Derber vs. Heberlein

March 3, 2018, 1:01 PM · I have a student who is looking to purchase a violin, and is currently debating between a Brian Derber (2006) a Louis Otto (1898) and an H T Heberlein (1911). Curious for any feedback on these three makers, and possible long-term investment value. Your input is appreciated!

Replies (7)

March 3, 2018, 1:24 PM · These aren't even vaguely comparable, are they? Derber is a contemporary maker whose instruments are a typical price point for living makers, I believe (i.e., somewhere in the $15k range), whereas the other two are in the student instrument price range?
March 3, 2018, 2:18 PM · I think I found the shop selling all three when I was googling for prices. Lovely violins!

So, I bought a 1923 H. Th. Heberlein after a fairly lengthy search a year and a half ago. I was also seriously considering a couple of other 1920s Markneukirchen instruments (a Roth and a Geipel), a couple of recent Topas, and a John Sipe from the early 2000s. The Heberlein was the least expensive by a significant factor ($8500 vs. $12K+) but for my playing it was the best fit and probably significantly undervalued. It has a big, full tone. Maybe less complex and reedy than the Topas and it's possible that it might not project as well in a concert hall but that's not really what I wanted from it (I play the occasional solo in church, for which it's plenty loud–and otherwise do mostly orchestral and chamber music). I love the G string in particular. I think I got good value for my money. It's also beautiful to look at, which doesn't really matter but does thrill me a bit every time I pick it up.

I think
a) those German instruments are starting to command higher prices now ($12K was the norm here in the Bay Area) but also
b) there was a huge variety of instruments in the $8K-$15K price range and the correlation between quality (considering unique player requirements) and price didn't seem as fixed.

March 3, 2018, 2:29 PM · All 3 are in the 10-15k range, with the derber being the most expensive. In my opinion the derber was very clearly the best instrument of the 3, but my student is weighing whether it is worth the extra $$ for her purposes (conducting major with violin on the side). I was thinking that the derber might be worth it for higher resale value later, but curious to get a sense of what some of you know about these makers. Lydia, your comment seems to indicate that at least in the past, Derber's reputation is higher. Am I reading that right?
March 3, 2018, 2:32 PM · Katie, your comment about the G string is interesting--we find the G and E to be the best parts about the Heberlein. The unevenness is something of a concern to me, vs the Derber, which is wonderfully projecting throughout.
March 3, 2018, 2:39 PM · Dumb question, maybe, but has she settled on a bow yet? That's an additional expense to budget for, obviously.

Derber certainly has a good reputation as a master luthier–-Maestronet is full of praise for his school and his manual.

I know zero about violins as a financial investment but if there's one that's obviously the best and she enjoys playing's an investment in her future enjoyment of her instrument, right?

March 3, 2018, 2:42 PM · My Heberlein is actually pretty even across the strings–-no real dead zones. That said, the E string that I currently have on the instrument isn't doing it any favors (I've been experimenting). I recently played a friend's violin from a famous contemporary maker (blanking on the name) and was startled by how honeyed and warm his E string was (the rest of the instrument was in bad shape but I think it needed an adjustment and possibly had an opening).
March 3, 2018, 4:12 PM · There's a good chance that a great contemporary violin will appreciate over the course of a lifetime, especially if the maker has a good reputation. I don't know enough about this maker to guess whether that's the case for him, though.

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