Comparing Peter Infeld PI Aluminum vs Silver Wound D.

January 10, 2022, 1:06 PM · Has anyone compared Peter Infeld PI Aluminum vs Silver Wound D strings? If so, can you please describe how they compare?

I've looked online, and while the Pirastro site does a good job of making comparisons of different models of strings, not so much does the Tomastic-PeterInfeld site.

I can always give both a try. But, comparing in this manner gets expensive. Better to share, . . . and then compare.

Replies (16)

Edited: January 10, 2022, 3:32 PM · Overall (without specifying any particular brand), I prefer the "bow-grip" of aluminum-wound D strings.

The reason for this extra grip, as explained to me by several different string manufacturers, is that as aluminum oxidizes, pits are produced in the surface, which trap rosin. This rosin-to-rosin interface has a higher and more predictable coefficient of friction than between some other materials.

There are some string manufacturers who are using, or experimenting with designer surface finishes on silver-wound D's, to try to give them better grip. I don't know yet how this will eventually work out. The natural oxidation pits on aluminum may be self-refreshing, whereas imitated texture on silver or steel strings may wear off.

Edited: January 10, 2022, 2:15 PM · One time, I remember comparing Pirastro Olive D (M) to the silver wound Olive, and the latter sounded fuzzy in comparison. There seemed to be more body to the non silver-wound string.

But, I'm not sure this would necessarily be the same for the Peter Infeld PI D string.

January 10, 2022, 3:56 PM · That can work in a non-pejorative way, also. Darker, mellower sound for the silver wrap. Sometimes that works better.
January 10, 2022, 4:55 PM · On my violin - and to my preferences - the oliv silver D is better than the aluminium wound.
January 10, 2022, 9:24 PM · David, that's interesting info about aluminum-wound strings. I sure would like to see any images confirming this pitting effect. If your contacts at the manufacturers have micrographs they'd like to share, that would be wonderful. I don't know much at all about metallurgy, but I would expect aluminum and silver to behave very differently in terms of their surface chemistry and morphology. Both finger sweat and rosin contain substances that could be corrosive to metals.
January 11, 2022, 3:12 AM · I’ve always found silver D strings to speak more easily and sound much richer. Aluminum wound strings are always thicker, and that seems to make them a little dull. I never use aluminum D strings when setting up instruments unless specifically asked (no one has insisted so far).

When I was very young I used aluminum D strings because I simply bought boxed sets that came with that string. When someone recommended the silver D, something of which I had been unaware, I tried it and was blown away by the immediate improvement.

January 11, 2022, 8:32 AM · When trying to give a rational reason for dimension, tone and response of strings, it can be misleading to solely consider the material of the windings.

For example, manufacturers can vary the thickness of different winding materials to match overall thickness, so it might not be universally true that aluminum wound strings are thicker than silver wound strings.

Metal windings can be polished to adjust bow grip due to surface irregularities.

The core string can be made thicker or from a different material to minimize the width of the winding.

A more practical measurement for the player is to consider the string tensions of two different D strings. A lower tension means less mass and therefore more rapid response to the bow, and a wider vibrational arc which has tonal consequences.

String thickness is another parameter that is relatively easy for a player to consider. A thicker string will exhibit a more complex response to the bow than a thinner string, which may or may not be desirable.

Beyond that, I have found other considerations become increasingly subject to confirmation bias. But if your bias gives you confidence in your playing, then why not?

January 11, 2022, 10:57 AM · I have found silver D's thinner (silver is denser than aluminium) and thus more responsive, and they seem to allow playing nearer the bridge.

Someone wrote that D strings are like playing on wet cardboard...

Edited: January 11, 2022, 12:57 PM · Again, I'd like to place more emphasis on the properties of the grip between the bow and the string. Violin playing isn't just about steady-state string vibration, but articulation between every bow direction change, and every change in finger placement.

Every silver-wrapped D string I have tested so far has been low in these "articulation" qualities, compared to those with an aluminum outer winding.

I happen to like better articulation, as do most of my higher-end clients, although it is certainly not as forgiving of user error as a more mushy string such as an Obligato, or an inherently more mushy fiddle.

January 11, 2022, 7:21 PM · When I was a teenager, my teacher asked me to switch to the Dominant silver-wound D instead. Loved it -- big improvement in sound. Now I generally use silver Ds unless they're not available for a particular string set. I feel like they're more responsive and a little brighter.
January 12, 2022, 7:51 AM · David, I wonder how much of a person's choice is due to the dominant style of music they play? Do your soloist players have the same preference as a professional orchestral player?

I play shorter sonanta-format solo classical and fiddle/folk tunes. Rapid response, bow grip and ability to sharply articulate are the main things I look for. A little extra bow noise is not a concern.

January 13, 2022, 7:43 AM · Cannot say for Pi strings, but I do like the articulation and feel under the fingers of aluminum vs silver wound, unless they are too thick (a few rare cases, mostly Oliv gold/aluminum blend windings.) When I was a younger violinist, I loved Silver Ds upon experimentation. I understood the charm and value of aluminum wound Ds only as I revisited and tried many strings later on. When there is an option, I prefer aluminum Ds right now.

However, the market is sadly moving away from them, much like it "moved on" from lower tension strings. Very few manufacturers care anymore to provide options, to-I assume-save some production money.

The beautiful synthetic Cadenza set does not have aluminum wound Ds, and Pirastro uses them sparingly, mostly on their older string sets-not to mention few of their products are offered in anything else other than "mittel". But at least their Cadenza is relatively low tension, and a successful release in terms of being a great, low tension modern synthetic string (though I am sure some older releases sell better-here's hoping they do not get discontinued and they find an stable niche of violinists who like and purchase them.)

Edited: January 16, 2022, 10:22 AM · Peter Infeld (Pi) aluminum D-strings convey more brilliance. In my experience they seem to broaden the projection of this set. The bow response is quicker than the silver D (even though it's string diameter is thicker - aluminum is less dense than silver so more material is needed to wind the string) and the bow noise is noticeably coarser. The sound may be more open but the sound colors slightly less vivid than with the silver D. This is not necessarily a bad thing so I would recommending trying and see what works best for your instrument and preference.

Here is a helpful article from Thomastik-Infeld's new Stringtelligence resource on Aluminum vs. Silver D-strings. You should be able to get to it from their main website as well:

This is really just the tip of the iceberg since D-strings can also help improve the resonance and overall string balance, tame a wolf, or combat durability issues such as perspiration. Here are some Stringtelligence interviews with Thomastik-Infeld's engineer Franz Klanner that illustrate this:

Aside from the quicker bow response, I agree with David Burgess about the grip. The aluminum surface is rougher and this helps increase the friction between the bow and the rosin.

Edited: January 16, 2022, 3:23 PM · Also, you might like to check out the aluminum vs. silver D comparison on Thomastik's new Dominant Pro site to get a better idea. You can also compare the other string options:

Thomastik uses a novel silver alloy for the Dominant Pro silver D string so it combines the benefits of both silver and aluminum D-strings. In particular the response is much quicker than conventional silver D-strings and more resistant to corrosion than conventional aluminum D-strings.

Edited: January 17, 2022, 2:58 AM · From the Thomastik website linked by Garrett:

"For musicians who prefer a larger D-string diameter, the
aluminum-wound NO.DP03 [4.6 kg] offers an alternative to
the thinner (silver-wound) NO.DP03A. The diameter lies between that of the DOMINANT PRO A- and G-string. The sound characteristics are similar to the silver-wound NO.DP03A; however, the bow noise is coarser, the response more direct, and brilliance and projection capacity are increased."

January 19, 2022, 9:48 AM · Thanks for highlighting this recommendation.

I've decided to stick with the silver wrapped Pi strings. I had a poor experience with a silver wrapped string on a different violin. But, I sure can't complain how they sound on my currently violin.

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