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I promised to keep you updated so I thought I post a little update. Things are getting serious now, I ordered the first violins today.
The first one I ordered is the Gewa Germania 11 Berlin:
The second one is the Maestro-violin by Arc Verona:
I think tomorrow I will additionally order the allready mentioned Hofner H115 GG.
I am really curious to try these out, especially the one from Arc Verona, as I read some really good things about their violins.
Its time for another update. In the last few days I was able to try out the following violins:
Höfner H115 GG
Walter Mahr Beginners violin
The Gewa Germania has not arrived up until now.
At first a few words in general: I was a bit sceptical if I as a beginner would really feel a difference between my Stentor II and a better violin.. Now I feel a bit foolish for that.. The first thing I noticed is that all of these violins felt a lot lighter and much more elegant than my Stentor. Compared to these violins, the Stentor just felt clunky. But that was something that I allready expected.
What really excited me was when I started to play one of these violins. It felt like entering a completely new world of tone compared to my former violin. The sound felt so "alive", was so rich and while playing I could kind of feel the tone in the violin itself. It felt like the tone went from the violin into my body while the Stentor in comparsion sounded flat and boring and felt like a stiff piece of wood without any life in it.
I think everybody who plays a really good violin for some thousand dollars will laugh about me getting so excited about violins that are widely considered student level. But the difference to my Stentor is really big and I have no doubts that it was the right decision to go for an upgrade.
By the way: I dont want to bash the Stentor II. Its a good violin for 150 Euro and I think it was a good choice for the first few months. Its not fair to compare it to these violins as for example the Hofner is ten times the price of the Stentor. I just want to show that I realised that I would want to go on with a better violin as a better violin just means a lot more fun to me when playing it.
And now my experiences with each violin..
Hofner H115GG, round about 1200 Euro: Up until now, this one is my favourite. It comes with Dominants and has a warm and smooth sound. The color of the violin was darker than I expected, but I dont care about this because the sound is just great. The finish is also nice and mine has a really nice back with beautyful flames.
Arc-Verona Maestro, round about 1000 Euro: My Maestro came with Evah Pirazzi strings. The color of the violin was darker than on the pictures. The sound is full and rich, but it sounds more brilliant and less warm than the Höfner. Thats why I decided to send this one back, because I prefer a warm and soft sound. But I think if youre looking for a brilliant and clear tone, this one would be a good choice.
Walter Mahr, round about 850 Euro: This one came with Pirastro Tonicas. The sound was in my opinion a bit better than the one of the Maestro but thats just because I prefer a deeper and warmer sound and the Mahr was kind of in the middle between the other two soundwise. Not as warm and soft as the Hofner, still warmer than the Maestro. In my opinion it is a good violin and I will mark myself Walter Mahr but still I decided against this violin just because I really love the sound of the Hofner.
I am really looking forward to the arrival of the Gewa Germania. The Hofner will be a tough challenge for the Gewa but maybe it will surprise me..
When the Gewa arrived I will of course post another update.
Just wanted to say it out a smile on my face to hear that you can hear the difference between your current violin and the upgrade violins you are trying. I know as beginners, we only know what we know, and you feared not hearing a difference. Not only do you hear that difference but also the difference between models you are trying. Good for you!
Nice one @Niklas - yes, the instrument voice can be very captivating.
Having said that - of course - so much goes into the actual set-up of the instrument - even a "cheap" instrument which has probably never had the time taken to properly adjust its settings can (sometimes) be improved significantly and end up sounding quite different (not necessarily "better", just "different"). I say that based on an experiment I did with a cheap old 1920's copy of a copy of a copy of a "Strad" (haha - a mass produced thing from Czechoslovakia or somewhere) - that initially sounded like a duck with a cough, but with some sound-post, bridge, nut and tailpiece adjustments, it now sounds like a real "fiddle" ( LOL - never gonna be a "concert instrument" - not in THAT league of course - but it is interesting to observe these things.... )
Nonetheless, I'm sure your testing and research into a new instrument will bring you happiness, and much progress !
Best wishes on your continued violin journey.
[ And good point there @sf_bev - as you rightly say "we only know what we know" - and I should probably add - usually/mostly it's what we hear "under our ear" (unless you regularly record and listen back) - and indeed - that is also not necessarily the definitive "sound" as perceived by listeners. I must admit, I'm fortunate in having a number of fiddles, and I'm actually slipping behind - in my first 4 years of playing, I accumulated 5 fiddles... They ALL have their own voice of course, 3 of them are largely of little value (but set up well), the other two are a FM Concert and a FM MJZ 905 both of which are awesome instruments for their price-spot. I'm now into year 5 and it feels like I should be getting yet another to add to my fiddle-family by now - although having said that - I can hear a cello on e-bay whispering "buy me, buy me...." ]
I seriously recommend not copying my mistakes. D'oh -
Please make your own, different mistakes, and help us all learn :-)
I just wanted to give you all another update.
The GEWA finally arrived so that I was able to try it. At first I have to say that the shop where I ordered it was really great. I sent them a question about the violin and revceived a very detailed and kind reply by the owner himself. We had a very interesting conversation in which he for example promised that I should get a brandnew builded violin and not some violin out of a storage.
So I was really looking forward to the violins arrival. When it arrived, the first thing I noticed was that the varnish looked alot darker than I expected. The quality of the violin seemed nontheless good to me. Compared to the Hofner I noticed that the flames on the back of the Gewa were not that good. The flaming was quite strong on the right side of the back while there were allmost no flames on the left side. Not so nice, but that is only aesthetic and does not affect the sound. So I was nontheless curious about the sound. As I started to play, I soon recognized that the sound was colder and not as powerful as the one of the Hofner snd this did not get better the more I played it. So I realised quite fast that this violin was not the one for me although I felt a little bit bad for the shop owner as I really had the feeling that he tried his best for me as a customer. I marked myself the shop and will order some other stuff there in the future, sadly they have no other violin that I would consider. But I am sure you will agree that I cant keep a violin just because the shop itself is great and the shop owner so kind..
So the last violin I will try out as it is finally available again is the Yamaha V20G or the V10 (at the moment I am not entirely sure about that). Up until now the Hofner is clearly the one I liked the most and I am curious to see if a Yamaha can beat it. Then I tried out all the violins in my price range that I could wish to try out and then I can finally decide which one will be the next violin by my side.
I'm happy to see that some people still read my short reviews. I hope that someone may find them useful or at least interesting.
Today I decided to order the V20 so you can expect a short review about that violin too. I have to admit that the youtube-videos that fiddlershop made about this violin made me choose it above the V10. I liked the sound and it seems to be a beautiful violin, although I would have prefered black ebony over the brown boxwood. Still I am really curious to see how it compares to the Hofner!
The problem with that violin was mostly the sound. I cant really explain in detail what was wrong about it but somehow it just sounded kind of awkward. And compared to the Hofner this violin had no chance soundwise.
I am currently comparing the Hofner and the Yamaha. This is a though one.. I like the look of both of them the same so its just about the sound. All other violins had some noticeable differences in sound but up until now I could not find any between the sound of the Yamaha and the Hofner. The Yamaha seems to be a bit louder but thats it. I think I will have to play them for a longer time so that I can decide. But at the moment I am a little bit pro-Hofner just because there is almost no difference in sound and the Hofner is 300 Euro less than the Yamaha.
Sounds like you are really doing a job paying attention to all aspects. Maybe someone else can correct me, but did you check upper register sounds and play snd not just first position? I know Fiddlerman adds some beyond first position. There is a big difference between upper registers on my cellos. My violins are both different, a bright and warm, so it didn’t matter compared to each other, as long as they both have nice sounds at the upper registers, and they do. I am mot up to the upper registers but, but I did play with them at the violin shop for the warm violin, and their violin/viola specialist did. The bright is a Fiddlerman, and it was played in the video Fiddlerman made for me as a test. Of course, if the more expensive is better, is it 300 Euro better? You have your work cut out for you with this. I suspect they are close at the high registers, too.
I am sure you did because you seem to be doing a very thorough job. It is interesting reading your thoughts about each, and your decision process. Thanks for sharing and updating.
I am sorry that it took a few days for me to answer but I wanted to include the Yamaha-update in my post so I waited until I made a decision about the Yamaha.
I have to admit that the way I do the higher registers may not be perfect just now as I started to use them a short time ago. But still I try to include them in my process of testing the violins.
And now the update about the Yamaha: At first I want to say that the varnish was alot darker than I expected. In the videos it looked more orange but my violin was just red. I have to admit that I did not really like this dark-red varnish but thats just personal taste. I myself prefer lighter varnishs because I like to see the structure of the wood. But the flames on the back of the violin were the most beautiful of all violins I had. The overall quality of the instrument was good in my opinion. The pegs were also a little bit smoother to use than the ones of the Hofner.
Concerning the sound of the Yamaha I found it quite nice as it sounded a little bit more brilliant or "singing". But the differences to the Hofner were in fact very little. My parents for example did not even notice that I changed the violins when I played both for them.
To sum it up I think the Yamaha is a good violin but to me it was not worth the 300 Euro more compared to the Hofner. The differences were just to small. By the way my Yamaha was made in China. I have sometimes read that they are made in Japan but that was not the case with my instrument.
My "violin-journey" is not over now as there will be one last violin I will give a try because I just fell in love with the look of it. I found a store that I did not notice up until now. They offer violins from luthiers in transylvania and also from Simon Joszeph whom some of you may allready know (as I saw some american shops offer some violins by him too) . I have read alot of positive things about Simons violins and so I decided to give them a try. Of course I will give you an update about that too so in fact you can look forward to one more review.
Your decision making process seems to be very well thought out. Using your parents as a blind test was as excellent idea, as is checking upper registers out, also. I did upper registers in my instruments, too. Since I never olayed upper registers at that point, still not on my violin and viola, i just moved my finger until I heard what I thought was the correct spot for note, then I had the violin/viola specialist, and cellist play all registers.
Take your time with the ones you just discovered and get back. It is interesting to read your thoughts. It is also interesting to realize what you find pluses and/or minuses are just the opposite for others. Very interesting. Love the organized thought process.
Thank you for your kind reply it really encourages me to go one writing about my experiences!
In the meantime I had a interesting conversation with the shopowner whos offering the violins from Joszef. I gave him a detailed description what I would my violin want to sound and look like. He said they also offer violins from other luthiers out of transylvania and he would send me three or four violins fitting to my description so I may choose one. Currently the shop has closed due to company holidays (but he still answered my mails). They open at the 14th October so it will take some time until I can post some new experiences here. I am curious about this violins and I have to admit that I have a really good feeling about this.
Maybe I will finaly find a violin that I really "love" if you know what I mean. Because up until now even with the best violin I had just the feeling that it is a really great violin but I did not have a feeling like "Wow this is definetely MY violin". But maybe that is something that I cant expect in my price range.
You certainly put a lot of work into this. Keep in mind, years from now, you might find it has changed, or as you advance you may find you would like another due to a change of personal taste. But, at least you are starting out with an instrument you will love and will therefore call you to play it.
I was not expecting to be able to give you another short review besides the one about the Simon Joszeph violins. But I was able to try out two of the more expensive Stentor violins too. How came?
Well when I was on a trip in a town I found out that there was a small store which offered instruments so I thought I might go and give it a look. They mostly offered guitars, pianos and other stuff but they also had a few violins. The violins were mostly cheep stuff, the best they had in terms of violins were the Stentors. So I gave a Stentor Elysia and a Stentor Arcadia Antique a try.
I have to admit that I was really surprised by the Elysia. Even though its varnish is dark (but not as dark as on the pictures) I really liked it, especially the back of the violin was beautiful. The varnish was applied well and everything seemed well made. All in all I found it a really beautiful violin.
When I started to tune it I stumbled over the next surprise: Out of all violins I had up until now, the Elysia was the best one in terms of tuning. The Pegs were really smooth and it was super easy to do very accurate tuning. After tuning I started to play a little bit and I found the sound to be suprisingly good. It was a full and rich tone but not as full as the Hofners sound but the Elysia is half the price of the Hofner. Another point to consider is that the Elysia has Pirastro strings on it, I suppose they are Tonicas. I for myself dont like the Tonicas that much because I often feel that the brillant sound they have is also a kind of cold. I wonder how the Elysia could sound if someone puts Dominants, Obligatos or even some gut strings like the Olivs on it. I have the feeling that the instrument which allready seemed to have a warm and full sound would benefit from such strings alot, at least if someone prefers a warm, darker and powerfull sound just like me. I have to admit that I am considering to get the one Elysia that I tried from this store if the Simon Joszeph violins should not convince me. Thats a surprise to me because this violin is not even half of the budget I was ready to spend..
Another surprise was the Arcadia Antique but I fear it was not a good surprise.. They only had one Arcadia Antique so I cannot tell if this violin maybe was a negative exception. I for myself think so because the Elysia convinced me that much. Thats kind of ironic because the Arcadia Antique is round about 750 Euro while the Elysia is about 600. Also Stentor lables the Arcadia as the top of their orchestra-series.. In my case I would grant that lable to the Elysia, not to the Arcadia.
The finish of the Arcadia Antique was not that good as the one of the Elysia as it was kind of uneven. For example the varnish at the f-holes was somewhat dull in comparsion to the rest of the body. At first I thought it was maybe rosin but I was not able to remove this dull spotts so I guess it was in the varnish itself. The back was also not that nice as the one of the Elysia. The sound was okay but once again I found the Elysia much better. I dont know if there is such a large variation in quality with the Stentor violins or if the Arcadia Antique I tried was just an exception.
To sum it up: The Stentor Elysia (at least the one that I tried) really surprised me as I found it a beautiful violin with a good sound which could benefit alot from other strings. The Arcadia Antique on the other hand.. Well lets just say it was not that great.
Concerning the Simon Joszeph violins: On Tuesday I wrote to the shop once more and he said that in the next days they will send me three to four violins to try them out. I am really curious about them and I hope they will ship them soon..
I liked my Stentor Conservatoire II very much until I got my Gewa (what I have yet to do is compare them in 5th-7th position on the G string - the Gewa can be tricky, and I don't know if it's the violin or my technique). But even now, sometimes I find the difference is not great, depending on what bow and rosin (and how much of it) I use, and if you take into account the string differences (Tonicas on the Stentor; Dominants on the Gewa).
My advice with Stentor is, there are a lot of models within a comparatively narrow price range, and anyone contemplating such a marque should ask if they can't afford their most expensive model rather than some halfway house (however, if you buy from a good luthier-shop, the choice will be restricted). Otoh, if you can afford the most expensive, then there are a lot of other choices out there.
We stopped selling both Stentor and Gewa.
That's kind of a bald statement, Pierre!
If you had said it was a question of quality, I'd have registered that without comment.
But Stentor are Chinese instruments commissioned by a company in Sussex, England (the name Stentor existed before WWI for a French company with no connection to the modern one).
Gewa do a similar thing.
And you have Cecilio and also your own commissioned Chinese instruments, so you have no need for either Stentor or Gewa.