The Paris double-blind experiment

Edited: October 9, 2017, 12:03 AM · I'm currently watching a video of this on Youtube:

I'm sorry if this ground has been gone over before but before posting any conclusions of my own I'd love to hear what others think

Replies (1140)

September 28, 2017, 1:54 PM · The modern violin fascists strike again!!!
Edited: September 28, 2017, 2:06 PM ·

This one was in Indianapolis but the same idea.

September 28, 2017, 2:10 PM · Double-deaf would be a more appropriate title. Sorry, could not resist the temptation.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 2:17 PM · Keep in mind, what media said is not what the researchers said. If you are interested, read the papers originally published and lauries blog.
Oh and ignore most of what gets written here when it comes to research about sich an emotional topic.
Edited: September 28, 2017, 5:45 PM · Not an emotional topic for me. I always think most comparison test (specially something old to something new) are no more reasonable than comparing apples to oranges. In this example, how many of the old violins are actually the old violins anyway. Meaning- how many are still 100% original parts. I don't know, but it is probably a safe guess that most if not all have had some kind of work since they were originally made. How can anyone make sound claims on a broken then fixed instrument in a comparison to something new. I guess you could always add a few cracks, worn spots, re-glues, sweat, and what not to the new ones then fix them and see how all this nonsense works out. But then that wouldn't work either since there is such a thing as natural decay. They are not therefore the original instruments and we will never know how the new violins would compare to the masters. Less maybe wait 300 years and compare from recordings.

September 28, 2017, 5:54 PM · It's been at least two weeks since we had a good antique-vs-modern battle, so might as well plow through it all again.
September 28, 2017, 10:29 PM · It is obvious that well build modern instruments can equate or even exceed some of the best old master instruments. The differences are more related to subjective personal taste than anything else objectively quantifiable. Put any quality built modern instrument through the numerous adjustments and fine tuning by the world's most renowned luthier's that the average old master's instruments were subjected to over several centuries, and they too will sound pretty darn good!
September 29, 2017, 12:08 AM · My facts:

- I prefer two modern fiddles (of which I luckily own one) to most much more expensive antique (Italien) violins I tried, some with very big names.

- I played on a couple awesome antique violins too, I cannot afford any of them unless I win the lottery twice.

- You can have a career on a modern instrument (see Tetzlaff, Vogler - not the Cellist, the violinist -, Fischer and some others).

-The other fact: What I wrote does not tell anything about antique vs new.

September 29, 2017, 1:03 AM · I'm more interested in what people think about the design and conduct of the experiment. I thought it a prime example of headline-grabbing bad science. The criteria the audience members were asked to judge by were too many and too vague. It would be nice to know if they showed any consistency in their judgement of relatively concrete properties such as brightness, warmth, power between ANY violins, not necessarily "great" ones played by "great" players. I believe some of the players themselves hinted at just how many other factors could have interfered with and muddied the findings, for example the hall and the choice of bow. The most obvious defect for me is that nobody can be expected to get the best out of an unfamiliar violin in a brief acquaintance.
Edited: September 29, 2017, 2:31 AM · How many modern fanatics, are only so because they cannot afford a good 17th or 18th century Italian instrument? IMHO, they believe, even subconsciously, "I don't like antique instruments because I don't/can't have one" and "because I have a new violin, what I have must be as good as old.. no wait, it is even better.. "
Modern violins are copies of antique instruments. How can an imitation be better than the original? Is a print of a Monet better than the original painting, even if the colours are brighter and the condition better?
I have top moderns, eg Capicchioni, as well as antique violins in my collection. The modern have youthful power, the old have colours and a smoothness and ease of play that the newer ones do not.
The best analogy is that old violins perform like new cars, everything works smoothly and easily; whilst new violins are like old cars, and all that entails.

Finally, this kind of study is usually funded and organised by modern makers with a point to prove. It is no surprise they get the result they pay for.

Cheers Carlo

September 29, 2017, 2:12 AM · Unfortunately it appears we can't actually read the latest paper without subscribing to PNAS. Does anyone have a PDF they could legitimately share if I post my email address?
Edited: September 29, 2017, 2:22 AM · Steve,

Please send me an email RE: the article. My email is on my profile.

September 29, 2017, 2:55 AM · Sorry Michael, am I blind? I see no reason not to give mine which is
Edited: September 29, 2017, 4:25 AM · Steve,

Actually the link to the paper was provided by one of the commenters in the YouTube video:

Note that this seems to be a working copy, not the final, published article in PNAS but close enough for the purpose of discussion.

Edited: September 29, 2017, 4:35 AM · On two of my browsers that link (to the paper) results in a "URL not found" message. I'd guess it has been withdrawn.
September 29, 2017, 4:39 AM · Thanks Sung Han - I did find that paper which covers the players' assessment. I'm hoping to see the latest 2017 paper in PNAS which analyses the listener assessment. The older papers can be read in full on the PNAS site but the latest is only available as an abstract. Call me a socialist, but I'm actually more interested in what the mob thinks!
September 29, 2017, 4:40 AM · Trevor - we just lost the end of the address which in full is:

September 29, 2017, 4:53 AM · Trevor, it is because the commentator put the wrong link, not because it was withdrawn. The corrected link is included in my previous message.

Steve, I quickly read the article and I think it is a meaningful and encouraging result. In spite of conceivable shortcomings of the experiment (imagined or real), it seems obvious to me that the best modern instruments can favorably compete against the best old instruments.

September 29, 2017, 4:54 AM · Violins are like people, each one is unique. After having played hundreds of violins -- great old and great new -- I conclude that no generalizations can be made.
September 29, 2017, 4:57 AM · I think Carlo is wrong. Technology has improved in the past 300 years, and so have the quality of the instruments made by master makers.

And the reason for this is exactly technology. It does not matter violins are made by manual labor. Technology changes everything. From the lighting used during the production, to the optics used by the manufacturers, their work tools and wide access to information/research.

The thing with old violins is that only a few survived, and they recieve a lot of investment to keep them top notch. If you bought a T model for 1M and payed 50 k every time it went to the workshop, i have no doubt it would run flawlessly (as oposed to a traban that you spent 100 bucks for each workshop visit).

and how can an immitation be better than the original? Well... a lot of copies outperform the original products. Lego, tablets and generic meds are just a few examples. You should ask the chinese why is that. Ill give you a hint though: research.

September 29, 2017, 5:35 AM · The listed link still doesn't work! But what does work is,

If a 17/18th century violin is still in active use (one of the musicians in my chamber orchestra plays a violin that is authentically dated 1700) then you can be sure that it has been altered in several fundamental respects over the centuries, to say nothing of on-going repairs to scratches, splits, cracks and the like. Originally, it would have been what today we call a Baroque instrument, with gut strings and bow to match, and certainly wouldn't have sounded as it does today on the concert platform after 200+ years of intensive luthier attention. I think these points invalidate blind tests ab initio.

What would be interesting to compare the playing of modern Baroque violins (there are many being made now) with unmodified originals from the early 18th century. The problem is that there are very few such unmodified old instruments in a playable condition, most in museums and largely inaccessible.

Edited: September 29, 2017, 5:52 AM · I’ll probably never play an expensive modern instrument, and surely never play an old Italian instrument, but if someone told me I could only have one or the other, then I would pick the old Italian instrument. And it isn’t because of resale value. I would still pick the old instrument even if the modern one sounded better.
September 29, 2017, 6:20 AM · A hard-headed statistician reading the report of the player assessment would point out that none of the findings was statistically significant, causing the authors to resort to sneaky phrases and words like "on average" and "tended". Note the phrase the authors actually amended from the published version (which is cheating!): "The current study...found that experienced players..tended to prefer the new instruments". This is more nearly correct than the published phrase but if I'd been the reviewer I'd at least have insisted on insertion of "ten" before "experienced". Our hard-liner would have insisted that a statistically insignificant tendency isn't a result at all and had the sentence removed. The finding that the players "were unable to distinguish old from new at better than chance levels" might depend on a plethora of factors and is properly described as "no evidence" that they could make such a distinction. Then, of course, the sample of violins and players was completely unrepresentative of the overall population. Imagine if this was a drug trial!
Edited: September 29, 2017, 6:29 AM · @Bruno. Technology is not the reason Stradivari and Guarnieri del Gesu made the best violins. At best, technology helps to make better copies of original violins and is the reason that good faximilies of art works are produced. I want neither the technology, or a modern imitation of an orginal, be it art works or violins.

Good modern copy violins can sound excellent and are the future stock of good old violins. They don't however sound mature. Compare them to fine wine. You can drink it young, energetic and bold on the palette, but rough, and lacking subtlety. However cellar it for twenty years or more, and all the rough edges disappear and there is depth and a symphony playing out on nose and the palette. Unfortunately in twenty years, a violin is still yet to give anything close to its potential. There is no substitute for time.

Cheers Carlo

September 29, 2017, 6:28 AM · Many of the very good modern makers dont make exact copies, just take the outlines because of some respect to tradition. Arching, plateweights, platethickness, etc are mostly their own.
You cannot boil it down to modern makers copying the work of strad or one of the other great makers.
September 29, 2017, 6:37 AM · 9/28 Roger St-Pierre said: "The differences are more related to subjective personal taste than anything else objectively quantifiable."

The results... scoring what is preferred and what is not... are definitely a reading of personal taste, and can be nothing objective.

However, I do believe there are objectively identifiable differences that have been shown consistently over the years, first shown in Dunnwald's paper in the 1991 Catgut Acoustical Society journal. And there are known changes that occur over time in wood that would affect the important acoustic properties, which could account for the differences.

But these are general factors, with each instrument being quite different. And, in the end, it is all personal taste as to which sound is preferred.

September 29, 2017, 6:44 AM · There's an experience factor as well. A contemporary luthier makes FAR fewer instruments than his 18th/19th century counterpart did. From what I understand, there is a higher technical standard in making -- the woodworking is more precise than it was in the past -- but that is not the same as the organic experience that's useful in making carving decisions.
Edited: September 29, 2017, 9:35 AM · If I focus on one finding only, I would choose Table S1 on page 17. Ten players were asked to choose the top four violins, and in 20 sessions total, they chose 15 modern instruments as the best. If there is no overall difference among the old and new instruments in player's preference, this or more extreme result would occur about 4% of the time, assuming a two-sided alternative hypothesis.

If we expand the scope to the best four, collectively these players chose modern instruments 48 times versus old instruments 32 times, with multiplicity allowed. In this universe, the preference is 60% vs 40%, favorable to modern violins.

Of course we all have different tastes in sound and style, but I find this study gives me a convincing evidence that an excellent modern instrument does provide a level playing field for professional players at a fraction of the cost, sans bragging rights. That's an encouraging thought.

September 29, 2017, 7:54 AM · @Don Noon - Are you implying that there are scientific factors that make it absolutely impossible to attain particular acoustic properties in new instruments? If so, what acoustic properties are coupled to time?
September 29, 2017, 8:12 AM · Sung Han - you should have your name on the paper! But does that control for type 1 error...?
September 29, 2017, 8:17 AM · so who makes N5, that's the big question, next to how much is it
September 29, 2017, 8:36 AM · It should be noted that there's considerable overlap in the price range of fine top-tier contemporary instruments (which is what were used in these tests, with optimal set-ups and I assume the best specimens that their makers had), and the price range of antiques.

Those top-tier contemporary instruments are not readily available. Their makers have extensive waiting lists, and the price is still well out of the range of affordability for many professional musicians (and far beyond what most amateurs are willing to spend).

Edited: September 29, 2017, 8:44 AM · What's missing is how the violins were chosen for the experiment in the first place: I'm pretty sure they weren't chosen at random. No one walked into a large shop and said "just bring out all your modern violins and I'll grab 20 blindfolded and take them to a competition."

And likewise, no one randomly selected 18th century violins either. My point is that SOMEONE HAD TO CHOSE THE CANDIDATES (sorry to shout).

Who did the choosing? The experiment can't be called "blind" if the candidate violins weren't chosen blindly. More likely, all the violins were cherry-picked.

So yes, people in certain positions--dealers and makers--can round up the very best examples of modern violins because of connections. They can borrow a Greiner or a Zig that was itself cherry-picked as the best of it's maker (no one's going to send what they consider "average," right?). All of the modern instruments may be, in a relative sense, outliers. They may be impossible for the typical violin buyer to access.

Also, was the study carefully controlled for age? Are the modern instrument required to be just off the bench? A month? A year? What's the limit? Is a five-year-old instrument played night and day in an opera pit considered "modern" in the same sense as one just strung up and played for 2 hours? You might as well compare a 3-day-old puppy to one that is 3 months old. They are both "puppies," yet entirely different animals.

All the experiment proves is that THOSE listeners AT THAT TIME in THAT venue AT THAT TEMPERATURE AND HUMIDITY played with THAT BOW by THAT PLAYER preferred THIS OR THAT instrument.

Edited: September 29, 2017, 9:42 AM · My questions are
1. How new were the new violins? Made yesterday or been used for several years?
2. Had the old violins been adjusted (including new strings, sound post positions, bridges...) by experts as the new ones?
3. Were all violins warmed up before the comparison?
4. Why not to compare them (exact same violins) after 20 years (2037) to see what will happen? Are those "best" new violins still among the bests?
September 29, 2017, 8:53 AM · A lot of people don't seem to understand that the study applies only to the instruments, players and listeners used in the study, extrapolating those results to modern instruments as a whole and antique instruments as a whole is a fallacy. All in all a not very scientifically done study, with poorly made over generalizing conclusions.
September 29, 2017, 8:56 AM · Steve,

I only used intro level statistics to simply illustrate my point so it is nothing to be proud of.

By the way, another interesting fact is that out of 10 players, six chose a modern instrument both times while three people changed their mind (from new to old), and only one player preferred an old instrument both times.

September 29, 2017, 9:10 AM · That's more than they did. But with so many loose factors hanging around Lyndon is quite right that what they found is all, and can't be generalised with any validity
Edited: September 29, 2017, 9:45 AM · Scott and Sean,

There are several questions you asked, and many of them are clearly answered in the article. For example, the pool of 15 new violins have ages between several days to two-decades old.

Also, I think there was no problem with double blinding. The authors chose the final 12 in a blind test to see if the crème de la crème of the modern instruments can compete those of the old instruments. Actual players conducted two rounds of blind test to produce the results. Thus double-blinding occurred.

The chosen instruments are not a random sample from two huge stacks of old and new violins. They were intended to be cherry-picked by the dealers and makers. Of course the interpretation is different from just comparing the average modern instrument and the average old instrument. The latter would be simply impractical and unfair, because the old instruments in circulation are the "survivors" due to pedigree or quality or both and not a typical old violin at all.

September 29, 2017, 9:39 AM · I'm still waiting for a new test to "prove" that OLD violins are better than new ones. Heaven knows there is a vested interest there too!
Edited: September 29, 2017, 9:46 AM · There can be one small conclusion made. Old and new are not a night and day comparison.

I would suspect that "the rest of us" is most of us who won't have access to those instruments. Picking from an alternative group does not need to be a bad thing. It becomes a necessary thing.

As some have inferred, not having the money to purchase a 17th century antique doesn't nullify the fact that one can learn well on alternative choices and be happy with those instruments.Also this does not predispose them to a negative opinion of antiques. It's more a matter of choosing and deciding within the acceptable the confines of well crafted instruments within the ranges they can choose.

September 29, 2017, 10:04 AM · Isn't the more interesting fact that violinists couldn't accurately determine whether they were playing a new violin or an old violin?
September 29, 2017, 10:12 AM · Yes this is interesting. This would seem to say that differences exist that are scientifically proven, yet these differences aren't always heard depending on the comparison.

There is no such thing as an impartial person either.

Edited: September 29, 2017, 10:43 AM · I think all of the players and listeners should be tested for tone deafness before participating!!
Edited: September 29, 2017, 11:07 AM · That's not a bad 21-hour response to my late-night impulse to start this thread. Does the world need to hear my opinion too? Certainly not, but here goes.

"Superior tone" is supposed to be the preserve of old violins, but more important in my view is the fact that they all sound different. Having recently invested a tidy sum in one and got lucky with the small change at auction with another, I wonder how I was satisfied for so many years with an efficient but bland contemporary instrument. Alongside the antiques I also auditioned several high-end contemporaries, and my lasting impression is that they were all pretty good and I could scarcely tell them apart.
I suspect that the downside of the research and technology that informs contemporary violin-makers is homogenization of their product.

September 29, 2017, 11:27 AM · The length of time listening can also change a listeners perceptions. The frequency reception of our ears changes with extended listening, especially at higher volumes.

I have personally proven this to be true in my studio. If I mix anything for too long I might conclude I have a good mix that day. If I come back to it with rested ears the next day it never sounds the same, usually much worse than I thought it would sound.

At some point you don't really hear what you think you hear.We can be fooled by our own senses. The first violins tested probably received a less biased review than subsequent reviews.

September 29, 2017, 12:31 PM · Steve Jones, that's an interesting observation. I would say that I've found contemporary instruments to be quite different from one another, but that contemporary Italian makers in the $10-20k price range in the wandering Cremona Exhibition seem to all have a certain tonal palette in mind -- loud, bright, quickly-responsive violins without much of a range of color. Superficially attractive to a student with well-off parents, basically.

Brand-new instruments tend to sound new -- a certain kind of rawness -- but that's not universal. And by the time they're two decades old, as some of the contemporaries in the Paris test were? Doubtful that they would sound distinctively new.

September 29, 2017, 4:04 PM · "I'm still waiting for a new test to "prove" that OLD violins are better than new ones..."

The closest thing to "proof" could be market value. One could could argue that violinists are rational buyers and would not spend the money for an old instrument if they didn't think it was worth it.

September 29, 2017, 5:26 PM · Violin value is not the same thing as violin quality. If you want the biggest gain in a modern violin stay away from anything that is not made in Italy, by an Italian. History shows that whoever is flavour of the month now , it will be Italian violins that appreciate the most in value in the future.

There is no need to prove old is better. It is an accepted fact to all, except those that have an axe to grind.

Cheers Carlo

September 29, 2017, 7:29 PM · It's not enough to say, "I think old Italian violins are the best." This is the 21st century. Anyone who disagrees must be insulted, debased, and utterly destroyed. They must be called fascists or zealots, accused of having an axe to grind, of being tone-deaf, ignorant, or jealous. Any study put forth to support an opposing view is automatically "bad science" regardless where it was published; and at best its findings cannot be generalized because the subjects were individuals; no value of N can ever be high enough.
September 29, 2017, 7:40 PM · There's a lot of people that want to believe newer and cheaper is better, along comes a study designed by modern makers, and guess what it seems to show modern makers coming out ahead, so everyone jumps on the band wagon.

I can't speak for Stradivaris and $30,000 modern violins, but in the student to intermediate grade, I can consistently offer better playing and sounding antique violins, than the new Chinese offerings at similar prices. The idea that there's some kind of renaissance of quality violin making today is largely hype from the makers of said instruments

Edited: September 29, 2017, 7:58 PM · An interesting thread. Arguments involving old vs. new instruments remind me of the controversies around Julian Hirsch at Stereo Review who published comparison results of HiFi audio equipments based on blind listening tests. It was just about impossible to convince people with "golden ears" to prove otherwise.

p.s. The beauty of a well-constructed scientific investigation (or a series of high-quality investigations) is that you don't have to believe the result for it to be true.

September 29, 2017, 8:18 PM · So you guys believe in a cremona 'secret' that died with its classical violin epoch?
Or is it just the epithet Italian -old or modern- for you Carlo that makes the mark? But why so? The italians, french, german, chinese etc of today share an increasingly international source of information. Trying to.portray contemporary Italian violins as better than others sounds rather nationalistic to me, culturally prejudiced and not much else.

Or is it just the fact that theyre aged, Lyndon? But again, what sort of duration..and is it scientifically credible that age is going to improve the playability of a poor fiddle (who is to say that many german factory fiddles werent like the chinese of today...and conversely that there is a class of chinese-and other- fiddles that could equate good german factory ones).

Scott the market would also treasure the auctioned underwear of a superstar heartthrob popsinger. This doesnt mean that theyre not as functiobal as underwear from any.old store.

Im no expert but I sense, excuse me here n9thing personal (I respect you all and have much to learn from you and others here), the whiff of dogma and mythomania. Also i dont see that those performers and people in the video are some kind of charlatans (or fascists or whatnot).

September 29, 2017, 8:37 PM · The principal myth today is that modern violins are superior, and that modern makers understand more about how to make a great violin than the better old makers did, that's the fallacy IMHO
September 29, 2017, 8:41 PM · The fact of the matter is that there really isn't a way to totally generalize about any era of violin-making. There are good makers and bad makers, inconsistent output from many makers (both good and bad), higher quality and lower quality wood, and in the case of many older instruments, modifications and restorations of various sorts.

For most players, on a practical basis, a violin represents a compromise between budget and a variety of desired playing qualities, potentially with investment value thrown in as a complication. (For pros for whom the violin is effectively their nest egg for retirement, investment value is genuinely important; for some players, it may very well take the place of owning a more expensive house.)

Players who want to acquire an instrument are also constrained by the available stock -- not just on an abstract, global basis, but on the basis of how far they're willing to travel to search for an instrument and the practicalities surrounding that. Given that the better modern makers often don't have inventory, this may also require being willing to take a gamble on a commission -- and sit on a waiting list that may mean that there's a long time between when the instrument is ordered (and a deposit put down) and when it's delivered... and needing an instrument to bridge what could very well be a multi-year period of time. What antiques are available on the market at any given time is pretty much luck of the draw. The best-playing violins tend to be held onto by players for a lifetime; they aren't languishing in shops.

Most players shopping on a budget of, say, $30k, are going to look at everything within range, whether contemporary or antique. In that range, I'd guess that contemporary is a more likely purchase these days.

September 29, 2017, 9:40 PM · @Tammuz. I didn't say Italian violins are better as instruments, but that they have proved themselves to be better investments over time.
IMO, There may be a maker alive now who is as good a Stradivari, but I believe it will take 300 years to find out.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: September 29, 2017, 11:24 PM · It's amazing to me that the old makers figured out how to make such superb instruments that require precision craftsmanship and set such a high standard with the technology and science available to them.
Edited: September 29, 2017, 10:48 PM · One thing seldom mentioned is that new instrument doesn't necessarily mean new wood. Some of the new instruments in the study could have been made with century old wood, it doesn't say. If the premise that wood tone production enhances over time holds truth, this isn't insignificant. Then there is the effect of vibration on cellular structure over time, and the mystical slow growing European wood over some past glaciation (as if we don't have slow growing wood in parts of Canada!), and the harvesting during Full Moon, chemical wood treatment and who knows what else! All that to say, there is more to the nature of the new instruments than the time of fabrication.
September 30, 2017, 12:38 AM · The violin business today (makers, teachers, players, dealers and all) is notably conformist. Watching a video of the VSA 2014 congress I was reminded of a horticultural show, vegetable section. The most prized quality seemed to be the build craftsmanship. A medal was also awarded for tone, but this appeared to be judged by one person in private session. No gongs were given out for innovation, not even to the violin made from a coconut.

The antique violins that have come down to us, good, bad and indifferent, come in a glorious assortment of shapes and sizes. Well into the nineteenth century many makers were still devising their own models, or simply glueing together approximately shaped pieces of wood. By the mid-1800's the gene pool was starting to become more depleted, top makers obsessed with copying the great masters and manufacturers similarly standardizing their models.

You can see where this is leading so I won't sum up with a grandiose statement!

September 30, 2017, 1:11 AM · Violin makers today want to tell us they are better than Stradivari, at the same time telling us how closely they copy Stradivari, seems like a contradiction.
September 30, 2017, 3:29 AM · I know exactly one of the great makers that actually goals to copy Strad, and he never claimed his were better.
Just because they use outlines of specific Strads and sometimes choose to make them looking alike, it does not mean they copy his work.
That is just not happening, close to nobody of the good makers copies the arching 1:1 and nobody I know (despite the one) claimes to.
Also I highly doubt you should compare old cheaper Germans vs cheap new violins with old Italiens vs the best modern violins.
You are used to call everybody not your with oppionion sound deaf, still in both current discussions you actually have not even tested the material we are talking about (high quality CF bows and the discussion here) but conclude from the cheap equipment to what is happening at the high end market. I have to say, it does not make you look sympathetic at all.
September 30, 2017, 4:12 AM · Actually I deal in better quality German and French violins, not the cheap crap.
September 30, 2017, 4:43 AM · Steve wrote, "No gongs were given out for innovation, not even to the violin made from a coconut," and Lyndon wrote, "Violin makers today want to tell us they are better than Stradivari, at the same time telling us how closely they copy Stradivari, seems like a contradiction."

That works both ways. Lyndon would be the first to point and laugh if someone "innovated" and made a violin that didn't look like an old Italian violin. Lyndon also knows nobody would buy a triangular violin or one made out of a coconut, no matter how good it sounds. because they could never resell it, and they'd be turned away from an orchestra if they showed up with it.

My own view is that the Paris experiment and others like it teach us something important -- the best of today's instruments are not getting blown away by the best of yesterday's. They may not be better either. Within the framework of the classical violin shape, parts, and materials, there is probably some kind of practical limit as to how "good" or "powerful" (insert other adjectives) it can sound. I would argue that the evidence -- both scientific and anecdotal -- suggests that both living and dead makers have approached that limit.

Edited: September 30, 2017, 5:28 AM · Sorry but one study as poorly done as this does not establish proof of anything, the strongest evidence seems to be what players prefer,and as of yet that hasn't changed much for top soloists. Do you think they haven't heard all about these studies and tried out the top modern makers, they do use modern makers for their back up violins, so that says something.

And you're dead wrong about me, I just bought an antique violin that's shaped like a double bass, not a violin, and it sounds really good, great violins can be made in different shapes and frankly the obsession with Strad and Del Gesu is getting a little bit old.

September 30, 2017, 5:31 AM · I agree with Paul, we've probably arrived at the limit and dispelled the myth. The violin has ceased to evolve but will long occupy a place as one of the defining icons of western culture.
September 30, 2017, 9:02 AM · "Modern violins are copies of antique instruments. How can an imitation be better than the original? "

Have you ever purchased anything Louis Vuitton? I don't believe in buying counterfeit because of all the horrible operations that get bankrolled by replica manufacturing. But everyone knows that authentic Louis Vuitton falls apart, while replicas hold up against wear and tear. Authentic LV is terrible, I stopped buying it long ago because it constantly needs replacing.

Just an analogy, you can't compare violins to leather goods. But it's just something to think about. Whether or not you prefer antique or replica, it's a personal choice.

September 30, 2017, 9:13 AM · Sorry, I spend my spare money on violins, not Louis Vuitton!!
September 30, 2017, 9:22 AM · Douglas Bevan on September 29, 2017, 7:54 AM: "@Don Noon - Are you implying that there are scientific factors that make it absolutely impossible to attain particular acoustic properties in new instruments? If so, what acoustic properties are coupled to time?"

The hemicellulose component in wood degrades over time, while the cellulose remains fairly constant. Some of the effects are decreasing density and, more important in my mind, a significant (~40%) reduction in the moisture content. There may be other effects as well.

The bottom line is that relevant acoustic properties change over time, so new wood is likely not the same acoustic material as old wood, and could at least be part of the observed general trends observed in the acoustic response of old violins vs. new. This says NOTHING about which is "better" (subjective evaluation)... but just that there is an observable difference.

Regarding making a new violin out of old wood: I only have one datapoint, but 300 year old Italian spruce cut from a beam does not appear to have the changes expected, so I don't currently believe that carving a new violin out of 300 year old wood is quite the same as having a violin carved 300 years ago. Perhaps closer, but not there.

I won't say it is "absolutely impossible" to duplicate the acoustic properties of old wood; hydrothermal processing can make some significant changes in the acoustic properties, and might hold some promise... if the goal is duplicating the "old Italian sound". But other factors may also be important (varnish aging, oxidation, vibration, etc.)

Edited: October 1, 2017, 5:33 AM · A few observations on what has been posted so far, and also a few corrections:

This study was NOT financed or conducted by a group of modern makers. Of the seven people listed at the top of the paper, only one is a violin maker, to the best of my knowledge.

The new violins may have been a very select group, but Strads are also a very select group. There doesn't seem to be the same level of interest in comparing random old and new, and I doubt that they could have gotten the French government to finance such a study.

New instruments don't necessarily sound "new". Some do, some don't (I've played thousands). There are also old instruments which sound "new".

There are no Strads which haven't had at least some repair work. All that can be done is to use them in their current state, and with reliance on their current reputation. We have no way of knowing whether they sounded worse when new, or better. But we can be fairly certain that they would have fared poorly in a contemporary solo performance setting, with their original setups, strings and bows. Soloist preferences have changed.

This group has NOT conducted only one study. There have been at least three at this point, if I remember correctly. The outcomes of all were similar. Of course, there are many more studies (both formal and informal) which were never published or made public, and were never intended for that purpose.

VSA tone award winners are NOT selected by only one player. Typically, there are at least 5 involved. And there are a minimum of four judges involved in the "workmanship" portion of the competition.

Edited: September 30, 2017, 12:39 PM · Mention has been made here of some violins today having been made with"old wood". I'm not sure whether what I am now saying is entirely relevant, but many years ago my classical guitar teacher, himself a guitar luthier, told me that the best guitar makers in Spain were using wood that had been laid down by their fathers and grandfathers.
September 30, 2017, 4:16 PM · Interesting, Trevor. The Madrid maker of one of my violins, whom I finally visited in 1990, 20 years after he made my violin, told me that he had bought an old convent years ago that had a massive vertical beam that had been the main mast of an ancient galleon (sailing ship) - which is why he bought the convent (he said). He said he had used that piece of spruce for the tops of all the violins he made. (Fernando solar Gonzales)

The German-born, American maker of another of my violins would make bi-annual trips to Europe to find ancient wood to ship back for the violins he made. (Henry Meissner)

Another maker of mine, an American retired mechanical engineer, bought his aged wood from a mill in (I think) Oregon and the first violin (top) he made from one particular log (which violin I was lucky enough to purchase) was probably one of the best he ever made. Lydia liked it, unfortunately so did my granddaughter who chose IT when I offered her any one of my violins she wanted at age 14 after 8 years of lessons. That was not the violin I had her graduate to 4/4 on when she was 10.

Little has been said in this thread and nothing in the referenced study about the importance of an individual's hearing characteristics in selecting an instrument. I have had the unfortunate (but enlightening) experience of having gradually failing hearing for the past 30 years (at least) and I can tell you it really effects once sense of hearing musical sound (as well as everything else. I think it would be interesting to see audiographs of the people judging instrument sound as well as amplitude/frequency plots of the various instruments. Correlations that included this information might explicate some of the hidden variables in such studies. The careful use of digital hearing aids can help one make different musical decisions. (I sold a Stefano Scarampella violin for a pittance in 1959 to help "ransom" our new-born first daughter from the hospital. If I had had failing hearing then I might have kept it until now when it might be worth more than 2,000 times what I got for it then - also I might now be able to tolerate some of its piercing sound.)

October 1, 2017, 5:32 AM · Sometimes, the more "piercing" instruments (which sound objectionable under the ear), can do quite well to a listener in a hall, or have advantages when it comes to cutting through an orchestra.
Edited: October 1, 2017, 7:11 AM · I should also mention that these studies grew out of the decades-long investigation into why Strads sound "better", and an interest in how one would make instruments which sound like that. Since Strads have been so revered, they served as the most logical benchmark.
Many of these people were various kind of engineers and scientists, not violin makers, and I'd say that actual professional violin makers were among those most skeptical initially of this more scientific approach to understanding violins.

In the last decade or so, this research hit a major snag: As sample sizes got larger, they discovered that Strads can sound very different from each other, and that the sound and playing characteristics of Strads were not always preferred over those of moderns. This lead to the need for more information, so they started being more careful about testing procedures, using things like "double-blind" experiments, and gathering more data under different types of playing environments, and with different sorts of players.

That's the research which has led up to these papers. The results are what they are, and I don't see them as being "new are better than old" agenda driven at all.

Edited: October 1, 2017, 6:43 AM · Very little ever seems to get said in these discussions about the tonal qualities that differentiate one violin from another. Surely different criteria apply in the case of a concerto instrument as compared with one whose major use will be in orchestras or chamber ensembles. A violin which plays mainly baroque music requires less penetrating power in the upper registers, but the ability to blend with others at relatively low volume.

At auction previews, on occasions when I have had to share a “private auditioning” room (actually usually the general office or stairwell) with other players, I have more than once found it hard to hear myself on account of the Tchaikovsky concerto being played at maximum volume a few feet away - often pretty well to be sure, but not by players who are very likely to be called upon to perform it in public. I'm not sure what useful function this serves, apart from cowing other potential bidders.

I've just had the deep pleasure of receiving back from the restorer a violin made in about 1830 by Charles Harris who was active in the Oxford area. Based on the Strad “long pattern”, it doesn't have huge penetrating power but a chocolately richness on the lower three strings which is immensely satisfying and seems absolutely appropriate for chamber music of the baroque, classical and romantic periods. It probably wouldn't do for the Tchaik concerto or anything virtuosic from the 20th century, but why should I worry about that! I suspect that's why nobody else was interested and I was able to buy it for a snip.

October 1, 2017, 7:40 AM · Steve Jones: "Surely different criteria apply in the case of a concerto instrument as compared with one whose major use will be in orchestras or chamber ensembles."

A soloist (playing my violin, less than 1 year old) was offered the concertmaster's Strad to play in a concert. After comparing the two, the soloist, concertmaster, and conductor all agreed that mine was more appropriate to use for the soloist, based on its power advantage. This was a full orchestra, and no amplification, so power was critical. If it was some other situation where tone alone was the deciding factor, then I have no doubt the choice would be different.

October 1, 2017, 7:49 AM · Don - doesn't it often go the other way, the Strad possessing the projection but not so suitable for music demanding intimacy and tenderness?
October 1, 2017, 7:52 AM · As Don points out, the hemicellulose of wood degrades over time. There is also research that indicates the sound damping, frequently referred to in research literature as the "loss coefficient", is strongly related to the hemicellulose content.

So one might expect old violins that have seen significant hemicellulose degradation to exhibit sound changes related to reduced loss coefficients: a change in tonal balance to favor narrower frequency ranges, and an increase in loudness in these narrower ranges.

October 1, 2017, 8:22 AM · "...After comparing the two, the soloist, concertmaster, and conductor all agreed that mine was more appropriate to use for the soloist, based on its power advantage..."

Playing an old instrument is not like playing a new one. It take a different bow stroke, different contact point, less pressure. If one is used to a modern instrument in the first place, it would be difficult to play an old one without time to get used to it. This has to be taken into account.

October 1, 2017, 8:46 AM · Here's another possible idea for a double-blind experiment which would be far better controlled than the Paris study. Has any maker ever produced two violins to the identical model, one using old wood and one new? We might actually learn something credible from that.
October 1, 2017, 9:23 AM · Steve, there can be so many variables in the construction of two violins (even when when made with wood from the same tree, and when the maker tries to make them exactly the same), that it can be hard to attribute differences to any single variable. They all come out a little different anyway.
Also, like Don may have mentioned earlier, large pieces of wood don't seem to age in the same way as thinner wood which has already been made into a violin.

Though informal and anecdotal, there have been many reports from makers who have experimented with using very old wood, that starting with very old wood didn't seem to offer any advantage

October 1, 2017, 9:26 AM · In theory it sounds good, but one would have to make a sample of 30+ instruments to derive any significant statistical difference between old and new wood unfortunately. No maker can make 100% same sounding instruments. There's some degree of consistency from a given maker, but the difference between old wood and new wood likely to be less or equal to that of the random differences from one instrument to another, which is likely to make it impossible to draw any significant conclusion. At best you'll get anecdotal evidence. Analysis of the waveform of new vs old wood from a large selection of random instruments is perhaps more likely to show the difference if a large enough sample is used.
October 1, 2017, 9:32 AM · I'm assuming those makers who use ancient wood are hoping that their violins will share some qualities with old violins? So what if c.10 makers were asked to produce matched pairs and see if there's any consistency in the player and audience comparison of their richness, loudness etc. Statistically that would be pretty nearly bullet proof, although maybe the makers would need to be metaphorically blinded too..
October 1, 2017, 10:00 AM · The concertmaster's Strad cannot be assumed to be an instrument with a lot of projection, either -- and moreover, may not have been set up to optimize projection, given the concertmaster's playing needs. And I agree with Scott on technical approach; a lot of sensitively-responding violins require a player to adapt their tone production in order to get the best results.

A Strad or similar instrument of quality possesses a vivid range of colors. One of the strengths of such an instrument is the ability to get, as you put it, "intimacy and tenderness", while still being able to be heard over a full orchestra.

October 1, 2017, 10:05 AM · Unfortunately those are the very qualities that I feel are lacking in a lot of modern performances of chamber music. String quartets, in particular, seem more and more intent on overwhelming the audience with sheer volume. Is that down to the players or their instruments? I really wish we could hear more chamber works played on the kind of instruments the composers expected them to be played on.
October 1, 2017, 10:14 AM · I doubt this has much to do with the instruments.

Rather, I think it depends on what sort of venue you go to hear chamber music in. If the concert is in a huge hall, projection will be on the minds of the performers.

If you actually hear chamber music in the kind of intimate setting the composers expected it to be performed in, you are highly unlikely to hear an emphasis on volume, because it's simply not necessary.

October 1, 2017, 10:36 AM · I've slightly got off topic here onto one of my hobby-horses, but in recent years there's been so much emphasis on loudness and projection I think other equally important aspects of violin design have been rather neglected. A common idea seems to have evolved of what constitutes a "great" violin, which I don't see as a positive development. I've superficially skimmed through another thread "Looking for a 10K-15K modern violin" and horse-power seems to be by far the most important factor under consideration
Edited: October 2, 2017, 7:17 AM ·
October 1, 2017, 11:09 AM · Only around amateurs I guess. After seriously testing no good player will choose a violin that is just loud and nothing else. There is a great palette of things a violin has to be able to do and those using it know to test for it.
Imgine Brahms violin concerto or Sibelius violin concerto on a violin with only one tone colour. How boring would that be.
October 1, 2017, 11:36 AM · I'm carrying a banner for vio-diversity. Does anyone know of a maker who's created a modern take on the Stainer model? Should be ideal for HIP baroque players of the German school I should have thought.
Edited: October 1, 2017, 12:04 PM · ALL baroque HIP players should be only on new tinstruments. They didn't have access to 3-400 year old masterpieces. Or, they could just take the soundpost out for that authentically thin tone...

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 1, 2017, 1:52 PM · Steve wrote:
"Unfortunately those are the very qualities that I feel are lacking in a lot of modern performances of chamber music. String quartets, in particular, seem more and more intent on overwhelming the audience with sheer volume."

Steve, one of the most captivating performance I have ever attended, was by the Shanghai Quartet. This had nothing to do with loudness, but with their "blend", and the huge variations in tone color between different sections of the music.

Last time I checked, most of them were performing on contemporary instruments, so I'd be highly reluctant to make generalizations about what either old, or contemporary violins, can or or cannot do.

October 1, 2017, 4:02 PM · It appears that students are often obsessed with getting loud violins, confusing superficial bright resonance with sound quality. Unfortunately, I suspect most new instruments are sold to students -- mostly in the form of workshop instruments, not contemporary master luthier-made instruments, but the preference also carries over to students who have the money to buy the latter.

You'll see that in so many of the posts from teenagers (and others) on, when the reality is that very few players really need soloistic projection.

October 1, 2017, 4:31 PM · A customer I have right now is concerned that his violin is too quiet to hear in the orchestra, he is considering a louder violin, but not soloist level, so volume can be a factor for orchestral players as well. Fortunately the violin he is considering is not just louder, but exceptional in tone as well.
October 1, 2017, 6:26 PM · I figure "loud enough to hear myself" is a pretty low bar to cross. :-)

(Though I've also found that volume under the ear alone, volume under the ear in orchestra, and actual volume to an audience are very different things.)

Edited: October 1, 2017, 7:22 PM · His two violins are pretty feeble in volume, mine is a lot louder, but not quite what I would consider soloist volume. I'm not even sure soloist volume is the best thing for an orchestral player.
Edited: October 1, 2017, 7:52 PM · I'm with David, I don't ever remember having heard a chamber group go for sheer volume alone. Dynamic range? Yes. For which you need the softest pp's as well as loudest ff's possible. Some of the most exquisite, tender, intimate playing I've ever heard live was of the Tetzlaff Trio. I assume he was playing his Greiner.

I don't know where I first heard or read the myth that Strads require more lateral playing and bow speed, whereas del Gesu's like and can take a lot of pressure. In my admittedly limited experience of trying fine old instruments I've found there is no such rule. Of the 3 del Gesu's I've tried, 2 liked pressure, 1 not so much. Of the 4 Strads, two violins and one viola liked lateral bowing, the third violin, the 1707 Cathedral Strad (which apparently the owner took back from a certain concert artist "formerly known as" for not taking good care of it, and which, luckily for me, was at the shop being cleaned and tweaked while I was buying my fiddle and bow) could take anything and do anything--probably the best old fiddle I've ever and will ever have the pleasure of sampling. I have no idea how much of the response of those fiddles had to do with setup.

Of the other more memorable fiddles:
-2 Storionis loved pressure
-sweet, sweet, achingly sweet Rugeri (with a zillion cracks) may not have loved pressure but could take it
-N. Gagliano loved pressure
-Guad loved pressure
-an early yellowish Scarampella, memorable for sounding wiry and terrible, could take nothing, and gave nothing

I've not loved any contemporary fiddles I've tried yet, but I haven't tried many--hope to this year. I love my Grubaugh-Seifert viola which sounds old and very Brescian--lovely, rich colours. As David said, some contemporary instruments have sounded new and others have not. But of the new sounding I've tried, that "hissy" noise can't be heard beyond 10 feet anyways. So I think the 'newness' really only affects the player.

Edit: I know there exist nice sounding fiddles without much projection, but in general I don't think you can categorize fiddles into soloist and non-soloist, just great and something less than great. Great fiddles like the Cathedral can play the softest of pp's, with every colour anyone could dream of, to the loudest, most hair-raising ff's, effortlessly. Sure there are great sounding fiddles you have to coax, but is that as good as a truly great fiddle.

October 2, 2017, 12:12 AM · I agree Lyndon, an orchestra player does not do well in choosing a solistic violin.
When I got my first pretty projective violin I was very happy and somehow thought I need to make use of it. My eyes were oppened when a conductor asked me during rehersal to sit in the back row (I was sitting next to the concert master) because I was to loud compared to the rest of the section. I was ashamed but I learned a lot. I was about 18 years old at this stage.
Today I understand much more (surely not all) about the sound of a section and that this is not achieved by egomaniacs.
October 2, 2017, 12:13 AM · I think the pressure ruel for DG statistically applies to violins of him not beeing regraduated, not many of them out there.
October 2, 2017, 12:38 AM · I had the exact same experience as Marc a lot more recently! On my second rehearsal with a very poor orchestra (I thought I was doing them a favour) the conductor delivered a little homily, not directly to me but to the back wall, about "blending in" and not wanting any "heroes". Yes, I knew who I was. The violin section I was supposed to blend in with consisted of 5 players, 3 of them inaudible. Egomaniac? - maybe, but sometimes your face just doesn't fit.
October 2, 2017, 12:52 AM · Good story.
October 2, 2017, 5:06 AM · Some of these stories remind me of the time about 40 years ago when her choir director asked my wife to sing flat like the rest of the sopranos in the group (my wife has an outstanding ear for intonation - but she married me anyway!).
Edited: October 2, 2017, 11:07 AM · Steve,

The matched design would not help answer the original question posed by the Paris study, because your study will try to measure any significant differences (if at all) in sound quality between new and old wood. I don't think that is the primary concern for most posters here, perhaps except the violin makers.

Edited: October 2, 2017, 7:30 PM · For a while they were recovering old timber from the floors of shipping lanes in the Great Lakes. Giant logs. Not sure how much of that would have been spruce though. Michigan was known for white pine and some hardwoods I think.
October 3, 2017, 1:39 AM · Sung Han - you're quite right of course, but I believe in walking before running. It seems poor scientific practice to pose such a big question when we still don't know the answers to the small ones like what factors cause any objectively verifiable (put that in italics!) audible differences between new and old violins. I remember an early functional MRI study which attempted to demonstrate the pattern of brain metabolic activity elicited by listening to music with (I think the authors called it) the "tingle factor". Of course they got a result, but with many possible contributory factors left uncontrolled for or completely unconsidered their interpretation amounted to pure speculation.
October 3, 2017, 3:14 AM · Steve, the researchers have been collecting sonic data on all or most of the instruments tested, but have not digested/published it yet. There's an important question though:
If human players and listeners are not demonstrating a preference for the old instruments (when they aren't informed which are new or old), what's the point? Is it the best way to spend their limited research funds?

Niche-interest projects like "how and why violins sound the way they do" haven't been able to attract the funding that other projects, like finding a cure for cancer (or even the common headache) have.

Now if someone could show that violin music cures cancer... ;-)

October 3, 2017, 4:15 AM · I'd like to see a match-up between two current top makers. Six of David's violins vs. six of someone else's that are comparably priced.

Or how about six Chinese violins chosen from the inventory at one of the LA violin shops vs. six older, restored violins from Lyndon's shop. All would need to be in the same retail price range, of course.

October 3, 2017, 5:19 AM · I maintain that the most valuable thing to come out of this study is that top violinists couldn't tell great new violins from great old violins.

A test like Paul suggests is less interesting for a few reasons, but mainly because there is no longstanding myth about these topics.

Not to toot any horns in this thread, but David Burgess violins are marvels of both sound and workmanship. I've played mine alongside Strad's, Amati's, Gagliano's, Zyg's, and other big names and always walked away smirking.

October 3, 2017, 5:23 AM · The more modest studies Paul suggests make better scientific sense, although as David says their appeal would be very limited and consequently funding hard to come by. The IVCI must have forked out a lot for the Paris study but I don't suppose they'd support any less publicity-generating research program. I'm stumped for an answer.
October 3, 2017, 5:50 AM · As the number of unobserved variables is immense when making violins this test (old wood vs new wood) would need more violins than a maker can build in his live to get any statisticly significant values. I have no idea how you would present such an amount of violins in a test that depends on people listening to it. Easily 10 000+ violins needed, as the model to decide to might have huge influence on old vs new too.
Maybe a Amati model with significant different key variables reacts different than a Strad model. This is not far fetched and only such a small part of what is happening.
Taking 6 Burgess vs 6 Zigs is also not scientific, as long as the variables looking for are not immensly different between those two makers. If you therotically expect a variable to be .1 at Burgess and 100 at Zig you can use 6 violins of each to guess (!) if it makes sence to believe that. If its more like .45 to .55 (linear scale) it is completly useless and that would be much closer to reality.
October 3, 2017, 6:06 AM · I keep hearing comparisons to antiques with price ranges as a factor to consider.

Why consider price at all then? Price in this case does not reflect anything other than age and maker.

Age changes violin characteristics, however, when making a blind comparison the only thing that matters is the present sound of the violin as compared to other violins.

Age and price shouldn't figure into the SOUND if the SOUND is the reason they were tested.

If we can conclude that the sound of more recent violins is subjectively good as compared to any other, the point has been made.

Antiques will continue to retain their value, but this is inconsequential.

October 3, 2017, 7:17 AM · Sound isn't the reason they were testing, at least not specifically. Testing for the best sound might be tricky, since there are differing opinions on what is "best".

They were testing to see if top players could tell the difference between new and old violins, IIRC. This is because there is a myth that old master violins, like Stradivari or Del Gesu, are identifiably superior in sound than top contemporary makers.

Turns out no one could identify old vs new, and further new was preferred over old.

Edited: October 3, 2017, 7:29 AM · It's a matter of confining the comparison to one factor while holding all the others as near as possible constant. But when you've got Strads on one side of the net, price becomes fairly irrelevant on the other side!

There's considerably greater statistical sensitivity to be obtained from a paired comparison as distinct from one in which the two groups are fully independent. If it came to (for example) old wood vs new wood as used by the same maker I think you might expect to see a statistically significant effect to an unambiguously worded question (e.g. which to you sounds brighter?) with as few as 8 or 10 pairs. Cost of materials for the study (i.e. completed violins) - about 300K but that's all potentially recoverable.

October 3, 2017, 8:20 AM · I completly disagree. The possibility of holding the other factors constant does not exist. Thats the problem. Therefore the number of those pairs by a single maker have to be that high, that a livetime is to short to produce them.

The following of course can be only considered weak indication as it suffers from the same problem of small numbers and variables that cannot be hold constant:
There are a number of makers who tried to make twin violins with wood from the same trees. I never heard of anybody who made them significantly more alike than two other of his violins. I played such twin instruments twice (4 violins in total) and came to the conclusion they are not alike. Both makers (both wellknown and focused on building) tried to make the setup as close as possible to each other.

Edited: October 3, 2017, 8:28 AM · I don't see how you can fault the theory, it's the practice that's difficult. I imagine getting makers to create identically dimensioned instruments is like, well you know. But if they're paid up front? I grant you even identically designed instruments are likely to sound "different" to the player but that's not the question. And I think the verdict of the audience is actually more important, since ultimately it's the audience that foots the bill.
October 3, 2017, 9:03 AM · Unfortunately, stats nerds, this isn't a black box scenario. Violin making doesn't work that way :-D
October 3, 2017, 9:10 AM · That I guess is why we'll never have scientific answers to any of these questions, which was the whole point of the exercise.
Edited: October 3, 2017, 9:32 AM · Steve,

Even without throwing in old wood/new wood in the equation, it is not difficult to imagine that top violin makers adapt to specific qualities of raw material, producing a wide range of subtle but different sound characteristics of each violin.

If that is the case, the design using violin makers as the "blocking" variable is not likely to reduce the variation, sufficient enough to extract inherent differences that the age of wood may bring.

Anyway, top violin makers can command premium prices for producing charming but individualistic violins, not by conforming to a "common standard", unlike the industrial manufacturing.

October 3, 2017, 10:13 AM · If anyone is interested in personally comparing contemporary instruments, this might be a pretty decent place to do it.

Laurie has also written a blog about something similar on the West Coast.

October 3, 2017, 10:23 AM · I intend to be at the exhibition. :-)
October 3, 2017, 10:46 AM · How about a paired old vs new wood comparison of otherwise identical factory- or workshop-made violins? I'm entirely neglecting the question about what makes a violin good, merely what factors contribute to various qualities of the sound.
Edited: October 3, 2017, 11:52 AM · @Lydia -- I went to the Reed Yeboah exhibit several years back -- definitely worth your time. I don't recall many bow makers at that one, but I see some excellent ones on the 2017 list.

@David -- This seems like a good party for you to attend, but you are not on the list?!

Edited: October 3, 2017, 2:10 PM · Douglas, I'm not planning on attending, since exhibitions of this type are mostly financed by sales, and I don't have anything to offer for sale.

If anyone hears of any of my violins for sale, please let me know, because I am a potential eager and motivated buyer. I've posted threads here before about wanting to buy.

October 3, 2017, 4:13 PM · @David -- makes sense. I didn't think of it that way.

It was a fun exhibit that I popped into almost by chance, but I would definitely check it out again and recommend it to anyone who might find a room full of awesome violins interesting :-)

October 3, 2017, 8:56 PM · Another significant variable in the study is that the players used their own bows. The match between bow and violins, in any price category, significantly influences the tonal quality that results, hence player 1 with bow A, isn't listening to the same tone as player 2 with bow B, and bow A may be better matched to one given instrument than bow B, vice-versa. I think that each instrument should have been matched to a bow, and every player should have used the same bow on any given instrument.
Edited: October 4, 2017, 2:22 PM · Roger, that was one of those areas where no matter what method was chosen, there would be those who thought it was wrong, or less than ideal. Who should choose which bow should be paired with which instrument, and what if a bow chosen was way off for a particular player, so it put that instrument at a disadvantage that it would not have had otherwise? (There could easily be several different expert opinions about which bow was best for each instrument.) So after quite a bit of discussion and consultation, it was decided to have the violinists use bows they were most familiar with, and had the most experience with.. their own. And if they used a bow they knew, this would also allow them to better differentiate between which characteristics were attributable to the bow, and which were due to the fiddle.

The "what if" scenarios are endless. "What if that violin would have sounded better with different strings, or with a different chinrest, or on a more humid day, or with a different brand of rosin, or with the soundpost moved a little bit, or under a waning moon?"

An instrument with some of those changes might have sounded better to some, and might have sounded worse to others. There is simply no way to resolve these to everyone's satisfaction.

I remember one instrument making competition where a maker complained that the sound of his instrument had been spoiled, because a tiny numbered identification sticker had been placed on it (the same type of sticker which was placed on all the instruments). Maybe he was right. What are you gonna do?

Edited: October 4, 2017, 4:34 AM · There are always those such as Marc who believe that a useful study can never be done, others who say it will be too expensive, etc.

Marc wrote, "Taking 6 Burgess vs 6 Zigs is also not scientific" because he's decided, without any quantitative argument, that N=6 is too small to overcome a sea of "other variables."

But Steve is right: In science, you try something, and you describe how you did it in detail, and you interpret the data as best you can, and then others can challenge those conclusions, bearing in mind that the methods and conclusions will already have been challenged by the process of scholarly peer-review. (If it's junk science, it's probably not going to be printed by PNAS.) If the result is 55:45 for 6 Burgess vs. 6 Zygmuntowicz violins under a certain set of conditions, then one might conclude that their violins are of comparable quality. And maybe that conclusion would be useful and interesting. Yes, N=6 is a small number. but, if the violins are ranked BBBBBZBZZZZZ, then depending on how the rankings were established, it may be possible to establish the percentage likelihood that such a ranking, which appears to favor Burgess violins, could occur randomly. That is the utility of statistics. If that percentage is 5%, then one can say David's violins are better. If 30%, the conclusion is obviously much weaker. How one gets to those percentages depends very much on the design of the experiment. That's why you consult with the statistician at the outset.

As for the cost, yes, getting 6 Burgess and 6 Zygmuntowicz violins into the same room for a weekend with a panel of qualified judges would be expensive. That's the trouble with good makers -- they sell their violins as fast as they make them (or faster), so they don't have a lot of inventory.

October 4, 2017, 4:33 AM ·
October 4, 2017, 5:56 AM · I suspect I'm behind the field on this one, but reflecting on David's posts of yesterday is he revealing insider information (potentially to his own cost) or is it a cunning ruse?
Edited: October 4, 2017, 9:16 AM · I have not been involved in the experiments, except that I was one of many people sitting in the audience section of the auditorium during one of them.

Some of the researchers have given live presentations at events like VSA and Federation conventions, and also done some question-and-answer type activity both there and on-line. I've also spent quite a bit of time talking with Fan Tao and Joseph Curtin, and have spoken a little with Claudia Fritz. I don't think I've shared anything that they would want kept private.

October 4, 2017, 8:17 AM · It does make you wonder, though, if another maker (involved or not in the trial) might see an opportunity for some naughty rumour-spreading? I hasten to say I don't actually believe this - no greedy person would ever take up such a monkish craft!
Edited: October 4, 2017, 8:50 AM · Paul, thanks for having me come out maybe slightly ahead, in your hypothetical comparison. ;-)
(Don't worry, I won't tell Sam Z) :-)
October 4, 2017, 9:01 AM · Personally I don't think using his/her own bow would pose a problem in the design of the experiment because each player used their own same bow to assess 12 different violins.

If on the other hand each player used two or more bows while playing the violins, that might be an issue. However, in this case basically you are acknowledging the possibility that change of bows has equal or more significant influence on the sound quality than the potential difference of the two classes of violins (old and new).

The Paris experiment is controversial because it goes against the notion that "Oldies are the best." I wonder what people would have said if the experiment turned out the result more favorable to old instruments.

October 4, 2017, 9:40 AM · I guess there wouldn't have been so much publicity and we wouldn't still be wasting time over it!
October 4, 2017, 9:54 AM · The older instruments couldn't have come out ahead because of how the study was set up!!
October 4, 2017, 10:23 AM · How did you come to that conclusion, Lyndon?
October 4, 2017, 10:42 AM · Paul, science is to know what you can conclute from experiment / theory, an exact quantitative (!!) reliability of what you conclude and to know what you cannot conclude.
I dont say it is impossible to make other conclusive experiements, but those you set up here are nonconclusive.
By best they give conlusion about the specific violins tested while you try to get a more general answer from this. I have to say this every few weeks to students and colleges with soft science background: Its not in the data!
Around scientists the world wide agreement is that you can draw definit conclusion when the statistical chances its right are higher than 10 000:1. When you talk about an experimental proove it has to be even higher.
By the given possibilities I think, the researchers did a good job here in designing the experiment.
When it comes down to the interpretation of the experiment one has to be very careful of what they concluded and what others understood and wrote they conclude.What media wrote is not what the researchers actually id.
Edited: October 4, 2017, 10:59 AM · Sorry Marc, but you're way off there. The generally accepted minimum scientific standard of proof of difference is 1:20 that the two samples are drawn from the same population.
October 4, 2017, 11:06 AM · Steve Jones, in which world is 1:20 a proof? I dont know from which area this is comming / you are comming. I know that for example in the world of medical science the bounaries are way of.
I had my name removed from papers for that exact reason.
I do understand that in medical science you suffer from the same problematic, the systems are very complex and it is hard to get exact data and to get further succes (help people is of course a big part of it) we must temporarily sacrafise sciene therefore.
By the chances of 1:20 the Higgs boson for example has been experimentaly proofen to exist plenty of time way before you read about it...
October 4, 2017, 11:36 AM · I come from the world of neuroscience. As I said, the minimum acceptable criterion for publication here is generally considered to be 1:20. 1:100 is better, 1:1000 better still although seldom achieved, sometimes you can even get away with 1:10. The Paris study got away with "trend towards" and "on average" which I think we agree is insufficient. In comparing violins how much proof do you need? It's a matter of opinion.
October 4, 2017, 11:44 AM · Steve,

I think you are referring to the conventional 5% level (1 in 20) for minimum statistical significance level. This is a correct number with some caveat. If this is an observational study, it could be used as evidence for further investigation, but it is never interpret as proof. A hypothesis generating result, of course.

The Paris study is much more solid than just an observational study though so I tend to put more weight on the validity of their investigation.

October 4, 2017, 11:48 AM · solid like jello!!
Edited: October 4, 2017, 12:05 PM · Marc,

If the authors of Paris experiment set out to establish the superiority of modern instrument, I agree that the result is somewhat weak. On the other hand, if they intended to show non-inferiority of modern instrument, I think they have largely succeeded in their endeavor. At least their groundwork is solid enough as standard reference for future investigations in this research direction. My opinion is solely based on the working paper, not the news article.

Regarding 1:10000 chance for the minimum number for scientific proof, I think it depends on the context. If that chance was gotten from a large number of statistical tests without proper error control, it does not necessarily convince me.

If on the other hand a well constructed experiment gave the 1% significance level for the statistical test, it would be much closer to a convincing evidence.

October 4, 2017, 12:01 PM · Lyndon,

If the Paris study showed old instruments in a better light, I bet you would be singing a very different tune, regardless of study limitations :)

October 4, 2017, 12:10 PM · This of course is the difference between "soft" and "hard" science. It isn't a matter of correct or incorrect, but that conclusions based on relatively lax criteria must be held more loosely. That mindset is familiar to me and I try to avoid hard statements of what can be considered "fact". But I can see that someone coming from the physical sciences might consider this way of thinking alien.
October 4, 2017, 12:25 PM · Sung, I think we are mostly on one line about this.

Steve, the limit for publication is to find evidence and I agree that this is ok at 1:20.
If the author though writes "we prooved" instead of "we found evidence" though it gets unscientific at that point.
The knowledge about those evidences of course helped often to find further results and a lot of commonly used and (at least a part of it) very much helping medicins never succeed that state. I am absolutly happy they exist.
I said it before, if you read the publication, there is a lot good conclusions drawn, and they are much more carefull at what they state than what people seem to understand.
My very personal opinion btw is, that there are great modern instruments on par with the old masters and certainly good enough for every violinist in the world.
As I said, an opinion, not a stated fact.

October 4, 2017, 12:30 PM · Soft science like jello!!
Edited: October 4, 2017, 12:35 PM · Thank you Lyndon, your grant application is being considered. Marc - I absolutely agree with one small addition. In between opinion (purely subjective) and fact (purely objective) we have imprecise but useful words like conjecture, hypothesis, theory, evidence suggesting, likelihood, probability exists and so on.
October 4, 2017, 1:34 PM · I don't think the researchers have claimed that their experiments PROVED something conclusively, nor have they expressed it that way when I've spoken with them. They did a series of experiments, and published their methods, and what they found.

As I mentioned earlier, what had preceded these tests were a series of less formal tests, in which using Strads as the reference standard for "best sound", or "the ideal sound to try to emulate", had come into question. So they did a series of more formal double-blind tests.

October 4, 2017, 2:16 PM · Steve, of course I agree on this too.
David, I think everybody reading the original paper understood this. Some media however actually wrote differently.
Edited: October 4, 2017, 5:13 PM · Oh, Marc ... so you inferred this claim of proof? In future please read more carefully.

Sung wrote, "I think you are referring to the conventional 5% level (1 in 20)... this is a correct number with some caveat ... it could be used as evidence for further investigation, but it is never interpret as proof."

In fact all published science is intended to the be the basis for further investigation. If one is publishing something that excludes chance at the 95% confidence level, then the "caveat" is, quite simply, the other 5%.

I think you will find the word "proved" used very seldomly in peer-reviewed scientific articles because reviewers will ask you to change that to "demonstrate" or "strongly suggest" or whatever.

October 5, 2017, 10:19 AM · In the 19th century Chanot developed a corner-less violin, with slits for sound holes, and a reversed scroll. He staged a series of promotional concerts with a real Strad and one of these new violins played behind a curtain. His new violin sounded best and so PROVED the superiority of his new design.
Following this there should have been the burning of all the outmoded, inferior sounding, old Italian violins, and everybody switching to his scientifically proven new model. Why not? because it was a set up, with a modern maker pushing his own agenda in a similar fashion to the biased study now.

Cheers Carlo

October 5, 2017, 10:39 AM · How have you determined that the studies are biased?
October 5, 2017, 1:12 PM · By reading their lowbrow application of science.
October 5, 2017, 1:28 PM · Oh
Edited: October 5, 2017, 1:40 PM · Studies like this are so ridiculous and more of a marketing ploy for a few people in the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers to sell their instruments. Without Stradivari there would be no modern hotshot makers. There's a world of a difference between Stradivari and some of these modern makers who submitted their instruments to this study. Stradivari or Amati didn't win a $500,000 prize from the MacArthur Foundation like Joseph Curtin did, but their instruments still sound better..
October 5, 2017, 1:37 PM · I'm curious what that Chanot design sounded like then, and what it sounds like now. :-)
Edited: October 5, 2017, 1:52 PM · Whoever said Stradivari instruments were the best sounding anyway, half of Stradivari's reputation was based on his perfectionist high level of quality construction. There have been instruments that sound as good as Stradivaris all throughout the history of the violin, blind tests done 100 and 200 years ago with much the same results, modern violin beats Strad, 50 years later modern violin is not half as well appreciated, I suspect much the same will happen today, except today, thanks to the duffuses that did this study, we won't know who the modern makers were, maybe Claudia Fritz will reveal the info on her death bed, who knows. All told its just a huge big modern violin propaganda effort, which is fine if you want a modern violin, but if you think a top modern violin will beat any historical instrument, you are sorely mistaken, IMHO
Edited: October 5, 2017, 2:26 PM · Nate wrote:
"Studies like this are so ridiculous and more of a marketing ploy for a few people in the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers to sell their instruments."
Of the seven(?)people listed as authors of the study, only one is a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. And most of the members are either not makers, or only occasional makers, with most of their income coming from maintenance or repairs, or dealing. Not that various conspiracy theories aren't welcome, or at least entertaining.

"Without Stradivari there would be no modern hotshot makers."
Possibly so. Contemporary makers have had a chance to study the best of Stradivari, and also the Strads which haven't turned out so well.

"There's a world of a difference between Stradivari and some of these modern makers who submitted their instruments to this study."

The opinions of the soloists involved in the testing don't seem to to support that notion.

"Stradivari or Amati didn't win a $500,000 prize from the MacArthur Foundation like Joseph Curtin did,...

With the MacArthur grant, maybe he is set, and doesn't need to have an agenda of marketing his own, or other contemporary instruments any more? Instead, he can put more of his focus on research? Or is it your theory that he might have enough money that he can pay people off?

Edited: October 5, 2017, 2:41 PM · People seem to forget that Antonio himself was a contemporary violin maker of his day. Technology advances and what was a marvel of yesteryear becomes not so today.

This may not be a suitable analogy, but a typical Ph.D. student of physics of today knows more about physics than Einstein, let alone Newton. This is not because the student is brighter, but because s/he can stand on the giants' shoulders plus supercomputers.

I would have been somewhat disappointed if the Paris study turned out the opposite; however, I would have no problem accepting the result of the experiment if it had been done reasonably well.

Edited: October 5, 2017, 2:43 PM · "Sung Han
October 5, 2017, 2:29 PM · People seem to forget that Antonio himself was a contemporary violin maker of his day."

Yeah and at one time Beethoven was a contemporary composer. Atonal bullsh*t 'composers' like John Cage have used that same argument to validate their music. LOL

Edited: October 5, 2017, 2:46 PM · Of course, and in three hundred years there maybe modern violins that sound as good, but they will still only be copies of the originals.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 5, 2017, 2:50 PM · Nate, violin is a machine, not music. The fundamental difference between the two is the the former can enjoy the benefit of modern science and technology much more easily than the latter.

Also those big names did not have a chance to get to be invited to a double-blind test such as a Paris study. Who knows?

October 5, 2017, 2:49 PM · Stradivaris were basically copies of Amati, everyone copies to some extent, with rare exceptions everyone copies the original Amati shape of the violin.
Edited: October 5, 2017, 2:53 PM · Science and technology still doesn't have clue what made Stradivaris as good as they were/are.

Modern makers might use science and technology, some more than others, but their successes are not from being the same as Stradivari, but rather from being different in a way some modern players/listeners like.

Edited: October 5, 2017, 4:26 PM · This is the only place where I've ever seen a MacArthur Fellowship held against someone. Has it really come to that?

Science and technology might not know what made Stradavaris as good as they are. But, maybe they don't need to. There are plenty of equations with more than one solution. We might not know exactly how birds fly either, so perhaps it is a good thing that we build airplanes from aluminum rather than feathers.

October 5, 2017, 4:19 PM · If you owned one of these modern violins by top makers, you might consider glueing on some feathers to tame the obnoxiously loud treble.
Edited: October 5, 2017, 5:34 PM · Lyndon, modern violins can be all over the place. I've played thousands, and out of that, would be highly reluctant to assign a set of characteristics.
October 5, 2017, 6:45 PM · I disagree very strongly, Lyndon. Plenty of modern (20th century) and contemporary (21st century) instruments have lovely tone.

(I do agree that there may be a trend towards favoring brilliance and loudness under the ear above everything else, but not amongst the better makers.)

Edited: October 5, 2017, 7:15 PM · That's where the feathers come in, if you want to be cheap you can just stuff them in the f holes, You can get them from an old down pillow, might even get me to like a Burgess violin, who knows!!
October 5, 2017, 7:01 PM · All being said, in my mind the experiment proves at least one thing, spending $3,000,000.00 on a violin for the sake of its tone and playability ain't worth it! Get the best of modern violin on planet earth, and you'll be equally happy for a tiny fraction of the price of the worst of old master's instruments, ... without the bragging rights however. How much is bragging worth to you?
Edited: October 5, 2017, 7:08 PM · Lyndon, I don't have any feathers around to stuff in the f holes, so would toilet paper work?
October 5, 2017, 7:15 PM · I use toilet paper to polish violins, and any cleaning, not to mention its conventional uses!!
Edited: October 5, 2017, 7:25 PM · No one has actually established how a top quality $30,000 antique, say 100 years old would compare to a $30,000 modern violin, or even a select $10,000 EH Roth from the 20s. Martin Swan gave his highest rating for tone to a 50s, I believe, EH Roth.

I think the main liability of top Strads is they're not necessarily the loudest violins, even though they project well. It seems volume is what modern violins tend to do best, as that is one of the main goals of the makers. Most people given two violins to choose from will select the louder one, even if it doesn't have the best quality of tone. This is a factor the studies author's didn't even bother to consider IMHO.

Edited: October 5, 2017, 7:33 PM · I wonder what special kind of hubris emboldens one to deny strong, and building evidence. What makes anyone think they have the super power to hear the difference between a great old instrument and a great new instrument when so many experts before them have failed, including Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman and Charles Beare on a 1977 BBC broadcast? Y'all must be so special.

I'd like to see the above video with subtitles, identifying the instruments each violinist claimed to know.

October 5, 2017, 7:33 PM · I've been able to pick the Strad in all the online comparison's I've seen, and one live comparison, not sure what's so hard about it for some people, new violins might sound great but they don't sound like Strads, you might be one that prefers the new sound, but there's still a difference.
October 5, 2017, 7:35 PM · I guess you're special.
October 5, 2017, 7:40 PM · I make a living using my ears.
Edited: October 5, 2017, 8:41 PM · I mean only a small minority of people recognize differences between old and new violins, so how is that going to show up statistically, its not, people are going to think their favorite sound is their favourite type of violin be that old or new, so many people might prefer a modern, even because it is louder, and going to say they think that is the Strad, so you wouldn't expect more than a minority to get the old vs new right, and that's exactly what the study shows.

the one live Strad vs modern I participated in, I could see how you could prefer the modern, but it was also very easy to pick which one was the Strad, it was the one with the more complex tone, richer sound but also edgy in the highs, oweing to multiple layer of French Polish and very little original varnish left, hardly an example of a pristine Strad. Unfortunately this too many layers of French Polish is a problem with most Strads, and very few moderns, so its important to put condition in perspective.

All other things being equal, I don't think you can expect a 300 year old Strad with multiple repairs, revarnishing etc to be as loud as some really good copies, the question is does the copy have the quality of tone of a good condition Strad, and were any good condition Strads used in this study, something we may never know as the studies authors won't reveal any of the instruments used, which defeats the whole "scientificness" of the whole study

October 6, 2017, 12:13 AM · Lyndon's last paragraph conceals a good point - "scientificness" demands reproducibility which of course is impossible unless we know the exact conditions of the experiment. If another institute wanted to repeat the study they wouldn't use the same violins but maybe a different set FROM THE SAME MAKERS. Yes, of course it was a stunt which leaves all our prejudices firmly in place, but makers will take encouragement from the results (lack of).
October 6, 2017, 12:25 AM · Good, finally some facts rather than assertions and mudslinging.

Lyndon, could you provide some details on how your comparison test was done? What violins were being compared; how was the experiment blinded?

I read the PNAS paper of the Paris experiment and I think the experiment was very well executed. Most of the participating soloists thought so, too. PNAS is a top scientific journal, with a very strict review process - most submissions are rejected.

The only aspect that one could attack is that the identity of the instruments was not disclosed (the instrument owners apparently requested this). It is theoretically possible that the instruments were hand-picked as lesser old Italians against the very best moderns. But it doesn't seem that the authors have an interest in such an outcome; David Burgess already explsined why.

If the instrument identities were disclosed... I suspect that no matter what, people would find arguments why that particular choice was a bad one.

October 6, 2017, 12:54 AM · This is like trying to convince an ultra religious person about the non existence of god. Nothing can beat faith.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 1:04 AM · The simple fact is the studies authors had much better examples of modern violins to chose from than they did Strads, they had to basically take whatever Strads they could get, there was no Strad shootout, where they picked the best Strads like they did with the modern violins. I think they said they started with some 30 moderns and picked the best out of that, not so with the Strads, and as everyone is aware, not all Strads are as good as others or in as good a condition, and the ones that are likely to be loaned to a competition may not be the most valuable, best condition ones.

As to my Strad test it was single blind, the maker of the modern violin played both violins around a corner where I couldn't see which one he was playing. It was easy to pick the Strad, it wasn't a guess. He just said instrument A, Instrument B and switched back and forth about three times.

It was a long pattern Strad from the late 1600s worth about 3 million, and the maker/dealer was being asked if he could assist in selling it.

I couldn't do the comparison with a professional player, but if what I heard was true I think most people would have picked the modern violin as better in tone. The Strad had a really hard edge to the tone because IMHO of the multiple shellac coatings.

October 6, 2017, 1:45 AM · No faith needed. Just years of playing top modern and superb old violins. I admire the muscularity of the young violins, but adore the colours available on old Italian violins. Just as I like the brashness of a young new world wine, and savour a mature Brunello or Barolo. They are both good in different ways, but they are in no way the same to anyone with either educated ears or palette.

Cheers Carlo

October 6, 2017, 1:54 AM · Almost all the new violins I play seem to have an inbuilt rawness that is lacking from the old ones, the violins by my top maker friend in the blind listening test I did did not have that quality though, but it wasn't as rich and complex a sound as a good antique can have.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 2:10 AM · I am initially attracted to the sound of a good modern violin as there are huge reserves of power and volume. After about ten minutes, the initial attraction has been replaced with the realisation that the fiddle is a one trick pony and that power is all it has going for it. No subtlety, colour, or soulfulness.
Were the listeners and players given enough time with each instrument to get past that initial attraction, or where they seduced by the sheer volume?

Cheers Carlo

October 6, 2017, 2:11 AM · The kind of questions true scientists would have tried to answer, a simple decibel metre on the violins would have told a lot.
October 6, 2017, 2:20 AM · I "tend" (in the word of the Paris study) to share Carlo's view, although only having sampled 20 or so contemporary makers, none priced at more than about 15K, I certainly wouldn't push it too hard. One violin in particular that came highly commended and I took away on loan I found to possess something like a "trumpet" quality which might be great in a large hall but had none of the rich subtlety and finesse that I'd look for in chamber music. Others that impressed in the showroom lost their appeal in the dry acoustic of my bedroom - that bow-dropping feeling "what can I do to make this sound alive".
Edited: October 6, 2017, 3:13 AM · Finally watched the OPs video, what crap, some lousy playing, some lousy sounding violins, a lot of boring stuff and absolutely no mention of what any instrument was that was being played, so they want to keep it all secret, their study isn't strong enough to let the general public compare old vs new. Also the criteria for judging violins, the only criteria was projection, basically volume, the participants were not even asked what they thought of the tonal qualities of the instruments, just whether they thought they were old or new. The telling thing is where they have Oliveri speak at the end, he speaks of glorious sounding Strads and Del Gesus he had played as if there weren't any in the study??

Also, midpoint, it appears to show the performers familiarizing themselves with the instruments without their blindfolds, and claiming they would like to buy number 5, obviously they could tell then which were the old and which were the new, so when they played them blindfolded they could possibly recognize the instruments.

October 6, 2017, 4:14 AM · Steve wrote, "'scientificness' demands reproducibility which of course is impossible unless we know the exact conditions of the experiment."

Well of course that's a truism, but rationality also demands that we consider the likelihood that individual parameters will influence the outcome. Must the next experiment be conducted in a hall with orange lighting? Under the same moon phase? With the same rosin? With Caucasian listeners between the ages of 35 and 45?

Moreover, does it not matter that studies of different design with different violins have obtained similar results? Does it not matter that the study itself contained internal reproducibility in the number of violins used?

The violins that were chosen certainly matter. It's ironic that Lyndon said that the "authors had much better examples of modern violins to chose from than they did Strads," because his other comments suggest that even the average work of Stradivari is necessarily still better than the best of the top modern makers. I'm glad to know he concedes at least that point.

October 6, 2017, 4:27 AM · Apt analogy indeed.

Some of the most popular "wine knowledge" is based on the dogmatic perpetuation of romantic myths rather than the understanding of scientific facts.

Yes, I'm sure those concert artists who continue to concertize on their contemporary instruments do so because of sheer volume alone, and the realization their fiddles are one trick ponies.

October 6, 2017, 4:38 AM · Of course nobody will ever try to reproduce the study exactly. I suspect that's only possible in the physical sciences where you can assume that one lepton is pretty much the same as another. My point is that without full disclosure the Paris study can unfortunately have no claim whatsoever to generality. As someone (you Paul?) pointed out above, the findings, insubstantial as they are, apply only to these instruments (whatever they were) playing this music by these players with these bows in this hall etc etc.

The studies of different design add some weight to the argument, but this one was supposed to be the most rigorously controlled. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by internal reproducibility (or how you obtained the italics that I can't reproduce!) since no repeated measures were taken. The multiplicity of instruments is a sine qua non, since nothing of a general nature can be proved with a sample of one.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:10 AM · Carlo wrote:
"Just as I like the brashness of a young new world wine, and savour a mature Brunello or Barolo. They are both good in different ways, but they are in no way the same to anyone with either educated ears or palette."

The wine metaphor is interesting, because wine tasting is yet another area where outcomes have challenged long-standing beliefs, when the comparisons were done blind or double-blind.

October 6, 2017, 4:45 AM · The paper explains how the violins were selected. They started with 9 old Italians and 13 new ones (submitted by invited makers) and selected the best 6 of each category in a blind test. I don't think you can say that they compared whatever old instrument they could get to the very best modern ones. (None of the violin owners knows whether their instruments were selected.) You can read it on pp. 3-4 and 15 of the manuscript.

You can also read in the manuscript (table on p. 8) that the soloists were asked to rate the violins on five other criteria besides loudness.

Lyndon, your test was blind, ok, but had you heard the instruments before while knowing which is which? The claim is not that instruments sound the same; it was clear that there were differences between the twelve, but those differences were not audibly correlated to age. If I was to hear a random Stradivarius and a random Burgess, even I would probably hear the difference; after the violinist goes behind a curtain, I can still identify them.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 4:57 AM · No Han I had not heard the instrument before the test, I had held the Strad, does that count, maybe I sensed it vibrations and that's how I was able to tell.

I found the abstract online, basically they tested one thing, projection, which you come to realize is just a snazzy term for volume, as they claim the violins judged loudest under ear, were the same violins judged loudest at a distance by listeners, then there is a New York study where they tested for "projection" (insert volume) and preference, and the graph shows that preference very closely followed "projection". (which is just what I predicted, most people will pick the louder violin over the best sounding one if given a choice) But then for me the winner, of the ten soloists used, four chose a Stradivari as the one they would want to own, even though it wasn't the loudest.

heres the link

October 6, 2017, 5:44 AM · Lyndon wrote, "[a]lmost all the new violins I play seem to have an inbuilt rawness that is lacking from the old ones..."

Carlo wrote, "[j]ust years of playing top modern and superb old violins."

Nate wrote, "[t]here's a world of a difference between Stradivari and some of these modern makers who submitted their instruments to this study."

Please give us the numbers. How many new violins have you played? How many by master makers?

How many old violins have you played? How many by master makers?

Do you feel your temperament enables you to give an objective assessment of your experience? Do you feel your experience gives you the knowledge to make such extreme and sweeping generalizations (even as you question the validity of the experience of experts with much broader experience and study)?

October 6, 2017, 6:00 AM · I'm not a player, but having worked designing audiophile loudspeakers I think I have discerning hearing, my main experience is comparing student and intermediate grade antiques to modern violins of similar value. I think if you overprice the antiques then the moderns are not that bad, but if you use competitive pricing on quality antiques, its hard to find a modern violin that sounds as good for a similar price, its not just me that feels this way, its my customers, and music teachers I work with.
October 6, 2017, 6:32 AM · i'm strictly a low brow business. My most expensive violin right now is $6,000, I can't afford to buy more expensive violins, and I have very few customers looking for high priced violins, I'm content to service the student to intermediate market, and have lots of options in the $1000-$3000 range. I also have some fractional sizes for $300-$600.

I have a friend that sells his violins for $35,000, and they are very good, he deals mostly in high end antiques, so I get to see quite a few, but I don't usually get to hear them played, but I know what they look like!!

Edited: October 6, 2017, 6:33 AM · I agree with Jeewon Kim wholeheartedly. You cannot make such a broad sweeping assessment, frankly violins are all over the map.

As I wrote in a previous post:

"Violins are like people, each one is unique. After having played hundreds of violins -- great old and great new -- I conclude that no generalizations can be made."

It's really an extreme mix.

A Stradivarius is like a Mercedes -- there are some good high end ones, and some junk at the bottom end, but either way you get the brand name.

October 6, 2017, 6:43 AM · There happens to be more players with educated ears too and with experience playing all kind of intruments as well that don't think like that. In fact, some of them with extremely educated ears,more than ours I would say.
October 6, 2017, 6:43 AM · Actually I would not give more to the word of most music teachers than to those of amateurs.
There are price segments in the lows where I would agree that most antiques sound better than knew ones, around 20k it usually swappes to the other side.
Not that it tells anything about high tier.
The video is not at all showing what is written in the paper. As enrhusiastic this discussion is, most did not seem to have read the paper!
Edited: October 6, 2017, 6:55 AM · I agree with Douglas.

For those who would like more experience with contemporary, individual-maker instruments, there is an opportunity to play about 400 of them, from all over the world, at Violin Society of America competitions.

October 6, 2017, 6:55 AM · What amazed me about the paper is the author seems to think she is really talking about projection, when all she is talking about is volume. Quiet violins can project well, be relatively louder at a distance than other similarly quiet violins, loud violins can project poorly, be relatively quieter at a distance than similarly loud violins. But she seem to not get it at all, her whole premise is that projection doesn't exist, exactly how loud it is under the ear is exactly how loud it is at a distance. So why doesn't she just call it volume, she's having people rate the volume of the violins at a distance, not their projection, which would involve comparing their volume up close to the volume at a distance, and rating which ones are relatively louder at a distance, that would be projection, but all she's interested in is volume, because, guess what, modern violins tend to be loud, because if modern makers understand one thing about violin making, they seem to understand how to make loud violins, to hell with sound quality, warmth, sweetness, richness, complexity, clearness, no, its all about volume, so very boring, but that's what I got from reading the full abstract of the paper.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:06 AM · " What amazed me about the paper is the author seems to think she is really talking about projection, when all she is talking about is volume."

She writes about both, including their findings on how they relate to each other.

This is obviously a very emotional topic, for some people.

October 6, 2017, 7:10 AM · So, 0 new and 0 old fiddles played by master makers for Lyndon. How many heard?

Bit off topic... 1981, when I was 12, my teacher told my parents we needed to buy an old Italian fiddle. We didn't have a lot of money, and I don't know where they got it from, but we ended up being peddled a fiddle labelled Paolo Castello for 12K CAD, which would be about 30K today. When I went to sell it 20 years later I discovered it was a fake label and would get maybe 5K tops (~2K 1981 CAD dollars) on a trade. I confronted the dealer but he only apologized and lay the blame on the D'Atilli papers. Luckily, I ended up getting a 12K trade on a 30K cello for my niece from another dealer.

A colleague bought a Becker Sr. in the early 80's for 4K USD, sold it for around 20K in the mid 90's. Today I believe they go for around 55K.

I wish we'd had better knowledge back then...

October 6, 2017, 7:11 AM · Claudia Fritz tells players playing the instrument to rate it on projection, impossible, they can only rate it on under ear volume, she tells listeners to rate violins on projection, impossible, all they can do is rate it on volume at a distance, PROJECTION IS THE RATIO OF UNDER EAR VOLUME TO VOLUME AT A DISTANCE, she doesn't even know the definition of projection and confuses it with volume.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:30 AM · If recreating the Strad sound is the ultimate goal(whatever it may be), maybe the science and technology is not quite there. But there are a couple of things to consider.

#1. If you believe only Strad is the ultimate in violin, no matter what the technological advances are, it may mean nothing to you, even if the modern instrument surpasses in terms of sound quality.

This reminds me of "audiophiles" who insisted that vacuum tube amps were the best, even though all measurable sound tests (including blind tests) indicated otherwise. Some of these people refused to buy CD's recorded on digital master tapes solely based on the belief that analog recording was superior.

#2. On the other hand, whether it is possible to create the same exact Strad sound may be totally irrelevant in the long run, because "many roads lead to Rome."

#3. Among the Strads in existence today, many of them are crappy, as evidenced from reliable accounts by others. Strads themselves were not created equal, so the ideal Strad in #1 is only a couple of highly selective instruments.

#4. If you read the article, the scenario and scope of the study were very on focus and not necessarily what people discuss here. That is, the Paris experiment is not an ultimate match-up between old and new instruments. The scenario of the study is rather modest: What would professional violinists choose when they are free to choose BLINDLY, given a choice among high quality instruments that are available for purchase at the time, without the financial constraint? Many posters do not seem to be aware of the study parameters under which the study was conducted.

p.s. If you are an old person who is convinced that you have "golden ears", find an audiologist and take the hearing test. Learn your hearing range both in terms of decibels and Hz. Then think about whether these physical limitations may play a role in your "sound" judgment :)

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:20 AM · Perceived projection is the under-ear sensation that the sound reaches the audience and cuts through other instruments (if present)

Projection is a sound that reaches the audience and cuts through other instruments (if present)

Projection has less to do with volume (in decibels). More often, it has more to do with sound pressure in a given frequency range. The frequency response range an oboe plays in projects pretty well, despite not producing a huge overall db / volume.

October 6, 2017, 7:23 AM · Sung Han Said "If recreating the Strad sound is the ultimate goal(whatever it may be), maybe the science and technology is not quite there."

That's the thing, Sung. The Strads I've tried and heard are all over the place. I don't believe there is a definitive "Strad sound".

How can there be when Strads all sound so different? And why would we expect them all to sound the same?

October 6, 2017, 7:37 AM · Lyndon, Claudia Fritz asks the players to make a guess on the projection, based on their playing experience, and then compares that with the audience impressions. Is that bad?
October 6, 2017, 7:39 AM · Sung Han it looks like you are the one that didn't read the Paris study I linked to above, no one was asked which violin they preferred the sound of, that wasn't one of the questions, they were asked which violin projected best (insert; was the loudest), and which violin they thought was old or new, sound preference didn't enter into it, it was purely a study of volume, and people's perception of what old and new sounded like, a minority of listeners were able to distinguish old from new, or maybe they were guessing, some got it backwards, and others had hits and misses. This is what any educated person would expect, what they would not expect is the authors conclusion that there is no statistical evidence that anyone could tell old from new, which is sheer nonsense, along with most of the conclusion of the study.

As to your stupid assessment that blind tests do not favour vacuum tube amplifiers, complete rubbish, more than 50% of high end amplifiers made today are vacuum tube, why because people think they sound better, whether they are more accurate or not might be debatable but listeners prefer the sound of vacuum tubes.

October 6, 2017, 7:41 AM · Its the same with Guarneri vs Strad sound. Its a big thing amongst players, but actually in both (very unsientific, but it was never planed to be) blind tests I know people mixed it all over, which is the Strad and which is the Guarneri.
October 6, 2017, 7:42 AM · David, no one can guess the projection of any violin just by playing it under ear, because no one can be in two places at once, all the player can discern is under ear volume, or what they hear at a distance when someone plays the same violin.
October 6, 2017, 7:50 AM · Lyndon,

Refer to Table S1 on page 17 of the article.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 8:01 AM · Lyndon, people often do try to estimate the projection, as part of the initial selection process. Sometimes their estimates are correct, and sometimes they are not. The papers investigate this, and report what they found. Is that bad?
October 6, 2017, 7:58 AM · Jeewon,

Of course the sample size matters. But the blindness is the essential guard against the confirmation bias, which seems to be one of the dominant factors in this thread.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 8:08 AM · Sung Han I don't have the full article, just the abstract, are you sure you are not referring to the New York study, where preference was asked and was closely correlated with perceived volume, or projection as she calls it.

Or are you referring to the Indianapolis study??

October 6, 2017, 8:06 AM · David, I don't think you get it, Claudia set out to do a study on projection, and she doesn't even understand what projection is and simply equates it with volume. I think that's a big deal, for all the people calling this cutting edge scientific research, and the researcher doesn't even bother to learn the definition of what she is studying. You tell me, can a listener at the back of a hall judge projection without ever hearing the violin up close, or can they only judge volume and perhaps venture a wild guess at its projection, like the players did
Edited: October 6, 2017, 8:15 AM · Shouldn't opinions on the studies be mostly based on what the studies actually say, and not on what we imagine them to say?

The studies go into what definitions were used (and not used) for "projection".

Edited: October 6, 2017, 8:13 AM · Lyndon,

The following is the direct link to a working copy of the PNAS article:

October 6, 2017, 8:14 AM · My comments are based directly on what the study says, she obviously has her own mistaken idea of what projection is, or maybe its deliberate, maybe her study wouldn't sound so good if they just came out and said modern violin in the study tend to be louder than Strads. Doesn't sound so incredible then, does it.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 8:23 AM · Sung Han, I see that was a survey only for the players, not the listeners, I was speaking of the questions they asked the listeners, if you look at that S1 survey of the players there were about as many old violins in the top four as modern, hardly a huge preference for modern.

As I mentioned before 4 of the ten soloists picked a Strad as their favourite when asked which one they would like to take home.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 8:28 AM · In some cases, the soloists were left to decide for themselves what terms they commonly use, like "projection", mean. Their definitions may or may not be the same as your own.
October 6, 2017, 8:28 AM · Lyndon,

Below is what I stated in the upthread a while ago:

If I focus on one finding only, I would choose Table S1 on page 17. Ten players were asked to choose the top four violins, and in 20 sessions total, they chose 15 modern instruments as the best. If there is no overall difference among the old and new instruments in player's preference, this or more extreme result would occur about 4% of the time, assuming a two-sided alternative hypothesis.

If we expand the scope to the best four, collectively these players chose modern instruments 48 times versus old instruments 32 times, with multiplicity allowed. In this universe, the preference is 60% vs 40%, favorable to modern violins.

Of course we all have different tastes in sound and style, but I find this study gives me a convincing evidence that an excellent modern instrument does provide a level playing field for professional players at a fraction of the cost, sans bragging rights. That's an encouraging thought.

October 6, 2017, 8:57 AM · Yeah but we've already established that the modern violins were louder, and the 4 out of 10 soloists that picked the Strad as their favorite said they did despite its lower volume, all this study demonstrates is that most people equate louder volume with quality. So the headline should read MODERN VIOLINS LOUDER THAN STRADS, that's the only thing they demonstrated, and it only applies to the 12 instruments they were sampling, so if you want to make a big deal and say modern violins are better, I'd say you're dead wrong, modern violins can be louder, end of story.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 9:36 AM · It's pretty clear there are differing opinions even on the nature of the tests.

My main concern is we'll use up all of the internet with this thread.Please leave some for the rest of us :)

This almost rivals political/religious threads.Almost.

October 6, 2017, 9:34 AM · @Lyndon - Wow, just wow. How many Strads and over $25k contemporaries have you evaluated up close, either played by a professional violinist or yourself (if you play at a level able to evaluate such things)?

Don't answer with words, answer with numbers.

October 6, 2017, 9:36 AM · If you read the thread rather than just popping in you would realize I've already answered all you questions, don't feel any need to repeat myself.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 6:59 AM · popcorn_zpsf7cjtwhk
Edited: October 6, 2017, 9:42 AM · @ Lyndon - I'm not just popping out. My first comment was several after your first comment, which was I believe "The modern violin fascists strike again!!!"

I see though, you did address this before with this comment:

"I can't speak for Stradivaris and $30,000 modern violins, but in the student to intermediate grade..."

October 6, 2017, 10:16 AM · So what's your take on this projection thing, do you think the term projection was being accurately used in the study??
October 6, 2017, 10:19 AM · I talked to my dad, a noted research Microbiologist about the PNAS journal this study was posted in, he said they post some very important articles, but they also have a reputation for publishing not properly vetted articles that after ten years or so are widely discredited, we'll see what category this study is in in some years when other, completely independent, non maker funded studies are done.
October 6, 2017, 10:29 AM · When I try a violin, sure I attempt to "estimate" the projection. It's hard to do that accurately up close, so I think it's good that they enlisted the audience point of view as well.

PNAS does publish some very important articles. 10 years or so in the research world is a long time -- scientific results changing during that period would not be uncommon, based on new methods and evidence. Science is always searching for answers, as opposed to dogma about what is absolutely correct.

I consider the statement "Stradivarius violins sound better than all others" to be such dogma.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 10:35 AM · My dad says PNAS sometimes publishes for flash appeal, and he thinks this article is an example of that, I've talked to him at length about the article, He thinks the rigorous scientific protocol they usually use was bent a bit because of the high profile appeal of an article about Stradivari violins, and the resulting mass appeal, which has definitely been the case.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 10:44 AM · The publisher is irrelevant to the discussion. We're talking about the article, not the broad-ranging credibility of PNAS. Even then, PNAS is generally a well respected peer-reviewed journal.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 10:50 AM · Lyndon,

Of course reputable journals may accept a lemon once in a while, as the infamous Lancet article about the (non-existing) relationship between MMR vaccine and autism vividly shows.

If your microbiologist dad is convinced that the violin paper is unworthy of publication, go ahead and encourage him to write a letter to the PNAS editor. Given sufficient evidence, the editors can retract an already published article.

October 6, 2017, 10:51 AM · Timothy, the more the interndt is consumed, the bigger it is. Amazing, isnt it?
If you refer to its weight (like weight of the particles in motion to create the current state) it is a direct linear behaviour. So dont fear to use it up ;)
October 6, 2017, 10:59 AM · Whew! Thanks Marc!!!

I'll sleep so much better tonight :)

October 6, 2017, 11:09 AM · It says at the bottom of the study that they got funding from the Violin Society of America, an organization almost solely existing to promote modern makers, isn't that what's called a conflict of interest, kind of Like Monsanto funding a study on Roundup????
October 6, 2017, 11:18 AM · Wow! Some of the reactions to the study are like a little kid being told that Santa Claus isn't real. LOL
Edited: October 6, 2017, 11:38 AM · Lyndon, could you do a little better job of being accurate, and sticking to the truth?

From the Violin Society of America:
"Membership in the VSA is open to all who share an interest in the violin, viola, cello, bass and their bows, and thus reflects a broad and diverse range of interests and concerns, including craftsmanship, acoustics, innovation, the history of instruments and performers, technique, performance practice, repertory and other matters pertaining to instruments of the violin family."

Among many other things, the VSA is also behind the Oberlin Restoration Workshop, an intensive annual workshop on repair and restoration of instruments, which has nothing to do with promoting new violins.

October 6, 2017, 11:32 AM · Lyndon,

You may be surprised how many legit medical studies are supported by pharmaceutical companies or other stakeholders. That's why reputable journals require the fact to be declared. As long as the Violin Society of America did not involve in or influence the design, data collection and interpretation of results, I am fine with it.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 1:23 PM · @Jeewon. I will address your specific points when you put a biography about yourself on your profile. What I do for a job is on record, and yet you want to know more personal details about my own life and my access to top violins? I am sorry to read that your main experience with an old violin, was with the fake sold to your parents. Do you think that experience has coloured your views on antique violins?

At no point in this small study were the audience asked about tone colour, and only about loudness. Why? Because it was a question that suits the raw muscular power of new violins. They should have asked for each pair of violins, "which violin sounds more beautiful"? This small study is flawed as the questions were biased.

The only sweeping statements are the those that came out of this statistically irrelevant study. The reality is that out of TWELVE, I will repeat that, TWELVE violins, a small number of people had a slight preference for the "projection" of a new reproduction violin over an old original.

Cheers Carlo

October 6, 2017, 11:39 AM · Carlo owns a genuine Amati, Jeewan!!
Edited: October 6, 2017, 11:45 AM · Lyndon,

By "legit", I mean the results of company-sponsored study were confirmed independently by other studies. As far as I know, the Paris experiment is not the first of its kind so I find the outcome relevant.

October 6, 2017, 11:53 AM · @David. My wine pallete was educated from the age of seven. My father, being a diplomat, had access to top Italian wines provided as part of his job. In the Italian way, we were given wine at dinner, initially watered down, and we were educated as to variety and region. I would be happy to take part in any study, as often as necessary, to prove I can tell Italian wines from each other. In fact, I am free most evenings...

Cheers Carlo

October 6, 2017, 11:55 AM · I just asked my dad if he has published in a more prestigious journal than PNAS, and his reply was PNAS was one of the more prestigious journals he has published in. Hope they didn't enlist my dad for flash appeal, not a lot of flash appeal to the mobility of bacteria, his specialty.
October 6, 2017, 11:56 AM · Oh heck no, a Carl Becker Sr. (Carl G Becker) is now in the $100k+ range. Your buddy got quite a deal, Jeewon.

In 1986, when I was looking at those violins directly from Carl F Becker (Jr), I believe a Carl G was more than $20k (out of my price range), a Carl F was close to $20k, and a Jennifer Becker was $11k. So buying a Carl G for $4k in the early 1980s was also a steal.

October 6, 2017, 12:35 PM · At my level I'm quite content to listen to the CD of Ruggiero Ricci playing 18 violins by 18 modern makers, none of which I'm never likely to be allowed to buy ;-)
October 6, 2017, 12:44 PM · Sung, I will admit I have not had time to read the study, so my comments kinda skirt around the periphery, and I interject especially when there is some flagrant overstating flying around.

I bring up numbers because I don't see how you can generalize about characteristics having played a few instruments, not to even mention none. I would think if you had played on the order of hundreds of instruments, sampling many makers from all over the world you would be in a better position to start making some authoritative observation. As far as I can tell the only person to have done that, who also just happens to be a leading authority on the subject, has said no generalizations can be drawn. So I ask, mostly rhetorically since I have presumptions of my own, but also to give the benefit of the doubt.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 1:05 PM · Carlo, the fake has not been my only experience as I mentioned above. I've had some access working summers at a couple of shops. I didn't realize your experience testing out fiddles was so personal to you. I can only assume you have relatively little experience with contemporary instruments.

Edit: also it was a fake Castello, but still a very real mid 18th C Neapolitan.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 1:13 PM · Lydia, I don't know if I remember the figures correctly. But there's a Becker Sr. with Jeff Holmes. Pretty sure it's 55K but could be wrong.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 1:25 PM · An Anon mid 18th century Neapolitan violin would be worth something like $30,000, not $5,000, that's just ridiculously low price if it were genuine.. Obviously the shop that appraised it at $5000 didn't think it was Italian, or was not being honest with you.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 1:22 PM · Are you now, or have you ever been a member of The Violin Society of America? ;)
October 6, 2017, 1:27 PM · No, I'm not a violin maker, just a restorer, my making skills were for making historically accurate copies of German clavichords, you can see them on my website if you click on my name.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 2:14 PM · Carlo, the Paris paper DOES give information on categories like overall quality, articulation, timbre, and playability.

However, as the title of the paper suggests, ("Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins"), this particular study focuses more on the evaluations of the soloists, than the audience. The audience comes more into play when trying to assess "projection", which this study also did.

You and I getting together over wine? Heck yeah! Which one of us is willing to fly half-way across the world to make it happen? :-) Aren't you in New Zealand?

I'm a little burned out on travel, at the moment. And I'm much better at distinguishing between vodkas, than wines. Either way, I'll be at a disadvantage, since I have not had your level of experience with alcoholic beverages since the age of seven. My first beer might have been around the age of 16.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 1:42 PM · Lyndon, My question was a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the direction this discussion is heading, not a question directed at you personally. I knew I should'a stayed out'a this. I should reiterate that you don't need to be a violin maker to be a member of the VSA.
October 6, 2017, 1:50 PM · Perhaps a more relevant question to ask is, "What are the great contemporary makers doing that their competitors are not?"

For instance, what is Zygmuntowicz doing that apparently makes his violins comparable with the great Cremonese instruments?

Edited: October 6, 2017, 3:08 PM · Lydia, my opinion is that great makers will share some things, but not everything. After all, it is their livelihood, and a very competitive business.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 2:28 PM · I've yet to try or hear a Zygmuntowicz that comes close to a Stradivarius. From a player's perspective, the best violin I ever played on was the 1709 Viotti Stradivarius. I encourage everyone to go try a great old Italian and make up your own mind. No one is paying me to make this post to plug Stradivarius. There were people involved in this 'study' with a vested interest to push modern violins and there are people on this discussion who also have skin in the game. You know who they are (and they know who they are).

It's important to point out a couple of the players in the study also deal modern instruments on the side. A little conflict of interest? That didn't seem to make it into the news.

October 6, 2017, 2:32 PM · David, would you take your secrets with you into your grave, like Stradivari did? Or less dramatically, would you keep your secrets when you retire?
October 6, 2017, 2:50 PM · Is there anyone here that has (honestly) played 2 or more instruments from the same maker?
I have played several "brother/sister" violins from the same (modern) luthier and not a single one was the same. A good maker will make them similar but not the same.

So the real question is... (tada....) how can one know a true strad? Instuments differ, makers traits overlap...

I heard my first strad yesterday evening, so I was comparing it to the memories of the best instruments I heared... t was impossible. So muxh is dependant on the player, that the instrument fades away completely. Projection and sound (almost) comes down to attitude more than the instrument.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 6:32 PM · Han, I'll probably take most of my "secrets" to the grave. But an important thing to consider is that what many holders consider to be valuable secrets, turn out to be rubbish. Mine might be too.

My heirs can sell my assets, including all my notes from various experiments, successes and failures, when I die. These might be worth something, but I'm not counting on that.

October 6, 2017, 3:05 PM · @ Carlo

Aside from the violin study, the wine study was done several years back as well. Wine experts couldn't tell $10 wine from $200 wine. WINE EXPERTS.

Also, check out the violinists who tested in this study. Not a shabby group, some might say violin experts.

But, we should take your word on the wine, and the violins, I suppose :-D

Edited: October 6, 2017, 3:18 PM · One possible reason why everyone things Stradivari took his secrets with him to the grave is because there weren't any. It seems quite possible that he himself didn't know why they were so good, so he just kept doing it the same way. And if he didn't just keep doing it the same way, honestly I think that underscores my point.

Nate says modern makers have skin in the game. But so does he. As the owner of a rare antique Italian violin (his bio says Guadagnini), it's not in his interest for anyone to learn that there might be violins costing far less that sound just as good.

Nate also suggests we all go try a great old Italian and make up our own minds. I guarantee, if you come back from that "experiment" with the conclusion that a modern instrument was competitive, he's going to find some way to discredit you -- your playing skill or your pedigree are inferior to his, or you used a shoulder rest thereby compromising the "projection" of the Italian violin, or you didn't take time to "get to know" the finicky antique, or you don't understand that antiques need to be played differently, etc.

Someday I'd like to try a lot of fine violins, but for the present discussion I don't see why I would need to do that myself, when someone else already did exactly that and published a report on it in a leading scientific journal? Why would I deliberately conduct a far worse experiment, especially when you consider my left ear rings constantly and I can hardly even play Mozart.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 6:23 PM · Nate wrote:
"I've yet to try or hear a Zygmuntowicz that comes close to a Stradivarius."

I have. You might want to get out and about a little more.

Both Sam and I have so many future sales already in place, that I don't think either of us need to worry, or have an agenda about "old-versus-new" comparisons, regardless of how they turn out. Many other makers may be in similar positions.

I might be "sold out for life", and have come to the point of discouraging commissions. Did that a couple of times, just in the last week. Sam is slightly younger than I am.

October 6, 2017, 3:40 PM · Carlo, Jeewon is too smart to play your game. LOL. Those who have established their authority and have gained wide respect on this site apparently do not need to hang their pedigree on the wall.
October 6, 2017, 3:48 PM · Isn't this getting a little bit petty?? The moderator can easily step in and shut down what is presumably the longest thread in history. Is she reading this, or maybe she's on vacation, what a wild ride!!
October 6, 2017, 3:55 PM · Actually Yixi, Jeewon rather rudely asked for Carlo's pedigree, I think you're the one that's out of line here.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 4:15 PM · Timothy's point about sound perception is valid.
I can confirm it from my own experience in switching between baroque, modern violin and viola on a regular basis. Instruments do not change, but I am always amazed how they sound different to me first 30 minutes and how my perception and interaction with bow and instrument changes over time.
There are many other intervening variables almost impossible to control; for example, it is well known that we sub-conciously perceive smell and it can make us choose a seat in the theatre. The shape of violin's neck and fingerboard, subtle differences in comfort / discomfort, responsiveness, surface noise,... the list is endless. If a player is not seasoned in frequent instrument change, he/she will be unable to draw the best sound on the spot. It is well-known that some (old) instruments are very demanding and some of the best players confessed that it took them 1-2 years to figure out a new companion. My personal experience with a modern instrument, made by a reputable Canadian maker and the laureate of VSA, has thought me how difficult it may be to find the optimum bow speed, contact point and how that particular instrument is literally merciless when it comes to playing in tune.
All of this, and more.... makes it impossible to have a methodologically valid experiment. It would be more honest to admit that there are areas of human experience where scientific method is limited, instead to feed on sensationalism and pseudo-science.
October 6, 2017, 4:31 PM · Thank you, Lyndon, for enlightening me! I have great respect for your thoughts, especially regarding manner of online discussion.
Edited: October 11, 2017, 5:53 AM · Wow how did this turn into an argument about pedigree?! Lyndon, you have that backwards. It was Carlo who asked first. I may have no respect for Carlo's opinions but it has nothing to do with his pedigree, but rather his dogmatism presented as authority.

For this thread experience with, study and knowledge of fine instruments in general and contemporary instruments in particular is what is relevant to have an informed opinion.

I asked about numbers because to suggest all contemporary instruments are brash and one dimensional is an extreme and outlandish statement. Just wanted to know the basis. I don't see how my question is rude.

But now we're talking about pedigree? And you're asking us to take Carlo's pedigree as having some sort of authority over the concert violinists in the study, or master luthiers like Curtin and Burgess, or those soloists who choose to play on contemporary instruments like members of the Emerson, or Tetzlaff? Sorry if I find that a bit laughable. All I can ascertain from his previous post [which he has now deleted, something about owning 20 fiddles, of which 2/3 are modern, concert master of nameless chamber orchestra in London, blah, blah, blah, 1st violin CSO, etc.] is that he is rather wealthy.

Me? I'm nobody, a workaday freelance musician, who happened to assist a former teacher for a time and so, along with trying all the instruments that came through that teacher's door from Boston, Chicago, New York and London, and from a little work experience at a local violin shop and Shar, when they made a go of it in Toronto, and while they still had a fine instrument department, probably saw more fiddles than the average professional violinist. Still, I know I have very little experience compared to actual experts. And much less with contemporary instruments since most of the fiddles I saw were old or modern.

But Carlo still hasn't answered my question. How many total? 'cause 13 is a bit less than a thousand.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 6:06 PM · Rocky, what is a "VSA laureate"? Is that someone who can no longer enter their competitions, from having already won their maximum number of awards, or someone who has entered one of their competitions, or someone who has been a member, or someone who has achieved some sort of award, or what?

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:58 PM · Carlo, why did you buy 13 brash and one dimensional fiddles?

Yixi, I got sucked in :(

Edit: oh wait! Carlo said 3/4 modern. So it's zero, zip for Carlo too. Zero is even less than a bit, compared to 1000.

Lyndon, it had an unusually large sound post patch. So perhaps the first dealer was unwilling to give retail and the second did, likely because their cello was overpriced by about 7K. We were fleeced by the dealer and taken advantage of by our own teacher. Ain't dogma and prejudice great?

Edit 2: oh wait! Carlo wrote, "I am initially attracted to the sound of a good modern violin as there are huge reserves of power and volume. After about ten minutes, the initial attraction has been replaced with the realisation that the fiddle is a one trick pony and that power is all it has going for it. No subtlety, colour, or soulfulness"

So, again, why did you buy 13 one trick ponies with no subtlety, colour, or soufulness?

Edit 3: I guess I should retract the question from Carlo since he's actually never tried contemporary instruments.

October 6, 2017, 6:54 PM · Fair to say very few in this thread will be convinced to change their bias/informed point of view. Humans like to argue and try to win pointless arguments too much rather than attempting to find common ground and agreeing to disagree.

I quite honestly believe Mr. Burgess and others "in his camp" have zero vested interests in this sort of study. They genuinely believe what they do, given their experience.

So does Mr. Ballara and others in the opposite camp- he probably is genuinely convinced no great modern is a match for the best old Italians.

I personally resent the "old Italian" "overhype", even if they may have special nuances and colors, because they are out of reach economically speaking for a great number of players. For me the argument boils down to: "if you are not well-off like me, you won't ever get to listen to "real" violin tone like I do." Every violinist deserves a good violin they can afford-and the moderns may be the least expensive ticket towards a genuinely great instrument, "colorful" or otherwise. It's nothing against those who love old Italians, but the argument sounds classist, rather than based on hard facts.

Again, no offense intended to the professionals or amateurs who owns superb old Italians and love them. I just don't like the zealotry often displayed behind said preference, and the almost talking down to others who "can't appreciate real violin tone" (it often comes accross this way, even if it's not directly stated.)

Peace-we won't be able to convince each other.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:16 PM · Excellent post Comrade :)
Although to be honest, there isnt a reason why we cant apply a similar argument between expensive goodcontemporary violins and not so expensive contemporary violins. The problem is not the italian or nonitalian, old or contemporary nature of the violin per se but the underpinning economic system that turns rarity ( forced, existing or perceived) and reputation into wealth and profit (inclusive of some, exclusive of most).

Aside from that, I second the "Peace" benediction.

October 6, 2017, 7:26 PM · Great post Adalberto. But I'm not trying to convince Carlo, Lyndon, and Nate of anything. Just trying to point out how ludicrous is their position. It's true the opposing views here will never convince each other, but I think some are trying to reason things out, whether regarding methodology of the present study, or regarding personal experience, and the usual suspects argue out of some kind of zealotry, which I find difficult to understand (but seems to prevail these days,) using logical fallacies to intimidate and suppress rational discussion.
Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:27 PM · If Strads are not better than modern violins, I am ready to exchange a couple of my modern ones for a Stradivari.

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:49 PM · Even if we accept modern instruments are often of the same caliber as great antiques, the antiques will always be pricier due to a) scarcity of supply b) pedigree of past owners and c) brand recognition built up over centuries due to a and b.

These dynamics would lead to inflated prices in the current market no matter the sound quality, dynamics which are not driven by musicians but by speculative investors and art/antique collectors.

A musician should sleep well at night by doing an extensive search of the instruments available to them and then paying a reasonable sum relative to their current and future expected earnings combined with a hard cap. I think as a benchmark, if one is paying more for an instrument than what a Strad went for on an inflation-adjusted basis in the 1950s when mostly only musicians were buying instruments, one may be making a mistake (what do you know, taking into account inflation Strads were selling for ~25-80k USD in the 1950s, just like quality instruments today outside of the most famous names; 30-50k looks like the sweet spot for sound quality alone, a number we've heard thrown about on these boards before which is backed up by the historical auction prices). Another similar benchmark could be arrived at by never paying more for an instrument that one has paid for violin lessons and conservatory in one's life (although with inflated higher education prices due to cheap government debt this is becoming less valid).

Also, remember if modern violins weren't comparable in pure sound and playing characteristics, then they wouldn't be selling for these prices which are strikingly similar to quality instruments prior to the current speculation-driven madness; the best parts of sound economics indicate this is likely to be true without any need for "scientific" sound tests.

As long as only dumb investor money is paying these inflated prices, then no one is really harmed, but no musician who isn't wealthy enough to be a speculator themselves (only a few like Perlman qualify) should ever mortgage their life for an inflated instrument. It makes no monetary or artistic sense.

With all of this said, there is no reason to be accusing one side or the other of a conflict of interest because we are confining the argument to unquantifiable subjectivity. Historical and current prices of violins that aren't part of the speculation market tell the tale and provide a glimmer of the wisdom to keep in mind before the siren song of Cremona's past comes calling in the heat of a purchase.

Or, the tl;dr version: don't pay more than 100g for a violin unless you're a multi-millionaire already, because no violinists outside of recent history ever thought that made sense (in fact, they'd probably say you were crazy if you could ask them); you'll find a great one for less, likely modern, as long as you look hard. And, once you know that, there's no point to arguing further as it doesn't matter to anyone here as a practical matter guiding one's life decisions, so we can all go back to debating the merits of rosins and shoulder rests=)

Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:43 PM · Nate, your offer would be compelling absent the speculation market. We shouldn't confuse the money sloshing around with the issue of violins as musical instruments alone. So, I guess I can agree with you that Strads are verifiable by the laws of economics to be _better_ at one thing: attracting investor money!
Edited: October 6, 2017, 7:51 PM · I'd gladly trade my violin for a Mickey Mantle rookie card. Then with the $500,000 I get at auction for the baseball card, I could buy ten great violins or one crappy old Italian.

And by the way, Heifetz really wasn't that great of a player.

October 6, 2017, 7:49 PM · Laurie, lock the thread. With Paul's comment, we're done now=)
October 6, 2017, 7:52 PM · There goes Nate again, asserting 'Strads' are a monolithic and undifferentiated class, against 'modern violins' another such class.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 9:47 AM · Nate, you are offering to trade a couple of unspecified violins, with a probable market value of between zero and 125K, for a violin which typically goes for one to sixteen million dollars?
Hmm, that's a hard one, so give me a little more time to think about it. Can't quite decide between your offer, and the oceanfront property for sale in Arizona. ;-)
Edited: October 6, 2017, 9:05 PM · A few final thoughts. I realize we are not going to all agree on this hot topic but I feel strongly about these great Italian instruments. I have formed my opinion based on a lot of careful consideration and comparison.

Itzhak Perlman or Pinchas Zukerman would go buy whatever hotshot modern violin and perform on it if they felt it was better. Ask yourselves why they haven't.

I have had the good fortune to play on some of the greatest instruments in the world which include the 1709 'Viotti' Stradivarius, the 'Ole Bull' Guarnerius del Gesu, the Mischa Elman Stradivarius, the 1686 'Nachez-Hill' Stradivarius, a 1690 Giovanni Grancino (which I currently play on), a 1560 Andrea Amati, a Turin period Guadagnini, and many modern instruments including a Curtin, and a Peresson. I am basing my opinion off of years of experience playing on these instruments over a long period - not for just a couple of minutes in rapid succession like this faulty study had the testers do. Getting to know a fine instrument requires time - almost like developing a relationship with another human being. This 'study' in my opinion is to instruments what Tinder is to dating.

October 6, 2017, 9:03 PM · Ah!!!!! We finally get a number: 1.

1 contemporary violin played to determine, "[t]here's a world of a difference between Stradivari and some of these modern makers who submitted their instruments to this study."

1 is less than 1000. I'm inclined to believe the guy who has tried "thousands," and studied some of those finest old instruments up close and personal like.

How many of those fiddles did you get close to Nate? Really? It's ok. You can tell us. We know.

So the score is, as far as we can tell:
0 for Lyndon
0 for Carlo
1 for Nate
1000+ for the man with the sawzall

October 7, 2017, 2:37 AM · @Jeewon. You have clearly never been to the London auction houses. Three to four auctions a year at multiple auction houses. It takes two days of intense looking and playing to go through all the violins. I would have played and tried well over a thousand instruments a year for over ten years. When something really stood out, I would buy it and add it to my collection. Why modern Italian violins? Investment potential. What have Fiorini, Cappichioni, Poggi, etc prices done over the last twenty years? You may wish to reappraise your scoring system.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 7, 2017, 4:53 AM · Carlo, as usual you miss the point of this whole thread, blinded by your own hubris, and the gist of my argument. Unlike you I'm not trying to prove my expertise or worthiness. I'm not even really trying to make fun... My only point is that by your own admission you have no experience, or very little, with contemporary violins and so cannot possibly know that they all sound one way. I know you are trying to lump contemporary with modern, and maybe rightly so, but that's not quite what these studies are looking at is it? If you truly have tried 10,000 violins by modern and living makers (you see how Fiorini isn't quite contemporary?), I concede that you have had a lot of experience with new/newish violins. But more than anything you still miss the purpose of scientific inquiry and the point of the study itself. If you truly, sincerely want to test the hypothesis of the study, rather than summarily dismiss it because of your prejudice, why not repeat it, and publish? Use your own collection. You clearly have the resources.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 7:48 AM · Jeewon, "It's true the opposing views here will never convince each other" -- well, I am a real violin nobody. (You call yourself like that, but unlike you I don't have a chance in hell to enter the Tschaikovsky competition, ever.) I've been following this thread with great interest and I am taking note of good arguments from both camps, although it is a bit difficult to filter them out of the noise of ad-hominem and emotional arguments.

Edit: Apparently there are more violinists with the name Jeewon Kim...

October 7, 2017, 5:14 AM · Heifetz's artistry should not be questioned-whatever artists one may prefer, old or young-and he has no part in this debate, in my strong opinion.
October 7, 2017, 6:26 AM · Han, I think you have me mixed up with one of those potentially 'somebody' Jeewon Kim's out there. Why there are so many young women and men with that name in music I will never know. I really am a nobody, really. I just don't like misinformation, and can't stand zealous, dogmatic, 'fundie' thinking and so I speak up from time to time.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 6:12 PM · Some of the soloists in the Fritz study have significant experience with Strads and other violins, more than anyone else commenting here, from a player perspective:

"Two of the soloists regularly play new instruments but have in the past played extensively on violins by Stradivari and/or Guarneri del Gesu. A third soloist, who owns and performs on both a Guarneri del Gesu and new violins, came to the experiment with a new instrument. The other seven soloists play old violins—including instruments by Carlo Bergonzi, Gagliano, Gobetti, Guarneri del Gesu, Storioni, and Vuillaume."

The fact that so many of them perform on old violins suggests that they prefer old violins in regular life. I think the study's real innovation is in using a double blind methodology to deal with people's pre-existing biases.

Any experiment will have limitations, and that's why authors have to be precise about the methodology. I don't see this article making a sweeping statement about new vs. old. It says that given 2.5 hours in blind conditions, the 10 soloists can't tell one over the other from the limited number of instruments available in the experiment, and from that sample of violins, more of them choose the new but not always. Outside of the experimental setting, YMMV. But I don't see that impugning the results of this study.

Perhaps the mere fact that the violin is a Strad also adds to a player's perceived enjoyment of the sound once the maker is known. Some people consume a luxury good for the name and enjoy it for that reason. Nothing wrong with that. Also nothing wrong with people who choose to play a modern violin who enjoy it just as much.

Edited: The soloists in the experiment had 2.5 hours to test the violins, not 1 hour

October 7, 2017, 7:28 AM · "Some people consume a luxury good for the name and enjoy it for that reason. Nothing wrong with that."
I disagree here. Something quite wrong with that. For many reasons.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 9:32 AM · Yes, tammuz - I agree it is a waste of resources that could go to other uses. I guess I was thinking that if someone prefers to wear a $200 pair of jeans over something that's just as good at $30, and they are using their own money for it, that's their choice. But if they are relying on others to subsidize or promote that choice, you are right.
October 7, 2017, 7:45 AM · "I think as a benchmark, if one is paying more for an instrument than what a Strad went for on an inflation-adjusted basis in the 1950s when mostly only musicians were buying instruments, one may be making a mistake"

I don't agree with this pricing guideline. One has to look to current market circumstances for any purchase, not just violins. It would be like only buying a house or car based only on relative 1950 prices. Lots luck on that...If you want a Strad you compare it to other Strads on the market now. Besides, who's to say the 1950s didn't represent a plateau in violin prices?

Throughout this discussion there seems to be the simplistic assumption that "Old complex-new loud and bright." Modern violins run the gamut from loud and bright to dark and complex (unless of course your experiment picks only loud and bright), and old Italian violins have a wide variety of sounds as well. I've played and heard Amatis that sounded rather harsh. A warm and fuzzy Landolfi. Beckers that sounded very brash under the ear. Perresons bright and dark. I've played and heard Gaglianos that were overly dark, and a Pressenda that was very bright and focused. In spite of the stereotype that French violins are nasal sounding, I've played many that weren't. I heard a quartet with a dark, complex violin and a bright, focused one; the former was modern and the latter old Italian.

The thing that sticks out for me concerning Strads is that they are consistently neutral--they don't sound too this or too that. They don't jump up and scream "I'm a Strad" in the way that many other violins assert their personality. I think that's why so many people prefer them.

Edited: October 7, 2017, 8:02 AM · Scott, could you clarify: do the old Italians other than Stradivaris have a "maker sound"? Or do e.g. Amatis also vary between bright and dark, like different violins from the same contemporary maker?

Frieda, the "one hour" evaluation time was the earlier hotel-room study. The study we're discussing here had 2.5 hours per soloist, well above the 50 minutes that they estimated to need.

Edited: October 7, 2017, 9:31 AM · Tammuz;
Strads, being part of the antiques/collectables/rarities market, are worth pretty much whatever the market says they're worth. They don't seem to have been bad investments if one could swing it, good enough that many are owned by people who don't play professionally, or don't play at all.

Another way of looking at it is that if one buys right, and sells right, one can basically own a Strad or Guarneri for free, or maybe come out even better. And if one uses it professionally, it may have tax advantages, compared to other types of investments. Not to mention the "achievement affirmation" value that can come from owning one.

To some, owning or using one carries some symbolism of being an important violinist. After all, important violinists are what most people associate them with, right?

So owning a Strad can turn out to have advantages as a place to park money, including being more interesting/less boring than owning a stock or mutual fund, particularly for someone who happens to have an interest in music or violins.

October 7, 2017, 9:29 AM · Sorry, I've been on the road for 36 hours and missed a few posts. Anyone say anything important?

Anyone know what's the violin Leila Josefowicz is playing instead of her Bergonzi? Looks pretty new to me.

October 7, 2017, 9:31 AM · While Stradivari's are out of almost everyone's budget, you can still own a 18th or 19th Century violin by a top German maker for about the same or less than a top modern maker. Its not all about Strads, there were quality violins made in most countries in Europe, and the antique market isn't defined by Stradivari prices!!
Edited: October 7, 2017, 9:41 AM · This discussion is stalling. Only one person nibbled at my Heifetz bait. Can we get back to the personal attacks and emotional outbursts please? Lyndon?
October 7, 2017, 10:33 AM · Actually I'm not the one making personal attacks in this thread, though there have been quite few!!
October 7, 2017, 12:09 PM · To Steve's question. Don't know if this would be the current answer, but it is one:
" The violin I play now by Sam Zygmuntowicz, made in 2013, is actually the perfect fit for me. We worked on the instrument together in that I gave him the exact measurements of a Bergonzi I was playing before and we had many sessions in different halls to get the sound of the different ranges of the instrument perfectly tailored to my needs. It really makes a big difference when something is made exactly for you! I feel very lucky and I couldn’t be happier with my instrument now. There is also something special about specializing in more contemporary works, and having a violin that is also contemporary."

Edited: October 7, 2017, 1:21 PM · Repeat after me:


This is why some of you sound insane. "Stradivari sound" is not a thing. "Contemporary violin sound" is not a thing. "Old Italian sound" is not a thing". "19th century German sound" is not a thing.

Repeat after me:


end rant.

October 7, 2017, 2:14 PM · Not wanting to turn up the heat again. I have read somewhere, and it might be total bullsh..., that some high end travelimg musicians swop there valuable old masters to propably as well but not as extremely valuable contemporary violins which are look alike copies of their old masters. By doing so the audience is happy believing in hearing the old master and the violinist is happy playing on an instrument which is not as sensitive to climate changes during traveling and so on.
Is this just fantasy or real?
Edited: October 7, 2017, 2:44 PM · David (Burgess) within the workings of this economic system, I can see the self evident rationale of investing in a Strad/Guarneri/etc. However, it is my belief that it is an unsustainable and injust system at its roots. A rather trivial symptom (trivial in comparison to climate change, wars and so on) is hoarding up by richer folk, driving prices up (not just of old instruments) for strugglong musicians (who fall in a serious gap of insecurity in this same economic background). Etc. We see the same (il)logic of commodity as investment in investing in homes by wealthy insiders or outsiders, driving prices up and poorer people out of their historic neighbourhoods.
Yes, in this economic liberal system, it is one's right to invest. Zooming out, the overall effect is inherently unstable and harmful.
October 7, 2017, 2:54 PM · Mr. Deck,

I actually understood it was like a joke "attack" directed towards one or more of our veteran posters. I still stand by my comment, however, as your likely intentions may not be readily apparent to some who more casually visit this forum.


Edited: October 7, 2017, 3:21 PM · Douglas Bevan asserts that two "specific" instruments must be compared. Okay, fine. Now, the more times you do that, the better, right? So suppose you do that N times, and each time you compare a "specific" old Italian violin with a "specific" contemporary violin. And suppose you find that about N/2 times, you found the "specific" contemporary violin comparable or a little better. The other N/2 times, you found the old Italian "specific" violin comparable or a little better. At what point do you say, "Hmm, top contemporary violins seem about as good as old Italian violins." That is, what does N have to be before you start to "draw your own conclusion"?
Edited: October 7, 2017, 3:22 PM · Adalberto, I didn't intend it that way, but now that you point it out, I can easily see how you or anyone else would think so. Perhaps I should retire from this thread, you know, to "spend more time with my family" as the politicians always say.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 3:28 PM · Douglas Bevan wrote: IT IS RIDICULOUS TO COMPARE BROAD CATEGORIES OF VIOLINS.


If we are to discover any aspects of age that might be contributing to sound, then I see no other way to do this than by comparing broad categories of violins in one way or another. Personally, I think using listening tests has too much human factor in it to reach any good conclusions, but with well-instrumented tests it could be more enlightening.

But if we want to battle for 300+ posts, then trying to decide which broad category is better than the other is the way to do it. We could probably reach that level just by arguing whether the Cannone or the Soil is better. Dang humans and their opinions.

October 7, 2017, 3:28 PM · @ Paul,

That is fine. But I would never select a violin based on broad categorical evidence, or broad generalizations about what a violin from a category should sound like.

Edited: October 7, 2017, 3:36 PM · @ Don

If you decide that age contributes a certain effect to sound, it doesn't mean that a violin from X category is constructed in a way to take advantage of that characteristic.

I've played some terrible Strads, and also some great ones. The former obviously have no advantage from the esteemed maker, or time.

I don't think anyone is trying to battle (at least, I'm not). There are some strong opinions of course.

Oh, and the Soil is better :-D

Edited: October 7, 2017, 3:38 PM · @ Douglas,
You need the broad categories (i.e. large numbers) to find the trends, but it is true that the individual instruments can vary widely and that (if there is such a thing as a stereotypical sound) a specific old violin doesn't necessarily sound old and a new violin doesn't necessarily sound new.

... and I like the Soil better (won't say it IS better), but I don't like either of them all that much.

Edited: October 7, 2017, 6:28 PM · @ Don

Yes, I see what you're saying. Sure, if we want to find out if contemporary violins and famous old violins can be differentiated, that is one thing. But I'd never select a violin that way, or cut myself off to a category that way.

What is harder to say is that a category has a distinct quality. Too many outliers. Many moons ago based on myths I'd been told, I believed that. I've played too many violins by now and the results in my mind are far too mixed.

October 7, 2017, 6:20 PM · Tammuz, the only reason we still have some of our best-preserved Stradivaris is because they were taken out of circulation as regular playing instruments, and stashed away by museums and collectors. So it's a mixed bag. One could ask though how much a player will really be compromised by not having access to a 6 million dollar fiddle. The various experiments and studies suggest that there are viable less-expensive alternatives.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 7:12 PM · "Personally, I think using listening tests has too much human factor in it to reach any good conclusions, but with well-instrumented tests it could be more enlightening."

Don, maybe we need to measure preferences more directly using fmri and other biometrics, something like this:

Or this:

I'm doing a quartet recital for them this fall where they're testing some equipment to enhance musical experiences for people with hearing loss (something to do with delivering sound directly to hearing aids or something like that.) They've also done some cool stuff on the importance and effect of music on people.

Maybe they should do a study on our perception of tone and timbre in new and old instruments next: effects of price, maker, age, artist playing, how long played, etc. on preferences.

Edited: October 7, 2017, 8:40 PM · None of that technology is needed. Just the ears of musicians with no axe to grind and no prejudice either for or against modern instruments, questions that are set up not to lead the listener one way or the another, and enough time to get to really know the instrument.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 7, 2017, 8:40 PM · I think there is a different take on all of this depending on if someone is a player or a maker. As a maker, it is most important to me to know what factors affect sound, so as to have those tools available in the making process. Most of the listening tests don't have that kind of usable information, and tend to focus on winners and losers, which then gets the headlines. Only occasionally there are details buried in the study that I find useful. In general, though, the perceptions and preferences of people add a lot of confusion to an already extremely complicated physical/acoustic problem (but I guess they're necessary, since they play and listen to the things).
October 7, 2017, 8:45 PM · It may sound like I'm shooting for a totally mechanized evaluation of violins, but that's far from it. Listening tests are extremely important, more than anything, and I get as many of them as I can. Putting that kind of thing into an article or report loses a huge amount of the value, I think, compared to actually being there.
Edited: October 7, 2017, 9:24 PM · I talked with my maker/dealer friend that played his $35,000 modern and 3 million Strad for me. He had basically the same take on the study I did. He found the fact that they refused to reveal which instruments were used very suspicious. He said it was set up by and for modern makers to promote modern makers, we have no idea how hard they tried to get really good sounding Strads if at all, and we know full well they went way out of their way to get particularly exceptional and loud sounding moderns, he even questioned whether they would have released the study if the STrads had won. As it was the Strads did better than they were predicting(with 4 out of 10 soloists picking a Strad as their favourite) and it took two years for the study results to be published. People want moderns to win because they can potentially afford them. But when they go to a concert they still want to hear Stradivaris.

The thing I find particularly annoying about the whole thing is the assumption that any Strad is better than any other antique violin, that only random Strads need to be in the study to represent antiques, that no antiques by other makers at much more reasonable prices need to be considered. The assumption that if Strads lose, all antiques lose, the incredibly insane assumption that if really high quality moderns are available, that much cheaper Chinese factory violins also have this "modern magic". The absurd conclusion that modern violins are better and more affordable than antiques in general. This stupidity is what annoys me the most. And the studies authors are guilty of promoting much of this nonsense.

October 7, 2017, 9:34 PM · I think to broadly categorize with obvious exceptions, there is an old and a new sound, as well as the preference for new things vs the preference for old things. Some people's preference leans towards the new, some people's preference leans towards the old, much like this highly flawed study demonstrated. Perhaps the most rational third group exists with no preferences either for old or new, and willing to extensively compare both old and new instruments when choosing their instrument.
October 7, 2017, 11:36 PM · Mr. Taylor,

I don't understand why it's usually necessary for you to resort to absolutes and insults to establish your preferences. "Stupidity" is hardly a civil term, plus you are making other assumptions I haven't seen on this thread yet.

"...the incredibly insane assumption that if really high quality moderns are available, that much cheaper Chinese factory violins also have this "modern magic". The absurd conclusion that modern violins are better and more affordable than antiques in general. This stupidity is what annoys me the most. And the studies authors are guilty of promoting much of this nonsense."

No modern "magic" has been mentioned. "Old Italian" magic has been insinuated instead. No Chinese instruments have been discussed (though I may have missed a post or two, I admit.) You can disagree that a modern is in general "better" than a so-called antique, but not the price thing... where are these cheap wonders from two centuries plus that are better AND cheaper? Better a maybe (not a given); cheaper, almost never.

While your business covers a nice niche, I find it unnecessary that you need to put others down, as if only your point of view was well-informed, and everybody else is "stupid" and "absurd." You can advocate the benefits of good, well-made, "seasoned" workshop instruments from the 19th Century without being so obviously belligerent, as if any other point of view meant that they disagree with or oppose your business as a sort of "arch rival"-that doesn't really exist.

Funny thing, I do like the best samples of old workshop instruments myself-splendid value and a few can sound great-but I do believe that at said price range, you should buy the violin that works for you, rather than limiting yourselves to ONLY Chinese, ONLY Mirecourt, German, etc. Basically, I am in this "Third Group" you suggest.

At the high end modern level, in which they become more expensive (though they are worth it), the relative "lower end", $6,000.00 "antique" violin may not be as "good", even with the "seasoned" wood and all of that. These newer instruments are really less expensive than most "Old Italians", and understandably so. The anti-modern bias is also bad for the violinist that would prefer to play his/her modern, but is "forced" to play a "name" old violin so people legitimize his/her artistry-that's unfair, and "stupid", as you would say... prestige doesn't help the music, which is what it's all about.

There ARE prestigious, wonderful "antique" instruments out there for SURE, but are they cheaper than most moderns (and no, I am not referring to Chinese workshop models)? Budget matters to many.

Apologies if I sound too belligerent myself, which wasn't my aim. I agree with Mr. Noon above: "Humans and their darned opinions!" Believe what you will, and let others believe what they will.

October 8, 2017, 12:05 AM · I have trouble imagining a situation where a violinist is forced to play an old Italian Instrument when they want to play a modern.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 8, 2017, 12:43 AM · Adalberto, your response is quite offensive, evidently you have not been reading this forum much, I base all my conclusions on the behaviour of posters on this forum, and I'm freely entitled to my opinions. There is a seeming war going on against antique violins, And I'm sick of it. If you don't support me then you are part of the problem. People need to try antique violins and stop being forced to go to stores that only sell modern violins in the affordable price range. You might think I'm being rude, so be it, I am quite rude when it comes to people recommending Jay Haide, Yita, Gliga etc with no mention of the fact that there are antique competitors in all these price ranges, also plenty of antique competitors for the high end modern maker violins, and informed choice considers alternatives. Only the close minded insist on this modern brand or that modern brand. Why do I care, because I make a living restoring and selling quality violins, I don't need some idiot saying they're better off to order some crap from China or Shar instead of visit a real shop like mine.
October 8, 2017, 1:04 AM · The original topic is about the percieved differences between the "Great Old" 300 years old and the high end of the contemporaries less than 20 years old. How did it derail into an argument on afforable intermediate violins, 150 years old versus factory-made new?
October 8, 2017, 1:44 AM · No, the original topic is about a biased and limited study with only twelve instruments set up to promote modern faximile violins over original antiques.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2017, 2:11 AM · Is there now no end to threads on Vcom? Do they now go on forever? I, as the original poster, shut down the discussion on using nom-de-plumes on Vcom. I had had enough of the same circularity of argument displayed in this thread. That one had only got to two hundred. This one may never run out of steam.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2017, 2:27 AM · "No, the original topic is about a biased and limited study with only twelve instruments set up to promote modern faximile violins over original antiques."

Worth repeating, good post, Carlo, LOL

Edited: October 8, 2017, 2:47 AM · How do you shut these things down, Carlo? But why should anyone want to anyway, while the participants are still hot? I'm glad to have stimulated some "scholarly" debate.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 3:43 AM · @Steve. I'm not sure about the "scholarly" part either. Certainly a lot of hot air from some quarters.
You can, should you wish to, go back to your original post and one of the options is to "delete thread". Still, as long as everyone is having fun, and on occasion taking a deep breath and counting to ten, no real harm can be done...

Cheers Carlo

Posted under my own FULL name in accordance with the rules of Vcom.

October 8, 2017, 3:14 AM · Carlo if you're tired of it, you could of course stop reading and posting rather than trying to have the last word by reiterating what you've already said before. (I usually stop reading and posting in a topic if I don't like where the discussion is going.) The opinions of you and Lyndon are very clear at this point.
October 8, 2017, 3:20 AM · Some people have nothing of value to post and yet they still post.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 3:43 AM · Can I say as someone who buys an antique violin every few months I've really been enjoying reading this thread. Sadly, my best violin was made in Sweden between the wars (not the Paris double-blind experiment ones).
October 8, 2017, 3:53 AM · I had a really good about 100 yr old Swedish violin in my shop, on my website its pictured in the middle of the bottom of the first page. It was Johannes Brun, hand made by one maker, reputed to be worth about $10,000, though I only got about half that.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 4:53 AM · Lyndon, as I'm sure you are already aware, your dealer/maker friend and I know each other. He would have easy access to a couple of the people involved in the studies, should he have questions or want more information, should he desire to do so. Something else you also know: He loves and respects nice old violins, and this is not unique to him. This is almost universally true of makers, including those who only make.

One question which has come up here, which I don't think has been addressed yet: Why weren't specific identities of the instruments disclosed?

In the case of the old instruments, one reason is that it is necessary in order to have continued access to instruments like that. Whether Strads are compared with other Strads, or are compared with moderns, the owners quite understandably don't want the identities publicly disclosed. No owner of one of these very expensive instruments wants to take the risk of their instrument becoming known as "The last place Strad", or "the middle of the pack Strad", so when they are made available, it always comes with various sorts of restrictions and agreements.

In the case of the contemporary instruments, these studies were never intended to be a competition between new makers. There are already many of those taking place all over the world, with the results published, for those who are looking for something like that. They also didn't want individual makers to be able to use the results for self-promotional purposes. As far as I am aware, even the makers of the contemporary instruments themselves don't know which instrument was which.

One other factor (and this is just my opinion), is that the study methodology is more consistent if the same rules apply to both sets of instruments, to the extent that this is possible. If specific identifying information on the old instruments is not disclosed, maybe that should be the same for the new instruments.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 5:00 AM · I know it makes sense to you, David, but to a lot of us it doesn't make sense at all. Its not scientific to not reveal the makers and models of the instruments, otherwise we could have a study with 6 lousy Italians and the 6 best modern violins ever made; none of the modern makers submitted their mediocre models, they submitted their best, the same should have been done for the Italians, and no, I don't believe your argument that no great Italian violin owner would want their instrument revealed in the study, I just don't buy that. Revealing the instruments might actually foster competition among the owners that they want to submit their instrument to the competition in the hope that it might win.

This study is like Monsanto does a study on pesticides, they test pesticide A,B, C, and D but they don't reveal which Pesticide is which and then they talk about the insects that each pesticide kills, but they don't reveal which kind of insects were affected. What do you call this study, completely unscientific, same as the Paris study is unscientific, until you can prove that you are actually using highly rated Strads and Del Gesus in the study, you haven't proved a damn thing, everyone knows there are Great, good and not so good Strads, what's to stop the studies authors from using not so good Strads in the study. Given the huge involvement of modern makers in the study, the whole honesty of the study can be called into question, and we've got nothing but the word of the authors to argue otherwise, and frankly given the blatant dishonestly about use of terms like projection, I question the integrity of the people conducting the Study. That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it, it is also the opinion my friend the maker/dealer that you know.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 5:54 AM · If 6 lousy(ier) Old Italian violins were chosen to compete against good contemporary violin and thus this explains the results, doesn't that mean anyway that being an old and italian is not a sufficient condition to succeed in this test? And perhaps not a condition defining it as a better violin overall in a different context (say for chamber music)?

Lyndon, i understand that the test is not substantially pertinent when it comes to people choosing yita like violins vs old european factory violins chosen by people like you who have a knowledgeable background in their scope of work. I agree that choice of buying for beginners or even more advanced is not always so rational and advertising has a big role to play. But it is altogether a rather different 'myth' that youre dealing with, not exactly the one at hand here.

I do not see that your demand (that the consumer factor in older instruments as well as new and decide rationally) is irrariinal. Butyou have reason at the low to intermediate end.
On the higher end, i think the reverse dynamic is likely more true. The overidding prejudice is pro-old and violin tests like these are subversive to that overall trend and myth. Violin studies like these seek to invite (one can contest of course certain aspects, no test is perfect as stated before..but neither are these people charlatans and in my opinion, one shouldnt defame them by calling them fascists and what not, it us uncalled for and unethical) a rational secular view in what is long been a romantic revered myth

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:04 AM · Lyndon, please tell us more about this supposed "huge involvement of modern makers in the study". Wouldn't we all be better off if you stuck more to facts, and relied less on flights of fancy?

I already pointed out earlier in the thread that of the seven authors/researches listed at the top of the paper, only one is a violin maker.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 5:58 AM · Tammuz. Actually if we are to take this forum, and as examples of the violin world today, the old is better days are long gone, at all price points the majority of posters recommend modern violins, and I don't think that position is rational.

PS David, Modern makers have been behind these studies right from the start, providing instruments funding and support, You yourself have been involved in putting on these demonstrations. Joseph Curtin is the number two man in the study, a maker, as a poster pointed out two of the soloists were modern violin dealers, etc etc

I can actually see you point about assuring the anonymity of the modern makers, for one thing the instrument used in the study might be much better than the average instrument they deliver to customers that place an order, and a loss could ruin a valuable career, and a win would get you orders for 300 years. However with the anonymity of the Strads, that just doesn't work IMHO. We need to know the reputation of the Strad, who played them, how much they are worth, etc. I don't think you would have any trouble getting owners to loan Strads with express consent to reveal the pedigree and name of the Instrument.

October 8, 2017, 5:57 AM · In the science world (which is where we are here - this I think accounts in part for the lack of comprehension by those who don't have this background) you do occasionally come across instances of fraud and falsification, but these are extremely rare because in theory they can always be found out by repeating the study. When it comes to conspiracy amongst scientists to pervert the truth, the whole notion is frankly ridiculous because scientists like nothing more than to prove their colleagues wrong. So even if we have good grounds to criticise the study on conceptual and procedural grounds, perhaps including subconscious bias, when the study has been peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal I believe we have a duty to trust that the organizers are not guilty of deliberate deceit. If we have strong urge to prove otherwise we should keep our mouths shut until we have actual evidence.
October 8, 2017, 6:01 AM · Actually this is what is called the pseudo science world, and the pseudo science world is full of frauds and deceit.
October 8, 2017, 6:05 AM · Can you cite one? Evidence please?
Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:07 AM · I think that is to be explained by the fact that old italians are now so expensive, people on here or on maestronet are not looking at these high end instruments or bothering to inquire about them for the simple reason that the price is stratospherically out of their range. Given a choice, I think the overriding allure of being an old italian instrument has not diminished one bit, but rather been inflated to a gigantic extent. The mere mention of old italian (for instance, copies thereof,american, chinese, european, good or bad) instantly add an allure to an instrument to the consumer (who is equivalent in knowledge and experience to her or his choice of instrument),
Again, your market price range is subservient to other dynamics and conditions Lyndon.
October 8, 2017, 6:06 AM · What the study has demonstrated is that some people(not all) prefer some modern violins over some Old Italian violins of which some might be Stradivaris. When you really think about it, that's not saying much at all. And the conclusion that top modern violins are as good as Stradivaris is completely unwarranted and definitely not proven, in any way, means or form.
October 8, 2017, 6:10 AM · Lyndon, YOU may not understand why the owners of the Strads wouldn't want the identity disclosed, but you are not one of these owners, nor have you had nearly as much contact with them as some of us have.
October 8, 2017, 6:14 AM · In the science world, would a study with only twelve samples, carry much weight? Would not the sample need to be much greater to have any relevance at all?

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2017, 6:17 AM · What I'm saying is that by proposing to reveal the instruments you might appeal to a whole different type of owner that wants their instrument to be publicized, rather than is afraid it will be exposed as deficient. Maybe your owners know full well they don't own the top Strads, and don't want to make that situation worse, by revealing it.
October 8, 2017, 6:17 AM · Lyndon wrote, "There is a seeming war going on against antique violins, And I'm sick of it."

You sound like those who think there's a "war on Christianity" in the US. In both situations its about refusing to accept the traditional large advantage in power and influence that has been afforded to one particular group.

Those of you who have recommended closing the thread -- you're welcome to just leave. Nobody's forcing you to read or post here.

October 8, 2017, 6:22 AM · I am not the Enemy you make me to be. Differing opinions do not mean "fights to the death." Also, "disagreeing with you" doesn't make me part of any "problem" you are perceiving, nor should it make me your imagined "rival"-I have never said your shop offers no value (when, ever?), or that it should not thrive just because many people buy modern affordable instruments at the price range of the ones you offer (really, that has NOTHING to do with the current discussion.)

For the record, the thread is innocent and well-meant-it should NOT be deleted, especially because it has useful bits of information here and there among all the ego-born, hate and intolerance for that which doesn't conform to one's point of view. Never did Mr. Jones intended his thread to derail into this, and it would amount to "censorship" of the topic-which in itself is neutral-to make the thread disappear. If the thread was to be deleted, it would serve the purpose of those who angrily disagree with this "ill-conceived" test; maybe a "lock" is more sensible.

The old Yita/Chinese/"bad" Shar instruments thing alluded to above has ZERO to do with THIS particular thread. It's a sensitive matter to you, but it shouldn't have been a "battle" argument, derailing the whole thread. I don't see the relationship between your well-meaning shop and this discussion-nor have I ever stated that "Chinese violins rule", which seems to be your favorite pet peeve, and which you seemingly like to bring up to most unrelated discussions.

It's OK to dislike modern instruments, even "all" of them, for whatever bias or reason, but it's not necessary to let threads devolve into vitriol and "stupidity" insults.

(And BTW, the current length of the discussion is not the fault of Ms. Niles-I very much like that threads don't get auto-locked at 100 posts, and see no evil in prolonging the conversation in a civil manner, when that is still possible. If you don't like it, say your piece and move on, rather than trying to force the moderator's hand.)

I agree to disagree with those who will disagree, and wish you all well in all your endeavors. Let's keep making music and promoting the art of the violin, even if we'll never be on the same page in many issues.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:27 AM · I also think the whole double blind stuff is a problem, it sounds scientific, but in practice its more of a problem. Everyone says new violins can be easier to play, so that gives the new violins an unfair advantage when the players don't have time to practice on them. The players need to see the instruments to play their best, they need to practice on them for days at least to familiarize themselves with the quirks and needs of each instrument.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 9:39 AM · Lyndon,

Based on your lengthy remarks so far in this thread, I can safely assume that you have very little understanding how scientific researches are being done. The fact that you don't like the outcome of a study does not make it a pseudo science.

As I said before, I would have equally accepted the result of the Paris study if it turned out to be much more favorable to old instruments. If you are not willing to accept it simply because of your preconception but nothing else, that kind of mindset does not help in discussing a scientific experiment.

October 8, 2017, 6:30 AM · I wouldn't say there is a "war going on against antique violins" but rather the views of many posters on Vcom don't match the reality of the real world. In every professional orchestra I have played in there is a large majority of string players using old instruments rather than new, except perhaps in the viola section.
Another oddity of Vcom is the number of players not using a shoulder rest. We are a small minority in the real world, but 25% of Vcom posters.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2017, 6:30 AM · It is an unfair advantage if it is easier to play?
On cheap violinsyou would say a good player can overcome some minors of violins, but it still is a minor. When it comes to a Strad it suddenly is not an important factoe of quality?
Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:44 AM · Lyndon wrote;
"PS David, Modern makers have been behind these studies right from the start, providing instruments funding and support, You yourself have been involved in putting on these demonstrations. Joseph Curtin is the number two man in the study, a maker, as a poster pointed out two of the soloists were modern violin dealers, etc etc"

How have modern makers been behind these studies from the start? Do you mean that the new instruments may have been furnished by makers? (I don't happen to know how many were furnished by makers, and how many by owner/players). What we can be fairly sure of though is that the old instruments were furnished only by owners, and I don't know of any such owner who doesn't have a huge interest in maintaining the reputation of their instrument, or any large investment.

I have been involved in many instrument comparison scenarios (as has just about any maker or dealer or musician), but have already made it clear that I was not involved in any of the Fritz studies.

October 8, 2017, 6:32 AM · Steve -- it's not hard to find cases of fraud and deceit. Vaccines and autism, people who erase the unwanted peaks from their NMR spectra, etc.

That doesn't mean anything "fraudulent" or "deceitful" happened in the Paris study. When you levy such charges you better have something to back it up. Just because Curtin is a maker doesn't mean the study is biased. If they had tried to hide his involvement, that would be a different matter.

My observation is that the people who talk the loudest about people having axes to grind -- they're the ones with biases to protect.

Lyndon wrote, "I am quite rude when it comes to people recommending Jay Haide, Yita, Gliga etc with no mention of the fact that there are antique competitors in all these price ranges."

If I asked you to ship me a few of your antique competitors so that I could compare them to Chinese violins, would you do that?

Are you aware that there are markets in the US -- a lot of them -- where refurbished Mirecourt instruments are just not generally available? Suzuki parents know the names "Scott Cao" and "Jay Haide" and "Doetsch" and often they have no choice but to put their trust in outfits like Shar because there often isn't a dealer in their area. (By comparison buying from eBay is a lottery.) I'd have to drive three hours to find a dealer with an inventory of more than five violins. Parents know that when they're buying a Jay Haide instrument, that's a commodity product, so they're either trading it up with the same dealer, or they're selling it at a 40% loss unless they can find another parent in their area willing to pay closer to the purchase price (especially for fractionals). For a lot of parents, buying some other instrument from a small-time dealer, a violin with a label and history they don't understand, just presents too many unknowns and incalculable risks.

October 8, 2017, 6:39 AM · Adalberto, actually these studies claiming moderns are better than Strads, don't effect the market for Strads, their prices keep going up, they do effect the market for hand made moderns, their demand and prices keep going up. But believe it or not they do effect the whole market of violin sales, and less educated people make the assumption if a new hand made top modern maker violin is as good as a Strad, that a cheap factory made modern violin must be better than a cheap factory made antique. These attitudes weren't developed principally by the quality of the Modern cheap factory instruments, but by people getting the mistaken idea that people all over the world now know how to make violins better than they did 300,200,100 years ago. Which is simply not the case IMHO I don't see how it is off topic to make small mention of the old vs new debate which was started by these Modern vs Strad studies, it really is quite interrelated and relevant to the discussion.
October 8, 2017, 6:45 AM · Carlo,

You may think a valid scientific research should require a much larger sample size, but many medical studies dealing with experimental drugs use only a handful subjects. Modified T-cell gene therapy against leukemia is one of them, and in the following study they used 16 subjects. If you google more closely, you may be able to find studies that used 12 or fewer subjects.

The following article was published in Science Translational Medicine.

Article link:

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:56 AM · Paul I don't trial multiple instruments at once, even for my local customers, I will send what I believe is the best violin in the price range you are looking for if you pay by paypal upfront(with buyer protection to be refunded in full on return) and pay shipping both ways(about $25 each way)

I have 3 Mirecourt Instruments right now, from $1200-$2000 the rest German or Czech, with one violin appraised as 1900 Italian by an expert in the 50s, but only appraised as possibly Italian by the expert I work with today. That's the $6,000 violin pictured and described on my website.(Raphael Calace)The other two have sold on that page.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 11:01 AM · Then maybe it would be better to educate the people who are making these erroneous assumptions (including those who believe that new and old instruments each have a certain type of sound), than being admittedly rude? And if you keep copies of the studies at hand, you can easily show them that these tests did not involve the market segment in which you make your livelihood.

Note that I have done nothing here to in any way disparage the types of instruments that you sell, or any type of old instrument at all. Nor have I made anything close to a blanket endorsement of contemporary instruments. Rather, I've said that they are all over the map.

October 8, 2017, 7:01 AM · Yeah but it is a very positive portrayal of the market you make instruments in David, and since you don't deal in antiques I would expect your opinion to be at least as biased for the modern side, as mine is from the antique side, that's why its best to just agree to disagree.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 8:46 AM · While I am no longer involved in dealing in antiques, I love the better ones as much as the next guy. And I'm far from hurtin' for business, so my having a financial agenda is going to be a darned difficult case to try to make. I'm more concerned about whether I can get all these existing commissions out the door before I die.
October 8, 2017, 7:18 AM · Paul - yes of course there is that recent example of deceit in the medicoscience literature, but I could argue that it's still a tiny statistic. The perpetrator was exposed and run out of town - where is he now I wonder?

Maybe the Paris study does "tend" to paint contemporary makers in a flattering light, but I'm happy to swallow a grain of salt and wish them well. Antique violins will always have a market, whether or not they're "better" than new ones.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 7:51 AM · @ Lyndon - I think the assumption that any of us, player or maker, has a bias against old violins, is ridiculous. I have played and admired some amazing antique instruments. They are the examples that great contemporary makers learn from and are inspired by in many cases.

A great instrument is a great instrument -- if it is made today or 300 years ago.

October 8, 2017, 7:59 AM · Can't reason with an irrational mind. All we can do is expose it.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 9:17 AM · Lyndon:"But believe it or not they do effect the whole market of violin sales, and less educated people make the assumption if a new hand made top modern maker violin is as good as a Strad, that a cheap factory made modern violin must be better than a cheap factory made antique. "

Im no expert here but I suspect this is associative thinking overreaching and connecting two quite different topics.the beginner choosibg a yita violin (and co) is much more likely to have been drawn to a combination of company publicity and prescence (essentially online and in stores), affordability, abundance, etc...rather than a far fetched reading of the consequences of this or other studies whose aim at heart might be to disband myths of de facto old better than new as opposed to propogating new myths of de facto new better than old (which no one has stated, hinted at or suggested apart from, respectfully I say this, your person Lyndon).
You're assuming aims for the part of the people conducting this study that they dont seem to have in mind or heart. I dont understand why though. I think at the end, this can only flow in your favour as a violin dealer who aims for choosing quality over empty myth (whether i relation to new or old).

Edited: October 8, 2017, 10:07 AM · Lyndon, if you don't have as much business as you would like, would you be willing to entertain the possibility that it is YOU who are most responsible for this, rather than trying to blame Claudia Fritz, or contemporary makers, or Chinese instruments, or whatever other external factor?

Just off the top of my head, I can think of some very simple and inexpensive things you might do. For instance, if you believe that your instruments sound better than Chinese fiddles in a similar price range, keep a Chinese violin or three in the shop for people to compare with yours, along with literature from an outside source showing what these particular brands typically sell for. That way, the customer can hear for themself, rather than being harangued. ;-)

October 8, 2017, 9:55 AM · I'm not convinced that modern makers need to prove anything or win over buyers. Price alone has done that, which is why I play a modern violin. Older violins in the range I could afford are simply not so great.
Even the better German makers such as Klotz are now out of sight for most people.

Just take even a lower-tier Italian with some age on it, like a Sannino: I remember in the early 90's when I met someone who had paid about $17,000. In the late 90's, Peter Prier sent one to me for which he was asking $30,000.

Just a few years after that, and I was sitting in an orchestra with someone who had just paid $75,000 for the same maker. Few players today are having to make a decision about modern vs. fine antique, let alone modern vs. Strad. Even the lowest tier of known professional-level older instruments, including Becker, Peresson, Antoniazzi, Scarampella, etc. are simply too expensive. Unless you have wealthy parents or have already won a big orchestra job, it's very difficult to get a loan for a violin.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 10:42 AM · Thats the fun part. I have a few players in my range with bottom tier old Italiens. They are definately not a good buy when looking for a violin to play on, still the fact alone that Strad lived in the same area makes some of them really expensive and people buy them.
Of course there are a lot of crappy moderns around too. In Germany you have to spend about 10k for a violin completly handmade by one maker (here with master title, I think the only country where this exists). The good makers concentrated on new violins charge more. Some of those new violins are made by people making a violin every 5-10 years, maybe 10 throughout their lifes with so much time in between they cannot get a lot of knowledge gained from one violin to the next one. Those violins often are born dead. Still people pay 10k to buy them.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 10:42 AM · Tammuz, you don't seem to be very perceptive of what's going on in the violin market, and when you hear my critique of people's changing taste from old to new, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that its all in my head. I've been off and on in this business for 35 years. When I started out the WHOLE business was in antiques, except for a few expensive hand made modern instruments, and really crappy new German imports. A lot has changed in the business, when I started out everyone assumed and believed violins get better with age, why?? because older violins sounded better than new ones, at least in the same price range.

Flash forward to today, and "scientific" studies like this one are being quoted to "prove" that violins don't improve with age "at all" and that the only difference between antiques and moderns is price, with antiques being more expensive. I'm sorry but I'm not buying into this, my workshop French and German violins don't sound anything like new Chinese violins, they sound different, its just a fact. You might prefer the sound of newer violins, you might prefer newer things in general, but to claim people can't tell differences between old and new violins is just nonsense IMHO.

October 8, 2017, 10:29 AM · I recently decided to call time on my 1996 violin by a competent Florentine amateur, which had served me well throughout its lifetime but not evolved any mellowness to complement its clarity. One thing it has done is appreciate in value by maybe 200%. Over the same time period it seems that the value of good antique British violins has remained almost static.
October 8, 2017, 11:00 AM · Less famous and anonymous German violins can be a real bargain. I recently had a violin by a top Czech maker in great condition, I sold it for $1800, it was leagues better than a $4000 Jay Haide, but because it was Czech, and made in Schoenbach, it was much more affordable. If you're enamoured by famous brands, be prepared to pay the price. A medium quality hand made modern maker might sell for $10,000-$15,000, if you look at antiques you can find a similar quality, hand made by one maker for $5,000 or less easily, it just won't have that famous name recognition that people want, mistakenly thinking that is what means quality.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 11:11 AM · Then have a Jay Haide available in your shop, so your customers can compare. Pretty simple. Isn't most of your hand-wringing of your own making?
October 8, 2017, 11:11 AM · I don't tell you how to run your business, David.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 11:28 AM · Might you be able to learn a little bit from other people? I certainly have, and would highly recommend doing so!

Example: I no longer restore instruments, but I am still involved in the Oberlin Restoration Workshop every year, mostly because so many of teachers and attendees are so brilliant and creative with their thinking, concepts, and ideas. Same thing with the Violin Making Worshop, which I have visited almost every year of the last 15.

Stop your whining, and start to get a little more serious about your own education.

October 8, 2017, 11:24 AM · I have close friends in the business I've learned very much from, and always look to for professional advice.
October 8, 2017, 11:24 AM · "In every professional orchestra I have played in there is a large majority of string players using old instruments rather than new..."

That's a really convenient stat to throw out from a position of privilege. How many of that majority also own real estate? The fact is wages simply have not kept up with either real estate in major cities or fine instrument inflation. Look at current, or recent cohorts of professional string players and can you say the same?

October 8, 2017, 11:33 AM · Gentlemen we are going slightly off topic and are in danger of turning this lively debate into a mud slinging match. May I respectfully remind you we were discussing the statisticly irrelevant “double blind” violin study that had been set up to disprove that original antique violins sound better than modern reproductions.

Cheers Carlo

October 8, 2017, 11:38 AM · For new instrumwnts around 10k in western countries you have to keep following in mind:
You pay the working time, not the quality. This is different in the same price range for antiques where you pay for the quality (at 10k everything can be considered no name when it comes to antiques imho).
Therefore you get a lot of worse new fiddles at this price.
Iy you go up a few thousends this changes really quickly. You start to pay for quality again as the working hours are already paid. The seller has to have a point why he charges more than commonly, thats hopefully taht he does a better job than the average.
You cannot extrapolate to other price ranges that easily. From my experience at 20-40k most new instruments are better than old ones, around 10k the opposite.
Above, well, thats what we can go on about forever.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 11:48 AM · Lyndon wrote:
" I have close friends in the business I've learned very much from, and always look to for professional advice."

Well that's fine and dandy, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence here of your doing so. It might be a little early for you to put the brakes on your learning. Have you attended even one VSA convention?

Edited: October 8, 2017, 11:50 AM · In the modern market, you pay for the name, and instruments are rarely discounted so bargains are few and far between. In the antique market anonymous and even obviously fake labeled violins can be acquired for bargain prices, prices are way more flexible in the antique market, and while the average antique might be not much better than the average modern, the select bargain antiques far outnumber the select bargain moderns.

There are a lot of overpriced antiques, there's no doubt about it, but there are also overpriced moderns, that simply aren't worth the undiscounted asking price.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 12:42 PM · How many moderns and ultra-expensive antiques are you familiar with? As I asked before, have you attended even one of the VSA Conventions, or Julie Reed's or Metzler's exhibitions, or a VSA Competition, where there are around 400 contemporary instruments to peruse and try, and which also typically have an exhibit of around 20 high-value antique instruments? (a different exhibit with different instruments each time)

Please stop your whining, and instead try to put yourself in a better position of learning. It's not all that hard, these days. If you can't afford plane fare, you have a car, don't you? And if you can't afford the hotel, a decent tent can be purchased for under thirty dollars. I know because I have one and have used it.

Since you claim to be in the fiddle business, have you ever considered the possibility that all your whining might be a little embarrassing to others in the fiddle business?

I lived on a shoestring when I was working in the Weisshar shop, and worked many weekends on a commercial painting crew to make ends meet. Many others in our trade have done similar. Did you even know that Charles Beare, who is probably our leading expert, left the poshness and privilege of is father's shop to spend some time in the Wurlitzer shop? And that Peter Beare did similar, to attend the Salt Lake City violin making school?

October 8, 2017, 12:08 PM · Lyndon, the study centers on the instruments by one of the best craftsperson of his age and those by the best craftspersons of this age...not on old german factory violins vs new chinese factory violins. The difference between the two tiers I think includes far too many other factors to warrant the intrrpretations that are rather forced on the study.

As for age, from Don Noon's posr I understand that age is a factor, but only one factor in an orchestrated ensemble of factors most of which are available to the contemporary luthier to employ (if natural age of the whole instrument is not).

Edited: October 8, 2017, 12:48 PM · Actually David, my friends in the business deal in mostly antiques and many high end fiddles, and are quite closely in agreement with my opinions on old vs new, in fact they are one of the sources of many of my ideas about violins. They wouldn't take to kindly to some of the ideas you've presented in this thread.

I get to see a lot of old and very valuable violins, but as I have no intention of becoming any kind of high end fiddle dealer, I concentrate on what I do best, restoring student to intermediate, and budget professional violins that the bigger shops don't have time for. I do a lot of wholesaling to my dealer friend also. In fact we have an arrangement that I don't work on really expensive violins but rather sell them to him at a good price so that he can do the work most professionally. In return he does free verbal opinions for me. I've wholesaled him many baroque and transitional violins as he specializes in that. I think I have sold three or four old Italians to him, one for $5,000.(in pieces without the neck)(from the estate of my old boss, Burdell Tenney)

Edited: October 8, 2017, 12:55 PM · I don't know if anyone mentioned this: what is the lifespan of a violin? What is the likelihood some Strads have poor-sounding due to reaching to the end of their lifespan?
October 8, 2017, 12:53 PM · "Finally, this kind of study is usually funded and organised by modern makers with a point to prove. It is no surprise they get the result they pay for."

Not always the case that people pay for the results they want :) There's been other tests that was limited to professional violinists. Sure I'm new to violin, but the conclusion I'm getting overall is that there's really not much difference between top tier old and top tier modern violin in terms of SOUND QUALITY alone. Laurie herself even blind tested some old vs new violins and came to similar results. That's almost saying she got paid for what she said in her post!

Not regarding to the quote above, there will always just be people who are stuck with their beliefs regardless of facts presented in front of them. Some more strongly opinionated and vocal about their beliefs than others. Most of the time there's really no discussion especially when there's only selected facts presented or none at all. It's more of that person just wanting to project how "right" s/he is. Just ignore them.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 8:44 PM · Lyndon, horse pucky! As I've already mentioned, your dealer/maker friend and I know each other quite well, and both of us worked in the Weisshaar shop. More recently, we spent a week together at the Oberlin Restoration Workshop.

October 8, 2017, 12:57 PM · Yixi,

I'm curious too. I think the range would vary extremely widely. Varnishing, wood type, weather conditions, amount of use, etc. I'd say given proper care in proper environment, violins are immortal :P

Edited: October 8, 2017, 1:11 PM · John If you're new to the violin you should be drawing your conclusions from playing and listening to old vs new violins, rather than believing possibly agenda driven and funded studies.
October 8, 2017, 1:04 PM · John, haha! Immortality of a wooden instrument is more than a fairytale at this point.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 1:09 PM · Yixi, true. But as long as really talented restorers continue to be involved, it may appear that way.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 1:12 PM · And on cue there goes Carlo admonishing us, well half of us anyways... for going off topic right after he goes off topic, including posts questioning how this site is run and how the OP should deal with his own thread.

Hard to go back and read every post, but I don't recall anyone on this thread with a bias against old instruments. But from the beginning we've all been somehow labelled "modern fanatics." I count only 3 fanatics here, all with a bias against modern and especially contemporary instruments, and weirdly, against living master makers.

October 8, 2017, 1:11 PM · Yixi, you're right. Anything organic will eventually decompose haha
October 8, 2017, 1:11 PM · "You pay the working time, not the quality."

No you don't. You pay what the maker thinks he or she can get. It might take David Burgess the same amount of time as a less-known maker. But they can't charge the same price.

People will pay for what they perceive as quality, and demand is an indicator of quality to many, especially if they aren't experienced looking for instruments.

They don't ask "how long did it take you?" In fact, I'll bet the typical violinist, even experienced, has no idea how long it takes to make a fiddle.

October 8, 2017, 1:12 PM · there are Amati and Da Salo violins almost 150 years older than some Strads, and they're still doing well.
October 8, 2017, 1:28 PM · David, just for the record, my disabilty prevents me from being able to travel long distances, and my pocket book prevents me from being able to attend local workshops like with Mr.Darton in Claremont, I absolutely hate traveling,and am scared to death driving on the freeway and just driving the 70 miles to Los Angeles is a real struggle for me. If I had not had my illness my dream was to apprentice for Hans Weisshaar, just like you did, I used to visit him with my bosses fiddles.I was also torn between clavichords and violins, I didn't need an apprenticeship to build clavichords, so that's where a lot of my attention went, my clavichords have as good a reputation as your violins, among the few clavichordists in the USA.

By the time I started my business 10 years ago I was already old and set in my ways, and trying to build violins seemed unimportant to me. What I would really like to take some classes in is varnish retouching, varnish touch up such a problem for me that I just refuse to even try, usually.

October 8, 2017, 1:30 PM · Scott, there is a minimum amount of money a violin maker is taking, at least in Germany. That will be his working time*50€ plus the material costs. Thats the least they take, at least here. The reason those makers without succes dont build more violins is, that they dont find much customers in this price range and therefore stop making them. For repairs, even on cheap student vioins, thats what you get per hour, most times its more.
If you look above those low tier violins, you of course pay for what the people are willing to pay for quality/or the believe of quality due to a name.
David and many others can charge more because he has succes in selling and succeeded that area where he is just getting the price he must to not have losses.
My quote was completly taken out of context that way. At newly build master violins from the lowest tier you pay the working time. There is no real demand for those violins (the local luthier did not sell his violin for 3 years now because its not good enough to pay 10k for it but she wont sell it for less because she had the working effort. I know a lot of luthiers that usually concentrate on selling other violins and repairing having the same selfmade violins standing around). If you leave that area it changes completly and prices orientate on the market.
I am aware that a good violin may be build in the same time as a lesser one. Altough with the craftmenship of Davids violins I guess he takes a bit longer than some others to look at the details I know this is not what makes him more expensive.
I cant tell you for sure at other countries about low tier violins as I always looked at the higher tear violins but thats how the market is here and one of the main reasons why it is much easier to find a good antique German at 10k than a new German.

My favourite luthier once put it like this: If a master luthier touches your violin you own him at least 10k, no matter if you should better use it to beat meat or play in a concert hall.
I am glad I bought my violin from him when his waiting list was only 1-2 years long, now they are much harder to get and you pay significantly more than I did.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 3:24 PM · "It might take David Burgess the same amount of time as a less-known maker. But they can't charge the same price."

I recall many years ago a fine Chinese painter in Vancouver came to me asking for an answer to a question like "How long it took you to paint this one?" My advice to her was, "A life time". I think this should apply to all artistic works.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 3:06 PM · Lyndon, anybody can be full of excuses.

There was a blind violin maker attending a couple of recent VSA Conventions. By that I don't mean that he was just "legally blind". He could not see at all.

I've spent a little time working from a wheelchair, and have also worked through various kinds of nerve damage (as I am doing right now).

Yeah, I'm a wimp, compared to the blind guy, and compared to Itzhak Perlman.

October 8, 2017, 4:23 PM · excuses,my ass!! I see you haven't learned you lesson about keeping up the personal attacks!!
October 8, 2017, 4:28 PM · Carlo wrote, "Gentlemen we are going slightly off topic and are in danger of turning this lively debate into a mud slinging match."

Are you kidding? In the very first post in this thread, Lyndon used the word "fascist" and now he's bragging about his ass! LOL!!

October 8, 2017, 4:43 PM · gosh this thread has so many replies - i'm not even going to bother read all this! i only left the website for 1 week and i come back to this! gosh. :)
Edited: October 8, 2017, 4:54 PM · Sorry Paul, my first post was said in jest, I have not been waging a campaign of personal attacks on posters that disagree with me, just commenting and disagreeing with their ideas, which is well within forum guidelines, David on the other hand has reverted to his lets attack Lyndon's character mode, call into question his experience, question his knowledge, instead of answer the real and obvious flaws I see in this study.
October 8, 2017, 4:57 PM · "If you don't support me then you are part of the problem."

"I have not been waging a campaign of personal attacks on posters that disagree with me"


Edited: October 8, 2017, 5:51 PM · That one comment taken out of context constitutes a campaign???
Edited: October 8, 2017, 5:12 PM · This is better than TV.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 5:45 PM · Paul Deck said on October 8, 2017, 5:12 PM · This is better than TV.

I don't think so. It's a rerun that I have seen many times before. (but then... "better" depends on personal taste...)

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:09 PM · I think a large percent of the posters demonstrate just how ingrained the pro modern, anti antique sentiment has come to be. Its not just some thing I made up. The rude attacks on Carlo and Nate were particularly uncalled for.
October 8, 2017, 6:01 PM · I think a more practical question might be around the question of getting a professional fiddle on some kind of reasonable budget.

I figure for those purposes we can probably divide pros into four categories.

Teaching pro violins. Public-school music-ed teachers and others who teach almost exclusively for a living. They need something durable, and good enough for the occasional gig like a wedding.

Orchestra pro violins. People who make a substantial chunk of their living from either a full-time orchestra or from freelancing. They need an instrument that's good enough to win and keep a job on, and that doesn't require much effort to play (decreasing fatigue and injuries).

Mixed-use pro violins. People who do a mixture of orchestra, chamber music, and solo performing. They need a well-rounded instrument that's both utilitarian for orchestra but can hold its own in a chamber or solo performance.

Soloist violins People whose primary performing is done solo, especially in the form of concertos with orchestra (rather than recitals with piano). They need a soloistic sound and projection.

In each of these categories, there's going to be a range of budgets, but we can probably assume that most people start out their careers by trying to buy utility on a reasonable sum of money. The larger the sum of money, the more important that whatever it is hold or increase its value over the long term, because it's effectively an alternative to buying real estate.

I think the experiments to date have been focused on soloist violins -- the best of the best, either contemporary or non-contemporary (let's face it, by this time, if you are buying a Becker/Peresson/Antoniazzi/etc., you are paying antique prices and are getting antique appreciation value).

Most pros neither have soloist violin needs nor the budget that goes with those needs. Rather, I'm guessing that most players are trying to spend $50k or less for a violin at the outset, or perhaps under $150k if they have a modest inheritance or the like, and the contemporary vs. non-contemporary questions should be focused there.

October 8, 2017, 6:16 PM · I never would attack Mr. Robinson. He's opinionated, but honest and sincere in his statements, and has zero stake in the discussion other than establishing his preference for "old italian" instruments (he also respects the old masters quite a bit, which is a plus.)

I too like "old italian" instruments, BTW. Zero chance I will ever get one due to the state of the "antique" market, though. This is why the great modern instruments are important-they can also be pricey, but nothing like top tier (tone-wise) Italians.

I also do not oppose Mr. Ballara's absolute preference for old Italians, but he's more dogmatic and his convictions seems to come from a position of privilege, which makes it harder to relate to his points of view (easy to prefer expensive, historical instruments when money is no issue.) I have stated to him in the past that I bear him no grudge, and that he should just happily play what he likes, but I don't subscribe to his more absolutist views.

I like good sounding instruments, whether new or old, and also have no "personal stake" in the discussion. Naturally, I gravitate towards what can actually be realistically purchased, rather than a pipe dream.

October 8, 2017, 6:23 PM · So you counter with yet another attack on Carlo!!
Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:30 PM · Lyndon, I just wrote:

"Hard to go back and read every post, but I don't recall anyone on this thread with a bias against old instruments. But from the beginning we've all been somehow labelled "modern fanatics." I count only 3 fanatics here, all with a bias against modern and especially contemporary instruments, and weirdly, against living master makers."

You have a very strange way of arguing by denial, stating we say the exact opposite of what we've actually said. Please go back through the thread and demonstrate how any of us is "anti antique."

October 8, 2017, 6:30 PM · So anyone is that prefers the sound of antiques is a "fanatic". That's exactly the kind of crap I've been talking about.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 8:21 PM · Obviously everyone have their own reason to either like or dislike this study. I personally think the "scientists" who controlled that study cut a lot of corners, or at least would appear to based on their paper. Little effort if any was made to evaluate and quantify the human variability factor. For all we know they could have presented the same instrument multiple times randomly, and got different ratings each time. Also, while claiming to replicate a typical instrument selection process, it actually did not. Typically one would compare #1 to #2, and decide which they like best, then compare that one to #3, and so forth. Nobody would play 12 instruments in a row and try to remember how #1 compared to #12, it's an iterative process. Ditto for the audience who were asked to rate instruments as they were played. How could one possibly rate with some objectivity #1 relative to #12? Perhaps this is the many obvious idiosyncrasies that frustrate everyone who may have had hopes of a meaningful scientific process and conclusions. For instance, the video show recording of the sound profile of each instruments, yet not a word of it in the paper. Why not? If there was some scientific rigor applied to the study, it did not translate into the paper unfortunately.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:37 PM · Please don’t count me as one of the three having a bias against living makers. I have in my time commissioned two new violins and one bow. They are very good instruments. In 300 years they may even be great.
There needs to be good new instruments made or there will never be great old instruments. My Amati was made in 1610. It will not go on forever.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:39 PM · Me neither, my best friend in the business is a respected modern violin maker, and I really like his violins, my best customer's brother bought one.
October 8, 2017, 6:46 PM · I stand by my words-I will let Ms. Niles decide whether I was attacking Mr. Ballara.

If you knew me, you would have a better idea how "interested" I am in "attacking" others. I actually have given you the benefit of the doubt many times, but your true attacks on anything that disagrees with your totalitarian point of view makes me less empathic than usual. It would be so much easier if you wouldn't get so angry about such a triviality/personal preference. I hate egocentric arguments, so I have no need to attack anyone, but am irked when people get bullied for thinking differently.

What's funny is that what bothers you the most, this "anti-antique" movement, is not real, and antiques as seen in this test will never devalue, no matter how many "pro modern" tests they keep making. Old violin prices are heavily inflated, and I see no end to it-and many people will generally still believe that "if it's older, it gotta be better!" myth until the end of time.

I like older too, BTW. Remember that, while you consider stopping the aggressive/accusative nature of your comments towards my person.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:50 PM · the only scientific way to measure projection is with microphones, one under the ear, and one well back in the hall,the louder the hall mike picks up relative to the level of the under ear mike, the better the projection.
Edited: October 8, 2017, 7:54 PM · No, it's not the preference for antiques, it's the irrational rejection of scientific inquiry, the summary judgment of the Paris experiment as biased and limited without really understanding the scope of the study or the incremental nature of any study, accusing those interested in the possibility of great contemporary fiddles of being a "modern fanatic", insinuating those who find contemporaries to be indistinguishable from antiques are delusional because of financial limitations, suggesting current master makers are mere copyists with no artistic contributions to their work, because "[h]ow can an imitation be better than the original?", presumption of collusion with no evidence, and a whole bunch of weird stuff, and sweeping generalizations:

"Violin makers today want to tell us they are better than Stradivari." Which maker has said that?

"Do you think [soloists] haven't hear all about these studies and tried out the top modern makers, they do use modern makers for their back up violins, so that says something." More and more are using contemporary fiddles as their primary instruments. Why do you ignore them? Or do you think they too are delusional?

"Soft science like jello!!" What do you mean by soft science? Science is method. Why not critique the methodology used instead of making cryptic, meaningless outbursts?

"Following this there should have been the burning of all the outmoded, inferior sounding, old Italian violins, and everybody switching to his scientifically proven new model. Why not? because it was a set up, with a modern maker pushing his own agenda in a similar fashion to the biased study now." Chanot was doing science? How can one maker push his agenda on a team of publishers? How is the study biased, particularly when they went through great pains to make it double blind?

"Studies like this are so ridiculous and more of a marketing ploy for a few people in the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers to sell their instruments."

Etc., etc., etc. ...

1. wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm

October 8, 2017, 7:16 PM · Guys... quoting myself.

"there will always just be people who are stuck with their beliefs regardless of facts presented in front of them. Some more strongly opinionated and vocal about their beliefs than others. Most of the time there's really no discussion especially when there's only selected facts presented or none at all [by those people]. It's more of that person just wanting to project how "right" s/he is. Just ignore them."

It's just gonna be an endless loop. By next week this thread will reach 800 (unless Laurie closes it) with nothing new to the discussion.

October 8, 2017, 10:41 PM · May I help you out?
if (point_of_discussion[i]==point_of_discussion [i+1]) {return 1;}
October 8, 2017, 10:54 PM · No no. It must end!

{return 0;}

Edited: October 9, 2017, 9:26 AM · John, look, what's going on here is this: say no to bullshit if we want a better world:

October 9, 2017, 2:39 AM · John, return 1 will end with false.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 2:00 PM · @Adalberto. Maybe I am privileged. I was born into a culturally rich family and had an excellent education in NZ, Italy, and London. I have, and do, work very hard and every instrument I have bought is through my own earnings as a musician and teacher. I am certainly very lucky as I have good health, a wonderful wife, and two great kids. I have been called worse things than "dogmatic" in my time, and I take no offence at all :-)
@Jeewon. I am going to continue to ignore your outbursts and personal hostility and will not respond in kind. I feel this lack of civility says more about the insecurity of the attacker, than anything about the person attacked.

Cheers Carlo

October 9, 2017, 3:25 AM · It will be nice to see tests like that with violas.
October 9, 2017, 3:57 AM · Luis, would you expect the topic of violas beeing different from violins? I would have expected the pretty much same results (weather valid or not).
I think the discussions about what violas to take would be even worse. There is less of a standard than with violins and I think what people expect to hear from a viola differs a lot.
October 9, 2017, 4:49 AM · Adalberto wrote, "I never would attack Mr. Robinson. He's opinionated, but honest and sincere in his statements, and has zero stake in the discussion."

I am the one who suggested that Nate has a stake in the discussion, but it's not about him individually. Anyone who owns an expensive Italian antique could be biased in their favor. Their violins will not lose value in a practical, market-value sense, but the large-majority assumption that such a violin is necessarily better may be eroded, and some of their bragging rights therewith.

The problem with violas is that there are far fewer surviving antique specimens from which to choose. But the principles are the same, and the question is just as valid.

Jeewon's posts are neither outbursts nor personal hostility. I'm not sure he's even capable of that.

October 9, 2017, 5:06 AM · Taking a lead from Yixi, allow a former research physicist to cut through the bullsh1t being tossed about in this thread about the Paris Experiment.

We have professional violinists given pairs of instruments, one old and one modern, in a double blind way. (The person selecting the instruments and the person playing the instruments do not know which is old and which is modern.)

The violinists are asked to compare the two in specific ways.

The scientific conclusion is that the variation in results is no different than tossing a coin randomly. ON AVERAGE, professional players cannot distinguish between old and modern violins.

SOME professionals MAY be able to distinguish between SOME old and SOME modern violins. This is not disputed by the study.

My take on the preference results, and I read the paper and viewed a bunch of videos quite some time ago so there might be some fuzzy recollecting here, is that the statistical significance is a bit more shaky than the primary focus of the study. We can be fairly certain than at least on of the Strads was "reliably" considered an inferior instrument, but the overall preference for moderns might be on the edge of random variation.

This is a study about high end instruments and world class players. Any statements about other markets and players is probably bullsh1t.

Edited: October 9, 2017, 6:18 AM · On the question of "measuring" violin quality (including projection):

This is something which hasn't been worked out yet. Violin tone (and music) are about human perception, so human perception remains the standard by which violins are judged, and is also the reference used by those who are trying to come up with meaningful ways to measure it.

For instance, loudness (sound pressure) measurements on the decibel scale don't correlate all that well with human perception of loudness. So in some areas, researchers have come up with other systems, like "sones". The sone system puts more emphasis on things like the frequency distribution of a sound, rather than just the total sound pressure measured with a microphone.

Since the day has not yet come when music audiences are primarily composed of machines, rather than human listeners, meaningful measurements of things like projection and tone quality remain very complicated. Researchers (including the Fritz team) are working on it though.

October 9, 2017, 6:19 AM · A little humor. Jack. Benny one said something to the effect of:

"When I went to buy my Strad, they had an even better violin called a Burgonzi. I didn't buy it because it sounds better to say 'Jack Benny is here with his Stradivarius' than 'Jack Benny is here with his Burgonzi'. That sounds more like a truck"

There are great Strads, but Strad has also become a brand.

Edited: October 9, 2017, 7:30 AM · Douglas, the "branding" is an interesting piece of violin history. A couple of Paris fiddle dealers are generally credited with coming up with the clever idea of merging violins into the antiques/collectibles market, with was thriving in France around 1850. The currency was unstable, so people were looking for other places to put their money.

Vuillaume is reputed to have been very astute on such matters, and a remarkable salesman.

October 9, 2017, 7:44 AM · Here's the link I quoted above -- Jack Benny "shmoozing" about violins. He was a funny man.

David, that's interesting that it was a planned idea, violins as investments.

In unrelated news,I know a luthier who believes he is the reincarnation of Vuillaume :-D

October 9, 2017, 8:36 AM · "For instance, loudness (sound pressure) measurements on the decibel scale don't correlate all that well with human perception of loudness."

When I've played several violins for people, they always agree which violin is loudest. That doesn't seem to be an issue.

What is a very slippery factor is "refinement." Refinement is why old instruments are expensive. New violins seldom have it. The maker can mold the sound a certain way to imitate refinement, but often this can just come out as "wooliness". I've had a couple of violins that were made this way. They were not truly refined, though. Just dark and fuzzy after the initial stiffness had been played out. The aural equivalent of antiquing the varnish: it's not really old. Just looks like it.

It's difficult to describe "refinement," except to say that an experienced player can recognize it when they hear it. It's probably similar to the way in which a wine enthusiast can tell if a wine has been aged for 5 years or 20.

Edited: October 9, 2017, 8:48 AM · Our local luthier, Dan Foster, loaned me one of his violins when I was in the market. Dan was once a VSA medalist. He is a very warm-hearted gentleman, but unfortunately age has not been especially kind to him, and he has retired.

Anyway, it was a beautiful violin, with a bright treble voice (neatly matching Lyndon's generalization, actually). It might have been the last violin he made. I suspected that Dan was one of those who was good at making but not as good at setting them up or adjusting them. He had more knack for that with violas and cellos, it seemed.

Dan's violin was attractive to me, actually, but I didn't want to spend more than 12, and Dan was asking 18. For 18 it needed to be more special -- more "refined" to use Scott's word. When Dan saw my eyes pop at the price, he smiled, and his eyes twinkled, and he said, very softly, "It'll be worth a lot more after I die."

Edited: October 9, 2017, 8:51 AM · Paul, we makers often joke around about the possible marketing advantages of flaunting high-risk behavior, or faking our own death. LOL
October 9, 2017, 8:55 AM · Scott Cole said "What is a very slippery factor is "refinement." Refinement is why old instruments are expensive."

Top soloists and players tended to disagree in this study, not being able to tell old from new based on the "refinement" of tone.

Edited: October 9, 2017, 9:02 AM · David Burgess Bio (adjusted for risk)

David has been designated hors concours by both the Violin Society of America and American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers.

In his spare time, he is an amateur skydiver, constructing his own parachutes. He also enjoys bungee jumping, deep sea diving, heli-skiing, and base jumping. David consumes only Fugu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

October 9, 2017, 9:21 AM · "Top soloists and players tended to disagree in this study, not being able to tell old from new based on the "refinement" of tone."

I guess being able to execute on an instrument is no guarantee that a soloist has an ear for subtle differences in timbre. Then again, there are certain people who are hypersensitive to instruments and go their whole career searching for "the one" and always finding fault (I was cursed with that affliction) and others who get a fiddle and happily play away, never giving it a second thought.

October 9, 2017, 9:44 AM · Marc Marschall, yes, I think a similar test with violas would be even more favorable to contemporary violas, since the number of top sounding old violas is much smaller thatn that of the violins.
October 9, 2017, 10:14 AM · It is interesting to speculate what will happen when today's premier makers die. I suspect prices will fall rather than rise, unless the maker is Italian, as that has been the pattern in the past. However time is a great leveller and eventually the cream will rise to the top. Maybe Stradivari II will turn out to be American?

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 9, 2017, 2:10 PM · Carl Becker Sr. and Carl Becker Jr. weren't Italian....

I once owned a Carl Becker Jr, but ended up selling it after several years of ownership. Wish I still had it. I could probably now get at least five times what I sold it for, back then.

October 9, 2017, 10:28 AM · Certainly great makers but how many years did it take for their investment value to appreciate? Probably as many as it took for their tone to mature!

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 9, 2017, 3:31 PM · I don't know. I think I paid 7K retail to a dealer, and sold it maybe five years later for something like 12.

Of course, both are now deceased, and there seemed to be an upward climb in the price of Carl Jrs as he grew older and less productive, and again after his death.

But I don't know the market nearly as well as a top-notch dealer/certifier/appraiser does.

Edited: October 9, 2017, 11:16 AM · Scott wrote, "there are certain people who are hypersensitive ... searching for "the one" and always finding fault ... and others who get [one] and happily play away, never giving it a second thought."

Are you sure we're talking about violins here? LOL

Edited: October 9, 2017, 2:13 PM · How many years did it take for their investment value to appreciate? Go check out Ming Jiang Zhu's benchmade (not the workshop) ones before and after his passing in Dec 2014.
October 9, 2017, 2:12 PM · Marc, wouldnt a true ending be better? :P

David, do you still use email?

October 9, 2017, 2:22 PM ·
October 9, 2017, 3:22 PM · My friends, we have made Carlo speechless.
October 9, 2017, 7:01 PM · The problem with Zhu violins is how do you know which ones were bench made.
Edited: October 9, 2017, 8:06 PM · Paul, I would think authentication is always tricky and it's not specific to Zhu's violin or modern Chinese violins. The fact that a top Strad dealer was jailed for fraud in 2012 tells us at least one thing: where there is money, there are crooks.

I re-watched this video again today and start to think that, if a copy of old violin can sound as good as an old master violin, I wouldn't be surprised if a violin benchmade by one of his students turns out to be just as good as ones handmade by Zhu himself:

Edited: October 9, 2017, 8:06 PM · Yixi I agree with you. The same is said of Topa -- that some of his instruments are workshop-made. I don't know if that's true or not, and not sure I really care. My bet is that Zhu taught his apprentices very thoroughly. That's the best legacy.
October 9, 2017, 8:11 PM · "So anyone is that prefers the sound of antiques is a "fanatic""

I think it's fair to say that anyone who has lasted this long through the discussion and is reading this 450-something post is a fanatic. Or masochistic?

October 9, 2017, 8:21 PM · Scott, I'm a fanatic, so are you, Paul, David Burgess, just to name a few. We are in good company. LOL.

Seriously, a discussion can go this long has intrinsic value, don't you think?

October 9, 2017, 8:38 PM · This may not be a real surprise, but I noticed that those who seem the least knowledgeable about science are the loudest critics of scientific methods. I never expected the double blind design would be attacked as unscientific.
October 9, 2017, 8:57 PM · Very interesting video, too bad the sound quality is not so great.
Edited: October 9, 2017, 9:11 PM · I for one have worked several years of my life in the sciences, and have a dad who is a highly published world recognized research scientist to talk to almost every day, so I hardly think Sung's criticisms apply to me!!

It is precisely because I know so well what the scientific method is that I question the validity of this study, as does my dad, and the violin experts I am friends with.

October 9, 2017, 9:34 PM · I've written about this previously on, but at Mondomusica NYC a few years back, a Florian Leonhard bench copy was displayed side by side with the del Gesu original, and both were available for players to try. The copy was a remarkably fine violin, and for my taste, easily the best contemporary violin I'd seen at that show. It was not identical to the original in response or sound, but anyone listening would have been hard-pressed to decide which was better.
October 9, 2017, 11:46 PM · My father is a lawyer but I know nothing about law, just saying.
I talked to him a lot about my work, still he has no knowledge about researches.
October 10, 2017, 2:31 AM · Well in my family I was groomed to go into the sciences or medical field, excelled in my science classes, worked in research science starting in high school, got a job as an audio engineer designing loudspeakers, worked in my dads laboratory. Before going off on my own and getting into the musical instrument business. So like it or not, I have strong background in sciences.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 4:13 AM · Dear Carla, Corlo, Corla(?)

I wish you would actually ignore my posts...

"I have been called worse things than "dogmatic" in my time, and I take no offence at all..."

Again, you misunderstand. By calling you dogmatic, I'm not trying to insult you, just expose your rigid, unthinking words.

You think I am being personal and attacking you but like I implied before I'm not even addressing you. Because you can't be reasoned with, because you are irrational, we cannot have true dialogue.

But I think the way you describe yourself is the best self-incrimination of all. You think you're civil because you 'restrain' yourself while at the same time you patronize, especially, those who you believe to be beneath you, as if we should kowtow to our betters.

Well surprise! Welcome to the world wild web. Here there are only trolls and netizens (well... and a bunch of other stuff which we won't mention just now.) To be a netizen "...implies an interest and active engagement in improving the Internet, making it an intellectual and a social resource, or its surrounding political structures, especially in regard to open access, net neutrality and free speech." []

So you can go on being the way you are, or you can shed your entitlement and join the dialogue.

Cheers! (See how sarcastic that can sound given the context?)

October 10, 2017, 4:11 AM · You're actually the one that's been the most unreasonable in this thread.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 5:09 AM · Perhaps Lyndon, perhaps... perhaps I've risked permanently blinding myself by leaving that huge log firmly lodged in my own eye. And perhaps it's unfair to go on picking bones... but perhaps I just can't let go of another recent thread where a few entitled members hijacked and likely squashed the enthusiasm of that OP, even if there's no possibility of that happening on this thread. So with apologies to this OP and anyone put off by my incessant criticism, and with thanks to all actual contributors (for it's been an enlightening thread otherwise,) I take my leave.
October 10, 2017, 4:39 AM · It seems like the Paris study has been submitted with the caveat that posters are going to ridicule and criticize anyone that doesn't agree with its conclusions or methods(or call them fanatics), that sounds less like science and more like fascism!! (back to my original premise.) No one has to believe any "scientific" paper any more than we need to accept the latest nutrition craze promoted in "scientific" studies.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 5:34 AM · One of the things I really appreciate about is the professional diversity, including actual research physicists like Carmen Tanzio, who posted earlier.
October 10, 2017, 5:28 AM · Objectivity is the basis for all sciences, and none of the most vocal defenders of antique instruments seems to have it when approaching the subject of old vs. new violins.
October 10, 2017, 5:35 AM · Lyndon,

Your comparison is not even remotely fair. Which of the "scientific" studies that promote "the latest nutrition craze" have appeared in a professional journal of PNAS caliber? There are hundreds of journals that sound scientific, but just a heap of garbage.

October 10, 2017, 5:39 AM · I don't see any objectivity coming from the studies authors, or from many of their supporters. At best they've opened up a topic for debate, and more rigourous studies need to be done to see if there any truth to their findings. Unfortunately organizing such studies is not easy.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 5:50 AM · As I pointed out to you before, Sung, PNAS does have a reputation for publishing "fluff" from time to time, and what better excuse for "fluff" than an article about Stradivari. If you wanted to publish a basic sciences article in PNAS I'm sure the editorial standards would be much higher.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 5:50 AM · There is a greater factor in this thread that Don Noon and I danced around earlier, that we are in many cases discussing two different things.

1 - Can great violinists tell old from new violins?
2 - What do each of us personally prefer as our primary instrument?

#2 is something you can't study scientifically. For example, if you have been told all your life that old Italian violins are the best and have a significant amount of money invested in them, you're going to be in that camp.

There is nothing wrong with having a personal preference. I think the problem stems from confusing the two, or refusing to acknowledge the fine work done by Fritz et al. Fake news? I think not.

October 10, 2017, 6:18 AM · My parents were both scientists too -- now long retired. We talked about science, especially physics and chemistry, around the supper table. Then I went to college (and then graduate school) and, under the tutelage of excellent researcher-professors, discovered just how ignorant I had been despite my parentage and my success in science courses in high school. One of the great advantages of advanced education is that you learn how to "know what you don't know."
October 10, 2017, 6:25 AM · And equally important, to accept that others do know those things that you know you don't know
Edited: October 10, 2017, 6:28 AM · So Paul, as a scientist?? you think a sample size of 12 instruments,and 10 test subjects is adequate to draw conclusions about old vs new violins in general??

And you don't see any possibility that biases might have crept in in the selection of the instruments or the ten soloists.

October 10, 2017, 6:27 AM · Lyndon,

As I suggested earlier in this thread, if you or your microbiologist dad have a solid evidence against the Paris experiment article, write a letter to the PNAS editor. Stating that the article should be discounted without evidence is just your opinion, not fact.

By the way, would you have rejected the Paris experiment if it turned out a much favorable result to old instruments?

October 10, 2017, 6:30 AM · Lyndon - no 12 instrumenst weren't enough. I think we all agree that the findings were equivocal
Edited: October 10, 2017, 6:51 AM · Lyndon,

You are talking about potential sources of bias, but what you are insinuating is a borderline conspiracy theory. Double-blindness ensures the experimental bias to the minimum in the Paris experiment.

Regarding sample size, would you be satisfied with the study if 16 instruments were used instead of just 12? Included below is what I told Carlo, your comrade in the Alt über Alles movement:

You may think a valid scientific research should require a much larger sample size, but many medical studies dealing with experimental drugs use only a handful subjects. Modified T-cell gene therapy against leukemia is one of them, and in the following study they used 16 subjects. If you google more closely, you may be able to find studies that used 12 or fewer subjects.

The following article was published in Science Translational Medicine.

Article link:

Edited: October 10, 2017, 7:03 AM · å propos:

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," a concept that can be traced to Greek writing of the 3rd century BC, but was first printed as that exact quote in 1878. This experiment indicates that with one particular group of violin soloists their subjectivity tended in this particular direction.

We see enough amateur player requests for more mellow instruments here on to know how subjective human hearing systems are.

My own experience (moderns and Strads) are not relevant to this particular experiment but would tend to confirm that if I had the money to buy a Strad I would buy a great modern violin and a house on the Marin County Coast (either the bay or the Pacific). (Maybe the French Riviera instead!)

But let's see if we can hit 500 before closing this thread down! What do you think?

October 10, 2017, 7:07 AM · Andy,

Thanks for the link. It is an extremely well-written article. I think the remarks by John Soloninka is pertinent here. He is one of the violinists who participated in the Indiana experiment:

– There is no “secret” that makes old instruments magically better, and their sound and playing qualities are certainly reproducible to the extent that soloists or audiences can notice.

– That confirmation bias in decision making is very powerful… and you can fool yourself into believing almost anything, and seeing or hearing what you want to hear. So if it is violin, or wine, or venture capital investing or anyone one of many complex, preference-based, subjective decisions we make, we should ensure we are being objective and control for our biases.

October 10, 2017, 7:17 AM · And why did the studies authors go to all the trouble of assembling an audience and having them fill out a survey without even bothering to ask them which instruments they preferred the tone of?? Where they afraid the audiences picks might be different than their hand selected soloists opinions. Inquiring minds want to know.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 7:41 AM · This particular paper focuses on soloist evaluations, as the title suggests: "Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins".

The researchers have collected tons of other data, including acoustic profile measurements from impact hammer tests, and maybe we'll see some of that crunched and published, at some point in the future.

October 10, 2017, 7:35 AM · There's one thing missing from this thread: the opinions of a variety of top soloists. As if they have anything else better to do?

There have been many assertions made about their opinions and needs in violins. For example, many have claimed that soloists like the publicity about playing on Cremonese violins, or that they, like Sung Han asserts, have confirmation bias. I myself said some may be more attuned to quality violins or not.

However, I have to believe that soloists, when money is no object, are still choosing Cremonese instruments because they really are getting the musical results they need, both on the stage and in the recording studio. And if they don't, they dump the instrument. I remember when Joshua Bell was using that Strad with the rounded corners...until it no longer worked for him. And Mr. Fussy from the Emerson, who famously rejected the Zig made for him.

As someone who had relied on my violins to get results, I can say that whatever one acquires--new or old--that thrill of acquisition wears off if the violin can't actually deliver. So while I believe in confirmation bias, at the end of the day, I don't think it lasts when you have to get up in front of a crowd and feel that the violin is helping to sound your very best.

So maybe we need to hear from top soloists, possibly incognito, that have been able to make the choice, and why they did so. I doubt they made their choice based on superficial reasons.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 7:57 AM · Thanks for that link Andrew!

I rejoin to give thanks but also to note anecdotally, the Cathedral Strad was remarkable to me for playing like a modern. I only remarked before on my perception of how much pressure certain instruments could take. I too used to hold the preconceived notion of old fiddles being more sensitive, or resonating in a certain way (what I would now describe as kind of hollow), or sounding more mature, whatever that means. The Cathedral was an ear opener because of it's thick, "muscular" sound, on top of it's dynamic and spectral range. My Grubaugh-Seifert is remarkable for it's lack of noise and harsh edginess I used to attribute to brand new fiddles, also for it's mature tone--whatever that means (but come to think of it my then 6 mo old Matsuda didn't really sound new either when I first tried it.)

October 10, 2017, 7:40 AM · Actually I think the double blind aspect of the study makes it less accurate, not more, how do you think a soloist would feel if they had to give a concert blindfolded, not knowing what instrument they were playing, not being able to prepare for the idiosyncrasies of each instrument, I think the whole double blind thing was added to make a rather non scientific study sound scientific. If you want to do a survey how about ask Joshus Bell if he thinks his Sam Zyg modern is just as good as his Strad, and the same with other top soloists. As for this study it should have been the listeners that decided, not the soloists IMHO
Edited: October 10, 2017, 7:42 AM · Lyndon asked whether the sample size was adequate to "draw general conclusions."

Whether the sample size is adequate depends very much on the specific hypothesis one is testing.

In the Paris experiment, the putative hypothesis was that soloists, if given a choice among several new and several old violins for their next tour, will tend to choose the newer instrument. (To hypothesize that they will tend to choose the older instrument is equivalent. You just pick one and then you see where the chips fall. The data obtained seems equally suited to testing either hypothesis.)

The key paragraph in the conclusions section is as follows:

Preference scores were assigned to each instrument based on its placement in top-four lists compiled by each soloist, and by how often the instrument was rejected as unsuitable. By this measure, new violins out-scored old by almost 6:1. If rejections are ignored, or if only the five violins that were the favorite of at least one soloist are considered, the ratio drops to about 3:2.
But no matter how results are tallied, it is clear that among these players (seven of whom regularly play Old Italian violins) and these instruments (five of which were made by Stradivari), there is an overall preference for the new.

What I did not see in that paragraph is the statistical error margins in those ratios, although I didn't look in the Supporting Information. This is where "knowing what you don't know" becomes important, because I don't know how to calculate those error margins from their data. (My research doesn't involves much statistical analysis; I'm a synthetic organic chemist, so I would have to ask a colleague to help me with that.) So, I too am skeptical of the "overall preference for the new" conclusion. What I see from looking at this data is that Strads don't blow the best contemporaries out of the water. I think if your hypothesis was that soloists would choose Strads over contemporaries for their next tour based on blind tests, you'd be very disappointed.

As far as drawing a more "general conclusion" is concerned, the authors were crystal clear about that:

"There is no way of knowing the extent to which our test instruments (old or new) are representative of their kind, so results cannot be projected to the larger population of fine violins. But given the stature and experience of our soloists, continuing claims for the existence of playing qualities unique to Old Italian violins are strongly in need of empirical support."

Translation: The ball is in your court now. If you don't like their findings, then either you (1) enumerate the flaws in their experimental design and explain how they invalidate the results (the fact that one of the co-authors is a maker doesn't reach that level), or (2) you do the statistical analysis of their data yourself to demonstrate that their conclusions therefrom are flawed, or (3) you design and execute a better experiment.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:03 AM · Point taken Scott. And why wouldn't we allow for confirmation bias and placebo if it actually helped us perform, so long as we could afford it or get sponsorship for it.

But I'm with Fritz on her comment:
“We should stop mentioning on the programme what soloists play because who cares?” she says. “That would allow young soloists to make a career without struggling to have a Strad on loan. If we judge players on how they play rather than what they play, that would be better.”

Also, the rest of the Emersons and other listeners preferred the Zyg, as it blended better with the other Zygs. But the Strad was chosen for familiarity with how it handled (and who knows what other placebo effects) not necessarily for it's tone, though as you suggest that may be the most important factor for the performer.

But also N.B.:
"Paraphrasing Sam Zygmuntowicz , one of the world’s leading modern luthiers, if you know an instrument is from the Golden Period, you will assume any poor sounds are attributed to your playing, rather than quirks of the instrument, and you would apply all subtlety in trying to coax nuances of sound of the instrument. If is it new instrument, you may attribute any poor sound to the instrument, and be less willing to search for the subtleties."

P.S. I didn't know what fiddle I was playing for the first 10 mins. or so of my almost single blind 20 min. trial of the Cathedral, though I might have recognized it's pattern.

October 10, 2017, 7:46 AM · Lyndon,

By questioning the value of double blind tests, you are actually promoting the injection of personal bias into the experiment. If they did not blind the test, I am pretty sure that PNAS editors would have rejected the article, regardless of Stradivari fame. Certainly I would.

October 10, 2017, 7:49 AM · If reduced vision was a handicap, don't you think it might have been about equally so with both groups of instruments?
October 10, 2017, 7:53 AM · At the end of the whole test 4 soloists had picked a Strad, three of them the same Strad, and 6 had picked one of the moderns. Hardly a resounding victory for the moderns, and statistically within the margin of error of a tie. No one ever said everyone is going to think a Strad is superior, and owing to the limited time the players had with the instruments, there's no doubt their choices would have changed if they had much longer to compare instruments, or even take one home for a week, etc like things are in the real world.

As Laurie Niles pointed out in her blog, the soloists only had 30 seconds/ instrument to compare the tone for the old vs new part of the test, so that hardly means anything, either.

October 10, 2017, 7:54 AM · Double blind is the ONLY option to make valid researches about things people have opinions on and are asked to judge.
Calling double blind unscientific is, well, unscientific.
October 10, 2017, 7:58 AM · David, do you give your customers a blindfold when they come to compare your instrument to some other they are considering, do you really think making critical decisions about instruments is not hindered by being blindfolded???
Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:00 AM · Double blind might be quite valid for the audience, but for the players to make choices???
Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:31 AM · I will try to set up a "blind" scenario, if they request it. But often they don't request it, they just do it, coming prepared with another player, etc.
Including some kind of "blind" testing in the selection process is not at all unusual these days, and I'm perfectly OK with it.
October 10, 2017, 8:12 AM · You provide blindfolds??
October 10, 2017, 8:13 AM · I sure can.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:17 AM · Lyndon,

Laurie's blog is about the Indiana experiment. The Paris experiment gave each player longer time. If you read the article, that time was enough to allow the players to choose the violin for a solo tour. Also, if you read the article in question, it is clear that the soloists' preference was the focus of the study, and rightfully so.

October 10, 2017, 8:15 AM · Double blind may be important for testing medicines, but players never perform live blindfolded, how is forcing them to be blindfolded to make important decisions about comparing instruments testing real world scenarios, its kind of like having a boxing match where your hands are tied behind you back, its not a valid way to judge with full control of your abilities.
October 10, 2017, 8:19 AM · No its not Sung, its about the Paris study.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:36 AM · Lyndon, I'd been thinking that people hear with their ears, and to a lesser extent through bone conduction....

Could you please explain the sound sensory function of the eyes (aside from reading the label)? ;-)

October 10, 2017, 8:21 AM · “We should stop mentioning on the programme what soloists play because who cares?” she says. “That would allow young soloists to make a career without struggling to have a Strad on loan. If we judge players on how they play rather than what they play, that would be better.”

I often appreciate knowing what someone is using. Especially when a violin sounds great. And it doesn't matter to me whether it's old or new--I just like to find out. I've played in recent years with soloists that had a Borman and Scarampella, and both were excellent instruments. I've also heard soloists with older instruments I thought were real clunkers, at least from where I was sitting.

I really don't think young soloists get well-known because they a Strad or other Cremonese. That's putting the cart before the horse.

Besides, while I'll bet most members of an audience recognize the name Stradivari, none will recognize Bergonzi or Guarneri or Pressenda. Only violinists will. And a small subset. After playing a concert, it's usually me that asks about the soloist's violin. Even most of the string players don't seem to care.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:25 AM · Lyndon,

Your continued attack on double blinding is one of the most striking examples of the lack of knowledge on how and why scientific studies are done in such a way. Your opinions are self-incriminating.

October 10, 2017, 8:25 AM · Boxers or briefs? Now THERE's something for a blind study!
October 10, 2017, 8:27 AM · Lyndon wrote, "Hardly a resounding victory for the moderns, and statistically within the margin of error of a tie."

As I explained above, I'm not a whiz with statistics. Can you explain how you calculated that?

October 10, 2017, 8:33 AM · I'm fully aware of the reason's for double blind, I just think in this case the benefits of double blind, are outweighed by the down sides, the players not feeling comfortable with the instruments etc
Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:35 AM · Lyndon,

The following is what I wrote earlier in this thread regarding the statistical significance of one aspect involving performer's preference. I did not consider the scoring aspect of the instruments and just focused on a simple statistics:

"If I focus on one finding only, I would choose Table S1 on page 17. Ten players were asked to choose the top four violins, and in 20 sessions total, they chose 15 modern instruments as the best. If there is no overall difference among the old and new instruments in player's preference, this or more extreme result would occur about 4% of the time, assuming a two-sided alternative hypothesis.

If we expand the scope to the best four, collectively these players chose modern instruments 48 times versus old instruments 32 times, with multiplicity allowed. In this universe, the preference is 60% vs 40%, favorable to modern violins.

Of course we all have different tastes in sound and style, but I find this study gives me a convincing evidence that an excellent modern instrument does provide a level playing field for professional players at a fraction of the cost, sans bragging rights. That's an encouraging thought."

Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:44 AM · Paul, I don't think I've ever had customers use either boxers or briefs as a blindfold. ;-)

At least not in my presence...

October 10, 2017, 8:47 AM · Lyndon,

In fact Laurie's blog post is about the Paris experiment so I stand corrected. However, the 30-second per instrument is only a small part of a guessing game of whether it is old or new and it lasted for 7 minutes. The more lengthy evaluations were done in two blocks of 75 minute sessions. That is the meaty part.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:53 AM · This is not about a victory for new vs. old violins. It is a beacon of hope for future violinists and music lovers as long as there are humans and trees!

If you have the opportunity (as I have) of watching some modern violin makers tap wood, or use O-scopes and Lucci meters to make measurements on wooden slabs that will later be violin (or bow) parts and to later play on those assembled parts before and after they have been varnished, you will appreciate the "magical sound" that fine violin makers can "see in a tree." Three of the 4 violins I now own were bought directly from the makers, I met the maker of the 4th at his shop ion Madrid 16 years after I bought it.

As far as this being a "scientific" study, it really is not, in my opinion. It is a statistical analysis of what was done, you can call it "an experiment." Statistics is not science. Statistics is a mathematical tool for estimating the degree of non-random behavior of large populations of diverse, but supposedly related information (i.e., psychology, insurance, economics, public health, sociology, drug efficacy, etc.).

But what do I know? I'm just a retired physicist whose grad school nuclear physics course predated the supposition of quarks, bosons and so forth.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 8:56 AM · Perhaps if Capt. Underpants were to commission a Burgess... :)

Fair enough Scott. I agree not a lot of people are interested in anything unless it's a Strad. I think there's a lot less pressure on young artists to acquire a big name instrument these days, but perhaps the success of the New Golden Age of luthiers has had some influence on that, and the work of Fritz and Curtin and others will have further influence.

October 10, 2017, 8:52 AM · Mr. Cole,

I always want to know out of violinistic curiosity what the soloist is playing, but it's annoying when the "big name Italian crowd" make comments after, say, a well-performed Concerto, stating things like "imagine if he/she had a "tr00" violin!" That's their fault, of course, but bothersome all the same.

I have indeed heard big name Italian violins that weren't as convincing as a great French instrument and a few moderns during other performances at Carnegie Hall (and elsewhere, really). I like the performer a lot, so I won't mention names, lest he/she is unfairly criticized.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 9:19 AM · Instead of blinding the player you want to make them promise to not look close enough at the instrument to decide if its old or new???

Also I dont see the downfall of playing blinded if you now the score and dont have to play to much with other players.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 9:11 AM · Andy,

It seems you have a very narrow, perhaps classical view on what constitutes a scientific experiment. Regarding your claim that statistics is not science, the researchers of statistical mechanics would beg to differ.

October 10, 2017, 9:24 AM · "I agree not a lot of people are interested in anything unless it's a Strad."

I've always said that the lay person only recognizes three brand names in classical music, and they all start with "S":
Stradivari, Steinway, and Suzuki.

Maybe Juilliard, but they definitely can't spell it. And it doesn't start with S so I leave it out of my theory.
So I guess one could accuse me of cherry-picking.....

October 10, 2017, 9:25 AM · Actually statistics done properly is a quite exact science.
Most of what we achieved in the last couple of decades (like LEDs) was born in statistical physics. Basically all of what is happening on micro scale is statistics. Every outcome of somthing is statistics. That a table is standind still and not suddently starting to jump due to Braun movement is statistics. On the macro scale, what we can see, statistics are not relevant mostly as the numbers are so big we can call it determinism, in fact its always just a very high statistical chance of beeing that way.
The point is that you need to do statistics in a way you have exact propabilities, good error assumptions and therefore can calculate the reliability.
The unscientifc part mostly starts after the statistics are done. When things with 60% reliability to be true are told as facts for example.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 10:11 AM · You mean sherry-picking...

On the plus side the brand name can be a useful tool for those who know how to wield it's power. Dennis Kim, CM of Buffalo, apparently convinced the donor of his Strad to invest in fine instruments rather than fine art (?) over the course of a plane ride in first class.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 10:15 AM · About ten years ago, a guy won the London Symphony concertmaster position (not sure if I got the name of the orchestra right, but it was one of the major British orchestras, and the person already had a good job as associate concertmaster in one of the major US orchestras) playing on a contemporary violin. After a trial period, he decided not to take the job, encountering prejudice due to both his young age, and the instrument he was using eventually emerging as contemporary.

There can be many factors involved in choices.

There was also a recent "major symphony" associate concertmaster position up for grabs. What I have been told is that there were some borrowed Strads in the mix. There were two finalists, and the committee couldn't make a decision. One of the two finalists was playing a contemporary. I don't know what the other was playing.

October 10, 2017, 10:13 AM · Who do you think would have got the job if they were blindfolded.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 12:16 PM · Who, the committee, or the player?
Most major orchestra auditions are already done behind a screen, these days. Whether by coincidence, or otherwise, there is no denying that women make up a larger part of major orchestras, than in the past.

Sure, the player knows what sort of instrument they are using, and that factor can't be ruled out. Could some players get a higher sense of confidence, and even perform better, knowing that they are playing on an instrument with a name which has already been famous for 200+ years, or an instrument which has been used or "imprinted" by a famous soloist? Sure.

That's why double-blind studies are helpful at shedding more light on the situation.

October 10, 2017, 12:14 PM · A study with six old violins and six new violins is irrelevant. Show me a study with a thousand of each where the premise from the outset is not to prove that new is as good or better, set the questions so that they are not biased, and somehow convince busy touring soloists that use top antique violins that they can spare them, then I will accept the result. Till then this study is just hot air.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 10, 2017, 12:25 PM · You are welcome to present such a study, based on the set of conditions you choose, but coming up with a thousand Stradivari violins may be difficult, since only about 500 are known to exist. ;-)
October 10, 2017, 12:22 PM · On the subject of blindfold, we'll never know what effect playing blindfolded has on perception or skill and its potential effect on the result of the Paris Study result unless this subject is studied. Until then, neither we nor the research team can do much more than speculate based on common sense. The aim was to remove personal bias from the individual evaluations, ensuring the players would remain unaware of what instrument they were playing. Whatever negative effect it might have had on performance was the same for all instruments tested, hence in most likelihood would have little or no effect on the ability to differenciate old from new.
October 10, 2017, 12:29 PM · The Amati-owner doth protest too much methinks.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 2:06 PM · @David. The best fiddle I’ve played was a Bergonzi. I’m sure we can find a thousand antique violins, just as we could modern. Now, who to get to fund that study?
@Jeewon. Apologies for miss-spelling your name. I have a colleague who is Jeewan, hence the confusion.

Cheers Carlo
October 10, 2017, 2:39 PM · Roger, I know full well the reasons given for double blind, I just feel it must put the player in an uncomfortable position, and when I'm uncomfortable or have one of my senses occupied, I'm less able to make serious decisions that require my full facilities.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 2:44 PM · Lyndon, the kinds of players that participated in this study are the sort that will go on an play a splendid Sibelius Violin Concerto with sore throats and stomach aches. To have goggles on -- I'm sure they could still find their sound points and their shifts to Third Position.
October 10, 2017, 3:07 PM · I see the point of the blinders if the players are making the decision, but if the audience is making the decision, as in this case I think they should have, I don't really think the players are going to intentionally play better on a Strad than a modern if they're not blindfolded.

I did hear some rather bad playing from blindfolded players in the OPs video, though.

October 10, 2017, 4:06 PM · 12 violins and 10 players may be more than enough sample size for a scientific study. It depends on what you want to measure.

If you want to measure a specific value, like the weight of Old Italians versus Moderns, one might need a larger sample size than 6 aside to get a statistically meaningful average.

If your main interest is in testing a "NULL Hypothesis", i.e., there is no relationship between being a top soloist and determining the age of a violin, then a smaller sample size will do just fine.

Some people are treating statistics with no appreciation for the nuance required to properly apply it.

I do not recall seeing any statistical significance being applied to the preference aspects of the study. This seemed to be by design. They threw the results out there and you take from it whatever you want.

I would think from a professional's POV, assuming prejudice against modern violins will not deny you that sweet orchestra job or solo gig, the study strongly suggests that you can find a top modern violin that plays as well as a top old master, AND vice versa.

Edited: October 15, 2017, 8:38 AM · "Anyone who owns an expensive Italian antique could be biased in their favor. Their violins will not lose value in a practical, market-value sense, but the large-majority assumption that such a violin is necessarily better may be eroded, and some of their bragging rights therewith."

The above observation is spot on. I think the market value of the so called "antiques" could eventually go down when the bubble is busted.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 4:43 PM · Carmen wrote, "I do not recall seeing any statistical significance being applied to the preference aspects of the study. This seemed to be by design. They threw the results out there and you take from it whatever you want."

I personally find that disappointing and I would have preferred the journal editor ask them to run a few hypotheses through the ol' meat grinder.

Sung Han gave some statistical analysis in this thread but I need to take his word for those calculations because that is something I did not really ever learn how to do. Even though I'm in my 50s, one of these days I'm going to take course. My university has a great stats department.

October 10, 2017, 4:40 PM · Arguably sound quality has little bearing (beyond a certain threshold)on market value. Provenance, pedigree and rarity far outweighs quality for a collector/investor. Hence, Strad for these reasons alone will maintain stratospheric values, and sound quality vs modern instruments doesn't matter quite as much from that point of view. Some myths might be busted, but owners of these antiques fear not as far as bragging right is concerned.
October 10, 2017, 4:53 PM · There has been quite a bit of bragging by modern instrument owners on this forum!!
October 10, 2017, 5:05 PM · Provenance, pedigree and rarity components equally apply to modern instruments, and I'd personally and happily would be bragging too if I owned one of the exceptional modern instruments!
October 10, 2017, 5:11 PM · Yeah but bragging about your Yita???
Edited: October 10, 2017, 6:45 PM · Back to the study, I suspect the author has collected far more information that is being presented in the paper, and as many do, milking the paper mill by presenting only a subset of the result observed into separate papers. In this case I find it frustrating as omitting some of the data collected (e.g. sound profile of each instruments) reduces the credence of the paper IMO. I don't care if the study concludes one way or the other, but whichever way it is, at least I want to feel that it is a valid conclusion, and as others have pointed out, in this case can only be applied to the small sample of instruments and players and only those instruments and players.
October 10, 2017, 7:21 PM · I don't think there were any Yitas in the study, Lyndon. Once again you have to reach for the most irrational extreme to try to make some kind of point. The only thing sentient people glean from that kind of comment is its flagrant, willful irrationality. Why is that so hard for you to grasp?
October 10, 2017, 8:24 PM · Paul, my hats off to you and many others who are fighting against irrationality so tirelessly. It maybe just the kind of games some like to play: bullshit one's way through so they can get all the attention they want and even supporters. Apparently this strategy works for politicians (I won't name names), why not here?
Edited: October 11, 2017, 1:42 AM · Roger, they may not yet have come up with a meaningful way to interpret or present the sound profile information, or a method they're satisfied with. This is something that people have been working on for at least 15 years, including me.

It's good that they got the information, along with corresponding player impressions, while they had the chance though.

Theoretically, there's valuable information in there, if they can figure out the best way to extract it.

October 10, 2017, 11:25 PM · I dont recall anybody insisting that his Yita can compete with good antiques.
When we talk about modern instruments in this context we talk about the best modern violins, not low tier makers a.
I agree that for the audience evaluation you can open a discussion if blindfoalded is a good descission. In the end we would need a pre research on the influence of the players opinion on his violin influencing his playing. Without such research the descission taken is the save and therefore right way in my opinion.

Paul, there are great education papers out there for basic statistic analysis not assuming much mathematical background.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 8:42 AM · Sorry to share my own conclusion learned from these debates:

1. With less than $50k, try new violins (i.e. by contemporary living makers) to buy one.
2. With less than $1M, try new violins to buy one.
3. With more than $1M, try and compare the new and old violins you could find on the market.. Maybe you can save at least $0.95M for house, car, watches, cigars, wines etc..

Sorry to Mr. Lyndon Taylor 'cause I can not stand reading anything you write anymore.. make me ill.

I've currently commissed a new $40k+ violin.. feel great!

Edited: October 11, 2017, 2:32 AM · Marc, right. It's already been suggested that Lyndon could keep a copy of the paper available for customers, to address his concerns that people might think the studies apply to the old instruments he sells, versus modern factory Chinese instruments. The section describing the instruments used in the testing, and how they were selected, could be highlighted.

It has also been suggested that he could keep a few Yitas or similar on hand, so his customers can compare for themselves, and form their own conclusions.

Oh, since their seems to be some confusion, I should also clarify that the study did not use "blindfolds", or anything close to a welder's mask. What they used are more like wraparound sun glasses.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 2:45 AM · @Gurus. Enjoy your commissioning process. It is an exciting time. I did this twice with violins and once with a bow. It is a great opportunity to have your own input in your instrument. Not only can you discuss finishes, fittings, models etc, but a good luthier will take on board the sound you are after. They can also accommodate any special requests such as a thinner neck, or a specific stop length. Most makers are happy to take back a violin and let you have the next one if you are not completely satisfied with it. It is in their interest that you love it.

Cheers Carlo

October 11, 2017, 3:52 AM · Marc -- math background is not the problem. Time is. :)

I think even for audience evaluation it's important for the players to not know what they are playing. The "Strads are better" folklore is so pervasive in the violin community -- especially the bit about needing to be a top player to coax good sound from it -- that I think when a player gets that in his hands (s)he is going to say, "Okay this is an 8 million dollar violin I'm holding here, I'm going to prove I can play this." Whereas maybe they don't take so much care with an ordinary, great-sounding, easily-playable contemporary.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 6:10 AM · An American antique tea table sold for over $1 million at a Christies auction.

Can anybody seriously argue that this million dollar table is going to hold the afternoon tea service in a superior manner than a modern tea table from, say, Ethan Allen?

Of course not.

People pay a lot of money for antiquity, scarcity, authorship, and provenance. They don’t pay very much at all for functionality or even aesthetics. Functionality and aesthetics are commodity qualities. Sale prices at auctions for all kinds of items prove this repeatedly.

Violins are not the exception to this market reality.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 7:23 AM · I hate to help this thread drag on.. but violins are not coffee tables.

People who rely on violins to make a living and ensure their reputations do pay for the functionality. They pay for the sound, which they hope will win them the competitio, the job audition, or the professorship, or they hope they will be invited back to solo.

This combination of response, dynamic range, projection, and beauty of sound are NOT "commodity qualities." They are very rare.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 8:14 AM · Scott wrote, "This combination of response, dynamic range, projection, and beauty of sound are ... very rare."

And evidence is mounting that such qualities are not limited to antique Italian instruments that cost millions but can be found in the best among contemporary instrument as well -- violins that cost about 1% of what a Strad would cost. And for that matter perhaps that extends also to the best of instruments throughout the history of violin making.

Just because a violin has a practical use doesn't mean it's immune from additional (evidently majority) valuation as a collector's item. That was George's point, but let's sharpen it a bit. By price, one might say that a Strad is 1% violin and 99% Chippendale chair or Revere teapot. Personally I don't really want to think so, but that's what the numbers say.

On the other hand, there's more to it. Stradivari and Amati and those guys -- they were artists. They taught the world how to produce great sounding violins that are also things of great visual beauty. Just as the Dutch Masters taught painters how to use light. So, their work should be valued not only for the sound of their instruments but also their creativity and originality.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 8:34 AM · @ Scott Cole - No, a Stradivarius sells for a lot of money despite the sound. Even a poor sounding Strad is extremely valuable.

But you are right in one regard -- a violin is not a coffee table :-D

Edited: October 11, 2017, 9:17 AM · In many ways, in those secrets of Stradivari film documentaries, it is seldom mentioned that most if not all playable Strads / Guarneris often (if not always) are fitted with new tail, new strings, new finger board, new or reset neck, new bridge, new post, sometimes new bass bar, centuries of plate tuning, coats after coats of French polish. Nobody should wonder that they can't be distinguished from top modern instruments as suggested by this study! It's a wonder that anyone would expect a different result.
October 11, 2017, 9:17 AM · I was ridiculed in this thread for claiming the overall bias today is towards modern fiddles. All you have to do is read through replies to this thread to see that I was right. And people don't stop at simply preferring modern violins, they have to ridicule anyone that sticks up for antiques, in any price range.
October 11, 2017, 9:18 AM · I'm with Scott on this one.

If anyone could put a contemporary violin into my hands that I like more than my antique, I would gladly buy the contemporary, sell the antique, and pocket a handy sum of cash.

Same thing goes for my bow.

Note that great contemporary makers often have waiting lists a mile long. "You could get one of these but you have to wait N years" effectively makes such instruments inaccessible to most players, who often need something now.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 9:49 AM · Modern makers make what sells, and what majority of people want is LOUD. We can debate on the validity of that trend and why one should better appreciate the richness now more often found in older instruments (though not unique to older instruments), but the trend is what it is. I don't think that anyone is ridiculing anyone for liking what they are seeking in an older instrument, they're questioning the average ability of players to differentiate between old and new, hence the subject of that study. What the study suggests (but not prove), is that taste is leaning toward LOUD (which we already know), not that one is better that the other (nor does it suggest it either). What all the blind studies suggest is than new doesn't mean worse.

P.s. I have vested interest in believing the contrary as I have been trying to sell an antique and fairly nice instrument, that gets passed over in favor of cheaper louder Chinese factory instruments, but as I said, the trend is what it is.!

October 11, 2017, 9:37 AM · @ Trevor -- The only problem is that my Scotch glass won't sit level, with all the curves and such.

@ Roger -- This is a good point. Along with this, that Strads end up in the hands of the best luthiers who feel obligated to tweak them until they sound good.

@ Lyndon -- One might say the same thing about you, as you appear to have a bias toward antiques. A personal preference is fine with me, though -- I do not fault you for it.

@ Lydia -- when you bought your current antique violin, how many contemporaries did you compare it against?

Edited: October 11, 2017, 9:49 AM · I believe three of the ten soloists picked the differences between all the old and new violins in the study, only one got it right, two got it backwards, thinking the new violins were the old ones, etc. Claudia Fritz would have us believe its just chance, that they were guessing, a statistical analysis of the likelyhood of three people separating old from new even though two of them got it backwards, would show it unlikely that it was just guessing, they heard differences between old and new, which kind of questions the whole conclusions of the study.

The statistical chances of one soloist picking all 6 correctly, old vs new, or even picking all 6 backwards, old for new, new for old is 1.5 in 100, or 1.5 x 10 for all ten soloists combined to pick only once, that happened three times, extremely unlikely to be chance as the studies authors claimed.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 10:01 AM · The study doesn't say that. Read it again, more carefully, and with your emotional interpretations temporarily on hold (if such a thing is possible).
Edited: October 11, 2017, 10:00 AM · Lydia, I'm not sure what you're saying there. It sounds a bit like you're saying the advantage of great antiques is that you can find them in dealer inventories, whereas contemporary instruments have to be commissioned. So despite their rarity antiques are more readily available? The only reason I can see to explain such a counterintuitive claim is if the antiques are utterly unaffordable to nearly everyone who would appreciate their intrinsic value as musical instruments, not just as collectors items. Included among the have-nots would be the overwhelming majority of pro violinists who earn most of their income from teaching, although some manage to do so by virtue of profound sacrifice.

Lyndon, nobody's ridiculing anyone for admiring antique violins. I admire them too. It's when you insist that antique violins must necessarily sound better than contemporaries, and you base that insistence on (a) individual observations that nobody can confirm independently and (b) egregiously emotional and irrational arguments, e.g., about Yita violins. And you're the one who started the flame war by calling admirers of contemporary instruments "fascists." I don't think you really grasp the extent to which that kind of outburst can eviscerate one's credibility.

As I've said many times, all I glean from the Paris study is that contemporary makers seem to be holding their own against the legends of the past. If I have any "preference" for contemporary violins, it's purely financial, as I cannot afford more than I have. Remember, I have to buy instruments for my children too, and one of them is a cellist!! There are probably many antiques -- and contemporaries -- that play and sound better than my violin.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 10:09 AM · @Yixi. Would you mind not swearing in your posts. I know you are very capable of eloquent writing as evidenced by your well thought out responses. IMO swearing detracts rather than adds emphasis to one's argument.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 11, 2017, 10:13 AM · Hah, too funny!
Good one, Carlo.
Edited: October 11, 2017, 10:37 AM · Paul talk about misquoting me, what an agenda, where do I say antiques always sound better than moderns, you can't make a rational argument without misquoting me??

David its in the study. Am I confusing the audience survey with the soloist survey??

Again, serial misquoting, the whole Yita reference was solely referring to people bragging about modern violins, there has been a lot of bragging about modern violins, including Yita, and in another thread, Jay Haide, on this forum. Nothing more, no one's comparing Yitas to Stradivaris, except perhaps their owners.

October 11, 2017, 10:27 AM · It was a tea table! Who’d pay a million dollars for a coffee table? :-)

In 2016, an Apple-I prototype hand-built by Steve Jobs was sold at auction for $815,000. A smart phone today has vastly more computing power than this computer, but this computer has scarcity, authorship, and provenance. Steve Jobs was the innovator and inventor behind personal computers in the way Stradivarius was to modern violin design.

And it is all about antiquity, scarcity, authorship, provenance in the world of antiques. Most dealers and appraisers of fine violins will tell you that tone - such as "response, dynamic range, projection, and beauty of sound" - have virtually no impact on the appraised value or price paid for a violin.
Tone is a subjective quality, whereas antiquity, scarcity, authorship, provenance, and condition (mostly) are not.

In fact, some investors pay fortunes for violins that they can't even play. Violins of proven antiquity, scarcity, authorship, and provenance that are not set-up (missing strings, bridges, tailpieces, etc) sell at comparable prices to violins that are set-up for playing.

Competitive markets are the ultimate arbitrator of value, and in the world of fine violins, tone quality has very little impact on a violin’s value.

Having said that, one would hope that the reputation of a luthier for fine quality instruments (including tone) developed during his or her lifetime would have some influence how the resale market values his or her violins long after they have died.

October 11, 2017, 10:33 AM · "Except their owners." You really just can't help it, can you?
Edited: October 11, 2017, 12:06 PM · Tone quality has everything to do with antique value, it has to do with whether the violin will sell or sit on the shelf!! And the antique value of a given maker, has much to do with the tonal qualities of his instruments.

Well looking below, it looks like Yixi's essay on BS has made the server run out of space, and potentially ended's longest thread to date!!

October 11, 2017, 10:42 AM · "Even the better German makers such as Klotz are now out of sight for most people."

Really? I own a Klotz which I would very much like to sell. Three different experts have given me estimates that cluster around the $15K mark. That's not out of sight for very many serious violinists.

If there is anyone looking for a violin who is assuming that a Klotz is beyond their reach, I would love to meet this person. Tacking on $10K to my violin's actual value could make both of us very happy.

October 11, 2017, 10:45 AM · Carlo, me swearing? LOL! It's ok if you are unaware of the fact that bullshit is a serious philosophical issue raised by the well-known Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt:

Lydia Leong

(I have manually inserted some HTML that hopefully allows the page to display properly save for mangling the end of Yixi's post and the beginning of this "correction".)

October 11, 2017, 11:44 AM · Test
October 11, 2017, 12:49 PM · Douglas, I've tried many dozens of contemporary violins. I've never played a Zyg, though, or a Curtin or Alf, say, to name a couple of top contemporary makers. The inventory simply isn't available to try.

Paul, what I'm saying is that I agree with Scott -- players buy the best thing they can with the money that they have on hand. Players don't really care about collectibility beyond the hope that the violin will at least hold if not increase its value (the more they're spending the more the investment matters), but most players are trying to get the most violin for the least money. If I could have found a satisfactory contemporary, I would have bought it; I ended up with an antique because it was clearly the best thing I'd ever played in a price range that was within the realm of what I was able to purchase.

On a practical basis, most players, outside of the most elite soloists, don't have access to Strads or del Gesus. The question for them is more "does this contemporary match up to the second/third/fourth tier of antiques"; I'd guess most pros are shopping on a budget of $150k or less, if not $50k or less.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 2:19 PM · "Players don't really care about collectibility beyond the hope that the violin will at least hold if not increase its value."

Sort of, but it's not entirely that simple. I know a number of players who won their major symphony positions with contemporary instruments, and considered them to be perfectly adequate, but went on to also purchase older and much more expensive antiques, as investments. Some of the top orchestras pay pretty well.

Some players use instruments for their retirement stash, rather than other sorts of investments they are much less familiar with, and relate to on a lesser level.

It's probably less risky to purchase a very expensive old instrument (as long as it has multiple stellar certifications), than to muck about in the contemporary market, where resale value can be all over the place, and "after death" values have not yet been established.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 1:10 PM · Three cheers for Lydia for rescuing the endless thread!! (And thanks for clarifying too. I agree with you about budgets.) But also kudos to Yixi for inadvertently discovering how to crash a thread. *grin*
Edited: October 11, 2017, 1:21 PM · David, I'm familiar with that phenomenon (I've had teachers who have multiple antiques for exactly that reason, and AFAIK, the price of collectible violins/bows have had held their own decently against the S&P500), but I don't think that invalidates my core point about people buying what they can afford for utility, at least initially.

The same holds true for reasonably well-off amateurs as well -- owning some things for utility and others for collectibility. It's not unusual to encounter really expensive instruments in the hands of amateur retirees who bought them for a song, decades ago.

Age plays into this in a big way, too. The highly popular antiques have escalated enough that a young player is probably unlikely to do as well investing as someone in their 60s who has built a collection over their lifetime. Now, bows have a much more reasonable entry-point, and owning a collection of them also has additional utility, which might suggest that young players might turn their investment eyes in that direction.

October 11, 2017, 1:30 PM · It is absolutly right, it is hard to get your hands on the really good modern instruments. They are cheaper, but definatly not easier to get.
I once was on the Greiner waiting list, it really took time (I think it might have been 7 years, now its propably much longer) and eventually it was my turn. I passed it at the end as I found another violin I prefered over the Greiner modell I wanted to have replicated at the beginning.
About the Klotz: there are many of very different quality and value out there. It was a big family. I played a lot violinsassigned to Klotz and never found one of those very good. I once heard somebody in the starting of his solo career playing one, that one sounded great!
October 11, 2017, 1:58 PM ·
Edited: October 11, 2017, 2:13 PM · Violins by certain members of the Klotz family, were at one time considered to be more desirable than those of Stradivari.

Times change, and we roll with the punches, and try to stay up with continuously advancing information. (except for those us who don't).

October 11, 2017, 2:06 PM · "About the Klotz: there are many of very different quality and value out there. It was a big family. I played a lot violinsassigned to Klotz and never found one of those very good. I once heard somebody in the starting of his solo career playing one, that one sounded great!"

This particular Klotz has been described by many others as excellent, the best Klotz they've ever seen, etc. Every job I ever won and every solo I ever played with orchestra was on this violin, and not once did anyone ever tell me I needed a better instrument. It was sold to me as a Josef Klotz but is now believed to be by Aegidius.

Still. $15K.

Where is this fabled land where my Klotz is desirable and financially out of reach? Because that's where I would like to sell it.

October 11, 2017, 2:35 PM · Sometimes I think it is lost in the discussion that buying a modern violin does not exclusively mean buying from a living maker.

There are beautiful modern American violins made in the late 19th and 20th centuries by the master luthiers of their times that are fabulous players and well-under the cost of prominent living makers. After accounting for inflation, many of them are priced lower than when they were new. You have to hunt around a bit or visit some different dealers, but they can be found. They also show up in U.S. auctions and are very worth checking out.

October 11, 2017, 2:36 PM · I can tell you its not Germany.
Edited: October 11, 2017, 4:46 PM · David, I'm familiar with that phenomenon (I've had teachers who have multiple antiques for exactly that reason, and AFAIK, the price of collectible violins/bows have had held their own decently against the S&P500), but I don't think that invalidates my core point about people buying what they can afford for utility, at least initially.

Lidia, I did not mean to intentionally disagree with anything you have posted in this thread. For the most part, I do not disagree with you.

(The "most part" caveat comes from not having taken the time to re-read this 500+ post thread more than a few times, and sometimes that is what I need to do, to digest things fully.)

October 11, 2017, 4:37 PM · Mary Ellen,
I said that about Klotz because I had seen some for sale in the range of 30K, which I felt was "out of sight" for that maker. And remember, what you can sell it for is quite different than what shops will advertise it at...
October 11, 2017, 4:45 PM · The evidence suggests that anyone paying $30K for a Klotz is getting ripped off. Thankfully I did not overpay when I bought mine in 1982.
October 11, 2017, 5:09 PM · Labeled as Klotz does not necessarily mean Klotz, it often just means Mittenwald from the time of Klotz, not to mention the much later fakes. You might want to contact Jacob Saunders, in Austria (just google Jacob Saunders violin). He's one of the top experts on German and Austrian violins,I'm pretty sure an as labeled genuine Klotz in good condition is worth $30,000, but Jacob would be the expert. Jacob can tell a lot from good quality pictures, too.
October 11, 2017, 5:14 PM · But this discussion about Klotz prices points out something I tried to say earlier, among German violins you can buy the work of one of the top makers from the 18th or 19th century for similar or less than the cost of a top modern maker, like David Burgess, even!!
Edited: October 11, 2017, 5:57 PM · One big advantage of contemporary makers -- just like fresh young violinists -- is the competition scene. David can make a couple of dozen instruments over an interval of several years and show them at competitions, and if he consistently wins awards for workmanship, tone, or whatever, then someone like me who lives in fear of getting ripped off by dealers, and who might be unsure of his own ability even to choose a good instrument, will say that $30,000 for a Burgess is probably a reasonable value for a good sounding violin, because that's what good contemporary violins go for.

Does the competition circuit thereby benefit contemporary makers as a whole? Yes, certainly it does.

I am not aware of a comparable mechanism for Mittenwald violins. To be sure, there is the reputation that certain of the old makers have built up over time through word-of-mouth by dealers and players, and that's very important. But it would be difficult to find half a dozen Klotz violins and subject them to the same kind of competition with violins of other Mittenwald makers. If you could actually do that it would be extremely interesting and exciting.

And then you have to factor in the possibility that the violin is a relabeled fake, and this seems to be a very high likelihood in the antique violin business. For the amateur who has to take the word of a dealer or an appraiser or some other "expert," that casts a dark shadow over any purchase. Whereas if I commission a violin from David Burgess, I think the likelihood that he would put his label into a violin that he didn't make is extremely low, and probably there are ways of ensuring that it is zero.

October 11, 2017, 5:57 PM · David retired from the competition scene a long time ago, at least that's what he's said. There are unscrupulous modern makers that put their labels in violins they didn't make, some Italian, etc, but no one's accusing David of that.
Edited: October 11, 2017, 6:10 PM · My understanding is that David didn't retire from he competition scene, they retired him because he won too many times. I would be floored to learn if Burgess or Zygmuntowicz or Curtin or any of the top American makers had put his or her label into a workshop instrument. There are American makers who will tell you up front that they buy scrolls, etc., from China, or they use CAM to cut f-holes, but they do the rest. As long as they're honest about it, then you can take it or leave it.
Edited: October 11, 2017, 6:22 PM · then why don't you buy a violin by a top American maker???
By the way how many violins have you trialed from top American makers, or are you just going on hearsay??
Edited: October 11, 2017, 9:08 PM · Those who want to stay strictly to the original topic should skip over this post, and avoid my following meanderings into various side-topics which have been brought up in recent posts.

Currently, I send buyers copies of their endorsed and deposited checks, and also ask them to keep copies of their bank records, since these are traceable and verifiable through the banking institutions, and not nearly as easy to fake as labels or "certificates".

I retired from the competition scene, shortly after the VSA kicked me out of their competitions, for having won more than their maximum number of allotted awards, and after having won several other international competitions.

But I'm still active in competitions in a different way, serving as a judge numerous times, in the US, China, Italy, and Russia. And I'm still active in the VSA, having served as a program director or teacher in about 15 years worth of Oberlin Workshops.

Yeah, I feel a bit burned out at times, but Hans Weisshaar must have brainwashed me with the concept of "teaching, and passing it on". He actually gave me quite the dressing down once, after I declined a nomination to the Federation Board of Governors. (The American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers). Next time around, I accepted. LOL

In hindsight, Hans was a major influence in my life. Sometimes, not easy to work for. Shortly after I started working there, my routine had become to quietly sneak down the hall upon entering in the morning, trying not to disturb the great master. Until one day, he yelled in his heavy German accent,
"Mr. BurGESS, if you have no manners, you will learn them here! Here, we greet each other with 'good morning'"!

Almost soiled my shorts. LOL

But that's nothing special. Lots of good people came out of the Wurlitzer, Beare, Hill, Francais/Morel, and Weisshaar shops, during the "Camelot" era of the megashops. (Sam Z came out of the Francais/Morel shop, after attending the Salt Lake violinmaking school.) All of these shops are now defunct, or were sold to people outside of the family, with some family members establishing separate, smaller enterprises.

Today, Pasewicz might be the world's premiere teaching shop. (He also came out of the Francais/Morel shop.)

October 11, 2017, 7:14 PM · "Labeled as Klotz does not necessarily mean Klotz"

I am well aware of that and I am not going by the label, which at any rate is a facsimile that I actually watched the dealer put in in 1982. My violin has been seen by experts. Thank you for your concern.

Edited: October 11, 2017, 8:39 PM · That might explain why its not being appraised at more than $15,000.
October 11, 2017, 9:05 PM · Lyndon I would buy a top American contemporary if I could afford it. If I had 3 million to spend on violins I would buy 100 top Americans, not one old Italian. If I had a spare 15k I would seriously consider Mary Ellen's violin. What she was able to accomplish with it speaks volumes.
October 11, 2017, 9:05 PM · Lyndon I would buy a top American contemporary if I could afford it. If I had 3 million to spend on violins I would buy 100 top Americans, not one old Italian. If I had a spare 15k I would seriously consider Mary Ellen's violin. What she was able to accomplish with it speaks volumes.
October 11, 2017, 9:18 PM · Lyndon, my violin has been seen by experts. The consensus is that it is a Klotz. Recent auction and sales suggest that $15K is a fair appraisal for a Klotz. $30K is a very, very high price and I would be interested to know on what basis the relevant shop has set that price.

Having a facsimile label means nothing because labels mean nothing.

Please give me credit for knowing what I am talking about.

October 11, 2017, 9:24 PM · Auction prices are half of retail or less usually, I can't speak for which Klotzs but some are definitely worth $30,000. That's why I recommended you contact Jacob.

I beg to differ, a genuine label does not mean nothing, maybe not as much to its value as to its likelyhood to sell. People love genuine labels.

October 11, 2017, 9:31 PM · I am aware that auction prices are much less than retail.
October 11, 2017, 9:46 PM · Also condition is a big factor, revarnishing knocks off 50% of value, a soundpost crack on the top maybe 25% etc, The reason I recommended Jacob is he is an expert that appreciates Klotz and does not deal mostly in Italian violins, many US experts are going to value German violins for less, and Jacob might even be able to sell it for you for a good bit more, he has customers that appreciate violins like that.
October 12, 2017, 1:16 AM · I checked with Jacob, and he says your appraisers are spot on if its genuine, Aegedius Klotz in good condition worth about 12-15,000EU and the best Klotz family violins worth about 25,000 EU
October 12, 2017, 1:59 AM · The experiment aside, I was just totally distracted by how beautiful the music was at the end. I was in tears. Very moving for me.
October 12, 2017, 2:00 AM · "If I had a spare 15k I would seriously consider Mary Ellen's violin. What she was able to accomplish with it speaks volumes."
About her skills and dedication, less about the violin.
October 12, 2017, 3:17 AM · Marc certainly true! But if such a violinist would take that violin as her professional instrument for so long, it can't be an ordinary violin.
October 12, 2017, 5:31 AM · @Carlo: thanks for your friendly advice! Yeah, I'm enjoying the contact with the luthier towards my need and wish.. finished next year through.

I'm unable not to recognize that (at least some of) David Burgess' violins sound fantastic.. just with two youtube clips. Sad.. he has a life-time waiting list, imho,.. or I'm wrong? I don't know where to find an old or antique violin at ~$100k that'd have sound that great.
Sure.. I haven't met him or have had any contact with him.

October 12, 2017, 5:59 AM · I've always wondered whether "waiting lists" can be jumped for ready money.
October 12, 2017, 6:06 AM · It boggles my mind that I'm still being mansplained to.

I very much do know what I am talking about, certainly with reference to the instrument that was my only professional instrument for 25 years, and when I say "experts" have seen the violin (which does not have a soundpost crack or varnish issues, good grief), I mean EXPERTS.

It's a wonderful violin and somebody down the road is going to be very lucky indeed to buy it.

October 12, 2017, 6:19 AM · Sorry to have offended you, I was actually trying to help, "experts" can mean a lot of things.
Edited: October 12, 2017, 7:38 AM · "I've always wondered whether "waiting lists" can be jumped for ready money."

I don't know how other makers might handle that, but I can't/won't do it. For one thing, my wife would kill me. I've discussed it with her a few times when that, or the option of making something available sooner to a more famous player came up. She has a few guitars etc, and would be livid if she commissioned an instrument, and it was sold out from under her, or it resulted in her being bumped down the list, or if she got jacked around in any way. Can't say that I blame her.

It's also very important to me personally to keep my agreements. However, when I buy one of my instruments from someone, I figure it is mine to do with as I wish. But I have people waiting for that scenario, too.

"Lifetime waiting list"? Maybe, depends on how much longer I live. LOL

October 12, 2017, 7:24 AM · Actually I know some makers that prefer bigger names (Schleske for example, although it is not as hard to get one as other contemporary makers they are sometimes unavailable) but I never heard of the money factor yet. I think if makers like David, Peter Greiner, Zym or anybody else with such are waiting list, would be up for more money only they could just build them and sell through auctions. That might give a income boost.
Another point is a personal friendship where I think it may be possible to jump a few places on many lists.
October 12, 2017, 7:47 AM · I think all of the instruments at the Reed Yeboah exhibit in New York will be for sale, and some of the makers are usually there too. The website below contains a list of the makers who will have instruments there.

October 12, 2017, 8:17 AM · "It boggles my mind that I'm still being mansplained to.

C'mon, lighten up a little. There's almost 600 posts here for a reason: men are mansplaining, women are womansplaining, makers are makersplaining, dealers are dealersplaining...

everyone is 'splaining.

October 12, 2017, 8:26 AM · If I were Mary Ellen, I would be insulted by Lyndon's presumption that she didn't consult adequate expertise.
Edited: October 12, 2017, 8:59 AM · Where did I presume that??? Talk about crazy accusations. And are we supposed to accept anonymous EXPERTS with no possibility of being wrong. American appraisers are notorious for misappraising Klotz school as genuine Klotz, that's why I recommended Jacob and still do. Unless someone is going to name EXPERTS, we really have no idea what we're talking about, but basically I was just recommending a second opinion, as I have no idea of knowing what EXPERTS we're talking about, no presumption, but no certainty based on the evidence given, which is anonymous EXPERTS.
October 12, 2017, 9:07 AM · Jacob Saunders indeed is one of the experts knowing especially much about Klotz and other old German schools. More than many of the very wellknown appraisers. Also he is in the European market which might be a benefit if someone like Mary Ellen is looking for another market than the US to sell the violin for possibly more.
Thats why I think it was nice to ceck back with Jacob and did not incline that Mary Ellen was not capable of going to good us experts.
October 12, 2017, 9:34 AM · Thank you Mark, when you're talking experts, it doesn't hurt to go to the top.
October 12, 2017, 10:02 AM · This thread is very interesting and informative, even if there are differences of opinion.

I think having "double blind" in the title was a good idea too. So far I'm only going blind in one eye reading this. Give it time and I'll be totally blind. lol. Still a good read though.

Edited: October 12, 2017, 3:16 PM · I would say this thread is very interesting and informative, especially there are differences of opinion. Good for practicing the skill of "skimming the cream and discarding the dregs" (a Chinese expression) in the Age of Data. And I love it that this thread is seemingly unkillable. Thank you, Lydia for the brilliant resurrection after my unintended killing!
Edited: October 12, 2017, 2:39 PM · I think the Paris experiment was flawed from the start. The old violins in the experiment, if 18th century or earlier, were not as their makers intended but de-baroqued and modernized instruments. Nothing wrong in that of course because the intention at the time was to make it possible for music of the post-classical era to be playable on them, for which we should be grateful, but the experiment was therefore not comparing like with like.

It would have been more meaningful in an experiment to compare current bench-made violins with violins made post 1800. Another choice would be to compare modern replica baroque violins with unaltered real baroque violins - if indeed there are enough playable examples still around that are not in museums.

Talking of experiments, I suspect that this thread, in its apparently unrestricted length, may be one.

October 12, 2017, 4:10 PM · I don't think the intent was to prove or disprove that the old instruments as made by the old masters would have sounded better after centuries, unaltered, as the new top modern instruments do. We all know that they would not sound better. The intent was I believe to determine if you remove the prejudice in favor of old-modernized masters instruments, a modern soloist would, if ask to choose between old and new, rather choose one over the other based on playability and tone.
October 12, 2017, 4:19 PM · The players didn't have enough time to make an informed decision,that has been pointed out by many people.
Edited: October 12, 2017, 5:04 PM · Apparently, most of the soloists disagree with you.
They were asked how much time they thought it would take to perform the task. The average answer was 50 minutes. They were given two 75 minute sessions.

All you would need to do is read the paper to know this.

So who should we believe? You, or the soloists?

October 12, 2017, 4:51 PM · So when you sell a violin you only allow the player 50 min to trial it????
Edited: October 12, 2017, 4:54 PM · Roger is right. As their acoustic engineer Fan Tao said that one of the goals was to see how players valuate instruments, what are specific qualities are important, how are they important and in what ways they are important. Also with the hope that people will listen with greater open-mindedness . It's funny, we are talking among the people who are supposed to be very good listeners here. How are we doing?

Edit: Lyndon, the tests were not designed to sell any instrument.

Edited: October 12, 2017, 4:56 PM · Lyndon, I'm fine with them spending as much or as little time as they wish. I don't try to tell good players how they should do things.
October 12, 2017, 5:10 PM · The soloists participated in the experiment are all highly accomplished players who know what they are doing. That's why this is a very valuable study.
October 12, 2017, 5:16 PM · When they're shopping for instruments you can be damn sure they spend a lot more than 50 min evaluating their choices.
October 12, 2017, 5:32 PM · Getting to know an instrument is not unlike being attracted to a person. You can tell pretty much instantly whether there's something there. Of course with more interaction and time, in different settings, you come to know if it was only superficial or substantial, and with more time whether you can commit long term or whether you can live with certain compromises. With a fiddle I would say 1-2 hrs is plenty of time to tell if there is something substantial there, perhaps not enough time to tell if you would commit, for which you'd want to cool off and come back with fresh ears and perspective, and try it out in different rooms and halls, and in different settings and contexts.
October 12, 2017, 5:35 PM · Still takes more than 50 min.
October 12, 2017, 5:45 PM · Concert violinists said 50 mins.

They were given 2h30m, as David just wrote above.

I would say the stronger the attraction the less time I need to establish 'this is a serious thing...' and your heart starts pumping and palms get sweaty, you get cottonmouth. Desire is pretty instant.

It's when you go 'meh' not bad, that you need time, and you can't decide, and you keep waffling and changing your mind.

Edited: October 12, 2017, 6:25 PM · Evaluating instruments in this experiment says nothing about testing violins for purchasing. How long it'll take for one to buy an instrument is irrelevant here; just another red hearing.
October 12, 2017, 6:09 PM · If I remember correctly, it was stated that the violinists felt that the allotted time was sufficient to determine whether to take the violin for a solo tour. Of course it would take considerably longer to evaluate violins for purchase, but that's not the parameter of the experiment.
Edited: October 12, 2017, 6:17 PM · I don't think so at all, the whole scenario was to select which violin they would want to take home, as in buy. I can't believe about how people so want to believe the results of this study that they can overlook glaring flaws in the methadology of the study, its almost as if they have an agenda to support modern violins over antiques that's BLINDING them to the truth LOL.
Edited: October 12, 2017, 6:21 PM · This is a direct quotation from the PNAS paper: "The experiment was designed around the hypothetical premise that each soloist was looking for a violin to replace his or her own instrument for an upcoming solo tour."

If I read the statement correctly, the violinists were not evaluating the instruments to buy. It was meant to be a prep for the upcoming tour.

October 12, 2017, 7:17 PM · That premise is interesting unto itself, by the way -- it suggests, for instance, that the player would prefer an instrument that's easy for them to sound good on right away, versus one that requires a significant adjustment period.

I think that most players can probably eliminate a violin as a "nope, not for me" in just a minute or two of playing it. Less than an hour is probably sufficient to determine a general preference between instruments. But if you're considering purchasing, you need a lot more time to try the instrument out in different settings and playing conditions.

Edited: October 12, 2017, 7:51 PM · Lyndon, no agenda is required. Just reading comprehension.
Over and over, you have misstated what the study says.
October 12, 2017, 7:51 PM · Well at least I have agenda comprehension!!
Edited: October 13, 2017, 2:14 AM · Yours is pretty obvious.

One useful method to detect an agenda, is whether the argument relies on untruths.

October 12, 2017, 8:09 PM · Still, if it takes 10 weeks of playing in 20 different venues to decide that violin A is preferred to violin B, that would tend to suggest that the preference is rather slight.
October 12, 2017, 9:24 PM · I don't think it takes 10 weeks. I think it's possible to make a decision in 2 or 3 weeks, maybe less for pros who have access to a lot of different playing situations and venues within a given week.

In most cases it's also a matter of trade-offs, and a player has to decide whether or not they can live with those trade-offs.

Edited: October 12, 2017, 10:17 PM · I know a very good soloist who tried an old Italian violin for six months and then rejected it for a number of reasons -- a lot of trade-offs to consider over time, especially when comparing two fine but quite different violins, one carefree modern and the other needs a lot expensive maintenance.

I like Jeewon's analogy of loving an instrument like being attracted to a person. Similar to being attracted to more than one person for different reasons, one can easily love two violins for their unique good qualities but has to choose only one. The choice is tough because one is at a crossroad, and the stake is high.

October 13, 2017, 12:56 AM · Paul. You can jump a waiting list for a new instrument. I paid cash up front just to do that. There is an expression, “money talks and bullsh1t walks...”

Cheers Carlo

October 13, 2017, 12:57 AM · I'm sure you must all have read John Marchese's "The Violin Maker", which might better have been entitled "The Picky Fiddler". In case not, it's about how Sam Z was commissioned by Eugene Drucker to create a violin that would improve on his Strad. He evaluated it for a long time before apparently deciding it didn't give him what he wanted. I've always rated the Emerson Quartet very highly, but remembering a shattering performance of Shostakovich 9 from a few decades ago they are (or were) an example of the recent breed of "power quartet" which may have been a quality Sam Z's violin was relatively lacking?

I think the book also illustrated just how picky some fine fiddlers can be. Very few top soloists seem to prefer the same instrument for long. Yixi is right - it's an emotional bond that you may as well call "love", although the longing for something even better never seems to go away.

October 13, 2017, 4:01 AM · I wish I could own a violin that was "evaluated by Eugene Drucker for a long time." I wonder what Zygmuntowicz* got for that instrument after Drucker sent it back.

*Really, his name is not that hard to spell.

October 13, 2017, 5:39 AM · " example of the recent breed of "power quartet" which may have been a quality Sam Z's violin was relatively lacking?"

Steve, I think it was the Strad which was lacking in power according to the other members and listeners. Also the Emersons, along with the Takacs, are among the few remaining elder quartets, having been formed in the 70s, so not very recent. It'll be interesting to hear if their sound changes at all with Paul Watkins, who is almost 20 years younger than the others. Current established quartets are the Jerusalem, Belcea, Quatuor Ébène for example. Young up and comers would be the Dover and Chiaroscuro.

Edited: October 13, 2017, 6:26 AM · Dover would probably appreciate not being called up-and-coming any more! Remember they won the 2010 Fischoff under the name Old City Quartet with the same members. I heard them as Old City Quartet here in Blacksburg. I also heard the Talich Quartet here (they were fabulous but I am not sure they are together any more), and the Emersons and the St. Lawrence Quartet, and in March 2018 we will have Rolston Quartet here. All at venues that are about 20-25 minutes walk from home. The Rolstons ... now you can call them up-and-coming!

Chamber performance -- that has got to be a very difficult way to make one's entire living. I guess any type of performance is, but what they do just seems so challenging yet probably incredibly rewarding too. Like the song says, nice work if you can get it. (and keep it)

October 13, 2017, 6:45 AM · "You can jump a waiting list for a new instrument. I paid cash up front just to do that."


October 13, 2017, 6:45 AM · It is indeed a difficult career to maintain, Paul, or so I hear from a few colleagues who have done it. The Cecilia, 2010 winners of the Banff, are folding after this year. I'm not sure if you could have called them an established quartet. To survive long term you need a residency at a school willing to support you, which our U of T is not (otherwise the SLSQ would be here! what a shame.) So I hope Northwestern pulls through for the Dovers, and we'll see.
October 13, 2017, 6:52 AM · "Wow." Same reaction I had Mary Ellen, or maybe it was more like WTF?!

I guess, sawzalls not withstanding, some makers have integrity, others not so much.

October 13, 2017, 6:58 AM · Thanks for this amazing discussion. I'm sure this thread will draw in readers for years to come. It's what drew me into the site! Ms. Niles is very lucky to have such a vibrant community.

So the question on perceived preference and what constitutes "good" sound in a violin has been discussed very thoughtfully by several posters including David Burgess. Along that line, for those that are makers, if you gathered 10 of what you believe are your better violins and had several violinist play them and rank in order of preference. Would there be agreement among the violinists as to ranking order?

My guess would be, since they are all good instruments, above a certain level there would be a lot of dispersion because people inherently have different preferences?

October 13, 2017, 7:01 AM · You can't just rank instruments out of context. What a soloist is looking for is not the same as what an orchestral musician is looking for. And people's individual playing styles will impact their preferences.
October 13, 2017, 7:12 AM · "I've always rated the Emerson Quartet very highly, but remembering a shattering performance of Shostakovich 9 from a few decades ago they are (or were) an example of the recent breed of "power quartet" which may have been a quality Sam Z's violin was relatively lacking..."

I grew up hearing the Emerson--countless times. I never would have called them a "power quartet." To me, Phil Setzer was anything but. He had the most finesse of any quartet violinist I've seen. I would have called the Emerson the "anti-power" quartet. But that's just my opinion. In talking to people that knew Drucker, I've heard that it was more an overall neuroticism and tendency to find fault in his instruments that led him to reject the Zig. Disclaimer: I've seen him in masterclass but I don't know him and haven't talked to him.

October 13, 2017, 7:15 AM · ...Also, if money were not the issue: if I played a violin that I considered good enough for an upcoming solo tour, I would also likely consider it good enough to buy.

I was scratching my head at the assertion that somehow those wouldn't mean the same thing. It would seem like someone is good enough to live with and have kids with.....but still only date?

October 13, 2017, 7:16 AM · I am not sure if it is a lack of integrity IF the maker does not tell he is not doing so and does. Call it prime service and its suddenly nothing else than mostly every seller of any buisiness area has to offer.
I know for sure that some makers dont offer such things, but I would have been supprised if it would not be able to find any.
Talking about quatrtets, I really like the Vogler quartet and followed them through their career.
Today they mostly (3/4 if I am not mistaken) play on modern instruments. The quality of sound went up significantly when the first violinist switched to his current instrument. It is also a bit more powerfull than his old Guadagnini but mostly it is just that he can get way more different colours.
He did not start playing it after purchase but later because he feard peoples reactions and somehow expected its Guadagnini to be better because its an old italien. He needed 4 years to overcome this! Over the years he played different old Italiens (back in the DDR it was hard to get hands on good violins) and never felt it was the right instrument. I know he was always on the search for another one. He told me that this will propably be his last violin as he finally does not miss anything.
Again an anecdote but it shows that it must not be true that old fiddles are always nicer sounding a new ones are just more powerful. It also shows that at least some players fear the reaction to not play something from the old Italien makers.
October 13, 2017, 7:17 AM · "I was scratching my head at the assertion that somehow those wouldn't mean the same thing. It would seem like someone is good enough to live with and have kids with.....but still only date?"


A solo instrument must have the power to sing out over an entire orchestra and reach to the very back of the hall. Players in a section need to blend.

October 13, 2017, 7:24 AM · Agree. That is a big problem when orcheastra players all think they are solists. Nothing worse a section can happen.
October 13, 2017, 7:26 AM · This is a direct quotation from the PNAS paper: "The experiment was designed around the hypothetical premise that each soloist was looking for a violin to replace his or her own instrument for an upcoming solo tour."

Thank you, Sung Han, for that quote. The pro-antique camp has been attacking the study by changing its hypothesis and discrediting the journal which publishes the results. It seems to me a better way is to provide an alternative study and publish the results in a peer-reviewed publication similar to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Those who claim they know better simply because they were educated in blah blah... should really try to publish in PNAS.

October 13, 2017, 7:27 AM · Integrity can be about honesty and transparency, for sure. But there's another dimension to it, holding to some standard of moral or artistic values. Offering a transparent premium service might make sense for a profiteer, but I'm not sure it holds to any kind of moral or artistic integrity.
October 13, 2017, 7:49 AM · "That is a big problem when orcheastra players all think they are solists. Nothing worse a section can happen."

To be sure there are loud fiddles and quiet fiddles, but like I said before, I think the best fiddles are capable of the greatest projection and yet still give the player the ability to easily blend. If every player had a great instrument and each, to the very last chair, played like a soloist (if by that you mean having the greatest dynamic range and variety in colour and articulation,) and everyone played together and unified as one, you'd have the strings of the Berliner.

Edited: October 13, 2017, 9:41 AM · When I asked about paying to jump the queue for a commission, I was dearly hoping that would be entirely impossible and sad to learn that either a maker or a customer would engage in something ostensibly unethical. Now, I would soften that position if the maker had an open standing policy such as, "You want it within a year, that costs $10k up front."

Scott wrote, "If I played a violin that I considered good enough for an upcoming solo tour, I would also likely consider it good enough to buy."

I presume he meant "to buy for permanent use as a soloist," not for playing in ensembles. I agree those requirements could differ.

October 13, 2017, 8:07 AM · I agree with Scott, the Emersons were (and probably still are) capable of great finesse too. The occasion I remember (which could have been 30 or more years ago) they first played Mozart in perfect scale before nailing me to the wall in Shostakovich. As usual the violinists switched seats at the interval but I can't remember which of them led each half! Most British quartets of the same era simply weren't capable of that kind of power, which is great in the right context but drives me right up the same wall of the Wigmore Hall when applied to Schubert (no names)!

I do think it's majorly (great word - one of DT's?) the power of some (not all) Strads and del Gesus that make them incomparable concerto instruments, but may render them a liability in chamber music. The leader of a more modest British quartet I was coached by said she was uncomfortable with the Strad she had on loan, feeling that it was hard to get it to blend at lower intensities.

Edited: October 13, 2017, 9:30 AM · Paying up front to jump to the heard of the line makes sense to a certain extent. Think of shelling out the extra bucks to fly business class.

With a violin maker however, having a limited production (not an Airbus), what I find not so nice about it is that your jumping to the head of the line means the other people wait longer than before. I think that is a little disrespectful on the part of the maker, who should not classify treatment of his clients on the basis of sheer buying power.

Or am I wrong?

October 13, 2017, 9:25 AM · Dimitri, you are not wrong.
Edited: October 13, 2017, 9:45 AM · I certainly agree with you Mary Ellen, "What a soloist is looking for is not the same as what an orchestral musician is looking for. ". I bet though that what 99% of pupils are looking for (or dreaming of) is a soloist instrument, whereas maybe less than 1% of them will become soloists!
Edited: October 13, 2017, 9:44 AM · I could be wrong -- I do not travel by air very much -- but if business class is sold out, then you can't pay business class and bump someone holding an economy-class ticket to a later flight. (Crew member ... maybe.)
Edited: October 13, 2017, 9:47 AM · I don't have any data, but my sense is that the average income of a serious amateur is higher than that of an average professional. If one is allowed to jump to the head of the line by paying more, then many professionals would be priced out of the market. The world of classical music would be poorer as a result.

WTF indeed!

Edited: October 13, 2017, 10:03 AM · Regarding jumping queue, as distasteful as it is, it could be acceptable depending on how the waitlist is understood and agreed upon. If the maker make it clear upfront that there are more than one list,slow and expedited, then the buyers will understand what to choose or expect. In absence of such open policy, it is unethical.

Would such policy drive up the prices to the point that professional players can't afford? Sadly so. But price is not the only reason many professional players can't get the top fiddles. Waitlist is also a factor. This is a violin-maker's golden age, as we are told. But this doesn't necessarily mean an age all good players can get top fiddle with a big name attached, nor they have to.

October 13, 2017, 9:49 AM · Roger, you are familiar with Victoria Symphony Orchestra, yes? Did you ever find the concertmaster doesn't blend well in the orchestra? I'm not aware he was using different violins in solo, chamber and orchestra performance.
Edited: October 13, 2017, 10:10 AM · IMO there is no way queue jumping can be rationalized in an ethical manner; any queue, unless everyone in the queue agrees with it. When you put down a deposit on a commission, the maker is agreeing that he/she will deliver your instrument as #x in the fabrication line. It's a business deal agreed upon by both parties and accepting a bribe (lets call a spade what it is) from someone to jump the queue violates that business agreement made with all the others that are affected. How can this possibly be seen as ethical unless as Yixi said there are both a fast and slow lane that everyone is aware of and free to choose.
Edited: October 13, 2017, 10:14 AM · I agree with you Yixi on the Vic Symphony Concert Master, but arguably isn't it everyone else in the 1st and 2nd violin sections that should be blending with him? I doubt a louder instrument that stands out in either sections would be well appreciated by the Concert Master! There's a reason why some strings are available in Solo and Orchestral versions I suppose.
Edited: October 13, 2017, 10:55 AM · So,Roger, we agree that solo quality fiddles can blend in orchestra after all?

As for young players all want to buy fiddles with solo quality, I think it's justified because a) such violins have richer palette; b) young pre-professional violinists often do get to play solos without being a professional soloist; c)many play chamber music. Some consider chamber musicians are soloists; d) some solo quality violins are not terribly unaffordable. I know a few (under CND$20K) are played by young and old soloists in Canada.

I also believe one should buy the best fiddle one can afford, not the one that will fit into a particular job. Your job may change but you stay with your best friend (the fiddle) for long time if not for life. One of my Vic Symphony friends is a recent Juilliard grad with a soloist French fiddle. She played too much like a soloist in a quartet when she first came to town a few years ago. Now she blends in nicely in chamber and orchestra. The same fiddle, different ways of playing.

October 13, 2017, 12:11 PM · *Some* instruments that are great for soloistic playing can *also* blend. Not all of them can. A concertmaster is likely to search for an instrument that can do both, and I suspect he'd pick a different instrument from someone who exclusively plays as a soloist.

Edited: October 13, 2017, 12:25 PM · I agree, Lydia. It is the ability to blend, not soloist vs orchestra quality, one of the considerations to take when look for a fine violin to keep, especially when most professional players can't count on being concertizing soloist once they've graduated from top schools such as Juilliard or Curtis. In fact, I was told by a recent Curtis grad that, after the first year, no one in Curtis would openly say "I'm a soloist". Not because they aren't able to deliver, but everyone is a "big fish" there and all have solo quality, and anyone becomes a soloist or wins great prizes is no surprise to them. However, the market is something else.
October 13, 2017, 2:10 PM · I agree with all you've said Yixi. There's probably a very small percentage (if any) of soloist instruments that aren't equally suited to orchestral/quartet playing with the appropriate strings and technique. The contrary probably can't be said though, i.e. there are perhaps a somewhat limited number of instruments that can deliver in a top soloist performance level.
October 13, 2017, 3:04 PM · I've definitely played instruments intended essentially solely for solo performance -- where you can't really get a blend-y orchestral-volume sound out of them easily.

I once took a very nice contemporary of that sort to an orchestra rehearsal, and spent it getting glares from the conductor for playing too loud / not blending enough.

October 13, 2017, 3:12 PM · You mean a very nice contemporary can't make ppp sound when asked to do so? I have to quote Jeewon because this is exactly what I believe but can't put it in a better way than he did:
To be sure there are loud fiddles and quiet fiddles, but like I said before, I think the best fiddles are capable of the greatest projection and yet still give the player the ability to easily blend. If every player had a great instrument and each, to the very last chair, played like a soloist (if by that you mean having the greatest dynamic range and variety in colour and articulation,) and everyone played together and unified as one, you'd have the strings of the Berliner.
October 13, 2017, 3:20 PM · We can debate whether or not the very nice contemporary rises to the level of greatness or not if it can't produce a good orchestral sound. ;-)
October 13, 2017, 4:03 PM · Yes. It's hard to agree what it takes to be a great violin. It's frustrating to have a one trick pony though. Orchestra work aside, We can find many top soloists are also playing chamber music. As I understand, blendability is highly desirable in such cases, if not necessary.
October 13, 2017, 11:34 PM · Except perhaps in the very top orchestras the requirements of a concertmaster can be rather different from those of a soloist. Recently a professional violinist who is also on the staff of the Amati online auction house told me his teacher who had been CM of the Covent Garden Opera Orchestra owned a Strad but in the hurly-burly of the pit preferred to use a much more modest British violin (OK, my interest was that I'd just bought one by the same maker, for around $1K!). One factor undoubtedly must have been the risk of damage, but even in solos the CM shouldn't come across as a dominant figure, more if you like a spokesperson from the proletariat
Edited: October 14, 2017, 4:18 AM · Ethics and the violin. An interesting topic. Does the best player get the job or the student of the concertmaster? Does the pretty girl get called by the fixer on account of her talent? Does the deadwood in a section keep his job because he is friends with the manager? Does a study set up to prove modern violins are better than antiques find just that? Welcome to the real world people!

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 14, 2017, 1:55 AM · Most powerful violins can also be played very quietly. It may take a slightly expanded technique, like using less bow pressure, closer to the fingerboard than one is accustomed to using with a quieter instrument.

There are some exceptions... violins which have an effort threshold below which they respond poorly, or won't produce any sound at all. More like an on-off switch. These can be either new or old. But these are not what I consider to be "top notch" violins. They might work for some people in some situations though.

Carlo, how have you determined that this study was set up to find that modern violins are superior? As far as I can see, the structure was such that it could have gone either way. And I have attended some "shootouts" where it happened to be an old instrument which came out on top.

Some of the scenarios you have mentioned, like "the pretty girl", or "the friend of the orchestra manager", are why many auditions are done behind a screen, these days. The violin test used a similar technique, for some of the same reasons. There are pretty and ugly violins, and instruments which have greater or lesser emotional investment attached, too.

Edited: October 14, 2017, 3:33 AM · Everybody knows who plays behind a screen when it comes to auditions based on repertoire, playing order etc. As to the study, that was its purpose.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 14, 2017, 2:05 AM · "As to the study, that was its purpose."

This is so, by decree?

Edited: October 14, 2017, 2:42 AM · I guess David is more gullible about that than us, Carlo. He really thinks it was a completely unbiased study, which just happened to be partly run and funded by modern violin makers and their fraternities.
October 14, 2017, 2:51 AM · I guess it's easier to question the honesty of professional people before admitting anything that doesn't match our beliefs.
October 14, 2017, 3:02 AM · I guess its easier to believe the opinions of modern violin makers than study the situation carefully and make your own decision.
Edited: October 14, 2017, 6:29 AM · Lyndon, you can't present a case without repeatedly mis-characterizing the study? As has already been stated, only one of the seven people listed at the top of the paper is a violin maker, and he also happens to have been an acoustic researcher for many years.

Also, the study was primarily funded by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Pierre et Marie Curie. The VSA also lent support, but The VSA has lent support to many kinds of activities, from the Restoration Workshop at Oberlin College, to the Goodkind library, to dendrochronogy studies of the wood on the Messiah Stradivari, to antique instrument exhibits at their conventions. It is an organization which is interested in almost anything related to violin-family instruments.

Note that the title is "The Violin Society of America", not "the violin society of makers". ;-)

October 14, 2017, 3:30 AM · That's like a study on Roundup where only one of the studies sponsors is Monsanto.
Edited: October 14, 2017, 3:47 AM · Actually most of the critisism here is based on the writers (writers here at phantasies. I am still pretty sure that most here did not even read the study or do not understand how studies work.
Edited: October 14, 2017, 4:00 AM · Lyndon, no, it's not at all like that. Monsanto's claims have been repeatedly refuted by numerous other scientific investigations. Where are the scientific investigations refuting the Fritz study?

Do you really think you've made a valid comparison?

October 14, 2017, 4:22 AM · yes!!
October 14, 2017, 4:33 AM · Then perhaps it would be useful to take a more careful look at your own bias?
October 14, 2017, 4:43 AM · likewise!!
Edited: October 14, 2017, 5:01 AM · LOL, I was not the one who tried to draw a comparison between the Fritz study, and Monsanto.

As already mentioned, I don't have an investment in how the violin studies turn out. I have plenty of business, and am turning business away. How many times are you going to recycle previous arguments, which have already been answered?

Here's a thought experiment which hasn't been brought up yet in this thread:
If every Strad owner bought a contemporary instrument instead, how much do you think the average instrument maker would be enriched?

October 14, 2017, 4:59 AM · Well you have one thing in common with Monsanto, a passion to promote your product LOL. Cheers David, agree to disagree??
Edited: October 14, 2017, 3:08 PM · Sure, we can agree to disagree, if that means that we will both stay out of this thread, from this point forward.

But as long as you continue to present fallacious arguments, I am prepared to respond, and it wouldn't make any difference which way the test had turned out. I simply don't care much for BS, particularly from someone who self-represents as being a part of "our" trade.

I'd like to improve "our" trade (with all its faults), and so far, I haven't gotten the sense that you are either a willing or enthusiastic partner.

Edited: October 14, 2017, 5:46 AM · "Does the best player get the job or the student of the concertmaster? Does the pretty girl get called by the fixer on account of her talent? Does the deadwood in a section keep his job because he is friends with the manager?"

1. The best player with the rare exception of notorious examples in a northern orchestra that have been publicized and stopped.

2. Contractors can do what they want when not bound by a collective bargaining agreement. Contractors who would like to continue contracting will hire the better players.

3. It isn't the manager who decides when it's time to cut deadwood loose; it's the music director.

"Everybody knows who plays behind a screen when it comes to auditions based on repertoire, playing order etc. "

This is absolutely not true and displays a dazzling level of ignorance regarding professional orchestra auditions. With the exception of the concerto, everyone plays exactly the same repertoire behind the screen and since 80% of auditionees are playing Sibelius or Tchaikovsky, the concerto is not a giveaway either.

Please. Stop with the insults, especially when it's clear you don't know what you're talking about.

October 14, 2017, 6:16 AM · I was thinking of what David termed the effort threshold, although I also think that some violins blend more easily than others, just due to the nature of their sound.

With my current violin, I can easily blend my own sound into a section, but also project when I need to, without very much effort. Importantly, I can get projection without losing the range of colors, which isn't true of all instruments. (I don't know how one would test for that scientifically, though.)

October 14, 2017, 11:18 AM · Lydia you don't need to test for it scientifically. You're a fine and knowledgeable player and you love your violin and you feel it's right for you as a performer. Works for me.
October 14, 2017, 11:24 AM · It's still an interesting scientific question. :-)

Tests for projection are probably more focused on how well the instrument can be heard when the player is at forte, rather than how well it can be heard when the player is trying to give an impression of a piano dynamic without actually being too soft to be heard.

Edited: October 14, 2017, 1:07 PM · Can't beat 'em, join 'em? Or is it, can't have it right away, waaaanh! I don't wanna wait, so just buy 'em out? You are a paragon of virtue, Carlo!

"Ethics and the violin. An interesting topic. Does the best player get the job or the student of the concertmaster? Does the pretty girl get called by the fixer on account of her talent? Does the deadwood in a section keep his job because he is friends with the manager? Does a study set up to prove modern violins are better than antiques find just that? Welcome to the real world people!"

You insist on civility when participating in some online forum, but when it comes to real world action you recommend we stoop to the lowest common denominator, civilization be damned.

You know there are some people in the world who, against the odds, demand a more just civilization, something beyond a veneer of civility, who find things like nepotism and sexism not only distasteful but unjust, who seek to provide access and opportunity for all, not just the privileged.

Edited: October 14, 2017, 12:51 PM · @Mary. The world you imagine you live in has high ideals and morals, it must be a cosy place to be. Professional musicians are no better or worse than anybody else on this planet. They can be as greedy, self-centred, dishonest, and self-promoting as politicians. I live in the real world, warts and all. To say I don't know what I am taking about regarding auditions is completely laughable.
October 14, 2017, 12:47 PM · and morels? Not only cosy but delicious too!
October 14, 2017, 12:52 PM · @Bud. Thant dam mimed speel check.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 14, 2017, 1:02 PM · I've heard projection also has to do with timbre, not just volume. My fiddle, a bit too much on the wild side, definitely kicks out certain frequencies and so you can probably use vibrato in a certain way to help with projection.

Does that mean a fiddle which blends better is more even across the spectrum? Does blending have to do with similarity, and projection with uniqueness?

Edited: October 14, 2017, 1:05 PM · ... “money talks and bullsh1t walks...” When such confession is made, you know you are dealing with someone who is amoral.
Edited: October 14, 2017, 3:25 PM · "They can be as greedy, self-centred, dishonest, and self-promoting as politicians."

Do you count yourself among such musicians?

"Does the pretty girl get called by the fixer on account of her talent?"

Just take a moment to unpack that statement (not only the meaning but also the words chosen) ...

Considering how much the music world, indeed the whole world, has been enriched by the inclusion and equal participation of women (except for the few remaining glaringly conspicuous positions) and in light of the current Weinstein sex scandal (and also the recent Google employee manifesto) it really gives me the heebie jeebies and serves as a reminder we must remain vigilant and continue to fight for equal access and rights for all.

October 14, 2017, 2:12 PM · I'm with Jeewon. Carlo, if your orchestra is mishandling its auditions maybe you should stand up for fairness in that process.
October 14, 2017, 3:14 PM · I think this thread is arguably the most entertaining and illuminating thread in this website because the posts are so revealing about the posters themselves.

It seems as if violin is Veritaserum for some muggles. Perhaps we could say "In violinum veritas."

October 14, 2017, 3:34 PM · @Paul. In my orchestra, I am on the players committee for that reason amongst others. Players need to have a forthright voice that is not afraid to put the view from the player's perspective. I am such a voice. The abuses in the audition and appointments I have observed happened in London.
@Yixi. Who gives you the right to judge me and label me amoral?

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 14, 2017, 3:55 PM · Oh, was that your confession?
October 14, 2017, 3:46 PM · Carlo said: "A study with six old violins and six new violins is irrelevant. Show me a study with a thousand of each where the premise from the outset is not to prove that new is as good or better, set the questions so that they are not biased, and somehow convince busy touring soloists that use top antique violins that they can spare them, then I will accept the result. Till then this study is just hot air."

That's an extraordinary claim. Now I would like to see the extraordinary justification for the sample size of 2000. Till then this claim is just hot air.

Edited: October 14, 2017, 4:29 PM · Carlo it's good that you're serving your orchestra and fellow musicians that way. I always find it kind of weird that everyone who makes these kinds of claims always says they saw it in some distant land and in times bygone. But I also understand that. If something *was* going on in a place nearby and in time contemporaneous, the worst place to deal with that would be here.
October 14, 2017, 4:28 PM · There are many millions of violins in the world. A sample size of 12 is statistically irrelevant. Do the maths!

Cheers Carlo

October 14, 2017, 4:29 PM · Actually Sung already did the math. Scroll up.
Edited: October 14, 2017, 10:01 PM · Paul. London is the Wild West when it comes to orchestral playing. There are 5 big professional orchestras and many smaller ones. Wages are low because there is such a large pool of talented players there. It is the exact opposite of, "pay peanuts, get monkeys". When you get such a discrepancy in power it is easy for abuse to get into the system. I know of one orchestra where the fixer only hired pretty young women. If that right? Of course not but to deny it happens does not make it so. I was there four years ago so it is not so long in the past.

Cheers Carlo

October 14, 2017, 6:02 PM · I posted a separate thread of my impressions from this weekend's Contemporary Makers Exhibition in NYC (LINK) so I will just note here that many of the violins I played could hold their own against antiques, especially in the sub-$500k range.
October 14, 2017, 6:35 PM · What I take away from this study is this:

If you want to buy a violin to do everything you could possibly want do not neglect testing the products of fine modern makers. If you can afford it and want to purchase a violin for your own pleasure AND to make an investment that will appreciate for your heirs after you are gone also look at fine antiques and make your choice based on your own (and your financial advisor's) weighting of the complex factors involved.

Maybe you will end up with one of each!

I think it is a stretch to push the results of this study any further than this, which was something I had already decided for myself from my own experiences, unfortunately having loved playing some of the instruments in different venues I can't be certain of my evaluations.

P.S. The Kuttner I played 12 years ago in a shop in downtown SF was gorgeous!

October 14, 2017, 11:27 PM · Ever wondered how a handful of old violin makers on the planet, centuries ago, somehow all managed to produce masterpiece instruments? ... or perhaps it's the several hundreds of years of tweaking by the best luthiers in existence following their making that did it? Just a thought.
October 15, 2017, 5:25 AM · Perhaps one of the reasons that only about 500 violins of Stradivari's lifetime output of about 1100 instruments are still around is that some of the "lost" ones never had the benefit of being tweaked over the centuries, possibly because they weren't considered masterpieces worth tweaking. Now there's an iconoclastic thought!
October 15, 2017, 5:30 AM · Trevor yes interesting thought, but one should not too quickly rule out fire, flood, war, or stupidity.
Edited: October 15, 2017, 7:34 AM · Carlo said: "There are many millions of violins in the world. A sample size of 12 is statistically irrelevant. Do the maths!"

Why don't you show YOUR math that you need 2000 violins to test the hypothesis, as you claimed before? Your gut feelings don't count, of course :)

By the way, the sample size is not the only problem in your statement below so please enlighten me why the Paris study is so wrong.

Carlo said: "A study with six old violins and six new violins is irrelevant. Show me a study with a thousand of each where the premise from the outset is not to prove that new is as good or better, set the questions so that they are not biased, and somehow convince busy touring soloists that use top antique violins that they can spare them, then I will accept the result. Till then this study is just hot air."

October 15, 2017, 7:28 AM · @Andrew: I really, really enjoy the Kuttner currently in my possession. Alas, I am not in the potential market and eventually it will go back to its proper owner.

On other topics, I am with Yixi and Jeewon.

October 15, 2017, 7:28 AM · Who was it who said that "dogma is the mother of all dogs"?
October 15, 2017, 7:29 AM · "Ever wondered how a handful of old violin makers on the planet, centuries ago, somehow all managed to produce masterpiece instruments? ... or perhaps it's the several hundreds of years of tweaking by the best luthiers in existence following their making that did it? Just a thought."

Or the best instruments were more likely to be recognized as such and proper care taken to maintain and preserve them.

October 15, 2017, 8:55 AM · Funny, I was chatting with F. Kuttner on Friday in París, great maker and nice person.
October 15, 2017, 9:09 AM ·

There are not millions of _world class_ antique AND modern violins. The study was not attempting to reach conclusions about all violins, just violins appropriate for top players.

One does not need millions of samples when testing the null hypothesis "On average, top players cannot distinguish between modern and antique master violins." If you believe the sample size used inadequate, you will need to refute it based on scientific argument, not feelings.

If you are skeptical of a study that does not reveal the actual violins so one can independently determine if these are, indeed, master violins, then fair enough.

If you question the motives of the researchers and participants, that is also a fair discussion, but has been adequately addressed by several posters here IMO.

But lack of sufficient proof to support a claim does not prove an opposing claim. To represent so is a fundamental flaw in logic.

You can ask members to adopt your position based on whatever "authority" on the subject you possess. I would say that is the fundamental attraction of these types of forums: quick opinions from people who have more than a passing experience with the subject matter.

Again, "proving" a statement based on authority is a fundamental flaw in logic, but one most people are willing to accept for convenience.

One should be careful not to overstate opinion as truth, because that will diminish any authority one possesses on a forum. There are posters here and on Maestronet that have something valuable to offer, but get virtual eye-rolls everytime they post something.

October 15, 2017, 9:34 AM · I'm with Carmen -- appeal to authority is one of the major logical fallacies. What's worse is that some people here claim to have the authority they can't establish. When they say they are such and such but their poor arguments and BS contradict their supposed expertise again and again. Any wonder why we question everything they utter?

Edited: October 15, 2017, 9:56 AM · What was the experiment's null hypothesis? Was the hypothesis that old instruments aren't distinguishable from modern ones? How was the hypothesis statistically validated? T-Test, Variance Analysis or else? I don't recall seeing any methodology description of how the data was analyzed for validity, perhaps I missed it. Averages don't constitute a validity test in by themselves. To what degree of freedom (probability that the null hypothesis is true) was the test result? How can the reader assess the degree of confidence in the validity of the hypothesis?
October 15, 2017, 10:48 AM · Fascinating thread!

The only unequivocal thing I have learned from reading both the thread and the Paris study paper is:

Whom I would never consider purchasing an "antique" fiddle from.

October 15, 2017, 12:10 PM · Er, I do not see Yixi flaunting unverifiable know-how; just writing common sense..
October 15, 2017, 12:20 PM · I agree with Adrian on the subject of Yixi's remarks.

Volume/projection are important to soloists, but perhaps more importantly, they are things that can be quantified as well as subjectively evaluated. We can measure how many decibels of output a violin has, and then relate to that the audience's subjective impression of loudness. Scientific study has to start somewhere, and it's likely to be piecemeal.

Beauty of sound is much more subjective. I suppose one could run an experiment on perceived "complexity" of sound and compare that to the actual spectrum analysis of the sound, but that's far more complex to analyze.

October 15, 2017, 12:20 PM · As a maker I believe the benchmark or standard should be clearly defined, for my own work at least. Rather than attempting to equal unknown old Italian violins I prefer to concentrate on known masterpieces with irrefutable tonal quality and playability.
The Vieuxtemps del Gesú and Il Cannone were not part of this experiment, if they were might the results have been different? These are relatively intact Cremonese violins which have not been subjected to extensive repairs, regraduations etc. Can the same be said for the violins which were used for the Paris experiment?
October 15, 2017, 1:20 PM · Now that's rude, Mr. Ballara. It doesn't matter if you are Maxim Vengerov, talking down to others as if they were your inferiors in a friendly violin forum is not appropriate. Have never seen such an arrogant tone from the few soloists and professionals who have posted in this forum throughout the years. Be proud of your career-as well you should-but don't let it go to your head; the amateurs and "not as experienced/good/"real" players as you" here are as much a violinist as you are, whatever your ego tells you.

Nevermind that many professionals also refute your views as a professional, whether they are right or wrong.

Elitism is dumb. Anyone is free to express their mind, whether they have attained your "brilliant status" or not. Let them be.

And no, I am not "attacking Carlo", but pointing out a fact. What he did there is just wrong, period. One does not need to put others down to validate his/her views-whether you are Zukerman, or a 57 year old amateur beginner-it's RUDE, and against the spirit of this forum.

October 15, 2017, 1:34 PM · I dont understand why this forum always brings Ill Canone as example of a great violin. Most players that played on it did not even like it. It is also not the nicest sounding violin around.
Despite his past favourite owner and a glare of myths this is not one of the worlds best violins.
The Vieuxtemps maybe, I did not hear it live myself yet but at least most players having the possibility to play it seem to really love it.
October 15, 2017, 1:49 PM · I agree with Yixi that one doesn't need to be a pro violinist to smell a steaming pile of dogmatic, wholly unsubstantiated BS. Many of us commenting here may be amateurs, but the violinists involved in the study were definitely not! The article is about their impressions of the violins involved in the study. Or did I miss something?

I agree with Roger that the lack of simple null-hypothesis testing statistics in the article is a serious deficiency, and I'm disappointed that the PNAS editors would not have asked for something more there. Still, Sung worked it out (scroll up) and it's pretty compelling. As I always tell my chemistry students, it's not WHAT is known, but HOW it is known that matters. It's much better to have the methods and data in front of us than only the authors' conclusions.

Now everyone calm down and go listen to the Emersons play the Schubert C Major Cello Quintet D956 featuring Rostropovich. I've been listening to Schubert all afternoon and feeling fantastic. (The Impromptus for Piano with Murray Perahia are amazing too.)

October 15, 2017, 1:53 PM · At the 1994 exhibition of del Gesú violins held in the Metropolitan museum of Art the general consensus was that the sound of Il Cannone rose above all the other violins present. The virtuousi I have spoken to about it described it as the best they had ever played. It sounds remarkable to me...but each to their own.
October 15, 2017, 2:31 PM · That's the difficulty with subjectivity. For instance what's a great wine? In one particular blind test (don't remember the source unfortunately), some "wine experts" couldn't consistently recognize a white wine from a red... never mind what was good and wasn't! In the non-blind part of the test, they highly praised one wine over other less expensive ones, when actually unbeknown to them, they were the same inexpensive wine in different bottles!
October 15, 2017, 2:32 PM · Carlo Ballara , show some respect for your fellow posters, we don't tolerate personal attacks.
Edited: October 15, 2017, 5:59 PM · Laurie, I have offended you and other posters here, for which I am sorry. You make a very fair point regarding respect and personal attacks, and I will abide by the rules of your site.

Yixi, I apologise unreservedly and retract the very childish comment I made about your amateur status. Now, in the spirit of mutual respect and balance, would you please retract the personal comment you made about me in an earlier post, where you called me "amoral"?

Cheers Carlo

October 15, 2017, 3:49 PM · I see where you are coming from Roger, and I've seen plenty which would support your thesis.
Ultimately, however we know nothing other than what we have been told and shown. And there comes a point where we must decide.
October 15, 2017, 4:09 PM · Paul,

I love the Schubert Quintet in C Major, especially the second movement. I first heard the music in The Human Animal, a BBC nature documentary series narrated by Desmond Morris.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:28 AM · Carlo, I believe Yixi called you "amoral," not "immoral (as you had written before editing it.) In case you don't know the meaning:

lacking a moral sense; unconcerned with the rightness or wrongness of something.

Along with several of us she was calling into question the basis of your self professed actions, not your person.

Edited: October 15, 2017, 5:39 PM · Back to Schubert...

Quartetto Italiano playing Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" has to be one of my favourite recordings. They used all metal stringing and were all at this time, playing brand new Cappichioni instruments. It is a most thrilling sound especially in the First Movement and could be used as an argument in favour of modern instruments. The tone in the second movement is less convincing however, being IMO, a little raw and new sounding.

Cheers Carlo

October 15, 2017, 5:45 PM · I do love the Quartetto Italiano recordings, generally speaking. As a curiosity (I prefer gut), I wonder what steel string brand they did all use.

(Will try to ignore all other horrible noise in the thread as best as I can.)

Edited: October 15, 2017, 8:08 PM · Roger said: "What was the experiment's null hypothesis? Was the hypothesis that old instruments aren't distinguishable from modern ones? How was the hypothesis statistically validated? T-Test, Variance Analysis or else? I don't recall seeing any methodology description of how the data was analyzed for validity, perhaps I missed it. Averages don't constitute a validity test in by themselves. To what degree of freedom (probability that the null hypothesis is true) was the test result? How can the reader assess the degree of confidence in the validity of the hypothesis? "

My remarks below are rather dense in statistical jargons so you have been warned!

Actually the experiment consisted of several components, but it is safe to assume the null hypothesis is as you stated, loosely speaking. Statistical considerations were not explicitly stated or formal test conducted.

Depending on the specific component in this experiment, a T test may or may not be relevant. Where a T test is relevant, an Analysis of Variance does not give you more insight because you are comparing only two populations.

If you read the paper carefully, their methodology was thoroughly described.

Averages themselves are insufficient to assess the validity of the test, but since no formal statistical test was done, it is a rather moot point. On the other hand, as a means for descriptive statistics, they are adequate.

Contrary to what you stated, the degree of freedom is NOT the probability that the null hypothesis is true. Roughly speaking, the degree of freedom is the number of usable data points after a test statistic is estimated from data. Unless you are going Bayesian, the "probability that the null hypothesis is true" is meaningless.

The authors skipped formal statistical tests. Instead they relied on descriptive statistics, but a keen reader can be sufficiently informed based on their findings.

I am finishing up my long drivel by quoting two paragraphs in the Conclusion section of the paper, in which I don’t sense any systematic bias in their approach or interpretation:

“Soloists readily distinguished instruments they liked from those they did not, but were unable to tell old from new at better than chance levels. This emphatically confirms the findings of the Indianapolis experiment and indeed many informal listening tests conducted over the years.

There is no way of knowing the extent to which our test instruments (old or new) are representative of their kind, so results cannot be projected to the larger population of fine violins. But given the stature and experience of our soloists, continuing claims for the existence of playing qualities unique to Old Italian violins are strongly in need of empirical support.“

Edited: October 15, 2017, 11:08 PM · Thank you Sung, I appreciate the clarifications. Admittedly after 40 years my familiarity with stats is a little rusty. One thing I do remember clearly though from my science days is that how the data will be treated and analyzed in order to arrive to a valid conclusions ought to be determined beforehand as it dictates the size/number of data points needed in the study.

It is I think unfortunate that this (and other before) studies omit to apply a strong scientific discipline to their "experiments". They have spent considerable efforts obviously in repeating previous un-conclusive studies, and from the onset by not establishing the conditions that would lead to a strong conclusion, was doomed to be weak from the start. They even chose to out-select some samples (instruments), hence in effect influenced the result!

Interesting exercise I admit, and not so surprising observations, which is pretty much stating the obvious. From what you quoted I'll paraphrase what they concluded: soloists know what they like, but couldn't tell old from new in the instruments sample they liked. Unfortunately we can't generalize because we failed to assemble a representative sample of the larger population of fine violins, hence (read between the lines) we need more money for more studies! ... They sound like consultants!

October 16, 2017, 2:07 AM · While on tour in Britain Paganini is supposed to have brought Il Cannone to a local violin-maker for emergency repairs. George Craske the repairer removed the front (necessarily or not) and studied the dimensions closely, basing many of his subsequent violins on what he found. Paganini, however, found that Craske had let the genie out of the bottle and spoiled the sound. I wonder how many other repairers have left their mark on it since, and how a violin that apparently doesn't get regularly played can still sound so good? Probably even better than my Craske violin which must have been made after that date although it doesn't conform to del Gesu's or it seems any other identifiable model.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 3:17 AM · I just must join in, though I haven't read every post...

"Projection" is not just "loudness" but a predominance of frequencies ("formant") either side of the 3kHz mark. Under the ear, this sounds harsh, but at a distance it allows a solo violin (or solo singer) to be heard over a complexe but "rounder" orchestral or pianosound. Can be associated with "nasality" (either side of 1.5kHz).

Sources? Many books on "the science of sound"; but try googling "singer's formant".
(Not to mention my own measurements on my own instruments.)

I have an old Wailing Banshee violin ("Maidstone" brand) which is very loud but replaces Projection with Agression (either side of 750Hz)....

Folks may not agree on the exact frequencies.

October 16, 2017, 4:05 AM · Clear your violin was named after the Maidstone Symphony Orchestra (just joking - actually it's rather good).
October 16, 2017, 4:40 AM · Roger, out-selecting some of the instruments may have been necessary due to constraints of time and funding. The same thing happens in all areas of science. As for "considerable efforts obviously in repeating previous un-conclusive studies," if there is no clear distinction between the two sets of violins under the conditions applied, that's a conclusion! Chess grandmasters are not deterred by the fact that most of their games end in draws. To say that they neglected to apply "strong scientific discipline" is unfair. The experiments themselves seem to have been conducted as thoroughly as one can expect within reasonable practical constraints. Moreover, they may have quite deliberately tried to eliminate or control for parameters that were considered deal breaking to the "pros know" crowd in previous studies. Finally a word about Carlo's beef that they didn't name the exact violins. In medical research one doesn't name the test subjects either, but the findings are not invalidated thereby.
October 16, 2017, 4:52 AM · Imagine a study comparing European to American cars where they didn't name the cars, same difference.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 5:12 AM · Comparing those categories could certainly be done. Doing it "blind" though might be a special challenge. LOL

But the funny thing is that if they used very expensive cars in one category, and much less expensive cars in the other, people would complain that it was unfair, because the much more expensive cars obviously had an advantage.

I wonder why we don't hear more complaints like that with the Paris test? ;-)

October 16, 2017, 5:29 AM · Lyndon, I do not see how that rather problematic comparison between european and american cars undermines the comparison between old italian violins and contemporary international makers' violins.

The very reason behind the violin study is not essentially to prove whether contemporary is better than ancient. I think the logic behind this is to dig into the allure that the old italian instruments necessarily are better than the contemporary ones and to futher test it out, in a chain of evolving tests. As the phrase explicitly states: "But given the stature and experience of our soloists, continuing claims for the existence of playing qualities unique to Old Italian violins are strongly in need of empirical support.“ (Sung Han brought it to our attention)

The conclusion is interesting in that,without being conclusive,it finds that the onus is on that idea (that old italians are necessarily better) to prove itself in more tests because it hasnt proved itself in this one. This is a much more nuanced way of thinking that what theyre being accused of (by some not all).

I have yet to read a solid proof that tbe real intention is to market contemporary violins in a direct or indirect way.

October 16, 2017, 5:52 AM · Yeah, this test hasn't PROVED much of anything.
October 16, 2017, 5:57 AM · i take that back, the study has PROVED that people will believe what they want to believe!!
October 16, 2017, 6:07 AM · Pretty ironic, tbh.
October 16, 2017, 6:33 AM · To follow up quickly on Sung Han's post...

Think of "Null Hypothesis" as "No Connection", i.e., there is no connection between being a world class violinist and distinguishing between fine old and new violins.

A Null Hypothesis is assumed to be true at the start of a test because, if it is true, one can make meaningful predictions about the test results. One can then look at the results and, say, within some measure of statistical confidence, that the observed results are unexpected if distinguishing between old and new was just a matter of a lucky guess.

IOW, you do not prove a Null Hypothesis is true. You are looking to show it is unlikely to be true because many comparisons successfully distinguished between old and new violins.

In terms of the Paris experiment, one was always comparing an old to a new. Six old and six new gives 36 unique comparisons. The double blind part randomly selects which of the 36 comparisons are given to each player. I forget now, but wasn't each player given 3 comparisons?

Another way of looking at it: so many comparisons failed to tell an old from a new that the final collection of results is what we would expect to happen given the Null Hypothesis.

October 16, 2017, 6:36 AM · Paul, I may have plenty of beef, and clearly a smattering of BS, but I never commented on the naming of "exact violins". You are confusing me with another poster.

Cheers Carlo

October 16, 2017, 6:41 AM · The players were given 30 sec each to compare the old vs new pairs, thats hardly enough time, and some soloist did much better at distinguishing old from new than others, so this hardly proves anything, they may not have had enough time, and you wouldn't expect all soloists to be able to distinguish old from new, just some IMHO
Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:02 AM · After the test and 752 posts here, I'd say the whole take away is, no matter how objective they try to make the test, it still ends only subjective at best. I'm good with that, but then, I'm not the one paying tens of thousands to millions for a violin.
October 16, 2017, 7:13 AM · Lyndon, please actually read the following:

b) Selection of test violins

In the Paris preference tests [8], ten soloists were presented with six new and six Old Italian violins (including five by Stradivari), which had themselves been preselected from a pool of nine Old Italian and 15 new violins made available by dealers, collectors, players, and makers (see [8] for details of the pre-selection process). Over the course of two 75-minute individual testing sessions, the soloists were asked to (1) eliminate any instruments they found unsuitable; (2) choose from the remaining their four favorites, then rank these four in terms of overall preference, and (3) select the single violin that would best replace their own violin for an upcoming concert tour. Time limits restricted the number of violins that could be tested for projection to three new and three old.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:18 AM · jeewon read the study, they were given 30 sec per instrument for the old vs new section. They had much longer time to select their personal preference and 4 soloists out of the ten chose a Stradivari.
October 16, 2017, 7:23 AM · I revisited the paper to refresh my memory on the test. I did not recall the old vs. new test correctly, so I will correct it here.

To Lyndon's point, the old vs. new test consisted of 10 violins handed, in random order, to each player. They then had 30 seconds to decide if the violin was old or new. They were not actually comparing violin A to violin B.

This would test any obvious differences between old versus new. If there is a more subtle difference in tone and playability between old and new, then 30 seconds might not be enough time. But that also says something important about the difference, IMO.

The preference and performance rating tests where much more extensive and the soloists were given much more time than they said they needed to evaluate a violin.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:27 AM · SO they weren't even given a choice between an old and a new violin, they had to guess each violin individually, that's even more difficult. Also are the results of this survey even in the study, or just the averages.
October 16, 2017, 7:32 AM · If there were clear differences between old and new violins (note: at this level of making quality), 30 seconds would have been enough to make a reasonable guess. 30 seconds with a violin is enough time to get a quick first impression.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:36 AM · Ah, I see the confusion. I was quoting from the 2017 study. Haven't read the previous study.

But anecdotally, from my experience, and based on observing fellow players testing instruments, first impressions are immediate.

Edit.: I second Lydia

October 16, 2017, 7:42 AM · I'm quoting Laurie Niles, I believe Laurie said the 30sec test was the Paris study, not the previous Indianapolis study.

Carmen which study are you quoting.

October 16, 2017, 7:59 AM · Old vs New is a fairly subtle difference, and some old violins sound new and some new violins sound more like old, I don't see how a 30 sec impression counts for much at all. Why limit it to 30 sec unless you have an agenda to "prove" there is no difference.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:04 AM · It was the Paris study, here's a quote from the Abstract of the Paris study

Next they were presented with a series of violins (one at a time, in random order) and given 30 s to play each one before guessing what kind of instrument it was. If a soloist was unclear about the meaning of the question, he/she was prompted to guess whether the violin was new or old. The series consisted of (i) that player’s favorite old violin; (ii) the player’s favorite new violin; (iii) an old and a new violin the player found unsuitable; (iv) the old violin and the new violin that, in session 1, were most often included in top-four lists and that were on average most highly ranked within those lists; and (v) the old and the new violin that were most often rejected as unsuitable in session 1.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:10 AM · They were testing specific statements made by experts.

from "Player preferences among new and old violins":

Weinreich (1) argues that any experienced player can classify a violin as a “student,” “decent professional,” or “fine solo” instrument; furthermore, “the judgment would not take more than about 30 s, and the opinions of different violinists would coincide absolutely.” According to Langhoff (13), “any musician will tell you immediately whether an instrument he is playing on is an antique instrument or a modern one.” Neither of these hypothetical statements has been tested, and, apart from recent preliminary results (14), the research literature contains no well-controlled studies on how violinists rate violins or whether they can distinguish old Italian violins from old French or new American violins by their playing qualities alone.

There seems to have been multiple studies done and 2 papers I could find. I should distinguish between studies and papers.

The 2017 paper is titled, "Listener evaluations of new and Old Italian violins."
PNAS access is restricted, but you can download it from:

October 16, 2017, 8:08 AM · 30 sec is not enough time, end of story. Quit trying to justify every crappy decision the studies authors made, just because you like their conclusions.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:18 AM · They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.

Not justifying anything Lyndon. Just trying to present the facts.

"Quit trying to justify every crappy decision the studies authors made, just because you like their conclusions."

As I said before, I have not found a contemporary fiddle I love. I don't like or dislike their findings, but find them interesting, given all the "...dogmatic perpetuation of romantic myths rather than the understanding of scientific facts," I was fed and grew up with.

In fact, I would say I have a bias against their results, but find the studies compelling enough to KEEP AN OPEN MIND. Yes I raised my voice just now.

They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.
They were testing specific statements made by experts.

October 16, 2017, 8:23 AM · Seems like if you set out to prove so called "experts" are wrong, it makes things quite easy,no one in there right mind would claim you can tell old vs new by only playing it for 30 sec.

They didn't just set out to prove these "experts" wrong, they set out to claim there is no difference between the sound of old vs new violins, on average, which is an absurd and totally wrong statement

October 16, 2017, 8:25 AM · my guess is the soloists were under so much pressure from the study that some of their ability to make discerning judgments just snapped.
October 16, 2017, 8:30 AM · The "Old or New?" test resulted in 69 total guesses: 33 with new violins and 36 with old violins. All results are presented in the paper.

15 guesses about new violins were correct, and 18 guess thought the new violin was an old one.

18 guess about old violins were correct, and 13 thought old violins were new ones.

5 of the guesses were ambiguous.

You would be better served by reading the paper yourself because they present the results in various interesting ways.

An interesting result deals with guesses and preferred instruments. The method for selecting the violins to be guessed at by each player included violins that they had selected as a "top 4" in the previous performance rating sessions.

12 new violins and 9 old violins were "top 4" in this part of the test. Yet players guessed they were old 14 out of 21 guesses. This suggests a perception bias: if a player likes a violin, there is a marked tendency to think it is an old violin.

The opposite, however, is not true. Violins that had been rejected for performance reasons were likely to be guessed as new or old.

One of the strangest results concerns the highest rated and lowest rated old violins, and the highest rated violin of them all, a new one.

The highest rated old violin was correctly guessed as old most of the time. One might claim, "Aha! The best of the old can always be recognized as such!" Except the almost universally rejected old violin was guessed as new most of the time.

Looks like a case of confirmation bias.

For the highest rated violin, a new one, players were split over whether it was old or new.

One thing that comes across from the paper is the huge variability in preference among the soloists. Every violin tested, old or new, was rejected by at least two different players as not suitable.

October 16, 2017, 8:35 AM · So on average the picks were slightly more likely to be correct than wrong, that's what your synopsis seems to indicate.
October 16, 2017, 8:36 AM · Jim Auckerman October 16, 2017, 7:02 AM: · "After the test and 752 posts here, I'd say the whole take away is, no matter how objective they try to make the test, it still ends only subjective at best."

Exactly. The only thing that so far has been "proven" is that all people can not always distinguish old from new under all conditions. After that, it's all yammering about one's own beliefs.

October 16, 2017, 8:38 AM · "no one in there right mind would claim you can tell old vs new by only playing it for 30 sec."

Apparently, they have, in published articles which the Indianapolis paper identifies.

October 16, 2017, 8:41 AM · Well obviously "they" are not authorities then, what does that prove??
Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:47 AM · Or they are not in their right mind, correct? ;-)

Is this how you categorize those who don't agree with you?

October 16, 2017, 8:51 AM · That doesn't logically follow, some supposed authorities made outrageous statements that cannot be supported, still doesn't address the often glaring differences between old and new violins, does it??
October 16, 2017, 8:57 AM · Both "Fritz" studies tested the notion, and published their findings.
October 16, 2017, 9:01 AM · Your welcome to come visit with one of your violins and a Strad, I'm pretty confident I could tell the difference, I've already done this once before with another very respected maker.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:08 AM · How about you show up here with the Strad?

I'm kinda busy. ;-)

October 16, 2017, 9:08 AM · my Strad is at the pawn shop right now!!
Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:26 AM · Well, the argument for old vs new so far in this thread has been "because that's what I have experienced in my professional life, or is what I am convinced of."

The "if you don't agree with me, you must have an agenda or be wholly out of your mind" argument is so logically weak, it doesn't merit being addressed. Any serious scientific discussion must be open to admit error where applicable. If you are close-minded, it's not worth discussing any test in the first place.

The test isn't "biased" because the players could all have chosen the Strads, if indeed they are always indubitably tonally superior. A risk was taken so as to "prove" moderns are always "worse" instruments.

I frankly love violins modern and old, so for me, moderns that compete well or
are subjectively better than excellent old instruments is nothing to be worried about-on the contrary, it should make us admire the current general state of modern violin making. The "old guys" will FOREVER retain their "cult status" and expensive prices anyway, no matter how impressive new instruments get to be. A win for all, and for the art itself.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:52 AM · the whole problem is playing music, repairing instruments,even building instruments is an art, not a science. Makers that have introduced science into the process have not especially been able to demonstrate any superiority to people that just build instruments the way they were built 300 years ago. Attempting to introduce scientific studies to the violin are almost doomed to failure, because art does not translate well into scientific testing.

People that answer every comment about sound quality, with you have to test it scientifically to see if its real, are missing the whole point of music, music is subjective, not objective, Thank God we do have people that can hear differences between old and new violins, some stupid "scientific" test is not going to stop them from having the ability to hear differences between all ranges of violins, they are the ones that should be praised for their abilities, not publicity seeking scientists with an axe to grind.

October 16, 2017, 10:21 AM · I would not count out science per se.
You told us you come from hifi, thats a very good example where science allows to understand and slowly progress.
Still I know a physicist listening to empty cds to hear bit mistakes during reading. Impossible to tell him anything with sense about it. Reminds me of here.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:33 PM · "Makers that have introduced science into the process have not especially been able to demonstrate any superiority to people that just build instruments the way they were built 300 years ago. Attempting to introduce scientific studies to the violin are almost doomed to failure, because art does not translate well into scientific testing."

I remain open to both camps, and everything in between.
To me, life is about learning, and not about taking hard dogmatic positions, when there remains so much yet to learn.

Should Joseph Curtin, or Sam Zygmutowicz be considered to be among the more successful makers, it's interesting to note that both have been highly involved in various kinds of "scientific" studies. Might be coincidence, or maybe not.

October 16, 2017, 11:25 AM · The "tell old vs new by only playing for 30 sec" assumption may be worth testing in a following study. This may be true a majority of the time for most violins, but when dealing with the best of the best, the differences, if any, may be more subtle. At least one soloist who plays strads has commented it took him months to get that little extra out of the instruments (
October 16, 2017, 11:32 AM · i don't think that the study's authors have actually tried to do anything other than shoot holes in the equivalent of a couple of old wives' tales about violins.

Like any such study, the results drawn are pretty narrow. People may have reasons to wildly exaggerate the results in one direction or another, but pay attention to what the paper actually says.

(There has obviously been plenty of press hype around these experiments that has resulted in a ton of smug non-violin-playing mansplainers going around telling people that there's nothing special about a Strad. I always want to punch these people.)

Edited: October 16, 2017, 12:19 PM · Roger St-Pierre wrote:
"At least one soloist who plays strads has commented it took him months to get that little extra out of the instruments "

How would that be different, with any instrument or repertoire? I really want to know.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 12:16 PM · The pro-modern views expressed on Vcom do not match those in the real world. Go to at a professional orchestra and ask the players if they prefer old or new, and ask them what they are playing. You will find there are not significant numbers of violin makers in their midst skewing the results.

Now before I am accused of bias (I own old and new instruments), being wealthy (I work for my money like everybody else), being old (I am 48), or being dogmatic and unscientific just go and look. The reality that the majority of professionals actually use antique instruments is a FACT.

Now, I haven't played in American orchestras. So I can't speak for the USA. I have played in Swiss, German, Italian, English, and Kiwi orchestras and that is what I have observed. Maybe a professional from America can chip in with their observations.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 16, 2017, 12:08 PM · As I previously noted, the 30 second identification of old/new per violin was done in a rapid succession in a mere 7 minute period. A more important and meaty part of the experiment is two sessions of 75 minutes each when each violinist was given free reign to test all 12 violins, evaluated and selected or rejected according to their preference. The result is summarized in Table S1 on page 17.

These violinists are basically household names for those who know anything about the current violin world. Those who insist that those participants were not given enough time are contradicting the opinions of these violinists. This is essentially rejecting the their collective qualifications.

If the participants had felt the experiment was unfair to them or inadequate in some significant ways, they would have no trouble voicing their concerns.

October 16, 2017, 12:04 PM · Lyndon Taylor wrote October 16, 2017, 8:35 AM ·

So on average the picks were slightly more likely to be correct than wrong, that's what your synopsis seems to indicate

33 correct and 31 incorrect.

This says nothing about the 33 correct being actual cases of players being able to tell violins apart with any degree of confidence. All the players got some guesses wrong.

Since 33 to 31 is so close to a perfect 50% split, the Null Hypothesis is accepted with a high degree of statistical confidence.

To see an example where the Null Hypothesis is rejected, one can look at the results of the highest rated and lowest rated old violins. Something happened there to influence the results.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 12:12 PM · I'm sure if you asked most pros if they'd prefer a Strad (with good playing qualities, since not all of them are still great) or their current violin, and many would choose the Strad.

But that's not the choice that most players make. For most players, the choice involves using a fixed amount of money to acquire a violin and bow good enough for professional use, and preferably still have some money left over for a house, car, and retirement (not to mention repaying student loans).

I tried a Joseph Curtin this past weekend (see the "Contemporary makers" thread: LINK) and I can tell you that I absolutely could not have identified it as new or old, based on how it sounded and played. (The same was true of some of the other violins I tried, there too.)

October 16, 2017, 12:13 PM · Carlo,

What you suggest is very problematic and does not pass the basic level of scientific scrutiny. If you think the Paris study is so faulty, shouldn't you at least suggest a better study design?

Edited: October 16, 2017, 12:51 PM · @Sung. Why don't professionals sell their antique instruments and buy cheaper modern? They would have change in their pocket and a "better" violin. They don't because they know an antique violin will serve their musical needs in a way that a modern cannot. I'll leave the design studies for those with an axe to grind. Meanwhile I will observe the reality of what professionals, in my experience, choose to use.
The exception is violas. There seems to be fewer good antique instruments around. In that section there are many modern instruments

Cheers Carlo

October 16, 2017, 12:33 PM · I think part of the purpose of doing these studies is to try to identify, more objectively, what players perceive as more desirable. It's inadequate to talk about an "old" sound, for instance, if players can neither actually tell what's old and what's new, nor can that difference be measured.

Among other things, this helps contemporary makers figure out what qualities they should build into their instruments, and perhaps provide some ways of objectively measuring a violin under construction to see whether or not those goals are being achieved.

I suspect when most players say "old", what they are actually talking about is a rounded complexity and depth to the tone. Unfortunately, this is neither true of all old instruments, nor is it exclusive to old instruments.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 12:47 PM · Carlo wrote:
"Why don't professionals sell their antique instruments and by cheaper modern? They would have change in their pocket and a "better" violin.'

That's one one of the things these studies are attempting to answer. Undoubtedly, potential investment value can't be ignored.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:01 PM · Lydia you wrote

"For most players, the choice involves using a fixed amount of money to acquire a violin and bow good enough for professional use, and preferably still have some money left over for a house, car, and retirement (not to mention repaying student loans)."

I am sure that is very true. I think that the key point you make is "good enough for professional use". For many people "good enough" is not a high enough bar. When you bought your Vuillaume you wanted the best violin you could find, not one that was just "good enough". Personally if I don't play well I want it to be MY fault and not a limitation of my instrument.

David, you are right, investment can't be ignored. All the instruments in my collection have gone up in value, especially the Italian violins and French bows, but those with the least gain are the two made by living makers. These have only gone up in price in line with the prices currently charged. Therefore one could argue that buying a new instrument is a bad investment. Buying a genuine antique and selling it at retirement would seem to make better sense.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:08 PM · Here we go again...

Carlo wrote, "[t]he pro-modern views expressed..."

There are no pro-modern views (as opposed to anti-modern or pro-old) on this thread. There are pro-knowledge/pro-science posters versus you/Lyndon.

I would guess that most string players working today are steeped in the old mythology, so they are hardly likely to be free of bias.

Your bias has nothing to do with your ownership of old or new instruments, but rather your presumptions, and unwillingness to scrutinize them with objective testing.

I have no idea whether you own all your instruments or are in debt because of them. But no one accused you of being wealthy (what kind of accusation is that anyways?) Rather, some of us questioned your values, on how you choose to use your means. Nor can one be accused of having privilege (I'm not convinced you understand what it even is to be privileged, as is often the case for those blinded by it) as it's something we're usually born into. Some of us have questioned how you treat and judge others from your position of privilege. We've questioned your ethics, or whether you have any.

No one cares about your age.

We have accused you of being dogmatic and unscientific. Any reasonable person can glean that from your posts, your own words and attitudes.

I am a professional from North America, and I can tell you, anecdotally, ownership of an old (120+ yo) instrument correlates highly with demographics, as does home ownership. I have no idea what views are on the old v. new debate.

And there's one other bone that I can't let go of, that keeps bothering me...

You keep complaining about how others you presume to be beneath you, are less experienced than you, have less knowledge should defer to you. And yet you compare your 4 years of experience on a players committee at a church orchestra to Mary Ellen's decades of experience working in a symphony orchestra. It's yet another example of your double standards and hypocrisy. But that's not the thing I can't let go...

In light of the #Metoo campaign, the reminder that the right to liberty is always in jeopardy, the general regression of gender equality in the world, I can't believe you would presume to know the injustice women face in the workplace and mansplain it TO THEIR FACES! C'mon, grow up a little.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 4:21 PM · Carlo wrote:"Why don't professionals sell their antique instruments and by cheaper modern? ".

Perhaps because most professionals don't own old master's instruments, they are loaned to them, and the vast majority of professional (speculating here) probably own an antique which value is pretty much in line with that of top modern instruments. In either cases, there is no more money in their pockets, so they need to be "convinced" of WIIFM.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:44 PM · Jeewon. Every time I write, you seem to loose your self-control. For the record CSO is not a "church" orchestra. Please google "Christchurch Symphony Orchestra" and "Christchurch, New Zealand". You will find Christchurch is the city I live in. I feel you are very quick to attack my career but seem reluctant to be forthcoming with details of your own.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:21 PM · I'm in full control Carlo...

For all your whining about people filling in their bios, I wonder whether you misrepresent yourself. Again, it's not a personal attack, just a question of fact.

I've been very open about what I do whenever it's come up on a thread.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 3:04 PM · Carlo, please take a brief break from your posturing. I don't doubt that some things you have said are true, but the key point you have also made,intentionally or otherwise, is "good enough for professional use". For many people "good enough" is not a high enough bar. When you bought your Vuillaume, perhaps you wanted the best violin you could find for the price, or was it one that was just "good enough"?
Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:51 PM · jeewon, You're actually totally out of control making personal attacks throughout this thread, and not making any good points either!!

You have the nerve to lie and say you never accused Carlo of being wealthy, and follow it immediately with accusations of Carlo coming from a position of priviledge, I don't know where you come from but where I come from that means wealthy. You mention how you started out with a $12,000 Italian violin, I assume you did not pay for that, so maybe its you that come from the position of priviledge.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 1:46 PM · David, I am going to take a break, which I am sure will be a relief to all. But please fix my quote, you have rather jumbled your last post.

Over and out!


Edited: October 16, 2017, 2:30 PM · David is alleged to have written:
"Why don't professionals sell their antique instruments and by cheaper modern? ".

I did not write that.

October 16, 2017, 1:43 PM · I know at least one titled (and very fine) player who uses a modern violin by a living maker in preference over his old Italian. If I had $15K to spend on myself, I'd own one, too.

It's silly to look at numbers of orchestral players on new versus antique instruments as any kind of referendum. People buy the best instrument they can afford at the time they are in the market for one. What is available varies from year to year and location to location, and childless musicians from wealthy families are on a very different budget from musicians married to teachers, raising several children. I own a couple of perfectly nice old instruments that together aren't worth as much as the Kuttner I have the use of--and honestly, the Kuttner outplays my old violins.

October 16, 2017, 2:00 PM · I agree that saying "old instruments are nothing special" is a bit of a naive generalization (really, taking the other extreme and being silly about it), though proving as much was never the intention of the study.

No personal attacks whatsoever in Jeewon's posts I can see. Point them out. Talking down to others is indeed a much worse offense than anything Jeewon has stated.

October 16, 2017, 2:05 PM · Its hard to see personal attacks when you support the position of the poster, its a form of blindness, or shall we say double blindness.
October 16, 2017, 2:16 PM · About the lack of rigorous statistical analysis in the Paris PNAS paper: did anyone check the final published version? Most here, myself included, only read the preprint. Maybe PNAS did request such an analysis before accepting it for publication?
Edited: October 16, 2017, 2:26 PM · Now you typed out a specific personal attack for all to see, Mr. Taylor. Thanks for the "free sample". "You are doubly blind because your viewpoints don't adhere to mine." There's your attack.

What's more absurd is that your "us vs them" doesn't exist-I am neutral. But believe what you will.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 2:34 PM · Just as many others have said before, I don't think Jeewon is even capable of personal attack.

I was away from this thread for a few hours yesterday and apparently I have missed some drama related to my comments. I don't know if I should laugh or cry. It strikes me that a couple of posters who are accusing other "personal attacks" are the most frequent and fervent attackers themselves. I feel sad about them. Really. They must be in so much pain. They take any opposing view or question so personally. They constantly misread other's writing and get pissy about it. Having a discussion with such people needs big dose of ginseng, as we say in Chinese. But it must be harder to be them. Notice that I didn't even name any person's name. If you think this is personal attack, you've got your special definition for the term that will not serve you very well here.

October 16, 2017, 2:24 PM · I noted in the other Contemporary Makers thread that if I'd had tried these same instruments at the time that I bought my Vuillaume, practicality would probably have led me to choose a contemporary instead, even if they were not quite at the same level. For instance, Gusset's very fine violin, at $36k, would have allowed me to pocket a decent amount of cash from selling my previous antique, and still met my needs, and not made my husband have conniptions at the cash outlay. :-)

Instruments from great contemporary makers don't often come up for sale, though, and I've yet to be willing to take a chance on a commission. (I'm pretty certain that someday I will, in order to finally get the 7/8ths that I've always wanted and I suspect I'll want even more when I'm old enough to not want to strain my hands with bigger stretches, and likely also will need a more forgiving instrument).

On a practical basis, most pros compromise, and balance the desire for something better with their other material needs. As an amateur, my violin (and bow) is a staggering indulgence only vaguely mitigated by the fact that they have some investment value.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 3:15 PM · Lyndon wrote:
" Its hard to see personal attacks when you support the position of the poster, its a form of blindness, or shall we say double blindness."

Is that a note to yourself?

I don't have an investment in how the tests turn out, one way or another. I love both old and new violins. But I'd like to put emphasis on what the studies actually say, versus fantasy or agenda interpretations.

October 16, 2017, 2:42 PM · ("Hidden" fact-I love my so-called "antique" violin, but still fail to see the problem or harm with the cited study. The great old violins will never lose their value, and many will still sound amazing and be sought after for years to come.)
October 16, 2017, 3:18 PM · Yixi, its plain to see that that is yet another personal attack, and a pretty rude one.

i'm not basing my responses around attacking posters that differ with me, I'm posting attacks on the methodology of the study, big difference.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 5:18 PM · Lyndon, haven't you already invalidated yourself more than enough?

If you want more business, I don't think that this is the best way to go about it.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 3:37 PM · Carlo, I don't see a contradiction between the findings of the study and your observation regarding many or most professional players. The latter does not necessarily mean that the functionality of old instruments is superior...merely that, for more than a few reasons (investment, historical value, peer expectation, etc), they are more valued. This also does not imply that this exact sense of value will remain intact given the deveiling of some of the myths that underpin the current value (more than the merely economic). It doesnt imply that there will necessarily be such a devaluing either..but at least people would know better what theyre valuing in these instruments.

Religions draws many many adherents...this is not in itself a validatiin of the veracity of this religion, it is a validation, however, of the degree of success this religion had in drawing them to it. It is, however, a much more difficult thing to prove or disprove tge religions tenants than old vs newviolins since the former situates itself outside the framework of knowledge whereas the latter is hopefully well within :)

Edited: October 16, 2017, 3:39 PM · Now we're comparing religion to love of antique violins, well count me in!!

David, pardon me if I'm not a shameless self promoter.

October 16, 2017, 3:38 PM · Lyndon I can't believe you made me scroll through 800+ posts to check what I said. I still don't get this concept of being "accused of being wealthy." I think wealth, in and of itself, is morally neutral. It's what one does with wealth that can be submitted to some sort of moral judgment. Anyways, I said something like, from reading Carlo's post, which he has since deleted, in which he went on about his work and his owning 20 or 50 instruments (I can't remember the number) all I could surmise (guess) is that he is rather wealthy. Not an accusation--an assessment based on given information.

Now this question of privilege... I know it's hard for people of privilege to understand privilege, but try to follow. First a definition:

a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
"education is a right, not a privilege"

So yes privilege can be about money. You can be financially privileged, which means in a capitalist society, particularly the more libertarian it is, the more money correlates to privilege. But within that same capitalist society, if you were to join some monastic order, your wealth would give you no privilege, unless you could bribe your way to privilege. Or in a partially welfare state, like Canada, health care is a right, not a privelege, as it remains in the US, nobody's gonna go blind from diabetes here because of poverty. Privelege totally depends on context... to a point.

Right now, given the powers that be, wealthy, white males have the highest privelege in Western countries, and possibly the world. If you are born white, male and wealthy, by no design of your own, you automatically have more privelege in this world than most people. Now you can't be accused of being priveleged any more than you can be of being born. It's morally neutral. It's not the fact of privilege I take issue with, but the oversight, the presumption, the abuse of power from that position of privilege, that draws a moral judgment. If a class of people chooses to be amoral or immoral, there ain't nothin' nobody can do about it, especially if that class wields superior power, except gather together, rise up and try to revolt.

It's easy to be blind. Everybody has, at some point, or will overlook their own privelege and give offense to someone without. But most decent people, recognizing such oversight usually feel some sort of remorse, and make some effort at recompense, no matter how superficial, most people... But if you really don't give a sh!t, if you're amoral, what does it matter anyways?

October 16, 2017, 4:20 PM · To be fair to Jeewon, I was the one stating that Mr. Ballara spoke from a position of privilege. It was no insult, and he admitted he had a better upbringing than many other musicians, adding that nevertheless he worked hard to attain his current status.

In the modern era, the best sounding and available old Italians are rarely obtainable for many if not most-why are they still being pushed as the "pro norm" eludes me. This is not Mr. Ballara's problem alone-MANY keep perpetuating the idea, orchestras, teacher to students, etc.

Some people work hard all their lives and never get to Mr. Ballara's position, so I disagree with that famous notion that the poor are only so due to laziness, lack of "ambition", or whathaveyou. For similar reasons, not every violinist should strive for a bank-breaking old italian to attain true "pro" status, when they can do well with other great (I guess, "lesser") instruments. It is the talking down to others due to supposedly not having sufficient "pro standing", as well as intolerant attitudes ("only I know what I am talking about because of reasons") that come accross as unnecessary, and pointing it out is no insult.

Feel free to believe what you will, but there's no need to bully, humiliate, or berate others for believing differently than you do (of course I'll be accused of being a bully myself, but: "whatever you say, friend".)

October 16, 2017, 4:22 PM · @David, oops sorry for the misquote, I was reading your post. I've edited mine to reflect the proper attribution.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 5:03 PM · “It's easy to be blind. Everybody has, at some point, or will overlook their own privelege and give offense to someone without. But most decent people, recognizing such oversight usually feel some sort of remorse, and make some effort at recompense, no matter how superficial, most people... But if you really don't give a sh!t, if you're amoral, what does it matter anyways?”

Actually I admit I was wrong in my comments to Yixi, and sent her a personal apology. It is totally up to her whether she chooses to respond.
I object to being labeled white. I am Italian and grew up being very much the racial outsider in the white neighborhood in which I lived.

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 16, 2017, 5:46 PM · Carlo said: "@Sung. Why don't professionals sell their antique instruments and buy cheaper modern? They would have change in their pocket and a "better" violin. They don't because they know an antique violin will serve their musical needs in a way that a modern cannot. I'll leave the design studies for those with an axe to grind. Meanwhile I will observe the reality of what professionals, in my experience, choose to use.
The exception is violas. There seems to be fewer good antique instruments around. In that section there are many modern instruments."

As I said before, what you suggested would surely fail to pass the scientific scrutiny because of so many pitfalls in your approach, not because some scientists have an axe to grind.

People who easily reject the outcome of a solid scientific study while failing to give a coherent counterargument cannot expect themselves to be taken seriously. Fortunately there is only a handful of such people in this site. Unfortunately you are one of them.

From your numerous posts here, it is pretty obvious to me that you have basically no understanding about how scientific studies are done. That is perfectly fine with me because scientific research is not what you do for a living. However, it is not fine with me if you keep professing the knowledge in areas where you are a complete newbie, or when you keep trying to put down on others based on other non-scientific authority that you think you have.

p.s. If you think you can do a better job than those soloists who participated in the Paris study, i.e., if you are sure you can tell the difference between old and new instruments due to your personal familiarity, why don't you contact the authors and volunteer as a test subject for the next scientific project? Now that would be an interesting sequel to this saga.

October 16, 2017, 4:56 PM · You talk about us being opininated and yet your own comments are equally opinionated, Sung, in the real world all kinds of factors come into it, sometimes an equally priced antique beats the available moderns, sometimes the best sounding violin is cheaper and an antique, just because you have some study to make up you mind for you, doesn't excuse anyone from having to use their own ears and experience.
October 16, 2017, 5:03 PM · I did just receive a personal email from Carlo with sincere apology. Thank you, Carlo! I might have uttered some harsh words in response to some of the statements you and other have made, not intended to attack any one personally, but admittedly it can be perceived so, especially in the heat of debate. My apologies to anyone if what I've written has rubbed you the wrong way.
October 16, 2017, 5:12 PM · if you stick to criticizing ideas instead of people, you shouldn't get into any problems. Seems a lot of people seem to think my attacking ideas constitutes personal attacks, I'm sorry but it doesn't work that way.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 5:19 PM · Lyndon,

I don't know anything about violin restoration so I keep my mouth shut in the matter to avoid unnecessary embarrassment. Your numerous attempts at poking a hole in the Paris experiment have been repudiated by many people on scientific or logical grounds, but it does not seem to affect you at all.

Unlike you, I don't have any stake in the study. You may have a conflict of interest since you are in the business of rather old violins, but I don't. I think that is one of the fundamental differences between you and me.

Besides, I am willing to accept the outcome of a well-designed scientific study, and I would have equally accepted the Paris study if it came out in favor of old instruments. I don't think you have that much flexibility in your attitude or opinion. If you are not willing to change your stance according to the best, current evidence existent today, that makes you opinionated.

October 16, 2017, 5:26 PM · As I have pointed out many times the study was done in such a way that it doesn't prove anything other than this 6 violins did roughly as well as this 6 violins, other people are the ones making extrapolated conclusions about the merits of old vs new violins.
October 16, 2017, 5:39 PM · Lyndon,

Could I interpret your most current statement as an updated opinion? Your previous posts have been complete denial of the validity of the Paris study, basically calling it a fraud/scam.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 5:45 PM · Ive never denied that given the instruments (poorly?)selected, and the very short playing times for the soloists, and the pressure they were under, I'm not accusing the soloists of lying about their preferences. But that doesn't prove anywhere near as much as most posters are assuming it does IMHO
Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:05 PM · Lyndon,

Again you are disputing the consensus of soloists who actually participated in the study. It is clearly stated in the article that they were given two sessions of 75 minutes each, totaling 150 minutes to evaluate 12 violins, in addition to a 7-minute sequence of rapid fire guessing game.

I am not sure why you keep insinuating that the soloists were under time constraint and pressure while they were given more than the minimum time (50 minutes) that soloists thought was adequate for evaluation. This simple fact was pointed out multiple times by posters in this thread.

By the way, the structure of the experiment basically prevent the participants from injecting their personal bias to influence the outcome due to double-blindness. The best one could do intentionally would have been just to respond to those questionnaire in a complete random fashion.

However, since the participants do not know which one is modern or old violin, there is no systematic way to game the experiment. That's one of the reasons why the experiment is worthy of reference for all future endeavors in this direction.

p.s. Do you by any chance have memory problems? I am asking this not to ridicule you but I cannot think of another good reason for your repeating the same repudiated arguments.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:06 PM · I'm sorry but any expert will tell you that 50 min is not enough time to learn to pull the best tone out of a Strad and that they tend to be harder to play. Most people claim moderns are easier to play well at first than Strads, I think you're the one in denial of this.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:24 PM · Evidence please Lyndon. What experts? Who is most people?

Carlo, I never said you were white. I'm happy for you if you've had a sincere change of heart. On the surface it looks like you apologized after being reprimanded by Laurie, and you seem to be editing and deleting posts and information, even your bio, to paint a new picture, but hey, if it works, good on you.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:56 PM · Lyndon,

If you had read the article carefully, you would have realized that pulling the best tone out of a Strad was not one of the study objectives. You seem to attach your own free association to the interpretation of the study, but that's neither relevant nor scientific. If you wish to refute any of the study findings or methods, a proper quotation from the text is a good starting point.

October 16, 2017, 6:17 PM · @ Lyndon - Which modern? Which Strad? They are all over the place -- I don't think of Strads having a particular playing interface. Nor modern / contemporary instruments.

50 minutes is enough time to make some general conclusions, and certainly enough time to eliminate a violin that isn't working for you. I wouldn't buy something after 50 minutes.

October 16, 2017, 6:18 PM · Oh brother I feel like I'm up against a brick wall, anything to question the absolute superiority of every single aspect of this stupid study has to be attacked.
October 16, 2017, 6:20 PM · I'm leaving this thread, which has been most educational to me in many respects. After all is said, let's take a sober moment to listen, to take in what Mozart has shown us the magic of forgiveness, mercy and compassion that we desperately need in this noisy and troubled world:

Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:31 PM · Yixi,

Thanks for the video link. This could be a timely tribute to Mr. Roy Dotrice who played Leopold Mozart in the movie Amadeus. He died today at the age of 94.

October 16, 2017, 6:40 PM · Carlo wrote, "The pro-modern views expressed on Vcom do not match those in the real world. Go to at a professional orchestra and ask the players if they prefer old or new, and ask them what they are playing."

Come and live in America for a while, Carlo. What you'll understand, very keenly, is that popularity is hardly a virtue and proves absolutely nothing except, perhaps, the ubiquity of bias.

By the way, maybe 100 posts up, I apparently attributed a quote to Carlo incorrectly. Sorry about that. Hopefully I have not done so again.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:44 PM · "Oh brother I feel like I'm up against a brick wall, anything to question the absolute superiority of every single aspect of this stupid study has to be attacked."

Glad you feel that way. No one is attacking any questions, just correcting your misrepresentation of the study. To repeat the umpteenth time, the experts, i.e. the concert violinists, were asked how much time they needed. They, not the researchers, said 50 m. was adequate time. They were given 2h30m. It was experts, Weinreich and Langhoff, who claimed the qualities of an instrument, whether it was student grade, professional grade, concert grade, old, or new, could be ascertained in 30 sec. No one on this thread is making any such claims except when they speak of their own experience. So tell us more about these experts you refer to.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 6:58 PM · How much comparison of antique vs modern violins in different price ranges have you done, are all violins just as easy to play for you, do some take time to get used to, have you ever had a poor initial impression of an instrument and later found you liked it a lot more, have you ever been initially crazy about an instrument only to find out later it had real problems you were not initially aware of?? I'd be interested to hear how much experience you have with these kind of issues, or are you just letting other people make decisions for you??
October 16, 2017, 7:00 PM · Playing I-dont-know-whose adocate, is it possible that sme people are able to discern the difference between old and new? In other words, whether the study is also one that tests the human subjects as much as the violin ones. Wouldnt the study have to factor in and evaluate the human ability to sense out a difference (or inability) rather than assuming that all players (as fine as they are in terms of playing) equally have or equally lack) the same ability?
If not humans, maybe we need to employ hounds...
Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:12 PM · Good point Tammuz, that's been my contention all along, telling the difference between old and new, Strad and Modern is a art that most violinists are not going to be good at, but just because most people cannot do it does not mean that the differences are not there and that some discerning listeners can tell the difference. IMHO
October 16, 2017, 7:20 PM · I've actually never had a poor initial impression of an instrument and later found that I liked it more. I have been in situations where another player liked an instrument that I didn't like, usually because we have different physical approaches to tonal production and possibly a different sound concept.

Similarly, for instance, Andy Victor and I have both mentioned trying the same Strad some time back. I loved it, and it's still my mental reference for what I want out of a violin. Andy didn't like it. But we have extremely different physical approaches. (Many players apparently did not care for it; it did not like a heavier hand, and it required a lot of finesse.)

I continue to stand by an assertion that in the under-$100k range, the best contemporary makers are producing instruments that are fully competitive with antiques in that range. Individual instruments will vary; there will be a range of output quality for a given excellent maker, whether antique or contemporary.

Whether or not the very best contemporary instruments today are competitive against the very best antiques is a different question, and I imagine setting up that experiment would be quite challenging. (Most of the really great violins are in the hands of major soloists, like the "Soil" for Perlman, etc.)

Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:10 PM · Is that what you call asking for pedigree Lyndon? I've already written about some of my experience above. Very little of it was blind, so most of it was biased. The price range was from about 50K for moderns to 4.5M, mostly in the late 90s. The average price for contemporary was about 25K. The lowest price fiddle was 10K for a contemporary, and whatever my no name Italian is worth for an oldie (which my parents purchased for me; yes I was and am privileged, more compared to some, less compared to others, more than some in my line of work, being Asian, less than others in other contexts.) Off the top of my head I'd say I've sampled maybe 250+ instruments, 1/3 old, 2/3 modern/contemporary. My experience is similar to Lydia's. I can't think of an instrument I couldn't figure out within a few minutes. You just tinker with sound point, pressure, speed and adjust for the feel of the left hand. You push the envelope both at the bridge and way over the fingerboard. You try out different bow strokes. You go fast and slow. You play all the registers. You test drive it on different pieces and see how immediately you can get it to do what you want. You figure out pretty quickly whether you have to adapt to it or whether it just plays. There's not much to it.

So, how about those experts of yours?

Edit: oh, misread the question. I've not done any old vs. new, explicitly for the purpose of comparison, though I have tried old and new within the same trial period

Edit 2: not sure what you mean by letting others make decisions for me... no, I would never let someone else make the decision for me when purchasing a fiddle. Or do you mean regarding an assessment? Clearly you've not picked up on how opinionated and judgy violinist are ;) When we get together to trial instruments there's no making decisions for anyone else. LOL. There's some consensus, but everybody's gonna let everybody else know what they think (unless of course you hate the instrument your friend just bought. Then we only hate on it behind his back :)

Edited: October 16, 2017, 7:48 PM · tammuz,

For such a test to be justified, one needs a rather strong assumption that valuable old violins and modern violins have distinct sound characteristics in such a way that within-group differences are considerably smaller than the average difference between the old and new violins. Simply put, as a group, old violins should share a common sound that new violins do not and vice versa. However, no one has figured out whether this is true, and certainly this is different from testing whether a person is capable of hearing extremely high frequencies, in which the sound source can be tightly controlled.

Given so, it is next to impossible to determine the optimal criteria for human subjects who are highly sensitive to the supposedly minute differences of the old and new violins. So the next best strategy is to “round up” successful soloists who are recognized as having keen ears and have had extensive training and experience in solo tours. If these guys/gals cannot tell the difference as a group, then one can safely assume that the difference is negligible (if exists at all) for all practical purpose. Note that this does not exclude the possibility that one in seven billion people may be able to distinguish the old and new sound, but the chance is extremely unlikely.

Of course then there is the question of whether the listener likes the sound they hear or not, which is also subjective. Beauty is in the ear of the player indeed, and if you read the article, especially the supplementary section, the same violin was chosen as the best by some of the players while others rejected. Given so, would the use of hounds be advisable for the purpose? I don't think so.

October 16, 2017, 7:50 PM · I know that you have a good ear and all, but I can guarantee you that these players involved in the test were indeed "experts", and not part of this "majority" that can't tell instruments apart. Experienced players have a keen ear for what they want in an instrument. You'll find that many players don't care that much for historical value (unless they are affluent, of course), but more for sound, playability, and practical applications. All things being equal, I would go for an older or newer instruments if either sounds and plays better to me. So, my "agenda" is not for "new", but for whatever works best for me and my budget (I can almost guarantee that such a thing won't be an old Italian instrument, as good as many are.)

(With unlimited funds, sure, give me the "best" sounding old Italians, but I would also purchase some old French, that are so often unfairly maligned vs Italians. Also, many of the best sounding moderns of the world, for good measure.)

In your area of expertise, I would recommend people to test the available old workshop instruments first, then the Chinese you so much despise. Then choose whatever works. I am convinced there are hidden old-school workshop gems out there, but there are not that many, and some need to be restored (few get the repair shop love they may need.) Old violins can have a certain "magic", I would agree, but sometimes they just sound bad as well, and not better than some good modern Chinese models(they probably never had any "magic" to begin with). I am not "pro Chinese" or "pro modern" (this "us vs them" is false)-I am pro good violins that work as tools to make great music.

Even with the "relationship" you alluded to hundreds of posts ago, I disagree that this test has anything to do with your well-intentioned shop, so all this apparent anger you have against this so called "stupid" test has been misguided all along, as far as I am concerned. This is not about Yitas vs JTL workshop instruments, or German instruments (etc.) No need to be so "furious" over what is much about nothing, really.

Finally, unfortunately there aren't that many old workshop instruments vs modern Chinese. Some people don't have much choice. I would tell a violinist on this sort of budget to test old violins, just in case they can find that rare gem, but it will be a challenge. That's why so many "settle" for the modern workshop Chinese nowadays, I believe. I cannot agree, however, that EVERY old violin will be better than a Chinese at the same price-that needs to be tested by each player (referring to your business price average.)

Hope the above didn't come across as an "attack", but if it did, I can't help but disagree with such an assessment.

October 16, 2017, 7:54 PM · I work with players in the local symphonies and one of the top maker/dealers in Los Angeles. As I said early in this thread, I blind tested a Strad vs Modern by my maker friend in which the modern seemed better, albeit the Strad was in a sorry state of very little original varnish and decades of layers of French polish ( which gives a violin a hard edgy tone IMHO). SO I for one can ascertain that a top modern can beat a crappy condition Strad. And that I could easily tell which was old and which was new.

In the student to intermediate, and budget professional range that I deal in at my store, I've yet to hear a modern Chinese that can hold a candle to what I have in the same price range, but that's another part of the market from this study. Unfortunately people are using this study to infer that all modern violins beat all antiques in their price range, and that's the thing that annoys me the most, because it completely untrue.

October 16, 2017, 8:05 PM · "Unfortunately people are using this study to infer that all modern violins beat all antiques in their price range."

Again. No. You are the only one saying that people are saying that. No one is making any blanket statements except for you and Carlo. No. Nope. Not even.

"You'll find that many players don't care that much for historical value." I agree with Adalberto. We're a practical lot. Don't wanna pay for the insurance. Don't wanna pay for the up keep. Don't wanna worry about somebody smacking it. Don't wanna worry about it getting stolen. Don't wanna worry about damaging it. Don't wanna worry.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:07 PM · Lyndon said: "Unfortunately people are using this study to infer that all modern violins beat all antiques in their price range, and that's the thing that annoys me the most, because it completely untrue. "

Within the confines of this thread, I have yet to read one post that claims as such. Could you give me an example post which gave you such an impression? I am curious.

October 16, 2017, 8:08 PM · Adalberto,I can assure you there is no shortage of antique violins, what there is a shortage of is competent repair shops who's labour rate is not so high that the instruments become not worth the price of the repairs, that's where I find a niche market working for under half the labour rate of many stores, and in many case putting more careful attention into optimal set up than some of them do.

Sung, as often your assessments are not well thought out, and don't make sense. Just because you'rea soloist does not make you an expert on distinguishing old from new sound, all it means is that you are probably very picky about what sound works for you, and the things that on average make old violins sound different from new violins are not necessarily the tonal features that every soloist is looking for, for instance, volume has nothing to do with old vs new yet is very important to soloists, bright sound, again not a feature of old vs new, quite important to many soloists, so obviously they are not picking moderns because moderns do everything Strads do, only better, they are picking moderns because they like the sound of certain modern violins, and maybe even find the Strad sound old fashioned etc.

October 16, 2017, 8:17 PM · Sung and Jeewon, you both seem to be blissfully unaware of whats happening in the Modern Chinese vs Antique market I work in, I am. Let me tell you the exact same thing that is being said about the superiority of moderns over Strads, which this study did not even demonstrate, is being used by people all over this forum to talk about the superiority of Yitas, Miang Jiang Zhus and Jay Haides over antiques, in fact the comments usually revolve around this $2000 Chinese violins sounds better than antiques costing $15,000 etc etc etc. So while you may be not be aware of it, there's a lot of crap going on in the Old Vs New market in student/intermediate range as well, and studies like this are where a lot of these people get their prejudiced ideas about moderns being superior.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:30 PM · "I've yet to hear a modern Chinese that can hold a candle to what I have in the same price range, but that's another part of the market from this study." Have you tried a Shan Jiang? Used to be 5K in the mid 2000s. (I forgot about the Jiang. That was the lowest priced contemporary I've tried.)

As David has mentioned, I think we are at a loss as to why you keep bashing your head hard into that brick wall you just mentioned. As far as I can tell you are very passionate about a very niche business which could potentially serve a very large market, because most musicians still believe in the 'old sound' myth, like my friend who just dumped his '84 Japanese fiddle for a 19C German. You had the opportunity to broker a very nice Klotz right here on this very thread! Maybe you should do less arguing and more relationship building. Just a thought.

October 16, 2017, 8:29 PM · If I was trying to win a popularity contest I'd try to act more like David Burgess!!
October 16, 2017, 8:31 PM · Wow, 850 posts! What happened to the 100 limit?
Sorry, I have nothing to add to the discussion, just saying hi.

Hi! :)

Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:17 PM · Lyndon,

Your statements are self contradictory. For one thing, if the participants preferred a modern instrument more often than an old one, doesn't it indicate that top modern violins are better suited for the solo performance? Also, if these same violinists were able to figure out modern instruments due to their preference, wouldn't it be apparent in the outcome of the study? On the contrary, the outcome is that they could not tell the difference in one way or another on the whole.

My short summary of the study is that (1) although the soloists have their preference, their choice does not particularly favor the old sound in their lengthy evaluations; (2) Old versus new sound could not be easily recognized even after they had played the instruments for more than 2 1/2 hours in total.

p.s. In fact, on a lucky day I could easily beat the soloists in the guessing game. How? By flipping a coin, the chances are I can have more correct guesses than them.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:40 PM · "If I was trying to win a popularity contest I'd try to act more like David Burgess!!"

So you don't see a potential client in any of us, the frequent posters, the occasionals, the lurkers, any of their students, the parents, the friends of all of the above? Seems kinda short sighted to me.

October 16, 2017, 8:49 PM · Lyndon,

I respect David Burgess's opinion not simply because he is a famous violin maker (it matters too), but also because his is often the voice of reason even in heated exchanges. This is based on more than five years worth of my personal observations.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:54 PM · No, Jeewon, I certainly don't see you as a potential customer, your mind's already made up.

Sung, 4 of the soloists picked Strads, we don't have the individual picks of each soloist for old vs new in the study's results, obviously some soloists picked more accurately than others, averages don't apply when some people are making good guesses and others are not, maybe the good guessers were the ones that picked a Strad as they're favourite, I guess we'll never know as the studies authors didn't consider the data important enough to be made available to us. There's also that agenda, thing, they were trying to claim the old vs new guesses were statistically random to support their hypotheses that no one can tell the difference. Far be it from them to present their own data to reveal something different might have been going on.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 8:56 PM · "No, Jeewon, I certainly don't see you as a potential customer, your mind's already made up."

Already made up about what?

How about the rest of the membership?

October 16, 2017, 9:01 PM · i'm basically a local business, I don't really do mail order, I doubt any of our posters are in my local area.
Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:06 PM · Lyndon,

Have you ever read the paper properly? Table S1 on page 17 gives the detailed breakdown of their preferences in two sessions. Table S2 on pp. 18-19 gives the result of guesses by player, the exact information you said were unavailable. It is astounding that you did not bother to read it carefully although you have been a very vocal critic of the paper from the beginning.

October 16, 2017, 9:10 PM · It is important to distinguish the actual paper and its conclusions from the various ways that those conclusions have been distorted for marketing or other purposes.

Many of the posters here are attempting to have a rational discussion about the paper and its conclusions, without the emotionality that comes from the constellation of assumptions that others who haven't actually read the paper might make about it.

Whether or not you like the conclusions, please pay attention to the actual paper's text.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:18 PM · Sung, table Si on page 17 was an initial result, the final result was 4 picked a Strad and 6 picked a modern, the live listening test in the auditorium also moved the preferences more towards the old violins than the earlier indoor test. Although the studies author's tried to discount that effect.

I don't have time to read the study over and over, hence some of the mistakes I have made quoting it, I read the full study once and the abstract twice and that was quite enough.

Actually Lydia, this thread has born out that some of the studies proponents hadn't read the study any better than I had with the exception of Mr Burgess, who seems to be well aware of it.

Edited: October 16, 2017, 9:16 PM · How about word of mouth? How about social media?

You didn't say what I'd made my mind up about.

Edit: I have extended family in LA and SF. I know colleagues in LA Phil and SF Sym. My sister and brother-in-law went to USC. How many other members here have a connection close to you I wonder?

October 16, 2017, 9:23 PM · OK well if they're looking for very well set up antique violins in the $300-$5,000 range tell them to give me a call, I do know how to restore antique violins to their full potential, and my prices are quite reasonable

I have 50 instruments ready for sale, 1/2 size, 3/4 size, some violas, only one 3/4 cello, and a really great solid wood stand up bass.

I'm about 70 miles east of LA.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 2:27 AM · Paul wrote, "Come and live in America for a while, Carlo..."

No thank you. In 2015 I was in LA leading a chamber orchestra from NZ. One of our members was detained at the border and held for three days, until we moved on the European part of our tour. He was held, IMO, because he had a foreign name and "looked" Arabic. No satisfactory explanation was given, nor an apology.
Five years earlier, my wife and I went to Chicago for a wedding. We were treated appallingly at customs. I can only speculate that it was because my wife is Maori and we were travelling on Italian passports. Everything searched, questioned for hours. As if we wanted to stay... in the land of the free!

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 18, 2017, 9:49 PM · Wow, such a monster thread.. imho, regardless what and how all parties try to discuss or explane here, the trend towards new, contemporary violins blows up faster and faster. The experiments and papers of C.Fritz and J.Curtin help that [r]evolution, not created it.

So many many violin makers have a waiting list now, and some top soloists told the audience openly that he used a modern violin for the show, not a Stradivari or another old italian..

I'm sick of that "old italian" obsession. My friends scream all the time similar sentences like this one: "hear, [that soloist] A is using a Strad of 17xx.. how beautiful is the sound!".
I often have to say that they were wrong, because I know a little more about violins than them, and realized that the soloist was playing a new violin with some antiquing or a totally new violin.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 2:26 AM · Lyndon wrote:
"I don't have time to read the study over and over, hence some of the mistakes I have made quoting it, I read the full study once and the abstract twice and that was quite enough."

If you are going to make multitudinous and repeating claims about what the study says, shouldn't you read it as many times as it takes to get it right?

October 17, 2017, 4:18 AM · Sung Han, the hounds part was a joke indicating that if the difference was imperceptible, then we should employ houds instead of human players (ie absurd since we're the end users). Which is to say I was aware of your rationale in writing my last post :) but wanted to nonetheless to discuss to what extent the human factor could be discussed as a constant or a variable.

October 17, 2017, 4:24 AM · Carlo, what you write saddens me ... but unfortunately does not surprise me.
October 17, 2017, 6:05 AM · tammuz,

I was also not taking the hound bit seriously.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 2:26 PM · Sung, you didn't read the paper again, the paper does not give the individual old vs new selections of each soloist, only the overall averages, I you think you have the info maybe you should post it, but I just went over the link you mentioned and it had nothing to do with the results but rather the testing procedure

Edited: October 17, 2017, 2:23 PM · Lyndon,

page 17: Preferences of individual players
Table S1 summarizes how each player evaluated and categorized the twelve violins, in both sessions.

Page 18: Old versus new guesses
Table S2 summarizes all individual results – i.e. shows the old/new guesses of each player about each violin, and indicates the position of each violin in the ranking of that player.

The link to the paper has been posted already 5 times in this topic (this is the 6th time).

October 17, 2017, 2:31 PM ·
October 17, 2017, 2:33 PM · How many different Paris study articles are online, and that one doesn't analyse the results by player but by instrument.
October 17, 2017, 2:37 PM · Han N.,

Thank you. Your two pictures are worth more than my two thousand words :)

October 17, 2017, 2:41 PM · So how do you calculate the individual players accuracy without hours of reanalyses
Edited: October 17, 2017, 2:50 PM · Lyndon: "that one doesn't analyse the results by player but by instrument."

Which "that one"? I hope you're not referring to the one that I just referred to.

Edit: I see that you added a link to the 2017 paper. The Paris experiment that this forum topic was originally about was the 2012 experiment, published in 2014. The 2017 paper was about experiments conducted in Paris and New York.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 3:06 PM · yes I am. Tell me where it analyses players accuracy by person in columns, and not by instruments. I mean the data is there if you want to go to all the trouble of making your own survey, but that's rather a bit much to ask of us.

By the way the study linked to above is totally different from the one on Joseph Curtin's website which does not have this data at all.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 3:05 PM · Lordy lordy! I guess you can't fix stupid.

October 17, 2017, 3:03 PM · You mean the Paris study??
Edited: October 17, 2017, 3:16 PM · pnas paper
It seems to be available, or is it my university network having it unlocked?
supporting information

Thats what I read and its not full of all those claims some seam to interprete into it.

Btw, if you tell me you got science background but cannot read the table I wonder about that kind of science.

October 17, 2017, 3:14 PM · >virtual eye roll<
October 17, 2017, 3:27 PM · I have officially given up on this conversation btw just so everyone knows. I'm not going to go in and fix it.
October 17, 2017, 3:28 PM · It would take about an hour of detailed analysis to turn those tables into rankings of each players old vs new preferences, call me lazy if I don't have time for that.
October 17, 2017, 3:30 PM · I can see the published version from the PNAS website, too. Nice!
Edited: October 17, 2017, 3:34 PM · I can make that in five minutes with the whole table, thats about as long as I need to read it carefully.
October 17, 2017, 3:34 PM · Lyndon, you're lazy if you don't have time for that.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 8:50 AM · edit: double post
October 17, 2017, 3:43 PM · Oh nice we did reach 800+ in a week after my last post! At least there's new interesting posts while the other half being the loop I've predicted. I'm surprised with some people's persistence to convince inconvincible people. Is it really worth the effort?

Quoting my quote with my quote.

'Guys... quoting myself.
"there will always just be people who are stuck with their beliefs regardless of facts presented in front of them. Some more strongly opinionated and vocal about their beliefs than others. Most of the time there's really no discussion especially when there's only selected facts presented or none at all [by those people]. It's more of that person just wanting to project how "right" s/he is. Just ignore them."

It's just gonna be an endless loop. By next week this thread will reach 800 (unless Laurie closes it) with nothing new to the discussion.'

October 17, 2017, 3:44 PM · The perfect duplicate post. LOL
October 17, 2017, 4:00 PM ·
October 17, 2017, 4:13 PM · Hi Martin,

Here is a concise link:

That's a new vocabulary for me. Thanks.

October 17, 2017, 4:19 PM · This forum understands html tags:
use this for links:
Edited: October 17, 2017, 9:40 PM ·
Edited: October 17, 2017, 4:49 PM · Thanks Sung. I lost touch after 1786 anno domini!!
October 17, 2017, 4:44 PM · See what I mean!
Edited: October 17, 2017, 4:56 PM · If someone can analyse the data in terms of player preferences for old vs new in 5min, perhaps they could do so and print the results. That way we can easily see how much better some players did at guessing old vs new than other players. I'm sure they're just talking crxp, because its going to take a lot more than 5 min!! It took me 5 min to see that player 1 only made one mistake guessing old vs new.
Edited: October 17, 2017, 5:04 PM · its also interesting if you look at the Curtin published study, that the by far loudest violin ( at least 1.5 db louder), a modern N5, got the highest overall rating by the players, and how three of the moderns were louder than of all of the old violins.
Edited: October 17, 2017, 5:08 PM · Marc, can you please fix it?

We need a Hippocratic Oath for y'all nuts who feel the need to insert HTML, pictures, and what-nots into the the thread.

October 17, 2017, 5:16 PM · 1.5 db is well within the error bounds for a human audiograph measurement.

I believe it takes a 10 db difference for humans to perceive a doubling of sound volume, although the inscrease in sound pressure level is much greater than that.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 5:23 PM · The measurement was done by decibel metres, not humans. In audio equipment studies, a difference of as little of 1 db was enough to get listeners to prefer the louder amplifier.
October 17, 2017, 5:25 PM · nine-hundred-and-one
Edited: October 17, 2017, 6:24 PM ·

(Fix attempt.)

October 17, 2017, 6:13 PM · Could we get Marc to delete his original post that started the problem??
Edited: October 17, 2017, 7:21 PM ·

Maybe fixed? No, not yet.

Edited: October 17, 2017, 7:42 PM · It seems OK now. I think I got it.

Now we can all go back to regularly scheduled bantering...

October 17, 2017, 7:50 PM · All that time, Sung and you still haven't come up with a table of players preferences for old vs new??
Edited: October 17, 2017, 7:58 PM · Lyndon,

I have been a little busy trying to fix the code. Anyway, you have the complete data table now so if you want to say something out of it, it is your task and nobody else's. Don't you think so?

Edited: October 17, 2017, 8:17 PM · Perhaps Marc can do it while he's fixing the code he broke, he's the one that said it would only take 5 min.

I'm more interested in making a table to demonstrate how the louder violins were picked over the quieter ones.

October 17, 2017, 8:44 PM · Ask soloists to pick out violins for a solo tour, and they are almost certainly going to favor projection, even though pure loudness won't be the only quality sought.
Edited: October 17, 2017, 9:39 PM · Actually I cant fix it, I get 404 when trying to edit. It is problematic because I tried a depreciated way to show html tags printed. Inserting links and images is not a problem for this forum.
I hoped it to be only on the single post.
October 17, 2017, 10:02 PM · Ill do this in the evening if you are not able to. Btw, the time you discussed here is way way longer than you would have needed to look through the data for some answers instead of presenting wild guesses as outcome of the experiment.
Edited: October 17, 2017, 11:04 PM · OK I had an hour on hand to do this, forgive me if I made any mistakes

Soloist/ Correct/ Wrong/ ?????/
#1 / 5 / 1/
#2 / 5 / 3/
#3 / 4 / 2 / 1/
#4 / 4 / 4/
#5 / 3 / 2 / 2/
#6 / 3/ 3/
#7 / 3/ 3/
#8/ 3/ 4/
#9 / 2 / 4 / 1/
#10 / 2 / 5 / 1/

As you can see #9 and #10 did really bad. #2 and #3, and especially #1 did pretty good.

October 18, 2017, 12:19 AM · If you try to predict 7 coin tosses, you have 16% probability to predict 5 out of 7 correct or 21% for "at least 5 out of 7". The same probabilities are for 5/7 wrong and "at least 5/7 wrong". That's the binomial distribution for N=7, P=0.5. This table follows those statistics pretty well.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 12:59 AM · A bit of visualization:
October 18, 2017, 12:34 AM · Or some of them could have just guessed correctly, we're not flipping coins here!!
October 18, 2017, 12:39 AM · I did not count violins the player did not decide on, btw.

Lyndon, if you say it is possible to hear it for some the distribution must differ from a coin toss. I do agree that we would need more data to have this very clear, but it is also clear from the data that it is at least not obvious if a violin is old or new.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 12:58 AM · Fixed plot mistake
Its a pretty perfect gamble result tbh.
October 18, 2017, 2:20 AM · If you look at the individual instrument results, some of the choices seem far from random, some the instruments had tonal qualities most participants assumed were old or new, not always correctly.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 2:25 AM · I think what it proves is that most of the soloists did not have a good understanding of the tonal differences between old and new. Doesn't necessarily show those differences don't exist.

For instance most of the players assumed the loudest violin was a Strad, but it wasn't, it was a modern, and the most preferred old violin, a Strad, most people picked as old.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 3:07 AM · I think there's an error in Lyndon's counting for player 8; I find 2/4/0 (correct/wrong/unsure) rather than 3/4/0.

V/X/? for correct/wrong/unsure.

(And it took me more than 5 minutes, though less than an hour.)

Edited: October 18, 2017, 3:17 AM · Lyndon, yes, the studies don't necessarily show that differences between new and old don't exist.

However, they do suggest that whatever differences might exist, did not give the old instruments an advantage in player preference, audience preference, or projection.

October 18, 2017, 3:15 AM · What??? Only one mistake??? Yipee!!!
October 18, 2017, 3:19 AM · Do you guys ever sleep? Michigan (David) is 6:15 AM now, California (Lyndon) is 3:15 AM.
October 18, 2017, 3:35 AM · Han, about 12 hours elapsed between my last two posts. I typically turn in early, and get up around 4 am.
October 18, 2017, 3:57 AM · Lyndon wrote, "As you can see #9 and #10 did really bad. #2 and #3, and especially #1 did pretty good."

I thought the goal was to fool them somehow. So isn't it just the other way around?

Edited: October 18, 2017, 4:49 AM · David, unless you didn't read the study, there was no rating of audience preference, only projection and old vs new, no audience favourite, no audience preference.

Also the study didn't rate projection, it rated volume only. And asked the players to guess how well it would project, which means much of nothing.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 5:54 AM · Lyndon, NOW which study are you referring to, of the two or three you have referred to so far?

Notice that I used the word, "studies" (plural) since this thread has involved discussion of several of the "Fritz" studies/papers.

Note also that the Paris study DID include audience evaluation (although data from this portion of the study were not published until 2017).

October 18, 2017, 5:49 AM ·
October 18, 2017, 5:54 AM · According to the abstract the audience survey did not include preference for the Paris study, are you saying that is incorrect and if so where is the data.
October 18, 2017, 5:58 AM · After 900+ posts, is our discussion still based on the abstract? Haven't there been links to the actual published article and the corresponding supporting information?
October 18, 2017, 6:00 AM ·

Technically, statistics cannot prove or disprove anything. The expression we like to use is "correlation does not prove causality". That is why most of the people in this thread are being careful about stating conclusions that can be inferred from the study.

Player #1 from your table is a good example of a result that belies the overall results. (Players 2 and 3 not so much.) So a researcher who wants to conduct a follow up study might focus on player 1 results. One might ask that player to repeat the test with the same violins in a different order to see if the player was still able to accurately rate them as new or old.

That player may have just gotten lucky. Or, since the overall results suggest confirmation bias is a problem (rejected violins tend to be rated as new, and preferred violins tend to be rated as old),we might be seeing an accident of how the violins were randomly selected for that player.

Or one might ask that player to talk about why they rated each violin. One could then design tests to emphasize those distinguishing features and see if other players can get the same success rate. New makers would be extremely interested in something like that in order to design "old sound" into their new instruments.

You have to be careful not to cherry pick results to confirm your bias towards old violins. For example, I could agree with your suggestion that 1, 2 and 3 can distinguish old from new. And then point out that despite this ability, all three showed a marked preference for NEW violins. (You can see this in the table in which the top 4 violins for each player as listed for the two performance rating sessions.)

See what I did there? Once we can go down that statistics rabbit hole, we will see just about anything our minds wish to conjure up.

As has been repeated often in this thread, the experiment strongly suggests that neither old nor new violins own a monopoly on great performance or horrible tone. That is good news for both contemporary makers and purveyors of fine old instruments since everyone can now check their bias at the door of the violin shop and feel free to try out everything.

I might also point out that one of the definitions of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting a different conclusion to be reached. By that standard, everyone involved in this thread could be certified as crazy.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:14 AM · The rearranged table clearly supports the notion that players could not tell the difference between new and old instruments. If the "unsure" decisions are ignored, players did not do better than flipping a coin. If the "unsure" category is included, then the model is a little bit more complicated (trinomial instead of binomial), but still there is no statistical evidence that they did better than what a pure chance would dictate.

p.s. The fact that some players did better than others do not negate the inability to tell the difference. In fact, a certain portion of players are bound to do better than others and this is actually anticipated by the probabilistic model.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:21 AM · Carmens analysis makes more sense, plus they need to be given more time, and they really should be given violins in pairs, one old, one new. That would demonstrate much better if it is chance or not.

its also greatly complicated by the fact that while there are IMHO differences between old and new on average, some old violins sound new, and some new violins sound old. Its hard to gauge where the violins in this study fall.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:38 AM · I will mostly stay out of this, but will say that I have understood that there were indications that one player in the test (Paris--was that the most recent?) could reliably tell the difference. Just as one white crow would prove that "all crows are black" is false, one player who can tell the difference falsifies the comment that there is no difference between old and new. If the researchers were honestly interested in the problem of differences between old and new, rather than just proving their existing prejudice, I should think that they would search, as a preliminary to the real test, for other players who could tell the difference, that having been demonstrated, and continue in the direction of trying to figure out what those players understand that the mass of others do not. But I suspect that this is not actually their interest.

I have commented other places that if it were my desire to prove that it is impossible for man to run a four-minute mile, I could simply go out on the street and test a dozen people, "proving" the concept, but an honest test would be farther reaching and better designed than that.

If your desire is only to prove that the lowest common denominator of any group doesn't understand what the more sophisticated members do, well, that does seem like a real waste of time, doesn't it?

October 18, 2017, 6:38 AM · Lyndon;
Why should the violins necessarily be presented in pairs?

In one case, the violins were presented to the soloists in groups of three, which included the violin they customarily played, which could shed some light on the extent to which prior experience and extended familiarity might influence their choices. The results of this portion are summarized in figure 2 of the "Soloist Evaluations" paper.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:51 AM · Michael, the researchers have not claimed there is no difference between new and old. Nor has anyone in this thread, to the best of my recollection.

Hopefully, these studies can continue in the future, to enable the types of additional tests you would like to see.

October 18, 2017, 6:48 AM · One player reliably identifying new vs old in one test does not rule out chance, as I believe Han N. pointed out earlier. The far end of a distribution curve may be very low but it is not zero.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 7:03 AM · David, Because you're not trying to trick the player with two new or two old, you have a clear choice: one is old, one is new, can you tell the difference, makes more sense to me than what they did, in fact most of what they did makes little sense to me.

Good points Michael. Good to hear an equally well respected violin maker have an input from another perspective.

October 18, 2017, 7:16 AM · If you had 100 violinists play 5 old violins and 5 new violins and ask them to assign them as such, wouldn't you be really surprised if there weren't a few subjects who got them all right, and a few who got them all wrong? If you have a dozen violinists do the same thing, the random chance this will occur is perhaps lower but still definitely not zero.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 8:01 AM · Paul Deck "After 900+ posts, is our discussion still based on the abstract? Haven't there been links to the actual published article"

The discussion is mostly based not on an abstract, but on a preprint (full text as submitted to the journal, before changes as requested by the journal). The final, published article with supporting information is available online, for free, as pointed out by Marc Marschall.

The Paris 2012 "soloist evaluation" (published 2014) study:

Maybe someone can put the two versions next to each other and point out the differences.

Edit: here are the two other studies on the topic.

The "listener evaluation" study (Paris 2012, New York 2013, published 2017):

The 2010 "Indianapolis hotel room" study (published 2011):

Edited: October 18, 2017, 8:10 AM · Its further confused by a later NY study which no one has posted a link to, and an earlier Indianapolis study, which some people are quoting. Not surprisingly some of the same violins show up in more than one study.

Also why did it take five years to publish all the results of the Paris study??

October 18, 2017, 8:21 AM · "why did it take five years to publish the results of the Paris study?"

I suppose that you're referring to the "Listener evaluation". The article hints why they did a follow-up in New York: "The Paris Experiment left at least one important question unanswered: How do listeners' evaluations of projection relate to their evaluations of preference? It is easy to imagine, for example, that violin A is found to project better than violin B, but violin B is preferred for its tone quality."

As to what happened in the 3.5 years between New York (spring 2013) and article submission (fall 2016): we can only speculate. Maybe they tried and failed to get funding for one more follow-up experiment. Or they needed to take a course in statistics first - the article is quite heavy in statistics. ;-)

October 18, 2017, 8:30 AM · Since listeners can not evaluate projection, only perceived volume, how did volume colour their preferences for sound, you tell us, we can't afford to pay for the access to the study.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 8:57 AM · Ahem, free versions of the full articles and supporting information are available for all three publications. I just posted the links! (I have to restrain myself from writing down things that I will regret.)
Edited: October 18, 2017, 10:15 AM · Lyndon, that depends on how you define "projection". One possible definition might be "perceived volume from the audience perspective". Or it may turn out to have more to do with the frequency distribution. Perhaps tests like these will help to shed more light on what "projection" is. Listeners in this test used terms like loud, quiet, power(ful), muted, big sound, small sound, direct sound, carrying power, strong, weak, present, full.

Free links to all the papers and supporting information have already been furnished in this thread, most or all of them numerous times.

October 18, 2017, 9:09 AM · Still no free link to the results of the NY study!!
October 18, 2017, 9:13 AM · Lyndon,

Actually the very link you posted before is the preprint of the NY study and it has an extensive section on projection with a detailed discussion. Of course you won't find it in the abstract :)

Edited: October 18, 2017, 9:31 AM · Here it is again, Lyndon:


The "supporting information" portion starts on page 16.

October 18, 2017, 9:29 AM · My quick impression is that the New York study supplements the Paris study nicely, and their conclusion is also supported by a healthy dose of statistical analysis.
October 18, 2017, 9:51 AM · "One player reliably identifying new vs old in one test does not rule out chance, as I believe Han N. pointed out earlier. The far end of a distribution curve may be very low but it is not zero."
Just look at the link I provided. Its a basic gaussian distribution on the chances when gambling compared with the results from the study (although Lyndons mistake is part of it) it shows that these data dont suggest that any skill in deciding weather it is new or old was involved. Of course the sample size is small, but this does not mean it was designed to show that result we got.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 9:53 AM · David That's the study I quoted early in this discussion where there was a close correlation between perceived volume and listener preference, almost exactly.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 10:41 AM · Yup, looks like the same study. That's why it was a little baffling when you claimed that there was no free link to the results of that study.
October 18, 2017, 10:08 AM · Well I was looking for a much more detailed listing of listener preferences than in that overview.
October 18, 2017, 10:20 AM · Lyndon,

Are you sure you are talking about the same thing? The preprint is not an overview. Table 4 summarizes the frequency of reasons why listeners thought a particular violin projected well, and the loudness was one of the least frequent answers in the list. If you think the audience chose just loud violins for projection, it is your own opinion certainly not shared by the audience.

October 18, 2017, 11:08 AM ·

October 18, 2017, 11:24 AM · With many studies, decent reading comprehension and memory skills can be more useful than "knee jerk reactions".

It's quite normal, and not unexpected, to have a subgroup of people who will object to tests which don't reinforce cherished existing beliefs.

October 18, 2017, 2:05 PM · Oh brother, keeping up the personal attacks, just like always!!
October 18, 2017, 2:09 PM · Sung look at table 5 in David's link, to the same degree a violin projected better it was voted preference.
October 18, 2017, 2:22 PM · Lyndon,

There is no Table 5 in the manuscript. Are you referring to Figure 5 on page 11?

Edited: October 18, 2017, 3:17 PM · Lyndon wrote;
"Oh brother, keeping up the personal attacks, just like always!!"

Is that not a personal attack?

Lyndon also wrote:
"Sung look at table 5 in David's link, to the same degree a violin projected better it was voted preference."

As Sung Han has already pointed out, there is no "table 5" in the manuscript. Nor is there a "table 5" in my link. Don't forget to also take a look at Sung Han's reference to table 4, which does actually exist. It reveals that most of the listener responses on projection were not primarily based on loudness.

October 18, 2017, 2:44 PM · yes!!!
Edited: October 18, 2017, 4:30 PM · I don't know about y'all but I think the best contemporary violins are every bit as good as the best antiques. I'd be surprised if a group of even pro violinists could tell much if any difference in a set of blind playing and listening tests.
October 18, 2017, 4:57 PM · I suspect really great sounding moderns are even more rare than really great sounding antiques, their really isn't as much high end modern output compared to 300 years of antiques.
October 18, 2017, 5:07 PM · Didn't Laurie just show a video with products of thirty luthiers from Cremona alone?
Edited: October 18, 2017, 5:41 PM · Compared to even 1900 or 1800 there aren't that many modern luthiers, its amazing that we have as many active as we do, but I don't think it compares to historic levels.

And no Im not including cheap production violins from China any more than I'm including not including cheap production violins from Markneukirchen/Schoenbach or Mirecourt which were presumably just as numerous as the modern Chinese factory violins.

Edited: October 18, 2017, 5:33 PM · How many do you think there are, in China alone?
October 18, 2017, 6:03 PM · Lyndon,

I looked at Figure 5. Could you tell me what your point is?

October 18, 2017, 6:10 PM · For the umpteenth time, the violins that projected better are the same violins that score higher in preference by the Table.
October 18, 2017, 6:16 PM · By the Table, you actually mean Figure 5? Of course projection is a very important factor for both listeners and players alike. Is it surprising that those violins with good projections are more likely to be preferred?
October 18, 2017, 6:19 PM · Yes its surprising when projection is more important than sound quality, no matter what the listeners might say they are looking for, volume seems to be the most important factor.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:22 PM · When I go to a concert I like to hear the violin soloist above the orchestra. Volume matters. But if I sit farther back in the hall, then obviously projection matters as much as volume. Or more.
October 18, 2017, 6:32 PM · Yeah but while 1.5 db louder might be enough to make you pick the louder violin, in a real world situation, 1.5db is hardly noticeable in how much easier it makes it to hear a violin over an orchestra, 6db difference would make a difference, maybe even 3db, but not 1.5 db, and yet 1.5 db difference is enough to sway personal preference.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:52 PM · Lyndon,

So you are still clinging to the notion that loudness is projection? You are willing to ignore their criterion for projection (Table 4) while you are embracing their preference and projection assessments as truth? I call it a cherry-picking to the Sakura order.

They were a part of the experiments. You are the Monday morning quarterback. The sizes (55 for Paris and 82 for New York experiments, respectively), and qualification of the audience give me more confidence in their collective judgment than anything you can assert over the internet.

p.s. Your basis for criticism is evermore shrinking. The whole sequence reminds me of "the god of the gaps" argument.

October 18, 2017, 6:51 PM · You consistently chose to ignore the problems I bring up with the study, showing me you're really not here to learn, just to preach.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 6:57 PM · Lyndon,

How many times should I tell you that I would have accepted the outcome of the Paris study (and now New York study as well) if it turned out more favorable to antique instruments? Do you think this is a preacher's mindset? Really?

p.s. Please tell me who posted the first reply in this thread saying "The modern violin fascists strike again!!!"?

Edited: October 18, 2017, 7:07 PM · Doesn't it seem a little suspicious to you that all of these studies are from the same authors using in many cases the same select violins, not all new violins for each study. Its a given that if one of these studies is compromised then probably all of them by the same authors are compromised, we just don't know for sure until other independent studies are done by people that don't have such a strong agenda to prove.

there are plenty of studies that have showed a preference for old violins as well, we just don't seem to hear about them by people like you.

October 18, 2017, 7:17 PM · The authors are essentially the same because a particular group of people have been attempting to methodically study this issue in a series of experiments. Note that with each subsequent experiment they seem to have tried to address shortcomings / methodology criticisms from the previous.
October 18, 2017, 7:20 PM · I think a desire to trash the antique violin market, and boost sales of modern violins seems to enter into it too!!
Edited: October 18, 2017, 7:23 PM · Lyndon,

Actually an attempt to use the same set of violins (only partially successful) is a legitimate effort to replicate the test conditions, not a source for suspicion.

Also, if "there are plenty of studies that have showed a preference for old violins as well" as you stated, I am sure you would have no trouble locating a couple of references for such studies that have been published in a journal of PNAS caliber. Until then, your argument does not hold water.

October 18, 2017, 8:30 PM · you're completely blind to your prejudices, at least I accept that some good modern violins are being made.
October 18, 2017, 8:30 PM · "I think a desire to trash the antique violin market, and boost sales of modern violins seems to enter into it too!! "

You should be more confident in your antiques, as you are giving this sort of study too much "power" over your emotions, and it really doesn't affect you at all. At all, really. Believe me-that some moderns can confuse players because of great tonal qualities won't mean that Yitas will run you out of business... not to mention that many people don't care about the studies, and will believe whatever they want to believe anyway (as you said many posts above.)

The purpose of these studies has never been to "trash the antique violin market"-that's you feeling "threatened", not facts. I doubt any modern maker "hates" on the antiques. It goes again the art of violin making itself. Which is why this "you pro-modern people vs us, lovers of the old sound!" never makes much sense to me. I love the "old sound" and any good "new sound". Paying attention to these studies is at most interesting, rather than any real "threat" to the old violin market.

With this in view, getting worked up over the studies, although your right, I feel is unnecessary, and just makes you repeat yourself passionately, generally eliciting strong reactions against your posts. That I feel won't help your business, should any of our forum members live near your antique shop. You could very well establish your views without being so antagonistic-and putting down people that disagree with you (yes, you have-be honest, sir) is not doing you any favors.

I hope I don't get an irate response over this. I am not worth your anger/passion, and I bear no grudge here with any poster, including yourself.

Note that I do disagree with the extreme notion that "all violins are the same, new or old-there's nothing special about a Strad anyway"; I just disagree that this study should be "opposed" or ridiculed just because you prefer the-for you-ideal tone of a good old violin.

October 18, 2017, 8:37 PM · I would think antique violin customers would appreciate someone that stands up for quality antiques, not so with the modern is best crowd, though, but then that's obviously not my market.
Edited: October 18, 2017, 9:05 PM · Lyndon,

Got the "old is better" paper you boasted about?

p.s. Merda tauri cerebrum vincit.

October 18, 2017, 8:52 PM · But there are no such "crowds"-I don't believe anyone here stands for "modern is best 100% of the time", not even the modern makers. I would disagree with you in that I feel they (old instruments) are more expensive quality for quality, almost all the time, but that's the most "pro-modern" you will find me to be. If I had tons of money I would have all sort of violins, new or old.

I also disagree there's a specific "old violin sound", because of the so many variables. Some old violins are very loud, and not all are "warm"-some players make violins sound a specific way too. Though, of course, it's fine to disagree, and there's nothing wrong in liking older violins most of the time.

October 18, 2017, 9:02 PM · I know where to go now for my daily dose of laughs.
Edited: October 19, 2017, 3:41 AM · Sung Han: "Actually an attempt to use the same set of violins (only partially successful) is a legitimate effort to replicate the test conditions, not a source for suspicion."

Unless the authors state so in the 2017 "listener" paper (I didn't read it thoroughly), you can't claim that. At least, the Paris part of it of course uses the same instruments as the 2014 "soloist" paper, because the listener data and soloist data were gathered in the same experiment.

Edit: I stand corrected, the authors do state so.

Edited: October 19, 2017, 12:06 AM · Lyndon: "I would think antique violin customers would appreciate someone that stands up for quality antiques"

I'd think a lot of your potential customers will only buy one fine violin in their lifetime. I for one am on a Chinese rental ((inflated) kit price €800, set up by a luthier) and I'm waiting for the day my teacher tells me that I'm ready to upgrade, because I don't want to fall in the trap of multiple small upgrades that I regret. I have not yet made up my mind about antique versus new (other aspects besides sound/price matter as well for me, but that's for a different discussion)

There are two dealers in my country that have been slinging mud at each other on an internet forum, in a rather childish manner - they are not likely to get my business.

Edited: October 19, 2017, 2:10 AM · Lyndon wrote: "I would think antique violin customers would appreciate someone that stands up for quality antiques, not so with the modern is best crowd, though, but then that's obviously not my market."

I would think that ALL violin customers would appreciate someone who operates with integrity as the priority, regardless of whether that results in the sale of a new violin, an old violin, or no sale at all.

Edited: October 19, 2017, 1:12 AM · Yeah, those poor owners of Strads finally need a voice telling them they have a nice violin because that usually never happens....
If there is a problem at all it is when you play a modern violin and have to tell people over and over again why you choose to do so.
The antique train, as you would call it, is going for decades now without any resource.
October 19, 2017, 2:42 AM · Lyndon, you should really take some time off this forum, and perhaps other forums on which you're active, and use the time in a better way. All this time spent on the Internet is really not healthy. You are clearly also not getting any satisfaction out of it, mainly just fighting everyone. Most probably this applies to other people on this forum too, but you are visibly suffering here, and I want to urge you to try to get out of this addiction.
October 19, 2017, 3:34 AM · Han N.,

This is a direct quotation of b) Selection of test violins on page 6 of the preprint: "We would have liked to use the same old and new test violins as in Paris, but just two of them were available: the new violin N5 and the Stradivari O6. Two additional new violins were chosen by a pre-selection process (SI Text) from 15 violins submitted by violin makers. The two additional Stradivari were the only ones made available to us at the time."

October 19, 2017, 4:38 AM · One could argue that it's less important for the violins to be the same among the various tests as it is, in the long run, for the *process* of selecting violins to be consistent and equitable.
October 19, 2017, 9:26 AM · Paul not certain what you mean by equitable in that context. I think as a study aimed at very specific categories of instruments, i.e. old master instruments (not the run of the mill antiques) and very fine modern ones (read $50K+), the essential criteria is to secure a representative sample of instruments within those two categories. A similar study could/should be conducted for the lower segment of professional grade instruments, but I don't think the research community has any interest in anything less than the best. They're mainly interested in one thing: busting the common belief that nothing beats (or even equate) the best instruments made by the great masters (and tweaked over several centuries).
October 19, 2017, 9:37 AM · I imagine the most interesting test would be to bring together some soloists who play old Cremonese violins, and some soloists who chose contemporary violins (especially those who picked them over first-rate antiques), and place *those* instruments in a pool for all the soloists to rate.

Otherwise we don't really know if all the instruments are really soloist-class, properly set up, and regularly played.

October 19, 2017, 9:52 AM · Lydia,

That sounds like an interesting test. Also add a category where they have to indicate which they think is their violin.

October 19, 2017, 11:28 AM · I would be greatly suprised if they would not recon there own violins.
October 19, 2017, 11:50 AM · Who will be the lucky 1000th poster and win the Mini Metro!
October 19, 2017, 11:56 AM · If a Mini Metro is the prize I'm out. I'm looking for a Maxi Metro.
October 19, 2017, 12:08 PM · Of course it's difficult to drive anything if you go blind reading long threads on subjective violin opinions......................................................................................................................................................... I would still take the mini. Give it to Bud...............................................................................................if he wants it.
October 19, 2017, 12:14 PM · I'll bump it to 999.
October 19, 2017, 12:15 PM · 1000!!!
October 19, 2017, 12:18 PM · How about bringing back the 100 limit? Probably only 100 good posts here, and the rest hot air! (Including some of my own)

Cheers Carlo

Edited: October 19, 2017, 12:36 PM · Lydia wrote:
"I imagine the most interesting test would be to bring together some soloists who play old Cremonese violins, and some soloists who chose contemporary violins (especially those who picked them over first-rate antiques), and place *those* instruments in a pool for all the soloists to rate.

Otherwise we don't really know if all the instruments are really soloist-class, properly set up, and regularly played."

Lydia, in the "Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins" paper, there is a section where they rate their own violin, alongside their favorite old and their favorite new, if that helps shed any light on the situation.

See Figure 2 for the results rendered graphically. Below the figure, there is text which reads, "On average, the ratings given to test violins are similar to those given to the soloists’ own." The text continues with other detail.

October 19, 2017, 12:52 PM · How did I miss that one? Sheesh, I'll just have to settle for the consolation Austin Allegro prize. At least it's musical!
October 19, 2017, 1:59 PM · Wow, I just read this thread for the first time and there's some serious fire here! I have to say, violinists are such an interesting group, as they generally manage to be so smart and so illogical at the same time.

Has anyone here cared to take a step back and realize that we're trying to quantify art? That the "BEST" violin is the violin that a particular player gives the best performance on (and "best" meaning the one that they're personally most satisfied with)? And that SOME violinists will prefer a PARTICULAR new instrument and some will prefer a PARTICULAR old instrument, but to make a false duality between "new vs old" violins is so silly.

There are SO many variables here (oh my LORD the VARIABLES), many that can't be defined in a uniform way; a scientific approach becomes impossible in this context. We can measure the volume output of a violin, and measure the waveforms that it produces, but because each player is so distinctly different than another player, each will have their own preference. So even if you get a sample size of a million players and a million violins, it's completely moot. There would still be plenty of disagreements because different people like different things.

Here's my OPINION on violins from best to worst:

1) A well-made violin with hundreds of thousands of hours of playing.
2) A well-made violin with no playing.
3) A poorly-made violin with hundreds of thousands of hours of playing.
4) A poorly-made violin with no playing.

This, of course, is just my opinion. Some people like that "new" sound on an instrument. I can't relate with them, but it doesn't make them wrong.

And how many times has a well-known player claimed that his "__insert modern maker here__" violin is way better than his strad or guarneri? And how many times have we seen so many players, even highly experienced professionals, flock to buy these violins up? Why do we repeat this process over and over? It's because we want the simplicity of being able to say "well, this here is the BEST type of violin, so there's need to keep searching." And through this process, we start to get a market value for these instruments. Remember when no one cared that much about Guarneris (of course you don't, because it was like 200 years ago)? And then Paganini used one as his primary, so everyone assumed that they're the best. And yet, many people have played his EXACT violin to discover that they hate it. But, look at their value - up there with strads.

Point being, these studies (and the resulting arguments) are fun to watch, kind of like WWE wrestling matches, but how can we take them seriously? It's all personal preference, and it's about what works for a particular player, for a particular repertoire, for a particular ROOM, etc...

I guarantee many here have played a violin that just made them happy; it spoke to them, and they spoke back. Now, let's say you bought that violin. Hand it over to an equally-experienced player sometime and watch their reaction. They'll probably something like "oh yeah, that's a nice fiddle." And you'll sit there, dumbfounded that they don't see the absolute awesomeness that you saw from the first note you played on it. Well, that's because what you like isn't what they like, and it's not a matter of overall player experience or "amateur opinion vs professional opinion." It's just opinion, period. Don't think that just because someone is a master of their craft that they're not vulnerable to the same suggestive manipulations that "normal people" are vulnerable to. Let's say that in an orchestra, everyone is an accomplished player. But some are still more accomplished than others. So let's say the concertmaster uses a strad, and he claims they're the best, period. Well, everyone else will see that and naturally assume that strads are the best. Who are they to argue with the best player in the room? Meanwhile, what they don't know is that the concertmaster only prefers a strad because his old teacher, whom he greatly admires, used a strad and claimed they were the best. And his teacher's teacher used a strad, and who was HE to argue? So we can trace this belief-lineage back pretty dang far, to a time when strads really WERE the best thing available for a soloist. Point being, just because someone is an accomplished player, it doesn't mean their opinion is infallible. I say this because I know the natural response to a pleb like me claiming anything is "well who are YOU to argue with _____"?

So the BEST instrument is the one you love, and if you're still developing as a player (and who isn't?), then that might even change for you, given enough time. Your old love changes because you change. We are not static as human beings, and so our preferences aren't, either.

I don't want to discourage studies on violins because I think they're fun and interesting to watch, but I DO want to discourage people from arguing over them, because it's like arguing whether or Stone Cold Steve Austin was better than Hulk Hogan.

Edited: October 19, 2017, 2:51 PM · Erik, now you open a whole different topic: do violins get better if they are played for a long time? (Note that every 100,000 hours is worth 70 years at 4 hours per day, so several 100k is really a lot). Usually the only violins that get that many hours of playing are the ones that are worth it, but leaving that aside: I think there has been an experiment of two violins cut from the same wood, one being played regularly over many years and the other not, and there was not much difference. (It may be hard to account for adjustments of the bridge/soundpost over time, though.) Also, I haven't seen a convincing mechanism being proposed why the properties of the wood would change as a result of playing. Maybe you can open a new thread on this topic; this one is long enough already. Edit: was already discussed at length Re the breaking in of violins (2013).
October 19, 2017, 2:45 PM · Good points Eric, I'm actually just trying to get people to be open minded about trying antiques as well as moderns, its other posters in this thread that want to narrow people's options down to moderns only.
October 19, 2017, 3:20 PM · Why attack these other posters that don't even appear to exist? And who in this thread even believes that? Consider it well (no offense.)
October 19, 2017, 3:52 PM · You haven't read all the thread comments, then, have you??
Edited: October 19, 2017, 4:24 PM · Erik wrote (among other things): "It's all personal preference..."

I just did some analysis on a violin competition that happened last week. There were two judges listening (both modest symphony players) to one person playing 47 violins, all of them new. Comparing the listening judges scores, one would expect some correlation, but this year they was statistically no correlation whatsoever. Completely random. I have done this for several years, and yes... there is usually a slight correlation, but randomness (or differing personal preference) is obviously a huge factor, and bodes ill for anyone trying to nail down the unquestionable answer of what sounds "better" than what.

October 19, 2017, 4:30 PM · To the argument that "one cannot quantify art," my response would be that it depends on specifically what one is trying to test and whether one is resourceful enough to set up an appropriate controlled experiment. Nobody is forcing anyone else to care about the results.

For example, you could show a series of paintings to museum-goers and ask them to rate the paintings on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is "unimpressive" and 5 is "impressive." And you could potentially use that data to determine whether people are more likely to be impressed by larger paintings, compared to smaller ones. Or paintings with high aspect ratios compared to paintings that are more square. Or representational paintings vs. abstract. The possibilities are endless.

Edited: October 19, 2017, 6:19 PM · Paul, I did consider that point when I wrote my post. My main point was that we are asking the wrong question. We can get statistically significant results from many studies about violins if they were set up properly, but no study will ever show whether or not a group of violins is decisively "better" than another group, because people are dynamic by nature, so their preferences can't be used as a constant in a study.

For example, my "ideal sound" from a violin has changed at least 3 times in the past 2 years. So if I was a participant in a study that was testing preferences, then which of those times would have been the most valid?

We can get IDEAS, but nothing conclusive. The problem is that "Art" isn't specific. That's what makes it art. It means different things to different people, at different times.

Edited: October 19, 2017, 8:13 PM · Erik, look at it another way. Suppose twenty $15,000 French violins and twenty $15,000 German violins were tested (blind, tested by top soloists, etc.) and they were ranked as follows:


Even then, nobody would ever claim that these results rule out finding a $15,000 German violin that you would personally find special. What the results would say is that if you want a violin at the $15,000 level that would appeal to top soloists, then your chances seem to be better with French violins rather than German. You might say, well, I need my violin to appeal to me, not to some grouping of top soloists. But those of us with maybe less confidence in our ability to judge the tone of a violin might find that kind of information quite useful.

October 19, 2017, 8:01 PM · is this thread a record holder? over 1000 posts
October 19, 2017, 8:10 PM · Well, it seems likely to be a record-holder. Of course, nobody has proved that, nor have they even established its likelihood at the 95% confidence level.
October 19, 2017, 8:16 PM · But the study was a tie within the statistical margin of error. And if modern N5. the violin used in multiple studies was not there, It would have been a win for the old violins, presumably.
October 19, 2017, 8:23 PM · PS French violins are over priced relative to German, so I think German violins for $15,000 would beat French, on average.
October 19, 2017, 9:51 PM · Perhaps there are some quantifiable qualities by which violins can be scored. Whereas tone is subjective; what may appeal to one may not appeal to another, balance between strings, resonance at each and every notes in each position from 1 to 10, dynamic range, overall loudness, projection (in terms of sound carrying characteristic), and responsiveness most certainly can be objectively quantified. The best violins will excel in all these elements (and perhaps others), but we all know that every instruments is a compromise mix between all of them. What is the best compromise depends again on individual needs and preferences.
October 20, 2017, 12:12 AM · I see your point, Paul, but that's just so difficult to do in this situation. First of all, a player needs AT LEAST a week to get used to an instrument and to know if it truly suits them, so this experiment would take forever, especially if given a significant sample size of both players and instruments. I guess it's possible, but very impractical.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:39 AM · Erik, a little background on these tests to help put them into perspective:
For many years, researchers have been interested in what characteristics define a superior violin, and why some instruments are considered to sound so much better than others. Some of them were people like George Bissinger, a PhD physics professor, who were interested in violin sound mostly because they had come to consider it such a fascinating challenge. Many things in physics are fairly easy to analyze, but violins have proven to be much more difficult and challenging.

What to use as "the reference standard" for best sound? A Strad, of course! Just ask anyone!

But as experiments progressed, they discovered that Strads can sound very different from each other, and that they weren't always preferred over other instruments by players or listeners. So what should be the reference standard for a violin? Should it be a violin which "everybody knows" is the best, or one which players actually prefer?

Questions like these have led to more and more careful tests (including double-blind), with greater involvement of people from the professional research community, including Claudia Fritz, PhD. (Claudia is neither a violinist, nor an instrument maker.) Along the way, some common assumptions and beliefs have been tested, such as "old violins are better", and "any really good violinist can pick out the Strad", and "any good violinist can pick out whether a violin is new or old in a hearbeat".

Whether it was anticipated or not, these studies seem to have drawn wide public interest. And as might be expected, some people have tried to read things into the papers which they don't actually say (which has been the source of much of the contentiousness in this thread). So that's where we are, and loosely how we got there.

Throughout these tests, acoustic data has been gathered, in the hope that strong correlations between preference, and the measured acoustical data, will emerge.

(I have used the word "sound" very loosely, as a shorthand term which can include factors like playability and response, or whatever else is found to be important)

Edited: October 20, 2017, 4:30 AM · DB: "Many things in physics are fairly easy to analyze"

As a physicist I don't quite agree with that. Most new knowledge in physics is enabled by advancements in technology and the development of methods to separate an effect of interest from the noise. Typically, new physical discoveries start as "that's strange, this measurement does not match my expectations; let's see whether I can design an experiment to reproduce and control this yet unexplained effect so that I can understand it in terms of a falsifiable model." Falsifiable means that the experiment can, in principle, produce a measurement that will result in a rejection of the model.

In this field, the unexplained effect is that subjective opinions don't correlate with simple measurements (analysis of sound waves). That could mean that you picked an unsuitable objective measurement technique (microphone recordings and tap responses), or that something is wrong with the subjective "measurement". The data so far hints at the latter, but does not completely rule out the former.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 4:32 AM · Erik, I realize everyone says you have to try your violins for a long time to "get to know" them or whatever.

My response is that if it takes you a week to choose between two violins, they might be different, but not by leaps and bounds. In most people's price range, what you're doing there is trading off the instruments' complementary flaws. Think about it ... if you were shopping for a new violin, you might spend a couple of hours with, say 15 violins in your price range before narrowing that down to a couple that you bring home for a longer interval.

Keep in mind too that the kinds of tests we've been talking about in this thread are between the "best" contemporary violins, which might cost around $30,000 and priceless Italian antiques. In other words, violins that relatively few among us are likely to buy anytime soon.

October 20, 2017, 4:37 AM · Han, your post reminded me of the quip (attributed to Rutherford) that if you need statistics to interpret your data, then you need to design a better experiment.

Perhaps it would be better to say that questions one might have asked in physics 50 years ago are relatively easy to analyze using today's methods and instrumentation. Things are always much harder at the frontier -- that's why generally it moves rather glacially.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 5:48 AM · Han, I meant "easy" in the sense that there are common tools and methods which can be applied, which give acceptable and useful results. For example, one can do various sorts of analysis on an aircraft design, and get a pretty good idea on how it will perform in flight, and whether or not it will shake itself apart in flight. (I used this analogy, because one of the people involved in fiddle research is a Boeing aircraft vibrational analyst.)

Violins are a thornier problem. Sure anyone can make a box with strings which emits sound, and basically understand how and why it works. We can even get them to fly (if we fling them ;-) ). But that's not the level the researchers are interested in.

To get an idea what has already been covered or tried, the many papers by George Bissinger are interesting reading.

Another interesting source is the "Strad 3D" research project.

It would be great if you were interested in getting involved!

October 20, 2017, 5:44 AM · David, although I generally agree I had to laugh about the example. I was party involved in simulating aircraft behaviour and can tell you that this particular one took many more years to develop because first tests outside the windtunnel were fatal with totally unexpected behaviour. In fact the German government is still not having success with that particular model.

October 20, 2017, 5:51 AM · David: "It would be great if you were interested in getting involved!"
I think you've mentioned something like that before, but back then I took it as a joke. If you're serious: I'm not sure how I could contribute, other than from behind my own desk. I don't have access to good violins, don't have an acoustic laboratory, and as a violinist I'm still struggling in first position. (I'd also rather not use this megathread to discuss the details, but oh well...)
Edited: October 20, 2017, 5:54 AM · Marc, LOL, fortunately, violins don't kill many people. :-)
Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:23 AM · Han, I don't know, but the Strad 3D page I linked to contains this:

" is an ongoing collaborative effort. Please visit us to keep current with new material or corrections, or contact us to help support this work. Please let us know about any technical problems or errors that you may discover! We will post our suggestions for resolution of problems at our help page."

There is also The Oberlin Acoustics Workshop, which has annual sessions. It is a time of exchanging information, testing, and devising on-going research. I spent quite a bit of time around those people when that workshop, and the one I directed, were held on the same campus on the same dates.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:06 AM · I think a big part of the problem with "science" is scientists themselves.

And it's not only a question of indeterminism, where merely observing a phenomenon modifies it (Heisenberg Principle).

When Dr. Linus Pauling (two-time Nobel winner) became a household word by bringing out his findings about Vitamin C, that sparked scores of other scientists dead-set to prove him wrong, in order to be come famous too. They eventually succeeded.

Of course this is a result of the publish-or-perish scientific world, in which anything and its contrary can be eventually proven. That's why any "scientific" result must be taken, by definition, cum grano salis.

October 20, 2017, 6:18 AM · I do disagree. In science the most important fact with findings is its reliability. There is information where the reliability is weak (and those examples contribute mainly to the general untrust against science) and those where the reliability is so high, it will never be able to disprove them.
There are a lot of systems helping to put those reliabilities in numbers and only if this is included to any finding the science is complete. If you got those numbers, and people rethinking/doing the experiment /measuremtn again get the same results (within the calculated margin of error) it is rock solid and no reason to not trust ist.
The problem is when this is not done or not possible. Than you will not get definit answers. The answers can still be valuable but are not definit anymore. If you distinguish between those answers and the actually proofen ones, there is the really rare atribute of no room for interpretation.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:42 AM · Imagine trying to pick up only red marbles in a messy room of a child in which red and green marbles are scattered all around the floor. On a closer look, a "red" marble is not bright red, but a reddish color of many different hues. Ditto for a "green" marble.

To make matters worse, the room is not well-lit, the neon sign across the narrow street is constantly blinking, and you are partially color-blind.

I think telling old violins from new is akin to picking "red" marbles. Choosing a favorite violin is choosing your favorite colored marble.

In general, an experiment involving human perception is tricky. Preference makes it trickier.

p.s. Now the post counts are in my favorite BWV range. For example, this post is #1029: BWV 1029 Bach Sonata in G minor for Viola da Gamba

Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:59 AM · Marc, as you say "In science the most important fact with findings is its reliability." that's true.

The problem lies in the number of variables, which is often large, and of which many may actually be unrecognized.

Think of the von Karman turbulence, or chaos theory. Or...exactly how to define violin sound quality. :-)

October 20, 2017, 7:05 AM · Sung, I love those gamba sonatas too!

Dmitiri, I think the problem is rather because of the evolution of cognition. We intuit, then rationalize our prejudice. Science is about designing methods to overcome that problem, but alas scientists are human too.



Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:15 AM · "I think the problem is rather because of the evolution of cognition. We intuit, then rationalize our prejudice. Science is about designing methods to overcome that problem, but alas scientists are human too. "

Jeewon, I think I'm going to frame that :-)

But I'll add one more aspect. Our feelings began in our reptilian brain, millions of years ago.  The thinking functions of the brain, as we know them today came millions of years later in the frontal lobes, called the "executive function" of the brain. The reptilian brain and the frontal lobes conflict, possibly due to evolutionary error, making it difficult if not impossible to make the "heart" and the "mind" agree. (Arthur Koestler - "Janus")

October 20, 2017, 7:13 AM · So you've managed to find the best of the best, a violin so good roughly half the people who hear it pick it over a Strad, call it N5, not in a small part because its louder than any Strad you're using. SO what do you do?? Use it over and over in multiple studies to demonstrate, not that this particular violin is better, but that modern violins in general are superior. And this is called science.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:17 AM · Or possibly, a lack of evolution, as the case maybe...

The heart wants what the heart wants :) But can a blind heart really tell the difference?

Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:24 AM · Dimitri,

Depending on a particular situation, the number of factors may or may not be relevant in constructing an experiment. The important thing is whether we can control obviously important factors in some fashion and hedge other factors evenly by various techniques, e.g., by blocking and randomization.

Violin sound quality is tricky because it involves human perception and preference. For example, I tend to like reference speakers while others love base-boosted ones. From pure technical point of view, reference speakers are superior due to their near flat response. However, our preferences diverge. Just like that, in the Paris study, some violinists chose an antique violin O1 as the best while others rejected. Preference makes the judgment of sound quality difficult.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:25 AM · Sung Han, well, exactly. Even human perception and preferences are variables: a violin you try and like on Monday might be indifferent to you on Tuesday, depending on an infinite number of factors going from how comfortable you are at the room temperature to what you had for dinner the night before.

Even repetition is a variable. Have you ever had a fantastic meal in a certain restaurant, gone back to try it again and find it ordinary?

October 20, 2017, 7:25 AM · Well it seems when it comes to world reknowned soloists?? some of them find Stradivari's ordinary. The rest of us would obviously die for the tone.
October 20, 2017, 7:29 AM · Sure, Karman is a good example as there is no general analytical solution known (yet).
But thats the point, when I do some numerical stuff on this I sure as hell know it is not a correct solution I am getting.
Best I can do is to compare known situations with my simulation and change the inputparameters. The only back check left is to test if the result (within each timestep or solution step) violates some basic law like energy conservation.
Presenting those simulations as facts is unscientific, they are how ever usually considered very good guesses which is ok.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:37 AM · "SO what do you do?? Use it over and over in multiple studies to demonstrate, not that this particular violin is better, but that modern violins in general are superior."

Lyndon, I haven't seen anybody in this thread, but you, interpret the studies that way.

I think a more general and rational conclusion would be that contemporary violins can or might be viable alternatives to even the supposed best.

But I tend to look at the violin world more rationally, than emotionally.

October 20, 2017, 7:35 AM · Dimitri,

Actually the conundrum in your Monday/Tuesday violin and restaurant examples can be handled by a proper randomization and other techniques.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:43 AM · Your making the same mistake many other people are making David, that these results don't just apply to the modern violins in the study only, but to modern violins in general, Only one modern violin did exceptionally, N5, and it also happened to be noticeably louder than all the other violins, old and new. The one Strad that three soloists picked as the winner was the second best rated violin in the study. As I said before, without N5 in the study, the old Italians probably would have come out somewhat ahead of the moderns. It all boils down to the violins you use, if they are not representative of Strads in general, or high end moderns in general, the whole results are not very meaningful.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 9:06 AM · Jeewon,

I am glad you love the sonata. Your post on prejudice reminds me of The four idols of Francis Bacon.

p.s. Yay, this post is now #1042! Bach E Major Violin Concerto, BWV 1042. The soloist in the video is Ilya Kaler, who happens to be one of the soloists who participated in the Paris experiment. As an encore, he also plays Gavotte en Rondeau in E major partita starting around 18:25 minute mark. Enjoy!

Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:51 AM · I think many of us here find the mere existence of N5 very meaningful, our "black swan."

Thanks for the link Sung!
"To him true knowledge was the knowledge of causes. He defined physics as the science of variable causes, and metaphysics as the science of fixed causes."
Indeed! I think we're starting to move beyond the mystical and into the natural world of great fiddles.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 8:42 AM · No Lyndon, I'm not making any sort of mistake. But you're right on one thing: Had the parameters of the studies been different, the results might have been different. I don't think anyone has denied that.

The papers go into quite a bit of detail about why some of these choices were made.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 7:54 AM · Just for the record, I would like to say that I neither agree nor disagree with the alleged findings of the Fritz/Curtin tests. The end result is wholly indifferent to me.

I just think that science (or perhaps more precisely, "scientists", as in "humans") may not be ready to address this issue in a conclusive manner.

October 20, 2017, 8:07 AM · Im glad we can discuss with different opinions but without attacking each other.
Oh, wait a minute
October 20, 2017, 8:11 AM · I've actually done less attacking people in this thread than David, just people don't seem to care when someone they disagree with gets attacked.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 8:21 AM ·


October 20, 2017, 8:25 AM · I see you're one of many that didn't notice!!
October 20, 2017, 8:34 AM · Jeewon,

Thank you for the video link. Brandenburg #4 is my favorite out of the six concertos. I used to listen to Henryk Szeryng/Michala Petri with Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 10:14 AM · Me too then delete!
Edited: October 20, 2017, 10:47 AM · Bud Scott, it appears that Lyndon's Trump reference has now been deleted. I don't know whether it was by him, or the moderator.
October 20, 2017, 10:10 AM · I'm sorry if you remind me of him, David.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 12:34 PM · Is it because I always fly on the "Air Force One" jetplane thingy? LOL

I have never actually flown in first class, or even business class, much less on a private jet.

While some parts of my travels have been underwritten by competion organizers, the bulk of these expenses have remained uncompensated.

For example, the recent Russia violinmaking competion: Participation on the judging end of things involved sacrifices. Some of the foreign competitors may have jumped through hoops also, getting their instruments in and out of the country. My "cultural" visa into China wasn't a piece of cake, either.

Not saying that there's anything wrong with Russia or China being careful. The US is getting more careful too.

One of the nicest instruments in the Moscow competition (in my opinion as well as that of most of the other judges) was by a German born US citizen, who now lives and works in Japan. Cultural and racial prejudices be damned!

I tend to think of people more as individuals, than by lumping them into one group or another, regardless of whatever you may have had to say about Chinese violins.

October 20, 2017, 12:31 PM · David, do you remember that person's name?
Edited: October 20, 2017, 2:43 PM · It was Andreas Preuss, a viola. But keep in mind that the Moscow violin making competition didn't attract nearly as many foreign entries as the VSA Competitions or the Cremona Competitions have. Overall, from having judged each of them, I'd put outcomes of the VSA Competitions pretty much at the top of the heap. Not that I have never had misgivings about the some of the VSA Competions, or competitions in general.
October 20, 2017, 1:11 PM · I'm tempted to ask who you consider as your top 5 or top 10 makers, but then you're a maker + judge so I don't think it's appropriate to ask you that :P
Edited: October 20, 2017, 1:32 PM · I don't think I want to do that. Many violin makers are friends or acquaintances, as are many high-end dealers specializing in the antique trade.

They both have put up with me, so far.

Sure, I have opinions.

October 20, 2017, 1:31 PM · I've cut David a lot of slack, but when he told me he was lobbying to have the 2020 VSA convention at the Mar a Lago estate, I started to wonder LOL.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 1:53 PM · Lyndon wrote:
" I've cut David a lot of slack, but when he told me he was lobbying to have the 2020 VSA convention at the Mar a Lago estate, I started to wonder LOL."

Just more BS. I have never told you or anyone else that, nor have I served on the Board of the VSA, nor been involved in their convention site selection process.

Edited: October 20, 2017, 1:52 PM · Never heard a good old fashioned joke called BS before. But Then Americans never have been very good at getting Australian/British type sarcastic humour.
Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:22 PM · If it was humor, perhaps I failed to realize that, going on the context of your other comments in this thread, and many others over the years. Sure, I'm a lover of British and Australian humor, and many other types as well.

I try to limit blatant displays of my conflict addiction to Tuesdays and Thursdays. ;-) (Thursday is garbage collection day, so perhaps that can be taken out of the equation?)

How are you making progress on similar matters?

October 20, 2017, 2:37 PM · David, I'm disappointed in you... It only took me a couple of months here to figure out Lyndon's BS's and I don't have to be Australian or British to realize that :P You've been here for years!

Jokes aside, yeah I agree with you not to post your opinions in that subject (of your personal opinion of top makers). Perhaps you can send me a self-destructing mail that would burn itself as I read the names of your top choices haha

Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:07 PM · John, while being arguably as much as 25% computer literate, I have not yet discovered the "self-destruct" function on my mailer. ;-)
October 20, 2017, 3:06 PM · I'm a little late, the party is over, or wait, is it?

Why this thread has the overkill number of more of a thousand messages?

Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:28 PM · David,

One passive-aggressive way to do it is to (1) infect your disposable computer with a trojan type virus (or a ransomware) and then (2) include John's email in your address book. The electronic bug will do the dirty work for you. Problem solved!

October 20, 2017, 3:43 PM · Cool! Now I'm starting to understand why I get emails from people who are deceased. ;-)
Edited: October 20, 2017, 3:49 PM · Quite possibly. On the other hand, I think your computer OS needs some serious exorcism, especially around the "media" center program. This is because you have been making the "devil's instrument". Quite an occupational hazard, huh?

Make sure the holy water is UV sterilized at least three times. Otherwise, the computer will also get measles. Not good :P

Edited: October 20, 2017, 4:13 PM · I battle the devil every day! Twice on Fridays. ;-)
Edited: October 20, 2017, 6:22 PM · An effect of the size of this thread (currently 1067 entries) is that when I "Click for previous responses" it takes 15" for the data to be downloaded from the server. This is with a broadband speed of 110mbps and a 64-bit PC. I'm in the UK.
Edited: October 21, 2017, 5:17 AM · I think that what all these scientific studies are telling us it that the days of hype and glory of the "rare" antique violins are pretty much over. Yes they'll still have investment value because that has a life of its own, which has less and less to do with how they sound, and more to do with tulip bulbs and baseball cards. But if you want a damned good violin just go ahead and get on the list(s) of the best of today's luthier(s) for commissioned contemporary violins. You might wait a while for your instrument but in the end you'll pay 10% (or even 1%) of what you would have paid for an Italian antique, and in the meantime you can just play a Jay Haide or one of the other Chinese workshop violins, which are really the best option at the lower end of the price spectrum (a few thousand).
Edited: October 21, 2017, 5:48 AM · ...or get something 18th/19th century at auction. Or better yet, get something on approval - take that to a preview and see if anything sounds better. Even better, take your dealer along and offer them commission for their advice.
October 21, 2017, 7:11 AM · Paul, you seem to be provoking the wrath of LT... I've not seen evidence/arguments that at a budget of a few thousand (USD I assume) new Chinese instruments are a better deal than antique not-Stradivari ones.
October 21, 2017, 1:43 PM · C'mon Han, stop spoiling it for me. How else shall we keep this thread going forevermore?
Edited: October 21, 2017, 5:17 PM · In live performances and in a large halls one really hears the true projection qualities of a violin. I recall live performances with orchestral accompaniment of both Jascha Heifetz and Zino Francescatti playing major concertos in Orchestra hall in Chicago.

Heifetz was barely heard through the orchestral accompaniment and Francescatti was well over the top in dominating in his collaboration with orchestra. Both were playing Stradivari instruments, yet Francescatti was eminently successful in projecting his sound throughout the particular concertos which I witnessed.

I thoroughly believe that the particular violinist is quite important in bringing out the best qualities of any particular violin. Schlomo Mintz is another violinist who brings out the best projection qualities in a violin.

These are the opinions of a long time concert goer and dedicated violinist who tells it as I sees (or hears) it.

October 21, 2017, 5:59 PM · That's an interesting observation. I'd previously heard that Heifetz had a particularly powerful, intense sound.
Edited: October 22, 2017, 1:14 AM · I've heard they are going to be remastering some of Heifetz's recordings with Heifetz digitally playing a David Burgess violin LOL.
October 21, 2017, 8:35 PM · I only heard Heifetz live in concert once (playing the Beethoven with the Baltimore Symphony) and his sound dominated the orchestral sound just as it did in his recordings of the day (circa 1950). He played a Guarneri del Gesu. and his brief pizz section in the 3rd movement cut through like pistol shots!
October 21, 2017, 8:41 PM · I find it really hard to believe that Heifetz could barely be heard over the orchestra...I wonder, in this Heifetz/Francescatti comparison in Orchestra Hall, was it the same conductor both times? Conductors make a huge difference in accompaniments.

October 22, 2017, 8:54 AM · I have never before read that Heifetz didn't have a huge sound. I am not old enough to have heard him live, but those that I know that did say his sound dominated the event.

It's also interesting to note, of violinists that project well, the character of that projections can be very different. Perlman and Shaham have a very 3D enveloping sound, while Joshua Bell and Hilary Hahn have a more focused directional sound (this is comparing sounds from the same position, in the same hall).

October 22, 2017, 9:10 AM · I never heard Heifetz play live, but in the '50s I heard Yehudi Menuhin playing Bartok 2 in a packed 2000-seat Colston Hall in Bristol. Seated towards the back I could hear every note he played, whatever the dynamic. I think he was playing a Strad.

A year later, after a rehearsal by Bristol Schools Orchestra in the same hall our conductor Arthur Alexander (my cello teacher at the time) asked the first two desks of the cello section to stay behind and took the opportunity to teach each of us individually to project our tone from the stage so that we could hear the return sound from the back of the hall. Very instructive, and I've never forgotten that lesson.

Edited: October 22, 2017, 10:08 AM · I have had hard time hearing Gil Shaham at a distance of less than 20 meters in the Berliner Philharmonic hall. It was a nice sound but quite quietly.
Same thing happened with me when Midori played the Tchaikovski concerto in the same hall, but this time at a ~40-45 meters distance. I could not hear many notes.. was very upset.
At that time they have been playing their Strads (Shaham's long pattern Strad and Midori's Dolphin 1714) I think.
Imho, that is not really great to say that this or that is a great violin and a great violinist if people can not hear them clearly in a great hall.

But Sarah Chang, Hilary Hahn and some others have been completely different stories.. huge sounds.

October 22, 2017, 12:35 PM · I also found Gil Shaham a little bit quiet and it was not a full orchestra, he was performing with The Knights. But it could have been the seats we had.

I have to say that some of the things I read, such as "Perlman and Shaham have a very 3D enveloping sound, while Joshua Bell and Hilary Hahn have a more focused directional sound," just make kind of chuckle. Not to deny anyone's individual experience but that just sounds weird.

Edited: October 22, 2017, 1:04 PM · Paul — you cannot comprehend that some violins and players project more directionally than others? Some violins have more focus whilst others have a broader harmonic projection.
Edited: October 22, 2017, 1:05 PM · Most orchestra and audience members will have no way of knowing whether a soloist who owns a Strad is playing the Strad, or a "bench" copy.

If distinguishing tonal characteristics were a major factor, these would be used by the major certifiers and appraisers to help determine the authenticity of Strads and such. But they are not.

October 22, 2017, 2:15 PM · I really want to stress that the quality of a violin is relative to its venue. Everyone is thinking that a "great" violin is one that properly fills a giant hall with sound, but in my experience many of the most powerful - or distinct - violins are way too "sawtooth wave form" in a smaller setting (they also don't make a good sound in terms of recording).

Ideally, a violin should be powerful enough for its largest realistic setting, while retaining a warmer tonal characteristic for its smallest realistic setting.

October 22, 2017, 3:45 PM · Wasn't there once a great soloist (who owned a Strad), who once played an entire concert with a VSO, and ended the concert dropping and smashing it, and the audience thought all along it was his Strad?
October 22, 2017, 4:08 PM · He knew the difference!
October 22, 2017, 5:53 PM · Trevor, I believe in the '50s Menuhin would have been playing the "Soil" Strad. He sold it to Itzhak Perlman, and it's Perlman's primary violin now, I believe.

Hilary Hahn has an absolutely gargantuan sound, in large part because she uses an enormous amount of bow. Less so now than 15 years ago, but she'll sometimes take three bows where another violinist would take one. Her bow changes are so remarkably inaudible that she can just do it.

October 22, 2017, 7:17 PM · Douglas, I might "comprehend" what you mean, but I confess that I don't know how it would work. That could be because I'm not a very good violinist. Mary Ellen is an experienced violinist and violin teacher. Maybe she can tell us at what point she teaches her students how to project more "directionally" (vs. "3D") and what the violinist does differently to achieve that.
Edited: October 30, 2017, 9:36 AM · Paul -- that would more than likely be the violin setup and strings rather than the violinist. I'm sorry if I misled you. It could also be related to the way the instrument is driven -- playing nearer the bridge will bring more focus and faster bows a little further out will be a rounder sound. Neither is wrong.

BTW, I also play professionally and teach at a university, but I'd be happy to hear Mary Ellens point of view as well. I respect and appreciate her contributions to the group, even if at times we disagree.

One of the orchestras I play in just finished an exciting concert weekend with Simone Porter playing Bruch. She actually subbed in for Hahn when she was off having a baby a few years back. A wonderful dazzling young artist, I was convinced hearing her Guadagnini up close that it wouldn't project well in the hall, but it projected beautifully with a warm enveloping sound. We also had a funny discussion where she told me all about the Guad, and I told her I played a violin made in 2014 by a guy named Dave :-D

The point is that violins can sound good, and the can project well, in different ways. Some may sound great under the ear and still project, some not. Some may sound harsh under the ear and project, some may sound soft under the ear and loud at a distance. Some sound great by themselves and get lost in an orchestra setting, some poke through the orchestra sound like a laser.

In summary, there is no definitive great violin sound. At some point, it is subjective. I Iike the warm enveloping sound of Perlman (by "3D" I mean that it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the sound) and the laser focus of Zukerman or Mintz (where I can hear localize the sound very easily).

Edited: October 22, 2017, 9:06 PM · "Mary Ellen is an experienced violinist and violin teacher. Maybe she can tell us at what point she teaches her students how to project more "directionally" (vs. "3D") and what the violinist does differently to achieve that."

I have no idea what this means.

I teach students how to produce different volumes and colors of sound--that is, I get to teach that to *some* students but I spend an awful lot of time simply trying to get young people to play in tune and in rhythm. But "directional vs 3D" sound has me stumped.

I'm guessing it has something to do with articulation. Certainly there is a difference between producing a sound with an edge to it vs a warmer, rounder sound.

October 22, 2017, 10:31 PM · Douglas: "Some may sound harsh under the ear and project, some may sound soft under the ear and loud at a distance."

The 2017 Fritz "listener" paper suggests that strongly projecting violins are always loud under the ear, despite commonly made statements such as yours.

October 22, 2017, 11:08 PM · From a physics standpoint, it is not possible for a sound to be soft near its origin, but loud at a distance, or for one violin to be softer than another, but louder than the other violin at a distance. The relative loudness of a sound vs distance from the origin of the sound only depends on the initial amplitude, medium of propagation, and (depending on the medium) the pitch of the sound. There is an exception: If your ear just happens to be at a node, which is very very unlikely and anytime you move your head this would end the effect. The louder a violin is, the louder it will be further away. Having said that, the overtones of a violins are different and the travelling distance of sound does depend on the pitch, but the PRINCIPLE pitch you play will always be louder on a violin that is louder "under the ear". I might not be a violinist, but I always rolled my eyes whenever I heard a violinist say that.
October 22, 2017, 11:38 PM · A sound source can be directional, in particular for wavelengths that are smaller than the size of the sound source, i.e., most of the overtones that are in the spectrum. The violinist's ear captures a bit of the sound that is directed towrads the ceiling rather than towards the audience, so a hypothetical instrument that radiates horizontally would sound "soft under the ear" and still loud for the audience. Probably, violins are not that directional in practice, but it is not physically impossible. (a hypothetical violin that has a tone color strongly dependent on the position of the listener would not be considered a good instrument.)
Edited: October 23, 2017, 4:46 AM · Mary Ellen -- nope, nothing to do with articulation. It has to do with localization of sound. Some violins are more focused in their projection. others more diffuse. The visual equivalent would be a floodlight vs a laser -- both are bright. I think the term I used to describe this was confusing, but the concept of sound radiating differently is real.

Chris -- I can't explain it, but some violins sound soft under ear but project well.

Edited: October 23, 2017, 4:22 AM · Mary Ellen, thank you... that's kinda what I thought.
October 23, 2017, 4:50 AM · A very scientific consesus, Paul.
October 23, 2017, 5:00 AM · How do Holosonics produce directional speakers?

October 23, 2017, 5:09 AM · The last violin I owned had more significant radiance in its projection -- you got plenty of sound if you were standing behind me as well. I remember that every other instrument I tried at the time, in the same price category or lower, didn't have that quality. (It was not something I heard, but I had friends with me for the try-out, and they noticed.)
Edited: October 23, 2017, 5:39 AM · As Douglas and Lydia have said, I've also experienced this phenomenon, from a listeners perspective. Some instruments seem to envelope you, as if the source was from all around a room rather than from a point source.

Something to do with resonance with a room and reflection? Is that plausible? Or is it sheer volume?

Edited: October 23, 2017, 11:28 AM · Holosonics seems to use nonlinear conversion of directional ultrasound waves with extremely large sound pressure levels, close to the point of being dangerous; actually touching the loudspeaker surface is likely harmful. A violin would probably fall apart if it was producing such vibrations.

See also

Edited: October 23, 2017, 5:23 AM · Huh! Cool tho'

So could presence of very high upper partials have a narrowing effect?

October 23, 2017, 6:07 AM · The back of a violin radiates a lot, I think in the higher frequencies.
Experiment: Try playing a few notes in cello position vertically, and then leaning away from you; and then with the edges of the back on one's thighs.
The "base" (not "bass") sound stays, but the overtones change a lot.

So maybe a violin which radiates well in all directions will have its tones reflected from more surfaces?

Also, low frequencies spread all over the place (and thus get lost, out of doors) while high frqeuencies helpus to localise the source.

Edited: October 23, 2017, 7:00 AM · A half-baked theory. When a sound comes from anywhere off-centre with respect to the listener the main psychoacoustic parameters governing its subjective lateral localization are the interaural differences in intensity and timing (or phase). Interaural intensity differences (caused by the "sound shadow" cast by the head) are more important for higher frequencies, while the interaural phase difference becomes detectable for frequencies lower than about 1.5kHz. Thinking of the higher partials, I guess it's just possible that certain violins might emit them asymmetrically such that some spread more to the left of the auditorium and some more to the right, thus diffusing and broadening the sound image.
October 23, 2017, 9:19 AM · There has been a lot of scientific research on directionality of sound radiation from stringed instruments. No reason to depend on a few data points of anecdotal experience to reach some rational conclusions.

Notes generated on all four strings from first position are basically omnidirectional. A person walking around a violinist that plays the instrument high on the shoulder would detect only a subtle difference in intensity at best. A player holding the violin more forward and with scroll down would likely reflect/absorb some of the sound energy that would normally be projected backwards.

As one climbs up the E string, a node in the pattern can develop that causes a dead spot at various angles from directly in front of the player depending on the note being played.

Once you get over about an octave above an open E string, the patterns become very irregular, so one's perception of a note played in the higher registers may be dependent on position relative to the player.

There are two common themes from the various papers I read:

1. Directionality is almost total a function of frequency. So it does not matter which string a note is played on. The basic radiation pattern will be the same.

Different strings may have different harmonic content, so the quality or timbre of the string would obviously vary.

The efficiency with which the bridge transmits bowed energy to the plate can vary among the strings, so that although the basic directional pattern is the same, a note played on two different strings with the same bow stroke can result in different intensity.

2. This behavior of directionality versus frequency appears to be a fundamental feature of violins in general. One expects most violins one encounters to project in a similar pattern for the same note. However, the intensity one detects for any given note would vary depending on how efficient the violin is at converting the energy of the bow stroke into plate vibration.

To add my own anecdotal experience to this, I heard Sara Chang at Verizon Hall in Philadelphia, a venue that has a well-earned bad reputation for string performance.

Notes played in the bottom 2 to 3 octaves came across powerful and clear. Once she climbed into the higher registers with sustained notes, it became a crap shoot as to whether or I could hear what she was playing. Many high notes played without distinct articulation or vibrato seemed to disappear.

Not a knock on her playing, which, overall, was an enjoyable experience. But it would seem large venue soloists have projection challenges that most players never need to consider. I wonder if the hyper-aggressive vibrato some famous players exhibit is a habit from the need to project high notes into cavernous halls for all to hear.

October 23, 2017, 9:31 AM · One reason vibrato can help a violin stand out over an orchestra is the phenomenon of co-modulation masking release. In short, a note in which all the partials wobble in either frequency or intensity at the same rate becomes easier to perceive as a distinct sound object
Edited: October 23, 2017, 9:44 AM · I have observed distinct changes in timbre (from around 30ft away) in a small hall when the player changed the angle of her violin and of her position.

I have seen 360° spectrogrammes of violin tones, and they were very irregular.

My "informed guess" is that both the direct sound and the reflected sounds had changed.

Edited: October 23, 2017, 11:47 AM · Adrian wrote:
"I have observed distinct changes in timbre (from around 30ft away) in a small hall when the player changed the angle of her violin and of her position.

I have seen 360° spectrogrammes of violin tones, and they were very irregular."

Some parts of the violin tone spectrum are very directional, and others are less so.

That's one of the things our more dedicated violin researchers are trying to sort out.

Edited: October 23, 2017, 11:50 AM · Steve Jones "When a sound comes from anywhere off-centre with respect to the listener the main psychoacoustic parameters governing its subjective lateral localization are the interaural differences in intensity and timing (or phase)."

Don't the pinnae of the ear contribute a lot to localization? At least, vertical localization of a sound source happens exclusively through the directional frequency response of the pinnae.

Jeewon: "could presence of very high upper partials have a narrowing effect?"

I doubt it. The majority of the acoustic energy in music is at low frequencies. That's why subwoofers are big and power hungry whereas tweeters are small. The ultrasonic devices need to produce 100 dB at fully supersonic frequencies.

We have wandered away from the old/new flamewar, cough, discussion. Maybe time to continue in a new thread?

Edited: October 23, 2017, 11:55 AM · Yes Han, the pinna is supposed to play a role in localization in the vertical plane, although I'm unsure exactly how that works. But it's well-known that high-frequency sounds are more easily localized than low-frequency - that's why our hifi usually only has a single sub-woofer.

David - cross-frequency changes in the polar distribution might indeed begin to explain why some violins give a more focused sound image than others. How to explain why the effect seems to vary according to the player is another matter, unless players' heads have different absorption characteristics? I used to wonder whether pendulous jowls (no names) might have a damping effect?

October 23, 2017, 12:21 PM · I have also seen vibration patterns of the higher frequencies: fine mozaics across the surface of the plates, and entirely unpredictable, even for a "scientific" luthier.

As for the player, tone seems to depend not only on the speed/pressure/soundpoint of the bow but also the dynamic "envelope" which can first initiate the overtones and then allow them to blossom.

October 23, 2017, 12:31 PM · David, I've heard that luthiers can sort of figure out how the plates will react to given frequencies, and then change those plates accordingly, but this is all before the violin is all put together and interacting accordingly.

Do you think there would be a theoretical benefit to putting a violin together, and THEN fine-tuning the plates (I know logistically this might be difficult.... but let's assume some sort of robotic-surgeon scenario here, where it can fit through the f-holes to scrape).

I was watching an old 80s video of a researcher vibrating violin plates and seeing how they worked, but then she mentioned that once you put it all together those vibration patterns change, so it's pretty hard to predict. So my reflexive thought was "why not scrape them AFTER it's put together?" Am I a fool?

October 23, 2017, 12:40 PM · In what I have read, the plate-tuning only applies toup to near 1 kHz: the tricky areas of "projection," "brilliance" etc are not whollypredictable.

I also heard of the "old Italian" luthiers scrpaing theire violins on the outside (before varnishing..) for tonal adjustment.

October 23, 2017, 1:07 PM · Steve: "it's well-known that high-frequency sounds are more easily localized than low-frequency"

Aural localization requires some frequency bandwidth, though. It doesn't work with near-monochromatic noise. I find high-pitched whines from electronics and leaking music from other people's earbuds in the train very hard to localize. (I see five people with earbuds and I hear one awful hissing beat "projecting" over the train noise... which of the five should I ask to turn down the volume?)

That's my anecdotal evidence that time and amplitude differences between the left and right ear play a minor role.

Edited: October 23, 2017, 2:04 PM · "David, I've heard that luthiers can sort of figure out how the plates will react to given frequencies, and then change those plates accordingly, but this is all before the violin is all put together and interacting accordingly.

Do you think there would be a theoretical benefit to putting a violin together, and THEN fine-tuning the plates (I know logistically this might be difficult.... but let's assume some sort of robotic-surgeon scenario here, where it can fit through the f-holes to scrape).

I was watching an old 80s video of a researcher vibrating violin plates and seeing how they worked, but then she mentioned that once you put it all together those vibration patterns change, so it's pretty hard to predict. So my reflexive thought was "why not scrape them AFTER it's put together?" Am I a fool?

No, you are not a fool by any stretch of the imagination. Fine-tuning with scraping on the outside of an assembled instrument is a work in progress. So far, I don't know of any back-ordered violin maker who places major importance on it.

Some Strads show evidence of refinishing on the upper treble side ff-hole wing. Whether this was done by Stradivari, or some restorer, we don't know.

Perhaps post-assembly and varnishing scraping and tuning in that area matters?

There is no shortage of disagreeing opinions, on just about everything, on the forums more populated by violin making and expertise geeks. Conclusions of Carleen Hutchins have largely fallen into disuse. But I think we will all acknowledge her for pushing the science end of the investigations forward.

October 23, 2017, 2:20 PM · Guiseppe Guarneri was arguably the greatest violin maker that ever lived. It is generally accepted that he struggled to sell his instruments and died in poverty. I take it he wasn't "back-ordered"?
Edited: October 23, 2017, 3:33 PM · Most of what has been argued here has been treated in literature for many decades and opinions should hold no sway when faced with real facts.

The two volume "Research Papers in Violin Acoustics (1973-1995) was published (by the Acoustical Society of America through the American Institute of Physics) 21 years ago with over 1300 pages of research study results on such topics. Since then then there have been an additional 22 years of studies (actually) published in journals around the world. All told, thousands and thousands of pages of experimental results on violins and bows. And then there are the more accessible books such as "The Physics of Musical Instruments," by Fletcher and Rossing, and James Beament's books: "The Violin Explained" and "How We Hear Music." Then there is the ultimate (so far) theoretical physics book on violin science, "The Physics of the Violin," by Cremer. There are many more similar volumes in my library, and I have no idea how may more that I don't have.

Now, one does not have to know all this published stuff to make fine violins. If one did, there would not be any such instruments. Many of these studies report on the measurable results of successful violin makers and these days more and more makers are relying on measurements that could not have been made in the "old days." But they often try to use the more audible and tactile methods of old to relate the modern "engineering" measurements to the "feel" and "sound" of the wood. I personally know one such maker.

Here far too much importance is being put on the unexplained causes of the results of the "play-off" experiments. There are only three major factors involved in the results and the apparent "differences of opinion" that occur in these tests and among violin preferences in general.

1. Instrument vibration spectra including directional aspects (and all the factors responsible) - which are measurable.
2. Player/listener hearing spectra - which are measurable.
3. Venue acoustics (measurable but 3-dimensionally complex).
4. Player technique (a real bag of worms)!!!

The first three of those can be measured (although no. 3 is a complicated one to add to the mix. No. 4 is the way a player takes "ownership" of an instrument, a whole other set of issues that may well confound a listener the most.

I think that only after the measurable results have all been been correlated and assessed should we find reasons for further interpretation and possible disagreement.

To me the only question that comes to mind after reading the Paris paper is "Why?"

October 23, 2017, 3:32 PM ·
October 23, 2017, 11:39 PM · Han - "Aural localization require some frequency bandwidth". Not absolutely, I'd say, because you can lateralize pure tones of say 1kHz pretty well using interaural intensity and time difference cues. I guess increasing the bandwidth multiplies the number of binaurally sensitive frequency-selective neurons in the brainstem superior olivary complex that are signalling the laterality of the sound source (I did a fair bit of research on the human mechanisms of this, although I'm struggling to remember it!).
Edited: October 24, 2017, 12:21 AM · Hmm, a couple of days ago a few unattended buzzers (for calling emergency medical responders in my workplace) went beeping like crazy and I found it surprisingly difficult to locate them. I had to move back and forth, to find out when they would become louder. This was in a small space with ample wall reflections. The pitch was probably around 2 kHz or so.

I remember from running sine test tones on my hifi system that they tend to be difficult to localize in a room full of reflections; as you move your head by a quarter wavelength, the left ear-right ear intensity difference jumps up and down. Detecting interaural time differences doesn't work for continous tones - I think it's the attack of the tone that we detect, rather than the phase of a continuous wave.

October 24, 2017, 12:43 AM · What I have noticed in my shop is if a player says one violin of a pair is louder under ear, often, at a distance (of about 15') its the other violin that clearly sounds louder, just the opposite of what the player hears, also, some violins the sound seems to come straight from the violin, the sound source seems no bigger than the violin, however some really good violins the sound source envelops the whole player, seeming maybe 4 feet wide circle around the violin for the perceived sound source, no clear way to explain it, but that's what I have observed.
Edited: October 24, 2017, 3:42 AM · Martin, very little is known about Guiseppe Guarneri, so as with many things, folklore and conjecture have emerged to fill in the informational gaps. Archival researchers continue to work on such matters, and occasionally come up with interesting things, like the recent discovery of Stradivari's will.

October 24, 2017, 6:50 AM · David, I like to avoid assumptions - especially if they are fed on folklore and conjecture. I based my post on the superb research carried out by Carlo Chiesa and Duane Rosengard. We know that for much of his life he struggled with debt and difficult economic circumstances. We can also surmise that he never achieved the fame and commercial success enjoyed by The Stradivari and Amati families.
Edited: October 24, 2017, 7:27 AM · Martin, if I remember correctly it was the Hills who wrote in 1902 that Stradivari had lent del Gesù money which was never repaid.
October 24, 2017, 7:33 AM · Hello Dimitri, I would be inclined to rely more on the Biddulph book!
October 24, 2017, 9:20 AM · Hello Martin, does he mention this episode?
Edited: October 24, 2017, 1:04 PM · Martin, maybe you like to avoid assumptions, or maybe you don't.
If I am not mistaken, very little is actually known about the level of demand for Guarneri Del Gesu's violins, during his lifetime. Since he didn't make very many, one speculative assumption has been that there wasn't much demand, but he also died at the age of 46, with a much shorter period of production than Stradivari.... probably only about 15 years in duration, judging by the dates on his labels. He also generally used fancier wood than Stradivari, which does not suggest poverty, (but also doesn't rule it out).

Are there any particular archival documents from that period, mentioning his name, and suggesting that he struggled with debt for much of his life, which you would like to highlight, whether from Peter Biddulph, Carlo Chiesa, Duane Rosengard, or anyone else?

I am always interested in learning.

October 24, 2017, 1:58 PM · Lyndon, regarding the violins that seem louder to the player being quieter at a distance, I immediately think of 2 things:

1) The player naturally will play quieter on a violin that already seems loud to them, so if the violin happens to project sound backwards, particularly treble sound, then they will use less pressure and bow because their perceived volume output is already high. Thus, as a listener, you might think it's the violin that's quieter, but it's really the player that's playing less loudly.

2) If the violin projects in the wrong direction, then the soft face of the player will absorb a lot of the sound, as well as projecting it in the opposite direction of the listener. Thus, it will sound loud to the player and quiet to the listener.

Actually, this gets me thinking that ideally - because violins tend to project different frequency ranges in different directions and it's impossible to get the frequencies to all project in only one direction - the "best" concert violin would be one that projects the upper frequencies primarily towards the audience and the lower frequencies primarily backwards, since bass frequencies carry farther and get absorbed less easily, whereas the "fragile" nature of treble notes requires them to shoot straight at the audience.

Edited: October 24, 2017, 2:35 PM · You don't get it; the player was playing the two violins while I listened, while she heard one as louder, playing them the same way, I heard the other as louder, we were both hearing the differences in volume at the same time, under identical conditions except for our position, her compensating by playing quieter would have made me hear it as being quieter.
Edited: October 24, 2017, 2:37 PM · How do you think "projection" should be defined? Should it be based on your own personal impressions of volume in that particular scenario?

These are some of the things the studies are trying to sort out.

October 24, 2017, 2:38 PM · How loud a violin sounds at a distance compared to its under ear volume, not how loud it is at a distance irrespective of under ear volume. That's just volume.
October 24, 2017, 2:42 PM · Dimitri, I'm not in my workshop at the minute, however I'm fairly sure that this this episode isn't mentioned. Stradivari is recorded as having stepped in to repay a loan on behalf of another inhabitant of Cremona. I believe this event was given as evidence of the contrasting fortunes of the Stradivari and Guarneri families.
October 24, 2017, 3:11 PM · David, I don’t have the book to hand but I recall the conclusion of the biographical chapter describes del Gesú as being beset by domestic and business problems for most of his life, I believe the term 'calamitous' is used to describe his family's financial affairs.
The body of the work shows del Gesú setting aside his craft to rebuild a property which he did not own in return for a fairly meagre reward. We also know that the threat of legal action caused him to borrow money to repay previous loans. He was unable to own his own property, nor was he able to save his family home from being relinquished due to unpaid debts.
The biography cites dozens, if not hundreds of sources which include legal documents, Church records and city archives.
Of course there is no absolute conclusive document or record to prove that he struggled or flourished commercially. However I feel we can conclude that he did not enjoy the financial success of some of his predecessors and contemporaries. I also feel we can recognise that he was an extraordinarily successful craftsman.
October 24, 2017, 5:04 PM · Lyndon wrote:
"How loud a violin sounds at a distance compared to its under ear volume, not how loud it is at a distance irrespective of under ear volume. That's just volume."

What sort of definitions and testing procedures for projection did the various "Fritz" studies investigate?

Edited: October 25, 2017, 2:42 AM · Martin, here is a bit on Giuseppe Guarneri, written by Carlo Chiesa, one of the researchers you have cited:

Edited: October 24, 2017, 5:51 PM · the Fritz studies seemed to redefine projection as volume at a distance with no regard to under ear volume, Then claimed under ear volume equaled projection, and claimed under ear volume and volume at a distance were all the same thing.
October 24, 2017, 5:52 PM · Eventually it will be discovered that Stradivari engaged in some kind of activity considered egregiously immoral by modern standards and suddenly nobody will want to attend concerts where his violins are played.
Edited: October 25, 2017, 1:13 AM · Lyndon, it looks like you would benefit from reading the studies more carefully.
In one of the tests, for instance, listeners were asked to select which of seven possible definitions best captured what projection meant to them. Volume or loudness was among the least chosen definitions.
October 24, 2017, 8:10 PM · Maybe the studies authors should have listened to the players. The authors seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what projection really is.
Edited: October 24, 2017, 10:30 PM · I think most players think of projection as the ability to be heard over the orchestra and at the back of the concert hall!

As for the "under the ear" vs "at a distance", I think many long time players would have earing damage in certain dominant frequencies (I read somewhere violinists suffer 6 dB average loss of hearing in the left ear), which may affect perception. There ought to be some clinical studies that describe the effect on earing of long term unprotected exposure to the sound frequencies of the instrument. The louder the instrument (soloist beware!) the greater the damage.

Edited: October 26, 2017, 2:21 AM · "Maybe the studies authors should have listened to the players. The authors seemed to have a fundamental misunderstanding of what projection really is."

The authors presented their findings, after taking in a variety of opinions and outcomes from players, listeners, and measurements, mostly using "blind" formats. If your opinions differ from those of players, listeners and measurements, then maybe it is your own opinions which need to be reevaluated.