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Arvi Basses..

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by prelims222, Feb 6, 2005.


  1. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Hi All,

    There hasn't been terribly much discussion on Arvi double basses, and I'd like to solicit opinions on the instruments. I've played on 5 of them, and 3 were very good.. clear and quick - sounded better than they cost. Very similar to a Bernadel I played at Gages, only more even, and 10000 less.

    The other 2 sounded muddy and uneven. The general consensus seems to be that for the money, they are hit and miss, much like other basses in that range (Jakstadts, Grunerts, etc..).

    Arvi owners (Theres a couple of you here..) - what year is your instrument, and how do you feel it compares to the other ca. 15-20K basses?

    I'm interested more in the technical aspects of the construction though - so hopefully the luthiers will chime in on this.

    Why is it so many Arvi's seem to do well in terms of projection and clarity? Is it the modeling that they are built off of? Is it the wood? Does he treat the wood in any way?

    I've heard stories about Arvi basses collapsing - is this because the tops were too thin? Poorly split wood? Does anyone know the length of time this seemed to be happening for? Apparently, students at Oberlin bought them during the 90's and within a year or two, 3 or 4 had to get restored. Does anyone know what was going on at that point? Nick?

    Whats up with his Varnish?
     
  2. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I've repaired several Arvis, and adjusted many. I think your thesis is right on. Structurally, they are well-made, but there are a few things I would do differently. For example, the inner linings are doubled--that is, he puts in two strips rather than the customary single strip. I imagine this is done to prevent seam openings. Unfortunately, if seams don't pop to relieve tension, cracks happen. And a lot of young Arvis have shown up in my shop with cracks. And yes, the tops, which seem to mostly be Sitka Spruce, are carved on the thin side, especially around the f-holes. Sitka has little cross-grain stiffness, and the result can be sinkage of the top. I'm not a fan of the carving and finishing work on these basses, but Mr. Arvi certainly knows how to achieve a strong tone. I've rarely heard one that didn't sound.
     
  3. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Arnold,

    Thanks for your response - its interesting that the linings are doubled like that but the tops are thinner.

    In your experience with repairs and adjustments, what do you feel can be done to improve the instruments structurally and aesthetically, without changing the bass entirely?
     
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Basically nothing. I sometimes reduce the width of the top linings when I have one apart, and then I glue the top on with very weak hide glue, to help prevent more cracking.
     
  5. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    I commissioned one to be built by Kai in 2002, and I still love it. The sound is huge, and the bass is very easy to play. I spent several years looking at a great many basses in a lot of different price ranges, and I'm convinced that for the money I paid (and more than a few thousand above that range) I couldn't have gotten a better bass.

    My teacher played a number of Arvi basses while he was at the New England Conservatory, and he says mine is the best he's seen; Mike Shank says much the same thing. So maybe I was a bit lucky. Bryce Parys at Hammond Ashley -- a guy who could play any of a number of different basses -- plays an Arvi a few years older than mine, and he seems to like it a lot.

    I understand from Kai that he's changed his approach a little in the past ten years, and he doesn't make the top quite as thin as he used to. That has, as I understand it, eliminated issues that may have once existed regarding table sinkage. I've seen no sign of that on my bass.

    In any case, I have no regrets about my purchase, though I don't doubt there are a great many fine basses being made today.
     
  6. prelims222

    prelims222

    Sep 20, 2004
    Southeast US
    Pete, thanks for responding -

    I assume from your profile, you've had a chance to hear bill vaughan's Panormo and Ed Barber's Maggini?


    You know that when a Bass costs nearly as much as Two Aston Martins it better be something special.

    I'm actually flying into No. Va in March and driving to Shanks the next day to check out an Arvi on consignment there. I've
    tried it once already when I was beginning my search, and it seemed good then - quick, good tone, easy to play, was just as loud and clear at 4 feet away as 50 feet away. Since then I've tried easy 60-70 basses and traveled up and down much of the East Coast doing so.

    Then Arvi is coming to Indy later in march with a new bass he's built thats not yet sold. I've asked him about his changes - it seems like the most significant one is that he's now using more european tonewoods than West Coast Englemann and Big Leaf Maple. He thinks it gives the instruments "'sweeter' upper register, and warmer overall sound." I don't know.. tonewoods is a whole other bag.

    In the meantime, I'm taking another trip to Cincinatti to play some more basses - some of those are real powerhouses, and I need to give them a real honest look too.
     
  7. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Prelims, I have seen and heard Rick Barber's Maggini up close -- it is truly a gorgeous instrument with sound to match. (I have not seen the Panormo except from my NSO nosebleed seats.) Of course, at the price Rick is said to have paid for his Maggini, you'd expect no less. Still, it's mighty impressive.

    One thing to consider when trying out the Arvis (or any bass) -- different basses sound better with some strings than others. Kai likes to put a full set of Flexocors on his basses -- those are the strings he thinks produce the best sound.

    Although it's a matter of taste, I don't entirely agree that Flexocors are the best string to use on that bass for orchestral use. IMHO, they do work very well on G and D, but don't give me the power I want on E (really a long C on my bass) or A.

    I don't have the final answer on that yet. Bryce Parys uses on his Arvi and recommended to me a mixed set -- Flexocors on G and D, Helicore Orchestra Mediums on A and E(C). I've tried that, and I like it. Currently I'm using a full set of Pirastro Permanents, and though I'm early into the experiment, I think I like the Permanents even better. You might be able to talk Mike into letting you play his Arvi with diffferent string choices -- if you're really interested in the bass.

    Good luck on the quest!
    PG
     
  8. Prelims:

    I've had my Arvi since '89 #38, and I have a stenholm machine extension. I don't have any collapsing of the top of mine, and a fellow bassist in my area has his from 82, with no top problems. I've heard the negative comments about the tops collapsing, and that was true many years ago, but I believe it's been rectified. I've not s heard of the newer ones having that problem. I've had the opportunity, on several occasions, to hear my bass being played from a distance, and the projection, sound, and tone, continues to impress me. The floor shakes whenever I play any of the low notes with the extension. The other feature I love about the Arvi is it's responsivness. I've tried other basses from players in the orchestras I work with, and haven't found one that sounds, or plays better then mine, for the money.

    I've used a full set of Original Flexo's, even on the long E, for many years.Recently I switched to Obligatos on the G, D, A, and a Permanent long E. It's made a big difference, especially the E, more projection, bigger tone..I believe Kai is using the Perm. E on his new basses.