Looking For General Information on a Mellow Sounding Violin $900-$1500

Edited: September 27, 2018, 9:06 AM · Hi, again. I am going to trade my Revelle 500QX violin for a mellower one in October. I have a budget of $1500.

When I first shopped for a violin, I wanted a bright violin. I changed to steel Sprirocore strings on my cello because I wanted to brighten it up and it is wonderful. So, in my mind, I wanted a bright violin. When I tested violins the Revelle 500QX sounded great. Now that I am playing it, I find that, for a violin, I would prefer a milder mellower sound. I never thought I would think that. But, here I am.

The Revelle 500QX came set up with Dominant strings. I had purchased some Spirocore for it a while ago (I was going to put them on my cheapo test drive violin to make it better, but decided to wait until I got a better violin to use them), but I know that if I put them on the Revelle 500QX it will be too bright, and deafening to my ears (LOL), based on what the affect was with my cello, Belle. I am also more drawn to that mellow violin sound after listening to many bright and many mellow violin comparison videos, and lessons with each. So, I would like a mellower violin.

All the violins are set up with Dominant strings at this violin shop, at least in my price range, so when I test them they are all using the same strings and I use the same bow and play the same songs and scales (I am just learning, so my repertoire is not large anyway).

Here are some of the violins that are in my price range (based on as high a price I can pay and the lowest level - has to be of equal or greater value of my Revelle 500QX). I have not been able to find much information on these, except for other stores that sell them, no reviews or sample playing, except the Shen Model Violin, SV1000.

Modelo Italiano*
Modelo Italiano***
Jan Dvorak
W. Raabs Violin, Germany 2010
Dimitri Larcov
Shen Model Violin, SV1000
Scott Cao (Model not stated, but it is $1600, this is actually $100 over budget. I have heard or read good things on the lower end of Scott Cao. I heard a test on YouTube of a lower end. Problem with YouTube, it is really not accurate as far as how it will sound with you in your house, or wherever you play it.)

I did play the Modelo Italiano* when I tested violins when I was thinking a bright violin and bought the Revelle. It is mellow. But, if I recall, for some reason I had trouble bowing it. I think it was my first one and I was very nervous. The violinist associate was still in the room and also, other people were outside the room. I cannot be in front of people. This is all for my own enjoyment and self-fulfillment, not for performing in front of people. I played each of them three times, final two more than that. It did get easier. I think after the first time playing that Modelo Italiano*, I had issues because it was mellow and I could not get rid of the “bright” sound idea.

I will be testing all that I am choosing from in October, basically, all in my price range. I am working on a song to do. If I can just work on one song, I will have it down pretty smooth before I do the trade in October. I am also going to smooth out two scales to do on them all.

I read about, and listened to a YouTube on the Shen Model Violin SV1000. I was happy to find that exact model Shen. It was described as mellow and sounded mellow. I actually loved the sound. The E string was beautiful and the G string was very nice, to my ears. But, again, it was a YouTube on my iPad, both with and without a bluetooth attached outside speaker. Can’t really tell more than comparison using a device, not hearing actual sound as it would be live.

I know the Revelle 500QX did not sound the same in my house as it did in the sound room at the violin shop, I expected that to be the case. It sounds good, though. I am just over the bright.

I know violin is a matter of preference, that is a given. I am wondering more about quality (understanding my price range - not expecting the quality of a higher priced violin) or little quirks. I trust this store for quality, but wondering if there is some quirk other people know of about any of these that would cause an issue for a new adult senior citizen self-learner.

I am not concerned about them being made in China, I am not spending thousands of dollars, and do not buy into China always =ing bad. Not getting into that big debate, but wanted to mention that I know these are all most likely, not positive, made in China. The violin store customizes them to their liking.

Does anyone have any experience with any of these brands and/or models? Talking on the quality standpoint, because, I realize what one person’s preference in sound and feel is different from another person’s preference. I am thinking some of you are still beginners and not playing or looking into really expensive violins, or those of you who are advanced started out on less expensive violins than you now play. Thought maybe someone may have experience with one of these models and noticed a quirk or can indicate whether they tend to be bright or mellow. I know even the same brand and model can be different than someone else’s of the same brand and model due to setup, wood, etc. But just general information on any of these would be helpful. I am not even sure I want to put my steel Spirocore strings on whatever one I trade in for now, because I want to keep it mellow.

I wish I could have found more information on these in reviews, comparison articles, comparison videos, sample playing on videos. The only one I found in two weeks of looking every day, was the Shen SV1000. I am thinking these are names given the violin by this violin shop? But I did find some of these violins, by name, on other violin shops’ sites, just not much information, as is the case on the website of the violin shop I use. But, maybe someone has purchased one from this shop or another shop online or actually from the store. Since this is the internet, the world is small, and just maybe...

I was just playing my violin yesterday evening, and I do like it. I just keep wishing it were mellower. Since I am trading it in, I am not interested in buying new strings and replacing the new Dominants they put on it. The ones I will be testing will have the same Dominants.

Thank you in advance for any information you can provide.

63 years old, not a young child’s ears.

Replies (14)

September 27, 2018, 9:23 AM · You'll be hard pressed to find a mellow, not bright violin among new Chinese choices. IMHO
September 27, 2018, 9:47 AM · If you're looking for mellowness and warmth, you won't find it on any $1000 factory violin. That's the sad truth.

You should go to shop and try all the instruments to find one within your budget that's the least bad.

September 27, 2018, 10:01 AM · Adult beginner here too so here are a few tidbits I can share. I too am into mellow.
I live in South Florida so Fiddlershop is my local luthier. There I tried a dozen instruments in your $1,500 range. Even within the multiple Scott Caos and Ming Jiang Zhus of the same level, there were noticable differences in the mellow-ness.

Ultimately, I bought two violins from them: Their Sima Traian ($4,000... silly beginner that I am) and an unlabled sample ($450 for my adult son's 30th b-day.) Can I detect a major difference in sound? No, not when I play them. Yes when Pierre Holstein or Michael O'Gieblyn plays them.

Something that did make a huge difference to both is the ajdustments they made to the set-up which included:
- Moving the sound post (towards the tailpiece and bass side slightly)
- Lowering the bridges making the action easier to play (also decreases loudness a bit)
- On the Sima Traian, replacing the full size tailpiece with a harp (achieving longer after length.)
- Obligato strings (have tried Dominants, Evah Pirazzi greens and Violinos) and back to Obligatos.

I hope that helps.

As an add-on thought, I'm 5ft 6 but have tiny hands so I had the string length of the Sima Traian shortened from the top (nut) and bottom (bridge) to achieve something more like 3/4 violin finger placement. This required further, relatively economical adjustments. If that is of interest to you, let me know.

September 27, 2018, 7:35 PM · A couple of years ago I came upon a previously owned Scott Cao 850E that had been regularly played by a music university student. Maybe due to age and play-in, not sure, but it was a beautifully mellow and slightly dark sounding violin, beneath the ears as well as to listeners. Beautiful workmanship and the E models use European tonewoods.

The only reason I replaced it was because I prefer a little darker tone. I found an amazing sounding 1949 Wenzel Fuchs Mastercraft that had been gone through and set up by Steve Perry that fits my preferences perfectly. Regardless of increased budget I doubt I will ever let this violin go. Deep, mellow darkish tone, but focused with nice overtones, especially now with Passione strings.

The point is, don't discount some very nice sounding older German violins in your price range. There are some beautiful sounding economical older and mature toned instruments out there, you just have to do a little shopping around.

September 27, 2018, 10:02 PM · The ones listed above are the only violins in the price range mentioned above available at the violin shop. It is over an hour away. I do not think any of these are German made. If I want to get what I put into my Revelle 500QX, I need to trade it in at the store I purchased it from. We are retired, this is a “hobby” that I want to do, and we can’t put more than an additional $600 (making the price $1500 total with the approximately $900 from the 3 week old trade in violin that I purchased there). I might be able to squeak another $100 if I really like the Scott Cao they have. The model number is not shown on the site, but it is $1600. I won’t have to buy a bow or case because I will keep the bow and case I purchased with the Revelle 500QX. I have read good things about Scott Cao and am hoping to be able to squeak an additional $100, if I like that one the best.

I would not have a problem with a German made violin, but I don’t think the ones listed above are. The next violin shop is about 2 hours beyond the violin shop we bought the Revelle at, we aren’t driving that far. I am not, nor ever will, play in front of people to perform. This is for my enjoyment. I like the Revelle 500QX and would recommend it for someone who wants bright, but I have decided on mellow and warm.

At 63, I think this is not only good for me for a hobby, but it is also good to keep my mind working. It is very relaxing to do this, but a mellower sound would be easier on my ears and for the nice slow songs I like.

September 27, 2018, 11:05 PM · I think there is nothing wrong about your strategy, and if you are limited by one shop to trade in, it's Ok.

In your circumstances I would lean towards the Scott Cao, because they are known for maintaining very even characteristics in their models. By price, it could be the Scott Cao 850, which has good reviews. But in that sense I think that it is very important that they tell you which model it is. Scott Cao has cheaper models and if you are paying 1600 for an 800 violin, its obviously a bad deal. But if it's the 850, its just a little more than other sellers, but not abusive. It may be worth if it comes with some guarantee and aftersales services.
If whichever you choose is slightly brighter than your ideal, you can mellow it with Pro Artes or Violino strings.

September 27, 2018, 11:07 PM · Carlos beat me to it one aspect. Strings. Your current violin has steel core strings. Switching to good synthetics like tonicas will make it a bit more mellow. Worth trying before you trade it in.

You also haven’t had the fiddle that long. Wouldn’t playing it with darker synthetic strings be worth a try?

Edited: September 28, 2018, 7:31 AM · I had a Maggini copy that was more mellow, and I read that they tend to be. They also tend to be a bit longer than a normal size fiddle.

I've also found that a limber bow can take the edge off of a violin.

September 28, 2018, 12:27 AM · Cynthia, the closest decent violin shop to me is over 5hrs away so I did a lot of research and shopping online. I bought the Scott Cao 850E on a musicians resale site call Reverb. I bought it with a 15 day trial period with full refund if I didn't want it. The site supports trials and most sellers honor it. I bought the Fuchs from a violin shop I found online with the same trial option. I was very pleased with both transactions. Most all reputable shops that have a web site allow trials.

There's no need to limit yourself to one shop and it definitely opens up your options if you don't mind losing a little in shipping charges if you return one. It also allows you to try the violin in your environment privately as well as being able to get the opinion of your teacher or friends. Just a suggestion to consider. That being said, I do prefer to support local shops if they have what I want.

September 28, 2018, 3:23 PM · This shop has support, guarantees, terrific trade-ins for the whole time you own the instrument, all string instrumentalists and/or luthiers staffing the store. There is a luthier, the owner, and a luthier in training on site. The luthier shop is at the back, with windows so you can see. It is strictly orchestral strings.

I am thinking that after playing this violin almost every day for at least two hours, I have found that I really love playing the violin, I can hold it (but my hold probably needs tweeking by an instructor), and I can bow it much more easily than I can my cello. It has, in fact, helped me with my cello.

So, I think that now that I have no squeaking strings, according to my husband and I was not hearing any, I am getting better at bowing, and have a better idea what sound I want, I should at least check into getting one that I might love, as opposed to liking a lot. I can try the step up ones or equal value ones and if I like my current one better, I will just keep it, and thank them very much for their time. Does that make sense? I really have an issue with sounds that are not exactly what I expect or want. I am not pitch perfect, I can’t tune by ear (yet), but I can hear out of tune, and can tell when a sound is not what I am looking for. It really bothers me and sidetracks me to where I am thinking about that when playing, “I wish that E was mellower”, or whatever string I am playing. I had the same issue with my cello. That was solved with a $125 cello (I named her Belle) my husband bought me bought at a pawn shop while I was in a quilting class. This cello is beautiful!

That said, I am really enjoying this, and am teaching myself, “English Country Gardens” that is in my book I bought. I have it memorized, so now I am paying more attention my bowing and fingering because I don’t have to look at the music, except for senior moments. I will use this for my trial of other violins, along with an easier song that uses all the strings. The “English Country Gardens” has a good amount of string changing (crossing?), slurs (slurs between two strings, and on same string), etc to try on other violins. It does not use the C string, though. The other easy song uses all four strings, but not so much going back and forth between strings, just an exercise type song.

My thought is, I do like this violin, but would like something mellower, I would get the most towards a mellower violin at this point because there is not a scratch on it, no rosin marks (I wear disposable gloves when rosining because it is hard to get it off the fingers), no damage whatsoever. If I use it now as a trade-in, I can use it towards a better mellower violin. I really would like to try the Scott Cao. I am going to email them and ask what model Scott Cao it is in a lttle while.

I do not dispose of the gloves after each rosing session, for those environmentalists. I have them labeled left and right hand so the rosin side is always facing the same direction. When they rip, I replace the one that ripped. Also keeps rosin off the bow.

I could change the strings, but I am not sure what that would do to my trade-in value, would I have to put the Dominants back on? Plus, I don’t have other strings right now. I have the Tonica Pirastros on my cheapo violin, I put them on a couple days after I got the cheap violin, they have been used a bit, so not really interested in putting them on this violin, plus, they make the cheapo one playable, and not really bad.

I hope this makes sense.

September 28, 2018, 5:04 PM · My daughter played a 3/4 Scott Cao STV750 for a few years. That was a nice violin, playable and a surprisingly nice tone for a fractional.
Edited: September 29, 2018, 11:01 AM · The Scott Cao violin at the violin shop I will be going to is the Scott Cao STV 850. I contacted the shop and I also contacted the Scott Cao shop in California.

The Scott Cao shop responded yesterday. I was trying to find the Scott Cao 850E online because it was mentioned in Skip F’s post. I could find 750, 750E, STV 850, 850M, but no 850E, so I asked. They do not make a Scott Cao 850E. He said the “E” in the lower models refers to the wood being European. I don’t know what the “M” refers to in the 850M.

This is what they said:

“We only have STV850 Model, the 750 Model have E version cause some are made by European Wood

and all the 850 Model are made by European Wood”

Since all the 850’s use European wood, it is not necessary to use the “E” in the name. Doesn’t reflect on Skip’s model number because the seller probably just wanted to point out the European wood. Same violin.

The violin shop responded today and the violin in question is the STV850.

A week or two and I will go check them out. If I still like my Revelle, I will just keep it and not replace it, but, it is worth checking since I know more about what I prefer, now.

I love my bright cello, but it did not translate to a bright violin. Probably because the cello is much lower in tone. All a matter of preference.

September 29, 2018, 5:05 PM · Yes, when I bought the 850 the seller was using E as a suffix as well as some sites I was researching before I bought it, but it is redundant and Scott Cao doesn't use it as a designation because all 850s use European tonewoods. I had gotten used to attaching the E. The "M" suffix designates a distressed finish, strictly aesthetic.

Bare in mind that within the 850 series, as well as the 750 series, there are various models made in honor of historic violins and makers. Regardless, all that matters is if you like the sound, regardless of model. Good luck in your search.

September 29, 2018, 5:05 PM · Yes, when I bought the 850 the seller was using E as a suffix as well as some sites I was researching before I bought it, but it is redundant and Scott Cao doesn't use it as a designation because all 850s use European tonewoods. I had gotten used to attaching the E. The "M" suffix designates a distressed finish, strictly aesthetic.

Bare in mind that within the 850 series, as well as the 750 series, there are various models made in honor of historic violins and makers. Regardless, all that matters is if you like the sound, regardless of model. Good luck in your search.

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