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A/B comparisons of Strads v.s. ordinary violins?


chronos
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A product called the A/B CD includes a comparison of a Stradivarius violin against a "standard" ($200) violin (on track 25). According to one reviewer at cdbaby.com: "One of the most notable comparisons was between a 1708 Stradivarius and a standard violin--holy **** did the Strad sound much better."

Are there any other A/B comparisons between Strads and lesser-priced instruments?

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I've found a few sound files comparing a Strad against another instrument at the infamous Nagyvary's website. When I compare sample 1-1 against 2-1 I prefer the sound of the first violin over the second one. The second violin seems shrill to my ears, while the first one sounds more mellow. On the other hand, I can't decide which violin sounds better from the other samples offered at his website.

Can anybody tell me which of the two sounds more like a Strad? The way I see it there's a 50% chance that my guess is wrong.

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One has to hear a violin live, played by a very good player before one can make any judgements of sound. Whenever I go to a concert it is always easy to hear when the solo violin being played is great or not. I am not saying I can identify a particular Strad compared to a particular Guarneri but one can hear instantly if a great violin is being played.

I honestly believe there are some modern violins "out there" that are the (almost) equal of the great instruments. Only, we won't know for sure for 300 years.

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Lst night I was privileged to hear the Viotti Stardivarius having its first public airing for 200 year courtesy the BBC. This instrument made a truly beautiful sound with an evenness of tone right across the whole range. The Royal Academy of Music is trying to raise £1M to add it to its collection. If the money cannot be raised then the instrument will go to public auction and will either end up with a professional player who will do it to death or disappear forever into some bank vault. Since it has not been played much for the last 200 years it is in immaculate condition.

Click on the following link to find out more.

http://www.ram.ac.uk/strad/index.html

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I honestly believe there are some modern violins "out there" that are the (almost) equal of the great instruments. Only, we won't know for sure for 300 years.


I've attended several sound trials, including double blind tests,where neither the player nor the listeners knew what was being played, where modern instruments were overwhelmingly chosen over good quality Cremonese, including Strads. That said,there are many subtleties lost in these A/B comparisons.

Oded Kishony

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I noticed in their list of supposedly supportive letters on the issue they have a comment by Steven Isserlis. His comments seem to be against instruments being kept in museums so why have they put it as a supportive comment.

Also they mention that if the target is not raised all donations will be used elsewhere for students ,etc... I think this is a bit controversial ,especially if you contribute a large sum for the specific purpose of buying the Viotti.

I personally have nothing against them being kept in Museums as long as they are loaned out regularly for performanances,which the Royal Academy do. I `d much prefer that than in a private colection where access is limited to a small circle of friends .

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I'm not sanguine about Coke vs. Pepsi side-by-side tests, which is what most of these violin comparisons are. Remember when this methodology resulted in the discontinuation of Coke Classic? The mistake was believing what customers said. Once the old stuff wasn't in the market, we all realized what we missed.

I'll take a risk here and guess that some modern violins are louder, if plainer, at short distances than the Strads. This convinces some listeners that they are hearing the projection of a great instrument, which they then misidentify as the Italian classic.

My own observation, FWIW, is that listening tests are and always will be misleading. Players acquire their violins by playing them. Listeners' opinions are colored by too many distractions.

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Mark,

There was no need to distinguish-all that was required was "which sound do you prefer?"

The average length of time that people can remember the nuance of a sound is abut 45 seconds! That's why it's important to do A/B testing quickly and efficiently and repeatedly before coming to any conclusions

Oded

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Hi Oded --

As I remember (and assuming you're talking about the same test), one of the Strads became quite unpleasant when the player tried to drive it to maximum volume, but had a really sweet, almost molasses-y tone when played gently. Unfortunately, the questionaire asked about volume and projection, and there the modern instruments did much better.

Personally, I *liked* the Strad better, but only when it wasn't being pushed too hard. But I guess this just highlights the problem with A/B type comparisons. There are so many factors involved.

Imagine doing the same sort of test with singers -- OK, Pavarotti, sing a scale from C to G. OK, Mr. Neill, your turn -- audience, which singer has the better voice?

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Between the segments I posted I liked the first one better. I think I'll ask Mr. Nagyvary which one is which and post the answer to this thread. Like I said, I have a 50% chance of being wrong . In any case, the two sound very different to me.

I should admit there's an ulterior motive behind this thread: I'd like to hear how Strads compare to other instruments in order to get a better idea of what to strive for. The only Strad I've heard in concert had a very mellow sound to it, kind of like a muted violin yet without being at all muffled (that probably doesn't make any sense, but that's the impression I got from it).

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Quote:

Okay then... which sound do you prefer? (see attachment)


I am petty sure, the first is not a Strad or Del Gesu. The second may be, the sound is much richer and open. But who knows. A player choosing the wrong contact point and bow pressure can make a Strad sound like a cigar box

A famous violinist was asked to test-play a violin and he asked back: "Shall I play it for Buying or for Selling?"

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I liked the second recording better but I'd want to know more about who played what and when for the comparison to be a valid one (see falstaff above)

Claire, yes we were both present at the same event and the Strad did sound much better after the player was instructed on how to play it.

There are other comparisons that I could refer to. The one comes to mind at a Cello Congress in Arizona some years ago. In that instance the player (Jeff Solow) played a mix of old and modern cellos including his Montagnana, a Strad, Goffriller, Tecchler etc. The Tecchler came in first followed by #2, #3, #4 modern and then a mix of old and new. In that case Mr. Solow did not recognize his own instrument (he was blindfolded) and it did not come in first, second, third or fourth....

As I've said there are many subtleties to this and one should be very careful about drawing conclusions but the evidence is compelling-modern instruments can be truly great-competitive with old ones on many levels.

Oded Kishony

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Quote:

Seems to me the comparison is bogus. Sounds like the player is inconsistent in the two samples.


I agree. I thought that in a couple of the samples the violinist was trying harder to make the 2nd fiddle sound good (thus I suspected the 1st was the Strad!). The problem with these comparisons is that there's no way to hear the sound of the violin without the influence of the player. Also there's no way as a listener to evaluate response, which I assume would be an important factor in determining if a violin was "as good as" a Strad.

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Quote:

I thought that in a couple of the samples the violinist was trying harder to make the 2nd fiddle sound good (thus I suspected the 1st was the Strad!). The problem with these comparisons is that there's no way to hear the sound of the violin without the influence of the player.


Yeah, that's sort of the impression I get when listening to the first pair of samples. It's like the player was trying to get a louder volume and more vibrato out of the second instrument. According to Nagyvary's website, those samples were recorded live in front of 400+ judges. The maker's involvement in setting up such a test can potentially bias the results in his favor.

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Remember the old saying: "How can 20 billion flies be wrong?"

Doesn't make cow dung a delicacy.

400 judges who haven't a clue what they are hearing doesn't make them an authority.

Just look at the number one film or book in any given week.

Artistic merit is not determined by democratic consensus. Despite what many may have you believe.

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