Violin bow (wood, CF) reviews - any respectable websites that do comparisons?

Edited: August 31, 2018, 1:55 PM · I'm in a shopping frame of mind, and am looking for some bow comparisons to read before I engage in the arduous, ear-tiring process of testing them myself.

When I look up "violin bow reviews" I get all these sites that you've never heard of before, and from past experience, looks like they're writing reviews based on who pays them, or they are created, surreptitiously, by whomever is the #1 product listed on the website.

Anyone know of a legitimate one? Sort of like a corollary to

Yes, I know, trust no one's ear but my own, and on my own violin, but, it helps sometimes to narrow the field preliminarily.

Replies (12)

August 31, 2018, 2:06 PM · I think you should visit shops in your area and try various bows old and new
in your price range. Or, maybe you could look at Shar bows in your price range and ask them to trial 4 or 5 that interest you. If you are unsure when trying various bows sit back and wait until you do find one that you can't live without.
August 31, 2018, 2:12 PM · Yes, I know, but that can be a tiring process. I can get worn out (listening to tone can wear me out somewhat quickly) before I am able to get through 5-6 bows, sometimes. Was looking for something to consider before I started the process, and maybe have a jumping off point in the beginning with the reviews.

I reckon bow-making is too variable (except maybe CF) for reviews to be worth a damn.

Edited: August 31, 2018, 2:25 PM · at least I found an article to satisfy my "wanting to read something" brain:

August 31, 2018, 2:20 PM · I expect you do have a bow. This definitely already a starting point. Ask yourself what do you like in this bow, and what you would like to change. It's not only about sound, playing characteristics are at least as important. As soon as you make progress in knowing what to look for, the whole bow shopping process will not be as tiresome anymore.
And yepp, take your time. You'll learn a lot from it. Also about your own playing.
August 31, 2018, 2:28 PM · I have some things in mind, mostly a bow that allows intonation and ringing to be clear. My Coda Diamond was not really doing this for me (I am getting it rehaired at the moment though). Some of the less expensive wooden bows I have were coming through much clearer. So, I'm looking with something to help with hearing intonation well. I'm not getting really technical yet in my lessons (struggling with staccato at the moment), so maybe I'm being too premature.
Edited: August 31, 2018, 2:51 PM · Not only 2 of the same model bows won't play the same, one bow on two different instruments will equally differ in tonal response, not to mention individual preferences, hence bow review is a rather futile exercise. Price point is a good place to start but no guarantee of excellence there either. Best to start with a budget in mind and try everything within 20% of that, and a few really more expensive ones to see what you miss and compromise for. Part of this process is dependent on your bowing skills. You may not be able to "see" and appreciate yet some characteristics offered by the more expensive bows and will seem like a waste of money to you.
August 31, 2018, 2:57 PM · If you can, find a shop with a good trade in policy. The one I use (bought my violin there) has a 100% trade in policy. I used it to trade in 3 bows over a 4 year time span until I settled. Essentially its an "unlimited" trial period.
August 31, 2018, 4:32 PM · Even CF bows of the same brand and "name" can be different in sound and other playing qualities. I remember swapping my Coda Classic Cello bow with that of another cellist because the bows we had each bought were better on the other's instrument - that might have been almost 20 years ago.
August 31, 2018, 4:59 PM · For strings, even though they vary between instruments, at least have some general tonal characteristics that usually hold consistent. And strings are manufactured in a consistent way, so when you buy, say, a set of Dominants, it's basically like every other set of Dominants.

Bows aren't like this. Even CF bows within the same model have significant variance in tone on a given violin, and have subtly different handling characteristics. You can make some generalizations, but they don't really relieve the need to test them yourself on your violin. Moreover, there'll be a lot of per-player variation. A precise-handling professional bow is probably not going to appeal to a beginner with crude technique, for instance, even though the bow is objectively better.

Also, many players try out a ton of different strings because the recurring nature of the expense makes it easy to do so. By contrast, bows cost a lot of money and aren't bought very frequently. So a given reviewer isn't likely to have the extensive experience necessary to write a good review.

Broadly, many people like the JonPaul Avanti, which is an excellent CF bow that has decent tone on most violins, and handling characteristics good enough for professional playing. Individual bows and tastes will vary, but I still think this bow represents particularly good value and should be on your shortlist in the $500-1k price category.

August 31, 2018, 7:19 PM · "Yes, I know, trust no one's ear but my own, and on my own violin"

Nope, consult people with more advanced bowing technique than yourself as well. To re-iterate the point about general reviews and bow sample differences - they're all different, even two from the same accomplished maker in the same period from the same stock, and some will come across to anyone as very different (not necessarily with one being clearly better than the other), and some will come across as essentially indistinguishable to you, but night and day apart to a more advanced player and hopefully yourself in the future.

September 4, 2018, 3:19 PM · I don't have advice to give but instead a question. The 3 bows I own differ not so radically in stiffness or balance as far as I can feel at this point, but rather in the consistency of the hair. What seems to make the primary impact for their performance is how straight and ordered the geometry of the hair strands is, the quality and consistency of the hair strands and how uniform the tension of each hair is compared to the other strands. The contact point of the hairs must be taught and uniform for all hairs not only in a lateral dimension but at common playing angles.

I imagine those characteristics are difficult for a bow maker to get perfect every time. I'm guessing that bow stiffness, weight and balance are much more readily controlled when making a bow but that the feel resulting from the procedure of fastening the hair into the bow is much more highly variable. Is that the case?

September 4, 2018, 5:20 PM · not if you go to a highly competent bow rehairer

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