Carbon fibre bow

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Andy Mopley, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. Andy Mopley

    Andy Mopley

    Sep 24, 2011
    Hi all

    firstly, seasons greetings to all, and thanks for your contributions over the whole of 2014 - and before that!.

    I know that with wooden bows, depending on the type of wood, & hair, maker etc, there will be a difference in sound, feel, and so on. However, what is the main difference between a "cheap" Chinese made carbon fibre bow and a more expensive one? Assuming the hair is the same, what are some of the tell tale signs when looking at a carbon fibre bow, is there such thing as 'cheap" - or imitation - carbon fibre?

    PS - I don't own a carbon fibre bow.

    Thanks for reading!
  2. Andy,

    This is a good question. I've personally wondered whether some of the "name brand" CF bows are produced by the same shops that churn out the $85 eBay specials. In my experience, the most readily discernible differences are 1) the quality of the hair; and 2) the "fit and finish" workmanship (i.e. the fitting of the ferrule, wedge, plug, winding, etc.) But surely (?) there must be other differentiating properties as well, I'd think.

    I'd be interested to know if there are significant differences in the actual composition and properties of the sticks themselves. (And how many shops are actually making bows for various labels.)

  3. Hi, I was just reading up on carbon fibre instruments and the guy from Luis and Clarke said that they are developing better properties for the carbon fibre for different purposes - hence - yes, there are different qualities in the material itself. Also, that article said that Finale bows are the house name for Carbon fiber upright bass bows . The talk about these are great; they go for just under $400. There are other names in that price range and some for much less and much more. I just noticed that some of the other brands in stores with that mid-range price (I call it) are house brands, too. Makes me think that they may come from the same house.

    I would not sneer at all Chinese equipment until I get into a much higher tax bracket. I have a Blueridge guitar that lists at around $1000 and it is all the guitar I'll ever need -- though that's not my main instrument and the only reason why I moved up from the Norman was I wanted a wider neck. Also, I played one of the best Chinese upright basses that was really quite good. The Canadian luthier wanted $6000 for it; I rented it for a session instead of using my plywood bass. That bass was often rented to foreign symphony players.

    Having said that, if all I know about something is that it's Chinese, my first reaction is not good. I wouldn't be surprised if the $400 house brand bows are Chinese... You can hear an owner's comments and the bows' sounds as he compares the Finale to an expensive bow: The String Emporium - Videos
    csrund likes this.
  4. Mgaisbacher

    Mgaisbacher Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2012
    Nashville, TN
    I don't know specifics but I can say from my own experience that there is a big difference between a $100 CF bow and a more expensive one. The first bow I ever owned was a cheap CF bow from musicians friend. It was extremely light in a bad way and had crappy hair and was built in a way you could not rehair it. Also it just had a weird balance, basically it was just a bow shaped piece of CF with no regards to how a bow should be weighted or function. I actually would prefer a glasser bow over that.

    On the other hand I just recently sold a carbow CF bow, which felt amazing. I sold it because I just never used it compared to my wood bow because the tone of my wood bow is so much better IMO. Besides the fact I didn't like the tone it still felt amazing, it was balanced great and honestly felt as good/better then some bows four times the price of what I paid for it. The only thing I didn't like about it was the frog (french), which was very square and uncomfortable around where your thumb would be.

    I'm no expert but I don't think there is anything as "imitation" carbon fiber but I believe there are things that are shaped like bows made out of carbon fibre and then actual carbon fibre bows that someone put a lot of effort into designing and making it feel like a great bow. I have heard of and played some of the cheap eBay wood bows and have been impressed by some of the $50 wooden bows but have never heard of someone getting a $50 CF bow an being impressed for the money, if that makes any sense.
  5. Ulrich D.

    Ulrich D.

    Sep 24, 2014
    My favourite bow ist currently a Vingo carbon bow, a few years old. It's Vingo's "professional" bow. I just wanted a stable, cheap emergency-bow. The previous owner had this bow rehaired with black hair. I bought it some month and paid 100€.
    Very soon I have omitted the quotation marks.
  6. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny Inactive

    Nov 20, 2000
    Harrison Mills
    The Coda Infinity was the best bow for under $1K that I could find in my recent hunt. I don't doubt that given enough patience in a bigger market city like NYC I could have found a wood bow I liked as much or better for the same money or less. But the playability and durability made it seem like a good long term investment. Even when I get another master bow (which at some point I will) the Coda is still what I'll likely bring to primarily pizz gigs. It's an excellent, well balanced student bow that won't hinder you anywhere short of a pro orchestral gig.

    I did play some $300ish Aileen and NS Design CF bows that I thought were as good as any of the wood bows in the same price range but certainly not in the same league as the Infinity. The Coda is much more lithe and has a much more clear voice. My general impression the few CF bows I've played is that they were all worth what they cost but not much more.
  7. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    i've been playing on a metropolitan french for years now. still definitely my favorite CF bow, but also my favorite bass bow i've played under the $2500+ mark. i think i paid $700 for it used.... what a great buy.
  8. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    I think it depends... My professor was impressed with my $150 CF bow, and I recently bought a $3000.00 one. I can't seem to put down the CF one! It feels good. I'm sure I was lucky, but as previously mentioned, I think it's as good as it can get for the price and not much more.

    But, I think it'll be better taking the CF bow to gigs and leaving the other one. Especially after reading how McBride had his bow lost by airport inspectors.
  9. I have the same approach...the nice wood bows are for protected environments and the Glasser CF is the stunt bow. Mine feels good and plays well but it makes Flexocors sound like Spiros.
    james condino likes this.
  10. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I've never owned a CF bow but have tried many, and I've noticed almost as much variation in quality as with wood bows. The Metropolitan German I tried I thought excellent and well worth the money. I imagine that many different brands probably do come from the same factory, but that doesn't mean they will all be the same. A big shop like Gage will certainly ask for certain specs that will differ from what another retailer will get, for example. As to Chinese, like with everything else, there probably are some very cheap bows out there which are quite good, but the quality and playability will vary widely, even with bows coming from the same seller. So, like everything else in the bass playing world, it's best to try something out before you buy. Even if you need to pay for the privilege. As to hair. Hair is hair. A bow is a bow. Like cars and tires. Expect to need a rehair on any new low end bow, especially if it's Chinese.
  11. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    I've enjoyed my Metropolitan French bow for a number of years now. Wonderful balance and response. I recently got a
    new String Emporium pernambuco bow; around the same price as the Metro. It has the more colorful sound you find in wood
    and is well balanced. Not as nimble a response as the Metro but very enjoyable to play.
  12. EH,
    Coincidentally, I'm in the process of a bow trial, Metropolitan and the SE Pernambuco. So far, the SE Pernambuco has the edge in the sound department, slightly more depth. The Metropolitan is a bit more nimble. I agree with your experience. I'm wondering though, what if the Metropolitan was rehaired with the SE hair? Did you ever rehair the Metropolitan? If so, with what? That response difference might be the SE hair grabbing the string more, giving that depth.

    Both are close. I wouldn't regret choosing one over the other.

    That Metropolitan sure is slick looking, though. I have to consciously disregard that as a factor in the selection! :) I would think however, that the Metropolitan would be more stable because of it's material.
  13. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004

    I've rehaired my Metropolitan a few times with blond, chestnut and currently black hair which I was advised is more grippy. I was hoping
    black hair would improve the bowability of Velvet Blues, but it didn't seem to. I think that carbon fibre may have a muting effect on certain
    frequencies that pernambuco doesn't have resulting in a more one dimensional (midrange? duller?) sound. Just a thought...
  14. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA

    I went through a pretty heavy carbon fiber phase when I was living in the High Sierras for a few years. I think I tried just about all of them, and, as best as I can remember it broke down like this (I play German bow)

    Finale: great bow for the money; "felt" like a $2 or $3K in terms if balance etc; tone clear but pretty one dimensional

    Gary Karr: a thing unto itself - not trying (IMO) to be a wood bow; bright, great solo bow - especially for the slow bow close to the bridge GK style of play; after a while I got tired of the brightness; not great spiccatto (I did not try the "normal" Carbow)

    ARCUS Symphonia (the old model) basically overpriced ($2K or so) for what it was

    Metropolitan - heavy (to me) and a bit of a club (again IMO). If you regularly use a bow that weighs @ 145 gr for orchestra/opera work you might like it. Sound was more complex than the Finale. (I did not try the Infinity bow, which I believe addressed some of the clubby-ness issues)

    WINNER: Glasser Braided carbon fiber bow (for @ $350) got the best tone, most volume and felt the most balanced and comfortable to me. Maybe everyone has a negative reaction to the Glasser name because of their fiberglass POC school bows, but there it is. I still have that bow

    luisraulmunoz, okcrum and etorgerson like this.
  15. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2004
    Thanks, Louis. You are certainly more experienced and knowledgeable about the subject than I am. I've only played the
    Metropolitan in CF. Jason Heath, a bassist I respect, gave it his seal of approval when I was considering buying it. He compared
    the balance and feel to his expensive handmade bow positively. He also made a positive video about the Finale.

    My generalization regarding the sound of carbon bows is evidently not accurate being based only on my Metro experience.
  16. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hi Eric,

    This whole phase of mine was easily 8 or 9 years ago (which I should have said initially) I'm sure the quality has improved vastly since then, although my fear is that the tone is still a bit monochromatic. Best,
    Eric Hochberg likes this.
  17. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I think most will agree on this point. A good wood bow will have a tonal color which I don't think will ever be achieved with synthetics. However, A good CF bow will have a springiness and ease of articulation which you are unlikely to find with any wood bow in a comparable price range. I am lucky to have some rather high end wood bows which I've had for decades and are all I will ever need. If I were shopping now and didn't have $3-4k to drop on a bow, I'm pretty sure I would go CF.
    etorgerson likes this.
  18. I'll add to Louis' endorsement of the Glasser braided CF bows. I have the German version and have to say the stick is really nice! The balance is decent, and the stick has a very solid feel. This is appropriate since the stick itself is solid braided CF, not a hollow generic "composite" stick with a CF grahic or veneer.

    I got mine 6 months ago for about $500-- I guess word has gotten out and price is going up accordingly.
    etorgerson likes this.
  19. Just a little update on the bow. I have had it for close to two years now and it is working out well.

    I removed the rubber grip, as it wasn't fitted tightly, and it isn't needed on a German bow anyway. The frog is on the short end of the spectrum, so, having a meaty set of mitts, I find a Streicher bow hold to be the most comfortable.

    I have since had it re-haired in salt-n-pepper and it grips the string very nicely now.

    For $500, it's a great value, but it certainly won't replace a Bernd Dolling pernambuco stick!
    Jeff Bonny likes this.
  20. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Totally agree - for the money, it's a great stick