The sound quality of Rudoulf Doetsch deteriorate?

October 8, 2006 at 06:03 AM · My daughter has been taking violin lessons for about eight years now; pretty soon she'll need to change to a full-size violin.

Yesterday I spotted a Rudoulf Doetsch VIRD44 in H&H which is helding a bankrupcy clearance sale. The original price of this violin was $1900 and now it is on sale at $1100.

Another violin maker in town told me that Rudouf Doetsch violins are thinner than other brands so their sound quality deterioate two years after you buy it.

I know very little about violins, but both my daughter and her tearcher like the sound of this VIRD44. I wonder if anybody here could give me their opinions about Rudoulf Doetsch violins, and if their sound change for the worse over time, I'd be very much appreciate it.

Replies (19)

October 8, 2006 at 12:41 PM · Hmm, this is just anecdotal, but when my kids were smaller they used several Doetsch fractional instruments. I bought them "used" from a local violin shop. Once, we auditioned a new one from Weaver's and Potter's in MD and we didn't like the sound nearly as much as the older ones. We liked the sound of the Doetsch fractionals quite a lot, but I do believe that a lot of the difference comes from the set up. What I have heard is that the Doetsch full-size instruments are not as good, relatively speaking, as the fractionals. But again, this is just hearsay. If you find a violin for $1100 that your daughter and her teacher both like, I'd say go for it. It will sound even better if you take it in for an adjustment and put on new strings.

October 10, 2006 at 03:21 AM · Many of my students play on these violins and we all have been very pleased with them. They will definitely get better with age and playing. Full size for 1100 is a good buy. By the way, "thinner" wood (if you look at the wood around the f holes)is much more desirable in terms of the sound quality. It will resonate better. Just take a look at some old quality handmade instruments and compare. The very common thick plates of the factory made instruments are easier to manufacture but the sound suffers because of it.


October 10, 2006 at 01:47 PM · Elizabeth and Lucia,

Thanks again for generously sharing your experience with me; It was a great help. I'll be their first customer this morning.


October 19, 2007 at 09:10 PM · sounds like you have a music store owner trying to convince you that a heavy violin is somehow better than a light violin. A good rule of thumb is:

a violin that feels light in your hand is not guaranteed to sound good, but a violin that feels heavy in your hand is just about guaranteed to sound bad.

As far as thin wood deteriorating, that is just bogus hot air. The great Italian and German luthiers made violins that were thin enough to resonate beautifully but they have lasted anywhere from 300 to over 400 years of use and still sound better than any violins made since.

Also, a violin takes (arguably) 5-15 years to settle into its best sound. This refers to the wood "seasoning" or the whole becoming more than just the sum of its parts in its sound.

October 19, 2007 at 10:21 PM · i played my full sized doetsche (the first non-rental violin i ever had) from 8th grade until the summer after my freshman year of college, as a violin performance major. so i'd say they're pretty decent violins....

October 20, 2007 at 12:07 AM · My understanding is that Rudoulf Doetsch is a reputable German wood violin sold by reputable dealers in the $1,600 -$2,000 range new. It sounds to me like you may have yourself a good deal, if the violin is in good shape. If I only had $1,100 to spend, I would strongly consider buying it.

If you search that brand on the Internet you will see it sold by reputable dealers, such as Johnson Strings.

However, you really need to judge that specific violin on its own merits. Has someone inspected it?

It is true that in some cases thin wood can be a problem, especially with old violins of dubious origins and new violins of unknown origins.

To make a sale, one way to tamper a violin is to thin the thickness of the wood, which makes it resonate more and sound better, but then it later breaks from the string tension, which is high on all violins.

For that reason, I vowed that my household would never buy a chinese-made violin of unknown origin, because you do not know how the instrument was crafted. I also would never buy an old violin of questionable origin because you do not know what has been done to it. I like the idea of buying new from a reputable dealer.

Keep in mind that $1,100 is not much money for a violin. Don't expext a professional-level violin. If the violin is in good condition, has a decent tone, and responds to the bowing, you may have yourself a good deal for the cost. As a precaution, you could avoid higher tension strings, like Evahs.

I have heard that some instruments do get a little dull after awhile. It's called "new instrument syndrome." You can find an article about this on the Internet if you search for it. I'm not sure you can guarantee what will happen to that vioin in a couple years, but for only $1,100 I would not be that worried.

October 19, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Dale,

This is not necessarily "bogus hot air" as you say. The violin she is talking about is not a Strad, and it's quite possible it was made thinner to sound better in the present. I believe this was the case with Finannza violins. It's also possible the maker in town she talked to was full of it--what else would one expect him to say?


October 20, 2007 at 09:30 PM · I use to play a 1925 Virzi violin and it was VERY heavy, but it had a magnificant sound.

October 20, 2007 at 10:09 PM · I wish that my (almost 13 year old) daughter's teacher would be content with a $1100 fiddle!

She has had 2 Doetsch violins and they were very nice. Her last one (3/4 size) was a step or two up from that and now her teacher is asking us to look at what most shops call 'professional', though in the lower realms of that category.

I think they are great instruments, depending on your needs and expectations.

October 20, 2007 at 10:54 PM · I bought a Doetsch viola about 6 months ago. I thought it had a lovely sound then, and still do. I've been playing viola a little over a year and I thought it was a great value for a serious amateur-level instrument.

October 22, 2007 at 05:05 AM · Hmmmm... When I first saw it, I interpreted the initiating question differently than it was intended and how it's being discussed, but I want to answer my different question anyway!

I expected from the discussion title to find a discussion over whether perhaps new R. Doetsch instruments these days don't sound as good as the new R. Doetsch models did say 10 years ago. To that question, I would say yes! Around a decade ago, students of mine somewhat regularly were playing fractional Doetsch violins, and I loved them. And a very fine violist colleague of mine, a grad student at the time lacking rich parents or other big budgets, went searching for an accessible professional instrument, and came back with a Doetsch viola, which served her well enough to get in to Chicago Symphony...

But recently, I've met another couple of violins from Doetsch, full-size, two or three or four years old, which seemed to me disappointingly weak and shallow and unbalanced between the strings (sure, sounds like just adjust the soundpost-- but it wasn't just one instrument, and the issues weren't small, and I can't help but wonder: ). I've wondered if this were a trend over the years, or just a couple unusual, unfortunate instruments...


I am not contributing thoughts about an individual instrument's change over time, Doetsch's or others.

October 23, 2007 at 01:55 PM · My, my... so many opinions. :-)

If y'all don't mind, I'll throw one in, starting with a response to:

"My understanding is that Rudoulf Doetsch is a reputable German wood violin sold by reputable dealers in the $1,600 -$2,000 range new. It sounds to me like you may have yourself a good deal, if the violin is in good shape. If I only had $1,100 to spend, I would strongly consider buying it."

Originally, they were German trade instruments, purchased in the white, finished here in the States in Bill Weaver's shop. These instruments were sold under some other names as well.... For example, Robertson has/had their own label, Shar had their own, etc.

Since then, I believe the contract for them was sold on to Eastman strings. Not sure they still have the manufacturing rights, as I lost interest/track.

I have no idea where the corpus comes from at this point. Might still be German, might even be Chinese.

While there are certainly limits, determining if thicknesses for instruments are "too thick" or "too thin" isn't as simple as using a small range of measurements as a rule. What is appropriate for any specific model or instrument depends on it's design (arch) and materials.

The older Doetsch instruments I knew had a finish (varnish treatment) that was quite effective (popular) for the price range they sold in. They sounded pretty decent right off the bat, and developed a little over the short term. Some tended to lose neck projection and get a little "fuzzy" sounding over the long haul (all signs that the thicknesses possibly approached the thin side of things), but all in all, they held up pretty well for what they are.

Determining thickness by looking at the ff hole edges is unreliable. It's not hard to thin the edges of the holes out enough so that a real brick looks thin. Also, if one looks at enough fiddles, I think you'll see the better ones aren't always all that thin at the ff holes.

In my opinion, what causes an instrument's sound to deteriorate most often is incorrect, or lack of proper, maintenance, BTW.

October 22, 2007 at 08:39 PM · A dealer recently told me that one of his own violin product lines had become a dissapointment lately. He said that the cut-throat global competition may be causing short-cuts and diminished quality to lower costs. Yet on the other hand, he still liked the pricier Eastern European violins he sold. (I will withhold the brand names.)

October 23, 2007 at 02:53 AM · Any violin has to be evaluated on its own merits, irrespective of label. We've had several fractional Doetsch violins over the years. Each was selected out of a batch; some in each batch were good, some not so.

I don't believe the sound quality deteriorated at all.

The last 3/4 sold a few years ago for around $800. At that time the decision was made to go to 4/4 outside the Doetsch trade-in route.

Since that time several violins have crept into the house, running from $400 to about $4000. At this time the hands-down favorite is the $400 ebay violin with mouse-gnawed f-hole. It's a real pity that it was the last one we found, not the first. (OK, I admit that there've been a couple dogs, but on the whole, 80% have been keepers, and mostly worth the money paid).

Best advice is to look around a lot. Do not neglect the bow; a good bow makes a good deal of difference, but the violin comes first - then get a bow that makes the violin/player combo shine. If you do go with the Doetsch, be aware that they do have a decent reputation, so if in future you want to trade up, you ought to do OK.

October 23, 2007 at 05:59 AM · When I was in the USA this Summer I bought a Doetsch violin, full size, for my young daughter. I had never heard of the make before. I had my daughter play a whole bunch of violins, including a few hand made old violins of a higher price range, while I impartially judged ..... . I was surprised at the power and depth of sound of the Doetsch. So we got it for 1.700 including case, bow, etc. Which was an absolute bargain considering the strength of the euro against the dollar at the moment.

What was interesting was to try another couple of Doetsch violins in the same shop set up by the same guy...the one we chose, did have a much better sound.

I have to say that this violin actually sounds much better than some of these MUCH more expensive hand-made violins from Cremona that students are buying in Italy right now.

I had been trying out violins as a favor for a young violin maker ... I had even thought about buying one as soon as he managed to produce one I liked .. mostly he had been charging 2,500 euro .... and then popped out one that really sounded quite nice and upped the price to 4.000 euro. So I didn-t buy it!!! I do understand that people have to earn their living and it takes a lot of work to make a violin ..... and I believe in supporting new violin makers etc BUT given the choice of a Doetsch that sounds so good for a quarter of the price ....

The only thing I have against the Doetsch is a sort of clunky feel, and if it was me playing it, I might try changing strings-it has dominant- mess around with bridge etc .... but my daughter seems happy, and sounds so good on it I wont bother.

Oh I believe the body of the Doetsch does still come from Germany. So I was told in the shop, anyway.

October 23, 2007 at 07:31 AM · I hope the violin wont deteriorate over time ... but on the plus side the shop will always take it back for full price as long as I buy something else there. If there is a strong possibility that this will happen I guess I could even take it back next year ... I will see waht other posters have to say .....

October 25, 2007 at 06:34 PM · I'm not a maker, but on the subject of wood thickness, about 2.6mm to 2.8mm in the table and about 3mm over the soundpost seems to be a reasonable modern standard. The back would be a little thicker.

If you're a real enthusiast, you can measure the thickness with a Hacklinger Gauge - a very ingenious device but they cost a packet!

October 27, 2007 at 07:58 PM · Originally the Doetsch violins were "white" violins that Bill Weaver took apart, regraduated, put back together and then finished. My son used to go up in his shop and watch that happen. There is a "golden" period of Doetsch violins where they sounded better than some of the other periods. I think there was a time when they thinned out the tops too much. Bill Weaver sold the Doetsch business and it is now owned by Eastman violins. Unfortunately, the newer ones don't sound so good. However, even in the "golden" period there is a difference between each violin. I have a 1/4 size we bought years ago for my son which is one of the nicest sounding quarter sizes I have heard -- and I have some lovely 1/4 size French instruments. But I have a couple of others which aren't nearly as good. So the bottom line is that there is a period which was better than others, they are all different, and the newer ones are generally not as good. Potter's violins could probably tell you what the time period was for the better Doetsch instruments.

October 27, 2007 at 11:37 PM · My daughter had a 1/2 size that developed a sound post crack within 1 year. I suspect it might be because of being too thin. The dealer wouldnt stand behind their merchandise even with a trade- in policy.

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