Pirastro Tonica vs Thomastik Dominant

April 24, 2017 at 01:49 PM · Hi,

I would like to change my matallic strings for synthetic, so I read a lot of reviews, than I hesitate between Tonica and Dominant.

Most reviews describe a lot of similatrities between Tonica and Dominant, but Tonica cost just half price of Dominant !!?

What's your real life experience about these two brands especially for viola players ?

Replies (30)

April 24, 2017 at 02:30 PM · They are very similar. However, I've found Dominant windings to last longer.

I've always had issues with Pirastro windings.

April 24, 2017 at 02:36 PM · As far as sound, Tonica seems to be slightly on the brighter side, have a smoother sound, are a bit more projecting, less grainy or gritty, and don't go false as quickly. Try them at least, then if they're no good, try dominants next.

April 24, 2017 at 02:47 PM · Dominants seemed to have a bit more projection to me although the Tonica are a bit more brilliant.

Tonica can handle a lot of bow pressure, which can be interesting for some students.

Funny you mention the winding. My last set of dominants lost his after 6 weeks, same for the set before (and I dont use very much pressure on my left hand).

The old Tonica had awefull windings, with sweaty hands they sometimes broke after 2 or 3 weeks. The new ones seem to be better, a lot.

April 24, 2017 at 03:42 PM · I find that Tonica are less "edgy" when new. I agree with Darian, they are clear-toned but smoother.

I like their A, in preference to the common trumpet-like stee-cored viola A's..

April 24, 2017 at 03:59 PM · I agree with Adrian. I prefer the sound and feel of Tonicas. But like all strings, YMMV.

April 24, 2017 at 04:22 PM · I prefer Dominant over the "New Formula" Tonica.

However, either will be a huge upgrade from your steel strings.

April 24, 2017 at 04:25 PM · My advice would be to test, be it Tonica or Dominant, the "strong tension" types (or "stark").

I use the Tonica starks, and i like much more than then normal medium tension ones that you can find around.


April 24, 2017 at 05:15 PM · Opinions on strings are highly controversial because everyone perceives sound differently and have different sound preferences. All I can say is: both are great strings. I would try Tonicas first because of the price. That way, you wouldn't waste a set for a huge amount of money if it doesn't work for you. I personally love them by the way. Haven't really tried Dominants, but I'm sure they're just as good.

April 24, 2017 at 06:34 PM · They are a great value pick for sure. Dominants are bit expensive these days.

I would recommend starting at medium gauge though, to get the feeling what the standard is. You can still go stark on the next set.

April 24, 2017 at 07:05 PM · But the question is, why Tonica cost just half price of Dominant ? less quality ? other ?

I need your experience about tone, projection, lengivity, materiel quality...

April 24, 2017 at 07:17 PM · The answer is marketing. Dominants are around for very long. They became a standard, for solists and orchestra players, before Tonica were even on the market. Many people got used to them and still use them. They are wellknown enough to achive that price.

We already wrote about the differences but for sure the dominants are not twice as good as Tonica in general, on a specific instrument it can well be, but also the other way around.

As they are your first synthetics I suggest to get the cheaper ones. If they are warn out you can tell us what you possibly liked and what you possibly did not like and we can suggest different strings that fit better what you are looking for.

April 24, 2017 at 07:17 PM · If you're looking at neutral synthetics and cost is an issue, John Pearse Artiste strings and D'Addario Pro Arte strings are also perlon-core, like Dominants. If I recall correctly they're even less expensive than Tonicas.

April 24, 2017 at 08:20 PM · @ Marc : I already tested D'addario Pro Arte and I liked them, but they broken, so I use my original matallic strings time to found my next strings...

April 24, 2017 at 08:22 PM · The OP is asking about VIOLA strings, if I understand correctly - and for a 16.5 inch viola! Unfortunately the OP only mentioned using "steel strings," not any specific brand - so any information respecting the tensions on the instrument are unknown to us, so even cursory comparisons with other strings ae not possible. There are graphs and tables of string tensions on line that can be used for comparisons that might help estimate equivalent strings if the brands and gauges are known.

My only experience with TONICA strings was with violin - back at the beginning of their run, when I found that DOMINANTs didn't work on my only violin (at the time) at all.

I found that DOMINANT VIOLA strings worked very well on both of my 16 inch violas (never tried viola Tonicas). But on at least one of my two violas, steel-core Pirastro PERMANENT strings are fantastic - I've had them on for almost 2 years now! On the other 16 inch viola I own, I put on a set of steel-core SPIROCOREs 18 or so years ago (after reading that Yuri Bashmat used them) and they are still on it and work quite well (although that instrument has been pretty much unplayed since then) - but they were crappy on my other viola that I do play regularly.

April 24, 2017 at 08:29 PM · I suggest you try both out. You can go back to your Pro Artes if you want.

April 24, 2017 at 08:36 PM · @ Ella Yu : I won't spend too much money for strings, this is why I used this post to use players experience for the best choice for my budget ;)

April 24, 2017 at 10:13 PM · Can't say I have any experience on the viola field, but personally I have never liked Dominants even though I tried them repeatedly on different violins. They are just too neutral (and the E is horrendous, but most people use a different E anyway). Perhaps on a godly instrument like a Strad or Del Gesu that's what you want, but on more mundane violins for me they don't work.

Tonicas, while still on the somewhat neutral side, seem to have a bit more of a bite to them, just a little bit more color, a little bit more warmth. They aren't overwhelming the natural tone of your violin but they give it a little bit of a boost.

...that and Tonicas are significantly cheaper.

That said, I have had repeated winding problems with the Tonica A specifically, consistently in the region between B and C, and I know it's not the instrument's fault because it happens on different violins I've had them on. Could be user fault (although no, I don't dig my nail into them), but it doesn't happen on the violin with Vision Ti or the one with Zyex.

April 24, 2017 at 11:14 PM · Amine, I understand your concerns with money. Because opinions on strings are so controversial, it is very very hard to decide. Knowing how similar these two brands are, you could, perhaps, start with Tonica because of cost, or use Pro Arte again if that's what you're happy with.

April 24, 2017 at 11:22 PM · Pro Arte strings do not have a good projection (comparing to metallic strings), maybe Tonica would do better ?

April 25, 2017 at 12:36 AM · I would think so. Because I have not experimented much, I can't compare strings for you, but from what I've heard, projection of both Tonicas and Dominants is very similar and seems to be more projecting than Pro Arte. Projection issues may also be a trait of your viola, however. Is your viola particularly mutant by nature? Does your viola project better with steel strings?

P.S. I'm personally satisfied with the projection of Tonicas.

April 26, 2017 at 06:46 AM · In conclusion of this post : Tonica is a better choice than Dominant (half price and similar tone)

April 26, 2017 at 02:36 PM · and more flexible, less stiff feeling- and IMHO easier bowing.

April 26, 2017 at 03:06 PM · Amine, I wouldn't say Tonica is better than Dominant, but just because of similarity and price, we're choosing Tonica over Dominant.

April 26, 2017 at 04:03 PM · Right, neither is "better" just which has a better value.

April 27, 2017 at 04:40 PM · I actually don't think they sound so similar.

Brilliance-wise, they might be similar, but the Tonica strings appear quite a bit thinner to me (with the exception of the Dominant silver D vs. Tonica D) and probably as a result, across a number of different instruments, I find them quite a bit more focused and less full (under the ear) than Dominants.

May 6, 2017 at 12:19 PM · I see some pictures, I think Tonica are thicker than Dominant strings, but not big difference...

May 6, 2017 at 05:16 PM · Try Vision Solo or Cantiga.

May 6, 2017 at 08:01 PM · Vision Solo and Cantiga are good, but higher tension, which may or may not suit your violin.

May 6, 2017 at 10:34 PM · @ Adrian, what's your experience about Tonica vs Dominant in viola ? I'm sure that your opinion can be a big plus in this topic :-)

May 8, 2017 at 01:05 PM · I haven't use viola Dominants for some time. I found Tonicas to be better-balanced across the four strings, on two very different violas; they don't have that nasty metallic edge when new, and are maybe a little brighter without harshness, smoother, but with a good range of tone colours.

BTW , I realise I wrote the same in the fifth post!

Pro Arte are higher tension, thick, and dull-toned, and so I have tranfered them to a Chinese Va.S.O. built like a tank..

The other comparable strings are Corelli's Crystal: higher tension, thicker, with a textured tone without brilliance.

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