Anyone Try Warchal Karneol Viola Strings?

March 11, 2019, 12:24 PM · Hey everyone,

I got my viola restored (a great ebay find! German, c. 1900. $900 total for the instrument and restoration work and is appraised at $2500!) and it's pretty resonant already, and will continue to open. It's got Dominants on it, but is pretty in-your-face, so I need something that will settle it down a bit.

Has anyone tried Karneols? I am thinking of getting the Amber A. The tone right now isn't bright, per se. It's definitely rich, but extremely loud, especially under the ear, and resonates for several seconds after releasing a note.

Any other brands/combos would be appreciated too! I know lots of violists like Larsen.

I'm looking for something that will keep the color and richness, but maybe slightly less projecting, unless it being so loud is a good thing?

Replies (23)

March 11, 2019, 12:30 PM · Move soundpost away from bridge. Shorten afterlength.

These are adjustments you can make to changw the sound the way you want without spending any money.

March 11, 2019, 12:55 PM · What's the after length? I also don't have the soundpost moving tool.

Also, when I do get new strings, what length do I want? I've got a 15". I'm new to viola, as you can probably tell.

March 11, 2019, 1:24 PM · The afterlength is the bit of string between the bridge and tailpiece. It can be shortened by taking the strings off and turning the little nuts on the tailgut to make it longer.
The soundpost can be adjusted with any bent piece of wire if you loosen the top two strings and tap it carefully in the direction you want. Just don't knock it down if you choose to move it, because putting it upright can be frustrating for a beginner.

I think even violin strings have enough extra to fit on a 15" viola.

March 11, 2019, 1:25 PM · DON'T ATTEMPT TO MOVE THE SOUNDPOST ON YOUR OWN!!!!
Edited: March 11, 2019, 2:08 PM · Also - do Not loosen all the strings at the same time. The sound-post might slip, or fall. Take it back to the Luthier that restored it. If that string rings for a very long time after bowing a note, the sound-post might be too loose or too far from the bridge, not to close to the bridge.
Edited: March 11, 2019, 2:52 PM · In my opinion, viola can never be too loud. Too much resonance (reverb) can pose a problem, if it is indeed in seconds...
Karneol are fine strings, although you can get more for your $ if you use Cantiga with an A string of your preference.
If I were you, I would postpone string changes until you sort out basic sound qualities of the instrument. Dominants are a very good starting position. Again, matching sting gauge with vibrating string length can solve a lot of (needless) problems on viola.
March 11, 2019, 3:03 PM · Karneol is excellent, I'm using the C/G/D now on my viola, together with a Larsen A.

I like the projection of Kaplan Forza, but Karneol sounds great on my instrument and doesn't cost very much!

March 11, 2019, 3:15 PM · Of course, Lyndon—how silly it was for me to suggest that they learn how to maintain the instrument they play without being completely dependent on someone they have to pay out of their own pocket to do the same uncomplicated work.
March 11, 2019, 4:26 PM · only an idiot would think that setting a soundpost is easy work!!
March 11, 2019, 4:35 PM · Getting back to the topic at hand...I'm also curious to hear of people's experiences with the Karneol viola strings. Oddly enough, I almost bought a set this morning but stopped myself because I wanted to read more reviews. So this thread is extremely timely.

I'm in a slightly different position from Kristen; I want to replace the Helicores that came on my rental viola. They're practically brand new, but I Cannot. Stand. Helicores. So I'm looking for a synthetic that won't break the bank - it's a rental, after all - but will warm up the viola a bit.

March 11, 2019, 4:50 PM · Just trolling-and bragging-due to bad experiences he/she has had with luthiers. It's best to ignore.

I know of a teacher that did his own setups, and even one expert bowmaker that knew him disagreed with that course of action. If you are confident in your work, go ahead, but I agree that it's definitely not the right answer for Ms. Stadelmaier, and a needless "I know better than you all" kind of post.

No offense intended. Sometimes people are blind to the tone of their own comments in this era of "say whatever you want because of freedom of speech". There are always better ways to state one's thoughts without debasing oneself in the process.

I can likely be a violinist who also is a car mechanic, a lawyer, and a brain surgeon-that doesn't mean I should devote time to those other areas of expertise. I definitely prefer a good luthier do even the easiest repair than attempt to do all myself with google and even the best of books.

I love and advocate self-reliance, but there are limits to this, in my opinion. One can be smart and skilled without needing to show off. And unfortunately, that's how it's coming accross.

Apologies, but I felt it needed to be stated one last time. Good luck to all.

Edited: March 11, 2019, 5:27 PM · Hey, guys, I can go see my luthier. He would do those adjustments for free for me, always has. I'm not naive enough to try and move stuff around in there by myself, or loosen all my strings at once;that would be really dumb. I had the other orchestra teacher play on it today, and she said she really liked it. I'll keep the Karneols in mind, and play these Dominants in for a month or so and see how they are. I'll check out the Cantigas too!

In general, what does the Larsen A do to the sound? I've played on violas that had extremely whiny and weak A's, and always thought the A would be whiny (it was always the school stock instruments, which is probably why they sounded bad).

March 11, 2019, 6:32 PM · Karneol didn't work on my viola. I use Larsen A, Vision Solo D, G and Permanent C.
March 11, 2019, 6:55 PM · My viola came with Dominants and my luthier suggested Obligatos, which was a big improvement. I have not tried the Warchals.

Some violinists are comfortable making their own small adjustments. Some prefer to leave this work to those with proven skill. I am in the latter category when it comes to my violins, even though I have made a lot of my own furniture. Dalton Potter, a well-known luthier and shop-owner, published a book called "Kitchen Table Violin Repairs" which shows what a person who is reasonably handy with tools and detail handiwork can accomplish on his or her own.

I have my sound post adjusted seasonally by a luthier. At that time he also does an all-over inspection. If I were going to try adjusting the tail-gut AND adjusting the sound post, I would certainly not try this myself as my first violin DIY project. However, I am concerned that my local luthier may be leaving my area. Not sure what I will do then. Probably I'll have to be more brave.

March 11, 2019, 7:49 PM · Kristen, it's hard to guess how a Larsen A might work - I think the effect is more unpredictable than is the case with most strings.

Which A strings are you used to?

Edited: March 11, 2019, 8:33 PM · I love the Karneols on my 17” viola. Deep, resonant, and lovely. Fantastic price/performance ratio.

However, I had first tried them on my 16.5” viola, and they didn’t wow me on that instrument.

I had the Warchal Brilliants on there before, which were brighter and with perhaps a bit more horsepower. But I chose to play viola for the richness and depth. Loving the Karneols on this viola in that regards.

EDIT: In my experience, the Larsen A is almost universal due to its clarity without screeching, and a full, not thin tone.

In regards to the Karneols, using their synthetic A is an interesting possibility as well.

March 11, 2019, 10:33 PM · I'm new to having my own viola, so I haven't used instruments with good strings; just whatever the schools had that I was subbing at. So, either red labels or Preludes, and they weren't the best instruments to begin with, as you could imagine a public school would have.

I've heard good things about the Visions, what do they typically do for an instrument?

I might try the Karneols with a Larsen A. The website was going to give them to me for half off, which is nice!

Has anyone tried the Amber A? My Amber E was beautiful on my violin (it's got Timbres now, except for an EP Gold A, thanks to a faulty Timbre A that snapped. Not my favorite strings, despite the raving reviews), so I'm wondering if it has the same (or similar) effect on viola.

March 11, 2019, 11:28 PM · The Larsen A is just awesome. Clear, beautiful, and responsive, without any nasally whine. I used to just suck it up and used the Kaplan Forza A since the set was already kind of expensive, but with Karneol C/G/D being so cheap, I'm happy to splurge for the Larsen.

March 13, 2019, 7:35 AM · Thanks Gene! I'll probably invest in the Larsen. How long do they last with regular playing? I'll be teaching, so I'll probably be playing ~10-15 hours per week.

Also, anyone have good experiences with Pirastro? I tried EP Gold's on my violin and hated them. I've heard Pirazzis have a short lifespan too, which I'd like to avoid.

March 14, 2019, 2:55 PM · Hi Kristen - I took the plunge and ordered the Karneol viola set (with synthetic A). It's not an overly expensive experiment, even it it goes terribly wrong. And I've just got to get those Helicores off of it! Anyway, give them a few days to arrive/settle in, and I'll report back!

As for Pirastro strings, well, I can't weigh in on their viola strings. I've tried Obligato and Tonica violin strings and have liked them both.

It seems I can divide strings broadly into "strings that work for me" and "unmitigated disasters." Sure, there are differences among good strings, but I think usually they're fairly subtle - and they pale in comparison to the differences among instruments. But then there are the strings that just don't work at all for me or my instrument. I've never liked Helicores on ANY instrument - violin, viola or cello - that I've played them on. And I've had a couple of total disasters on cello - one was the Belcanto Gold C/G strings. Some people love them, but on my cello they were the raspiest, harshest sounding things I've ever heard. The other memorable disaster was when I accidentally ordered Spirocore Silver C/G instead of tungsten. Those were so sluggish and unresponsive that I thought something was wrong with my cello.

Anyway...sorry for the ramble. I don't know if this is remotely helpful for you. :)

March 14, 2019, 7:07 PM · The Amber A is pretty good, but Larsen sounds much freer and open for me. To stop a whiny A, a wound gut or synthetic A would be the best solution. The Eudoxa A is definitely the most beautiful A string you can buy, but not so clear and penetrating in high positions as steel. The steel A can sound fine for even up to 6 months if you clean it properly.

Obligatos were terrible for me. Completely dead with no overtones. The Pi D string is amazingly warm, my favorite so far.

March 15, 2019, 6:47 AM · Thanks guys! I like reading about everyone's experiences, so keep them coming!

I hate Helicores too, I think they're even worse than red labels (and that's saying a lot...)

I had Obligatos on my violin, and it liked them a lot! I like them second to my Warchal Brilliant vintage G and D, Russian A, and Amber E combo.

James, I didn't even think about the Infelds, I forgot about them! If they weren't so expensive I'd try them out.

I tried finding out how expensive the Larsen is, but I couldn't find a price on the Larsen website. How much are we talking when we say "splurge for a Larsen A"?

March 15, 2019, 7:12 AM · $20+ bucks for a Larsen A


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