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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.

K C Fiddles: Bluestem

Submitted by JackL 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

Antonio Giuliani: Antonio Giuliani

Submitted by JackL on 3/6/2013

Where Purchased: Kennedy Violins

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 721.35 ($US)

Sound

Tone darkly sweet (or sweetly dark?). Excellent volume and superb projection. More than holds its own with dreadnaught guitars and resonator banjos. I bet it'll even hang in with brass. Most of my playing is in folk or popular styles and highly improvisational. This fiddle encourages it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Meticulous, which probably contributes to this instrument's exceptional responsiveness. I doubt that many brick-and-mortar retailers would do better. Props to the luthiers.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Visually very attractive. Maple back and sides beautifully flamed. Grain on the spruce top generally quite tight and very even. Finish virtually flawless except in a couple of tiny, very hard-to-find areas with zero effect on tone, playability, or general appearance. Really somewhere between 9.5 and 9.8, rounded up to 10 because fractional points aren't available.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I'm paranoid, so I probably wouldn't use ANY fiddle on a gig without a backup. That said, I haven't seen, heard, or felt anything yet that would give me any qualms about using this one as primary. In fact it has become the one I usually reach for when heading out, whether across the street or across the continent.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Haven't had to send an instrument in for repair, so can't speak to that. However, pre- and post-sale customer support were top notch and delivered primarily via web chat and email. (I appreciate this, since almost everywhere is a long distance call from here!) Heather, the rep with whom I dealt, is very knowledgeable, friendly, and professional. I believe Kennedy when they say that all of their staff are musicians.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I replaced the Guarneri chinrest with a slightly elevated Teka almost immediately, but that wasn't a quality issue; it was a 'Guarneri chinrests drive me up the wall' issue. I'll probably try for a different chinrest from the get-go next time I order; just didn't think of it this time. Also, for a small additional fee Kennedy set this violin up with my preferred strings, D'Addario Zyex. The standard tailpiece was already set up the way that I prefer, with fine tuner on E string only.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Unbeatable value, IMHO. I wanted this instrument to split the difference between my Eastman VL100 and my rather higher-end GCV Il Cannone copy. The Giuliani meets that goal handily, and if anything it's closer to the Guarneri copy. Based on my experience with this violin, I'd put Kennedy at or near the top of my 'go to' list for subsequent purchases.

Overall Rating: 10

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