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Instrument Case Inquiry


DR. S
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 I need new instrument cases for my violin and viola and a double case to carry both.  The cases I bought a few years back (American) just did not hold up.   There are so many new cases on the market and the price range is crazy,  I'd rather not pay $3000 but I want a sturdy case that will last.   I have looked for ratings but they are all over the place with very little agreement on what is best.    My instruments are valuable and need good protection, but I doubt I really have to buy a $3000 case to protect it adequately.  I prefer oblong cases and don't care that much about weight.   What are your experiences.    Anyone know if there is any actual test data. 

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This is problematic due to the variety of sizes of violas. I resorted to double cases for a period of time to ease clutter when traveling. 

Soft BAM cases are great if you have real hard cases at home. They are light and travel well. But have felt that they were never fully protective. I have lived with several soft single instrument cases for over a decade but use them for teaching instruments or for the daily abuser. I had a brand new viola in one for awhile ad felt ( noticed but not measured ) that the edges were wearing a bit faster due to the extra space around the instrument in the instrument cavity. One can feel the instrument moving inside the case in some instances.

With hopes for better protection, plywood based cases were tried. Having lived with several brands, they all fail after a certain period of time. I would usually replace the case every two years. The best deal overall was the Bobelock. I kept my last one because the exterior is in excellent condition, but structurally it is flexible enough that the latch ( not zippers ) will release when running with the case. 

The problems mostly are with the lower shell where the handle is mounted. Due to the extended width and weight of the case, that length of the shell will be under greater strain than any other part of the case. I believe BAM cello case owners also experience this with the lip of the lower shell not easily interfacing with the upper shell. I have several and they all flex except the original Newtech case without wheels, but I also installed one extra latch ( have not purchased the newer BAM cello cases though I have purchased two new violin cases. ) I thought about purchasing an Accord but the Gewas have been ok to this point. The lightweight Gewa cello cases appear to be structurally more rigid at the edges. My assumption is that some of the clam shell - style double case will still have problems with handle length distorting over time unless it has the overhang that the Gewa cello cases have.

Others might have experienced other difficulties with the hinges or the strength of the top under compression, but my experience has mostly been the flexing of the case overtime. A solution has been to make straps that wrap around the case reducing the stress on the handles and carrying the case over the shoulder or holding them in the hand. Velcro sown over nylon straps was a quick solution. There have also been large capacity, waterproof, soft back packs, that can hold a double case. I believe these were originally sold to photographers as the pricing was high. Some have called them tactical bags and there is a Tactical brand. When having to walk long distances, this was helpful. I usually sell the case for less than half price after returning from travel. After trying to nurse the first case, I gave up after getting stuck in severe storm.

I do have industrial touring cases for various instruments but they are heavy. I have cello cases with skateboard wheels and larger urethane wheels with internal air suspension, but baggage handlers find a way to break the corners. I have yet to be reimbursed by the airline when a GEWA ultralight was crushed. They try to blame the TSA but they are mostly responsible for the damage to internal contents. There is a strange psychology to robust appearances. When the first metal laminated travel cases came out, an associate told me to never purchase one as it encourages the baggage handlers to be rough, as it appears to be strong and due to the mass, the dents are likely to be deeper and more severe. Neither is it worth it for the chiropractor bills. Not suggested.

Guitarists sometimes use what is called a pedal board. For several years, about a decade ago, many of the pedal board manufacturers had semi-industrial hard cases made for their pedal boards. I purchased several to try as instruments cases as they were not as heavy as the hard plastic laminated birch-ply cases but the corner caps were metal and there was plenty of space for suspension on the inside. I lived with the weight but there were, strangely, moisture issues that developed. If you do not have weather issues, maybe this might be the way to go. The cases are not too expensive, in the hundreds range. I still have one somewhere, that i will fully seal and hopefully use as a bow case. It will easily withstand several hundred pounds of weight as long as it is not in the middle of the large panels. 

The other option is the use of adapting a hard plastic structurally reinforced case. They float. I had one for photo gear. My next purchase might be the Pelican V700 case. The interior foam can be replaced, and the price is very reasonable. More reasonable than most solutions, this might be the future. Because of the color, I am not sure how well it protects thermally. It would likely have to sit in the sun for awhile, though. It is a bit bulky compared to metal reinforced cases but much lighter, less likely to bash door frames and car exteriors.

I hate to bring up this discussion here, of the risks of having a spare instrument offstage. During orchestral rehearsals or during travel, one is often isolated from the other instrument, the threat of theft is a fraction of a percentage, but it is real.

You did not mention how the case wore out. Was it an old school American case or a recently made case?

If you have to have a normal type case, is there some one still manufacturing in the style of the Gordge case? They have a very rigid lower shell. I am sure others will have fine suggestions. You mention valuable instruments, but if the instruments are with you all the time and the fit is good, why not try the soft BAM double handle double case. If you store each instrument in a silk bag, that should minimize wear.

        

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I have experience with a Jacob Winter case, which I have used since 2005. It has held up very well. The backstrap part of it doesn't work well anymore, and now the zipper is going out, but as a case, it still functions incredibly well, and I could probably just replace the zipper and get another 10 years out of it.

Also have experience with a Musafia shaped case. I bet it will last longer than I will. It's more like $700. 

Have also had Bobelock and BAM, neither hold up all that well.

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My BAM case developed problems with foam rubber pads inside:  they started to crumble and stick to my instrument, what a mess!  The company sent me some small velvet-covered pads to replace the foam, but the small replacement pads were nowhere near the size and/or shape of the foam pieces that had deteriorated, so I  have decided the only solution is to get a new case.  I am also looking for brand recommendations, but I pretty much am leaning to Accord, as I have an Accord case which has suffered no problems whatsoever with age. 

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We have a couple of the Bam carbon fiber cases in the family (vln and vla). Good protection, and light for schlepping around to rehearsals. But the players always revert to their Musafia cases when solid protection is required (ie on tour, or long drive). They all have instruments worthy of GOOD protection. My wife has tried a carbon fiber, but the temperature protection isn't there, even using a silk bag. We have more extreme cold here than TX, and summers get HOT. She has had a Musafia dart for her violin for for about 19 years (bought it as a demo case) that she uses all the time--she plays violin in 2 orchestras and viola in another. We just had the violin case refurbished at the first of the year. The only issue was wear on the outside case cover and trim--the inside of the case held up VERY well. Very reasonable cost, and the case is better than it was new (with the better cover material, improved bow spinners, improved latch, etc), so I expect she will get another 20+ years out of it. I know I have seen a double-case on the demo/refurbished list in the past for Musafia, but it isn't often, and there is always the issue of viola fit. If weight ISN'T an issue, and protection IS, I think Musafia would fit the bill. You'd probably need to custom order a double, and you could order a nice, unique lining (maybe find some appropriate silk there in TX). One of our daughters has a silk snake-skin lining (it was a demo case too). I can't imagine there are many like this, she loves it, and I am sure it would be popular in TX! :-) Ultimately for us, the need boiled down to protection, and the desire to have a case that holds up over time. Musafia provides both for us.

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