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Carbon fiber vs. wood violin. The cost?

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Mar 10, 2020 - 8:01:10 PM
10 posts since 3/10/2020

Greetings folks! I'm new to the forum.

In short, here's my question:

I'm looking to spend between $500 and $1500 on a violin. Can I get a 'better' wood instrument than carbon fiber instrument in that price range?

I'm aware that CF and wood often sound different, but they can both be high quality instruments that play magnificently. I'd prefer to buy a carbon fiber instrument, but more importantly, I'd rather the money I spend be used to buy an instrument that is easier to play and sounds better.

A little about myself: I'm only an amateur violinist. Took violin lessons from age 8-18, got to be pretty good, and then quit. Now I'd like to reacquire my skills and maybe more. I'll never play professionally, obviously, but suffice it to say I that I am musically-inclined.

Mar 10, 2020 - 8:06:23 PM
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276 posts since 1/5/2009

I would stick to wood, they at least can be repaired.

Mar 11, 2020 - 6:31:30 AM

2273 posts since 10/1/2008

You can purchase a well built student grade instrument , bow and case for that amount of money. IMO you will be better off going with a maple and spruce instrument with ebony finger board and pegs. When and if you really get back into playing you can go shop at a violin store in "the city". There are some good instruments for sale here in the classifieds and some "outfits" online Eastman or Gliga for example offer good "starter" packages. Luck... R/

Mar 11, 2020 - 6:51:03 AM

10 posts since 3/10/2020

I appreciate both of your replies, but you really haven’t even touched upon the question I was asking.

Mar 11, 2020 - 7:59:53 AM

Fiddler

USA

4103 posts since 6/22/2007

Here's my 2cents....

Carbon fiber has a "cool factor" along with some other benefits such as not as sensitive to moisture and temperature variations, etc. I have heard a few of these and their tone was very close to a wood instrument. When the Denver orchestra played for the Winter Olympics several years ago, all of the string players used CF instruments. The cold temps would have damaged a wood instrument.

I have not heard much about the lower level, inexpensive CF instruments. Luis & Clark has a line of CF violins, but they are pricey. So, like other things, you get what you pay for.

These videos advertising CF violas may influence you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf2w2zMNvzE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OdS1Th8e1w

Traditional instruments have a warmth and tone quality that is not attainable in a CF instrument. These instruments are sensitive to temperature and moisture and some can be downright finicky.

You will need to decide what is important to you - sound qualities, durability, etc.

If you have the opportunity, play both and compare.  Good luck!

Mar 11, 2020 - 9:37:54 AM
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10 posts since 3/10/2020

I appreciate your two cents, but you haven’t answered my question.

Do you pay a premium for the instrument to be made out of carbon fiber?

Would a $1000 carbon fiber violin typically sound as good as a $1000 wood violin? (I hate to put the question so childishly, but I guess there’s no other way).

What constitutes a lower level inexpensive carbon fiber violin?” Mezzo-forte has two models: a Design line ($2400) and an EVO line ($1200) and they sound very similar.

Mar 11, 2020 - 9:58:33 AM

RobBob

USA

2700 posts since 6/26/2007

The Presto Ovation bow is less than $300 and is sold by Sharmusic.com There are cheaper bows especially Chinese CF bows, but if you want a good balance at an affordable price, that is the one to get. Expect to pay more for a new wood bow, or as I have done in the past tried numerous used bows until you find one that works for you. What is your time worth?

In a humid summer CF beats wood hands down. Otherwise you spend way more to get a CF bow that has all of the subtle qualities of a great wood bow. Remember also that $20 is the old 5ver and $100 is the new $20 when shopping.

Mar 11, 2020 - 10:01:30 AM

276 posts since 1/5/2009

If your just going to be using it as a personal fiddle. I would say the choice is yours to make. Wood instruments you can get for as low as 50 dollars, just shop around broken and need of repair instruments are readily available. So the cost of a wood violin can be 50$ - 1mil. Sure that instruments are more stable, have a good sound quality and have a high cost of manufacture.
That is why it has been suggested that you visit as many retail music shops that have both available, and give them a try. Which one do you like better. What it really comes down to is what you want. This thread has given you 160years of experience to help you make your decision.

IMHO CF instruments will never surpass or meet the sound and tonal quality of a wood instrument, no matter what you pay for either instrument.

Mar 11, 2020 - 10:09:46 AM

LukeF

USA

59 posts since 10/15/2019

I have the Mezzo-forte design model. To answer your question if it is better than a wood violin, I would not say it is better, but I would characterize it as being different. It has different tonal characteristics. Things I like about my CF violin is it is louder, more responsive, less susceptible to weather changes, and has a cool factor. If you are a "traditionalist", you may not like the tone. Wood violins are warmer. I was told by the owner of Mezzo-forte that the EVO line has similar sound characteristics but not as loud.

There are lower priced CF violins in your price range, like the Glasser models but I have no experience with them.

Where do you live? If you live close to me (SoCal), I will be happy to let you test drive my CF violin.

Mar 11, 2020 - 11:08:11 AM
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Fiddler

USA

4103 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DocCoc

I appreciate your two cents, but you haven’t answered my question.

Do you pay a premium for the instrument to be made out of carbon fiber?

Would a $1000 carbon fiber violin typically sound as good as a $1000 wood violin? (I hate to put the question so childishly, but I guess there’s no other way).

What constitutes a lower level inexpensive carbon fiber violin?” Mezzo-forte has two models: a Design line ($2400) and an EVO line ($1200) and they sound very similar.


$1K CF vs $1K wood?  I think in sound quality there is no contest - the wood instrument. This based on my experience and the research I have done.

If money is not an issue for you and you really want the CF instrument, go for it.  (It seems that you are leaning this way.) Or, if you would rather have a nice wood instrument in stead, go for it. I think at the level that most of us are playing, it really doesn't matter that much. That's my opinion and I don't mean it to be disparaging in any way. I do know that some will have a very discerning ear and a good technique and that it will make a difference.

For me, I don't let go of money very easily. I have a stash that I have slowly built up over the past 25 year years that is specifically for the "right" instrument. (The money comes from gigs and other music-related jobs.) So far, I have not found anything that even comes close to what I currently have. Therefore, I just can't justify spending the money.  So it sits and continues to build up. Maybe I can get that Ferrari or Tesla or that mountain bungalow retreat in a bunch more years (if the market improves A LOT!!) Or maybe I will use it for a nice vacation.

Mar 11, 2020 - 4:40:26 PM

194 posts since 3/1/2020

Wood wins hands down for tone. Carbon fiber instruments are interesting and offer some advantages for people who play outdoors a lot or play amplified. But they aren’t very forgiving if there are any issues. Luthiers generally don’t have the tools to repair carbon fiber structures, and repairs would be prohibitively expensive anyway.

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 03/11/2020 16:42:02

Mar 12, 2020 - 9:10:28 AM

485 posts since 9/1/2010

I think as far as playability there shouldn't be much difference between the two. As far as tone goes the wooden instrument is going to win hands down. Yes CF fiddles have a bit of a cool factor, but wouldn't you rather sound good than look cool? The only reason I would think of purchasing a CF violin is if durability was my top priority. If CF tone was equal or superior to wood then you would see them being used exclusively by a high percentage of classical violinist, but that is not the case. It all boils down to what your priorities are in your instrument.
With that being said, I do feel in the realm of bows that you tend to get more for your money with CF. I sampled many wood bows from $75 to upwards of $1,000 and I would (and did) pick my Coda Diamond SX and the Luma over any of them. Some of the more expensive wood bows did sound as good, but not $400-$500 better.

Mar 12, 2020 - 9:46:06 AM

10 posts since 3/10/2020

I disagree with you on the claims about concert violinists not using CF because they don’t sound as nice. I think a CF violin can be made to sound every bit as nice as a wood instrument. The issue with it is the fact that they stick out like a sore thumb. I’d imagine that such musicians are traditionalists, and would tend to shun such non-traditional instruments.

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:03:46 AM

4837 posts since 9/26/2008
Online Now

"Better" in what way?
Have you any experience with CF bows? MY experience tells me wood sounds better, warmer as others have said, less treble-y. My experience also tells me it is likely to be the same with violins in the price range you are talking about.
Ultimately, it appears we on this forum don't have enough experience with CF violins (or answering a direct questionlaugh??????) to answer your question adequately.

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:10:04 AM

Fiddler

USA

4103 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DocCoc

I disagree with you on the claims about concert violinists not using CF because they don’t sound as nice. I think a CF violin can be made to sound every bit as nice as a wood instrument. The issue with it is the fact that they stick out like a sore thumb. I’d imagine that such musicians are traditionalists, and would tend to shun such non-traditional instruments.


That may very well be the reason we don't see them in professional orchestras. But, the Denver Orchestra all used CF instruments when they performed for the opening/closing of the winter Olympics. So, it is not that they are not used in professional orchestras. It must be an appearance consideration that is outlined in their contract. Much the same regarding clothing for performances - black tuxedoes, black dresses/pant suits, etc. 

However, you can get "wood grain" CF instruments. I have seen some that were very difficult to differentiate from wood instruments. So, there must be something else.

The other item may be the difficulty in getting repairs made. I have heard that it is much different to work on CF than a wood instrument. If I were playing at that level, I would certainly want access to a qualified, experienced luthier who knew how to work on CF instruments. I wouldn't want to be the training project.  $5K is not sneezing money! 

Edited by - Fiddler on 03/12/2020 10:12:43

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:23 AM

276 posts since 1/5/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler
quote:
Originally posted by DocCoc

I disagree with you on the claims about concert violinists not using CF because they don’t sound as nice. I think a CF violin can be made to sound every bit as nice as a wood instrument. The issue with it is the fact that they stick out like a sore thumb. I’d imagine that such musicians are traditionalists, and would tend to shun such non-traditional instruments.


That may very well be the reason we don't see them in professional orchestras. But, the Denver Orchestra all used CF instruments when they performed for the opening/closing of the winter Olympics. So, it is not that they are not used in professional orchestras. It must be an appearance consideration that is outlined in their contract. Much the same regarding clothing for performances - black tuxedoes, black dresses/pant suits, etc. 

However, you can get "wood grain" CF instruments. I have seen some that were very difficult to differentiate from wood instruments. So, there must be something else.

The other item may be the difficulty in getting repairs made. I have heard that it is much different to work on CF than a wood instrument. If I were playing at that level, I would certainly want access to a qualified, experienced luthier who knew how to work on CF instruments. I wouldn't want to be the training project.  $5K is not sneezing money! 


This is the main reason for avoiding the CF instruments. Repairing a CF instrument is another animal. I would suggest that you research how the CF instruments are manufactured. It is a long drawn out process the requires  dies and vacuum equipment. Most repair shops cannot afford that cost, along with the training required to use the equipment. That is one reason why the CF instruments on the high end have an excellent factory warranty. Setups on CF instruments are easy so to speak, normally costing twice the setup on a wood instrument.

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:28:13 AM
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10 posts since 3/10/2020

Well folks, I just purchased a Mezzo Forte violin. Should reach me in a couple weeks.

I went with the less expensive model - ie the EVO line. $1200 for the violin. A $1200 wood instrument should sound pretty nice - nice enough for an amateur player who hasn’t played in twenty years. I’m hoping this CF violin will deliver the same.

Edited by - DocCoc on 03/12/2020 10:39:15

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:34:33 AM

Fiddler

USA

4103 posts since 6/22/2007

Congratulations!

We will look forward to your reviews.

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:34:44 AM

276 posts since 1/5/2009

Congrats and let us know how it goes with a review.

Mar 12, 2020 - 10:47:23 AM
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LukeF

USA

59 posts since 10/15/2019

Hey Doc:

Congratulations on your purchase. I think you'll like it, as long as you don't set your expectation that it will sound like a wood instrument. As I stated in my earlier post, a CF violin will sound different, not better but not worse. It has different tonal characterisitcs. I can understand how those who are bound to tradition will say it is worse, but I am not a traditionalist and not afraid to experiment with different instruments. I love my Mezzo-forte. In fact, so much so that I no longer touch my wooden violin. It is fun to play. You won't regret it.

Can you tell me where you bought it? Would it be the Instrument Place, by chance? The owner is honest and great to deal with.

Mar 12, 2020 - 11:08:49 AM

10 posts since 3/10/2020

I bought it directly from Joerg at Mezzo Forte.

I’ve heard the EVO and the Design line. At least, I’ve heard videos.

They do sound a little different than wood. They sound brighter and less soft, but the sound is still quite close.

Mar 12, 2020 - 12:46:30 PM

485 posts since 9/1/2010

quote:
Originally posted by DocCoc

I disagree with you on the claims about concert violinists not using CF because they don’t sound as nice. I think a CF violin can be made to sound every bit as nice as a wood instrument. The issue with it is the fact that they stick out like a sore thumb. I’d imagine that such musicians are traditionalists, and would tend to shun such non-traditional instruments.


This is with the assumption that they are more concerned with how they look than how they sound.  It very well could be the case, but I'd imagine that such musicians would choose the best sounding instrument.  As pointed out in a previous comment, CF violins were used when performing outdoors at the Denver Olympics.  It is likely that many classical violinists who play professionally have a CF instrument for when the weather is at play.  I personally have nothing against CF instruments and think they are pretty cool.  Do they sound great?  Yes, from the videos I have watched they sound fantastic.  For most people, I think it would be a very high-quality instrument and would suit their needs.  Can they sound as nice as the concert violinists $20,000-$50,000 wood violin?  I don't think so.  Most of us don't have that kind of money to spend on our beloved instruments so we settle for the best we can afford.  My point is that they invest that much into those instruments for their tonal quality and those instruments happen to be made of wood.  I'm sure there is a pretty level playing field up until a certain price point, but eventually, the wooden violin surpasses the CF.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the new violin.  I'm sure what you learned previously will just take a little time to knock the dust off.

Cheers

Mar 12, 2020 - 1:11:38 PM

10 posts since 3/10/2020

Actually, I’d have said the opposite.

I think that with regard to sound, the playing field is level past a certain price point.

No one will ever convince me that a $50,000 violin sounds better than a $10,000 instrument. (Past a certain price point, a violin’s value lies in its appreciation and collectibility).

That being said, carbon fiber instruments are (comparatively) brand-new inventions. They will only get better with time.

Mar 12, 2020 - 7:47:35 PM

485 posts since 9/1/2010

quote:
Originally posted by DocCoc

Actually, I’d have said the opposite.

I think that with regard to sound, the playing field is level past a certain price point.

No one will ever convince me that a $50,000 violin sounds better than a $10,000 instrument. (Past a certain price point, a violin’s value lies in its appreciation and collectibility).

That being said, carbon fiber instruments are (comparatively) brand-new inventions. They will only get better with time.


We'll just have to agree to disagree.  Best of luck to you. wink

Mar 12, 2020 - 8:13:46 PM
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194 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by DocCoc

Actually, I’d have said the opposite.

I think that with regard to sound, the playing field is level past a certain price point.

No one will ever convince me that a $50,000 violin sounds better than a $10,000 instrument. (Past a certain price point, a violin’s value lies in its appreciation and collectibility).

That being said, carbon fiber instruments are (comparatively) brand-new inventions. They will only get better with time.


Have you played some violins in that range? Many of the differences in sound are more appreciable for the player. 

Perhaps it's worth mentioning as well that the bow is such a crucial part of the sound. Picking a good bow makes a world of difference in sound, and money invested in a bow is money well spent. Why should violins be different? 

It's true that tone is not a major part of the equation when value is being determined, as tone is such a subjective thing that consensus of opinion is impossible. However, as price rises, there are certain expectations for how a violin should perform against others in its price range. Violins that don't punch their weight collect dust until their prices are lowered or they're worked on.

For $10,000 you can get a fairly nice Roth. For $50,000 you can get a Nicholas Vuillaume. Are you really convinced that they're on the same level? That has not been my experience. 

Mar 13, 2020 - 5:42:17 AM

10 posts since 3/10/2020

Above a certain point (after which the highest quality materials and the most meticulous workmanship have been employed), I suspect that the differences in sounds between violins will occur by chance. Let’s face it... luthiers are skilled craftsmen, and not engineering PhD’s specializing in acoustics. I’m guessing Stradivari made some violins that sounded better than others.

Edited by - DocCoc on 03/13/2020 05:42:54

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