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Dominants, Infeld Reds or Tonica


bjp115
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It's been years since I used Tonica, but I always liked them a bit more than Dominant. Now, I use Infield Red with a Larsen E, which replaced a set of Dominant strings. I like them, though I can't say it's a *world* of difference. (Not much help, but how many of us can pop for $100 in strings just to switch around 3 or 4 sets in short period of time.)

As to the brightness thing, though, I did try them [Reds] on a Scott Cao I've got that has a bit more brightness than *I* really like, and didn't find that it accomplished what I really wanted. (I'm going to move a set of Obligatos onto that instrument when I get a spare moment -- they are definitely a different string from the Dominant/Infield/Tonica group - not saying they are better, just different.)

Somewhat related ... I got a fancy marketing brochure from D'Addario yesterday, and it had all kinds of charts and big words -- but before my eyes glazed over, I got from it that changing the tension of the string also affects on the tonal quality, so you might consider a heavier (or lighter, but probably not) gauge.

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I've tried all three of the sets in question. Of them, the Infeld Red was the most mellow, followed by Tonica, then Dominant (which I like, but find relatively bright-sounding).

That said, I think you will be happier with Pirastro's Violino. On my instrument, a Gliga Shop-Job, not only are they milder than Infeld Red, but they are also the quickest-speaking synthetic strings I've found. (I even prefer them to the much-ballyhooed Obligato!) In my very limited experience, these two qualities seem mutually exclusive in most strings. (At least, when they're strung up on a student-quality fiddle with ME sawing away at it!)

Rat

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I don't like the break-in time on Dominants. I do like Infeld BLUES, and I like Tonicas on my current violin. The Tonicas are a little mellower. Reds were too mellow for me. Tonicas also (to me) have a less coarse sound than Dominants. I have had a couple of Infeld Blue sets that I didn't like though -- too raucous -- maybe some unevenness in manufacturing (since I have had several sets of them that I liked).

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Infeld Reds are designed to be a tad dark, and might do what you want.

Some feedback from my new luthier (a genius at setup, BTW): Infelds often sound terrific out of the bag, but get mediocre quickly. Several of his clients call up raving when they've first tried them, and then call a week later asking for a soundpost adjustment. I've had good luck with them on a medium-bright (maybe tight-sounding is more accurate) Gagliano.

The same guy rather likes Evah Pirazzi, with the proviso that they can sound horrible on a really good violin that needs no help sounding good. He favors them for very bright ("cheap and nasty" is his phrase) instruments such as many modern Italians.

I use Tonicas on a fine, light-weight violin that needs to relax to do its considerable best.

Don't forget to juggle E-strings. They can make a huge difference not just on overall brightness/clarity, but on G-string response.

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As you can see, seven or so people responded with about nine or ten opinions. I find the questions here about which string or rosin is the best to not be very useful. Just pick one set at random and try it. Then try the next set and see which one works best on your violin, Or, go to your local luthier and get his/her opinion. Strings magazine had a useful article in the past couple of years on the subject of strings. You might want to consult it.

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I find lots of wisdom in the responses thus far. There can be a lot of surprises in testing strings. For example, I have found that on my bright fiddles, it's the bright strings that do best - strings like Evah Pirazzi, Infeld-BLUE or Larsen. My attempt to get a darker tone, for example using Infeld-RED and (especially) Obligatos on these fiddles leads to a disaster, as so much of the strings vibrations elicits strong anharmonic vibrations from the instruments.

On the other hand with my darker fiddles, the potential of the brighter strings seems to be lost, while the instruments thrive under Obligato (especially) or Infeld-RED strings.

Going down a peg in cost, the Tonicas have tended to work for me better on those same bright fiddles than Dominants ever did for me. Some instruments that can tolerate just about any string do seem to bring out some strings as "bright" and some as "dark" - just the way they are reputed to be.

We each have a sound we want (or perhaps several of them) from our instruments, and we are fortunate if we have an instrument (and bow) with which we can create that sound and find the right strings to do it with.

Andy

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How about more fuel for the fire? At the suggestion of a luthier, I decided to try strings that match the characteristics of the instrument, i.e. dark strings for a dark instrument, and bright strings for a bright instrument. What I found was that doing so enhanced the personality; not so much making the instrument sound even 'brighter' or 'darker' than it already is, but actually better, fuller. His reasoning was that, at least on very good instruments, you want to match the colors and overtones of the string to the instrument, and doing the opposite actually serves to negate overtones and kill projection. If you don't like how bright or dark an instrument is, you need another instrument, not strings. Of course, a cheap, nasty, harsh sounding instrument is a different matter; nothing will help, only suppress it somewhat.

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I found the same thing as Andrew Victor and KillinKatz. So-called "bright" strings on bright instruments actually do better than trying to change the tone through strings. I tried the more traditional way -- using Obligatos, and they were awful -- they became tubby within a week (on the lower strings). Evahs were much better, but Infeld Blues even better than that, and they did not make the instrument sound brighter, though they did respond more quickly.

The choice of E string though, is crucial, it can affect the sound of all of the other strings. (with Evahs I always used a Hill E -- wonderful!); with the Blues, I'm still not sure, though I'm beginning to think that the Blue string itself is best.)

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How would you rank Evah Pirazzi, Infeld Blue and Dominants in brightness? I have a very mello and dark tone. Infeld Blue had been very nice along with my new bridge. But I want the tone to be even more focussed and brighter... O tried Evah Pirazzi a while ago. It has nice overtone and very powerful. But the sound isn't so clean and focussed. Should I try Evah Pirazzi again or Dominants?

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OK, I get to throw in mine.

Tonicas sound like Dominants, without all the noise under the ear; at a distance they sound virtually the same.

Obligatos are strings for solving problems, however I never know in advance what they'll do. I've put them on violins that were too harsh and they calmed them down; I've put them on violins that were too calm, and they juiced them up. I don't like to use them because I never know what they'll do.

I didn't like the Infeld varieties because I felt the sound was too plain: they ironed out the tone color and variety of sound I like in a violin. If you don't notice what's missing, you might like them.

Evahs seem OK, but they sound rotten for the first 12 hours or so, so don't give up on them right away. However, I've noticed that they (and Obligatos) tend to saw down into the bridge. If you're going to use them, have your shop guy put something under the A and D strings so that doesn't happen.

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I have a bright French fiddle, and I just made the switch from Dominants to Tonicas this past weekend. The Tonicas are warmer and fuller sounding, and also very responsive (I am talking about the G, D, and A only---the E was a disaster and came off after only a few minutes of playing). In addition, the Tonicas solved a G string problem I've encountered every winter---when the humidity drops here in the cold weather, the G stops sounding when the bow moves across the string. I thought it was my bow and had it rehaired. It was the Dominants.

SJ

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Here's a dopey question from a beginner. Can you buy strings seperately or only in sets? I haven't changed mine yet because I haven't decided what to change to, if not keep the kind I have. I do think I'd like a different E string, but does that mean I have to get a set just for the E?

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You can buy string individually or in sets. A lot of people buy seperate "E" strings which are different from the rest of the strings they use. Check some of the online shops like Shar, Southwest Stings or Concord and you will see they give you the option to mix and match your strings.

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In reply to:

does that mean I have to get a set just for the E?


No, all strings can be purchased separately, including the e. Violinists experiment so much with e strings that Shar or Quinn's (I don't remember which) even has a sampler pack of the most popular brands of e strings!

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Thanks to all who responded. I decided to go with the Tonicas. The comments about strings matching the instrument type(IE WARM VS BRIGHT) led me away from the Infeld Reds since my violin s bright sounding. I have tried Evahs on this violin and they are impressive but too bright and loud under the ear so I stayed away from them and the Infeld Blues. The comments about the Tonicas sounding like dominants without the noise swayed me to the Tonicas. I decided on the wrapped 'E' but I never realized that the E can effect the other strings so I will now probably do some trial and error with them. Thanks for the info about the E sampler pack.

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