Warchal Amber strings: Louder?????

March 6, 2019, 9:31 PM · A customer of mine has a disappointingly quiet fairly modern Belgian violin, by a supposedly respected maker, and kept shopping with me for louder instruments. He had it strung in Warchal Karneol and it had a feeble tone, not bad quality but muted. He was always complaining he couldn't hear himself in his community orchestra. Well recently he purchased a set of Warchal Amber for it and low and behold the instrument sounds twice as loud. How is this possible, has this happened for any one else using Warchal Amber

Replies (27)

March 6, 2019, 10:21 PM · I have not used Warchal Ambers, but I have tried Warchal Timbres on 4 violins with mixed but generally good results.

On what is probably my best violin the Timbres are great - but no better than the EP-Gold set topped with a PI-Pt E string on just previously. This violin lost all its umpf when I tried Tricolores with a Goldbrokat E.

The Timbres really brought my two less impressive violins to life, but one of them did better with a Warchal Avantgarde (steel) A string replacing the A from the Timbre set. In fact these Warchal strings have brought both these violins out of decades long "retirement." Certainly seems to me the sound level is at least doubled - under the chin and in cello position, which is as close as I can get to "projection."

My 4th violin was totally underwhelming with the Timbre strings but great with the Tricolore/Goldbrokat set, as it has been with every other string set or mix I've ever used on it since I bought it in 1974.

All my violins were handmade in the last 68 years by luthiers I have met, two of whom are in listed in Henley's (although I realize that doesn't necessarily mean anything).

March 6, 2019, 10:27 PM · Maybe this violin likes the lower tension of the Warchals?
March 6, 2019, 10:59 PM · Are Amber a lower tension string, how do they compare to Karneol which he had on before??
Edited: March 7, 2019, 12:11 AM · Karneol has even lower tension than Amber. Source: https://www.warchal.com/tension_chart_violin.html

So the reverse might be true, that his instrument likes the higher tension of Amber. Or maybe because the Karneol set he had was old.

March 7, 2019, 12:24 AM · Good points, I'll check how old the Karneols were.
March 7, 2019, 1:20 AM · Ambers have a lot of overtones. It may be that the violin responds well to those.

An interesting experiment would be to see if plain gut strings had a similar effect.

March 7, 2019, 1:55 AM · Funny the violin sounded kind of plain, moderate volume, not loud, whereas it used to be very quiet. He's trying out one of my violins that's quite a bit louder, and richer in overtones, with basic Tonica strings. He's very picky about all the notes having almost equal volume and resonance, he's tried a lot of my violins and always finds some fault with them, which is strange because his instrument is really flawed.
March 7, 2019, 4:20 AM · I really like Amber strings and feel they are comparable to Dominants.

Perhaps your customer might be happy with his own violin whatever its faults and is not really that interested in buying another. It does take effort to pull big sound from a violin and maybe this player is content with just plugging along.

March 7, 2019, 4:24 AM · He's definitely not happy with it, but thinks he has to get an expensive violin, while he only has the budget for what I am showing him.
March 7, 2019, 4:58 AM · He wants to be able to hear himself play when he's in the orchestra, he's going to try my violin in the orchestra and see what he thinks.
Edited: March 7, 2019, 8:36 AM · being Belgian myself I would be interested to know the name of that Belgian maker? not that it should imply anything bad about them in general.
March 7, 2019, 2:28 PM · Either higher-tension or lower-tension strings can make a violin sound louder/better, it depends heavily on the instrument, in my experience.

Some violins seem to need extra tension to get them firing on all cylinders, while other violins will be "choked" by higher tension strings (preferring lower tension instead).

Karneol sounded sort of bland when I tried them, while the Ambers more color/overtones and a solid tonal fundament, so perhaps that is part of what he is hearing.

March 7, 2019, 3:03 PM · Oh its Danish, not Belgian; Amon Bilmark student of Sacconi, 1944
March 7, 2019, 3:07 PM · Evidently the old Karneol strings were two years old, so that might be a large part of the problem, as he plays quite a bit. He liked my violin enough that we just ordered Warchal Amber for my violin, they'll be here on Saturday, barely more than the cost of Dominants, twice the cost of my Tonicas.
Edited: March 7, 2019, 3:23 PM · I recently fitted a set of Ambers, together with an Avantgarde A, to my Jay Haide. The result is louder, both subjectively and objectively, a comment I can justify because I got my daughter to play it for me today while she's visiting from Belgium. I tried the Ambers on my 18th c violin last year, and although they were generally satisfactory they weren't superior to the gut setup I usually have on that violin, and didn't quite have the gut tone. In contrast, gut has never worked really well on my Jay Haide, but since I want to use the Jay Haide regularly in symphony orchestra it has now got to be the Amber setup to bring out what I'm convinced that modern violin should be capable of.

The gut-strung old violin is more suitable for chamber orchestras and 18th c repertoire.

Bottom line: horses for courses.

March 7, 2019, 5:31 PM · I have heard the opposite-that Amber are more muted than many synthetics. But also, Mr. Warchal and his team revised their core material for the newer and louder Timbre-which I also have not used.

Let's make it clear, however, that it's not the rule that synthetics must be louder than gut. I find the difference so minuscule, that it hardly matters much-especially considering that you have to dig in deeper, because the more dense synthetics are not as fast as they are touted to be, requiring more bow pressure. I respect all of my favorite soloists who still use Evah Pirazzi or Dominant, but am sure they would have no problem playing Eudoxa/Tricolore/Oliv/whathaveyou (one can only dream they tried these, though busy soloists rarely have the time to stray clear of the "tried and true" they have used for so long.)

A few years back, I remember listening to a Shaham interview in which he stated that, while he is used to Dominants, his Oliv (he was doing all solo Bach evening recitals at the time, and was using them back then) were not really less powerful, despite what one would think.

Having said this, I am sure some violins, modern or otherwise, are not a good fit with Tricolore, Eudoxa, etc. But it's best to try rather than assume all gut strings "project less" for modern violins-or "modern" players, for that matter.

Best wishes! No debate intended. Warchal makes good synthetic strings anyway.

March 7, 2019, 10:09 PM · Mr. Lyndon,

You answered the question-synthetics cannot hope to sound any good for that long. Even a cheap set would have sounded louder, and possibly better.

Was just checking Warchal for tension info, and Amber is just a tiny bit more high tension than Karneol. Tonica is higher than both, but "normal". In general, Warchal tends to favor low tension, as even his heaviest lines (Timbre and regular Brilliant) are not super heavy relative to many popular synthetics.

Still, your customer's problem were his strings being ancient. I don't know how your instrument selection sounds, but if he cares so much about tone, I am surprised at his cheap attitude towards getting new strings every few months. A new set of Amber would have been an incredible improvement, even if they would have been a bit less brilliant than others.

March 7, 2019, 10:19 PM · Well my violin he is trialing is strung in Tonica, I hope the Amber are better for him, and especially not any quieter. I didn't originally know his old strings were so old when I started this thread, now that I do, maybe I'm not so amazed by the Amber's volume.
March 8, 2019, 5:00 PM · I think Tonicas are just as good as Dominant or Ambers and wonder if any soloist use them.
March 8, 2019, 8:38 PM · Aaron Rosand used light-gauge Tonicas after he switched from his all-gut setup. Other than that, I know of no soloists who use them.

March 10, 2019, 7:31 AM · Thanks Douglas.
Edited: March 10, 2019, 2:07 PM · I recently put a set of Karneol on one of my violins, and they are quite good, about the same price as Pro-Arte, Corelli, Tonica, and as good or better than Dominant. I have never tried the higher-priced synthetic strings, as I don't see much point in getting anything that costs more than gut. Yes, I am cheap, and I don't own a fine instrument. The Amber E is good, with that distinctive twist to prevent whistling. Otherwise, I use the very inexpensive Goldbrokat E, available in 3 gauges. Part of the problem in finding the optimum tension is that the total force on the top plate is function of the angle of the strings to the bridge, which the player cannot control. And- to the unnamed customer; if you are an orchestra section player and you Can hear yourself during loud tutti passages, you might be playing sharp- not blending with the chord.
March 10, 2019, 2:40 PM · Though I have never used them, the Karneol should indeed be good nylon strings, and their tension is quite "good" (low) for my preference. Glad Warchal keeps manufacturing their older lines like that.

Goldbrokat sound good-there are also nice and more expensive Es, but it really isn't any "worse" just because it's affordable. I have used the very heavy E eons ago, but prefer medium Goldbrokat nowadays.

I agree, one of the things I utterly dislike about hyped, modern synthetic sets (such as Infeld Pi and some others) is the horrible price. A "humble" set of Gold Label is "better" for my money, while costing less. Even a good modern gut string such as Passione seems expensive to me when I could buy expensive Oliv or relatively moderately priced Eudoxa/Gamut, etc.

Karneol, Tonica, Cantiga (though I would use "medium-light" for those), and some others seem to me like a very easy recommendation for the full size violin student *and* professional, if they prefer not using gut. You do not need to have the most expensive set available to have a great and beautiful sounding violin tone (not even projection must be a result of pricey strings.)

Edited: March 10, 2019, 4:16 PM · This is not a Warchal thing. Replacing a darker string with a brighter string of any brand can make a violin sound like a completely different instrument. I think strings can have much more impact than, say, 20 years ago. The technology has changed a lot since Dominants.

If this guy would like even more volume, take the Ambers off and put on Vision Solos.

And it's possible there is more at work here than simply the strings.

If a fiddle has a sound post that isn't making good contact with both plates of a violin, sometimes a higher tension string will solve the problem by pressing down the top more strongly. Sometimes you can achieve this effect simply by changing to a higher tension E string.

A lot of times, just loosening strings, moving the bridge back and forth, and then re-tightening the strings can get the top plate to re-seat itself over the sound post and the violin sounds a lot better.

If you hear a little creak as the the string tightens, that can be your top plate easing itself into the right place. It's a trick that is always worth trying if you feel like your violin sounds too muted or flat.

March 10, 2019, 5:12 PM · I can assure you the soundpost is fit properly!!

The customer says he likes the sound a lot better with the Amber, but its not any louder than Tonica, if anything slightly less so.

Edited: March 10, 2019, 6:44 PM · I would not describe the sound of Warchal Amber strings as "muted", at least not on my violin. Less aggressive & with more overtones than many synthetics that I have tried. Ambers have a very clean sweetish sound, which improves as they age, and reminds me of Eudoxas as they use to be. And they seem to me last longer than other synthetics. My violin is a modern Del Gesu copy, with a powerful dark voice, and the Vision Titanium Solos I had been using seemed to make the instrument sound much too forceful. I had to learn to back off quite a bit when playing in a group. It's still powerful enough with the Ambers, but I like the sound better. I'm on my third set now. I can well imagine that with some instruments the Ambers could make make them sound louder as Lyndon describes, and they'd certainly improve the tone generally.

I've experimented with other strings such as Dominants, Tonicas, both regular Eva Pirazzis and Golds, Obligatos, Vision Titanium Solos, and Passiones (which are the only kind I liked as much as the Ambers). EP Gold sounded ugly and wolfish on this violin. I haven't used Eudoxa or Olivs in many years, but will probably try them out again soon for nostalgia's sake.

Edited: March 10, 2019, 6:41 PM · I think we've established that the reason the Amber sounded so much louder on the customer's violin is because his old strings were much to old and needed replacing badly.

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