Comparing Ming Jiang Zhu with Jay Haide

August 13, 2016 at 05:00 AM · Does anyone have experience with these two instruments? I would be purchasing the European wood l'ancienne model or the 909 (AAA) MJZ model. I have read stellar reviews of them both and I am having trouble narrowing them down. I have heard both instruments played, but I am not 100% certain that I would be able to test the instruments out in person. I would probably get a recording of the instrument being played, so I would like your best advice on these models

Replies (27)

August 13, 2016 at 05:29 AM · Don't buy anything you don't have at least a week home trial for. Recordings are useless, as you have no idea what violin is really being played, MP3 sound quality is atrocious, and reverb and equalization can make any cheap violin sound better than it would if recorded naturally. Do not waste you time on the internet, go to a violin store or stores, try out multiple violins and ask to try your favourite at home for a week, that's how violin buying used to work, and that's how violin buying should still work

August 13, 2016 at 05:36 AM · From what I've heard on this forum and others, the violins you're mentioning are notoriously inconsistent, and usually not set up properly requiring expensive additional work by a qualified luthier to make them sound properly. Some of them are supposed to sound quite good, but others may sound quite poor, they are not consistent, unless you have the actual instrument in your hand to trial, and are able to compare it to other violins, both new and antique, you have no idea really what you are getting, and could be very disappointed, or just plain ripped off, These instruments do not have an extended warranty unless the store you're buying it from offers it themselves, the manufactures do not even warranty their product to their dealers.

August 13, 2016 at 05:41 AM · Thanks for the information! The nearest shop that sells legitimate violins (violins over $1000 USD) is about 5 hours from where I live, so it makes it quite difficult and costly. But it would be just as costly to buy a bad instrument. Nothing is ever easy it seems.

August 13, 2016 at 06:33 AM · Christopher, I don't want to get involved in a war of words here, but Lyndon makes it his life's mission to trash talk Chinese fiddles. I respect his opinion, kind of, but I certainly disagree. I have an MJZ S909a, bought 2 years ago, and I really do love it. I took a risk and bought it from a distant dealer, with the option to return it if I didn't like it, but I was happy to keep it. And a friend who owns a near $100,000 18th century Italian violin and is a professional player (which I'm not), just bought a Jay Haide a la'ancienne to use as a backup fiddle for travel and iffy environs, and I haven't seen or heard it yet, but I've heard from her relative that she's delighted and amazed by it. These instruments certainly do vary, but I can't remember ever hearing of any that were "terrible." As long as you have the right of return, and ideally have a teacher to help you evaluate it if your not skilled enough yet, there's no reason why you shouldn't try them.

August 13, 2016 at 06:36 AM · Lyndon is actually being very fair here. One of the reasons that you see variation in pricing of these instruments is exactly what he said -- some shops invest a lot more in filtering for the better specimens, and then setting them up properly.

And he's completely correct about listening to someone else playing an instrument on a recording. You just have no clue what it will sound and feel like when you play it yourself.

August 13, 2016 at 06:36 AM · Thanks Lydia,

and Mark, my advice has nothing to do with the violins being Chinese, it has to do with what a bad idea it is to buy instruments sight unseen EVEN IF you have a return policy, did you ever consider you and your friend might have just got lucky with the two violins you bought, are you willing to guarantee the OP that the Haide or Ming Zhu he buys will be every bit as good as yours, and what if you just have bad taste in sound, or the OP has totally different taste in sound???

Making the 5 hour trip and just picking your favourite violin and buying it without the home trial, would still be a better option than buying over the internet IMHO even if they let you trial one or two violins with return policy, the reason being one or two instruments is not enough choices, and you can't predict how good a modern Chinese violin is going to be based on its brand and model, they aren't all the same, even though they may look identical, and the internet store might send you their crapiest hardest to sell Chinese violin in the hope that you won't know better and buy it, not that all internet dealers are crooks, but the violin business is not always known for its honestly, in fact they are ranked right up there with jewelers for more dishonest practices.

August 13, 2016 at 06:54 AM · I think one of the stupidest things I see over and over on this sight are people who "recommend" violins and bows, any idiot knows that everyone's taste in violins and bows is different, and one mans Strad is another mans dog, A violin and a bow are personal choices, a recommendation is good for one person and one person only, the person making the recommendation, it shows you that they like a certain violin, they may be tone deaf, or unable to play in tune, but they have found a violin they like and so the think that you're going to like it too, right, WRONG

Its rather unlikely to very improbable that given a choice of many violins you would pick the same make and model that they would. There advice is rubbish because it only applies to themselves, anyone else should and probably would make their own choice, and that means going to a violin shop and trying multiple violins, I recommend trying both new violins and antique violins in your price range, antique violins tend to have a different sound to brand new violins, some people prefer new, some people prefer old, only you can decide which is your favorite violin by trying multiple violins.

August 13, 2016 at 06:59 AM · I'll concede to your points Lyndon. It is better to try a larger selection of instruments at one place. But it's also true that the higher quality Chinese workshop instruments are consistently good to excellent. We're all aware of "the guy with the baseball cap" (who happens to be a supporter of this website), and I personally think he does an amazingly good job of demo-ing his products. When he demo's the MJZ's, it's easy to see that there is a consistency in the tonal character of them. He also claims, and I believe him, the he does "cherry pick" his stock, and sends much back. Of course he's just one seller. My friend, by the way, purchased her Jay Haide directly from Ifshin's shop, as a walk-in, and had a selection to try. I'll have to ask her how she felt about them generally, and not just about the one she picked.

It's nice to know that I'm stupid. But I wasn't really "recommending" anything, per say. I was just saying that I and a friend both have had good experiences with some of the very violins our OP was referring to.

August 13, 2016 at 07:00 AM · I should probably add that I am a beginner and the only way I would know how to test the violins would be to play the open strings. I do have access to some very accomplished violinists, but I highly doubt they would be willing to go on the 5 hour journey to maybe\maybe not pick out a violin. So any advice to remedy this situation is also appreciated. Perhaps I could do the in-home trial and then bring them to the violinist and get his opinion on them?

August 13, 2016 at 07:13 AM · PS its fine if someone were to say, "I recommend trying David Burgess' violins", "I've had good experiences with Jay Haide l'Ancienne violins, If you have a chance to try them I would recommend it" but they are not saying that, they are saying I bought a Jay Haide so you should too, that's stupidity, its like saying I play a 1920 EH Roth, so you should buy a 1920s EH Roth too, instead of EH Roth make some quality instruments, you might like one, you might not, but I'm happy with mine.

I swear I'm starting to believe, and have accumulated some strong evidence that half the people on this site recommending this Chinese violin or that, are dealers of the said instrument or even work for the manufacturers, the stories are just too good to be true, "My $300 POS t20 sound as good as every $10,000 violin I have heard>", flat out BS lies, these modern violins are not any better than similarly priced antiques, why is no one recommending antiques like I do, because they're to lazy or too incompetent to know how to restore antiques and properly set them up for optimal tone,

Same goes for these modern Chinese violins, they are not set up properly and we are supposed to believe this factory in China makes incredible great sounding violins of the highest caliber, but yet they don't have the skills to fit a bridge properly, fit a soundpost, level a fingerboard and make pegs that even function. Just maybe they don't know how to make a violin any better than they don't know how to set them up professionally.

OK enough rants for now, I'm really on a roll today!!

August 13, 2016 at 07:15 AM · Christopher, given that you are a beginner, it really might be better at this stage to rent a violin.

August 13, 2016 at 07:18 AM · I thought about renting, but I don't see myself having the funds to purchase a violin in the near future, even if I set aside the money I have now I can already see it slowly draining and I will not be left with any to buy an instrument with. I should qualify my "beginner" statement. It's not the "never touched a violin" beginner. I did play for 2 years when I was younger and thoroughly enjoyed it. So I know I wouldn't just get tired of it.

August 13, 2016 at 07:27 AM · If you can't play the violin, you're going to have to rely on someone else demoing the violins for you, if you were to come to my shop, I would recommend an antique in the $900-$1500 range to start with, and you would be able to hears 6 or 7 violins in that price range, (I don't play, but I could arrange for a professional violinist friend of mine to demo for you)

There's no point in paying any more until you can play well, as until you play well you won't be able to have any idea which violin responds well to you personally, not Mark Bouquet. After you learn to play you can upgrade to a really great $5000 violin if that's in your budget, a store, like mine, should give you a 100% trade up value on your first violin towards the purchase price of a better one, that is if you work with the same store.

August 13, 2016 at 07:34 AM · Unfortunately at many retailers $1000 will get you a highly marked up, not really well set up $300 violin, so be careful, to my ear, and at my discount prices, really decent sounding violins start around $1000, below that, the sound tends to have flaws, fairly similar at other stores.

August 13, 2016 at 10:16 AM · Lyndon I do have sympathy for you, but you should really not use words like "rubbish", "stupid", "idiot", "BS", it really reflects badly and people look only at these words and not at what you are trying to say. Just meant as good advice from a friend! For example your last post is fine, if they would all be written in that style there would be never a problem.

August 13, 2016 at 10:47 AM · Thanks for the honest feedback, I get a little frustrated here, I pour my heart out giving the best, most educated advice I can about buying a violin, things that most violinists would agree with, like compare many violins at a violin shop, etc. And along comes some xxxxx saying you don't have to compare violins at all, all you have to do is buy this brand or this brand of brand new violin for little other reason than because he bought that brand, and he gets a boost if he can convince other people to buy his brand as well. I'm not pushing a brand, I'm pushing choices, informed choices..

Unfortunately no one can buy a brand, they can only buy an individual violin, and even among violins of the same model and the same brand there are relative winners and duds, not good buys, same as can be said for EH Roth, as For Jay Haide, only the top hand made makers, people like David Burgess can have some level of consistency to their work, that maybe, just maybe you could say most of them are of equal caliber, you can't even rate Stradivari as a brand, there are incredible Stradivaris, and just really good Stradivaris, and occasionally even I've heard, not so impressive Stradivaris. If this variation is present with Strads, just imagine how much more variation there can be with a factory brand like Jay Haide, or EH Roth.

This isn't a game to see how many people you can get to like your personal choice of a violin, it is my mission to educate people about the personal nature of the violin that's best for you, almost every customer I have in the shop has different preferences in which of my violins they prefer, and depending on their style of playing, different players tend to get different sounds out of the same violins,

The violin that sounds the best for one customer, might not sound good at all with a different customer playing, that's why my role is to encourage the performer to chose the violin that's best for them personally, not push a brand violin on them and say this is the best, I read about it on violinist.com LOL

August 13, 2016 at 01:34 PM · Lyndon's advice is sound -- try many violins yourself before choosing one, but it's not entirely representative of what actually happens when making a purchase decision in most cases. In most cases, the brand does matter, and is a big part of the purchase decision. A Stradivarius is just another wannabe if it isn't authenticated; one which isn't will be worth a fraction of the price of the others, and similarly for other brands -- an established and valued maker's instrument is devalued when the authenticity cannot be established, leading to the situation that Lyndon's business in part plays in -- instruments without an established brand which may be good, but better priced than others because the brand name was not established, or was lost. (I'm not saying that that's the entire story; it never is, but is a part of it.)

Moreover, I fail to see how one could apply the advice to celebrated contemporary violin makers. Given a waiting list of several years and practically no stock on hand, how would one go about trying several violins and picking the best? I suggest that in this case too, the buyer relies heavily on the brand in practice.

However, in the hands of a beginner or semi-beginner, the Stradivarius may well be just another violin -- what will matter more to the player will be the playability and setup, not the brand. It will not sound great in the beginner's hands, regardless of price and capability, and the beginner will not be able to reliably distinguish the characteristics which makes a better violin for him or herself for the long run. About the worst possible method of choosing a beginner can use is to play open strings and listen under the ear for tone in a foreign setting. (BTW, I've done this and may well do it again; practicalities and sound thinking don't always coincide.) Because what may matter more is how the violin responds to finger pressure and other dynamic conditions.

I'm sorry that I don't have enough experience with either of the brands to advise the OP on that. I might suggest that the Jay Haide brand is better known so a better brand in that sense. My practical suggestion is to base the choice on which vendor might more reliably set up and service the instrument, and to consider spending less on the instrument and more on that virtually (as part of the cost of the purchase) or otherwise (directly paying a luthier for work after the purchase).

August 13, 2016 at 02:50 PM · Good points, you're quite right about my inventory, I have a lot of unbranded, unlabeled, but very good sounding for the price, and a couple of exceptional ones that can't be 100% authenticated but have labels from famous makers or appraisers.

I was just talking about this with my friend, violin maker Arthur Robinson in West Australia, he does repairs and set ups for a big violin shop in Perth in addition to his own home business and bonzai creation.

I asked him how do the Chinese violins compare to the antiques at your store, say a $1000 Chinese vs $1000 Antique, he said the Chinese are really good and usually better and spoke highly of Scott Cao, and Jay Haide, my nemisis!!! So I asked him, we know what the Haide and Cao sell for, that's established, "What do you sell a Strad label, Made in Germany for" (cheap markneukirchen mass produced student fiddle) He said they charge the eqiv of $1100-$1500 USD, I said I wouldn't charge more than $700 for that stuff, no wonder his Chinese violins sound better, his antiques are overpriced. That's how I have stayed in business, by never overpricing my violins, and selling up to 50% below what full retail might be at major store,

So yes there are some good Chinese violins being made, but whether you might prefer the sound of an antique has more to do with how high or not high you price the antiques.

August 13, 2016 at 03:07 PM · Christopher, you should definitely rent. Many of the places that do online rental have a rent-to-own program. I know Potter's will allow you to put the first 18 months of rental fees towards the purchase of a violin from them.

August 13, 2016 at 03:54 PM · Sofar no one has tried to answer your question.

Reason may well be that reputable shops either carry the one brand or the other but not both. Players are generally happy with either brand if from a reputable shop and well set up. There have been a number of threads here on a similar type instrument from Japan by the name of Hiroshi Kono.

Saw at Maestronet you were also looking at Gliga. Personally I wouldn't put them at the same level as the others.

It is much easier to have bows sent on trial than violins.

This thread a year ago has some info on bows you might find interesting:

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=26982

(BTW don't send bows around in just PVC tubes. They are round and roll off delivery trucks, get run over. I put my bows now in PVC inside a cardboard square contraption. Or a wooden box.)

August 13, 2016 at 04:10 PM ·

August 13, 2016 at 04:19 PM · There is a violin student who lives on my street who has a MJZ "AAA" instrument, and I've played it, and I've heard her play it (I accompanied her senior recital) and it's a very nice violin. Very good value. But, she did not buy it sight-unseen, they tried several at a shop that had a sizeable inventory.

I *did* buy an MJZ "AA" viola sight-unseen, but not blindly! I had never played the viola before, so a professional violinist (with viola experience) that I know generously picked it out for me without charging me a fee. He was traveling to a dealer for other reasons anyway. Before he went, I played a few violas at his house, from which he learned what my preferences would be for tone, and he took it from there. I'm very happy with the instrument. Now if I could only play the damned thing better ...

August 14, 2016 at 02:47 AM · I would like to add my support for Lyndon's comments. Buying a violin without trying it is a lottery. If you wish to buy a violin like this, "you pays your money and you takes your chances"

Cheers Carlo

August 14, 2016 at 05:05 AM · A couple years ago, I purchased a Jay Haide à l'ancienne model (chinese wood) off eBay, sight unseen. I knew it was a gamble, but I already owned another Jay Haide à l'ancienne (chinese wood) that I really liked, so I decided to go for it. Well, turned out I was not happy with the one I got off eBay. It was in good condition, but I found the tone to be way too harsh. Since I live near Ifshin Violin Shop, I paid them a visit and spent the afternoon trying out all of the Jay Haide à l'ancienne *special* models (with European wood) that they had in stock (6 of them). I ended up purchasing one of them. Since the eBay violin was still in good condition, Ifshin allowed me to trade it in for a slight discount on the purchase. I have been happy with this violin and I use it as my primary instrument, with my original Jay Haide as a backup.

Anyway, the morals of the story (which have already been stated, but just providing more evidence) are:

- Violins (including Jay Haide) can vary greatly even when they are the same make and model.

- Beware of buying online, sight unseen!

September 4, 2016 at 06:58 AM · I would like to add my support for Lyndon's comments. MJZ and JH are very similar. I had one MJZ violin bought it online,just for my collection. The tone is ok, but not amazing. The fitting and finger board is poor. The tone wood is not seasoned. Another problem is no aftersale support, I changed or adjusted almost everything (included new finger board) at my own costs. If anyone want to buy online, you better have a picture of the top spruce, not just the video.

On my last trip, I met violin dealer in Hong Kong, he tried to sell MJZ 916 violin to me, and told me MJZ & JH mainly for US market. 909-914 is same, and only 916-930 is better seasoned. I also tried all models, included some old models like 901, 910. In Hong Kong, people just not interested on such wonderful violin(why?), and the dealer still had 2009 stocks for sale. :)

September 4, 2016 at 07:35 AM · I must say, reading threads like this, I wonder how hesitant a luthier/violin shop owner must be, when putting a price tag on their instrument.

I mean, I responded to many different local ads when I was looking for my current violin. Some wanted way too much from a box with 4 strings. Some offered a very good price for a decent violin.

For example:

http://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/ottawa/noiseless-electric-violin/1195921411?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

The same model on Amazon, brand new, with shipping included is less than $400.

or

http://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/ottawa/french-violin-vuillaume-de-paris/1194182023?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

is an excellent violin, and the seller insists that it's a genuine one, but obviously it is a workshop instrument, but he once offered $800. It did sound better than any violin that had less than $1000 on the pricetag.

I feel that when I go shopping at luthiers' or store, I find that often the price tags do correspond to the sound quality at the very least. So, conclusively, I wouldn't really know where to start with, when comparing two different models of violins, which are physically incapable from having the same characteristics within their own models.

September 4, 2016 at 01:43 PM · Christopher, I would love to hear back from you about the outcome of your quandary. I certainly hope you, and anyone else in your situation, will decide to rent. The education process of gaining knowledge about violins and how to select a good one is a LONG learning curve. Renting from a reputable shop that will apply rental fees to purchase is the ideal solution. We have a shop in Milwaukee that rents decent new violins for $20 a month, used for $15; all of that rental fee applies to purchase of any instrument in stock. Buying an instrument online without trial and inspection is like buying a mail order wife; I don't think you would do that? :)

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