I dunno - there's "Loud under the ear", there's "Loud to a listener", then there's "Can be heard".
I've got an old Saxon lion's head scroll fiddle that's so loud under my ear I can barely stand to play it.
Then I've got an unlabeled German trade fiddle that doesn't seem half as loud under my ear.
Yet, when I play with other instruments it seems like the the other musicians can hear the German trade fiddle much better than they can hear the old Saxon fiddle.
So, I think it's just a lot more complicated that whether it's "loud" or not. Some fiddles just seem to have a tone quality that penetrates through whatever cacophony is in the air - and makes its way to the ears of people listening.
I think this - plus a "pleasing" tone - is what makes a good fiddle. I don't know what word to use to describe it but I'm sure "loud" is not the right word.
Good point about what's under the ear vs what listeners can hear.
A teacher was telling about this player that very carefully accounted for this and really "Dug in" on the fiddle. It sounded crappy near him. But from a distance only the "good" sound reached the audience.
For my needs I care mostly what I hear at the moment for learning and self enjoyment purposes . I play in a band, but I almost prefer they don't hear me much right now :)
My wife says the loud fiddle is definitely loud to her too. She had to cover her ears (not because she didn't like it, it was just too loud).
I agree, there definitely is a long distance projection thing going on with some fiddles. When it was sounding good, my dark-finished Knilling 4KF got one comment at the Farmer's Market, that you could hear it on the other side of the block!!! But it never seemed as loud under the ear as the newer Knilling 4KF, which seems to fill rooms pretty well, don't know about outside.
Aside from projection, a loud fiddle opens up the possibility of dynamics. Dynamics means you play louder sometimes to accent important notes or phrases, and if a fiddle only plays soft, you can't really do that. Of course, to do that with a loud fiddle, you have to have enough bow control to back off on the volume with the way you bow... and not everyone can do that.
Once I got to try a pro-quality handmade violin from a world-class luthier in a town an hour and a half away- the sound was HUGE... bigger and louder than ANY violin or fiddle I have ever played before or since. In addition, there is a local pro violinist who fiddles some... and was playing at a jam with her backup bow, a carbon fiber one. And she drowned out my loud fiddle and all the guitar players without even trying. And I get the idea her wood bow pulls a louder tone!
Anyway, for a professional violinist, yeah, a better instrument is louder, and a loud instrument is better- IF the tone is suitable.
For fiddlers, a loud fiddle may only be useful up to a point- At an acoustic jam, I wouldn't necessarily WANT a violin capable of drowning everyone else in the room out!!! I do want a fiddle capable of holding it's own with a loud banjo, and/or several reasonably loud guitars. And for most gigs, most Bluegrass and many Old Time fiddlers are going to be mic'ed anyway, so there is a limit to how much volume you really need.
If the instrument is loud "under the ear", you WILL need hearing protection, in the left ear at least.
One factor in volume is your bowing... you can bow efficiently, which is louder, or inefficiently, which is softer. When you are bowing efficiently, the string is vibrating to the max, without being choked by excess pressure from the bow.
The qualities that make a good fiddle are a diverse as fiddlers. I once knew a fiddler who had a $10,000 (this was some time ago too). I did not like it under my ear, but one winter night when walking up to the old furniture warehouse where we had a jam every Thursday night, I could hear that fiddle over all of the banjos and other instruments just clanging away. It sounded great! Now my favorite fiddle just feels good and sounds good and pleases me. Can't say why other than it fits me and sings with the voice that we have come upon together. Folks tell me it is loud, but I have another that is louder, so...
I would think that a bright sounding fiddle would "cut" better than a darker sounding fiddle-other things being equal.
My Romanian made Knilling 4KF Bucharest fits this description... it has just enough low tones to be tolerable when played alone, but the sound kind of sails above the guitars and banjos in a jam without fighting them. And it does have the top end too.+- The Eastman VL100 is richer and sounds better alone, possibly would sound good in a trio. But it seems to get buried in a group with multiple guitars and banjos... at least it did before the last series of tweaks... it sounds clearer and louder now, I'll have to see how it does at the next jam.
I think, as with all instruments, it's the context. Practicing by myself, I would want a quieter instrument, because my antenae are out and my hearing is very focused. Outside, or in a group context, I would want a louder instrument. In a ringing, high-endy room, I would want one that's mellower, as opposed to a muffled room, where I would want something with more top-end. I don't think one "size fit's all" works with instruments, although you can always make do and tweak.
That is absolutely subjective, I wish I had a half dozen different violins for different sounds, or at least a quieter fiddle for practicing with, mine is a German factory Violin from the sixties and it is ear piercing on the E string, although I get many compliments for it's sound from listeners, I'm thinking about experimenting with different E strings at least.
I have went to Jams and driven other FIddle players away because they couldn't hear themselves.
Personally I'm happy with my 50 dollar back room find, ( I put two hundred in to it ) but one of the characteristics of expensive professional concert quality Violins is that the sound carries, or at least that's my understanding of it, I could be wrong, either way, better able to carry than too wimpy to matter, you can always adjust your bowing to quiet it down..
In the absence of a decibel meter to measure actual energy levels, any assertion of violin volume a relative and subjective statement. What is often called loudness is in fact what recording engineers would call "presence" that is, the ability of the sound quality (root tones and partials) of a particular instrument to be heard in competition with other instruments or other background sound (i.e. noise).
As others mention above, under-the-ear, and across-the-room are two very different ways of assessing fiddle sound, volume, and presence.
Alot of the tonal..(.big sounds like the strads or the softer voices of the Stainers) of a fiddle have to do with the making of the instrument....the arching of the plates. The the arching of the top and the backs. There is more to it than that of course...but thats a start. Diane