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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!

217 reviews in the archive.

Don Leister

Submitted by blockader on 2/24/2016

Overall Comments

I sent my 1993 Charles Horner fiddle to Don in Richmond, as my playing had outgrown my homemade setup job. It came back playing and sounding so much better. Don was responsive and understanding of the needs of a fiddler, which makes sense as the instruments he builds in house are popular across styles, and I believe he is a fiddler himself as well. His suggestions were well considered and he did not try to perform unnecessary work.

His work is perfect and his prices beat the violin shops in Atlanta to boot. With shipping the overall cost was comparable, but I am 100% positive his work was superior and more attuned to my needs, without the 4 hours of driving time using a shop a in Atlanta would require.

I hope to someday buy one of his handmade fiddles, but in the mean time I will definitely send my setup work his way!

Overall Rating: 10

Royce Burt

Submitted by blockader on 8/6/2015

Overall Comments

If you want a great playing and sounding fiddle for a decent price than give Royce's revoiced boxes a shot. They are consistently excellent and he gives a trial period and is wonderful in general to work with. His videos give an accurate impression of the instrument but the fiddles go VERY fast, I'd recommend subscribing to his youtube channel so you get his vids in your email right when he posts them!

Overall Rating: 10

Royce Burt: #117 Amati Pattern

Submitted by blockader on 4/2/2014

Where Purchased: Royce Burt via FHO

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: $1200 ($US) (bought USED)


Royce revoices these old trade fiddles specifically with Old Time and Bluegrass fiddlers in mind. This one started life as a Saxony instrument based more or less on an Amati design. After regraduation and tweaking it has a wonderfully clear and smooth tone, with very fast responce. With the Prim medium strings and Westminster E that i use it has a fairly midrangey tone with a powerful G string. It was a little darker sounding with the Helicore strings it came with. I wanted a bit more aggressiveness from the E which the Westminster provides. Royce's fiddles tend to have fairly sweet E's that can be altered to suit the individual taste by using various E strings on the market. The volume is medium to medium loud. There are times playing outdoors that i wouln't mind a little more volume and times
indoors that i wouldn't mind a little less. This fiddle delivers crisp clear notes as fast as you can make them, which was what i was really after.

Sound Rating: 10


The fiddle was well set up with easy action, well done pegs, and Helicore strings. I prefer clearer, faster, louder strings for Old Time so I changed those out immediately. I also had a bridge cut with my preferred profile. The bridge it came with was alright, I just needed it to suit me exactly. I would expect to have a bridge made for any fiddle i purchased online.

Setup Rating: 9


This is not a particularly attractive fiddle. It probably came from Sears catalog more than 100 years ago. It has "Amati" stamped (crookedly) under the button on the back. The grain on the spruce top is very random with darker than usual lines. I actually have yet to see another top like this one. The back and ribs are figured but the ground and finish were not done in Germany as nicely as many others. Frankly, the looks ofthis fiddle would probably cause most people to pass over it to a different one. Royce took it and carved that old wood up and made it awesome. Having a fiddle that looks like it came from Sears Roebuck and got carried around in a flour sack for a few decades, but that plays and sounds like a dream is really ideal for the Old Time world. So it suits me just fine. Another words, it would be a 10 appearence wise at Clifftop but a 3 at the Philharmonic. Royce's regrads have a lot of variety in looks depending on what exactly it is. The fiddle he sent me as a backup was absoultely gorgeous in everyway, actually. It was a little darker tone wise than i prefer or I might have kept that one!

Appearance Rating: 9


It has been completely reliable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

You will not work with a better person than Royce. Period. The top of this fiddle developed a small crack in shipping. I sent it back so he could fix it. He actually sent me another fiddle, on his dime, to use while he repaired the crack and shipped it back to me. Royce is honest and accomodating in every way. He does not have the ridiculous and off putting ego that so many people that mess with fiddles have. We still email on occasion just to shoot the shit.

Customer Service: 10


Royce uses wittner tailpieces that are pretty standard for fiddlers. The chinrests he uses seem to mostly be older ones that match the older fiddles.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have played a lot of various levels of fiddles at this point and i still prefer this trade Amati copy to all of them so far, though i have never played really high end stuff in the over $5000 range so i can't compare to that. Royce really makes these things into Old Time machines, with tons of mojo and music in them. Heres a youtube video of this one:


Overall Rating: 10

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