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Okay, first of all I have to admit I ordered this bow with a great deal of skepticism. I've been playing the violin for...gosh, over thirty years now, and my degree is in music ed. Bows, while admittedly a mixed lot, tend to be a "you get what you pay for" kind of thing, and a decent bow at this price range tends to be scarce as hen's teeth, as they say. I was pleased when I first pulled this bow from the box with its appearance--the black carbon fiber is very sharp-looking, especially with the clean fittings. But when it comes to bows, looks aren't everything--or even the most important thing.
I compared this bow to three other bows, and admittedly some of the comparisons weren't fair. I used a student-level Erich Steiner bow, an intermediate Josef Schuster pernambuco bow, and a fine pernambuco bow. The results were not what I expected. This bow outperformed the Steiner bow, hands down. What surprised me was when it outperformed the Schuster bow as well--I did not expect that. This bow had less bow hiss, and better handling. While a good bite could be gotten from either bow, it was easier with this bow.
The fine bow did outperform this bow. That I would have expected. I was surprised to realize that, unless you are willing to spend several times what this bow costs, you are probably better off with this bow. I used this bow only for several days' worth of practice, and found that when I returned to my fine bow, I could handle it better, and it was easier to achieve the sound and techniques I wanted.
The only negative I found with this bow was that it arrived with broken hairs--somewhere between 3 and 6 if memory serves. I just clipped them close to the ends and didn't worry too much about them. If the bow continues to lose hair, I'll adjust my review accordingly.
For any student, this bow is a step up from what likely came with your instrument. This also makes a great backup bow, practice bow, or bow for outdoor or otherwise unpredictable performance venues where you wouldn't want to take your fine bow.
Update 6/10/2016--This bow has been in daily use since its arrival, and has become my go-to bow for most practice sessions. I haven't had any further trouble with hair loss. I have also noticed that the bow tends to hold rosin longer than my other bows; it doesn't need to be rosined as often and produces less dust when it does. Still happy!
Well add me to the chorus that is singing praise about this bow.
This was intended to replace a bow that came with a student outfit (Stentor II). The Stentor bow was...ok, I guess, but it just didn't have a balanced feel to it, which wasn't a surprise.
I think the packaging bears mention, though there is a fine line mentioning that in an Amazon review. I was disappointed that it was only secured in the box with some crumpled up paper. The bow was rattling about in the box some, but fortunately this is a strong bow (how strong? Check out Fiddlerman's video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOjs84ShSp0) and it didn't seem the worse for wear. Still, I'd prefer that it were packed a little more securely.
The bow I received was a little different than the photos...the "Fiddlerman" name is simply engraved, no gold to it or anything. However, it was in good shape. I have to say, when I picked it up it seemed much lighter than the bow it was replacing, so much so that I had to weigh it. Nope, came in right around 60 grams. That's what proper balance is going to get you...the bow is going to feel much lighter than it actually is. I found it quite easy to hold with no pinkie strain at all.
I decided to go dark rosin with this bow, and though the hair was not pre-rosined (really, thanks Fiddlerman for that...I like to be able to pick my own rosin) it only took me about five minutes to get it all set up. And then, heart in my mouth, I drew some notes.
In the back of my mind throughout this process, I confess to thinking "how good can this thing *really* be?" Had I fallen for a gimmick and cheap marketing talk? Am I doomed to wander the Earth forever in search of a decent, reasonably priced bow? Well, it's pretty darned good and there is nothing oversold about this bow. It's balanced. it's agile. The weight is appropriate and drawing it is effortless. In short, it's a dream to use, and before I knew it, a half hour had passed with me just jamming on the violin. That's when I knew I could not give this to my kid.
Or at least...I'd have to get another one. After all, if you're going to learn, why not learn with a great bow?
I don't know how I found this bow. Honestly I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to these things and wasn't looking for a bow made of space-age materials. But found it I did, and I couldn't be happier with this. It's a very good bow.
I'm a brand new beginner to violin and got this bow based on amazon reviews. When I brought it in for my second lesson, violin teacher was super impressed and said he was going to get one for himself and also recommend it to all his other students. He was especially impressed at it's low cost considering that it's carbon fiber and that it makes such a great sound. Seeing as I'm a beginner and this is the only bow I've ever used, I don't have anything to compare it to, but I trust my teacher's assessment (he's been playing for 30 years)!
I actually ended up returning this bow, but I think it had more to do with the match between my son's playing style and his violin than the quality of the bow. He's only played with wood bows but now plays with a student orchestra and we wanted a carbon alternative that was less likely to warp or break if he was in not so great conditions. He's never tried carbon before and this bow bounced and was a bit heavy in comparison to his wood bow. I emailed Fiddlerman to see if we were doing anything wrong and they said it was probably due to the fact that he was used to less of an arch. That is probably correct, but try as he might, my son couldn't get used to the bow. And after patiently exchanging emails, they happily took the bow back. And they were so nice about it. I would not hesitate to buy from this company again. Ultimately, I took his wood bow in for a rehair and when I did, we tried a no-name non-branded very light carbon bow that acted more like his wood bow. (It was more expensive than this one, of course.) My son is probably just very used to the wood bow and is stubborn about not wanting to change. However, this company is wonderful. Frankly, this bow looks better than the one from the shop which was more expensive. But ultimately, for my son it came down to what was closest to his wood bow that he's already used to, even though it's pretty cheap and probably subpar. It's just what he's grown accustomed to.
So let's get it out of the way first. I own a Codabow Diamond GX. This bow is nothing close to it; even my 9 year old in a blind listen can tell the difference. So no; you aren't gonna be getting the same tone, warmth, control, or playability out of this compared to an expensive pro carbon fiber stick. A little background; I'm not a great player; just a regular player that now plays for fun. My move to carbon fiber bows and my abandonment of regular wood bows happened because I was playing in an outdoor performance with my orchestra when I was in college; and it was hot that day; and my bow was hot; and it snapped in the heat. Traumatized by this experience; I ended up purchasing a carbon fiber bow afterwards. In that same season; my bridge also sank deeply into the varnish of my violin; so when I changed to a new violin; I too purchased a Luis and Clark carbon fiber violin. Having moved up in quality of violin; I purchased a matching Codabow Diamond GX.
So my bow hair to string; started sounding a bit scratchy, and so I had changed my strings and that improved greatly; but still a bit scratchy; and so I went I started searching for a local store that would re-hair a bow for me. But when I started looking; I thought; this is my ONLY bow; so while it's out for rehair at the shop; what am I gonna use in the mean time? I didn't want to spend a lot of money just to have a bow to hold me over for a week or so. The store offered to lend me a bow of equal quality while mine was getting rehaired; but I just didn't want the liability of using someone else's bow for a week. So I started searching for a bow that I can buy with the following criteria:
1) Carbon Fiber (I live in Houston; humidity and heat are guarantees here) 2) CHEAP (under $100, because I'll probably only use it once a year or once every two years when I rehair my bow..) 3) Doesn't play like a $20 student bow, need it to be better
Having gone online and listened and read some reviews; everything pointed me here. Ordered from amazon; less than $70 shipped; and away we went!
Initial impressions; I had a cheap glasser carbon fiber bow back in the day; and so I thought that the fiddlerman bow was definitely a big step up in quality and refinement compared to the old glasser carbon fiber. The balance was ok; the hair quality wasn't bad; and it was playable without too much problem. It was the "Toyota Corolla" of carbon fiber bows IMHO; reliable; not great at anything but not bad at anything either.
I feel that for the price; this is a backup bow everybody should have. Back in the day; my old backup bow got very little play; and sat in the case all the time; and over time; dropped a bit to one side. That won't happen with this bow. It is impervious to heat and humidity damage; and will sit happily in your case without being played for months or years. For the price; and it's playability; it's just a great bow to keep as a backup. Again; does not play like my codabow Diamond GX? Not even close.. but given the price; it definitely punches way about it's price. Buy one; keep it in your case; you won't regret it, even if it's only used once or twice a year. Still worth it.
I don't have a $10,000 pernambuco bow to compare this bow to, but I can tell you, I thought I got a good deal on a student bow at $20 until I held one of these in my hand. The craftsmanship is flawless. The tightening mechanism is extremely smooth and reliable. The horse hair is silky and well fitted, no loose hairs or signs of hairs being roughly snipped off after hairing.
The stick is sturdy and very well balanced. My pinky would get fatigued really quickly using my other bow, but I spent an hour practicing with my new CF bow tonight without any problems. There's a joke in the violinist community that the bow chooses the violinist. At least for now, where I am as a beginner, I think this one chose me. I love it. To have a bow rehaired costs between $40 and $70+ depending on your local economy. If you're a serous student who even thinks for a second you'll be playing the violin a year from now, you owe it to yourself to at least try this bow.
More importantly, Fiddlershop customer support is amazing. I had the great pleasure to chat with them about an unrelated topic (asking about their Tower Strings electric violins). They were super helpful and friendly, and patient as they answered all my questions, so they definitely have a loyal customer for life with me!
Final thoughts: based on another review I saw here I decided to try using dark rosin first. I'll try my light rosin once I've worn off the dark, but since I practice in an air conditioned climate controlled space I'm pretty happy with how the rosin grips the strings with this bow. It took the usual 5-15 minutes (I honestly wasn't counting, I was watching TV while applying the first rosin) well, and gave me a better sound, and I feel like, more control. I was doing pianissimo scales that didn't sound airy or whispery My fortissimo, after a few false starts, were nice and loud with only a little scratch (because I've only, technically, been learning to play violin for a day)
So, yeah, me and this stick are partners in music, now. I just hope, when it comes time, my luthier will rehair it!
Update: 12/21/20,after writing this review, I continued to use the "good" student bow that came with my year old Shar Danube violin, alternating between the two to try and decide which I liked better. As I developed an ear for the violin under my bow, and a feel for the bow in my hand, I've come to absolutely love this bow EVEN MORE! I haven't broken a single hair yet by some minor miracle or other, and it holds rosin like a champ.
The tension screw remains fluid and easy to turn despite many, many hours of practice since I wrote this review (Always untension after playing!)
Bottom line: What have you got to lose? If your choice is between this, or some funky-branded drop shipped wood bow for $20-$30, absolutely spend a little more and get this.