Difference between normal and gold-plated E?

Edited: July 28, 2018, 1:43 PM · Hi. I’d like to know how do gold-plated Es affect the sound of a violin or a particular set of strings.

I like them aesthetically and, when I change my current dominants I want to try Tziganes. But I don’t know if I should try them with the regular or the gold plated E.

Thank you.

Replies (16)

July 28, 2018, 2:16 PM · I think I whistle more often on gold E strings.
July 28, 2018, 4:41 PM · Really? That’s a funny fact. I don’t know how frequent is it...
July 28, 2018, 5:03 PM · On my violin, plated E strings (good, aluminium, brass etc) in general tend to be a bit warmer than plain steel, but the sound of a string also depends a lot of the type of steel the core is made from, the thickness ect. I did not check out the string brands you can order with different windings, so I cannot comment especially on gold plated strings.
Edited: July 28, 2018, 6:43 PM · Depending on the brand, about $ 7.00.

I tried them years ago and didn't like them, but everyone is different. Give me my Jarger Forte, any day.

July 28, 2018, 6:04 PM · Aesthetic? Okay but nobody in the front row of your audience can see that.
July 29, 2018, 12:37 PM · Mostly price. Theoretically, a very thin electro-plating should make very little difference in the mass, thickness, elasticity, etc, of the E string. What might be more important is how well the rosin sticks to the string. The violin doesn't care what the string is made out of. It is wooden box that amplifies and modifies the signal that it receives through the bridge.
Edited: July 30, 2018, 11:46 AM · I don't know what theory that is, Joel, but when my internet supplier sent my 2nd order of Thomastik Peter Infeld strings with the nickel E instead of the platinum-plated E I had ordered it changed the entire character of all the strings on the violin.

The Pt-E was able to allow me to play clean 2-octave scales up the G strings of 2 of my violins that had been really pretty lousy up there without that E string ---and that with no change in any other strings on those violins.

I have no idea why this is - no "theory" at all. It is what it is!

So now I have 4 violins that have made me happy with their PI-Pt-E strings, even though I am no longer using PI A/D/G strings on those fiddles (3 of them have Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold and the 4th has Pirastro Flexocor Permanent, I also had them all strung with EP Gold at one point and before that Thomastik Vision Solo (with the PI-Pt-E) - all pretty good).

I've go some gold E strings as backup - to try when my PI-Pts fail.

Edited: July 30, 2018, 12:01 PM · I would say check with a respected luthier before trying the Tzigane strings. My experience with them that they worked very well with an instrument that had 2nd octave G string problems with other respected string brands, but not on my violins without that problem. After that experience I talked with Richard Ward at Ifshin Violins about the Tzigane strings (this was right after they were first available) and he did not have a general good opinion about them (yet).

If you have a violin with G-string problems they might be a good solution.

July 30, 2018, 12:41 PM · Thanks, Andrew V. I know that those gold, platinum, - plated strings make a significant difference because the players report that it does. I am just puzzled by why; why an electro-plate layer that may only be a few atoms thick would make such a discernable difference. jq
July 30, 2018, 12:49 PM · I use the gold piraszzi E on my Vuillaume and the sound is amazing. It's better than any other E string I have ever used. It gives it a golden round brilliance which I like, the problem though is that it whistles sometimes and once the gold plating wears off, it needs replacing as the sound changes.
Edited: July 30, 2018, 1:59 PM · Even many "same style" steel Es can sound different. The well-known Goldbrokat is just a hi-carbon steel like many, but it isn't the same as others. I am sure it's harder (if not impossible) for the audience to tell the difference, but it's there for the player under the ear and fingers.

The difference of x-plated strings is even more discernible. One could be a cynic and answer "one whistles more than the other", but I attended a great solo violin recital, and the artist had many squeaks with a "regular" E. The whistling can be real for many, though, but not an absolute con of gold-plated strings. The Pirastro Platinum E, in my experience and violin, doesn't whistle (unless it's a technical accident), so it *may* be it's easier for the bow to "catch" the platinum coating vs gold one (then again I have read in this very forum that the Pi Platinum E squeaked a lot for a member.)

Another potential con of gold-plated strings is that they require loop E fine adjuster protectors, as otherwise they will eventually break at the loop sooner or later. With this protector, they will last a long time (for me the gold-plating lasts for a fair while.)

Actual sonic differences-apparent warmth, but amazing clarity anywhere, to the point some find gold-plated Es "too brilliant". They tend to resonate a ton when playing the other strings.

The platinum is nice in that, while I don't believe it has the same initial sizzle/edge, it's a full sounding E that matches As even better than the gold variant, and still keeps a fully radiant, powerful, and clear range (they also *appear* to help the whole instrument in the brilliance department.) So "it's like" mixing the benefits of an Eudoxa wound E and an Oliv E without their main drawbacks. However, I admit that they must not be better for every player, because someone may prefer the specific character of a given Gold-plated brand E at X tension vs Platinum.

I agree it's hard to explain why there could be so many differences with such a tiny amount of coating, but I cannot say this is a mere placebo effect, as many other things on the violin-and in life-can be. It's even relatively easy to tell apart the differences even if it's just a friend/colleague of yours trying these different Es (plated vs "regular") in front of you, in the same room.

With all this said, gold or platinum coated strings must not be objectively better than the many proven "plain steel" Es out there, that perhaps still are better for many violins/players (some soloists use coated strings, but they are most certainly not a majority, for whatever reason.)

Edited: July 30, 2018, 4:35 PM · Andrew V. I own a very basic Yamaha violin which is powerful and bright to the point of being a bit shrill. I'm currently playing it with dominants G, D, A and a wondertone solo E. It still has a bit of a shrill tone. I will try a new set of strings on it in a month or two, and I want it to be warmer than dominants, but at a similar price point. I had thought of the tziganes for that reason. I had also thought of obligatos. But these are clearly more expensive. And violinos are not cheap either, and I've read contradictory things on them.

Regarding the G string, it's not the most clear string on my violin. The D string is much cleaner. But who knows... being a beginner as I am, it can just be my lack of technique. My teacher says that strings are just a matter of trial and error on each individual instrument

I also should add that I've recently acquired a pernambuco bow that has improved my playing and softened the sound of the violin. And that I will probably end up getting a new and better violin in a near future, but I still want to explore the possibilities of this violin and set it up the best I can for keeping it, as it was given to me as a gift and has some sentimental value. Thank you for answering.

Joel, Jeff, Nuuska and Kypros: Thanks for answering. Joel started an interesting discussion...

Adalberto : Thanks for the detailed response. Really informative.

Paul Deck Funny and serious point at the same time...

July 31, 2018, 1:40 AM · A similar puzzle: A wooden flute, a silver flute, a gold flute. They sound different, even though the primary vibrating part is the column of air, not the solid tube. Some players (ex-London SO flutist James Galway) will spend a lot of money to get the gold flute. And , organ pipes are either wood or metal, and sound different.
Edited: July 31, 2018, 5:14 AM · Joel: I've been to some flute concerts in my town in which the principal flute player was an argentinian player who owned a 24k gold flute he had bought for a huge amount of money. It sounded clearly warmer than the metal flute the other player used. And visually it shone amazingly.

Regarding organs, I've had the fortune of playing some myself at local churches (...badly, of course). All of the four or five organs I've played had metal pipes, yet they sounded differently, each one with its own particularities. The reverb was also different in each of the churches...

There are so many factors that affect sound that it's almost impossible to control everything. But that's one of the beautiful and entertaining things of music!

July 31, 2018, 7:41 AM · Miguel, based on that additional information I'd say Tziganes might be worth a try on your violin.
Edited: July 31, 2018, 10:37 AM · Andrew: I will try them, and will see how does the instrument react. Depending on the results, I will decide what to do next. Maybe keeping them (or repeating string set), maybe searching for another set, maybe switching back to dominants.

And regardless of the strings, I'm approaching a point in which I'm slowly starting to sound a bit better, which is also something to consider. I almost wasn't able to play 4 straight bows when I put my current set of dominants + wondertone E, and now that they are approaching their end I'm playing with much more "authority" in my bowing, with consistent detaché, better martelé and spicatto and with some vibrato. I could even say I'm starting to enjoy the music I can play, even if I can't still do everything I want with a piece and my tone it's still very far from perfection.

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