High Quality Carbon Fiber Bows?

Edited: August 8, 2023, 9:14 AM ·

I have a nice Pernambucco bow that I like. But, I have a yen to try some carbon fiber bows. What are some makers and models of high quality CF bows? If you have a CF bow that you particularly like, what is its make and model?

Typically, what should one expect to spend on a high quality CF bow?

I know very little about CF bows. Are these bows manufactured; or, are they hand-crafted? Or, a combination of both?

Replies (26)

August 8, 2023, 9:33 AM · My spare bow is a JonPaul Carrera. It is a very nice bow. I tried it in both the stiff and soft version and much preferred the stiff. Tested it next to the two top models from Codabow - can't remember the model names (marquis or something similar and Diamond xs?) I preferred the jonpaul in that comparison.
I use it mostly for orchestra playing or whenever it says "col legno" which is Italian for "use your carbon fibre bow"....
Edited: August 9, 2023, 5:40 AM · My main bow is a JonPaul Carrera and my back-up is a Coda GX.
I ordered a stiff Carrera but the vendor was an idiot and sent a flexible one. I kept it because the vendor seriously undersold it.
The JonPaul stiffnesses are only decodable from their serial numbers (I emailed mine to JP). In theory JP instruct their vendors. In my opinion JP are idiots for having such a stupid version-control system.
Edited: August 8, 2023, 11:15 AM · My main viola bow is a hybrid (carbon fiber core, wood sheath). When I bought it in 2010, it was sold under the manufacturer's product name as a C.F. Iesta, but it is now sold under license in the US as the JonPaul Fusion Silver. It normally sells between $400 and $500. When I purchased it, it compared favorably to wood bows up to 5 times its price.

A few years ago, the principal violist of my orchestra bought one after trying mine in a rehearsal, and now also uses it as a primary bow.

August 8, 2023, 6:39 PM · The two bows Bo is referring to are indeed the Coda Marquise but the second one is the GX.

A lot of people like the JonPaul Avanti for a good carbon fiber bow that they use for orchestra playing and col legno. The Carrera is another good one, but it's about $700 or so more expensive. When it comes to good carbon fiber bows it mainly depends on how much you're actually willing to spend. For under $1000 you can't go wrong with either a codabow (the GX is a popular one for professionals) or something like the JonPaul Avanti. Some people like the Musing (Arcus brand) bows in that price range as well. Once you get over $1000 there are quite a few more choices. You could stay with Codabow and get something like the Marquise or there are the Arcus bows which are very popular and many people use them as their main bows. The JonPaul Carrera is also a popular choice.

I have a Codabow SX that's pretty good, but I would like the balance a little more toward the frog. They say it's balanced in the center, but for me, it's a little tip heavy. I'd like to upgrade it to at least a GX or maybe the Marquise or the new Escent. But this is not my main bow so it's not a priority right now.

August 8, 2023, 7:06 PM · I am happy with the "Master" or "3-star" bows from Cadenza. I have two for my violin, my daughter has one for her violin, and I have one for my viola. My cello daughter did not like hers -- she played a Codabow for a while, and that was okay, but then when she was starting to get really serious we took the plunge and she got a good wood bow from Linda West.
Edited: August 9, 2023, 5:42 AM · In addition, my luthier twice joked that the GX was indestructible, which may be an important consideration.
August 9, 2023, 5:54 AM · I've had a Coda Diamond GX now for a bit over a year and truly love it, truly.
I still have my trusty, high quality pernambuco bow but i find myself using my coda more these days.
August 9, 2023, 7:49 AM · My JonPaul Avanti is my daily driver. I use my Voirin only for important stuff.
August 9, 2023, 10:51 AM · What's your budget? Usable carbon fiber bows can run from $300 for a kind of spare tire bow up to $8-9K for top-of-the-line bows.
August 9, 2023, 11:00 AM · Interesting. I didn't realize that they come in different stiffnesses. But, it makes sense.

Will have to try some.

August 9, 2023, 12:34 PM · The JonPaul Avanti is a sleeper hit. Very good response and agility for a bow that can be found new for less than $800.

High-end CF bows are an interesting universe. I play nearly all the time on an Arcus S8, and it suits my needs perfectly, but not everyone is willing to go through the acclimatization process to discover how an extremely stiff, hollow, CF bow functions.

August 9, 2023, 6:05 PM · CF BOWS – an annotated “list”

Shortly after I moved to the SF Bay Area in 1995 I learned that the offices of STRINGS magazine were just a mile from my home. (The owner is an amateur cellist with whom I have played once or twice and his writers are also musicians who have shown up from time to time where I was playing as well.) My subscription started with the July 1996 issue that held two great surprises for me: the score for “Ashokan Farewell” and an article on something I had never heard of; CARBON FIBER bows (actually, “composite bows”) I was intrigued and this started me on an interesting and rather costly dozen or so years of “experiments.” (I still have that issue of STRINS magazine although I can’t find it today . It’s the only issue I have other than the past 2 years – I try to give most of my old issues od STRIGS and the STRAD away to others who might have use for them..

The STRINGS article singled out three kinds of bows, if I remember correctly:
1. CODA,
2. BERG and
3. Rolland SPICCATO (that’s the one I’m not sure of ‘today’). I was going to purchase a CODA CLASSIC VIOLIN BOW and telephoned a dealer near Boston and they told me I should try CF DURRO bows that were “just as good and cheaper” So for $925 I bought one each violin, viola and cello bow from them (I had good use for all three). These three bows grew on me over the years. The CF DURRO cello bow was actually my best bow for my 1877 German cello that I gave to my son-in-law a couple years ago – along with that bow. I had given my CF DURRO violin bow to my granddaughter but took it out of her case (while she was out of the country) and gave her the FINKEL JUMEAU (see below) in its place. So I still have all 3 Durro bows.

The DURROs seemed OK, but I ended up phoning NOVA PRODUCS Co. anyway and bought a
CODA CLASSIC violin bow any way. I complete4 my trio of CODA CLASSIC bows sometime later with cello and viola bows from Ifshin Violins (about 30 minutes from my home.)

Not too long after that I happened upon an on-line cello dealer, Ellen Gunst who seemed to have a
BERG Deluxe violin bow for sale, I ordered it, tried it for 2 weeks and sent it back (expensive!!!). Then I remembered how it had clicked off the arpeggios in the Mendelssohn Cadenza and called her up, negotiated a reduced price - I still have it. It still clicks although it lacks the tonal production properties of an equal-priced Pernambuco brow.

FINKEL HYBRiD BOWS that Shar sold intrigued me. I tried a JUMEAU and bought it. These hybrids have a CF core with a Pernambuco sheath. I also tried a full Finkel hybrid cello bow which did have marvelous off-string behavior – but not the richer sound of my pernambucos. I think I have since given the Jumeau to my musical granddaughter.

I finally tried a couple of Rolland SPICCATO violin bows at Ifshin’s and bought one (the more flexible design). After trying it on his Enrico Rocca violin at one of our piano trio sessions our violinist bought his own, forsaking use of his Coda Classic and the Lamy he had had since high school graduation (in 1953) for all the violin playing I saw him do in trio and orchestra for nearly 20 years. The SPICCATO bow has player-adjustable camber (using a tool that comes with the bow)..

At some point during those years I came into contact with Bernd Musing and learned about ARCUS CF bows. I ended up with a trio of the ARCUS CONCERTO bows. For a while we had a 3-way “arrangement” where he sent me newer ARCUS models to try and I would then pass them on to Ifshin Violins to put on sale. I also had a friend who tried some of the newer ARCUS cello bow and came by with them for me to try too. The ARCUS bows impressed me as being rather unique. I originally found the Concerto-line of bows too tip-light for my taste so Musing sent me Titanium tightening screws to lighten the frog end and I eventually had Ifshin’s insert small weights in the tips. (Problems solved!)

I also tried a number of lesser CF and “composite” bows but no longer have them. I think I sold them or donated them to youth orchestra.

I have to admit I have not tried any of the JonPaul bows.

I have tried to not review these bows here but I am willing to answer questions about them. Just realize that our ears hear differently and instruments respond differently to different bows.

August 9, 2023, 9:28 PM · Andrew, I'd be curious to know what you think about the tone of the Arcus bows (including the current offerings from them if you've tried them) compared to the other carbon fiber bows you've tried in addition to Pernambuco bows.
Edited: August 11, 2023, 9:06 AM · In my opinion, from the earlier ARCUS Concerto and Cadenza bows to the next generation, which is as far as my experience goes, the ARCUS bows brought out more high frequency overtones than my pernambuco bows**. The ARCUS Sinfonia violin bow seemed to me more like my CODA Classic.

If I were to play in a situation in which I wanted more "projection," that is having my sound be heard more clearly, I would probably use my appropriate ARCUS bow.

** My pernambuco violin bows include F.N. Voirin, Paul Martin Siefried and Richard Weichold. The Siefried is the newest and probably the best in many ways.

August 10, 2023, 8:19 AM · I'm intrigued. Why are bows being described in absolute terms without rosin being taken into consideration? So far I've been finding that light rosin gives a mellower sound than dark rosin.
Edited: August 11, 2023, 12:38 AM · Bows still have their own intrinsic sound, even ones within the same model just possibly not as diverse. Rosin is essentially like what strings are to a violin where you can fine tune the sound and feel little bit, but the bow will still have it’s intrinsic sound to some extent.
August 21, 2023, 9:23 AM · Any thread about high quality plastic bows needs to include Arcus.

Rather than just repeat, I'd just encourage the OP to google past threads on this topic -- there have been a lot of them.

There is no right or wrong with bows; it's all about what the player needs. I play Arcus for the extreme light weight and the incredibly fast response.

An S-series Arcus runs about 48 grams which is 20-some percent less than a wood bow, and you really feel the difference. Your bow grip can be softer and more flexible (and there's less fatigue for long plays). And the bow is incredibly quick for fast passagework.

The other thing about Arcus, the price of the higher level models is scary high but don't be afraid of the lower levels. An S5 is the same exact bow construction as the S8, the S8 just tested better at the Arcus factory so they put the fancy trim on it and charge a crazy price. There is a difference but it's relatively subtle. You can get 95% of the advantages of an Arcus at the lower level trims. An S5 at $1500 is a bargain IMHO -- MUCH better than wood bows at that price.

August 21, 2023, 10:13 AM · The 8 and 9 level bows tested better at the factory...because they are better. If you are demanding enough of your bow, you'll appreciate the difference.

And also yes, the 5 level bows are a fantastic value.

August 21, 2023, 10:25 AM · My experience with Arcus bows has been that not always the way they are valutated in the factory reflects the real potential and sound of a bow.

Personal test are necessary, and playing without looking at the price tag and the number stamped in the frog could be illuminating.........

August 21, 2023, 6:46 PM · Doesnt Arcus's rating system really just indicate that they found a way to market a lack of statistical process controls in their manufacturing processes?
Edited: August 21, 2023, 8:15 PM · Arcus's grading process basically accounts for variances in the manufacturing process which result in products of differing levels of quality.

I think there's a meaningful difference between the Arcus grades until you get to the 8/9 boundary. I think the difference between an 8 and a 9 can be more subtle, but as a broad matter, after having tried quite a few Arcus bows over time, I've never found myself disagreeing with the grading. The difference between an S5 and an S8 in terms of handling qualities is HUGE.

(But a player's ability to feel these subtleties varies, of course, and if you're someone who can't really tell the difference between an S5 and an S8, the S5 might turn out to be a great buy for you.)

August 21, 2023, 11:30 PM · I find there to be a definitely noticeable difference between the 8 the 9 level bows. The 8 bows are fantastic but the things that still take some work with an 8 are effortless with a 9. Also, the 9 can do things that the 8 cannot. It's a big price jump but worth it if you can swing it.

Here Berndt Musing is explaining how they needed to come up with the 9 class of bows:


This is a nice video on how they classify their bows:


Also, the difference between the handling of their octagonal sticks and their round sticks are true to the way they describe it.

Edited: August 22, 2023, 3:34 AM ·

Arcus bows sound interesting; here's their website . . .


I like my current C. Baroin bow because of the sound that it produces on my particular violin. (It's a contemporary French bow made in Mirecourt.) Nothing I've tried matches it, and that includes a Sartory (not even close), a Bazin, and a Louis Joseph Morizot. They might handle better, but they don't sound nearly as good. It almost seems as though my bow and violin were made for each other. (Though, that's obviously not the case.) As for handling, my Baroin is a thoughtfully constructed bow and handles nicely enough for me at my level.

But, I do wonder about finding a bow that sounds as good, and also has excellent handling. In this regard, I find the Arcus bows intriguing. It would be neat to try some just to see how they compare. It's true, the best of them are expensive. But maybe not prohibitively so.

August 22, 2023, 7:02 AM · Mr Musing is particularly able to explain LOTS of things, but my Arcus Sonata bow did put out a better sound than even an S8 in Mondomusica in Cremona in 2019, judged from distance in the crowded hall by the builder himself in a blind test.

Maybe the evalutation process was refined in the factory, by years passing....... :)
Anyway i would not trust the classification that is presented, and would always judge without watching to "given" class of an Arcus object.
As said: it could be illuminating :)

I own 2 Arcus bows and i appreciate one in particular, and i believe that nothing can beat those type of bows. Codabows don't even stand in the same cathegory, in my tests in the same occasions.
But, as said, judge with hands and ears, not with eyes and price tags (as too many seem to be accustomed to do :) ).

Edited: August 23, 2023, 11:41 AM · The higher grade Arcus sticks have better resonating properties than the lower grade ones. It's this variable that they use to classify their sticks, and only a small percentage of them get rated at the 8 and 9 levels. However, this property isn't the only thing that affects the sound of their bows on different violins, so it is absolutely possible that a lower grade stick, for other reasons, may sound better on a violin than a higher grade one. There's also differences between their previous generation sticks which were painted black, and the current ones that are plain carbon fiber.

I also own an older-model Arcus Sonata that I play with my backup violin, and it pulls a slightly-more interesting sound on that particular instrument than my primary bow, the Arcus S8. On my primary violin though, the S8 is far more articulate, has better projection, and is more tonally rich.

I also had one for viola that did not play as well as the violin ones at the time.

August 23, 2023, 4:34 PM · My Sonata bow is not varnished, it was built not much before the monoletteral classification switch.

There is another thing to say: i had it rehaired not long after i got it. After the rehair, it played 200% better than before.
My personal opinion is that at the Arcus factory they seem use hairs that are not good as they could be, even if the builder raves about them.

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