My comparison of Tonicas and Dominants

Edited: July 28, 2019, 6:29 AM · After half an hour's comparison, I found the following.
Are my findings unique or usual? Or could the two instruments be having as much affect as the strings?

The Dominants have superior G and D strings, but the Dominant A string makes a harsher sound than the Tonica.

Both E strings are solid steel and sound fine when bowed. The Tonica vibrates more when plucked and is comfortable to play and is thinner. The Dominant sounds dead when plucked, is thicker, and cuts into my little finger like cheesewire. Being thicker than the Tonica, it may have more tension.

Replies (10)

Edited: July 28, 2019, 9:11 AM · I think you would have better luck with your testing if you treated the E-string as a constant rather than a variable. What I mean is, there's not really any such thing as a "Tonica E." It's either the "Silvery E" common to many Pirastro string sets, with the silk changed match the rest of the set, or the Aluminum wound steel E. Similarly, there are a variety of Dominant Es, the most basic one being pretty lackluster. Since your E-string choice (and especially its tension) makes a big difference to how your violin responds, you would get pretty wide results if you just left Dominants on there and tried all 3 - 5 or whatever Tonica / Dominant E string options.

I would get some normal E-string, like Wondertone Gold label Medium, or Westminster, or even Goldbrokat, that you know gets good basic results, and then see how the other strings respond in that framework.

Tonicas and Dominants are pretty similar strings; what mainly sets them apart is the variation in string tension. The Tonica G string, in particular, is one of the higher-tension ones. It's about the same as an Evah green or a stark gauge Dominant. So maybe what your results suggest is not that Dominant D / G are superior strings, necessarily, but that your fiddle responds less well to higher tension on the bass bar.

July 28, 2019, 9:46 AM · I've ordered a wound Dominant E string, but I've just been paying the bare steel one for a hour, and my fingers are used to it now.
July 28, 2019, 10:23 AM · My continuing experience over the past 50 years of trying different strings on different violins is that it is the violin itself that determines which strings are best.

My first experience with Dominants and Tonicas dates back 50 years when the one violin I had (and had always strung one Eudoxas) was intolerant of the new Thomastik Dominant string set. When Pirastro introduced Tonicas shortly afterwards they were just right. A few years later two other violins I purchased were just fine with Dominants and I never tried them with Tonicas. Twenty-odd years ago, after moving to the SF Bay Area, I was sort of surprised to find that "my violin shop" still strung all their house brand violins with Dominants, bat ut was not long before I saw that some were being strung with Tonicas instead. This confirmed what I thought I had learned years before - that the violin made a real difference.

About 15 years ago a Violin Society of America (VSA) convention held (and published in their journal) a round-table string discussion among world-class experts. They based their discussions around Dominant violin strings as the baseline standard. It makes interesting reading.

Edited: July 28, 2019, 11:29 AM · I would find it difficult to evaluate string qualities after one hour. Maybe, 3 days at the earliest, Dominants between 2 and 3 weeks, depending on how much you play.
July 28, 2019, 2:14 PM · I agree with Jeff. The difference between newly tensionned strings and the same after they settle can be rather significant.
Edited: July 28, 2019, 2:55 PM · I find that that is only true if you don't follow Pirastro's Thomastik's instructions for friction/heat setting new strings. Once new strings have become pitch stable they sound pretty much how they will sound until they wear out.


July 28, 2019, 3:20 PM · Jeff and Roger are correct: you cannot draw any meaningful comparison with new strings. Dominants always sound harsh at first, probably for several days.

In my opinion, Tonicas and Dominants are very close in sound and playing. The difference for me is durability: in general, I have consistently found that the windings on Dominants are more durable and suffers from less tendency to separate. It may be related to width of winding. The narrower the winding, the less any one winding is going to bend and separate. I remember Synoxa being particularly prone to winding separation. Same for Eudoxa A.

July 28, 2019, 5:37 PM · I've had that problem with Dominant As. In fact, the relatively short lifespan of Dominant A strings is what first prompted me to experiment with Russian style steel As.
Edited: July 28, 2019, 5:49 PM · I find that brand-new Thomastik strings have a certain metallic harshness that persists for a few days after they are pitch-stable. For me they are typically pitch-stable after two days, but the timbre takes 4-10 days to settle. This is true across all the Thomastik brands I've tried (Dominant, Vision, Vision Solo).
July 28, 2019, 5:49 PM · I had at least 3-4 times problem with windings in the lowest position of a Tonica A, a gap just out of the package. Impossibile to play a B or C.
Everytime some Pirastro man send me a replacement.

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