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Topa 2016 Guarneri Review by Yixi

Online shopping is not new to me, but this was my very first time shopping online for such an expensive violin, sight unseen. Why? I’m an advanced player and have successfully purchased two advanced violins within the past 10 years. I need a solo violin for some time, and I visited a number of violin shops in Canada, China and Italy (I even went to Cremona!). 

After much research, consultation and contemplation, I ended going online and bought the Topa 2016 (Guadagnini) from Rhiannon.  There are a lot of reasons, but the most important one is Rhiannon.

Rhiannon made me feel it was safe to do it this way, and it has been proven so.

Rhiannon’s Service and how it helped me to make a major purchase online

I’ve never met Rhiannon in person, but I know of her since 2008 through her blogs on www.violinist.com.  She strikes me as someone who really cares about violin and people. She is someone I can trust.  Rhiannon is very responsive to my inquiry. She usually got back to me within hours, especially when I texted or emailed her. After initial consultation on the phone, she gave me her recommendation.  She was bang on. I had set my heart on a slightly cheaper Chinese violin but she gave me good reasons why Topa would be a better fit. I followed her advice and I’m glad I did.
 
When you make a big purchase like buying a master bench-made violin online, it’s unreasonable to think everything will go smoothly, Murphy’s Law. So to me is when buyer can feel a total easy and satisfaction in working things out with the seller when things are not going as smoothly, that’s a sign that you’ve got a great service.  In my case, there was a little glitch with respect to this particular violin’s E string being not powerful enough in comparison with other strings. Rhiannon was extremely helpful in resolving the issue for me.  I’m very impressed by her professionalism, honesty and reasonableness.

How Topa 2016 (Guadagnini) opens up

I understand, when buy a new violin, it's good to keep in mind things will change. David Burgess, one of the top violinmakers of the day who has won so many gold medals in International Competitions that he is barred from competing since 1982. He said:

"The bottom line is that instruments are very unstable when first strung up, both in sound and in shape, and it's pretty useless to try to assess the sound of a violin within the first several days of having first been strung up. It will change a lot! Over time, these changes will become less and less, and eventually hit a plateau, where further changes are minimal (not that an instrument ever reaches a point where there is no further change).” (http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?id=24226)

My previous violin shopping taught me that that one must take time and effort to allow a new violin to show its true face. The difference between my first impression of this Topa and now (after having played it for a little over a month) is incredible. It’s amazing to watch the violin opens up each day, more playable, more colors and more projection.  

Now more than a month later, I'm very happy to report that the Topa and I are very much bonded. I can hear a lot of colors that I didn't before, especially on D and G strings. With the clarity of sound, it's much easier for me to spot out of tune notes.  I can't believe a good violin can motivate me to play so much.  It literally has tripled my practice time!

The Bottom-line of choosing a violin: Patience and advisory committee

The trial period is vital in how one makes a purchase.  It's great that Rhiannon allows at least two-week trial period. I will tell you a bit how I tested my Topa during the trial, which lead me to confidently finalizing the purchase. 
 
During the first week, together with a fine concertizing violinist and my husband (an accomplished amateur violinist), I compared 5 violins at the prices range between US $4K to $40K, side by side.  These are what we agreed:

- Judging criteria: 1) playability, 2) clarity and balanced, 3) projection.  

- We will not to judge the tonal quality of the instrument because it is a matter of personal taste once the minimum quality is established. Each violin has its own tonal character and, just like each good singer's voice, one is not necessary better or more beautiful than that of the other good singer, just different. Once the above three conditions are well met, then it will be up to the player to bring the best voice out of the violin one has chosen.

- Taking moving targets into consideration: Our ears will adapt, the violin will change over time like human voice does.

- In the end, we all agreed that one violin lacks clarity and the other one doesn't have enough projection. The remaining three violins have met the above-mentioned criteria: they were the Topa, an old French violin valued at $40K and Cremona violin of ($17K).  The French and Cremona violins both sound too bright for my taste.

The second week, I got a “Review Committee” running, which consists of my husband (also a violinist), one of Canada's finest string quartets, a solo violinist, couple of their colleagues in our local professional Symphony Orchestra, and an award-winning luthier.  We played the Topa in different venues such as a cathedral, studios and different homes. 

The consensus is it's a really good fiddle with rich sound, highly playable and powerful.

The advice I got was, “Take it!”  The rest is history :)

Rhiannon was extremely helpful in resolving the purchase for me. I’m very impressed by her professionalism, honesty and reasonableness. Highly recommended!

- Yixi, Victoria, BC, Canada

 

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Fiddleheads.ca Main Page Like and Follow Fiddleheads Violin Studio on Facebook View Shopping Cart: Pay with Credit Card or Paypal Account Fiddleheads is a Canadian Business that serves customers around the world Fiddleheads is an eco-friendly business Fiddleheads is an Award-Winning Business run by an Award-Winning Musician and Young Entrepreneur Serving Elated Customers Worldwide: Click here for Testimonials Fiddleheads Violin Studio is Operated by an Award-Winning Symphony Violinist and Teacher Fiddleheads is the World's First Eco-Friendly Violin Shop Fiddleheads' Owner has won numerous awards for Business and Musicianship Fiddleheads Serves Elated Customers Worldwide Welcome to Fiddleheads Violin Studio Located in Canada, Fiddleheads serves customers worldwide foo Like and Follow Us on Facebook!