Arcus 9: S vs P vs M

September 22, 2019, 7:20 PM · The discussion a few months ago regarding the quality of Arcus 9 bows has prompted me to do a bow trial with Fischer over the next few weeks. I’ve requested a 9 model in the three letter types each: S, P, and M. If the US distributor has all three in stock, I should get them by the end of the week or so.

My thought process is to first decide which letter sounds the best on my violin. Arcus says the M is warmer than the S, and the P is somewhat in between the other two. My minor maker modern Italian is a little bright, so I’m hopeful that the M model will warm it up like a comparably priced antique, but I’m going to try out all three to get comfortable with my choice. After that, if I go with an S or P, i’ll request the stick shape I don’t have (round if I already tried octagonal, or vice versa). M only comes in round. And, i’ll request some 8 sticks to compare to the 9–Jim Fischer is fairly confident he won’t be able to get two 9 sticks of the same type though.

At the end of this, we’ll see if the Arcus compares to antiques. Lydia, I have to say your comment is what prompted me to want to try this out. If indeed an Arcus 9 handles like a comparable antique, that would indeed be a great value in my book compared to using a vulnerable antique. We’ll see!

I may request some pernambuco bows in a similar price point as a final trial to compare to the Arcus stick I pick, as a final confirmation.

I’ll report back what I find.

Replies (11)

September 23, 2019, 11:28 AM · Be aware that a lot of people find the S8 to be a better value. It's much less expensive than a 9, and the handling qualities are pretty similar.

I have tried several sticks of S8 and S9 at this point, and I can feel a handling difference but it's not night and day. Be aware that every S8 and S9 is pretty individual.

I have tried earlier M and P bows but have not had the chance to try an M8/M9 or P8/P9.

If I were playing professionally, with a need for a top-notch CF bow on a day to day basis, I'd probably have bought an S9. As is, I swap to my perfectly adequate JP Avanti when need be.

Edited: September 23, 2019, 2:21 PM · If it's useful, on saturday i'll go to Mondomusica fair in Cremona (Italy) with my violin, just to test and play all the upper class Arcus bows i can, all day if i need it ..... :)

If a review is welcome, i'll do it..........

I'll take a chance to test Codas too, if they'll still be present.

September 23, 2019, 2:46 PM · Try out the JonPauls too while you're there, especially the Carrera and Vetta. And a Coda Marquise. :-)
September 23, 2019, 2:48 PM · I have already tested a Marquise. I'll do it again.

I've never seen JonPauls in Italy and in Cremona. I'll ask if they are there.

September 23, 2019, 2:54 PM · I think you'll find it depends on the match with your instrument.

When I was trying my lowly Arcus 4s, the M was the best bow I could find within my modest price range and the S sounded actively unpleasant - worse than any other conventional or carbon bow I tried. As you'd expect, the P was somewhere in between.

The luthiers said that this extreme disparity between the models was quite common with the Arcus, particularly with the S - instruments seem to either love it or hate it.

September 23, 2019, 4:24 PM · I love my S8, and almost twenty years ago played for some time on the previous Concerto model.

For me, the super-lightweight and extremely stiff S series bows are where Arcus shines. They play so differently from conventional bows that if the time to acclimatize to their behavior is not done, it is difficult to appreciate what they are capable of. I sold a wonderful vintage French bow that was just a bit too heavy for me to navigate the more challenging passages and have not looked back--especially as I get older, I really appreciate how much easier it is to endure long rehearsals! Of course, my violin loves the S, it was like a perfect pairing. I've had a couple colleagues' instruments not work as well with it.

September 23, 2019, 5:10 PM · Jason, I'd really be surprised if an Arcus handled "like a comparable antique" - as Gene stated, there isn't such a thing. The arcus, especially the S series, are a very special species. When testing in the 5-7 range (never tried an 8 or 9) I really loved the handling, the easiness they brought into playing, the agility and springiness while perfectly under control, and I liked the sound on several violins which weren't in my possession. I preferred lightweight bows back then anyway. On my own violin, which is also on the bright side, they just weren't my piece of cake. If I'll ever go violin shopping again, I'll take the arcus into serious consideration again. But since your instrument is also a bright one, don't feel too disappointed if you experience them the same way as I did. Take your time, and keep us updated!
Edited: September 23, 2019, 9:02 PM · The thing I liked about the S9 I tried is that I didn't feel like I had to adjust my technique. I had it in a pile with a bunch of mostly-French antiques in the $7-11k price range when I was trying out bows, and I didn't have that flyweight sensation that had previously bothered me about the Arcus bows. This bow stayed in the string, tracked smoothly, and still had excellent, predictable agility. If I hadn't known what it was, I wouldn't have instantly been able to distinguish it from everything else on the table.
Edited: September 23, 2019, 10:56 PM · That’s exactly why I’m going to try them out, to see if I get that same experience or not.

Acoustically, Lydia, do you recall what you thought of that stick?

Also, I have a Carrera I bought three years ago. It handles very well, but plays bright. It’s been good to learn on. If I don’t end up liking the tone of the Arcus bows and have to keep searching for a new primary bow I’ll definitely keep it as my backup when I resume shopping for an antique bow.

September 23, 2019, 11:37 PM · Acoustically, it was quite nice on my Vuillaume. It had warmth without the CF edge really being noticeable. It was tonally non-outstanding compared to the other bows, neither notably good or bad, which for CF is pretty good.
September 25, 2019, 12:29 PM · I played my first arcus bow in NY city at a luthier (I forgot which one).
It was a custom made bow for some norse soloist, who was apparently 2m high and the bow was a good inch longer than a regular violin bow.

I held it in my arm and got goosebumps from sheer weightlessness of it. It was like holding thin air. The sound it drew from my fiddle was nothing short of spectacular and although I later played bows twice it’s value - none of them made such an impact on me.

Do not know if it was a 9 or 8, but I think - for the money - you will be hard pressed to find better.

I also have a JonPaul (dunno what... something cheap for 300 usd) and it’s not thin sounding at all. If anything it sounds thick and resonably loud. Of cource my penambucco bow draws more overtones and is louder, but it’s also less forgiving an handles like a race car... you end up in the ditch fast... so good cf has it’s merrit.

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