Vision Solo vs Amber vs Brilliant Vintage

Edited: August 17, 2020, 7:01 AM · I've been using Vision Solo strings for right at a year, and while I do like them, I've wanted to try Warchal Amber to see how they compared and was planning on doing that this fall. As noted in another thread I upgraded my violin this weekend from a 2014 Chinese workshop instrument to a mid-late 1800's violin. We moved both my strings (mine were newer) and tailpiece (my teacher's suggestion) from my first violin when I traded it in.

The voice of my new violin is very different - much more resonant, rich, and complex, and has a warmer yet clear tone overall. That is with the Vision Solo strings.

Given this violin speaks in such a different way - would you go with Brilliant Vintage over Amber or...? I'm also going to ask my luthier but I'm curious to hear the collective wisdom from here as well. My teacher is unfamiliar with the strings in question.

Replies (28)

August 17, 2020, 7:22 AM · Glad to hear that you have found a better violin than the previous one you were having issues with. Did you change out the tailpiece or did the shop do it for you, because if you or your teacherr did it the string afterlenght could have been changed for the better or worse. I like all of the strings which you have mentioned and cannot say that one is superior to the other and currently use Amber and really like them. I tend to buy and try what is on sale.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 7:33 AM · I would choose Warchal Amber or Warchal Timbre strings. However my experience with many strings has been that some instruments respond and sound better with Warchal strings and some do better with the "older" string brands. I find these two Warchal brands speak more cleanly than other brands I have used and engage well with a sensitive bow (at least on 3 of my 4 violins).

I'm not sure if this has any relationship to the "revelation" in the 1970s that some violins favored DOMINANT and others favored TONICA - or was it Thomastik vs. Pirastro? I've used most brands from both companies over the past 50 years as well as other companies introduced more recently as well as some more "anciently."

Part of my violin testing when doing "trials" has been to play a 2 octave scale up the G string. Another significant test is to vibrato increasingly widely to see how dense the overtones are. A violin with really good "overtone density" will sound louder and louder as a fast vibrato gets wider and wider.

August 17, 2020, 7:33 AM · Jeff- the luthier switched out the tailpiece as well as the strings. I've spent a fair amount of time playing it this weekend - really more playing than actual practicing (did get back to that last night) and noticed that my strings weren't staying in tune quite as well - not as bad as new strings but it was interesting. It did start easing yesterday so hopefully the strings will have settled in today.

The setup on this violin IS different - the lutheir told us Saturday that the bridge on my old violin was a little closer to the tailpiece than what is usual (along with some other setup issues he was surprised to find). There may have been good reasons for that, but that's no longer my concern. Thankfully.

Warchal has a 50% discount for an initial set purchased from their website - certainly better than any other online deal.

Edited: August 17, 2020, 7:59 AM · Andrew - hadn't considered Timbre, will look into those as well. Thanks!

Given my experience/problems with both the G and E on my other violin, I gave both special attention in my trial - as did my teacher. A 2-octave test up the G string on the new violin sounded so much better (no growling) - and NO hissing on the E string no matter how far up. Apparently my playing has greatly improved overnight, at least according to my recording last night :-) Sometimes it really is the instrument...

Edited: August 17, 2020, 8:29 AM · Timbre are warm/clear/power, while Brilliant Vintage, as I remember, were clear/power/warm (it's the first time I have classified strings this way, for brevity's sake and lack of a better way to place their sound characteristics). The latter are still warm, but the timbre are really rich and nice. They are not a direct replacement for gut as advertised (please take no offense), but are excellent, top quality strings.

I still have not used Amber, nor the spiral Warchal Es. Using Timbre + Medium Oliv E (ironically, the opposite of the non-whistling E that is standard with the set) with recently repaired instrument. Depending on your technique and/or violin, an Oliv E may or not be for you, so do not take my combination as a blind recommendation. I am used to playing with all sort of Es.

Have read that the Amber are a slightly less powerful version than the Timbre, but perhaps richer. Timbre do not sound thin or too direct, however. Brilliant Vintage are more direct.

I would need to retest Brilliant Vintage again, as my instrument has changed quite a bit due to the repairs and replacements, but the Timbre do sound like an "upgrade" to BV in my very limited experience, from what little I remember. Given they sound so full already, I would rather try Timbre before Amber first, if your luthier(s) carry them.

Timbre are also not that expensive vs Infeld Pi and EP green/gold, and very likely compare favorably to those in power and quality of tone. Though power-wise, EP Green may still be King/Queen (Medium gauge is so stiff, though.)

For "warm synthetics", I prefer Timbre over Obligato as well. The Warchal have more power and clarity, while still being very rich. Obligato sound nice, but very different, and when a bit old, get very dark-not really what gut sounds like, in my humble opinion.

Given my experience, I would consider the Timbre one of the best rounded "power" strings tilting warm. They can safely replace Vision Titanium Solo with a nicer tone-I have not used Vision Solo. (Though the E Titanium Solo E is special-and pricey.) I also like EP Green *Weich* gauge for power and that nice, new EP sound. Dominant are neutral-bright rather than neutral-warm, in my experience.

I love gut strings, so will undoubtedly go back there in due time.

Edited: August 17, 2020, 10:17 AM · I've ordered the Ambers, I've been wanting to try them anyway and based on Andrew's comments, and others, they seem to work well for a good number of older instruments. I did find a US source with free shipping that is slightly less than the 50% trial discount from Warchal. Thanks for the advice! It will be interesting to see how the compare on my new instrument with the Vision Solos that are currently installed.
August 17, 2020, 10:59 AM · I have a blunt recommendation: If you're going to try a bunch of string sets, try them in rapid succession when they are *brand new* -- i.e. either give them all just a few minutes on the violin, or change them no more than a week or two apart.

The reason for this is that if you wait, you'll be comparing a worn-out set of strings to a brand-new set, and the brand-new set will sound gloriously better.

Alternatively, work with a violin shop that has tester sets.

Or, stick with what's working. Vision Solos are among the cheapest strings that you can buy, and they sound pretty good on a lot of violins. Unless you have the budget to not care what strings cost, if Visions sound great on the violin, keep them.

My guess is that Ambers aren't going to sound fantastic on an instrument that really like Visions. Brilliant Vintage might work, but I'd probably go Brilliants rather than BVs if Vision Solos work well.

The question is always, "What is missing from the sound that you're looking for?" Start with doing a custom adjustment with your luthier, in which you play and give feedback while they adjust. Once you can't tweak anything further with adjustment, then try to find strings that modulate the sound the way you want it.

August 17, 2020, 11:19 AM · How does Brilliant Vintage differ from Brilliant?
Edited: August 17, 2020, 12:22 PM · Andrew - apparently the Brilliant Vintage has lower tension than the Brilliants and are supposed to be better for older instruments.

Wachal website:
"Especially created for antique violins. Excellent response in all dynamic ranges, including pianissimo. These strings enable older instruments to shine with a natural beauty of sound. They have a brilliant, warm and focused sound despite their lower tension. The Brilliant Vintage set is not intended for baroque instruments with lower tuning."

Lydia - thanks for your comments, it's appreciated. I'm just using the excuse of having a "new" violin to try the Ambers as I've been wanting to do for some time - and I also want a lower tension string.

My Vison Solos that were moved from my old violin hasn't been settling in well on my new instrument- so far - it's early days yet. If the Ambers don't work on my new instrument then will either return to Vision Solo or check out the Brillants. I don't see any further experimentation than that, it gets expensive!

Edited: August 17, 2020, 2:17 PM · Warchal Amber are excellent strings. They provide exceptional tonal color, complexity, and responsiveness at a reasonable price. After using Dominants for over 30 years, I switched to Amber strings several years ago and never looked back. My Dereck Coons violin came with Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold strings. They were wonderful, but they wore off sooner than I expected. I am currently experimenting with Pirastro Eudoxa Extra-Stiff strings and have had mixed feelings about them. Playing on gut strings required some adjustments in my playing. In the future, I may experiment with Rondo strings by Thomastik-Infeld after I wear off my Eudoxa strings. But I'll probably go back to the tried-and-true Amber strings again once I'm done with my experimenting.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 2:51 PM · Do you have a particular reason for wanting a lower-tension string? If not, you could try one of the other Vision flavors -- standard Visions are very inexpensive and quite good on a lot of student violins, and they are lower tension than the Solo. (Nothing in the Vision line is more than moderate tension, from what I recall.)
Edited: August 17, 2020, 3:53 PM · Lydia - part of it is wanting to try Ambers in particular... I'm getting it for about half the cost of the Vision Solos. The other reason is the new violin is from the 1860's, and I've read that they often perform better with lower tension strings. My luther said sometimes this is the case, sometimes not. If the Ambers don't work out then I will likely just return to the Solos. I DO like them, or did on my last violin, and I get about 8 months out of them. Well, I did on the last violin :-)

I'm working with my luthier on this - he is advising caution as my violin hasn't been played regularly for a few years and because of this will have to settle in. He wants to check it regularly for a bit to make certain no seams open in the process - and he isn't charging me to do this.

Edited: August 17, 2020, 7:25 PM · Just FYI, the Warchals you are considering are about equal to(and possibly slightly higher than) Vision Solos in tension, and higher tension than Dominants.
Edited: August 17, 2020, 8:19 PM · I've been wanting to try them as they are supposed to feel/sound like gut. I did think the Vision Solo was higher tension than the Ambers, so if they are about the same and my violin doesn't like them then I will know it won't be due to a difference in tension. I know the Brilliant Vintage has a bit lower tension than the Ambers, according to the chart I saw earlier.

Your thought that the Ambers may not work well on an instrument that appears to like Vision Solos is interesting - I'm even more curious to see how this works out.

I know some like Dominants, but I'm not in that camp.

Your comments have been very helpful, thank you!

Edited: August 17, 2020, 8:39 PM · You can't try brand-new strings in rapid succession because strings need time and playing to break-in. And it is very important to hold-off on an opinion about a set of strings until they are broken-in.

I love EP's but hate their sound when they are brand new.

Also, don't try to rush the break-in by tuning the strings sharp to stretch them. Just bring them up to proper pitch and then let them go flat as they stretch. They will last longer if they are broken-in this way and not over-tensioned.

August 17, 2020, 8:46 PM · Thus my suggestion to wait a week between changes. Possibly for many strings, just two or three days. I find the Warchal strings hit stability very quickly, for instance, and what they sound like when brand new is pretty much what they continue to sound like.

But you can't compare worn-out strings to new strings.

Edited: August 18, 2020, 6:19 AM · Lydia, good point about the inability to truly compare between old and new strings.

My new violin had really beaten up EPs installed Saturday and still won the blind sound test hands down - and to everyone in the room, not just me (I didn't know that until I made my choice). Their being in that shape is how my 3-month old Vision Solos wound up on my new violin. It will be very interesting to see what it thinks of the Ambers.

August 17, 2020, 9:08 PM · I just started using the Amber strings this year. I like them so far (I was using Rondo strings previously but wasn't able to purchase a new set earlier this year). Amber seems a bit warmer to my ear and not as focused in sound; although, the Amber G seems a bit clearer to me in the higher positions. I think the Rondo E was more powerful sounding than the Amber.
Edited: August 18, 2020, 8:06 AM · Warchal give advice here on how to play in new strings quickly:
This advice is given in relation to their top-of-the-range Timbre set (which I have yet to try), but I used it a year or so ago on a new set of Ambers, and it worked.
August 18, 2020, 7:46 AM · That’s interesting Trevor. I’ll try that next time.
Edited: August 22, 2020, 8:48 PM · My Amber strings arrived pretty quickly, and as my new luthier wants to keep an eye on my violin for now (it was "hanging around" for years on consignment - apparently waiting for me) and asked me to allow him to change the strings so he could check out my instrument and make any needed adjustments - so I did. It is the first experience either of us has had with the strings - he told me he's been asked about them but this was his first time seeing them.

I thought my "new" violin sounded really good with the Vision Solos - and it did. It sounds fantastic with the Ambers! The difference even got my luthier's attention - the projection is the same (he thought it might go down), the tone is richer and I think the G is a bit more clear - and it was clear before. This was noticeable even before the strings fully settle in. The E is certainly different from my Vision Solo E - not harsh however, I just need to get used to it.

I can hardly wait for the strings to fully settle in - I suspect there will be no need to try other strings. I like the sound, I like the price. It will be interesting to hear my teacher's opinion Wed, if Zoom can pick up the difference.

August 22, 2020, 10:07 PM · If your violin is a dud. no string will be magic. We must assume your violin is decent and will respond differently to different strings. This could be an incorrect assumption.

I recommend Warchal over other brands. But which ones? Impossible to suggest without playing your violin.

Generally, Warchal Brilliants will add life to a violin that sounds rather dull with old Dominants. If your violin is already rather bright and loud, the Brilliants should increase the brightness, volume, and projection. Whether this is desired should depend upon how you and violin sound in a concert hall.

The Timbre and Amber are rather similar. Likely, you will need a top-tier violin to discern the subtle differences.

On my violin, the Amber create a rich, sweet tone that projects very well.

The only way to determine if Warchal is good for you and violin is to invest the time and money to trial them.

Edited: August 23, 2020, 5:22 AM · Rob - my last post was to describe what happened when I installed Wachhal Amber ;-)
September 16, 2020, 5:01 PM · Just for the record, Vision Solos are not a low cost string, they'll run you $85-90 a set. Wait for the 20% off sales and you can sometimes bag a set for $65. They are relatively high tension, loud and brassy like Evahs. Nice way to brighten up a dark instrument if that's what you want. Also long-lasting, very tune-stable.

Amber is a lower-tension, softer-sounding string that gives you something approaching a gut string with a more stable composite core. They will sound a little like Eudoxas. Ambers are a good deal - you can get a set for around $55-60.

September 16, 2020, 5:36 PM · Unfortunately, Warchal may be among the few affordable strings out there. Pirastro and Thomastik (and most other brands, actually) have been competing with each other to see how high they can charge and get away with it. Even the "value" Gold Label gut strings set costs about $77.00 nowadays-the Eudoxa, a bit more. Dominant are no longer "value" strings either (the non-solo Vision are affordable, though.)

Pirastro Tonica, Savarez Cantiga, and a few others remain as decent "value" strings. D'Addario used to be fairly affordable, but Amo/Vivo changed all of that.

Thus I have come to accept that $75+ is a "fair" price, though I do not like going above $100.00 unless I am getting Oliv strings.

September 16, 2020, 5:50 PM · I used Vision Solos on my first violin for almost 2 years, but am now using Ambers on the violin that has replaced it. The Ambers sound great, indeed better than the Solos did on my "new" instrument, and the fact the Warchal strings are less expensive than Vision Solos is icing on the cake :)
September 16, 2020, 11:21 PM · My standard go to string for student and intermediate violins is Tonica, a couple of them I "upgraded" to Warchal Amber at twice the price, I couldn't help but think the Tonica sounded better, the Amber sounded thinner, less resonant, but I could be wrong, on one violin the Amber sounded really good.
Edited: September 17, 2020, 6:47 AM · Lyndon - I do think for these strings it really matters. My 2014 intermediate instrument loved Vision Solos - those strings really opened it up and there was more resonance and projection.

Recently I replaced that instrument with a mid-late 19th century instrument - it sounded fine with the Vision Solos (much better instrument all around), but the Warchal Amber makes it sound even better - richer. I don't think it COULD be more resonant. The Ambers seem to enhance the warmth and resonance already there, and the E sounds more clear than the Vision Sol E - at least on my instrument.

My luthier (who restored the instrument) was surprised - it was his first exposure to the brand. I only made the experiment as I've wanted to try them and the Solos that were moved from my first instrument were aging. He thought the projection might suffer - but not at all.

There are other strings I would like to try - but really I don't see a need to do so. These work so well with my 19th century instrument and my teacher/director is also happy with them.

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