Helicores for Viola?
I'm curious to hear people's experiences using Helicores on their violas. There's not a lot of talk about them in this forum and what there is usually ranges from "hated them" to "they're not as good as x-y-z strings."
Why? They have a rope core and similar windings to Forza, Spirocore and Pirastro Permanent. They come in three gauges and they're like half the price. Why are they not more loved?
I have had a lot of experience with them on a number of instruments (mostly violas, but a few violins) over the years.
Good to know, Andrew. I've got tone to burn but I need a little more responsiveness. I have Obligatos on my viola now. I was considering Rondos but might consider trying Helicore if they're that cheap.
I just got a viola a couple of years ago, but I have fiddled around with various strings on my cello and violin since 1980. My viola (a regraduated 1930's nothing special) came with a new set of Helicores, and I like the sound so much that I have never wanted to change brands...had the impression from the forums that Helicores were the usual string for a viola.
In my individual experience which is like nobody else's because I have a different instrument and play differently, the Helicores give good response and tone though I have had the core of the G string snap on two occasions while the other strings sounded fine still. Both times it appeared that the core had corroded. Once the string broke in the silk at the bottom and the other time in the pegbox. I am satisfied with these strings and haven't tried any others. Perhaps if viola were my primary instrument I would feel differently. But I stay with them as they are good enough as the Dominants are good enough on the violin. I am not at the stage where my sound is much affected by strings. I do prefer lower tension. Decades ago, the Super Sensitive red label E string on my production Roth was like playing a cheese slicer. Ow!
Hi Amrita, I did try a light-gauge G on viola once, out of curiosity. I also tried the light-gauge violin strings a long time ago.
I used to recommend Helicore strings to my beginning cello students (with cheap cellos) because they were inexpensive, responded easily and produced a nice "uncomplicated" sound. For my own instruments I generally want strings that will produce big sound and all the overtones my instruments can amplify.
I have Vision solos with Larsen A on my viola, but I’ve been itching to try the rondo viola strings since I love the violin ones so much. According to Rich Maxham on another thread (String Changing) they are amazing strings and professionals who have tried them love them. He also said he thinks they are the best viola set available right now and that the whole set is good so you don’t have to change the A string. I might take his word for it and not even order a Larsen A like I was originally going to when I buy the Rondos.
I’ve always found Helicore to be tinny. They’re commonly used on rentals or school instruments because they’re cheap. They do have a decent lifespan and aren’t as awful as Prelude or Red Label, two other sets that are often chosen for their price, not their sound.
Helicores aren't cheap.
It depends what you mean by "cheap."
"Less" doesn't mean "cheap." Some of the strings you mention are overpriced out of hype.
50 bucks is pretty cheap for a set of viola strings these days. The Rondos for viola are $159.95 for the set which is quite expensive, but if they last as long as the violin ones do (or longer since they’re viola strings) I think depending on the person it might be worth it. It certainly sounds worth it for me. The rondos on my violin are 3 months old now and they still have a nice edge to them where other sets would have been significantly more tame by now. I haven’t lost any response either. They still respond the same way as when I first put them on. At this rate I might get 5-6 months out of rondos when I normally have to change strings every 3-4.
It’s not always the case, but you do generally get what you pay for with strings. Compared with other common viola string sets like Evahs, Evah Golds, Obligatos, or Rondos, Helicores are on the low end of the price spectrum. Yes, they’re more than the bottom-tier steel strings or the fake sets on Amazon, but those aren’t really a fair comparison.
One possible reason why D'Addario strings are less expensive, at least in the U.S., is because they're made here. They're not imported.
$50 is very inexpensive for viola strings, keeping in mind that a set of viola strings typically costs about twice as much as the same brand of violin strings. A set of Tonica viola strings runs about $70.
But Tonica makes good viola strings!!
I've never tried the tonica viola strings. I've used the violin ones before, and they were quite good for the price. On one violin I had, I preferred them to dominants. And I was able to use the entire set because they had a good E string, although I usually still substituted it for a gold label E. At less than $40 a set, I certainly didn't mind changing them whenever this got old.
We shouldn't confuse tension and guage: the latter depends on the materials used.
Adrian- thank you for explaining the difference between tension and gauge. Makes sense that gauge is dependent on materials used.
Hi Amrita, I have played both on a few different instruments.
Thank you, Andrew!
I'm not including Red Label, For-Tune, or any of the ones that are generally only used on student or rental instruments. Considering that the cheapest sets of viola strings are approximately:
My luthier sold me my viola with Helicores, and I keep them in reserve.
"given a cumulative rate of inflation between 1980-2021 of about 226.7%"
I find it rounder, less "tinny". Still tense, though.