Well folks after some health issues with my hands over the last 10 years ago I lost my gusto for fiddling. I've since healed up and I have got the itch to get back to fiddling thanks to an invite from a friend to a jam at his house. I fooled around with some rhythm guitar playing but kept thinking "Gosh Id like to jump in on a break." lol. Anyway.....long story short, I had sold my old rig due to medical bills (my grandfathers fiddle, still makes me sad and sick) but had no choices. Regardless it is what it is and now starting over. I was looking at some on Bluegrass Shacks website and just trying to judge via the sound bites. there was a couple I really liked and sitting here with my eyes closed I had one that really spoke to me. I know these have to be Chinese made but I really don't care as I doubt ill play anywhere except some jams or on the front porch. So like I said reckon Ill pull the trigger and get that one. Thoughts? Opinions? Concerns?
I bought my first decent fiddle from Bluegrass Shack in person and the experience was a good one. Based on that, I'd feel comfortable buying from them at a distance. It strikes me they try their best to describe instruments accurately and set them up well.
The concern would be that the same instrument with a different bow and a different player might not have the tone demonstrated in the sound clip. But I don't think it's a big concern.
Have you checked to see what their return or trade policy would be?
Is there a local fiddler association ? If there is, I would attend one of their events and express my desire to acquire and learn to play a fiddle. Often some members have a collection of fiddles and are willing to help out someone wanting to learn. Talk to experienced fiddlers and ask for their suggestions on the subject. Local musicians can be cheapskates. So I once donated a good fiddle to an instructor who loaned fiddles to needy students. Local fiddlers would not pay what it was worth. Donating it gave me more satisfaction.
Some Chinese violin makers are manufacturing instruments which are made to specifications provided by well known European violin manufacturers. I once owned an Eastman that sounded as good as any fiddle I now own. Chinese made instruments and bows can be very good. In fact, most inexpensive new instruments are probably imported. To get the most for your dollar, you should probably find a local who will sell you a used fiddle. Have a good player check the fiddle out before you "close the deal" though. IMHO, it is easier to get a really good buy on a used fiddle and or bow than it is other types of stringed instruments. Here is some important advice. Watch out for quality used bows. You can get some super buys. Many sellers of bows don't check out the value of a bow. They just "throw it in" with a fiddle. I have talked to fiddle collectors who told me they have purchased fiddles and bows just to get the bow. It was actually worth much more than the fiddle.
Have patience and talk to people. Your fiddle may just hanging on the wall of some fiddler's widows home.
Some places will loan you fiddles for trial. Then you know how each feels or sounds. Or you can rent to own. Try googling Johnson String or Shar Strings, for examples. Don't waste your time, effort or money on something cheap. When I started play again after a 30 year hiatus, I bought the el-cheapo $100 version at the local music store. In 6 months I felt like quitting because it sounded so badly. Years and 5 fiddles later, I have a keeper.
I've dealt with Kennedy, Fiddler Shop and the Bluegrass Shack. I have two fiddles, one from Kennedy (first "good" fiddle) and a GEWA from the Bluegrass Shack. After I received the GEWA, I redid the setup on the Kennedy fiddle so as to match the setup on the GEWA and I'm happy with both fiddles. If I ever buy another, it will be from the Bluegrass Shack due to the individual attention I received. Chris listened to how I needed the fiddle setup and did an outstanding job setting it up just liked I wanted.