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The fiddle reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

208 reviews in the archive.

Knilling Bucharest: P4KF

Submitted by echord (see all reviews from this person) on 8/31/2018

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $100 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

How many times have you heard the saying "you get what you pay for?" It's a common comment but often not true. Many times you get far less than what you pay for, as most people can attest. Less often, you get much more.

Such is the case with this Knilling Bucharest fiddle with Perfection Pages I purchased from a Kentucky music store on line. The $100 listing (plus $20 shipping) seemed unreasonably low, judging from the condition shown in the photos. An Internet search confirmed these models usually go (new) for anywhere from $400 to $600 retail, depending on where you get it and what is included (case, bow, Perfection pegs, etc.). True, I've seen used models for $200 to $300 on Ebay, but usually without the geared pegs and almost always scratched and worn. This fiddle appeared to be brand new in the photos (albeit, not strung up). So I bought it just to see why I shouldn't.

When I took it out of the box (it came with a nice Knilling hard shell case and worn out bow), I couldn't believe it wasn't brand new. It had literally not a mark, scratch or dust particle on it. It was perfect in every respect, as if just off the factory line. Were it not for the label, which read "Knilling. Bucharest, copie of Antonio Stradvari, Made in Romania, (five digit SN), Faciebat Anno 2008 and P4KF" in ink in the corner, I would have certainly believed it brand new and never played.

In any case all the pieces were there except strings. So I reset the included soundpost (perfect fit), carved the bridge down to my preferences, installed new Lenzser German made steel strings and exchanged the included Wittner style tailpiece with a nice ebony one I had sitting around, and tuned it up. It played like a dream, the Perfection Pegs worked perfectly and the sound was even better than I expected. For a violin of less than a thousand bucks the sound is rich (though not terribly loud), smooth and balanced across all four strings. For a $100 fiddle, is sounds outrageously good, frankly

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

As noted, this instrument wasn't set-up which surely accounts somewhat for the low price, but I'm used to doing my own so that wasn't an issue for me. The construction quality, purfling and finish are very, very good indeed. Such good sound from a student grade instrument couldn't be accomplished without excellent graduation of the plates and quality construction throughout. I simply can't find a flaw. Even the scroll and F holes are perfectly done and the finish, while clearly a sprayed nitrocellulose lacquer, is evenly done, not too thick, and nicely rubbed out.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

This is a very pretty instrument in every respect. The top is a rather broad grained spruce and the back a nicely figured, though fairly modest, maple, as are the sides and the scroll - which, incidentally, is much larger than any scroll on any of the other fiddles I've owned over the years. Again, I simply can't find a flaw, and believe me, I've tried.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Frankly, I could live without the Perfection Pegs, though they do work ok and are perfectly installed, and the lack of fine tuners on the tailpiece is very attractive to me. Nevertheless, the Perfections are kind of a pain when stringing, and I find the standard built in tuners at the tailpiece easier and more precise for "nudge" tuning. I'll keep the Perfections as long as they are working right because I love the look of the instrument without fine tuners, but I wouldn't cry much if I had to change them out in the future.

Since I don't play professionally I don't know whether this instrument would be reliable without a backup, or what the long term durablility will be. I can't see anything that would cause me any alarm. The finish is tough, the construction solid, from what I can see. I have no idea what to expect concerning the durability of these planetary pegs. Time will tell.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No warranty, as is. Shipping was fast, everything was as it should be. I had no real interaction with the dealer except to pay him so I can't give a customer service rating but since I'm required to, for reasons best know by whomever designed this form, I'll give them the best.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Very nice ebony fingerboard and end pin. I supplied my own ebony tailpiece, but the instrument came with a nice Wittner Composite (or so it appears) tailpiece and good maple bridge. I lowered the bridge arch, but the feet were perfectly matched to the top and the soundpost was an easy, perfect fit..

Look, this is a student grade instrument, no doubt about that, and I know I've kind of been gushing about it. But in fairness to Knilling, this is a very good student violin, much better than most of the others I've had -- though, under normal circumstances, it would have cost me 4 or 5 times what I paid for it. That being the case, I can't really rate it against other violins in that price range, but cost aside, this has quickly become my favorite trade fiddle of the 4 I own and is now my daily player. I am impressed with its quality and perfectly satisfied with its sound and play ability. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to a friend IF the price was right.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

VIF model 200: Vif - 200A

Submitted by Shop4Value (see all reviews from this person) on 8/30/2017

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 89.95 ($US)

Sound

The original strings are steel and shrieking, so I upgraded the strings to D'Addario Prelude and now the whole thing sounds about right. Not excellent, but OK.

Sound Rating: 5

Setup

Strings were loose and bridge was not attached, but the bridge's legs match the violin top surface perfectly. The bridge is too high, maybe for classical music playing? But for a novice student like me, the local luthier advised to lower the bridge and reshape it and I took his advice. After the bridge has been lowered and reshaped, the sound comes out with better clarity and melody!

Setup Rating: 4

Appearance

Not extradionary shiny nor flashy, it has a rather matte darker brown tone of varnish. Its varnish is a quite thick (but evenly coated) layer; very typical of Chinese violins I've seen.

Appearance Rating: 5

Reliability

This violin looks sturdy but bulkier than European made violins. It is also heavier (in weight) so it is harder to hold on your shoulder. It weights 485 grams, whereas a typical violin should be less than 450 grams. I speculate that it is made a viola and then got strings like a violin? The strings, the pegs, etc. look OK.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

Not sure anything about warranty! Nothing written document about warranty is found with the violin. I've not contacted nor attempted to contact the manufacture as they are a Hong Kong company and there is not much of contact info available. Hopefully, I will never have to contact them in the future either!

Customer Service: 3

Components

The fittings, fingerboard, etc. seem to be real ebony wood and made to the proper violin shape of a copy of Strad model 1721. The bridge, however, is too high and in generic shape. The bow is unusable because it is stiff, unbalanced, and literally very heavy (a wobble of 72 grams!). It original steel strings sound shrieking to the ears!

Components Rating: 3

Overall Comments

Price is so-so for this kind of Chinese violin in the U.S student market today (2017), and it is made of fairly quality wood components with proper shape and OK craftsmanship.  It looks classic, but not too flashy.  It sounds bright and has plenty of sound projection power. Still, to make it play better, I had to invest some additional money for upgrading it to a better quality set of strings, for having the bridge reshaped, and for buying a higher quality bow.  After all these additional investment of money and effort, it sounds OK! Would I buy it again? Probably not.  Too heavy!

Overall Rating: 5

VIF model 200: VIF 200

Submitted by echord (see all reviews from this person) on 4/29/2017

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: 90,00 ($US)

Sound

I purchased a VIF model 250 several months back and was quite pleased with it, so I decided to try a less expensive VIF model, the 200. (That a fiddle could be even cheaper than the 250 seems ludricous, but the 200 model is 10 to 30 dollars cheaper, depending on who is selling them). So here is my report ---

First of all, this fiddle is less rich and resonant than the higher priced and more elaborately finished 250, though it compensates in a way by being louder. The tone is what I would describe as "hollow" sounding, which is not necessarily bad for playing old-time, but with the cheap steel strings that came with it, it was brassy and a shrill on the A and E strings particularly. I changed to an inexpensive set of Perlon strings, which made a big improvement in sound, though it still doesn't match the richness and mellowness of the 250 (which also has perlon strings).

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Action was set-up fine. As usual, I lowered and flattened the bridge somewhat to suit my playing needs.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Where the Model 250 has a heavily applied high gloss lacquer finish as seems to be customary for many Chinese fiddles, the 200 has a matte and thinner finish which I was expecting would have superior sound -- I was wrong. I suppose that just proves that the graduation of the plates, better wood, and better workmanship have more to do with sound than the finish. Not to say the sound is bad on this fiddle. With decent strings and a little breaking in, it is probably quite a lot better than other cheap fiddles that I've heard and certainly better than the price would suggest.

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

All the accessories are good -- witner style composite tail piece, nice ebony fingerboard and chinrest. Decent workmanship and nice wood (modest flaming on the back), though the purfling is a bit sloppy and the color quite dark -- a deep cholocate with slightly rubbed out areas in both the upper and lower bouts. The bow that came with it is very nice - straight, well balanced and octagonal. Nice case, just the same as the Model 250 comes in.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Had no contact with the company.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

All components seem of good quality except the original strings. They are pretty bad. I think perlon or nylon strings are more approrpriate for this fiddle over steel, to my ear anyway.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

Overall, I think this is a pretty good starter fiddle and my intention is to use it for cross tuning to save having to re-tune so much. As a beginner's fiddle, l think it is pretty good and probably beats its competitors in that bargain price range. It has reasonable workmanship, decent sound (with upgraded strings), and looks very attractive. For what it costs, it is way better than it has any reason to be.

However, for the extra few dollars that the Model 250 costs, I would recommend it unless you are just on such a budget that every dollar counts. The 200 cost me 90 dollars shipped; the 250 was 101 dollars shipped and is, to my ear much richer and more resonant. It also has more attractive flaming, seems lighter and easier to hold (the way I hold a fiddle weight is important to me). Both of these instruments are quality student instruments, but the more expensive model is an even better bargain, IMO.

Overall Rating: 8

VIF: Series 250

Submitted by echord (see all reviews from this person) on 1/12/2017

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 101.00 ($US)

Sound

In my never ending quest to find the perfect "cheap" fiddle, I bought this VIF 250 series model from an Ebay ventor for $101 in Dec of 2016 (it was listed at $112, but for reasons unknown to me I was given a discount of 11 bucks). Follows is my accessment of this model as best I can relate it.

The fiddle came with cheap perlon strings, but nevertheless has a full, rich sound and good volume. The G and D strings are particularly good - mellow, not harsh, and very rich. For a fiddle in this price range, I think it is outstanding. It is better than about any other of my inexpensive fiddles (which include an antique German made Bergonzi model, a pre WWII German made Stainer model, and two relatively new Song Chinese made instruments) -- better than the two German models and equal to the Song models (which were also relatively cheap - less than $150 with shipping from China 6 years or so ago). Altogether, I think the VIF is a superior instrument with remarkably good tone considering the price and is competitive in both sound and appearance to models costing much more..

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Perfect setup at the nut and bridges, though as an old-time player I am obliged to flattern and lower the bridge substantially from the classic violin set-up. That is my choice, but this violin was perfectly set-up to student classical standards, as far as I can tell.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The appearance is very attractive with a dark chocolate stain, covered by the usual Asian application of mutiple coats of lacquer or whatever (fairly evenly applied), giving it a very beautiful high glossy shine, and tough to damage for those students who like to bang their fiddles off the wall. What effect on tone a more traditional varnish finish would have, I don't know. In any case, it is very attractive with a highly flamed back and sides and good purfling.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

You'd need to run a Mack truck over this thing to mar the thick finish (see above), but all the fittings are good. Seems very durable.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

No contact with the makers (Chairman Instrument Trading Company, Ltd), but quick and well packaged shipping from the Ebay vendor. Label says "Antonius Stradivarius model, established 1995, Design in Italy, VIF, series 250"

Customer Service: 10

Components

All the components were first class, except perhaps the strings and the bow (which was functionable but with a slight curve in the middle) and the cheap rosin cake. Though inexpensive Chinese perlon strings, they are ok but I am expecting to upgrade to a better string later .Lovely carved ebony chin-rest, very nice genuine ebony fingerboard and tuning pegs with "French" eye inlays. The case was also good, the bow ok .

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a very nice sounding, easy playing carved student grade fiddle with excellent components and a beautiful appearance, and strikes me as near highway robbery considering the price I paid. I cannot imagine how a company could make such a superior instrument for this price, but then I have read that many Asian workers make less that $3 an hour (compared to the average American worker wage of $38 per hour, or $42 in Germany - 2014 figures, I think). I guess those low factory wages and low profit margins (plus mass production) can account for it, but certainly the materials used are first rate. Inexpensive it is, but there is nothing "cheap" or shoddy in this instrument. I am very impressed and pleased with my purchase. I doubt Perlman will want to trade his genuine Strad for it any time soon, but if you are looking for an excellent fiddle at dirt low prices, these folks have got 'em.

Overall Rating: 10

Royce Burt: Withlacoochie #923 Guaneri Model

Submitted by t9c (see all reviews from this person) on 3/22/2016

Where Purchased: Royce Burt direct

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 1,500 ($US)

Sound

This fiddle sound wonderful under the chin. Loud, bold, sweet & full. I've recorded a few tunes with it and it's tone is far superior to the Gliga Gems I've been using for the last 12 years, not even in the same league. Before purchasing this fiddle, I auditioned a dozen or so violins from $3k-20k. The 923 sounds as good as most of them (ok maybe not the $20k one).

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Haven't changed a thing. Perfectly setup from Royce. Easy to play in all positions. Double stops are a breeze. It has improved my playing immensely!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The 2 pc back is highly flamed and matched. Very nice. Some obvious antiquing was applied to front and back before being oil based varnish refinished. It looks great.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The tuning pegs and fine tuners are easy to turn and the fiddle holds it's tuning while on a stand for days. If something were to ever go wrong, I'd feel confident in sending it back for repairs.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer service may be the best part of buying a fiddle from Royce. Within an hour of my initial email, Royce called while he was driving home and we talked for a good 30-40mins about this and that and his fiddles. Once my decision was firm, he promptly sent the fiddle to me and I was given a couple of weeks to decide if I liked it. It didn't take but a few minutes to an hour to know this was a great deal and I'd be keeping it. Sent him a check. Since then, he responds to my emails quickly, and when you buy a Royce Burt fiddle, you're getting a good friend with it. CS Rating-11!

Customer Service: 10

Components

I couldn't find any weaknesses. The pegs and fine tuners all turn easily. It also feels solid on the hand & shoulder. very easy to play up in 3rd position. This fiddle has Helicore Heavy Tension strings installed.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

As stated in other reviews, Royce buys fiddles and regraduates them to make them sound their best. It's almost an insane exercise to watch all of his videos on You Tube to find one you want because they ALL sound fantastic. I could hear differences, but I didn't hear a single one I didn't like. Even though I wasn't initially interested in any "pretty" fiddle, when he got close to the camera and turned it around to show the back, I was immediately impressed with the excellent flamed matching pattern. One last thing, for the amount of work Royce puts into his fiddles, he doesn't charge near enough. We are lucky to have a luthier like him around to sell us fiddlers great sounding fiddles at bargain prices!

Overall Rating: 10

Corilon violins: corilon violins

Submitted by nischiff (see all reviews from this person) on 3/18/2016

Where Purchased: corilon.com

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 850 (EUR) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Most amazing violin I have ever played. Very rich tone, very responsive, wide dynamic range, sounds evenly across all strings. Projects very well yet has a very sweet tone that's not harsh or abrasive.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I changed the chin rest to one that I liked better but everything was set up and ready to go when I opened the box. The action is perfect, very easy to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Very beautiful wood, spruce top and flamed maple back and sides. It had a few nicks and scratches in the varnish, which is to be expected for a violin that has been well loved and played for it's age (70 years). No cracks or defects in the wood. Original varnish intact. No major repairs.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

High quality fittings and great strings (Pirastro Tonicas). I've never played Tonica strings before and I like them a lot. It's a very well made violin that I don't anticipate having problems with at all. It is going to be my main violin that I drag back and forth to lesson and to the groups that I play with.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Very friendly service, quick response to my inquiries, very agreeable with my requests. My violin arrived earlier than expected and in great condition. Nothing but good things to say about the instrument itself and the service received.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Upgraded pegs with gold dots and matching gold accented tailpiece. Not fancy but better than standard fittings. They match the violin's personality perfectly.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If you are in the market for a violin, you should definitely go with Corilon.com. They sell old, refurbished violins that are unique and have amazing histories. They have sound samples so you can hear what the instruments sound like, which is really helpful since buying a violin over the internet can be a little scary.

Mine arrived earlier than expected with a 30 day try out/return period. The service/response/attention was amazing during the transaction.

My violin teacher is no longer asking me about what I can do to get more sound out of my instrument. It has amazing projection, is very responsive, has a wide dynamic range, a sweetness of tone, and is beautiful to look at. It definitely is an amazing violin for the money, plays better than some I have tried in person that cost A LOT more (from 500% to 1000% more).  I am using this as my main violin that I will be taking back and forth to lesson and the other groups I play with and using for all of my practice.

http://www.corilon.com

Overall Rating: 10

Corilon violins: Mittenwald 1950s Warm Tone

Submitted by nischiff (see all reviews from this person) on 3/18/2016

Where Purchased: www.corilon.com

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 850 (EUR) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Most amazing violin I have ever played. Very rich tone, very responsive, wide dynamic range, sounds evenly across all strings. Projects very well yet has a very sweet tone that's not harsh or abrasive.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I changed the chin rest to one that I liked better but everything was set up and ready to go when I opened the box. The action is perfect, very easy to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Very beautiful wood, spruce top and flamed maple back and sides. It had a few nicks and scratches in the varnish, which is to be expected for a violin that has been well loved and played for it's age (70 years). No cracks or defects in the wood. Original varnish intact. No major repairs.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

High quality fittings and great strings (Pirastro Tonicas). I've never played Tonica strings before and I like them a lot. It's a very well made violin that I don't anticipate having problems with at all. It is going to be my main violin that I drag back and forth to lesson and to the groups that I play with.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Very friendly service, quick response to my inquiries, very agreeable with my requests. My violin arrived earlier than expected and in great condition. Nothing but good things to say about the instrument itself and the service received. I am also able to trade in and upgrade my violin later by keeping the original invoice.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Upgraded pegs with gold dots and matching gold accented tailpiece. Not fancy but better than standard fittings. They match the violin's personality perfectly.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If you are in the market for a violin, you should definitely go with Corilon.com. They sell old, refurbished violins that are unique and have amazing histories. They have sound samples so you can hear what the instruments sound like, which is really helpful since buying a violin over the internet can be a little scary.

Mine arrived earlier than expected with a 30 day try out/return period. The service/response/attention was amazing during the transaction.

My violin teacher is no longer asking me about what I can do to get more sound out of my instrument. It has amazing projection, is very responsive, has a wide dynamic range, a sweetness of tone, and is beautiful to look at. It definitely is an amazing violin for the money, plays better than some I have tried in person that cost A LOT more (from 500% to 1000% more). 

I am using this as my main violin.  I will be taking back and forth to lesson and the other groups I play with, as well as using it for all of my practice.

http://www.corilon.com

Overall Rating: 10

French Mirecourt: n/a

Submitted by AndCal (see all reviews from this person) on 1/14/2016

Where Purchased: corilon.com

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Very responsive, powerful and bright sound.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Setup was properly done and shipped in a very careful manner. Missed the case, that I saw other customers got.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It is extremelly beautiful, with golden-orange varnish in premium tone woods.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Corilon webpage is one of the best around. I think the sound sample is also very helpful. Customer service was good and precise.
As a side note re. sound samples - instead of showing off the violinist skills, I rather prefer a slow chromatic scale to explore better the balance between strings on higher positions and exploring better the lower registers

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would buy at corilon.com again and will recommend to friends.

The violin description was very accurate and it was delivered in time.

Overall Rating: 9

Corilon violins: Mittenwald Violin 1930

Submitted by RAVIKUMAR (see all reviews from this person) on 9/18/2015

Where Purchased: Corilon

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 950 (Euro) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I was looking to buy a good German violin for my son learning Indian classical music (carnatic music). I came across Corilon website and was quite impressed with the offering covering a wide range and the high quality sound clips that help to select (this is remarkable for someone having to buy online without the means to try the instrument).

I was in contact with Dr. Roeben through email and phone for discussing my requirement and narrowing down to the desired model within my budget. I really appreciate the guidance provided by Corilon with prompt response.

I ordered a Mittenwald viloin (1930) which was delivered in excellent condition, ensured by careful packaging (international shipping is very helpful). My son likes the instrument very much for its sound and handling.

It is a pleasure to deal with a shop of such professionalism. Look forward to check them out for any future requirements. My best wishes to Corilon in serving the world music society at large.

Overall Rating: 10

Corilon violins: Antique violin with mature sound 19th century

Submitted by aparedesum (see all reviews from this person) on 9/2/2015

Where Purchased: www.corilon.com

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 1299 (Euro) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I like the classical style and I set up my instrument using a electric tuner.

The fiddle has a powerful, radiant and mature tone.

I like the old style that the fiddle has.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I live in Peru, and I had to wait three weeks for my purchase. It arrived in good conditions in a big box with the case.
It is quite easy to tune the fiddle.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It doesnt have any inlays and the wood seems strong.

It has some flaws because of the age but they have been fixed and they don't affect the quality of the sound.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Yes, the fiddle is exactly like I saw and heard in the online catalog from the website.
It is good enough to last and definitely I can depend on it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

They are very helpful, no problem for shipping to Peru.
I have the fiddle since july 2015, and I think i won't need to repair it because of the good conditions it arrived.

Customer Service: 10

Components

As I mentioned, the fiddle arrived in good conditions, and they sent me a case and a bow as gifts. Also the fiddle includes pirastro strings. But I think I will need to upgrade the bow.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

In general, I'm quite happy with my fiddle, and no doubts I would buy again one from Corilon shop. Its online catalog has a lot of details of every fiddle and best of all they were able to ship to Peru.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Chinese: Bluegrass Shack Handmade Chinese

Submitted by EricBluegrassFiddle (see all reviews from this person) on 8/25/2015

Where Purchased: The Bluegrass Shack

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 400 ($US)

Sound

Even though I planned not to purchase a fiddle just yet, I saw and heard this fiddle on The Bluegrass Shacks website and decided to pull the trigger since they had a 7 day trial and I came into a bit of cash through a settlement. I wanted to see if I could get something that was better than my Gliga, but within about the same budget as my Gliga. This fiddle was handmade by a special, small shop in Beijing China that works with the Bluegrass Shack. Chris Armstrong ( owner ) said she basically tells them what she wants and they make it and ship it to them. Chris told me that their clients have been very happy with the quality of these fiddles from this little Chinese shop. The fiddle has a very thin "distressed" kinda reddish/yellowish varnish, and it's been purposely antiqued to make it look old, really old. It's VERY well built, solid and has some really nice flame in the back, sides and neck, it's actually very flamey. I am VERY pleased with this fiddle and even though it's in the same price range as my Gliga, it has a much fuller sound and definately has more volume. This fiddle definately has what I'd call "that Bluegrass tone and sound" without a doubt. I'd say it has a bright, full sound that's not harsh and pretty even across the strings although the G and D string is a bit stronger, beefier. My Gliga has a smoother, wispier tone but not nearly as loud and doesn't project nearly as well as this one. I had asked Chris if she had anything that fits the bill of what I wanted and she recommended this one. I should mention that the fiddle also has a bit thinner neck profile and I now think I prefer this thinner neck over the Gliga neck which is a bit wider. It seems to also be more responsive than my Gliga as well. So, I'd say same price, but an improvement in sound overall, a win win for me right now.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The BlueGrassShack does a good fiddle set up in my opinion. It's a bit higher action than my Gliga, but not much as it's still very low. The nut is nice and low and the fiddle has a nicely cut and fitted "Aubert" Maple bridge. The bow and case that came with it left ALOT to be desired but maybe that helps in keeping the overall cost down, so you get a good fiddle at a low price. The action was great but the strings were horrible so I changed those and put some Helicores on it. I didn't have to touch it really, just tune it up and play it for the most part. Well, I should mention, the pegs were a bit tight so I took them out, added some Hill compound and now they are very smoothe. The fiddle tunes very well.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Ok, this fiddle has a reddish/yellowish distressed look and it was built and varnished this way purposefully. The varnish looks as if it was applied, and then buffed out and "off" very heavily in spots over the bouts and then they added some discolored stains or "worn" spots to make it look used, beat up and old, which they did a VERY good job of doing! Some folks, perhaps most, would hate the varnish color, not me though. My Gliga, while antiqued is maybe a bit prettier in the standard fiddle sense antique varnish wise. However, I like this fiddles distressed and antiqued varnish and look even more. It helps it to really stand out also if it ever gets stolen, there's no mistaking it. The wood I assume is maybe Asian Spruce and Maple? I say that cause it's Chinese built but it could be European or even North American tonewood, hard to say. It is VERY heavily flamed, the back and sides and even the neck and scroll....I really like it! The Spruce top is fairly tight grained and the fiddle, overall is very very nicely built, clean craftsmenship with a nice scroll. It feels very solid and is "light" as a feather, lighter than the Gliga, it really resonates. I think it's a Strad body but with "Guarneri" style cut F holes...I think but not sure. I give the varnish and everything a 7 cause I know folks would think it's ugly, but I'd personally give the varnish a 9 honestly, I like it, I think it's different and it;s not gloppy or thick, it's very thin. The fingerboard is smooth, nicely polished Ebony as are the parisian pegs. The scroll is nicely carved. I'd say overall the workmanship, build and wood wise is a step up from my Gliga. I should say the thin new varnish does have a kinda sweet, woody aromatic smell to it, almost cedarish or maybe something in the varnish used? It's not particularly offensive smelling but maybe some folks wouldn't like it. However, little by little the smell is calming down a bit. I prefer a Guarneri style chin rest and didn't like the one that came with it ( Birdseye Maple ) but I've since gotten used to it LOL. This fiddle also seems to have a bit higher arching on the top and back than my Gliga. I was looking at that yesterday and noticed this feature. The arching on my Gliga is flatter while this fiddle is a bit higher, more arched.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

The tailpiece is Ebony, with 4 fine tuners. I thnk the hardware is good on it and will last, yes, no worries there and if not, I'll replace it.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I had been looking at a few other fiddles from reputable dealers here on the FHO, but they ended up being out of my budget for right now. I saw Chris's fiddles and asked if she had one with the tone and sound I wanted within my limited budget. She recommended this one, sent it and I fell in love with it. I think this fiddle could be my primary one, if not a REALLY good back-up. It's better than my Gliga so I think I'll unload my Gliga soon. I'll sell my Gliga, use some of the funds from that one to eventually purchase another step up, a KC Fiddles or Royce Burt fiddle, but this new fiddle has really grown on me. I'll keep this Chinese one but unload my Gliga most likely at some point.

Customer Service: 9

Components

The overall sound of this fiddle stands out. It's bright, yet full. The highs really sing, especially when I play in B or B flat and slide and play alot of blues. Yet when I shuffle or play some fiddle tunes, it sounds powerful, is crisp with a bit of bite and it really projects. Having said that, it's still new so it will actually get EVEN better!! Chris told me this fiddle was one of her better ones in my price range and would be heard in any jam setting or group yet not sound harsh. She was right on in her description and this fiddle really is a right fit for me. I actually think it's even easier to play than my Gliga and I even like the slightly higher action. The thinner neck seems to make certain double stops easier and string crossing as well. The only thing I upgraded was the strings ( obviously ) and I chucked the cruddy, cheap case and bow that came with it.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Great little purchase for $400. I was looking at some KC and Royce Burt fiddles originally, which I think I'll purchase one of those soon also as soon as I unload my Gliga. But overall for $400 or so, I think you couldn't beat it. It's Chinese built but very nice and very good quality. I'd purchase another one if it got stolen and I couldn't get this one back. It was nice to have a 7 day trial as well. This fiddle would be a great sounding fiddle for jams and festivals and playing outside getting hot and sweaty in parking lots and campgrounds and even on the stage. It looks funky, distressed look, but I like it, has a good strong sound and good tone.

UPDATE - Sept 23rd 2015:

Had this fiddle a few months now, has a very strong sound, plenty of volume and is getting even better with play. Last night I took it to a jam for the first time and had no problems cutting through the mix whatsoever. Their were quite a few other instruments and I didn't have to play it hard at all for it to be heard and alot of folks complimented me on the sound of my fiddle.

Overall Rating: 8

Royce Burt: #260, German Glasser

Submitted by pdfarrell (see all reviews from this person) on 7/29/2015

Where Purchased: Online

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 850 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I have only played 4 fiddles in my life. I'm not really qualified to give a critique. But the fiddle sounds great to me. It's plenty powerful. I put a lot of faith in Royce here and I think it paid off.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Great! Really comfortable to play from day one.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's an old fiddle. And the age shows. I specified with Royce that I was interested in sound over looks. That's exactly what he got for me.

Appearance Rating: 6

Reliability

Seems strong and sturdy to me. That was one of the characteristics that I told Royce I was looking for. Hard to give a rating here because only time will tell.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

This is where Royce really shines. Pardon the cliche, but what a pleasure doing business with him. He paid attention to my descriptions of what I was looking for. He was genuinely interested in me being happy with the fiddle. He gets the highest possible rating here. I give an 11 out of 10.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I don't see any problems.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Royce is a great guy to deal with.  The only problem is that his fiddles seem to move very quickly.   

This was a bit of an unusual sale for him I think. I'm in Namibia, but fortunately my sister was coming for a visit.,  So he shipped the fiddle to my sister and she brought it to me.  Royce said a number of times that if I wasn't happy with it I could send it back with my sister and he would refund the money.  I'm happy to say that the fiddle will be staying in Namibia.

I feel fortunate to be where I am and to have a Royce Burt fiddle.  If I ever buy another fiddle (oh Lordy, Lordy) I can't imagine going anywhere else.

Overall Rating: 10

Royce Burt: Withlacoochee #901

Submitted by mandobozo (see all reviews from this person) on 7/28/2015

Where Purchased: Royce Burt via YouTube

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: ask Royce ($US)

Sound

I am a novice fiddler, but I've played guitar since I was twelve and mandolin for about fifteen years. Now that I'm reaching geezerhood, I like to think I have both musical "sense" and a well-developed ear. Fiddle seemed like a no-brainer after reaching a fair level of competency on the mandolin. Though totally addictive, it was a humbling experience to realize whatever I brought to the fiddle with my left hand meant nothing because every nuance, every pure tone, every bit of expression was going to come from my infantile and clumsy bowing. The progress was glacial, but there was progress.

I had acquired an easy-playing, but rather average and quiet Hopf. It certainly didn't hold me back by any means. I do believe that getting the best playing and best sounding instrument you can afford reaps dividends. It inspires you to work harder and be worthy of the instrument and it can be more forgiving as you improve your technique. I would say #901 hits the mark on both. With Royce's YouTube channel, you can compare one fiddle to the next to your heart's content. I was hooked on the process, and when I heard #901, I took the plunge because it was the fiddle sound I was hearing in my head. Bright, but sweet with a lot of clarity---butterscotch overtones with a hint of rosin, --oh, hell--you can't use words to describe it, you just know it when you hear it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Plays like butter, to use a tired, old cliche. I haven't changed a thing and don't expect to. Already had my preference for tailpiece (Wittner Ultra) and a Guaneri chin rest. Helicore medium strings as well

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I believe this to be a modern Chinese fiddle where Royce has re-graduated the back, ribs, and belly using, as he refers to it, his re-voicing "recipe". I've built a number of mandolins and I use a fairly primitive approach to tap-tuning the top plate. Other luthiers just use their intuition and graduate the plates until it feels right for that particular piece of wood. However Royce does it, the results speak for themselves.

The top is tight-grained with the back and ribs having moderate figure. I wasn't interested in a pedigree or eye candy. To me it was all about the tone. It has a new oil varnish finish and has been relic'ed a bit -I think Royce calls it "antique-ing"-- which give it a nice and well-played appearance.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Only had it a few weeks, but it seems very well constructed and the finish is of excellent quality---I don't see or expect any issues

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Royce has a fairly unique marketing method, but it sure removes the "blind item" aspect of purchasing a fiddle. He is an excellent player and gives you a good idea of the fiddle's potential. One of the smoothest transactions I've ever made. Guess there's trust required by both parties, but Royce probably extends a lot more than he receives. Truly a sincere, straight-shooter and I hope to do business with him again.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Royce is providing a great value in quality fiddles at a fair price. I would recommend him to anyone looking for a great sounding and playing fiddle. Hat's off and thanks, Royce!!!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Corilon violins: 3/4 French violin

Submitted by jpal (see all reviews from this person) on 6/11/2015

Where Purchased: Corilon.com

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

Setup Rating: not rated

Appearance

Appearance Rating: not rated

Reliability

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

Refering to my review from 6/2/2015, I have to say that Corilon, after reading it, contacted me and became completely available to solve the problems I described. So, though not forgetting the initial problems (that's why the  9 and not 10), I have to say that Corilon is now working very hard to solve them, so I now clearly recommend this seller.

Overall Rating: 9

Old German violin: Made in Markneukirchen

Submitted by DavidA (see all reviews from this person) on 3/25/2015

Where Purchased: Royce Burt

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Excellent Bluegrass Sound. Dark, clear, loud, double stops work together perfectly.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

bridge cut just right for Bluegrass, not too much curve just enough. Easy relatively low action

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Very nice wood for an old German fiddle. In excellent shape in spite of the years...approx late 1800's.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

New pegs, tailpiece, chin rest...old bridge..all will give many years of service.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Honest, reliable dealer...really knows how to re-voice to sound great for Bluegrass or Old Time.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No draw-back...you can trust Royce's work and quality.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

K C Fiddles: Bluestem

Submitted by JackL (see all reviews from this person) on 3/22/2015

Where Purchased: KC Fiddles

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 550 ($US)

Sound

My musical style is somewhere near the intersection of country, Celtic, and jazz, heavily improvised. Let's just call it country, because that's a nice broad category (and anyway, "progressive folk" sounds like the sort of genre label that starts flame wars). This fiddle suits it just fine. Its sound is notably well-balanced. There may be a slight bias in favour of middle and high frequencies, but that's just as likely a by-product of my bowing and/or the sort of spaces I play in. I'd rate volume as medium-loud to loud. While I haven't played it in a band or jam setting yet, I don't think it will have any problems with solo breaks. The fiddle responds extremely well to bowing dynamics, so there shouldn't be any issues with dialing back to accompany vocals either.

I can't yet speak to how it handles amps and effects. On the rare occasions when I need amplification, it usually consists of an SM-57 knockoff going straight into whatever is passing for a PA mixing board that night.

This instrument's resonance is particularly noteworthy in being both audible and tactile. It lets me feel sympathetic vibrations in my left hand and shoulder, particularly on unisons and octaves. This makes it easy to nail intonation, even in 3rd or 4th position (I seldom venture above 5th).

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

While I've used metal-core strings on violins before, this is the first instrument I've had set up explicitly as a fiddle. I can definitely feel the differences, and for my playing style those differences are all positive. This is a remarkably easy-playing instrument. String height, fingerboard radius, and bridge curvature seem particularly well matched, and the soundpost is placed perfectly. The tailpiece is a decent model with built-in fine tuners; either a Wittner or a well-made copy. The bridge is an Aubert, individually shaped and well fitted. Off hand I can't think of anything one might do to this setup that would be a guaranteed improvement, so I wouldn't mess with it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

When I first spoke with Michael on the phone, I remarked that sound is, for me, a much higher priority than appearance, and he steered me towards this specific instrument (#150302). The results lead me to believe that KC Fiddles may have more visually attractive Bluestem fiddles available, but the margin of that difference must be quite small. Overall I'd rate appearance as comfortably above average for this price point. I could nitpick several minor imperfections in the finish and a couple of other very subtle aesthetic flaws, but it would be pointless as none of them affect the sound, playability, or physical integrity of the instrument at all.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Hardware is well selected and quite serviceable. The finish overall is attractive and should have no significant durability issues. I believe this will be a dependable fiddle. I might not use it on a gig without backup until I got to know it better, but the same goes for any other instrument including ones that cost 3-5 times as much.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Based on the quality of KC Fiddles' initial consultation, follow-up, and long-term participation in this forum, customer service strikes me as top-notch. To be honest, I didn't even think to ask about the specifics of any warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Addressed in the Setup and Reliability section above. Executive summary: No worries. I should mention the case and bow purchased along with the fiddle, since I factored them in to the price listed above. The case has a laminated wood core structure, and as a compact model it should be perfectly suited to carrying on board airliners for stowage in overhead bins. The bow, a basic carbon fiber model, plays well, sounds decent, and is very reasonably priced.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This $400 fiddle equals or exceeds the performance of some that I've seen retailing for considerably more.  I'm also considering a somewhat higher-end fiddle and perhaps a decent 5-string. KC Fiddles have just become the first place I'll look for those.

Overall Rating: 10

Corilon violins: corilon violins

Submitted by islandoffoula (see all reviews from this person) on 3/7/2015

Where Purchased: Corilon violins

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 9500 (euros) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

irish music.clear and sweet sound, yet can be heard first among fiddlers playing together.outstanding projection .solist tone

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

the fiddle was by luthier's set up.little jewel.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Haat-Hedlef Uilderks Decke build concert's instruments;classical looking .

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

this violin has already been daily played for years during daily professional rehearsal and is yet in perfect order.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

That is the point ! they were professional and friendly? During 2 month they help me to choose what i knew i wanted but was bad at expressing clearly. First they wanted to send me 2 violins for the price of one to allow me to choose.Then they sent me bows for 8700 euros whereas i had payed 2200 ,and i could choose at home.
months after my decision they kept helping me twice by answering questions about the former owner of the violin and about the violin itself.

Customer Service: 10

Components

it is a professional grade violin

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

i realize it is risky to spend such a sum of money on the web, but whatever your reason i would recommend corilon.especially because of their wide range of instruments ,+ their outstanding efficiency

Overall Rating: 10

Royce Burt: 504

Submitted by fiddle_123 (see all reviews from this person) on 3/6/2015

Where Purchased: Royce Burt

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is the one thing I will comment on... he has the best horse glue in all the land. Not once have I had a fiddle blow up that wasn't my fault. (Florida Heat)

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have the 504 Five String.

I own many of  Royce's fiddles, the newly re-graduated 504 takes the cake on 5 strings.

It has even loudness on each string, tone all to be damned, and eats John Silakowski's and Cooper's for breakfast. No kidding.

If you want a Five that is NASCAR Ready, go get one of his re-grad's and sit on it like Publix Private Stock. 

That's all I have to say about that...other than Adam Haynes is right on as well....

S.T.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Corilon violins: English violin of the John Johnson school, approx. 1750 (certificate Christian

Submitted by jidapeng (see all reviews from this person) on 2/21/2015

Where Purchased: corilon violin

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 6549 ($US)

Sound

the sound of the violin does not sound like the recording they used in website at all,especially the E string can no play high sound, I suspect they are using fake recording to cheat customer

Sound Rating: 1

Setup

the violin was not seup at all and shipped without proper package,so there are three significate cracks in the violin.it can not be played or even repaired.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

the violin was declared as produced in 1750,but there is no evidence in the certification provove it ,also in corlin's letter shipped it diclare it was produced before 1900 only.the wood does not look like old wood at all.

Appearance Rating: 1

Reliability

the violin can not be used at all and corilon refuse to take it back even it declare they will be responsible for the safty and secure delivery.

Reliability Rating: 1

Customer Service

the customer service is very bad,they are very rude and and unpolite,they dont even answer calls or reply after I sent email to require them to do so,

Customer Service: 1

Components

Components Rating: 1

Overall Comments

the vendor does not worth trust, they cheat customer and were not willing to take responsibility.

Overall Rating: 1

Song Tie Ji: Strad style Song Maestro 4/4 violin

Submitted by laoxu (see all reviews from this person) on 1/19/2015

Where Purchased: ebay

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 275 ($US)

Sound

After replacing with a Helicore medium string set, it sounds beautifully. It is way better than the sound that I got from my old German made Joseph Guarneri

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The fiddle has stunningly beautiful wood work. It is well made, well balanced. The bow is of good quality, plays well but a bit on the heavy side. May be because I am used to a carbon fiber bow. The only thing that I need to make it sing is to replace the strings.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The fiddle has very beautiful maple back and European spruce top. With it I can really laugh at my friends who spent several thousands dollar more for their violin.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It seems like a very well made instrument. I think it will last but that is just a subjective feeling. So far so good though.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The company representative is very responsive to my concern of the purchase. He replied to my email question within a day when I was asking about the sound and quality of the instrument.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I think the strings could be better. But for me that is not a problem since I have my own set of preference and would likely change it any way. The bridge setup and sound post are pretty ok. The violin is very easy to play compared to my old Guarneri that was professionally setup by luthier David French of Massachussets. The more that I play, the more I like it.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I love the instrument the moment I saw it for the first time. It is more beautiful than I could imagine. The most important thing is that it sounds as beautiful as it looks. I really don't see the reason for spending on another instrument that costs many thousands dollars when you can get one like this. This violin really changed my attitude toward Chinese violins, I believe you can get a lot of for your money from these violins. Now I just wish the company carries a Guarneri Il Cannon 1743 which I am planning to buy.

Overall Rating: 10

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