MJZ 909, Hiroshi Kono, Jay Haide...Opinions?

September 8, 2016 at 04:09 AM · Ming Jiang Zhu 909

Hiroshi Kono

Jay Haide ancienne european

If anyone has one of these violins, what are your thoughts on them? I am looking for a violin to buy next year, and there is no one shop that has all of these violins. So I want to see which shop I want to go to, depending on which violin I want to try. I know I need to go and try them and choose myself, but I want to know what your thoughts on these violins are, so that I dont need to travel to so many different shops looking for each of these violins.

I've heard that there a lot of Hiroshi Kono violins in the House of Weaver, but Potters, which is like 3 mins away, also sells them. So which one should I go to? Both?

Im really trying to not be bias, but I've heard that Joshua Bell owns a Kono violin, so if I decide to choose the Kono, thats a plus.

BTW: I am not a WORSHIPER of Joshua Bell. As a teenage boy, I guess its normal to have an idol and person that I really look up to. Yes, you could agree that I'm obsessed trying to get all the same things he has, but... why not? I know just because I get those things, that I wont become like JB, but it still is pretty cool.

Replies (41)

September 8, 2016 at 04:44 AM · I'm not sure why you continue to ask for advice and then persistently ignore the useful things people tell you. You've now been counseled multiple times that in your price range, brand doesn't matter. Shops have a zillion instruments in your price range. Go to as many shops as you can and play all the violins in your price range.

This is a multi-thousand-dollar purchase of something you're going to use for at least a decade, if not more. I'd visit as many shops as possible before making a decision.

Potter's has moved, by the way. They're now in Takoma Park.

September 8, 2016 at 08:50 AM · He plays the 'Gibson ex-Huberman' Stradivarius.

September 8, 2016 at 11:11 AM · So does brand not matter at all? Should I just go to potters and just try all the violins in my price range?

September 8, 2016 at 11:29 AM · yes

September 8, 2016 at 01:39 PM · I'll cut-n-paste my response to your other "brand" question from



I'm also looking at similarly priced violins in order to upgrade my current Eastman 305. I've always disliked my violin so the faster I can find a different one, the better. I dread the work it will take because I live far away from stores that are convienent to get to (there is 1, 2h from my home the others are 3+ hours away.) As I've grown accousmed the "Amazon" way of shopping I want to buy a violin as easily as everything else.

There are an abundance of posts that have repeated what others have advised: go look at a bunch and see/hear for yourself. There was always a little voice in the back of my mind of disbelief and doubt. I'm an amature so it won't matter, I'm not professionally trained so I won't hear the difference. I've been taking lessons for 2 years so I won't have the experience to notice the difference. The list of excuses goes on.

I did get the chance to make it to the closest store 2 hour away and try a variety of violins a few months ago from beginner to advanced. An antique and a hand carved 25k one. I purposely just played them and did not take note of brand or price.

I was amazed at the tonal differences. There was no price consistency across the violins. I specifically remember playing this one violin that I thought sounded worse then my 305. When I looked at the tag it was marked 4000. I was pleasantly surprised with a student snow instrument at 1000. I absolutely loved the antique I tried at 5500. The 25k one was beautiful. The tone was smooth and even across all areas, but I didn't think it was easier to play then the antique.

After my trip to the violin shop I completely understood what everyone was talking about. I think at minimum one trip to a decent store should yield a violin in the price range one can be happy with. On the other hand, one can get obsessive about finding their perfect violin and spend many hours searching.

When going to a store it's a good idea to make a list of qualities you must have on your violin and think about how you want it to sound. It will help keep focused so you don't get overwhelmed, loose track, and get distracted from your original goal.

September 8, 2016 at 01:58 PM · Buying a violin is not like buying a car......forget about the brand name ! I dare say that after you have tried a shop full of violins, your favourite will be some unknown instrument that you had never heard of before.

September 8, 2016 at 02:36 PM · Yes. You've been told over and over again not to pay attention to brand.

You've got local shops in the Richmond area that sell student instruments. I'd start there first. Then, if you don't find anything satisfactory locally, I'd suggest Brobst in Alexandria, Potter's in Takoma Park (and possibly Weaver's in Bethesda, though I'm not sure what the Potters/Weavers thing is now that Potter's has moved), and possibly Gailes in College Park and Lashof in Gaithersburg.

Your previous thread, where you really should read all the responses: here.

September 11, 2016 at 04:36 AM · I'm actually really happy with the violin I bought last year. It'll serve me fine for the rest of my life unless it meets with a horrible accident or I become wealthy enough to own a Strad. :-)

I know all the local shops because I've gone bow-hunting twice, though -- once for an inexpensive spare and once for a fine bow.

September 12, 2016 at 02:28 AM · Lydia, which violin did you buy last year?

September 12, 2016 at 03:18 AM · I bought a JB Vuillaume.

September 30, 2016 at 12:59 AM · Our daughter has been on a 3/4 Kono for about 1 1/2 now and it is hands down the best fractional in its price range including the Haide. A full size sound in a 3/4 size instrument, we receive compliments on its performance and looks all the time.

September 30, 2016 at 02:34 AM · What about the full size?

September 30, 2016 at 06:01 AM · Haven't you been reading the Chinese violin threads? :-)

September 30, 2016 at 08:22 AM · my customer has decided to sell her Ming Jiang Zhu 909, now selling for $3200 and buy an 1881 German antique violin from me for $2000, that she feels sounds a good bit better. That's why I say, as I have said many times before, you should compare antiques and moderns and make up your own mind about which you prefer and not take internet recommendations of this brand or that too seriously.

September 30, 2016 at 11:58 AM · I expect that JB, in common with many professionals and amateurs, owns more than one violin. Perhaps he does indeed have a Kono or whatever as his second (third, fourth?) violin for occasions where he or the insurance company would prefer that the Strad wasn't used.

I don't know much about Kono, but a top of the range Jay Haide, well set up, would in the right hands put up a fairly convincing performance.

Fwiw, I don't use my 18th century violin in an outdoor gig or in a pub folk session, but my Jay Haide, not top of their range, is not a bad substitute and, on the occasions when I've used it in orchestra has never attracted adverse comment (perhaps the reverse).

September 30, 2016 at 01:19 PM · I could say much the same for the antique I'm selling for $2000.

September 30, 2016 at 09:20 PM · Another thread asking which is the best inexpensive and soulless Chinese violin...

Cheers Carlo

September 30, 2016 at 09:20 PM ·

September 30, 2016 at 11:23 PM · @Carlo Your entire argument is that a violin sucks because it wasn't made in the US or Europe by a local maker... Come on that's the most pointless generalization I've ever heard.

October 1, 2016 at 08:49 AM · No, that is not what I am saying. Instruments made on a production line, are products like Bic pens or disposable razors. They serve a purpose but have no soul, in my opinion.

Are they worth debate? Is this site the violin equivalent of Amazon, with its reviews of toasters?

Cheers Carlo

October 1, 2016 at 08:55 AM · There seems to be a great big rush to the bottom when recommending violins on this site, I hardly ever hear people recommending higher quality violins, and if they do, they HAVE to be modern and usually Cremonese or American, is everyone a pauper???

October 1, 2016 at 09:25 AM · I play on 4K hand-made instruments and folks ask me back!

And yes I am a pauper..

October 1, 2016 at 09:29 AM · I asked is everyone a pauper, not are there any paupers, of course there are.

October 1, 2016 at 10:19 AM · I think LT may be a pauper? When I was a pauper I had to make do with old German rubbish ... like in my student days.

October 1, 2016 at 03:44 PM · We have the occasional thread about commissions and modern makers, but I suspect that the people choosing higher-end instruments and bows aren't doing the kind of comparisons that people buying $2k student instruments are. The higher end of the market is mostly going to shops, playing the inventory, and picking something on sound -- not living in the middle of nowhere, trying to guess at what they can mail-order.

The OP is somewhat unusual in that he lives in an area with plenty of violin shops that carry both new and old instruments, but appears to have ignored repeated advice to just go play a ton of violins, rather than trying to buy a violin, to use Carlo's phrase, as if it were a toaster.

October 1, 2016 at 06:29 PM · Lydia, this is an older thread, before I realized that everyone's advice was not to be ignored. So.... I will go to a shop and try more than 10 violins and choose one, same with bows.

October 1, 2016 at 06:31 PM · You might try 10 violins per shop. I tried over 100 violins before buying my current instrument.

October 26, 2016 at 07:13 AM · I own a Kono violin. I live on the Central Coast. I do not have the luxury to shop on many violin shops, but have heard lot of good comments of Kono. Thus, I approached the owner of House of Weaver and got in touch with a person who sells and also teaches violin in a university in LA. He told me the sound of my Kono is similar to the sound of an expensive collection violin. My violin teacher owns one Kono as well, and plays it in symphony. Kono is worth the price for the sound quality. And yes, Joshua Bell owns a Kono. I have picture proof! My Kono can last my child until college/advanced level. Our next upgrade will be worth $30K or above.

October 26, 2016 at 09:58 PM · For those of who do not have the luxury to try 100+ violins before bying, online shopping could be another good option, provided that you do your research on the reputation of the online shop, the return policy and trial period, etc. -- the usual thing you shop online.

It is often advised that one should try as many violins as one can before settle for one, and perhaps it is the case, all things being equal. However, it also depends on who does the trying and how it's done are must as important if not more important than the amount of violins are tried. For instance, I don't think most amateur violinists I know can assess a violin very well just by playing it in a shop for a few minutes, especially the shop has a very nice sounding room and a pushy seller. Violin has to be played in different locations to get a sense how it projects and how it fits in small and large ensembles. It should also be played by a good player, preferably a concert violinist, to see how it responds to various technical and musical demands. This is so particularly if it’s a violin that you want to play for a very long time, you need to know how well it will suit your playing as you grow as a musician.

In other words, the decision will result not only from how much you like it under your ears, but also come from the help of other more experienced violinists. All that takes a lot of time and effort. If this type of care must be put into the decision making process, I just don't know how realistic to expect every violin buyer to try 100+ violins before finalizing a deal.

But I can be very wrong about all this and glad to be proven so.

October 27, 2016 at 02:59 AM · Playing a violin in a shop is usually sufficient to figure out whether or not you like it enough to take it on trial. I think that two weeks is really the minimum time you can live with a violin to see whether you like it enough to buy it, though. One-week trials just don't cut it -- they can be enough to eliminate a violin but not to decide that you want to buy it.

You can easily go through 20 violins at a pop in a shop and determine yeah, none of them are good enough to go forward to trial with.

October 27, 2016 at 04:41 AM · Oh yes, the violins in the shops that I visited lately, including a few in Shanghai during my trip there early this year, were not worth taking home to try with. If I were to keep visiting shops like these, I suppose I could try a few dozens violins in a short period of time. I usually don't have patience to keep trying like this. I usually ask them to bring me the best they have and ones that are within my budget to compare. I get conflicting results, as the price doesn't always reflect the sound. And then there is always the sales pitch one has to deal with. Shop for a violin in person can be quite stressful.

October 27, 2016 at 12:05 PM · Unless you are talking about a VSO, price and sound have very little correlation. I have tried $100K violins that sound like tin cans, and $1K violins that sound great.

It is not a requirement to try 100 violins before buying one, but frequently that's what it takes to find what you are looking for. But you never know, you might get lucky and find a really suitable instrument early in your search.

The point of trying a lot of instruments is to get a good perspective on sound and playability. The more you try, the better you get at assessing the qualities of an instrument.

October 27, 2016 at 12:10 PM · By the way, the Konos are really nice. I have one as my second fiddle and my son also plays a Kono. His Kono is easier to play than my contemporary Italian fiddle. When he first got his fiddle, the bridge was a bit high, so I had it lowered and now it is a dream to play; really responsive and very quick action getting the notes to sound. I am not crazy about the sound under ear, but across the room it is warm and loud.

October 27, 2016 at 01:37 PM · When I have shopped for instruments or bows I have never limited my testing to my price range. I have tested items way above my price range in my search for the "ideal." If I can't find that within my price range, I don't buy. By testing this way I can evaluate whether an instrument is worth its price to me and also evaluate the added value to me of the more expensive instruments.

One of my most "informative days" occurred some years ago when I was in Ifshin's shop to pick up two of my violins they had been adjusting (new bridge, cleanup, etc.) for me. Jay Ifshin called me into the back room where I tried a 1698 Strad they were working on and an Andrea Guarneri that was being shopped around the SF Bay Area for $300,000. (The Strad was eventually sold to the San Francisco Symphony for $2M.) I was very surprised that day to return home with my two violins and no real sense of jealousy.

October 27, 2016 at 04:52 PM · I, on the other hand, felt that playing that Strad was a life-changing event. :-)

I loved everything about that violin -- the bell-like clarity of its sound, its absolute ease of response, its range of colors, its sensitivity. If I could afford it, I'd take that violin in a heartbeat -- it's a "lesser" Strad but it was still awesome.

You absolutely couldn't dig into it (and it would choke up if you tried, so definitely not for all players). But you really didn't need to. It produced sound effortlessly. But it did require precision technique.

The Andrea Guarneri was really meh, though.

October 27, 2016 at 07:11 PM · Hey Lydia, how much this awesome feeling came from the fact that you knew it was a Strad? ;) I mean, I'm easily susceptible to all sorts of cognitive biases. Other people may have better ways to deal with that sort of issues.

That said, I would definitely try a real Strad just for kick, if given the chance. Although I'll never try to purchase one, even if I could afford, which is not the case. For one thing, inflated price aside, I won’t be able to tell if it is approaching the end of its life. I've been playing a pretty nice sounding old German workshop violin for over past 8 years. I decide to go for a modern violin this round because I notice that old violins can be finicky and high maintenance. Besides, we should support the new/young violin makers of the day, right?

October 27, 2016 at 07:24 PM · Smiley, thanks for the additional clarification and advice. I really appreciate your insights. I understand you wrote something about violin hunting a while ago and I wonder if you could post the link of that article?

Andrew, I like your strategy and like you, I too evaluate whether an instrument is worth its price to ME because choosing a violin just so darn subjective.

October 27, 2016 at 09:53 PM · Hi Yixi,

Click on my picture and scroll to the bottom. My violin search is the only blog I have written.

October 27, 2016 at 10:36 PM · Thank you Smiley! What a great blog! I think I read it before when it first posted years ago and enjoyed it very much. It's certainly very helpful for me to go back review it with more care now that I've been going through the similar process myself. I say similar not so much in the amount of instruments that you meticulously researched and documented, nevertheless I feel I am at the point of search fatigue and just want to get it all over with. I think my priorities and preference are very similar to that of yours.

Currently, I'm trying the Wojciech Topa 2016 Guadagnini model. I'm trying it for a month and will see if I will keep it. It has the playability, balance, power and tonal quality that I love, and really these are all the things that I'm looking for. The market price is around $14K. My husband (also an accomplished violinist) played it and loves it too. I will ask a couple of my concertizing violinist friends to play for a few days and give me their feedback.

Thanks again for sharing your wonderful insight, Smiley!

October 27, 2016 at 11:01 PM · I would not recommend buying the violin unless you are absolutely in love with it. Its deficiencies will not improve and will only wear on you over time. I totally understand the search fatigue thing; I had it going big time. Be patient. Don't settle because you are tired of looking.

October 27, 2016 at 11:17 PM · I don't think it was cognitive bias; that would require having had some sense of what I was expecting. It was not like what I was expecting, but it's shaped my whole notion of what I want out of a violin, now.

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