Scientists reveal secret behind Stradivarius quality

19 December 2012, 10:27 | Updated: 30 September 2014, 14:23

New research has shown that the quality of Stradivarius and Guadagnini violins is actually due to their imperfections, restorations and moderations over the years.

They're widely thought to be the most coveted and best-sounding violins out there, but scientists have now discovered what it is about Stradivarius instruments that make them so perfect - sometimes known as 'the Cremonese secret'.

Dr Franco Zanini from the Eletta Synchotron Light Laboratory in Trieste, Italy, examined one Guadagnini model from 1753 using a special air-conditioned chamber and equipment similar to a reduced-size version of the Large Hadron Collider.

Examining the instrument, valued at $1.5m, Dr Zanini discovered a range of imperfections and subsequent repairs that he believes could be the reason the violin's sound is so desirable: "The f-hole openings had at some point had their shape modified. It could not be seen with a visual inspection as they had been so well covered," he told The Telegraph.

He continued: "We noticed there were a lot of asymmetries in the instruments… In principle they have no reason to be there, but it is possible these imperfections were made to remove the unpleasant harmonics that you get in symmetrical instruments."

Before the research was carried out, several theories existed pertaining to what might be the secret behind the Stradivarius sound, including fungal infections to the wood used and particular kinds of varnish.