Variation in string prices for the same brand

September 17, 2022, 5:23 PM · Why is there such a big difference in prices for the same violin string?

It's not just a few dollars; sometimes it's 50% difference in price. For example, the standard Dominant 135 set with aluminum D has a price range of $50-80. Not all brands are as bad. For example EP greens are reliably between $90-$105.

Replies (23)

Edited: September 17, 2022, 5:52 PM · Sales, offers, wanting to be the lowest price online (this does not work for violin shops, which usually price them at the given supplier price or slightly more. But if they have them in stock, I do prefer paying a bit more at the shops. My string preferences nowadays, however, is rarely available at most local shops.)

Dominant on the "cheap" are usually sold as individual strings. The same company selling to you them at $50 with an offer has them at "regular" (supplier stated) price. I have never experienced a bad new string at a lower price from this particular shop/website. They are not cheap because they are bad, though they may be old new stock (no evidence, just my hunch of a worst case scenario.)

Along as you are sure you are not buying counterfeits (especially on EBay), buy with confidence. For some reason Shar tends to at times be more expensive than standard, but definitely not always, and they do have frequent discount sales.

A Perpetual Cadenza set is often at $78.00 when they activate those 20% sales at Johnson's and Shar. Quinn does not do many discounts, but the custom set with your choice of another brand's E can save you more than 20% overall. I highly recommend waiting for 20% discounts (Southwest also discounts strings from time to time) and buying them (or use Quinn Violins' custom offer if these work for you) than waiting until you need them. Save some money for string changes, and buy a set when on sale even if you may not need them right away.

September 17, 2022, 5:52 PM · You might find a difference as large as 10% to 20% between various on-line sellers. Much larger differences were common in the recent past between on-line sellers and "brick and mortar" stores, but I have bought only from on-line sellers for years - so I no longer know the full market story.
September 17, 2022, 6:30 PM · Each vendor has a few things that are cheap so that people will see those and thing, "This vendor has low prices." Different vendors have different items. And its not just a few items, it's a strategy scattered across their catalog. The idea is to keep the consumer very confused about how much stuff should cost. Markup on violin strings must be huge.
September 17, 2022, 9:07 PM · Yes, violin string markup must be insane. Look at guitar strings.
September 17, 2022, 9:33 PM · well I get my strings from a top wholesale supplier that only sells to shops and the string prices are only about 20% lower than the lower retail online prices, that means these retail suppliers are operating on pretty low profit margin even if the are buying direct from the manufacturer
Edited: September 17, 2022, 11:29 PM ·
Like in a lot of things, it pays to shop.

I wish that I had shopped when I bought my Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin from Leatherwood. (Ouch!!!) I later saw my rosin listed for a lot less on Amazon.

But being rosin, it's somewhat of a compensation that it will last for so many years. After all that time, will I really remember that I spent so much? (You bet I will!)

September 18, 2022, 2:05 AM · Without knowing where you’re looking for prices, it’s hard to say exactly why you’re seeing such a difference. Here are a few thoughts, though:

First, there are a lot of fakes for sale online. Because Dominants are aptly named, it’s not hard to find strings made to look like them. Thus, it’s hard to compare prices if not all are genuine products.

Some of the larger online retailers offer sales on string sets to those on their email lists. The string manufacturers have rules that forbid advertising their products below a minimum price, but a seller can get around this by making an offer to an individual without advertising it on the site.

If you’re comparing prices, make sure you’re comparing the same set. For example, you can buy a set that comes with an aluminum d or one with a silver d. There are also options for the E. The various string choices will affect pricing.

Depending on where you live, prices may vary. Shipping costs can change things in areas with reduced access to strings. Import duties may play a part as well.

Unfortunately, not all businesses operate within the scope of the law. There are occasional sellers who ignore the rules they’re given by the string distributors or who get their merchandise through illicit means. For example, there have been individuals who have worked for shops and used the shop accounts for their personal orders so they could sell online and undercut the shops.

September 18, 2022, 2:13 AM · Mark, making a decent bowed string (with the possible exception of a standard violin steel E string) is much more complicated and expensive than making a guitar string.
(I have toured the D&Addario factory where they make both.)
September 18, 2022, 5:17 AM · Why are the bowed strings more expensive? (Violin strings can be 8 times the price of guitar strings, or more.)

Some guitar strings are wound. I assume similar machines are used to wind guitar and violin strings.

Then there are materials. Silver is expensive, but there is not much of it. Guitar strings use metals, and heavier than violin strings, are longer, and there are 6 strings.

Edited: September 18, 2022, 5:06 PM · Mark, I'll touch on a few things briefly:

Most of the higher-end violin strings no longer have solid metal wire, or solid "nylon" cores. Why? One reason is that solid core strings tend to have so much bending resistance, that they don't come very close to the theoretical "ideal string", which has so little bending resistance that it will produce the entire harmonic series with little effort or delay. With an aggressive enough attack (such as that from a pick or a hammer), solid core strings can work OK, but aggressive attacks are only a small part of what violinists do.

Cores of multiple small wires, but more-so, cores composed of multiple much smaller spider-webish-sized nylonish strands can result in much reduced bending stiffness.

But this brings with it another issue, that of rotational stiffness. Bow force is never applied at the center of the string, because it cannot be if the string has any thickness. Instead, it must be applied at the bow-contact perimeter of the string, and thus will always contain a torque or twisting force. Too little resistance to this twisting force doesn't work out well for the player. I once tested a set of prototype strings with very little resistance to twisting force, and upon bow direction changes, it would take about one or two seconds to wind up the string in the other direction sufficient to take up the torsional slack, so it would start to produce a recognizable pitch. Violinists aren't terribly fond of stuff like that! ;-)

So this is a very brief explanation of some of the reasons that violin strings are a lot different from cheap guitar strings, and some of the things that violin strings need to do which guitar strings do not.

September 18, 2022, 7:33 PM · There are guitar strings whose core is made from multifilaments. Pro arté is an example. Still much cheaper than violin strings.
September 18, 2022, 7:33 PM · There are guitar strings whose core is made from multifilaments. Pro arté is an example. Still much cheaper than violin strings.
September 18, 2022, 8:59 PM · Mark, I assume you play the violin or have some familiarity with violin strings. Pull out your Pro Arté guitar string, and compare it with a good violin string. If you don't immediately see the difference in fineness of construction and details on the ends... you aren't paying attention. BTW, there's more hand-work in the making of a violin string than you apparently realize. And they are by nature more awesome because they go on a violin. So, there you go.
September 19, 2022, 5:32 AM · I have a son who recently started playing guitar on an old 3/4 toy guitar we had at the house. He really enjoys it and practices everyday. So I figured it was time to get him a decent one. We went to the guitar store and tried a bunch. The shop keeper asked about our budget. I had no idea what guitars cost. I figured $1,000 should get something playable at least. The shop keeper was a bit surprised and commented that he had played for over 10 years before he got a guitar that expensive. Turns out you can get something fairly good at that price point. In fact, I'd reckon 90% of the guitars in the shop were less and they must have had a couple hundred in stock. I guess my take away was in the violin world we should plan to add a zero to everything...haha
Edited: September 19, 2022, 8:46 AM · GUITAR: flat top, flat back, no bass bar, no carving.
My son worked a few years in the Santa Cruz Gutar Company in the 1980s - "cutting wood" not "selling strings." In fact, before he moved on to other work, they let him come in at night to make complete guitars using company wood - and he made two, kept one and gave one to his brother-in-law, who passed it on to my grandson who played it professionally for almost 5 years, before he bought his Martin. He has played enough guitars to know it was a good guitar. Santa Cruz guitars cost a good bit more than $1,000 so do Martins:

September 19, 2022, 12:02 PM · Mark Breiger wrote:
"There are guitar strings whose core is made from multifilaments. Pro arté is an example. Still much cheaper than violin strings."

Mark, didn't I already state that I was touching on a few things, briefly?
If you would like to learn more, I would suggest that you spend hours talking to the engineers at multiple string manufacturers, as I have done.

But if you would like to cut to the chase more quickly, simply install one of those multifilament-core guitar strings on your violin, and see how well it works out. If you are a low-level player, maybe it will be fine. :-)

September 19, 2022, 12:34 PM · @ Andrew, we settled on a Martin. It was used but in perfect condition in mahogany wood. Beautiful, rich, warm sound. And yes we did go a bit over budget:)
September 19, 2022, 4:14 PM · On the subject of guitar string price vs violin string price, I would also guess that volume has something to do with it. There are a lot more guitar players than violin players. (this is in addition to all the other factors already mentioned here)
September 20, 2022, 4:37 AM · I agree Erik that volume of sales is probably a factor in violin string pricing.

Yes David I would need to talk to the engineers, as it is not clear to me from your description that there are differences in materials or methods of construction that account for the difference in cost. To be clear, I am not saying that guitar strings and violin strings are identical. I am saying, guitar strings appear to use manufacturing techniques that are no less costly than violin strings.

September 20, 2022, 1:02 PM · I think there have been some good explanations already as to the reasons for bowed strings being more costly. I would just add that, in addition to generally having a more complicated construction, violin family strings are wrapped with silk thread at each end, something that adds a lot of time to the production process for the strings. If I recall correctly, Fan Tao told a story about testing a set of strings without silk on players; the strings were otherwise normally made, and the production time could be significantly reduced. However, the reaction was very strong—everyone hated not having the silk at the ends.

I don’t think it’s true that the same machinery produces guitar and violin strings, and it takes more time to make a violin string than a guitar string. There really are production differences. It’s not simply a case of appealing to a sense of elitism to justify artificially high prices.

Another thing to consider is the lifespan of the strings. Guitar strings break frequently and aren’t expected to last a long time. Guitar players change strings a lot more often. A product that’s not worth expected to last long can’t be as expensive. If a violin string breaks before it’s worn out, there’s a good chance the player will be angry about it. Players often write to the manufacturers asking for a new string or money back if one breaks. The average set is expected to last the average player six months to a year with regular use, which is a lot of wear and tear.

September 20, 2022, 5:41 PM · The details are scant on the construction. What machines are used, etc.

I agree the silk is an extra step, and adds cost.

From further reading, and watching videos I did find several pieces of relevant information. Someone from d'addario indicated that their bowed strings are processed with something to make them ring less. This is an extra step and adds a cost. Thomastik and Warchal showed machines that bow violins. Such devices have to be constructed and programmed and thus add to the cost.

So yes, there is some justification for a higher cost. However, not knowing the details it is not possible to determine if the prices are truly justified.

Another bit of info, Thomastik indicated in the future they will be able to make strings without manual labor.

September 20, 2022, 6:44 PM · I've recently started using gut strings. After watching videos on how they are made, I am astonished at how they can be marketed and sold at such a reasonable price. I consider it a bargain in fact.
September 20, 2022, 9:48 PM · I manage trade missions which brings me catalogues of technology for industry. The machines for instrument string windings are sold as able to do the job for guitar, mandolin, violin, etc. They are not quantum tech, precisely...
The silks and end ball is another standard machine. Is marginal in time or money of the process.

The production key for manufacturers are the inputs. In particular if the thinning of the winding (from the sourced wire) is done in-house or outsourced. And same about the core: If it's a multipurpose filament readily available, or if it needs to be manufactured in-house with specific machinery. And then, of course, the depth of quality control at each step. What you do and how often to approve the batch.

My 2 cents about the topic: Factory production costs are a very small part of prices for branded items. That's why it's worth to create a brand. As the company grows, many other costs are incorporated that are not in the direct manufacturing.
That was "old fashion" price setting. Currently, pricing is done by marketing departments following any of the many price strategies and those strategies can sometimes be obscure. I'm sure that many times, the price of the strings will not make sense for the workers in the factory. In one direction or the other.

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