Magazine article Strings

John Cheng Violins Make Strong Showing in Competitive Field

Magazine article Strings

John Cheng Violins Make Strong Showing in Competitive Field

Article excerpt

Step-up violins are well made from quality tonewoods

When a violin shop grows to a certain size, it's practically required to have a housebrand line of Instruments. A stringedinstrument and accessories superstore of the size, scope, and ambition of Shar Music can have several. The John Cheng line of violins is made in China and positioned as Shar's premier house brand. For this review, Strings tested the product line's entry-level Stradivari model and its top-shelf Limited Edition model.

Both violins shared stellar setups, which are essential for making any instrument perform and feel its best, and included treated Aubert à Mirecourt bridges and quality fittings. The John Cheng line also features necks with a unique profile, specified by Shar's CEO Charles Avsharian, which is thinned slightly on the thumb side to increase player comfort.

Though manufactured overseas, this line of step-up instruments is attentively set up at Shar's shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Avsharian says, "The choice of wood and how you prepare it is one of the most important things for making a violin," and our test violins displayed discriminating taste in wood. Both of our test instruments were carved from European-sourced maple and spruce, with the maple showing ample figuring enhanced by the reddish varnish and extensive antiquing.

The Stradivari Model

As with violins made by Cremona's famous perfectionist, for which this line is named, the John Cheng Stradivari model violins are elegant, and refined. The body's arching more closely approaches the purfling than our other Cheng test violin, giving it a fuller appearance, while the gorgeously flamed one-piece back had a three-dimensional illusion of rippled velvet. The Strad model was equipped with Thomastik Vision medium strings. The ebony fittings, including the heart-shaped pegs and Hill-style tailpiece with single fine tuner, were dyed jet black for an even, streak-free appearance.

Suitably, for a soloist who wants to be heard through an ensemble, our sample fiddle's sound was bright and penetrating, though one violinist described it as "coarse." To my ears, this violin's tone had the erispness of a fresh instrument, which is a promising trait, since the tone tends to mellow and smooth out as the violin is played. Undoubtedly, your own sound will change as you settle in with your preferred brand of strings, bow, and perhaps a soundpost adjustment.

The Limited Edition

As the top of the John Cheng line, the Limited Edition features the maker's finest wood. With a design "inspired by the greatest Guarneri del Gesùs," the Limiteds feature a highly flamed, one-piece back and some of the openness and freedom of design tirât is associated with the expansive f-holes and carefree scrolls of the most revered del Gesù violins.

As with the Strad model, our testers raved about the Limited Edition's setup, quality fittings, and first-rate strings (Pirastro Evah Pirazzi mediums, in this instance). They described the Limited Edition's tone as full, even, clear, and warm across all strings - with an especially praise-worthy low end. In addition to the admirable projection, the Limited Edition also had a pleasing under-ear sound and a buttery payability.

Our testers felt that the Limited Edition, suitable to its higher cost, had a fuller, thicker, and richer tone when compared to the Stradivari model. Overall, this is a great stepup instrument for the intermediate to advancing player and could be a worthy companion for several years, through high school and perhaps even into college.

Given the newness of both test violins, it's likely that each instrument's dynamic response will increase as the wood settles and as you experiment with your preferred strings and bow. …

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