Gut string gauge (Eudoxa, Oliv heavy vs Passione solo)

Edited: April 30, 2020, 2:34 AM · Greetings! Last year I acquired a new instrument, a very nice 19th century French violin from a maker who was a Vuillaume employee. This significant change in sound quality and increase in power encouraged me to dabble in gut strings, which work much better on this instrument than on instruments I had before.

I've tried Eudoxas and Olivs, using medium regular sets as well as with rigid medium gauge stiff Ds and Gs, which seemed to be more practical. I think I actually prefer the Eudoxas over the Olivs, they seemed more transparent, perhaps brighter without being that much softer than the Olivs, and I love the low tension response - they are a dream to play on, and I actually think they respond much better than the high tension synthetics that the violin came with.

I am now trying Passione Solo, and while I prefer the sound quality of the Eudoxas overall (and probably Olivs as well), I can't ignore the apparent difference in volume. The D and G strings just seem much louder, and although I haven't tested it in a hall (impossible at the moment) at home the difference seems quite noticeable. I definitely miss the complicated, singing sound and response of the Eudoxa stiff G and regular A strings, though.

Comparing tensions on the Pirastro website I see that the Eudoxa strings (of any kind) are far less tense than the Passione solo strings. I'm wondering how Eudoxa strings (stiff for the lower strings) at the heaviest gauges (other than E string) would compare. I'm hoping the power would increase without the response or complexity getting far worse. I don't find the response of the Passione Solo set to be a problem, although perhaps they are not quite as lightning quick as the Eudoxas felt.

Unfortunately trying out the innumerable permutations of gut strings is not cheap so I'd like to try to get the opinion of the gut aficionados on this forum before pulling the trigger on heavy gauge Eudoxas.

Replies (21)

April 30, 2020, 3:55 AM · After having tried all these strings, my personal answer is: none of the above! I (and many others I suspect) had the exact same problem as you. Wanting the quality of Eudoxa, but needing more volume. I would say the Tricolor G string by Gamut is the best wound gut G that would suit your taste. The Tricolor wound D I am not sure, I just ordered one so I will find out.
Edited: April 30, 2020, 5:58 AM · James, what gauge do you recommend for Tricolore? The options keep multiplying! Did you try any heavier gauge Eudoxa? I want to stick to wound gut, by the way, since I live in a humid location.
April 30, 2020, 5:25 AM · Another good option is the Lenzner SuperSolo. I have done wound D and G, with plain A. I have also tried Eudoxa but not on the same violin so I can not compare directly.

(FWIW, Passione Solo I found to be too stiff and colorless vs the regular.)

The wound Tricolor g/d/a, I think, also sounded very fine although I seem to remember having a set that wouldn’t stop stretching. Maybe worth revisiting that.

Edited: April 30, 2020, 6:44 AM · What a fun coincidence - I, too, have switched to a 19th-century violin made by a student of Vuillaume late last year! Unfortunately, I'm not knowledgable at all when it comes to different gauges, but, for what it's worth, I've been experimenting with different string sets on my violin, and talked to Pirastro about it, too, so I'd like to share what I've found out so far:
the violin came with three green Evahs and a Larsen-E and sounded very nice, to begin with. I've had a set of golden Evahs and regular Olivs lying around and liked both of them less than the combo that came with the violin. The golden Evahs (which I play right now, too, so that they don't go to waste) are perhaps louder and more brilliant, but not as rich, and emphasize the highs too much for my liking. The Olivs sounded wonderfully warm but too timid and quiet for my liking (I'd love to compare them to the Eudoxas after what you've said), and too Italian sounding if that makes sense. I'm telling you this because that's what I've told Pirastro in an email, asking them for advice. I told them the build year and origin of the violin, too. They recommended to try out the Passiones (regular, not Solo) and sent me a set with a discount so that I could try them out. I've played them for a very long time, must've been four months, or so, because they held up remarkably well for me, and am about to give the original Evah/Larsen-set another go. For me, the Passiones sounded wonderful. Complex and warm, but with enough bite for my liking, and definitely easier under the fingers than the Evahs. They weren't especially transparent if that's what you're looking for, but weren't a sheer force, either. Maybe just a little too reserved for my taste. The main reason I'm going back to the Evahs is just the price-tag. The green ones are still much cheaper than the Passiones and if they don't sound much worse to me it would be less of a burden for the cheap student that I am.

Sorry that I'm not quite as informative as I'd like to be, but I figured that having such a similar violin my experiences might still be of some value (and I'd love to read more of yours, too!), but the TL;DR would be this:

I am very content with Pirastro's help. I feel like they took into account the information I provided them with and would do the same if you contacted them. Feel free to tell them what strings you've liked and didn't like so far and why, and ask them for a recommendation; concerning gauges, too. I'm sure they know what strings they'd pair up with what climate and instrument.

Best of luck, I'll be following this thread as if it were my own :)

April 30, 2020, 7:35 AM · Tricolor G should be medium or heavy. I think even medium is slightly more powerful and bright than the heaviest gauge Eudoxa stiff.
April 30, 2020, 8:10 AM · Other posters can chime in on this, but I believe Passiones are probably much more durable than EP greens, which can fall right off the edge of the table after 6 weeks or so. Enough of a difference to justify a higher price, or at least remove most of the pain.
April 30, 2020, 4:20 PM · Disclaimer: I am not a gut aficionado, although I have used Passiones. One question to ask yourself is what sort of venues you want the strings for. If you are primarily a chamber musician playing in smaller venues, you do not need the extra projection that Passiones may provide and pure gut may work well, whereas the Passiones may provide the projection you want in larger venues when you are playing with an orch, for example. Obviously, there are a number of factors to consider, but this particular one is worth keeping in mind, as is the question of what strings actually sound best on your instrument. Good luck!
Edited: April 30, 2020, 4:37 PM · I really like the Aquila light-gauge G string (it's made for A4 = 432 Hz tuning, so it's more like a medium at 440). It's round-wound and lacks the silk layer between the metal winding and gut core. All Pirastro strings have it—it makes the sound warmer and duller. Not necessarily bad, but I love the bright, growly tone of G strings that don't have that silk layer.

Gamut gives you the option to remove the silk layer on their Academie strings, but they're more expensive than Aquila. Very fine strings nonetheless.

May 1, 2020, 1:42 AM · I guess in the end there is no other way to satisfy my curiosity other than to try - so I think I'll order some Eudoxa stiff at maximum gauge well as Tricolore all wound at heavy guauge. Interestingly the Tricolore wound A tension is significantly higher at all gauges than the Passione solo, I wonder why that is. The Passione solo A is perhaps the string that I have the most reservations with regards to response, so let's see how it goes. I really love the sound of Eudoxas so if the heavy gauge gives me a little more without responding like rubber bands I'll be happy. James, can you comment on the response of the Eudoxas at their heaviest?

Benjamin, thank you for your warm post. Who made your violin? Mine's an H Derazey, a very nice example of his best Vuillaume style work. If you thought the Olivs were polite I'm not sure that Eudoxas will be better, although I would say that for both labels the stiff versions do make a difference in power, and for me the difference between Olivs and Eudoxa stiff was also quite clear (I preferred the Eudoxas, but much probably depends on your violin).

I'm just an orchestral player but occasionally do some chamber music/things that require me to stand out, so I need something that is as practical as possible while giving me a nice sound. I've found the medium set of stiff Eudoxa to be surprisingly stable after the long settling in period, as long as you give it a few minutes to acclimate to any new environments, and the response has been good enough for orchestral work, which in my opinion is the true test of response, with all the variety of light off the string bow strokes.

I might also try the Supersolo - it's quite cheap, although I wish I could find the tension! You guys are good at exploring all the options out there, I wasn't aware of them! The Aquila also look interesting but I'm put off by the the way the market it towards baroque playing - I don't want to risk strings breaking during work.

May 1, 2020, 10:18 AM · The Tricolore tension measurement might not be directly comparable to the Passione tension measurement because they might be using different string lengths to measure.
May 1, 2020, 1:54 PM · @John: Ah, a Derazey must have been a good find! While searching for my violin I played one of those and it sounded rather intriguing. I hope you find the perfect strings to tame it. I chose an early violin by Buthod and couldn't be happier. And thanks for the heads-up regarding the Eudoxas! As you've said yourself one has to try it all to be completely sure, so one way or another I'll have to give it a go, I suppose.
May 1, 2020, 2:14 PM · There’s no way of me knowing what’s best for your playing style or instrument without seeing you and your violin in person. However, speaking from personal experience, I play on a J.B. Vuillaume (Maggini model), and a Nicolas Vuillaume (Strad model). I have found that they both do better with heavier gauge gut strings (wound and unwound). Passiones to my ear and touch, feel more like synthetic strings rather than gut core. I really like the Oliv rigid, if you can get a hold of those. Eudoxas are quite good, and slightly more mellow sounding than Oliv. One my teachers David Nadien said ‘Eudoxas used to be better made 40 years ago.’ I highly recommend also checking out Gamut Tricolore strings and Gamut’s Academie sheep gut strings (especially for the D&A strings).
Edited: May 1, 2020, 3:06 PM · The heaviest Eudoxa stiff responds fine and has decent volume, but it's quite muddy sounding and won't cut through at all, so I guess it's great for blending. I agree with Nate, Passiones feel too stiff to be gut strings and they don't have the warmth of proper wound gut. I personally use the Tricolore heavy G and I've never heard anyone give a bad review of it here.
May 1, 2020, 5:51 PM · I'm not sure why a "historical" gut string would be more fragile than a "modern" gut string. Aquila strings last just as long as any other gut string.
May 2, 2020, 3:07 AM · I am wondering why noone is considering Efrano gut strings. They are dirt cheap compared to any other brand and - although they are the first and only gut string I ever tried - they do not seem signifficantly lower in volume. Perhaps 10 or 15% lower volume than PI or Corelli Cantiga....

But volume is so dependent on bowing arm technique, plus gut string sounds so much more aggressive that I think volume will only be missed by world class soloists playing over a huge orchestra....

May 2, 2020, 3:35 PM · I am interested in trying out the Eudoxa-Stiff violin strings in the thickest gauges for my fine Guarneri-style (copy of the 1730 ex Kreisler) violin made by Dereck Coons. What gauge do you recommend that I use for the Eudoxa A string? I was considering using the 14 gauge. I am looking for warmth, complexity, texture, responsiveness, and evenness across all four strings. I don’t need power or brilliance because I am not a concert performer. But I am seeking a rich, dark, husky sound. I do intend to use the Eudoxa E aluminum wound on steel. Thank you!
Edited: May 2, 2020, 9:59 PM · Hello Cotton, you are right - it was just the idea that the string was intended for a lower tuning that put me off, but in fact gut strings are probably fine tuned a few cents higher. Looking at Aquila's website I see that they only offer plain gut Ds and As - based on past experience I'd rather stick with wound gut, as I live in a tropical city and don't want to push my luck too much, which also rules out Efrano strings (thank you Tony for bringing them up, I'd never heard of them), although I might try the Efrano just because they are so darn cheap. Just for your reference, I run a dehumidifier all day and struggle to keep the humidity at 65%! I have tried plain gut in the past on a different instrument (in much colder, drier climate) and did wear the strings down fairly quickly.

Alexander, I don't have personal experience with the 14 gauge Eudoxa, although hopefully I will soon if the store ships my order soon. That said it isn't a huge jump in tension from the normal A, so it'll likely work fine. I would guess that the high tension gauge will accomplish all of the things you desire, except perhaps for added responsiveness (you lose response of quick and light strokes while gaining the ability to withstand pressure).

On another note, for a day I tried a set of Amber strings. I think they definitely prove that my instrument likes low tension - they sound wonderful on this violin, while sounding dead on my previous one. Great low tension response and warm sound. They do lack some of the higher frequency sizzle that gut strings provide but still seem to provide more of it than other synthetic strings I've tried (even more than Passione Solo did, at least on my violin). If I need to return to the non-gut side they will be at the top of my list. While strings like Pirazzis and PI provide a strong high edge and boomy bass (sounding a bit hollow in direct comparison), gut strings (and to a degree Amber strings) fill in the middle frequencies more (giving it warmness) while still retaining a sizzling edge (especially plain gut) - that's at least how I visualize the difference; I'm sure other people interpret sound differently. Just to help anyone else getting obsessed with low tension strings, here are the Warchal Amber tensions converted into kp and rounded off, which you can compare with the other string brands (although Warchal appears to use one more mm in their string length, so please treat it as an approximate comparison). The tension is approximately similar to the early sythnetic core brands like Dominant, although the E string is more tense than usual (the forte did not work well on my violin), although of course its special design makes it difficult to compare directly.
E string 8.4kp
E string (forte) 8.8kp
A string 5.5kp
D string 4.4kp
G string 4.4kp

May 5, 2020, 6:42 PM · So I've been going back to this thread in my mind every once in awhile thinking of what has been said here and now I'm back with a question: I have no experience with any other gauge than medium for whatever strings I've tried over the years. As I've mentioned further up the thread, I'm personally pretty happy with the medium Passiones, for example, but if I were to experiment with gauges individually, without just buying all of them one step up, where does one start? Is G the go-to for experimenting with getting a bit more power without losing the tonal qualities when combining different gauges? Or is there some kind of system that makes all of that easier to understand and less guess-work?
May 5, 2020, 7:45 PM · You could try tuning the different strings strings slightly (e.g. a half step) sharp or flat - that seems to somewhat approximate what an increase or decrease in tension, and therefore gauge, would do.
May 5, 2020, 10:21 PM · Hello Benjamin, I've never tried other gauges either (except perhaps for a forte E string). Once I get my maxed out Eudoxas I'll let you know what I think. Andrew's test is a classic.

According to Gamut's website, Tricolore was originally just offered in one gauge, which varied a bit in thickness based on surviving examples of their original strings. I have a theory that once Pirastro created their mid 20th century gut lineup (Eudoxa, Gold Label, and I think Black Label?) they also introduced more accurate string gauging and quality control. Rather than creating different labels of strings with varying tensions (like synthetic strings today, which often share a core, like Pirazzi, Obligato, Violino, Wondertone), they just created Eudoxa as their top quality line and left it up to musicians to find the tension that matched their instrument. Later they created Oliv in response to the demand for a higher tension, more soloistic string but kept the wide variety of options. I'd appreciate it if a more experienced member could shed some light - I'm curious about the history of Pirastro's gut lines and there isn't much historical information on the internet.

I'm sorry to keep spamming this forum, but I'll share another update! A few more strings I ordered last month arrived (this is what I'm doing to entertain myself when my orchestra is not working). I put a Pirazzi Platinum E on, and it made a big difference in the sound! It really added some focus to the rest of my Eudoxa set, which was perhaps a bit too diffuse, while having a broad, sweet sound itself with better response in high positions than the Amber E. Perhaps the higher tension of the E string helps suppress unwanted frequencies. I then changed the Eudoxa stiff D to an Oliv silver D (all default medium gauge), and that had a similar effect. I love the Oliv silver D, my violin's D string was always very rich and the aluminum D might have been too rich, making it a bit diffuse (but loud). The Oliv seems to respond better than the Passione Solo D, although interestingly the tension is not less. Now my Eudoxa G stiff string sounds both colorful and much more focused.

I've been happy with the sound of my Eudoxa A but the humidity has been swinging lately and the tuning and response keep changing drastically, so I've put on a Passione (regular) A. After a day impressions are good, it seems to behave better, although it is not as bright and colorful - still acceptable though. I guess my conclusion is that higher tension can help focus the sound if used strategically - although brands matter as well (different labels with the same tension have responded quite differently for me). Somehow my G string prefers not too high tension, though.

May 9, 2020, 7:29 PM · @John: I'm looking forward to hearing your updates on how your strings are settling and best of luck with your experiments!

@Andrew: Thanks for the tip, I had no idea! Without knowing that I've actually been experimenting with tuning down to 415hz (from our usual 443hz) for playing Bach because I felt more comfortable with the string tension when playing all these chords for pages, but I've also noticed that the violin seems to vibrate a bit more freely? Now, I'm someone who is very wary of any kind of placebo effects and try to be as objective as possible when it comes to sound, but since I felt that way before knowing what kind of a difference the semi-tone made for the tension, I'm now wondering whether my violin might be better suited for lower tension strings after all?

Right now I'm playing EPG, which is advertised at G = 4.9kp, so tuning it down by half-a-tone should bring it to somewhere around 4.3kp if I'm not mistaken (I couldn't find any official low tension EPG chart, but it would be in line with the regular EP going from 5.0kp to 4.4kp). The medium Passione G is supposed to be 4.6kp according to Pirastro.com, so could it be that instead of going up in tension, it would be wiser for me to try going lower? As I've said, the instrument is old and seems to sound freer when tuned down, but I'm too new to this whole topic to know whether one can simply translate such conclusions from one string type to another.

Obviously I know how EPG and Passione differ in their whole sound, I'm really only speaking about a more open, clearer result regardless. What doesn't quite fit into this idea is the fact that the instrument came equipped with the green Evahs, which are of an even higher tension than the golden ones, and the luthier is a well respected and knowledgeable one, so I would expect him to consider these things.

Any input on that topic would be much appreciated.

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