Common Strings: A Pros and Cons List

Strings: Comparison of Common Sets

            As promised, we’re following up our recent string FAQs post with a breakdown of the pros and cons of the most popular sets on the market. These are general characteristics that aren’t always true for individual instruments, but they should provide you with a starting place in your search to save you some time and money. Our list is separated by instrument.

Violin 

1.     Dominant

 
Dominant Violin.jpg
 



            The Dominant line of strings from Thomastik-Infeld was one of the first to introduce a stranded synthetic core to their strings in order to combine the sound of gut strings with the stability of steel. It is now one of the most popular sets worldwide and is often considered the standard against which other synthetic-core strings are compared. Because of its moderation in tone, color, and price, Dominants are a great place to start when looking for a more advanced set of strings. Some players develop a preference for other sets later on, but many professionals swear by them including the renowned soloist Hilary Hahn.

Pros

·        Neutral

·        Often regarded as the standard for synthetic-core strings

·        Good projection

·        Moderate price

Cons 

·        May sound harsh and metallic while breaking in

·        Players often replace the E string with other brands

 

 

2.     Eudoxa



 
Eudoxa Violin.jpg
 

            Eudoxa is probably our most popular gut-core string set. Since they are wound with metal, Eudoxas are more stable than pure gut strings but have many of the same sound qualities. They require more care and upkeep than steel or synthetic strings so we don’t recommend them for beginners, but the sound can be well worth the price.

Pros

·        Rich, full sound

·        Very warm

·        Easy to shape the sound

·        Excellent dynamic contrast

·        Ideal for chamber and orchestral playing

Cons

·        Less projection than synthetic-core strings

·        Difficult to cut through a texture for solo playing

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

3.     Evah Pirazzi

Evah Pirazzi Violin.jpg

            Sometimes referred to as “soloist strings,” the Evah Pirazzi line is one of Pirastro’s biggest rivals to Thomastik-Infeld’s Dominants. They are capable of blending into a texture or cutting through it and can adapt to many different playing situations. Evah Pirazzis are the preferred strings of several prominent soloists including Nicola Benedetti and Augustin Hadelich. Many players prefer the gold-plated E string to the standard silvery steel E for its sweetness and power. Pirastro also makes the Evah Pirazzi Gold line, which offers more power and increased complexity.

Pros

·        Powerful, strong projection

·        Focused, clear

·        Brilliant

·        Great option for solo settings

Cons

·        Can sound overly bright or shrill on some instruments

·        Players often replace the E string with other brands

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

4.     Helicore

Helicore Violin.jpg

            The Helicore line of strings by D’Addario is one of the most highly regarded steel string sets for violin. The stranded steel core provides some warmth and complexity without sacrificing the fast response and bright tone that steel strings are known for. We often recommend Helicores for musicians that play a variety of styles, especially if they experience many changes in temperature or humidity.

Pros

·        Clear, focused sound

·        Great projection

·        Excellent pitch stability

·        Durable and long-lasting

·        Fast response

·        Great for folk, jazz, and bluegrass players

·        Inexpensive

Cons

·        Less depth than synthetic strings

·        May sound harsh and metallic on some instruments

·        Sometimes difficult to shape the sound

 

5.     Obligato



 
Obligato Violin.jpg
 

            For players that are looking for a warmer sound, Obligatos are an excellent option. Pirastro makes them with the same patented synthetic core as their Evah Pirazzi strings, but the Obligato line offers a smoother and richer sound. Overall, the set is balanced and cohesive across the four strings. The E string is available as either plain steel or gold-plated.

Pros

·        Very warm

·        Good projection

·        Full, complex sound

·        Smooth feeling under the left hand

·        Lower strings sound especially rich

·        Can add warmth to bright instruments

 Cons

·        Can sound muddy on dark instruments

·        Less pitch stability than other Pirastro strings

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

6.     Peter Infeld (PI)

 
Peter Infeld Violin Set.jpg
 

            Peter Infeld strings, also called PIs, are the top-of-the-line set by Thomastik-Infeld. Many players refer to their sound as “refined,” with plenty of depth and complexity. The set is balanced and cohesive on its own but can blend well with upper strings from other sets. The steel E string is available with either tin or platinum plating, allowing for even greater sound flexibility.

Pros

·        Deep, mature sound

·        Smooth, even tone

·        Brilliant and powerful

·        Excellent range of colors

Cons

·        Loses power more gradually than some other strings

·        Difficult to achieve an assertive sound with bite

·        Premium price

 

 

7.     Prelude

 
Prelude Violin Set.jpg
 

            As the name implies, the Prelude line by D’Addario is a great basic string to start with. The set has a clear and honest sound and a fast response, perfect for building the foundations of good technique. While they don’t have the nuances of more advanced strings, Preludes are the best set for the price.

Pros

·        Excellent for beginners

·        Quick response

·        Clean, clear tone

·        Good projection

·        Inexpensive

 Cons

·        Limited warmth

·        Limited depth of sound

 

8.     Prim

 
Prim Violin Set.jpg
 

            Prims are steel strings produced by the Swedish company Fröjel. They are similar to D’Addario’s Helicore line but have a brighter, smoother sound. We recommend Prims for folk and bluegrass musicians looking for a powerful set of strings with that distinctive violin sound.

Pros

·        Bright, brilliant sound

·        Great projection

·        Fast response

·        Excellent pitch stability

·        Great for fiddlers

·        Inexpensive

 Cons

·        Little variation in tone color

·        May sound shrill on brighter instruments

 

 

9.     Vision

 
Vision Violin Set.jpg
 

            Available in standard, Solo, Titanium Orchestra, and Titanium Solo varieties, the Vision line by Thomastik-Infeld is a very powerful and adaptable set. The sound is focused but warm, powerful but sweet. Like Dominants, Visions are an excellent starting point when searching for an advanced set of strings. For musicians looking for more power and volume, the Titanium Solos can’t be beat.

Pros

·        Warm, focused sound

·        Excellent projection

·        Strong and clear

·        Capable of smooth sound or assertive edge

·        Work well on most instruments

 Cons

·        Moderate to expensive price

·        May sound overly bright or harsh on some instruments

 

 

Viola

 
Dominant Viola Set.jpg
 

1.     Dominant

The Dominant line of strings from Thomastik-Infeld was one of the first to introduce a stranded synthetic core to their strings in order to combine the sound of gut strings with the stability of steel. It is now one of the most popular sets worldwide and is often considered the standard against which other synthetic-core strings are compared. Because of its moderation in tone and color, Dominants are a great place to start when looking for a more advanced set of strings.

Pros

·        Even, balanced tone

·        Neutral to warm

·        Good projection

·        Rich lower registers

Cons

·        May sound harsh and metallic while breaking in

·        Players often replace the A string with other brands

·        Fairly expensive

2.     Evah Pirazzi

 
Evah Pirazzi Viola Set.jpg
 

Sometimes referred to as “soloist strings,” the Evah Pirazzi line is one of Pirastro’s biggest rivals to Thomastik-Infeld’s Dominant and Vision Solo lines. They are capable of blending into a texture or cutting through it and can adapt to many different playing situations. Pirastro also makes the Evah Pirazzi Gold line, which offers more power and increased complexity.

Pros

·        Powerful, strong projection

·        Focused, clear

·        Brilliant

·        Great option for solo settings

Cons

·        Can sound overly bright or shrill on some instruments

·        Players often replace the A string with other brands

·        Fairly expensive

 

3.     Helicore

 
Helicore Viola Set.jpg
 

            The Helicore line of strings by D’Addario is a great steel string option for violists. The stranded steel core provides some warmth and complexity without sacrificing the fast response and bright tone that steel strings are known for. We often recommend Helicores for musicians that play a variety of styles, especially if they experience many changes in temperature or humidity.

Pros

·        Clear, focused sound

·        Great projection

·        Excellent pitch stability

·        Durable and long-lasting

·        Fast response

·        Great for folk, jazz, and bluegrass players

·        Inexpensive

Cons

·        Less depth than synthetic strings

·        May sound harsh and metallic on some instruments

·        Sometimes difficult to shape the sound

4.     Jargar

 
Jargar Medium A Viola.png
 

            Known by violists primarily for their A strings, Jargar’s steel strings prioritize power, response, and balance. The sound is clear and bright but somewhat warmer than other steel strings. Today, Jargar and Larsen dominate the field of viola A strings. Jargar developed the synthetic-core Superior set in recent years as well, which is powerful but sweet and resonant.

Pros

·        Powerful, brilliant

·        A string blends well with most other sets

·        Fast response

·        Moderate price

 Cons

·        Wears out more quickly than some other strings

·        May be too bright on some instruments

 

5.     Larsen

            Before producing a full set of viola strings, Larsen began with just a steel A string. In the almost 25 years since they became available, the Larsen A has claimed a seat alongside the Jargar A as the most popular viola A strings. The strings are known for their power, projection, and edge. The full set is now available in Original and Virtuoso which have synthetic cores for the D, G, and C strings.

Pros

·        Powerful, brilliant

·        A string mixes will with many other sets

·        Excellent projection

 Cons

·        Sounds harsh on some instruments

·        May not last as long as other sets

·        Fairly expensive

 

6.     Obligato

 
Obligato Viola Set.jpg
 

            Made from the same synthetic core material as Evah Pirazzis, Pirastro’s Obligato line is known for its warmth and resonance. Compared to Evah Pirazzis, they are slightly darker and richer. They are excellent for blending into a texture but can cut through when necessary as well. Some players find that Obligatos sound like gut strings but with more power and stability. They are a great choice for players looking for a warmer, deeper sound.

Pros

·        Warm, dark sound

·        Responsive and powerful

·        Resonant, complex

·        Broad range of colors

 Cons

·        Some pitch instability

·        May sound muddy on darker instruments

·        Fairly expensive

 

7.     Prelude

 
Prelude Viola Set.jpg
 

As the name implies, the Prelude line by D’Addario is a great basic string to start with. The set has a clear and honest sound and a fast response, perfect for building the foundations of good technique. While they don’t have the nuances of more advanced strings, Preludes are the best set for the price.

Pros

·        Excellent for beginners

·        Quick response

·        Clean, clear tone

·        Good projection

·        Inexpensive

 Cons

·        Limited warmth

·        Limited depth of sound

8.     Spirocore

 
Spirocore Viola Set.jpg
 

            For players looking for a powerful and assertive set, the Spirocore line by Thomastik-Infeld is a fantastic option. The tungsten-wound C string and chrome-wound G string can deepen the lower registers of the instrument and provide an edge to the sound that cuts through thick textures. Their spiral steel rope core allows for a fast response without sacrificing warmth and resonance. The C string has several winding options to experiment with.

Pros

·        Quick response

·        Powerful, broad sound

·        Tends to boost lower end

·        Lower strings mix well with other sets

 Cons

·        May sound harsh on some instruments

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

9.     Vision

 
Vision Solo Viola Set.jpg
 

            In the years since its release for viola, Visions and especially Vision Solos have quickly become some of the most popular all-purpose sets. They feature strong projection, smooth sound, and great focus. The set is very versatile and can fit into a variety of styles and settings. Vision Solos are a great set to try when looking for a more mature sound, as they offer a little more power and complexity than Dominants.

Pros

·        Warm, focused sound

·        Excellent projection

·        Strong and clear

·        Capable of smooth sound or assertive edge

·        Work well on most instruments

 Cons

·        Weak A string

·        Lacks depth of lower registers on some instruments

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

Cello

1.     Evah Pirazzi

 
Evah Pirazzi Cello Set.jpg
 

While not as popular for cello as for violin, Evah Pirazzi strings are a great choice for cellists looking for a brilliant sound. They are capable of blending into a texture or cutting through it and can adapt to many different playing situations. The new Solo version of the standard Evah Pirazzis adds more power and edge to the sound and works well as a full set. Pirastro also makes the Evah Pirazzi Gold line, which offers more resonance and increased complexity.

Pros

·        Smooth feeling under the hands

·        Brilliant and responsive

·        Smooth, resonant sound

·        Great projection

 Cons

·        Can sound overly bright on some instruments

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

2.     Helicore

 
Helicore Cello Set.jpg
 

The Helicore line of strings by D’Addario is a great steel string option for cellists. The stranded steel core provides some warmth and complexity without sacrificing the fast response and bright tone that steel strings are known for. Some players find that the power and brightness of Helicores are comparable to much more expensive synthetic-core strings and mix them with other sets.

Pros

·        Quick response

·        Good projection

·        Smooth, clear sound

·        Durable

·        Lower strings blend well with other sets

·        Fairly inexpensive

 Cons

·        Not as textured or complex as other sets

·        Can sound harsh or overly bright on some instruments

 

3.     Jargar

 
Jargar Medium Cello Set.jpg
 

            Jargar strings were some of the first popular steel string sets for cello. The upper strings of the standard set are still popular options, and Jargar has released the Superior line that works well as a full set. They are favored for their power and the amount of variation in sound that they offer. Jargars are an excellent option when looking for a more advanced string set.

Pros

·        Clear, open sound

·        Upper strings blend well with other sets

·        Broad range of tone color

·        Settle in quickly

·        Good projection

·        Fairly inexpensive

 Cons

·        Slow response on lower strings

·        Not as brilliant as other sets

 

 

4.     Kaplan

 
Kaplan Cello Set.jpg
 

            Developed by D’Addario as a step up from their Helicore line, Kaplans are great quality strings that don’t carry the premium price tag of some similar sets. The upper two strings have a solid steel core wound with other metals, while the lower two strings have a stranded steel core wound with tungsten for extra strength and power. They are warmer than many other steel-core strings without sacrificing volume or response. Kaplans are a good place to start when looking for a more advanced string set.

Pros

·        Brilliant

·        Powerful

·        Clear, focused

·        Durable

·        Upper strings blend well with other sets

·        Moderate price

 Cons

·        Not as textured as other sets

·        May sound overly bright on some instruments

 

 

5.     Larsen

 
Larsen Solo Cello Set.jpg
 

            Larsens are younger than many other string sets, but they are easily some of the most commonly used for cellists. Most players that use Larsens combine the Larsen A and D strings with Spirocore G and C strings. The strings are known for their power, projection, and edge. The full set is now available in Original, Soloist, and Magnacore, which offer ranges of power, complexity, and tone color.

Pros

·        Strong core sound

·        Excellent projection

·        Upper strings blend well with other sets

·        Broad range of tone color

·        Good edge and projection

 Cons

·        May not last as long as other sets

·        Can sound harsh on some instruments

·        Fairly expensive

 

 

6.     Perpetual

Perpetual Cello Set.jpg

            A new line from Pirastro, Perpetual strings were designed to expand the range of power and tone colors available to players. The set is balanced and features excellent playability. The sound of the original set is warm but brilliant, with the Soloist and Edition versions of the set offering more brilliance and texture, respectively. Several cellists have already fallen in love with Perpetuals, including soloists Julian Schwarz and Lynn Harrell.

Pros

·        Clear, brilliant sound

·        Smooth feeling under the left hand

·        Excellent focus and definition

·        Durable, long-lasting

·        Balanced across set

 Cons

·        Take longer to settle than other sets

·        May have overly bright, metallic sound on brighter instruments

·        Premium price

 

7.     Prelude

 
Prelude Cello Set.jpg
 

As the name implies, the Prelude line by D’Addario is a great basic string to start with. The set has a clear and honest sound and a fast response, perfect for building the foundations of good technique. While they don’t have the nuances of more advanced strings, Preludes are the best set for the price.

Pros

·        Excellent for beginners

·        Quick response

·        Clean, clear tone

·        Good projection

·        Inexpensive

 Cons

·        Limited warmth

·        Limited depth of sound

8.     Spirocore

 
Spirocore Cello Set.jpg
 

            Thomastik-Infeld’s Spirocore line is easily one of the most popular options for cello G and C strings. The spiral steel rope core provides excellent response and projection without sacrificing depth of sound or range of tone colors. Spirocores are well-known for their power and bite. While they are matched with several other sets, the most common combination is Larsen A and D strings with Spirocore tungsten- or silver-wound G and C strings.

Pros

·        Powerful lower end

·        Characteristic sound with noticeable edge

·        Excellent response

·        Long-lasting

·        Lower strings blend well with other sets

 Cons

·        Take longer to settle than other sets

·        May sound harsh on some instruments

·        Fairly expensive to premium price

 

9.     Versum


 
Versum Cello Set.jpg
 

            While the Thomastik-Infeld’s Spirocore line is known for its grit and assertiveness, their new Versum line emphasizes warmth and sweetness. The original set is perfectly balanced for orchestral and chamber playing, and the Solo set provides extra power and focus for soloists. The spiral steel rope core of the lower strings can boost the lower registers of the instrument without sounding harsh. Versums are an excellent option for warming up a bright instrument or adding sweetness and elegance to a dark instrument.

Pros

·        Balanced across set

·        Deep, mature sound

·        Rich and resonant

·        Even and smooth

 Cons

·        Slower response than other sets

·        Take longer to settle than other sets

·        Premium price

 

 

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading. Be on the lookout in the next few days for the results of our ongoing string survey where we asked fellow readers and professional players which string sets they prefer. In the meantime, feel free to ask us any string questions you might still have. Happy playing!