String sets similar to Dominants?

Edited: May 25, 2018, 5:08 AM · TL;DR: Which string sets are similar to Thomastik Dominants (maybe tension-wise), or even better than such (tone- & tension-wise)? As an alternate question, which string sets are more warmer than Dominants but are still decently projecting?

Recently, I was able to get a new violin, roughly $2000, and I put the Dominants w/ a Gold Label E on it from my previous violin. It projects really nicely from all registers, and I could actually hear some color from the set now (which is actually <5 months old; I don’t play 3+ hours a day but I needed to change that set). It was a transition from my old instrument (audibly made the set sound absolutely one-dimensional). I was also given a cake of Liebenzeller’s Grade II Gold rosin as a gift a while ago, but I don’t know if the tone was affected by that as well. It’s still quite bright imo.

By this point, I kinda got my head out of my rear (excuse me) after trying to find expensive string sets to compensate for the build of my previous (and bad!) violin. I’ve been trying to do research on other string sets that could potentially react similar to the Dominants on my instrument in the event that I need to change them, instead of relying on the more pricey long-praised strings. However, the sets that I’ve been looking at, which includes some by Larsen, Warchal, Pirastro, and Thomastik have been in more higher tensions than I’m used to, so I was wondering if that would also make a massive difference on my instrument (considering that not every brand’s Medium Gauge levels are the same for their strings; I have also pretty much only used Dominants w/ Gold Label E).

note: the sets I was looking at included Warchal Brilliant/Amber, Pirastro Tonica/Obligato, Larsen Tzigane, and Thomastik VTOrchestra.

Replies (11)

Edited: May 25, 2018, 7:24 AM · There are charts of string tension for many brands (i.e., ) and many other sources that you can google. But there is more to it than that; the relationship between the tensions of the different strings in a set or a "setup" may have an even stronger effect. The actual design of the individual strings that results in internal friction and damping is another important factor. I know it is tempting to want to use "darker" strings to temper an over-bright fiddle or brighter strings to boost a dull one, but if the instrument itself is lacking in important characteristics changing strings may not help.

It is best to enlist the help of an expert who can actually experience your instrument and even help you experiment with a few different strings. Good violin shops employ competent string musicians as "sales clerks" and my experience with such help has been very good.

May 25, 2018, 6:20 AM · You need to change strings at least once a year, and preferably at least every six months. Synthetic strings lose quality just by sitting on a violin, since the tension wears the material.

Tonicas are neutral and inexpensive, and should probably be the first things you try on a budget.

May 25, 2018, 6:32 AM · Tonicas are Pirastro's version of Dominants, and some people even like them better, plus they are almost 1/2 the price, highly recommended, Its my go to choice for most of my student to intermediate grade violins I sell.
Edited: May 25, 2018, 7:11 AM · Dominant's equivalents (neutral) in other brands are Pirastro Tonica, D'addario Pro-Arte, Warchal Karneol, Savarez Crystal. From them, you can tune up or down particular qualities in each of their catalogue.
In theory, if you change the tension significantly, the instrument should have the setup checked or fixed for the new strings. Not everybody does.
I like Pro Artes and Tónicas better than Dominants. Currently I use Eudoxas and I am happier than a hog rolling in mud... So, give them a thought. Gut strings are not as arcane or connoisseurs only as is sometimes implied...
May 25, 2018, 7:18 AM · Definitely not Larsens if you want darker. Tonicas sound like the best choice for you. The brightness of your violin can also possibly be influenced by your setup, especially the fine positioning of your sound post. But as Andrew said, if you've got a bright violin, then you've got a bright violin. You're not going to suddenly make it mellow by any of these small changes.
May 25, 2018, 8:50 AM · For pretty much everyone who recommended Tonicas, is the E string okay? Or is it a similar case with the Dominants where it’s pretty much necessary to change the E string?
May 25, 2018, 9:07 AM · The Tonica set has different Es to choose, none is problematic as Dominant's and you may choose plain steel, aluminium. Some sets come with Gold Label E, which is my favorite E.
Tonica are not problem free, though. For a synthetic they take incredibly long to stretch fully, and they don't stay in tune from session to session. But sound, volume and response are really good IMO.
May 26, 2018, 7:11 AM · Not exactly inexpensive, but Thomastik's Rondo have responded very well to instruments that were used to Dominant, and have a much more relaxed resonance while giving away nothing on projection.
Edited: May 26, 2018, 10:59 AM · Thomastik’s Infeld Red and Infeld Blue also tend to sound and feel similar to Dominants. I think both can sound “warmer” than Dominants - it depends on the instrument.
May 26, 2018, 5:36 PM ·

I haven’t tried them, but purportedly these sound quite similar at a lower price point.

May 28, 2018, 6:05 AM · After many years of trying different strings I eventually changed my bow. What a difference! I would suggest the whole set up makes the sound - including the bow!

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