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 Shar Music bow trial with surprise outcome.

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raneyday

23 posts
since 1/13/13

08/16/2013 21:07:51 Reply with Quote

I've been playing fiddle for about 7 months now.  I broke my Revelle Raven bow when a lack of concentration caused me to drop it, tip first, on a tile floor.  A friend of mine loaned me an inexpensive Chinese bow to keep me fiddling, but it didn't take long for me to realize that bow was quite a bit slower and had less tone than the Raven.  I didn't want to spend another $150 on something like the Raven, but was pretty sure I couldn't afford a wooden bow of better than entry level quality, and since I jam outside a lot at camps and such, I was pretty set on a carbon fiber bow.  

After reading a lot of the posts on here and other places on the internet, I was pretty sure I wanted a Codabow Diamond NX.  I couldn't justify the SX at this point, and I knew I wanted something a little better than the Prodigy.  I was so sure that the NX would fit my needs that I almost ordered one without even trying it (I know, I know).  But then I found Shar's website.  For those that don't know, Shar will send you up to four bows of your choice to try for a week.  The cost is $20, and it includes return shipping. 

 

I called Shar to order some bows.  I spoke with Aaron and told him I was interested in the NX.  I asked what others he thought I should try.  After asking me what style of music I played and what my experience level was, he had some suggestions.  After some back and forth we settled on four bows.  The Codabow Diamond NX ($360), Codabow Luma ($490), Presto Encore ($189), and Presto Ovation ($289).  The Presto bows are Shar's in-house brand.

The bows arrived in a nice, four-bow case in about three days.  They were primed with a rosin powder which allowed me to get them playing quickly, but use my rosin so I could use the same on all four.

I quickly (day 1) eliminated the Presto Encore.  It didn't sound much better than the Raven I had been using, and that wasn't what I was looking for.

The NX was very good.  It was heavy - probably around 61 grams - but had a balance point about 7.5 inches up from the frog.  This was at least an inch lower than the Chinese bow I was using and made for a very balanced feel to the bow.

The Luma had a little better tone than the NX, with the same balance point as the NX.  It was much lighter at around 58 grams or so.  As a fairly new player, it was a little harder for me to control, but when I got it right it was very responsive and played better when trying to play softly than any of the others.

The Presto Ovation was 59.5 grams, and had a balance point a full half inch lower than the Codabows.  It's tone was much better than the cheaper Encore, but not quite as open, woody, whatever as the Luma.  Very similar to the NX.  With it's lower balance point and middle weight, the Ovation tracked very well for me and I played it most confidently.  

I made recordings of the three bows for some friends who are all very good musicians, but not fiddlers.  In general, they picked the NX overall, but liked the tone of the Luma.  None of them ranked the Ovation first when reviewing the audio files.  So with their input, the overall cost of the bows, and my general feel, I was leaning heavily toward the NX with the Ovation a close second.  Then, I decided to take them to my lesson and let my teacher try them out.  He played all three of them on my fiddle and his.  When using his fiddle, he liked the Ovation best, the Luma second, and NX third.  On my fiddle, he liked the Ovation best, the NX second, and the Luma third.  The reason he liked the Ovation was because of what he called the "starts and stops".  The NX and Luma had good tone in the middle of the stroke, but seemed to be mushy at the ends/transitions.  The Ovation seemed to pop more when changing from up strokes to downstrokes and vice versa.  The harder you dug in, the more obvious the difference was.  That's something I wouldn't have even known to listen for without an educated fiddler's insight.

Feeling a little conflicted, I took them home and played them for another day.  I eliminated the Luma because, while it sounded better than the NX, it didn't sound or feel $130 better to me.  After another day, I decided to buy the Ovation based on the responsiveness and handling noted above, and that left me with $80 to buy strings and stuff!

I've been playing the Ovation for about a week now, and it has really improved my tone and my speed.  It handles really well, and with the snakewood frog against the black carbon weave, it looks kind of cool too.

if you are in the market for a new bow, I highly recommend the Shar trial.  They are really easy to work with, offer great products, and I think it was the best $20 I've spent in music. 

--David

UsuallyPickinPlayers Union Member

United States
1039 posts since 10/1/08

Online

08/17/2013 06:37:55 View UsuallyPickin's Blog Reply with Quote

Thanks for the review David. I'm all bowed up currently but I will keep your Shar experience in mind for any future bow shopping. R/

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KCFiddles

United States
4884 posts since 7/1/07

08/17/2013 09:31:58View KCFiddles's MP3 Archive View KCFiddles's Photo Albums View KCFiddles's Blog Reply with Quote

I'm surprised that choice at this level makes any difference after only seven months.  The bows are fine, and worth the money, but your tastes will probably change a lot over the years. I've been playing pretty seriously for around seven years, and have some excellent old German bows valued up to $3500 or so, but I find a $150 carbon fiber bow perfectly adequate for every day fiddling.  I enjoy the better bows, but 80% of the sound still comes from the player. I've had one very good bow since I started, and am just recently "growing into it."

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RobBob

United States
2361 posts since 6/26/07

08/17/2013 17:23:47View RobBob's MP3 Archive View RobBob's Photo Albums View RobBob's Blog Reply with Quote

I use an ovation to teach on in the studio.  It is a nice bow, but not my best bow by any means.  A little light for my taste but a worthy bow.

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raneyday

23 posts since 1/13/13

08/17/2013 23:25:52 Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles
 

I'm surprised that choice at this level makes any difference after only seven months.  The bows are fine, and worth the money, but your tastes will probably change a lot over the years. I've been playing pretty seriously for around seven years, and have some excellent old German bows valued up to $3500 or so, but I find a $150 carbon fiber bow perfectly adequate for every day fiddling.  I enjoy the better bows, but 80% of the sound still comes from the player. I've had one very good bow since I started, and am just recently "growing into it."


I could hear and feel a difference in each of the bows.  Maybe it's because I've not been a musician for only 7 months, just a fiddler.  I have two high end guitars, and a very good mandolin.  I know what I'm listening for when it comes to tone.  The difference between these bows was in the 10-15% range. In more experienced hands, it might have been more.  When my teacher pointed out the responsiveness issue, it could clearly be heard, and was important enough to me to push me to that bow.  Your right about the tone being 80% the player, but I don't think even a great player can make a bow more responsive.  

 

I'm sure my tastes will change over time.  In fact, this bow was bought with that in mind.  I could have easily afforded the Luma, but it seemed overkill for a bow that will one day be a backup - especially if it wasn't as responsive.

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raneyday

23 posts since 1/13/13

08/17/2013 23:28:58 Reply with Quote

quote:
Originally posted by RobBob
 

I use an ovation to teach on in the studio.  It is a nice bow, but not my best bow by any means.  A little light for my taste but a worthy bow.


I'm guessing they vary a bit.  As I said, mine is 59.5 grams, which seems about in the middle to me.  Definitely heavier than the Luma.  It's probably about as light as I'd like a bow to be, but it seems very well balanced.  My bouncing has all but stopped, and I can play slow bow strokes with more consistent tone.

--David

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