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Violin/Antonio Strad violins

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Question
Hi, I was looking online for some violins, and found the "Antonio Strad violins". Do you know if they are good quality violins? Particularly I would like to know about these two:
http://www.stradviolin.com/store/store.php/products/model-180-violin
http://www.stradviolin.com/store/store.php/products/model-5h-violin
Many thanks,

Answer
Hi

I don't know if I can help you much with this. These instruments are both private labels, what that means is that the violin shop has purchased these instruments from the manufacturer and then inserted their own private label.  

This insures several things:
  The average person can't compare it price or quality wise to other violins since you don't know what it really is. That's good for the violin store, not so much for the buyer.
  Since the instrument doesn't have it's original label, how do you know where it was actually made.
  Resale will be much more difficult because the new buyer won't be able to find out anything about the instrument.

I tell you this because, I suspect at least the second instrument to be Chinese, possibly made by Eastman Strings. Now there is nothing wrong with that since there are some very good Chinese instruments and Eastman is one of the best, but it would be nice to know.

They both appear to be ok, but pictures really don't tell much of the story. As no two violins of the same brand/model will sound the same, even knowing a brand name is fairly useless as the instrument could have a good or a bad sound. By relabeling, it also has the added effect that other people like me can't give even the smallest advice without seeing the instrument in person.  

I would recommend borrowing the two instruments from the store (if they don't offer that service, find another store) and take them to your teacher for an evaluation of their sound.  As far as on line stores go, I would recommend Shar, Fein or Sullivan Violins.  They also have private labels, but they have a proven track record of quality products at a good price, you can also talk to them about what you need.  I know Andy Fein and Ken Sullivan personally.  

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David Lashof

Expertise

I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)

Experience

I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Organizations
Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

Education/Credentials
I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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