Can you hear the difference between a £50 violin and a £250,000 violin?

24 May 2019, 16:58

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

This guy compared a £50 violin from Amazon with a £250,000 Carlo Antonio Testore violin from 18th-century Milan. Can you hear the difference?

If you reckon you’ve got a well-trained ear, you might just be able to pick out the sound of an expensive, antique Italian violin from an orchestra of flawed fiddles. But in practice, can you tell one from the other? Let’s have a go… 

American violinist Rob Landes begins his test by playing a $62 violin that he bought from Amazon – the equivalent of just under £50 for the bow, case and instrument. He plays Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, followed by ‘Thunderstruck’, by AC/DC. It’s not a bad sound, if a *little* scratchy and sharp. 


He then plays a violin made by Vincenzo Panormo, worth 130,000 US dollars. Panormo’s work, generally described as English despite his Italian origins, is considered among the best in the history of British violin making. The sound produced by his violin is lovely, and noticeably richer than the $62 instrument.

We then move onto Rob’s favourite, a Giuseppe Scarampella creation which is on the market for $185,000. Scarampella was a very highly regarded maker of Stradivari and Guarneri modelled instruments, and is known for his use of local maple in his violin making. The violin’s sound is smooth, velvety and a pleasure to listen to – like maple syrup, really.

Rob ends the test by playing a beautiful 18th-century violin made by Milanese maker Carlo Antonio Testore, which is on the market for $285,000. The emotion in the ‘Hallelujah’ melody seems to emerge more easily on the Testore instrument. Rob creates a beautiful sound, and the tone is much more heartfelt than it was on the cheaper instruments.


Our conclusion is that if you want that spine-tingling, warm timbre demonstrated by the Carlo Antonio Testore violin, it is worth splashing out a bit more than 50 quid (*sends letter of apology to your overdraft*).

But if you’re new to the violin, and want to get a taste for the instrument before splashing out on an epically expensive one, why not try a cheap one first? There’s always time to upgrade later…

Watch the full video here:

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