Not all violins like Dominants?

April 17, 2021, 1:45 PM · A pretty simple and straightforward discussion this time, I promise!

Dominants are the de facto standard for modern synthetic strings, if only because of its history for being one of the first quality synthetics and widespread adoption. I'd argue they aren't as tone-neutral as people put them to be, but that's likely better for another discussion.

Given the "universal" status of Dominants, are there any violins you find that simply don't work well with them?

My violin for example sounds horrid after breaking them in, becoming harsh and piercingly bright regardless of what E string I try to tame them. Curiously enough I found the PI strings to be acceptable despite the higher tension and supposedly brighter timbre, though low tension strings such as Obligato or Eudoxa sounds best.

Replies (25)

April 17, 2021, 3:10 PM · Yup, not all violins like Dominants. But I don't know of any pro performing player who likes or uses Obligatos.

Eudoxas offer a much greater range of possibilities, since they are available in a wide range of diameters and tensions. Put too heavy a string on, and one can numb the fiddle down, pretty much like Obligatos. Get the tension and gauge just right, and the violin can sing and punch.

April 17, 2021, 7:32 PM · I owned a very nice violin that sounded terrific with Obligatos -- but was significantly better with Evah Pirazzi Gold. (That violin was also really good with Olivs, but not with Eudoxas, and pretty good with Passiones, too.)
April 17, 2021, 7:35 PM · Ooh, I'd like to be able to sing and punch!
Edited: April 17, 2021, 7:48 PM · I tend to like Dominants very much. I usually find them to be warm, full, round, brilliant, and punchy. I’ve enjoyed them on many violins and violas over many years. But I certainly agree that they don’t work on all violins (or violas).

On certain violins that tend to sound very plain and bland, I’ve found that they don’t offer much help, as they don’t have a lot of “color” of their own.

On the other hand, they have a grit that can worsen the harshness of already harsh-sounding violins.

April 17, 2021, 7:57 PM · I have one violin that did not work well with Dominants when they first came out.
It did work with Tonicas.
I had played it with Eudoxas for 20 years before the synthetics were available.It was better with Eudoxas than with Olivs. It was not good with Pirastro Gold Label.

It is excellent with Evah Pirazzi Gold.

April 17, 2021, 11:50 PM · David, I suspect Obligatos would see more use in chamber music and recording settings, where there is less need to project over everybody else as opposed to orchestral and soloist works. I personally find it quite unfortunate that people sometimes have to sacrifice richness and texture in order to compete in the volume game.

For violins that don't play well with Dominants, what neutral synthetic strings do people prefer to gauge or bring out the character of the instrument better? Tonicas had always seem a bit too bright for me, but I haven't had the opportunity to try Karneols yet.

Edited: April 18, 2021, 1:29 AM · I've encountered several professional violists who used Obligatos, though at least two of those have since switched to EP Gold.

(Of course, viola is a different instrument.)

April 18, 2021, 12:54 AM · Dominants sound awful on my violin. PI were much better, but I've since switched to a mix of brands, including some wound gut, which I dig.
Edited: April 18, 2021, 4:44 AM · Dominants were meh on my current and last violin, but rondos worked very well on my last violin and are fantastic on my current one. I'm still trying to find an E string that works with them as I didn't really care for the E string the last time I tried it. Who knows? Maybe it would work wonders on this one. I currently have a goldbrokat 26 on and it's quite good. My last set I used the amber E, but I was curious to see if I could find a cheaper E so that I could buy a bunch in bulk and change them more frequently since E strings go pretty fast.
Edited: April 18, 2021, 11:06 PM · I would not describe PI strings as having a brighter timbre than Dominants, I think they are advertised as being a bit warmer and more focused and soloistic (of course being higher tension).

I think it's a bit difficult to find the perfect "neutral string" so I've always tried not to think of Dominants in that way. In fact I would describe them today as one of the more gut-like synthetic strings, which makes sense since that would have been what they were aiming for 50 years ago. The tension is one of the lowest of a synthetic set and the aluminum D imitates the fuzzyness and brightness of aluminum wound gut Ds. Lighter guage Eudoxas can be very bright as well, so I think one could equate Dominant as resembling a set of slightly bright wound gut. More modern synthetics of course wander more and more away from this - I'm not complaining (art is always changing), just observing.

It seems like you have a preference for warmer strings - perhaps your violin lacks some depth in sound. Higher tension strings can give that, and if PI strings respond well you can also try Rondo. I've found the G is particularly good at giving "depth" to violins that lack it. I've personally found Obligatos and Violinos (similar core) to be too dry and dull on my violin, but my violin naturally has a very deep sound, so they are overkill.

Probably the most focused and warm (lacking brightness) string is Vision Solo (NOT titanium solo) so you could try it and see if you like that sound direction. It would be darker sounding than PI.

In a nutshell, I would describe PI as focused and slightly warm, Rondo as fairly neutral and slightly less focused than PI (more broad) and Vision Solo as extremely focused and dark. EP Gold could also work for you, I would say it is something like Rondo but with more texture.

Every violin is different, and I know people who swear by Vision Solo, although my violin much prefers Dominant style strings.

April 18, 2021, 11:48 PM · My violin actually prefers Eudoxa at the time being. I had PI strings when I first brought my violin to my luthier for a checkup, he commented that my violin reacted fairly poorly to high tension strings and sounds choked, the warm and focused tone of PI strings actually hid the fact that the higher overtones were nearly nonexistant. Since then I have switched to Obligatos, and Eudoxas soon after for the wide dynamic range only limited by my technique.

Still, I am puzzled why my violin can pair well Eudoxas while sounding awful with Dominants, as you have mentioned that Dominants are rather gut-like.

April 19, 2021, 12:09 AM · I would venture to say that Eudoxas are not "typical" gut strings, whether you compare them to wound or plain gut. For example, if you try a set of Tricolore medium gauge plain or wound gut to a set of Eudoxa medium, you will find the Tricolores to be brighter and much more piercing in sound. I would say Dominants are actually closer to that style of gut sound (the Pirastro Gold set of wound gut is another example).

Historical gut strings (plain gut E A D and an A string wound in silver or copper to become a G) at historical diameters (more or less unchanged from 1700s to early 1900s) would have actually been very high tension, even slightly higher than some modern high tension synthetics.

So Eudoxas are really an anomaly - way more low-tension and smoother than what came before and after, even compared to other wound gut. I think of them as a mid 20th century search for the most beautiful warm sound, reflected in the style of playing of the time. And there's nothing wrong with that, I love them too!

April 19, 2021, 7:07 AM · Should be interesting to know the history behind Pirastro's creation of Eudoxa, which was once very loved among many, even while Tricolore and others were still played. I won't ask Pirastro as I doubt they will want to answer, since it is not a question that helps their company's bottomline (frankly, the people in charge today may not know the answer...)

I like Tricolore too, as they are so bold. That said, as I mentioned in another thread, Eudoxas can be quite powerful, bold, and beautiful with the right setup and E string, with very negligible weaknesses that are not sound related. And they are obviously so easy to play compared to almost anything in the market, not to mention the ridiculous sensitivity to the most minute finger and bow nuances-things that are impossible to do on even the best modern synthetics.

I like light Dominant, as they emulate the style of low tension gut, but the sound is obviously not as refined or as deep as Eudoxa. They do have a nice, balanced bright tone that may not fit all violins and/or personal taste, but honestly, for synthetics, I rather have that sound than a hollow, dark tone. The regular Eudoxa never get muddy for me like some "warm synthetics" are prone to do (Obligato being the classic example of this-not a bad string, but can become overly dark.)

Edited: April 20, 2021, 5:17 AM · I tried Dominants when they appeared...and went straight back to Eudoxas.
Now I use Tonicas on violin and viola. I suspect a marketing conspiracy in all these "composite", high tension strings, which are more expensive and deteriorate quickly. And each new version gets nearer to the sound of gut. Supposedly.
And as the higher tension often stifles the overtones, they have to make the strings even brighter.
April 20, 2021, 8:03 AM · It's been a long time since I used Dominants. I remember getting a new violin that had Eudoxas on. When I changed the strings to Dominants it just did not have its own character any more. My feeling is that they impose their sound and will maybe only sound neutral to you if you have played on them a lot and that is the default to you. There are so many better strings on the market now and expensive though it can be to experiment, it's good to find strings that suit the instrument.
April 20, 2021, 8:03 AM · It's been a long time since I used Dominants. I remember getting a new violin that had Eudoxas on. When I changed the strings to Dominants it just did not have its own character any more. My feeling is that they impose their sound and will maybe only sound neutral to you if you have played on them a lot and that is the default to you. There are so many better strings on the market now and expensive though it can be to experiment, it's good to find strings that suit the instrument.
Edited: April 21, 2021, 7:28 PM · Which string of the set are you talking about? ^^ Somehow I find hard to believe any violin might not take the medium G Dominant but would love to hear. There is significant nuance in the D choices but the Silver D is phenomenal IMHO.

However a number of violins don’t take the medium A - but found recently that in these cases the Heavy Dominant A is actually very, very good.

i won’t mention the Es that come with the set (although the wound E is decent!) maybe it’s harder to find a violin that they fit well ;-)

April 21, 2021, 7:33 PM · Mr. Johnson,

Some players (I can remember at least one) in this forum do use a light G along with medium dominants, as it leans towards clarity without losing too much, if anything. I prefer Dominant light for all of them myself, though I am not using Dominant right now (I would perhaps use light G&D, medium A if I used them again, just to try.)

I can imagine Dominant may not help all instruments. However, for synthetics, I think the old nylon/perlon core strings were never too bad, and that not all modern synthetics are necessarily "better" just because they may cost more, for my taste at least.

Edited: April 21, 2021, 11:17 PM · I'm a happy Dominant light G user myself. It responds faster, and is clearer as I go up the fingerboard, than the medium G, without giving up much volume. I am happy with the medium A and D.
April 21, 2021, 8:42 PM · Did you expect Dominants to magically work great on every single violin? It was the first very popular synthetic violin string, but being the first and most popular doesn't mean it's good.
Edited: April 23, 2021, 3:04 AM · Trouble is, it's not always possible to know the OP's experience, and that often determines the answer.
The Dominant light A on my Breton (probably luthier error) took me 4 or 5 months to get used to. Now it sounds nicer than the Dominant medium D - usually I get my best tone out of the G and D strings. Very soon I'll put on some ootb Dominant meds. I expect it will take me months to get used to the balance again. Some beginners (I watch their videos on other forums) seem to change strings so often (looking for perfection outside of themselves) that I'm sure they never have time to get used to anything.

Same with guitars. I shove on the cheapest strings, Augustines, and practise. Others change strings every 3 days out of dissatisfaction.

April 23, 2021, 3:03 AM · Amidst all this confusion and conflicting advice one thing I'm pretty sure of: in blind tests at a distance none of us would be able to tell the difference
Edited: April 23, 2021, 5:29 AM · From synthetic strings, I like Dominants the best. They feel very easy to play because of lower tension.

If a violin doesn't play well with Dominants, it's probably not a good violin. I feel other synthetic strings feel a lot more synthetic, they try to make the sound have characteristics that wouldn't be otherwise.

Of course in a blind test I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference 100% the time.

Edited: April 23, 2021, 4:01 AM · I'll give two opinions that I feel strongly about:

1. Dominants are not a bad string. They are still often one of the best strings for certain types of violins. I have colleagues who have tried the latest and greatest Rondos, Perpetuals etc and have gone back to Dominants, and I've made similar conclusions. There still are not many competitors with the same tension and sound profile.

The break in and perhaps longevity could be improved, but they aren't deal-breakers.

2. I've compared changing individual strings with colleagues in a hall and the difference in sound is definitely noticeable - and often surprising (i.e. a colleague thought a Passione Solo G was sweeter than an Oliv light guage G, which was more agressive in sound quality).

April 23, 2021, 8:04 AM · Steve, Difference between what? One can certainly tell the difference between anything vs. Super Sensitive red label for example. I had a rental violin which positively bloomed when strung with Dominant vs. D'Addario Prelude.

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