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What are currently the best violins money can buy ?


Stadiravius
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I was thinking about this recently going from dealer to small shops around my town, the violin business is very different from ...let's say the 'guitar business' where a professional quality instrument can be easily obtained for around 1000$

 

There is a real partition between entry level instruments and high quality equivalents. as of right now the best violins in tone, feel and playability I have encountered usually orbit in the 5000 - 10 000$ price points, I have seen more expensive examples that reach 100 000$ but these violins I parallel more closely to art pieces vs performance instruments.

 

Here is my question for those of you who have gone through a few fiddles, what is currently the best one money can buy ?

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Very difficult to say,  and I am pretty sure not all or perhaps any will agree with me.  I would say that almost all professional quality bowed string instruments are hand made by individual makers.  They start in the neighborhood of $10,000.00 and go up from there.  There are lots of brand new instruments that are more than capable of being used at even the zenith of the musical world.  Great players will always need great instruments and will seek out the best they can obtain.  At this point in history the greatest players do play instruments be the Italian masters of the 16th through 18th century. Could they be just as good on a new instrument?  I do not know, and I am not even sort of qualified to render an opinion.   The answer to your question is very complicated and I think you will get many answers that conflict.  As a collector of contemporary instruments (in a smallish way) I can say there are wonderful makers of instruments and bows that I am very lucky to use, and every last one of them is better than I deserve!

 

DLB

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A $1,000 guitar has been made in a factory. You might find a lot of people who would argue that $1,000 doesn't even get anywhere close to being a professional instrument. It will almost certainly be covered in a thick sprayed on finish, they usually are.  It's no different to the violin market except that violins (on average) tend to be in a slightly higher price bracket. I'm sure that it's quite possible to get a perfectly fine sounding violin for less than Dwight has stated. You might have to search very hard to find that instrument though, then again you may get lucky. Then you would have to ask what exactly is 'best'? According to whose criteria? Does everyone like the exact same tone?

Personally I think it's an impossible question to answer, other than stating that the best instrument is the one that speaks to you. It might not be one, it could be several.

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A $1,000 guitar has been made in a factory. You might find a lot of people who would argue that $1,000 doesn't even get anywhere close to being a professional instrument. It will almost certainly be covered in a thick sprayed on finish, they usually are.  It's no different to the violin market except that violins (on average) tend to be in a slightly higher price bracket. I'm sure that it's quite possible to get a perfectly fine sounding violin for less than Dwight has stated. You might have to search very hard to find that instrument though, then again you may get lucky. Then you would have to ask what exactly is 'best'? According to whose criteria? Does everyone like the exact same tone?

Personally I think it's an impossible question to answer, other than stating that the best instrument is the one that speaks to you. It might not be one, it could be several.

Not entirely true in my experience. At least the $1000 being subpar. I've been playing guitar for some time now. The guitar industry is really a crap shoot if you go by price alone. Unfortunately you don't get what you pay for a lot of times in the mass produced and even custom guitar world. I have many ~$250 guitars that are indeed professional quality. There are also plenty of ~$1000 and up turds. My Fender American Standard ($1100) is not nearly as good as my crappy FrankenSquier ($150). It seems that at least in this day and age, Asian manufacturing is getting pretty close to good ol' American quality on certain things.

The violin market seems to be much less predictable. But you at least have a much better shot of getting something of quality if you are buying from a well known maker. Not guaranteed but the odds will be more in your favor.

 

As Michael stated, it all comes down to what you want and what speaks to you. You might end up being happy with something that costs in the six figure range, or even the three figure range.

 

I think the going rate for a hand made fiddle from an experienced luthier is about $30,000 these days, no? Don't quote me on that one lol.

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I'm referring to classical guitars, of which I've been around for nearly 40 years. Probably the most expensive being in the $20,000 region. Not many makers at that price but there are a few approaching that. That is a reflection of demand. Certain makers can get that kind of money. Actually it doesn't mean a lot to me, in terms of them being better tonally. A lot of other makers charge far less and all I can say is that I struggle to hear any price difference but that's just my opinion. 

I think you will also find that there are many violin makers with many years of experience who do not charge anything like $30,000. There are a few very well known makers who charge that (perhaps even more).

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As Conor says, If you have to ask, you can't afford it. 
Or...if you don't know what a good fiddle costs then you probably aren't gonna buy one anyway. 
Either way you don't know. 
Without knowing what you want you'll be entering the market as a consumer and will
either get hawked by a dealer in a shop or end up trying so many violins you don't know
what you started with. 

If you DO know a decent violin (ad can play it) then the only factor is how much cash you have and how much
you want to part with. Even then, you don't always get what you pay for. 
If you're just asking the question to find a 'definitive' answer, then you're not gonna get one. 

I've seen some great violins coming out of the schools that would be 'affordable'.
 

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I think Michael was talking about acoustic guitars Nick.  But I can relate to the electric comparison.  I gave up my Gibsons for Ibanez and ESP, can't play Wasted Years on a Gibson but you can on a KE-3 and if I remember right that solo was done with a Stratocaster originally.

 

  I've seen Cordoba's best.  Said one day to myself "what if, I bet I could".  Still haven't.  

 

If I had to find the right violin and had extra time and funds I would start low end like Cecelio and Mendini.  Then move up to something like what C.M. sells or used to.  From there I guess it's to unknown/ hobbiest makers who know a little.  Next would be student makers with training who haven't really made it big time yet.  Next, hit the old timers that were made long ago but not in demand but could be a gem in the hiding.  It's really tough now so I'll quit for now.

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This is just an impossible question. There are so many different price levels of violins and the variability between individual instruments within a given price range is huge.

 

If you stick to newly made instruments, I would say that the best individual makers do in fact make the best (new) instruments (better than any factory or brand name), and the price range starts at about 16K, and you have to get around 30K+ for some of the best. However you have to be the guy that knows what "best" means, just because a guy charges this much doesn't mean its good, there are lots of duds in the new hand made category.

 

With that said, everyone knows super violinists with great sounding instruments that were much less expensive, but these guys know how to sort out the players from a big pile.

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I think the going rate for a hand made fiddle from an experienced luthier is about $30,000 these days, no? Don't quote me on that one lol.

 

I find that stuff starts getting reliably good over $15,000-$20,000.  Around $8,000 maybe 1/15 instruments will catch my interest.  Over $15,000 and it's closer to 1/6.  Funny that I think of 1/6 is "pretty reliable".

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I'm referring to classical guitars, of which I've been around for nearly 40 years. Probably the most expensive being in the $20,000 region. Not many makers at that price but there are a few approaching that. That is a reflection of demand. Certain makers can get that kind of money. Actually it doesn't mean a lot to me, in terms of them being better tonally. A lot of other makers charge far less and all I can say is that I struggle to hear any price difference but that's just my opinion. 

I think you will also find that there are many violin makers with many years of experience who do not charge anything like $30,000. There are a few very well known makers who charge that (perhaps even more).

Michael,

I have a friend who has a Fleta from the middle of the last century that is a multiple of the value that you cite.

 

To the OP, the best violin that you can purchase today is the least expensive instrument that meets your sonic needs. I worked for some folks who have a large guitar shop here in Seattle, and the comparison between violins and guitars goes something like this:

 

Violin teacher comes in, wants a guitar. Show me something nice. 1k guitar. Ok. That's nice, but show me something nice. We go up to a Martin or Collings that is 4 or 5k, and the violinist is overjoyed because they can purchase the best guitar that we have for less than the cost of their good bow.

 

The guitarists, when they want a violin, seem to think that paying more for a violin gets you better sound and easier to play. I think that it provides you with the potential for better sound, but I've yet to run into a great violin that was easy to play. We won't talk about guitarists and bows...

 

All that being said, I just had someone in the shop looking for violins for their students, up to 1k, and they sounded great with the teacher playing. They will sound common and plain with the beginning students trying them out on Saturday, seemingly unrelated to what was heard today.

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In a world where some people make millions of dollars a day and some make hundreds of dollars a year pricing gets a bit skewed. There are great violinmakers in China who are happy to sell a violin for a few hundred dollars and  American or European makers whose business plan starts with being the most expensive modern maker alive. If some one deals in expensive instruments whose value is set by rarity then having one of their own  violins on the wall at an exorbitant price is worth a lot as an advertisement of their expert status and they may be better off if it never sells at all.

 

I think "best" has to be narrowed to "best for what"? Best sounding for tonight's concert? Best sounding for a tour of four continents in seven days? Best instrument for a student whose playing style is still developing? Best financial  investment over time?...... 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Please leave me out of it, if you don't mind. Our beginning prices do start at $400 but we have some on the webpage for 2.6, with private collections at much higher levels. If you're going to drag me into this, at least know what you're talking about.

And if you're insinuating that I don't "know a little," think again. I do this every day, and have for 20 years now.

 I did look thru all of your instruments provided for viewing and my decision in order of choosing remains the same from post #7.  I guess I wouldn't list a private collection either.  And I hope you never ever figure out how to make whistling strings and wolf tones go away - that I do know how to do.

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I would avoid buying a violin from a guitar shop or music store unless they have a knowledgeable violin luthier on staff. Often times instruments in this price range have factory set ups which are definitely sub par. Go to a orchestral string shop, preferably one that is run by an experienced violin luthier who is meticulous about set ups. Violins in the $1000 range can sound quite good for the price with the right set up, but I have yet to hear one that comes close anything in the $10K range provided both are set up well. Remember that the more expensive instruments can require a very skilled musician to pull out all the colors lying in wait. The same musician can then play the $1000 violin and the differences will undoubtedly be stark.

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Please leave me out of it, if you don't mind. Our beginning prices do start at $400 but we have some on the webpage for 2.6, with private collections at much higher levels. If you're going to drag me into this, at least know what you're talking about.

And if you're insinuating that I don't "know a little," think again. I do this every day, and have for 20 years now.

 

 

 I did look thru all of your instruments provided for viewing and my decision in order of choosing remains the same from post #7.  I guess I wouldn't list a private collection either.  And I hope you never ever figure out how to make whistling strings and wolf tones go away - that I do know how to do.

 

I fail to see how this exchange is enhancing this discussion.  An honest understanding one's market position, skill level and the customer base served usually aids one's cause.  There is justifiable pride in serving that market segment well and/or setting high standards for the work one knows how to do.  Be happy.

 

Reaching outside one's area of expertise requires serious exposure, diligent study, tenacity and an understanding of what responsibility one has to their clients... and if that groundwork isn't covered, may naturally attract some criticism. It's more comfortable if that criticism is presented in a positive, productive manner, but I believe how one processes the information is far more important.

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I fail to see how this exchange is enhancing this discussion.  An honest understanding one's market position, skill level and the customer base served usually aids one's cause.  There is justifiable pride in serving that market segment well and/or setting high standards for the work one knows how to do.  Be happy.

 

Reaching outside one's area of expertise requires serious exposure, diligent study, tenacity and an understanding of what responsibility one has to their clients... and if that groundwork isn't covered, may naturally attract some criticism. It's more comfortable if that criticism is presented in a positive, productive manner, but I believe how one processes the information is far more important.

Hats off to Administrator.

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I play on a $2000 violin for teaching and gigs. It gets the job done every single time. That's, to me, the best violin money can buy, for the job.

I have another fine violin made by a Japanese who studied violin making in Europe, priced in "entry level" professional instruments, that I use for classical recitals. It's a wonderful violin for the job, and plays easily and respond to what I throw at it, and project wonderfully. That's, to me, the best violin money an buy, for the job.

I have another contemporary cremonese violin, that priced just a level above the one mentioned right above, which has a very different kind of sound. It has huge voice, albeit not as flexible and easy to play as the previous one, but I played a Mozart concerto with it and again, projected wonderfully. Well, the Japanese violin projected equally well albeit in a different way, I've yet to use it for concerto setting and I'm looking forward to play a concerto with it. This Italian violin, again, is the best violin money can buy, for the job.

I don't see myself hunting for another violin in the near future, if at all. That's pretty much what I *need* right now, in fact, more than enough.

End of the day, improving my technique and musicality seems to prove more effective and meaningful "upgrade" than being obsessive with the instrument...

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