regret selling off my electric violin. I've been loyal to my current violin and have been vulturing at local ads for opportunity to get a cheap 14" viola. Anything larger I found strains my shoulder(curses to two surgeries on it).

Just to complete the family, why don't you also get some cellos, bass and maybe even fractional violins?

January 13, 2016 at 11:53 AM · I do.

I have two kids, so we also have 4 fractional size violins and a 1/2 size cello.


You see, if one buys his violins/violas from places such as Yita and Old Violin House, one can afford a multitude. If one goes out and splurges on a fancy schmantzy violin dripping in ivory......well, then you only get one....


Here's a portion of the collection:

January 13, 2016 at 11:41 PM · I bet you'd still trade it all for an ivory dripping violin.

Also, don't forget Alto viola, viola d'amoire, viola da gamba, baroque alternatives, hardanger fiddle and octobass.

January 14, 2016 at 04:09 AM · I'm saving up for a hurdy gurdy

January 14, 2016 at 07:26 PM · Serphim - if you get the hurdy gurdy, you will also need a monkey to go around and collect donations from people who listen to you play it. So, be sure to save for the monkey, too.

January 14, 2016 at 07:35 PM ·

January 20, 2016 at 09:40 PM · Dadario just released two new sets of viola strings, Vivo and Amo

January 21, 2016 at 11:07 AM · Hi Seraphim,

Re your Brilliant/Amber comparison, I think it's worth remembering that in shoot-out/comparison scenarios, volume and brightness content always win out, particularly for a listener. The ear adjusts very quickly to high frequency content, and as with volume, misses it when it's not there.

But this is not necessarily what you want in order to make compelling music. Whenever people are trying out strings or instruments, I try to encourage them to listen to the music, not the sound.

BTW this isn't any kind of comment on Ambers vs. Brilliants, just a general observation ...

January 21, 2016 at 11:37 AM · Thanks for the input.

I think they just didn't suit that particular viola. On the 15.5", the Ambers are still sounding very nice.

January 21, 2016 at 12:27 PM · Smaller violas present quite a challenge, since the majority of strings are designed for 16" and over and the string tension is all wrong. Personally I've found the Karneol small viola set pretty unbeatable for smaller instruments, but I'm generally looking to make these instruments warmer and a bit more viola-like ... they rarely lack brilliance!

January 24, 2016 at 11:09 PM · I think people often try to get a sound out of an instrument that isn't well adapted to it. I've certainly seen small violas with ridiculously brassy tone, and large bright ones as well, but very often I see people with bright instruments try to "tone them down". If anything, I think a bight viola sounds best, particularly if it's small, with bright, ringing strings that give out lots of overtones, like Dominants, the new Pi set, or possibly warchal brilliants (though I'm not personally crazy about them, they reminded me a lot of Corelli Cantigas, which I've never seen used by anyone else).

Haven't tried Ambers yet, they weren't out yet at the Warchal booth at Mondomusica in Cremona this year.

Pirazzi Golds seem to be all around winners on most instruments, with a good enough life span (or at least a much slower and less horrible death than regular Pirazzis).

The new Pis are great for an instrument that needs a lot of help with overtones, and needs livening up, but their sound is very, very smooth, so if you want a little bit more grain look elsewhere.

Exciting to finally have so many new choices, it seems like new strings are on the way all the time.

January 25, 2016 at 02:49 PM · Interesting take, Chris. So, you're saying "go with the viola's strengths", right?

If it's a bright instrument, accept it, enhance it, and celebrate it. Is that correct?

I love Brilliants. Once the Ambers give out, I'll try a set on my 15.5 that is towards the bright side.

January 25, 2016 at 02:57 PM · I'd certainly say so!

It's not that dark strings sound bad on bright violas, on the contrary, they can be an excellent match as long as they don't dull the instrument's response and kill its overtones, but that too often a "tight" instrument is fitted with loose, dark strings, and though the sound is certainly dark, it is that way mostly for lack of clarity and color. Likewise the very heavy strings that can overpower some lighter, livelier instruments.

Keep in mind that darkness doesn't always equal warmth or richness, and if your instrument is on the bright side, accept it, or find yourself a new instrument better suited to the sound you want! I know lots of violists who've gone through 4 or 5 excellent instruments, switching to go alternately darker and brighter, before finding a happy compromise (more with themselves than any of the individual instruments!)

February 9, 2016 at 06:33 PM · OK, so....

It turns out that my 17.5" was in need of a soundpost adjustment. After that, it sounded much fuller with the Brilliants on there. So, I decided to give the Ambers another go.

I take back what I had previously said about them not suiting this viola.

The C and G, in particular have a nice, smooth, chocolate flavor. The Brilliants are also nice and powerful, but the Ambers have a tasty, warm, depth to the sound, and a very nice resonance.

The D and A are nice, but I don't notice as much of a dramatic difference as I did with the C and G. YUM!

I apologize for faulting the strings, when it was my instrument that was "off".

Bravo, Mr. Warchal, your Ambers are another fabulous offering from your company!

February 9, 2016 at 09:29 PM · I'm trying the new-formula Tonicas (D, G, and C) for viola. I'll report back after I have more experience with them.

February 9, 2016 at 10:05 PM · The new Tungsten wrapped C?

February 10, 2016 at 04:59 AM · Yes. They offered a tungsten wrapped c with the old formula too.

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