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The one that is better is the one you like better after trying a number of them and having someone play your violin for you with your top choices. I have a Coda Conservatory that I like very much and which I chose over a more expensive Coda Classic because of its responsiveness. Good luck!

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The three aspects of a bow that will affect you are:

1. your ability to handle it through the "catalog" of strokes, and

2. the way it makes your instrument sound, incuding the ease with which it may make certain toonal regions sound.

3. the specific kind of music you will be playing with it.

When I attempted to evaluate the composite bows a few years ago ( http://members.aol.com/bowedstrings/violin-bow-review.html ) I gradually came to find that a choice ultimately came down to what instrument I wanted to use the bow on and what I wanted to play.

I've also gone through this with cello bows (and a smaller number of viola bows) and have found similarities between the composite bows for the different instruments from a given company.

I have helped people select bows - and these selections have included Coda Aspire, Conservatory/Colours, Classic, Rolland Spiccato and Arpége, Berg, and Arcus Concerto and Sonata. The selection has always depended upon the specific instrument it was tried on. It is not unusual to be able to find an affordable bow that does as well as the best of the expensive bows you try (on a particular instrument).

My granddaughter (now an experienced violinist with 8 years of training behind her) uses a Coda Aspire that does as well on her violin as anything else we have tried except for my Voirin, which sounds just a bit stronger. The only other thing that comes close in sound to the Arpege on her fiddle is my Arcus Concerto. On the other hand, on others of my violins, the Aspire seems a bit weak on the G string and does not seem at all like the Arcus.

The best gift you could get for your birthday would be a preliminary trip (with your instrument) to a dealer who carries many bows so that you can select your very own best choice.

It is also possible that a pernambuco (wood) bow will do better for you. There are some really good bows coming out of Brazil and China these days. I tried 12 or so Jay-Haide cello bows ($395, made in China) last Friday and they are all quite good - doing well on that particuolar cello in comparison with a range of bows up to $6,000.

But the telling thing was that of the 60 or so bows I tried on that cello in two sittings in the past two weeks only two really made a powerful difference on that cello - and both were made by Paul Martin Siefried.

On the other hand, on my other cello, the Siefried bows do not make much difference at all, and a Coda Classic is about as good as anything else I've tried. In my playing on that cello I will vary between the Coda Classic, a Marco Raposo, and the Arcus Concerto, depending on what I'm playing, how the instrument is sounding (often related to the weeather), my hearing, and how my muscles are working that day - truth be told, I usually use the Arcus, but often play with two or more bows laid out beside me..

Some people will claim they do or don't like a specific bow or brand of bow, but if you let them try it on a different instrument they are likely to have a completely different opinion.



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