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I like some of the imported in the white, graduated and barred here, nicely setup and varnished violins. The nicest seem to be from Bulgaria. Sophia, for example. I do a line like this that works well. I'm sure there are others. The main potential trouble being overthinning, which I doubt that many do. The problem is well known: big sound now that dies pretty quick. In Chinese products, Shen, Cao, Angel. Good boxes, but I like the Bulgarians better.

Steve

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The main potential trouble being overthinning, which I doubt that many do. The problem is well known: big sound now that dies pretty quick.


Do you mean that a violin that is overthinned will actually get worse over time, and will just sound horrible after a few years?

I wasn't aware of that. I have always naively assumed that all violins sound better after an initial breaking-in period. Are there instances in which this is not the case, then?

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I have two of the violins and one viola made by Charles Woods of Ridgecrest, CA. He started as an amateur maker in the mid 1980s. He has now made and sold 70 violins, 8 violas, and three cellos. One can't continue to call him an "amateur."

Some of his instruments are really exquisite in tone - for player and listener (maybe they all are, but I've not tried them all). I fell for the first one I bought (his #11) when I heard some people trying it out. I got 2nd dibs on it, and it managed to come my way a few months later, in 1990. The second one I bought 10 years later (#54) seemed to take longer to become my favorite violin (I have 4 non-Woods violins) but it is now the one II use - more Strad voiced than #11.

I believe his price is still in your range. He is a retired mechanical engineer - so he does not depend on lutherie for his living. You can contact him at woods@ridgecrest.ca.us .

Andy

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The main potential trouble being overthinning, which I doubt that many do. The problem is well known: big sound now that dies pretty quick.


Do you mean that a violin that is overthinned will actually get worse over time, and will just sound horrible after a few years?

I wasn't aware of that. I have always naively assumed that all violins sound better after an initial breaking-in period. Are there instances in which this is not the case, then?


Actually I'm learning that if a new violin does not sound a bit stuffy or brittle, and sounds open and loud right away, then it might have been overthinned to get you to think that it is a good buy when you compare instruments. What happens is that it goes flat and blaring after ten years or so. I tried a violin at a shop for consignment where this has happened to it. Of course I did not measure the plates, but the other customers consensus is that this poor violin must have sounded nice 10 years ago. Walter Kolneder, who wrote "The Amadeus Book of the Violin: Construction, History and Music", offers some fascinating timelines for when a new violin will sound marvelous. Unfortunately, it is in the 40-60 year range. It is hard for people to have an objective rating system, since the people who heard the violin 40-60 years ago are now dead. And I'll be gone in 40-60 years. Of course with modern recording techniques it is now possible to take a high quality recording of the violin and store it for that long to compare.

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I have had new violins from China, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Germany in my shop. When comparing violins at with similar pricing, teachers, students and seasoned players seem to choose the Chinese violins over the others. If I were to need a new violin for myself it would be a Scott Cao or a Samuel Shen.

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I've seen very, very few violins that I'd regard as over-thinned. I know this is a common scare story, but I think the actual number is miniscule. However all violins do need relatively constant care, especially near the beginning, and they rarely get it to the extent required--I've seen shops resort to all sorts of shortcuts to avoid doing the necessary work, because they'll have to do it free. That doesn't help the violin, and it doesn't help the maker's reputation.

It would also be interesting to know what "thin" is. I'm reminded of a friend who went to violin making school. A very famous maker assured them he made his violin tops 3.0mm. My friend wouldn't believe that this maker, whose reputation is established and permanent, actually made them 2.5mm until I measured a series of them for him. I suspect the maker said this because the school teaches its students that tops should be 3.0mm and that anything thinner is too weak, which is simply wrong. . . but I know what graduates of that school tell customers who are considering a properly made violin from another shop that doesn't meet the 3.0mm rule they were taught in school.

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Incidentally, I have heard some talk before that Peresson's violins often had overthin tops, and while they sounded absolutely phenomenal in their first few years, they really dropped back severely after that. How true is that, and if so, why are Peressons still commanding their fairly hefty price tag? By the way, these comments came from some very illustrious violinists that were in the very highest echelons of the London orchestral scene back when Peresson lived ~ in the 1970s. Any comments, folks?

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Incidentally, I have heard some talk before that Peresson's violins often had overthin tops, and while they sounded absolutely phenomenal in their first few years, they really dropped back severely after that.


That comment might have been made by someone who didn't bother actually to measure a Peresson top but relied on speculation instead. The one owned by a friend's father has a rather thick top. It was made in the 1970's so it is around 30 years old. It is more than a few years old, but doesn't get played that much. However, there are several Peresson violins in the Philadelphia Orchestra that get played a lot. I haven't heard of any that went bad.

My friend's father loves that violin and he is sufficiently wealthy to be able to afford any violin he chooses.

I thought my friend's father was an outlier until Dr. Axelrod was asked which of his Cremonese masterpieces was his favorite and he replied that his favorite violin was a Peresson.

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The ones I've seen that we too thinned were perhaps not average bad, but had irregularly distributed spots down to 2 mm or slightly less. Maybe "irregularly graduated with big really thin zones" is more like the description. I've seen several of one type that are (after 10 + years) quite dull. One had developed quite a few cracks. Still, some players like this sound. I suspect inadequately aged wood combined with relatively thin graduations would give some problems.

The Bulgarian work is up a bit in price. Still quite reasonable for the quality of work. Still a bit quiet unless graduated thinner / better and (possibly the big influence) the bass bar made a bit less enthusiastic!

In stock state, the Chinese still seem to be providing the sound that the $1000 buyers like. Some of the European violins are winning out over Chinese for strong, classically oriented players. At least here with my limited sample.

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Although only a player, just a small observation.

Would the thickness of the top be dictated by the quality of the wood itself. I would think that as one is bound by say a thikness of 3mm that one would not take in account wether the wood was stiffer or softer ?

So one should be flexible in the thickness that could vary from violin to violin from the same maker.

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I have had new violins from China, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Germany in my shop. When comparing violins at with similar pricing, teachers, students and seasoned players seem to choose the Chinese violins over the others. If I were to need a new violin for myself it would be a Scott Cao or a Samuel Shen.


I'm in shock. I tested a STV-017 (made in Scott's China factory - not even workshop), and it was very good. Surprisingly so. The tone was even, smooth, round and resonant. It was also balanced across the strings. Okay, so the lower G and D were a little darker and richer than I prefer. The A and E were shimmering and responsive. I did use a $2200 Jon Li bow for testing though, and not the el cheapo brazilwood plastic wrapped bow that came with it. But I was surprised at how good it sounded. It was better than the STV-300 whose pegs kept slipping and was so uneven we didn't give it a second hearing. And the whole thing including shaped case, el cheapo plastic wrapped bow is retailing for $375. I think you could throw out the bow and buy a better bow for around $200-300 and still get a very decent $500-ish outfit. I will try it tomorrow with the cheap bow to give my friend a fair hearing of the violin outfit and what to expect. But the violin itself on first look is beautifully done, the measurements look okay, the nut shape, setup etc. The funny thing is that the bridge was pretty drastically shaped with the E-side sloping down more than usual. Any explanation for this?

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You got either a Gems 1 or a Gama 2 or some sort of earlier model halfway between the two, wmeng, not a maestro. As for the neck reset, we have had two Gligas here (out of hundreds) where the bridge height has suggested that the neck may be badly set. We simply don't sell those, they either get repaired or they get sold off on ebay with a clear description of the fault.

Liz

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I have been selling and playing Scott Cao violins for quite a few years and never even seen the STV-300. I have been sticking with the same models since then. STV-017, 500,600,750,800 and 850. There are several new models that were introduced a couple years ago that I don't carry. They were introduced to compete with the lower priced violins that other companies were selling.

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I have been selling and playing Scott Cao violins for quite a few years and never even seen the STV-300. I have been sticking with the same models since then. STV-017, 500,600,750,800 and 850. There are several new models that were introduced a couple years ago that I don't carry. They were introduced to compete with the lower priced violins that other companies were selling.


Hi George, the STV-300 is from Scott's second factory in Conghua, China, and nicknamed "Scotti". These are dirt cheap, and probably a nightmare for students. The outfit sells for $175. The STV017 ($375 outfit) is much more refined and comes from Scott Cao's Guangzhou, China factory (his first factory, so the workers might be more experienced). The pamphlet said that the violins from the first factory are fully handcarved and graduated and finished by hand. Nothng said about the second factory other than they are hand-carved from solid tonewoods.

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