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Advice on sound post and bridge and general setup on EH Roth 1700 Strad


Theghostis
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I purchased a 1973 EH Roth violin, 1700 strad model, that I suppose I'd say has a pretty poor setup, and maybe some other issues. I'm in the process of deciding if I should DIY the setup or take it into a shop for at least a student level bridge and soundpost or soundpost adjustment. If I did much fiddling at the moment, this might be a good instrument for that, but it's not going to replace my main violin.

For context, I have minimal setup experience. I have done two setups on violins that I got in the white, and the setups weren't great. 

The soundpost in the Roth is approximately 1cm away from the bridge foot, possibly a little further. I also have noticed that the top in the area around the soundpost and treble bridge foot seems lower and flatter than the same area on the bass side, like the arching has collapsed on one side. This could be related to the soundpost being so far from the bridge. Should I be concerned that the top will collapse more in this area and loosen the strings until I can either move or have the soundpost moved for me? Could something else be causing this? Should I have any other concerns around this fact?

The bridge is an adjustable foot bridge and it appears to have multiple issues. It has very deep string grooves, especially on the e. On the treble side, the "kidney wing?" has sort of collapsed so there is very little space, but on the bass side, it looks normal. What might cause this? The bridge is also not centered on the body of the instrument and the strings are not centered on the fingerboard, but the strings are further toward the treble side while the bridge is further toward the bass side. The string spacing on the bridge also looks really off. I did install a Wittner tailpiece due to the horrible Caspari pegs, but I don't think I moved the bridge more to the bass side when I did this. It does look like I need to shorten the tailgut.

On the subject of the Caspari pegs, does anyone have experience replacing them with either oversize perfection, Wittner, or the Caspari replacement PegHeds? From the research I have done, it looks really challenging to remove the Caspari bushings. The PegHeds sound like the best replacement solution if I can manage to get them without shipping my violin to PegHeds for installation, but then I have to find someone to install them/remove the Caspari bushings because I don't think I have the skill or equipment to do this without damaging the peg box. Given my issues with the bridge and soundpost, I think the Caspari pegs might be low on my list of concerns.

I tried to capture some photos showing the bridge and soundpost placement. I appreciate any advice on setup, and whether it's worth it and I should pursue returning the instrument to the seller.

 

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21 hours ago, Theghostis said:

I purchased a 1973 EH Roth violin, 1700 strad model, that I suppose I'd say has a pretty poor setup, and maybe some other issues. I'm in the process of deciding if I should DIY the setup or take it into a shop for at least a student level bridge and soundpost or soundpost adjustment. If I did much fiddling at the moment, this might be a good instrument for that, but it's not going to replace my main violin.

For context, I have minimal setup experience. I have done two setups on violins that I got in the white, and the setups weren't great. 

If you want to find out what the violin is actually capable of, a professional set-up will be your only option. Seek some advice on fittings & strings too.

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The Caspari pegs aren’t a direct replacement with ANY normal peg. They aren’t reamed to the correct angle. I have dealt with the Caspari pegs, and you’ll have to bush the peg holes and ream them to the correct angle to use regular pegs, Pegheads, or Wittner pegs. Considering your limited experience, and the multiple issues, a trip to a luthier is probably worthwhile.

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22 hours ago, Theghostis said:

Given my issues with the bridge and soundpost, I think the Caspari pegs might be low on my list of concerns.

I would agree with this. Leave them alone at least for now, until you figure out if you like the way it sounds.  

This might be a situation where you get a good luthier to cut a bridge, then use that as a standard for learning to cut your own. See if you match the tone.

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That sound post looks too low down to me. Take it down (by pulling the bottom of it via the bass soundhole), check the length of it, and reposition. 

Is the fingerboard off centre? If so, that would explain the bridge position. If not, just sacken the strings a little and push it sideways. 

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On 6/16/2022 at 2:41 PM, Theghostis said:

On the subject of the Caspari pegs,

If the Caspari pegs are in good working order, then there is really no reason to replace them besides aesthetics. It is not an inexpensive proposition to replace them.

It definitely needs a professional set-up.. 

In the 1970s, some Roth 1700 models substituted a paper label bearing the oval logo and serial number for the actual branding in the back. Does yours have a brand or a paper label?

 

 

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Since posting the other day I have shortened the tailgut and moved the soundpost. The soundpost is still definitely not it the right place but it is now closer to the bridge rather than about 1cm away. The e string has an overly ringing, piercing tone although the two lower strings sound pleasant. 
 

I’ve also confirmed that the fingerboard is definitely off center which is disappointing. It looks like the neck is set off kilter.
 

@FiddleDoug according to Pegheds Facebook page, they make a replacement for Caspari pegs. They still require removing the whole peg and bushing assembly. 
 

@geoff1954 The fingerboard is off center. Given this issue, I don’t really think it’s worth a professional setup and it’s probably worth attempting to return it where I bought it. I did manage to move the soundpost closer to the bridge but I’m pretty sure it’s still not in the right spot based on the sound.

@Strad O Various Jr. I’m pretty sure a setup will cost more than a couple hundred dollars where I live and given the off center fingerboard, it’s probably not worth it. The instrument doesn’t sound terrible but my bow keeps hitting the treble c bout which is likely because off the off centered-ness.

@GeorgeH the Caspari pegs are kind of tight but I don’t think they are slipping . The fingerboard is definitely off center which is really disappointing so I’m not sure how much good a professional setup will do. The serial number inside the instrument looks stamped rather than branded. It’s not on a paper label. There is also a brand on the base of the neck that I can see looking through the end pin hole.

@deansand @Dave Slight I agree a setup would be in order if the violin is worth it at all given the off center fingerboard. That’s a good idea to get a bridge made and work to copy it to try and learn more about fitting a bridge. 
 

Thanks everyone for your responses.

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@Strad O Various Jr. I haven’t figured out a good way to measure it, but it looks like the fingerboard is .5 cm closer to the bass side of the instrument than it is to the treble side. But the weird bridge could also be throwing off my perception. 
 

Edit: If I place the edge of a piece of paper alongside the fingerboard, the bridge seems centered with the fingerboard, but it’s obviously off center on the body.

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1 hour ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

You hold a straightedge on both sides of the fingerboard and compare how it lines up with the eyes of the f holes when you're looking dead square on the front, I'm absolutely sure a Roth violin would not be 5mm off unless the neck had been terribly reglued

The position of the eyes of the ff-holes can vary quite a bit. There are many different strategies for determining the centerline of an instrument, but positioning it according to the ff-holes is not one which I have heard highly-touted, by some of the best in our business.

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@David Burgessthank you for your response. I have read the article on the Triangle Strings website where they outline a process for determining the center line for the purposes of bridge placement. I might try something similar. 
 

I do think that something seems off about the neck and/or fingerboard on this instrument. 

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Another question that I have is, how big of an issue is an off center neck and what amount of off centered ness becomes a problem? How do I tell if the issue is the neck or the fingerboard? Can these issues be compensated for and how? 
 

I can’t get to a shop for a couple weeks to have the instrument checked out, but I’m sure they can answer these questions when I do.

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Hi Theghostis --

If your goal is to get that instrument setup as efficiently & cheaply as possible, you should definitely take it to a good shop (which can be hard to find, depending on where you live). But if you want to spend $$ and time (LOTS of time) to learn to DIY it, it's definitely possible. Assuming the neck doesn't need a reset, I bet you could get OK results after spending a couple of hundred bucks and fifty  hours of time.  Not anything like what the maestros who post here would get, but OK. 

DIY setup is only an option if you want to spend a lot of time thinking about violins. Like take the question "How do I tell if the issue is the neck or the fingerboard?". I bet if you thought more about it, you could figure that one out. 

Best of luck! 

 

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On 6/18/2022 at 3:35 PM, Theghostis said:

Another question that I have is, how big of an issue is an off center neck and what amount of off centered ness becomes a problem? How do I tell if the issue is the neck or the fingerboard? Can these issues be compensated for and how? 
 

I can’t get to a shop for a couple weeks to have the instrument checked out, but I’m sure they can answer these questions when I do.

I deal with old instruments of variable quality a lot, and run into slightly misaligned fingerboards  relatively frequently. Mainly I try to get the bridge feet where they belong and alter the length of the legs to tilt the bridge top to make up for the misalignment a bit. It's a bit tedious, but worth it for a decent violin. I'd try a standard student bridge setup first, then do some manipulation to see whether it's gonna be worthwhile to do the fine adjustments on bridge position. This is not DIY work, but OTOH, is not terribly costly, and you can make the judgement on value once you find a good luthier. 

FWIW, I had good teachers, and I still learn new stuff about setup all the time.  Seems like violins have their similarities, but each one is its own little world in itself.

 

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If your luthier works with Chuch at Pegheds, he has a version that matches as a direct replacement for these Caspari's.  You just "backturn" a some reamer in the fiber washers and as it heats up, the glue melts and the fiber washers just spin out cleanly.  Chuck taught me this and as skepical I was at first, it has worked every time.  A very economical way to deal with this as opposed to bushings.  As someone said earlier though, leave them alone (as long as the bushings aren't spinning) and they will work fine.  Have to make sure the fiber bushings don't move!!!  Lube the friction parts and they are passable. 

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47 minutes ago, Jeff White said:

If your luthier works with Chuch at Pegheds, he has a version that matches as a direct replacement for these Caspari's.  You just "backturn" a some reamer in the fiber washers and as it heats up, the glue melts and the fiber washers just spin out cleanly.  Chuck taught me this and as skepical I was at first, it has worked every time.  A very economical way to deal with this as opposed to bushings.  As someone said earlier though, leave them alone (as long as the bushings aren't spinning) and they will work fine.  Have to make sure the fiber bushings don't move!!!  Lube the friction parts and they are passable. 

the problem with the Caspari pegs is the tightness is adjusted by a screw on the end of the peg and unless it is quite tight the peg will slip, it can always be adjusted to work but it seems on old pegs the screws work their way loose more quickly and have to be tightened again, which is just a real pain

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In my experience, Caspari pegs work fine as long as the screws are properly adjusted and the bushings are solidly attached to the peg box.  If I were going to play an instrument with Casparis, I would be sure to keep a screwdriver in the case, because the pegs cannot be adjusted without one.  And the blade on a regular screwdriver is too thick to fit in the slots in the screw heads; you need file one thinner.

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