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Blind Testing of Stradivarius Violins-Reason and Emotion

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by spvmhc, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. spvmhc


    Apr 14, 2011
    Here's a link to a careful study of violins:


    I suspect we bassists are like violinists; we have strong opinions even when we lack information.

    By the way, this story has a positive aspect. If you can't afford a (insert the name of an expensive bass here), you may be doing just as well with the bass you have. Be grateful and enjoy making music with whatever instrument you own.
  2. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Yup. All the navel-gazing about wood significantly influencing the tone.............
  3. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    People who shell out the big bucks for a Stradivarius or a boutique bass have to believe that they are superior. And when it comes to bass guitars the high priced examples very often are obviously superior in craftsmanship and materials. With a bass guitar however the strings and electronics are responsible for the vast majority of the sonic result. It is interesting that even with violins where every effort has been made to replicate the ancient masters in every way possible that people still refuse to believe that the modern instrument sounds as good. It truly is perception more than reality isn't it?

  4. Bassmunnky


    Jul 3, 2004
    New York and Philadelphia
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball MusicMan Guitars
    The Truth Does not Matter!

    There was a show dedicated to this a while back. When the people picked the "new violin", they were stunned and didn't want to believe it.
  5. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Yes. And it is astounding how many people scream that they judge with their ears, but fail to understand and/or acknowledge that unless they test in a truly blind fashion multiple times, their "opinion" is biased and at best, unreliable. So many people reject "science", and unwittingly flush the basic principles of logic in doing so. Humans-just intelligent enough to be dangerous to ourselves and other living things ;-)
  6. enjoi1018

    enjoi1018 Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2011
    Auburn, AL
    I've read the article and have to say I agree with it. It's very hard to compare sounds at the same time, unlike two paintings.

    I fully believe that experts can't distinguish these violins apart, but I can tell the difference between a Modulus a P MOST of the time. I feel a lot of you guys are the same way!
  7. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    This has been posted and debated extensively in the past. I agree with the premise, expensive isn't always better. I disagree with the conclusion that workmanship and materials have little effect on the tone. Also, a well made bass is usually easier to play, and well made usually means it cost a little more.

    As far as the aging of the wood thing, well, we are likely to hear a heated debate. I think that I'll leave others to chime in about that. :)
  8. There was an interesting review in the Times a few weeks ago about a classical concert where famous players were allowed to use 'famous' old instruments. Kind of a gimmick to sell some tickets, but I guess kind of cool.

    However, the review was very mixed, and the gist of it was that an instrument is such a personal thing, and different players have different requirements for both the tone and 'feel' of the instruments, that putting 'amazing' (or historic) instruments into the hands of players randomly makes little sense. In other words, the reviewer felt the performance was impacted negatively by the instruments.

    Kind of not quite the same thing, but goes to the point of 'instruments matter', and players will play best on an instrument that speaks to them, whether it is an old beater Squire P or an Alembic, or a Strad or a new instrument. etc.

    Who cares! Play what works. For those who feel a few extra thousand is worth it (in the electric bass world) or those who think a few hundred thousand is worth it (in the classical world) to get the instrument that speaks to them, it is nobody's business but their own IMO:)

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Agreed on all points!
  10. Bassmunnky


    Jul 3, 2004
    New York and Philadelphia
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball MusicMan Guitars
    The Modulus/Pbass comparison and an analogy to the violin test was not the spirit of the experiment...

    More Like Vintage Pbass vs AV PBass.

    The experiment has been done before...and the results similar.
  11. Dan Lenard

    Dan Lenard Banned

    Mar 8, 2002
    I sell basses that range in price from $1K to $10K and many are judged before they are played and heard, usually based on appearance and the judge's pocketbook.

    If I could , I would ask players who stop by to try a wide variety of basses blindfolded and not informed of each bass' price. The question here is - " Which plays and sounds the best to you ? "

    In this way each bass is assessed on its' most important aspects - tone and playability.

    In a perfect world.......
  12. I bought a new Fender Am Stand P-Bass from GC in 1999.

    Next bass I wanted was a Roscoe Beck 5-String.

    But.. next time I went to try 5 ers, and I saw more choices.

    Next visit to GC, I asked my wife to securely blindfold me, as I did want to be influenced by price or brand.

    I asked G C guy to hand me bass after bass; volume and tone on full, whether single or dual PUP basses.

    Suddenly I heard a celestial thunder, which I had never heard from any electric bass.... I snatched off the blind fold and asked WHAT'S THIS BASS??? It was a Zon Sonus 5. Never heard of Zon...Then I saw the price tag.... I had sticker shock.

    I had tried Alembic, Pedullas, Tobias, and the rest of the Boutique basses..all sounded glorious; all were too expensive.

    The sound of that Zon stayed in my head.

    A few years later, my wife suggested that we go ahead an order a Zon. She further suggested..If you're gonna do this..go all the way...

    I ordered top of the line quilted maple, etc. I originally just wanted a 5, but the GC guy said for only $100 more, you get the 6, thus my screen name. [I later told her I could have gotten L E D makers...LOL.. EVEN MORE $$$$ and sometimes I regret not going..ALL THE WAY....]

    In 2009, I used my ears and bought a Squier Jazz 5 Active. When compared to MM-5: Identical tones, nearly identical; feel and nearly $1400 less. I have told this story all over T B.

    Didn't need a blindfold that time, but I highly suggest doing this, as one would be surprised at the different story your ears tell you from what your eye sees in a label or price tag.

    A blindfold literally pretty much removes brand / $$ predjudice and makes your choice more honest, if you go along with your ears.
  13. Steve


    Aug 10, 2001
    Probably all true. Having said that, all that prejudice and opinion sure do make my Sadowsky sound good to me.
  14. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I don't think this can be viewed as an essay on inexpensive ~vs~ expensive instruments, as I would assume that the 'modern' violins used in the test were build by the top violins makers of today. It is more an essay on old ~vs~ new.

    In bass guitar terms, it might be like comparing a 'modern' Jazz bass to a 62 Fender Jazz, and leaving out the fact that the 'modern' bass is an Alleva Coppollo...not something that would be considered inexpensive.

    There is a lot more involved in the value of a Strad than the tonal production, just as there is more involved in the cost of a pre-CBS Fender.
  15. I'm going on my 20th year owning my Ibanez SR885. Each time I've performed with it, I always received compliments. Some told me it sounded as good as some top-brand models.

    P.S. I do not consider myself to be at a level of making all basses sound good.
  16. BassChuck


    Nov 15, 2005
    Still.... there's something mystical about owning an instrument that is high enough quality to have been played professionally for 200 years. There is something to be said for joining an elite 100+ year old club of musicians who have been fortunate to make their way in this world by playing music with your (for now) instrument. Music is an essential part of human existance, and to be reminded of that every time you pick up your instrument is good and marvelous thing.

    How many of you own an instrument that was made and played before you were born?
  17. atomicdog


    Jun 18, 2011
    The market for Strads and other rare Cremonese instruments is driven, in part, by the expectation that concert soloists will use them (the culture of the orchestra as guided by the conductor). And of course, there's the collector's market; these are good investments. While many of these are tonally superior instruments, capable of tremendous projection and rich, complex sound, few in the string world contest that contemporary violins, violas, cellos, and double basses, made by master builders, are capable of brilliant sound. But do they have the mojo of a 400-year-old violin played by the giants of the genre?
  18. spvmhc


    Apr 14, 2011
    Thanks to everyone who responded. I've read your comments with interest. Here are a few of my reflections.

    lomo-your point is well-taken. And the "just intelligent enough to be dangerous to ourselves and other living things" observation is going to stay with me for a long time.

    enjoi1018-the cautionary conclusion from the research is that the only way you can be certain you can tell your Modulus and a P bass is to do a blind test. The research doesn't mean there are no differences among instruments. It just suggests caution in assuming we can evaluate those differences readily and without bias.

    WoodyG3-I looked at the reserach as showing more about the psychology of instrument preference. I certainly agree that there are differences and some basses are superior to others.

    Dan Lenard-you're the bass salesman I would hope to encounter the next time I'm pining for another bass. Good for you!

    zon6c-f You're a hero; you followed the data. And your wife encouraged you to buy the bass you chose! You're lucky as well.

    NickyBass-I was less interested in the actual differences among the instruments than in the perception of differences. And the certainty of the musicians even when reality was incongruent with their conclusions.

    ToleranceEJ-keep enjoying your Ibanez.

    BassChuck and atomicdog-I liked your points. It is remarkable to be a part of a long musical tradition. As long as a musician sees that as the point of paying a premium for his/her instrument, it makes perfect sense to me.

    Thanks again for your replies. It's been helpful to hear your thoughts
  19. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    How about a Modulus P bass? :p

  20. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Everytime I get another bass I am all jazzed up up to play it with the band at a gig without them knowing its a new bass. Everytime I do and ask..What do you think? They all have said...sounds good..... like a bass :(