Two quick points I would like to make before getting into the review of these strings: 1) I’m not the musician, my daughter is. In this review I’ll discuss the tonal qualities I heard as well as the playability that my daughter told me. In both cases I can only report what I heard. My daughter may have been so excited about the strings that she imagined the playability bonuses and simply played better than she did on her old strings (Vision Titanium Orchestra); 2) These strings won’t be for everyone (more on that later). The violin she uses is an intermediate student instrument with a fairly nice tone, but previously sounded fairly weak in the upper registers on the E string.
She only restrung her violin yesterday so they haven’t completely settled yet. I’ll be back though if they seem to take an inordinate amount of time to settle in; however, they started to mostly keep tune after playing them in for only about half an hour, although the A string remained balky for longer. That said, they came out of the box sounding clear, beautiful, strong and brilliant. There was an undertone to the violin that I hadn’t heard before. The sound was clear and strong on all strings up to at least fifth position. The tone was very strong and clear and I’m sure would have been heard over most, if not all, of her orchestra had she been playing with them at the time. However, they weren’t brash or harsh in the least. Her dynamics were normal and she went to pp easily and I feel, if the piece she was playing called for it, would have gone to ppp. The violin did quiet noticeably when needed, but was still clear and clean. The tone previously sounded weak and thin in quieter dynamics, but not with these strings. One review I read on violinist.com concerned me a bit on this score as the reviewer reported that it was difficult to bring the volume down, but when I listened yesterday I thought maybe it’s more a question of how clear and strong they sounded even in pp. You will be heard, no matter the dynamics you are playing. The tone that was produced was with a very light bow, yet when I asked my daughter to dig in to the strings the tone was still very nice and the response was quick. One final note on the tone aspect is that my daughter’s vibrato came alive on these strings. That may be partly due to the playability of these strings. It may also be because she enjoyed them so much it gave her confidence to simply play a better vibrato on her own.
Next I’ll report the playability aspect of these strings. From here, I am reporting what my daughter told me as I am not a string instrument player. She reported that the strings were soft and almost didn’t feel like she was even pressing the strings as she played. This increased her speed and her confidence in moving through her scales and the pieces she played. She reported that the bowing was also much easier on these strings then on her previous set (and she loved her previous set already, so much that she wanted to buy a set for her boyfriend’s birthday present). She loved them and immediately sounded better when she changed the strings. This is a mixed blessing for me as I wanted her to sound better, but was half hoping these strings wouldn’t sound any better because they do cost so much more than the Visions (especially since I couldn’t find anyone offer them for less than full price) and I can’t obtain them locally as yet so have to order them from the internet.
I promised I would get to the point that these strings aren’t for everyone, so here goes. First they are very expensive. I feel they will improve the tone of many violins for much cheaper than buying a new instrument, but they probably won’t improve all instruments. If you’re on a budget, the strings you are currently using will likely be fine. If you are looking to upgrade your instrument, it can’t hurt to try them to see if these strings will give the tone you’re looking for without the outlay of funds necessary for a better instrument. If you are already using a Thomastik string to good results, these will probably improve those results. Also, if you are looking to hide amongst the orchestra, don’t get these strings. You will be heard, and you will stand out in the crowd. Finally, they are not magic. While I feel they can improve many people’s tone and help musicians to achieve better results, they won’t turn a beginner into a virtuoso overnight.
Can’t report on the longevity yet, but for these prices I certainly hope they last at least as long as the Visions did (about 5-6 months on the last set, although the A string was replace twice and the D string once…so maybe only 3-4 months). If they don’t last I may have to hold them for major concerts, competitions, or auditions and have her use less expensive strings for normal practice and rehearsals. I can’t afford this price on a monthly basis, but biannually would make it worth it to me.
As to Shar Music, their web-site is easy to navigate and find what I was looking for, and, if you have an account, the reorder button on the order history page makes it convenient to reorder strings when you need them. I was also pleasantly surprise at how quickly the order arrived…three days after placing the order using the free, “best way”, shipping method. However, at these prices I’ll price compare before reordering because a saving on the price point would be more important than the service received. A couple of days delay for a $20-$40 savings would be worth the wait. Prices remaining equal though, I’ll definitely return to Shar at least until these strings are locally available.