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NEED HELP PICKING AN UPGRADE
Currently have a CVN-300, looking to upgrade.
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (1 votes) 
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reedc83
Tulsa, Oklahoma
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June 26, 2015 - 1:56 pm
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First off, Fiddlerman, thank you soo much for all that you do for the violin community. It is greatly appreciated and I know it takes much of your time putting together all the videos and tutorials that you do. I am hoping you or someone else here can help me or provide some guidance.

I have been playing guitar for years. I play by ear (cant read sheet music). I like bluegrass, blues, rock.... good fiddle music basically. I played around on a violin of my dads a little bit years ago (one that was made in like 1915, sold in pieces at an auction, and rebuilt by my dad) and now I really want to get into it. Just a couple days ago I received my own CVN300 as a birthday gift from my wife. She wasn't sure which violin to buy so she picked this one based on reviews but told me that I can exchange it if there is something l like better. I think it sounds pretty good but the quality of the craftsmanship is lacking a bit in my opinion. The fine tuners are not spaced evenly, there are some dents, scratches, and blemishes in the finish that I feel should have been caught by quality control. The fine tuners are pretty cheap too. One of them wasn't working at all when I received the violin so I had to mess with it a bit to get it to work. (the tuning screw was next to the little tuning arm vs on top of it). Anyway, I am looking at upgrading to one of the following models but not sure which one I should go with. CVN-500, MV500, MV650, or Stentor II. I really like the dark antique/worn look of the MV500 and MV650, but have read that the Mendini line are lower quality than the Cecilio line although the same company, so I am not sure if that would be an upgrade from the CVN300 or not. I am not sure what the Cecilio equivalent is to the MV500/650.  I am not sure how true it is that the Mendini line is cheaper quality. I don't want to settle on a violin just because of its looks but I don't mind changing the bridge, strings, adjusting sound post, etc to make a violin really sing if it has the potential. However I just wonder which one is going to sing the best of the ones listed and which ones show better craftsmanship and potential. I have seen that the MV500/650 (online) have pretty tight grain wood so it leads me to think they used a better selection of wood for them but there is not a lot of information on them and what info there is, doesn't make them seem favorable. I just wonder if they are a diamond in the rough just needing some attention (new bridge, strings, sound post adjustment, etc). Can you also tell me if the tuners are of better quality on any of these compared to the CNV300? In the pictures online, they appear about the same maybe different color though. I am looking to stay around or under the $200 mark. THANKS SO MUCH!

Sincerely, Chris

 

ps. I am looking for more of a satin finish or thinner finish that doesn't rob the violin of its potential.

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OldOgre
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June 26, 2015 - 2:25 pm
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Hello ChrisR,

Welcome to the insanity of strings.

Your choices there are good for beginner violinist and fiddlers. If you can afford it go with the CVN-500 or Stentor II. But remember no two violins play the same. Make sure they where you by it has a no hassle return policy.

With violins there is no fretting over the music.

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reedc83
Tulsa, Oklahoma
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June 26, 2015 - 2:37 pm
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OldOgre said
Hello ChrisR,

Welcome to the insanity of strings.

Your choices there are good for beginner violinist and fiddlers. If you can afford it go with the CVN-500 or Stentor II. But remember no two violins play the same. Make sure they where you by it has a no hassle return policy.

As for return policy, I am using Amazon.com.  I will be returning the CVN300 as soon as I find a suitable replacement.

Can you please tell me why those two are the top choices and which of those two would be better?

The Stentors appear to be well made and I found a video online that shows them being made in the factory in China supposedly proving that they are hand carved.  I haven't seen anything like that for the Cecilios or Mendinis.  They may still be hand carved though as they claim to be.

Also, are the CVN-500s light and yellowish in color?  Some pictures I see of them look yellowish, and others more of an antique look like the MV500.  I like light and I like dark, but not the yellowish color or the orange-ish color of most orchestra violins.  The comparison video that FiddlerMan posted of the CVN-500 vs. MV650 makes it look lighter colored but he makes the MV650 sound like it would sound good with proper sound post placement, good strings, and some playing time to break it in, so I am a little torn.  🙂

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OldOgre
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June 26, 2015 - 3:03 pm
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ok here goes

 The cvn-500 is cecilio mid range quality in Beginner and Intermitiate Violins as is the Stentor II. so hopefully better quality control. But if you want to hear a specific violin played, Fiddlerman has vids of each violin he sells so you hear and get what you want, not something pulled from a warehouse shelf by a kid that doesnt care.

With violins there is no fretting over the music.

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Hermes
Agrinio, Western Greece, GR
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June 26, 2015 - 4:02 pm
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reedc83 said
I think it sounds pretty good but the quality of the craftsmanship is lacking a bit in my opinion. The fine tuners are not spaced evenly, there are some dents, scratches, and blemishes in the finish that I feel should have been caught by quality control. I am looking to stay around or under the $200 mark. THANKS SO MUCH!

Hi and welcome 😀

I hope you enjoy the ride

Based on what you said above I would really like to share my thoughts about this.

To begin with I understand why anyone could be discouraged by dents etc but as long as they are not having a sever effect on your sound and tone or they are not huge or in the form of an open seam and crack, I would worry. An experienced luthier or repair person could make them look significantly less obvious and almost unnoticeable to the untrained eye. Since violins are meant to be used, their varnish is subject to many dangers etc. They are like a living being, or a boat. Dents and minor scratches could occur, it's all part of the game. Bear in my mind that I am a freak that  feels it's the end of the world when the smallest scratch would appear, but we have to cope with it 🙂

What I'm trying to say is that if you like the sound, you could keep the instrument, and improve it either by yourself, or with the help of a pro.

Some things to consider that affect both looks and sound, and most important the overall impression one gets when looking the instrument:

1) Condition of your tailpiece: a good quality tailpiece and its proper position, could have a significant effect on your sound (and looks). If you really want steel strings, then you need 4 fine tuners. That way I would look for a good quality tailpiece with integrated fine tuners so as not to affect the after length of the strings. Imo, they look more tidy than a wooden with four metal robot like arms on it.

2)Pegs fit. Do they work and turn smooth? Over time, if you use them a lot you could avoid the 4 fine tuners. there are some special tools for this if you want to go diy, or you can ask a repair person to take care of a scratchy peg

3)Soundpost and bridge. If you replace them or refit them, you could witness great changes if the current situation is not ideal

4)Get better strings than the factory supplied ones, this one is important especially with the factory supplied steel core strings.

I am just mentioning a couple of steps you could considerer if you want to try to upgrade your instrument without sending it back. And I am just saying them since you mentioned that you find the sound pretty good

Now, if you really don't like at all this violin, we can pretend that I never mentioned the above 

In my experience, every upgrade is usually an upgrade indeed. But since the other options you mention are somewhere close in the price range of your current instrument, another concept would be to upgrade the parts of your current fiddle, and give it a decent tune up, and save money towards a future upgrade 

Best Regards

Hermes

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 27, 2015 - 6:07 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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Welcome to the forum reedc83,

At this price range I think you are completely on the right track. My reviews on the Cecilio's are already kind of outdated. Their quality control is not what it should be, however, we have chosen not to sell Stentor. We could easily sell them as we buy products from their main distributor but after a few tests I felt that the sound is far from what I wish for on a cheap instrument.
I agree on the looks and the satin varnish idea and not wanting a spray varnish which will worsen the sound but under $1000 you may have to compromise a bit.
In one way, I almost would advise that you keep your CVN300 and make a few simple changes until you have saved enough and feel confident enough to purchase a slightly better instrument. After all, you are already saying that it sounds pretty good.
You probably don't need to replace the bridge but perhaps thin it and bring down the height. Fine tuners are not expensive but I would make sure to get Wittner fine tuners over generic as they work better and last longer.
Synthetic core strings tend to have a warmer sound than the steel strings that come on these inexpensive violins.
Lastly, every single brand that I have ever played on, and I guarantee that I have tested many thousands of violins, have varying quality sound and characteristics. Each violin will be unique and they will not be consistent, especially in this price class. Being sure that you can return the instrument as you have done, is very smart. We also have a full satisfaction guarantee with a no hassle return policy. Since we get so few returns we rarely charge for shipping on a return unless a customer tells us that they simply changed their minds about buying a violin. If someone doesn't like the way an instrument sounds that is suffice.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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FirstPancake
HotGriddle, CA
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June 27, 2015 - 6:23 pm
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What's the best way to thin a bridge as some with access to some basic tools, but not necessarily luthoer tools?

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 27, 2015 - 8:38 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
Forum Posts: 11717

Sandpaper and a plain scraper. 🙂 If you have a belt sander be very careful not to take off too much and from the wrong spot. A little at a time is the best for non professionals.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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FirstPancake
HotGriddle, CA
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June 28, 2015 - 6:53 am
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Thanks Fiddlerman! I've got about half a dozen bridge blanks on the way to practice on! 

 

Chris, since you can do an exchange via amazon, I'd say go for it! Fiddlerman is right, there's lots of variation within a line. I got an electric Cecilio violin for my brother and it took 2 exchanges to get a good one. Also, amazon sometimes recycles its retuned stock as new. My car's hitch mounted car rack was clearly like that. It had someone else's candence sensor magnet stuck on it and all the parts bags had holes in them. You might have even received someone else's dud violin if you got one with broken fine tuners. Just exchange it for the same model and see if it turns out bettter. You'll probably run into a lot of the same sound and varnish qualities with violins under $200 but you can get lucky and get one thats a little better than all the other ones.

My partner wanted an entry level fiddle, and we took a trip to sam ash (years and years ago) and I looked at, knocked on, and tried out pretty much every violin in the store. Since they are a guitar shop the only had under $300 violins. We wound up getting a really decent Carlo Robelli for about 200 bucks. It had a deeper color under the varnish and better resonance than the others in the same line. When we got home the first few things I dod was dope the pegs, straighten and tighten down the tuners, upgrade the strings and graphite/adjust the bridge. Years later we are still very happy with it, but it has a very dry sound o the G string that still hasnt opened up. Part of the reason I have been interested in brige adjustment is I've ordered several bridges to try and cut one the livens up the G a little more.

Stick with the model you have and do exhanges until the quality control issues are covered. You probably won't get much bang for your buck upgrading until you get I to the $500+ range.

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Fiddlerman
Fort Lauderdale
June 29, 2015 - 9:59 am
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I didn't suggest that reedc83 exchange the fiddle, just that if he exchanges it for a better violin, that it's a good thing Amazon has a great return and exchange policy.

From my understanding, reedc83 thought that the sound was pretty good, which would be a good reason for keeping it. However if he already feels that he will want an upgrade it's a different story.

I feel in one way that it would be better to keep it and save for an even better upgrade down the road.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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reedc83
Tulsa, Oklahoma
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June 29, 2015 - 12:22 pm
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Update....

So I took one of the bridges that came with my CVN-300 which was shaped wrong, thick, and high from the factory and got after it with some sandpaper.  It was a notable improvement to the sound of the violin. Thinning, lowering, and reshaping the bridge brought the volume down a hair but made it sound less like a loud, strung, cardboard box and more-so like a fiddle. 

My main reasons for wanting to move into either a CVN-500 or MV650 are so that I can:

A. maybe get some tighter year ringed wood

B. get more of an antique looking violin

C. get a violin WITHOUT the thick gloss varnish (for improved resonance)

D. slightly better hardware (if there is a difference)

E. slightly better quality control

 

My long term goal is to have one of the mentioned violins as a base but re-work the bridge, replace the strings with Zyex strings, remove all but the "E" fine tuner (replace with better tuner if stock is not good), file the nut if needed, and put peg dope, drops, rosin, or chalk on the pegs as needed, and eventually maybe refinish it (remove excessive varnish and replace with a very minimal coat or just rub).

I really like the look of the MV650 as a base and like the fact that it has a solid one piece flamed maple back but I don't want to move to a lower quality violin than what I have now. 

Fidderman stated in his review of the CVN-500 and MV650 that his personal fave was the CVN-500 (I assume because of look and sound), however he also stated that he liked the tighter year rings in the MV650 and could hear that the violin sounded like it had potential just waiting to come out with time.

In my opinion, taking a cheap violin and making it sound pretty good and investing time and effort into it to make it something better and unique, brings you closer to the violin and creates more of a bond or relationship to the instrument vs saving up and buying something that may only sound marginally better to a trained ear and it is something that you can show to family and friends and be proud of.

Coming from many years of playing guitars, I know how the quality of the wood used to build an instrument has a lot to do with the sound quality so seeing the nicer wood used in the MV650 really struck my interest in its potential.  The year rings on my CVN-300 are pretty spread out with a couple bands of tighter rings.

Without seeing any of the other models in person I can't really compare but online it appears to me that the pegs, fingerboard, bridge, tailpiece, chin rest, and fine tuners are of about the same quality on the entire line of Cicilio and Mendini violins with the CVN-600 through CVN-800 being the exception.  The Mindini's look about the same but anodized a different color.  Please correct me if they are of differing quality.

So moving up may or may not get me better hardware (which can all be pretty cheaply replaced) but may get me better wood and in my opinion, a better looking violin that I may be able to improve and make my own.

 

side note: My wife got my CVN-300 through Amazon Prime so before sending it back, I could order upgrade of choice and if all is well, then proceed to send back the *300 or keep if it is better.  (Sorry FiddlerMan, My wife ordered this before I knew about your site and shop or I would have ordered from you and had you inspect before sending it to me!  😉  )

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Fiddlerman
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June 30, 2015 - 9:05 am
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Don't worry reed, our margins are extremely small on the Cecilio's so we can't even have them shipped to us first. They ship directly from the Cecilio warehouse in California.
Even if we could make a decent profit by shipping them here first then to the customer, we would loose on the time spent trying to get them to my standard. I still think they are a fantastic deal based on similar violins that I have tested at the same price. I don't make reviews on bad products though you guys would be surprised if I did. Some people say that I can make anything sound good but that is not really the case. Bad instruments can sound like garbage no matter how you play.

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

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