'A' String recomendation (similar to Obligato)

Edited: April 8, 2021, 12:27 PM · Hi! I've been searching for a good combination of strings for my violin. Up till now, I LOVE the obligatos sound and gauge but the A just isn't strong enough as my violin is weak on the A...

Anyone who can recommend a 'A' string with similar string sound/gauge to obligato but slightly more powerful in sound? I've tried EP but they dont work so well to my liking..

I used to have vision solos some years back and I loved the A sound but its not warm enough by itself. Have yet to tried pairing that with the rest of obligatos, so I don't know if I can expect the obligatos to help with warming up the A. Anyone tried any similar combination?

Also, I'm considering Eudoxas, anyone has any comments for obligato vs eudoxa?

Thanks!

Replies (30)

April 8, 2021, 8:46 AM · One way to explore this issue is with Infeld Red and Blue A strings. Thomastik designed and originally sold the 8-string Red & Blue double package for the price of a single 4-string set. Their goal was to allow a player to mix strings to tailor for specific instruments (and ultimately to become a steady customer for a particular mix). At that time I think I had 3 violins and found it helpful to mix strings differently according to how they responded on each instrument.

I no longer use that brand but with 4 violins (now) I know it is foolhardy to recommend strings for any instrument somewhere else in the world or based on limited experience with a limited number of instruments.

April 8, 2021, 10:29 AM · I had the same issue awhile ago, and asked Pirastro what their suggestion was.

They said they still had a few Obligato stark-gauge A strings that they could send me.

April 8, 2021, 11:10 AM · Opinions are mixed but some do like EP Gold. It does sound warmer than the standard green box. Eudoxa comes in a number of different gauges, I think. Not sure what the point of equivalence is vs standard Obligatos. Your luthier might have suggestions, if they still bother to carry strings. Most don't, these days.
April 8, 2021, 11:16 AM · Mr. Holland,

Which proves doing "mittel" for everything does not work best for all players. They should not have discontinued stark or weich. But such is "business"-or so they believe, though they are hardly the only ones doing one gauge only string products.

About ten years ago I used stark Obligatos, and while I adapted to them, found them a bit unwieldy. Still, perhaps for this particular violin, and only for the A, it would be a good choice.

I can recommend Eudoxa wholeheartedly, but they sound and feel quite different than Obligato, so you would have to adapt, especially if you are very used to synthetics. They go deep, but also have some mid to high frequencies which the Obligato lacks, so the latter sounds quite a bit darker as it ages (though new Obligato do sound rather nice.)

It's not a huge deal for players who use them a lot, but for Eudoxa, in summary:

-You do not need to rely on a very heavy, short bow stroke. If you unduly press on them, the tone may crack, but I play heavily on them, just with an usually faster bow speed and closer to the bridge.

-Sound point is even more critical due to the above.

-It takes more time for them to stretch

-Certain climate conditions-and often the temperature of your own fingers-can make the pitch fluctuate. The more you play on them during the practice, performance session, the less relevant this becomes. Going from a cold room to a place with hot lights will likely alter the pitch a bit.

-Your pegs should work well, as you will have to tune more frequently, *but* they turn super easily so you won't need to sacrifice your fingers/tendons as can happen with many tighter strings.

Benefits:

-Beautiful, deep, rich, powerful, long lasting tone that is nonetheless not lacking in higher frequencies.

-Recognizable tone from older classical recordings, if you pay attention.

-Easy peg turning, as aforementioned.

-Super easy feel under the fingers. No other strings may feel as comfortable!

-May help you explore your bowing technique.

- Versatile, as they are comfortable with both the Sibelius and the most discrete chamber music work. You can blend in, and also be bold.

-Very nuanced and sensitive to each bow and finger inflection.

That said, some players used to synthetics will never give them a fair shake-I am privileged to have discovered their musical color and other benefits, and am more than glad with them now. Perhaps they may not be so ideal with a few players or violins.

Edited: April 8, 2021, 5:06 PM · I have good memories of my plain gut viola A & D in the 1960s, in packaging promoting their "true fifths" as a selling point!

To replace the Obligato steel cored A, maybe Jargar?
For their synthetic A, maybe Cantiga?
Both will higher higher tension than the Obligato A's.

April 8, 2021, 12:20 PM · Thanks all for the inputs.

I've tried infield reds. I actually love their G&D quite a lot BUT i refuse to take them back because the whole set broke after a short period of time.....

Didn't know there's a different A for obligato but sadly none of my local stores has the chrome steel so I guess I might give EP gold a try just for the A. But i hope they don't disappoint me like how my current EP A is doing (I bought a EP set to experiment but after putting A&E, I don't even want to try the G&D lol)

As for Eudoxa, I've never tried gut strings before because I've read so many stories about gut strings and how they're sensitive etc. But well, I don't mind taking care of just 1 gut string if its the A i'm looking for. (I don't think I will like them full set as I perspire a lot..) Will it be possible to be mixing gut string (eudoxa) with synthetic (obligato)? Or their sound wouldn't blend, somehow?

Edited: April 8, 2021, 12:33 PM · Different theories on that. I know one excellent luthier thinks of strings in pairs-- E/G and A/D.

On the other hand, I once read that Shumsky used to insist on pure gut "A" for his students, no matter what else was on the violin.

I have dropped gut (pure or wrapped) A on violins and not had unspeakably weird results. Of course, I have also tried full sets of gut, so I may be less sensitive to some of the things that could drive you up the wall. Worth a shot, I think. And then, if you have a good adjuster, you can discuss results and next steps.

April 8, 2021, 1:39 PM · Most people used them many years ago without complaints. I feel it's more a matter of people trying to fit in, as in not wanting to "stick out" for having to ocassionally retune. In any case, if you prepare accordingly, mostly zero issues for live or group practice venues.

In my experience, I would recommend Tricolore for gut strings that are very pitch stable and still sound great. Passione too, but they are generally pricier and the sound is not as wonderful.

April 8, 2021, 1:46 PM · You may consider Pirastros Eudoxa-Aricore A string. It is a synthetic string but designed to blend well with gut strings. It is my preferred A string on the viola. I have not compared it directly with obligato, though.

Regarding the tuning stability of gut strings this has been discussed in many threads here. In summary a lot of people who actually use gut strings find it unproblematic; most of the warnings against them come from people who don't use them. I recommend you try for yourself.

Edited: April 8, 2021, 2:15 PM · Eudoxas are only "weaker" than Obligato in Pirastro's marketing. Have you actually tried them? Something tells me not.

Dominant are relatively insensitive to temps-it is more likely than the wood changes a bit rather than nylon and other synthetics. Pegs are also a thing.

We'll never agree-it's fine if you cannot abide gut strings. Each to their own.

Edited: April 8, 2021, 3:57 PM · That's another idea regarding the Obligato chrome A - maybe that would work well in this case.
April 9, 2021, 2:28 AM · As I said, I don't mind trying gut string just to see if the A fits and if it's the one I'm looking for. Thanks for bringing up the Aricore A, I'll look into that as well. I just hope the sound blends with the rest of the synthetics. I should be able to withstand all the retuning etc if the sound is what I want. We gotta sacrifice some things sometimes to get what we want, right?

I've actually considered EP golds before a while back before I bought EP to try but due to the price, I took EP to try first.

One thing I'm not that happy with the EP (other than sound) is the unravelling A. Almost all strings I've tried had their A unravelled on my violin but EP was horribly fast. The only one that never unravels is obligato and until today I don't know why, perhaps its the tension?

Probably I'll get both As to try and experiment nonetheless!

April 9, 2021, 3:40 AM · the groove on your bridge a string might be too deep and tight, the edges are supposed to be rounded off not square also, either thing could damage the string
April 9, 2021, 5:11 AM · Note that Aricore and Eudoxa-Aricore are different strings. The latter comes in 3 different gauges whereas the former is available in one gauge only. I have no experience with regular Aricore so I cannot tell you how different they are. Eudoxa-Aricore is available only for the A string (and sadly not for viola anymore).
April 9, 2021, 5:23 AM · it looks like the heavier gauge of Eudoxa-Aricore might be the first thing to try
Edited: April 9, 2021, 7:56 AM · Obligato is supposed to be the closest thing to a synthetic Eudoxa or Oliv, and Eudoxa-Aricore A is a synthetic that blends well with Eudoxa, so without actually trying it I'm going to go out and say Eudoxa-Aricore A might be the closest to Obligatos and it comes in three gauges so you can get heavier gauge, as you said your A is a little weak.
Edited: April 9, 2021, 10:19 AM · Evione, in my experience, the Aricore A is a lovely string, but not that strong, even compared to a Eudoxa A. The sound is very smooth and warm without sounding as hollow as a violino A.

Obligato, Violino, Evah Pirazzi Green and Gold are all different formulations using the same core. If I were to bet, the EPG A string would be the closest to want you desire - but unfortunately words can be vague when it comes to sound. As are our expectations.

I suggest trying a set of medium regular Eudoxas, if you can financially afford to write them off, just because they will surely be so different from what you use. They will have a sound that has the depth of Obligato but also much more texture and a very different response.

I just played a concert in my orchestra today (I work in East Asia). A colleague remarked (unsolicited, although they know of my recent tendency to experiment with strings) that what I had on now was very loud. The strings? Eudoxa regular at the lightest gauge (except for the D, which is second to lightest). Some violins just like different setups. My fiddle is a very nice mid-19th century violin with original neck set and bass bar, quite untouched, and with a very powerful sound that is somewhat hard to control. It may have been initially set up to work with lighter strings (these kind of violins often are modified to work better with a modern setup). I once tried a set of Eudoxa long ago on a far inferior fiddle and thought they resembled rubber bands.

With this new violin, I first tried heavy strings (Peter Infeld, Pirazzi, Oliv Rigid, Tricolore heavy gauge) but after trying plain old Dominants I realized that I preferred the lower tension. It also had the benefit of projecting very well with far less effort. While a heavy monster string like Rondo or Permanent could produce a monster sound if I used a brick like bow arm, I couldn't really use that style of bowing practically. In day to day work the Eudoxas sound louder since - for this violin - they are so easy to play.

Your violin could be very different, and I've recommended heavier gauges to colleagues that have violins with different characteristics.

Warchal Amber might also be strings to look out for, although they might not meet your "power" requirement. They have a special kind of warmth (for a synthetic string).

April 9, 2021, 10:59 AM · Oh I've ALWAYS wanted to get my hands on Warchal to try but none of my local stores sells them, and I'm very particular about getting them online so I wanna just try whatever my local stores have first.

And yes I could somehow resonate with you about preferring lower tension. Ever since I tried obligatos I love how they feel under my fingers and my playing is much more comfortable.

Guess Eudoxa might be my next experiment once I'm fed up with my EP experiment (I'm trying so hard to bear with how EP is sounding on my violin now and not having to pop back my old obligatos...)

Hopefully, my first encounter with gut strings will be worthwhile!

Edited: April 10, 2021, 9:21 AM · I used the Aricore Eudoxa A on my violas: it went very well with both Obligato and Tonica sets. But they have stopped making it, and I shall try the violin version, which has the same gauges (my vibrating string length is only 14", and the A peg is nearest the nut) or the Aricore violin A: sweet and clear, right up the fingerboard.

I feel steel E's and A's have lead us to lose the use of longer, lighter bow strokes nearer the bridge on the high strings.


April 9, 2021, 12:25 PM · @Adrian - are you in Europe? I know an online dealer in Germany who still has the Viola Eudoxa-Aricore A in stock. Just got 5 string from them.
Edited: April 14, 2021, 4:15 PM · @Bo, yes I am in France, and pay in Euros!

Edit: I found a luthier in Paris who can still send me the Eudoxa Aricore viola A (medium or soft). When they run out, I shall try the violin version.

At present I am using a plain Aricore viola A from my archives: a little brighter, but with zero harshness.

More Edit: Two Eudoxa-Aricore As have just arrived (€53.10). One is a violin A (same gauge), and I shall have to carefully remove some of the black cotton winding at the pegbox end.

BTW, the Tonica A is acceptable: bright but not harsh.

April 9, 2021, 4:13 PM · Evione,

I will always prefer Eudoxa as I find them better than Obligato even in terms of volume, and way clearer, especially over time. Not timid at all, as Mr. Kruer commented above.

I do not hate Green EP, though I would use them in weich if I had to. But I do not need to, and since you love Obligato, they may not be your thing (I predict I would like them more myself than you would.)

Never used the EP Gold because it comes only in one gauge, and it is not much less heavy than EP medium. I would rather use EP weich than EP Gold on principle alone. And since I was already into gut strings, I never got along the EP Gold hype train (I do test and use synthetics very sporadically-nothing new is interesting me at this time, though.) These Eva Pirazzi Gold should be great synthetics, as original EP are, but with their own set of weaknesses as most strings have.

(To be clear, I am *not* recommending you use EP Green Weich A as a substitute for the weak Obligato A-nor the stark for that matter. Sound is likely to be too different even if they share a similar synthetic core.)

I have never used the stark Eudoxa-Aricore A-only medium. "Normal" power, but with a good sound for a synthetic. A heavier one could be tried. However, the core is indeed very different, and sometimes stark strings are not necessarily the solution for more "power".

Stay safe, and may you find the best combination of strings (and gauges as necessary) for your violin.

Edited: April 10, 2021, 12:32 AM · David, there's a lot more to the different Pirastro strings than just tension. Tension is important but it's not the only factor. All the Pirazzi-family strings (Obligato, EP, EPG, Violino, Wondertone) have different formulations (metal content, core diameter, and who knows what else) that greatly affect the sound. A light gauge EP green is very different in sound from EP Gold or Obligato - I quite liked it on my instrument, more so than the rest of the family. My instrument always like lower tension - so I appreciate any string that gives options. I'm not saying lower is always better - but it's good to have the option.

As another example, Wondertone Solo is even lower tension than Obligato on the G and D, but the sound is not more warm and dull than Obligato, even though it shares the core. There is more than just tension with modern string labels, although tension is of course a factor, especially in response (which is important to some violins like my instrument).

I'm not sure why you are so anti-choice with strings. Isn't a good thing to have choice? I think the reason gauges are disappearing is due to convenience for the manufacturer and reseller as well a general lack of knowledge amongst players these days. IE, most of my colleagues have no idea that EP green has gauges, because the local stores don't stock them, because nobody will buy them because they don't know they exist. The manufacturer then also doesn't have to worry about stocking and managing inventory for many different gauges.

I showed EP green light gauge to my luthier (who also had never tried them) and he quite liked them!

I have a feeling I would quite like EP Gold at lower tension - it would respond better on my fiddle and have a slightly brighter ringier sound while keeping a bit more warmth than EP Green. But it's simply not an option.

Actually, I would really kill for more very low tension but not dull synthetic strings. Dominant light is very nice, but it's the only option!

Edited: April 10, 2021, 1:35 AM · Mr. Kruer,

I honestly think Mr. Duarte is a sort of young curmudgeon with a sophomoric attitude, liking to prove others "wrong" for its own sake, rather than wanting to engage in an actual discussion. He doesn't understand that I am fine with his love for Evah Pirazzi Gold, but seems to have a penchant for publicly disagreeing with my opinions on gauges and gut strings, with nothing to be gained. A contrarian for its own sake, with no desire to engage in any thoughtful exchange of ideas.

I am glad many or even most players-many of the highest caliber-are fine with the modern marketing strategy of strings, but that doesn't mean that many other players do not require more options, and are merely being "stubborn" for "not adapting" to the modern state of things. Indeed, I am happy Mr. Duarte found the perfect string in Evah Pirazzi Gold. Many serious musicians love that set! He should play whatever works for him-I just see no reason for the "you should think and do as I do" sort of statements that do not bring anyone anywhere.

(This is how you are coming across, Mr. Duarte. Perhaps I am misjudging you, and if so, my apologies. I do not know you, nor hold any ill will towards you.)

I could argue that string manufacturers are being stubborn themselves by not addressing gauges for the players that need them, just to save production money. They used to do it. It may just not be as profitable as they wish it was.

At least Pirastro still offers gauges for their gut strings for the most part-I assume they want no backlash from their faithful older customers who prefer it that way.

Business wise, I cannot fathom why it was necessary to eliminate gauges from most of their synthetics. I doubt they are broke? Customer retention is more important than saving a few thousand dollars in a diverse line production. Cannot understand why so many business/office/"higher ups" people are not more open minded about customer choice vs a company's supposed "bottomline".

Love Pirastro strings, but must speak my mind. Most others are guilty of the same regardless.

Stay safe, be well, practice well, and enjoy your strings-be them "medium only", synthetic, gut, or whatever else that may suit your needs.

Peace-let us all agree to disagree as needed.

Edited: April 10, 2021, 5:25 AM · The discussion hasn’t been about Warchal, but you wrote that “Most others are guilty of the same regardless”. I completely understand your frustration in case you are no able to find a product that perfectly matches your particular instrument of course. But, let me explain the reality from a perspective of a manufacturer briefly, please. Other manufacturers may face the same problems, although the well-established brands do deal with different figures of course.

I came into this kind of business with many lofty ideals. I have been “cured” quite fast. At those times, the distribution via traditional distributing chain importer – wholesaler – retailer was the only option possible. Even though the world has changed, this distribution model still prevails. When we came into the business, we only heard from dealers: “You have no chance, there is only one bestseller used by almost everyone”. Those, who believed in us said: “If you want to try to succeed, you have to come with the simplest product range possible. Even today, retailers are overwhelmed with a lot of product range, especially with a lot of string types. Most of the string types are almost no marketable, but luthiers are expected to keep these products in stock. 95% of customers ask for medium gauges only. Dealing with a new brand will be a burden for them in any case, so please reduce your product range as much as possible”.

So, we have invested a lot of effort into adjusting the tensions of our medium-only available gauges very carefully. We tried to avoid excessive tensions whenever it was possible. Later, when we started growing, we brought different tensions where it made sense. Namely in Brilliant (Vintage version) and Forte version of our most popular E strings.

There is a misconception, that we only offer medium gauges due to saving a few thousand dollars. In fact, in the management of a healthy stringmaking business, there is no money that might be “saved”. We pay firstly for machines, tools and material, then wages of course, many fixed costs, marketing, but the reason, why we came into the market has been moving the quality into a new level almost a bit. This is why investing enough funds into research and development has always been a high priority for us. Thus, if we should subsidize the production and sale of rare requested versions, where we should take the funds from? Should we take money from the R&D department that has enriched the market with such inventions as non-whistling helix E or W-core used in the last generation of our strings? Or should we take the money from the marketing budget? Although this option seems to be wise, our customers would never learn about our improvements and the effort of our R&D department would be in vain.
Of course, we could subsidize more tensions options from selling the medium gauge versions. But it would make our best selling products more expensive and we would lose one of our strong competitive advantages, the quality/price ratio. As a result, we would sell less and there would be no money for subsidizing any kind of production.

As we are growing, we are bringing more options to our customers, and we offer more choices wherever it makes sense. But I don’t think that every product has to be produced in three gauges obligatory. Firstly, there would be no guarantee you would choose our string set even if you would have a complete tension version choice. Secondly, what seems to be more choice for a customer may turn to quality worsening due to saving in the wrong places.
It is just my humble contribution to this discussion. Other producers may have their own reasons for reducing their product range of course. I just wanted to say, that we do our best in order to bring you the better sound and lifetime for the best price and I honestly believe others do the same.

Edited: April 10, 2021, 9:07 AM ·
Evione Vyl:

You can order Warchal strings via their website, and you can order a single trial set of any string for 1/2 price. They have several custom A strings that are metal core that might be what you are searching for.

Though I have never tried the Avantegarde or Russian Style A strings, I have tried all their synthetic core string sets. I found the quality of their strings to be excellent.

But I agree with Andrew Victor, and I am hesitant to offer any specific suggestions for strings because every violin and violinist is different.

April 10, 2021, 1:38 PM · Mr. Warchal,

I was indeed going to include an exceptional mention about Warchal strings. Your brand is relatively "new", and I was not thinking of you or attacking your company when I mentioned "most"-only a few "big" brands came to mind. When you were creating your first nylon core strings, the modern trend already was towards high tension, and you still produced good strings with easy tension. The Brilliant Vintage line is another good example of a modern synthetic core with reduced tension, as you mentioned.

I am glad you mentioned the luthier/violin shops as well. It is very rare they allow themselves to carry anything out of the ordinary. Indeed I am often "forced" to shop for some strings elsewhere (online) while in truth I prefer to shop for strings in person (COVID permitting.) I have on ocassion have them special order a string or two for me.

To be fair, gauge issues are not that much a "modern problem", as other stringed instruments often lack non-medium gauges at the common retailers. I just feel it is an error for a huge, well-known string manufacturer to at least not provide the option, especially more if they did so in the past. Even for non-classical stringed instruments *there is always a demand-however small-for a lighter ot heavier gauge*. Online shopping is ultimately the best fit for players with this niche need.

Please do not take offense, and thanks to your own personal contributions, passion for strings, and creativity. I do wish for Warchal Strings to do well and prosper, as they offer unique products that make musical and practical sense, rather than always going for more supposed "power" and higher tension all the time (which I suppose is an "easier sell", for better or worse.) Hope you, your family, and your company people are safe and well.

Sincerely,

Adalberto

(Bears mentioning for those that do not know, I am not anti-Pirastro/Infeld/etc. I am pro violinists' needs. Not promoting boycotts or brand-hate. For instance, a person that used to use Tonica stark or weich may forever move from the brand when these options are taken away from him/her. Multiple people have expressed that particular example in this very forum. Choice may be a hassle for a big company, but perhaps worth it to avoid losing customers?)

Edited: April 10, 2021, 4:52 PM · Adalberto, there has been no reason for getting offended at all. We are just discussing and I have just shared my perspective with you:-) Moreover, I got some feedback and this is why I would also like to thank Laurie for running this great discussion forum. It never hurts to learn that there are customers who would appreciate more gauge choices. I am also glad to hear you used to buy strings at luthiers. They deserve to be supported.
April 10, 2021, 5:08 PM · Mr. Warchal,

Last thursday I bought strings at a shop, though it was only 3 of the most common Es. I like to at least ask them if they have what I seek. Online is something I have to do when I have no other way to get what I need. Shops and luthiers do indeed deserve the support!

Stay safe, and thanks for your work and informed expertise.

April 11, 2021, 1:03 PM · It was fortuitous, but I knocked over the soundpost on one of my violins and the top was contoured in such a way that I was unable to resurrect it and with the COVID-19 pandemic there was no way to have it worked on quickly by my usual shop 18 miles from my home - SO I tried the shop I had not previously known about DOLCE Violins in San Rafael, CA, a mere 2 miles from home. It turns out they sell the full range of WARCHAL strings.

Over the bast 20 years, with these 4 violins and all the multitude of strings I have tried on them, I have been amazed by
1. how particular different instruments can be about what strings bring out the best qualities of the instrument
AND
2. How the audiograms (hearing characteristics) of different players and different listeners affect the what they hear and how it affects their judgement of instruments' sound.


I had previously bought a number of sets of Warchal Timbre strings "by mail" from Warchal. They did not please me on my "#1 and #2" violins. However on "#3 and #4" they were incredible - best I have ever tried on those two instruments in the 20 and 50 years I have owned those violins. #4 was even better when I replaced the Timbre A with a Warchal Avantgard A, which was an improvement on that instrument - but not on #3.


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