Foo_me scored big time
All right, it is time to reveal how Foo_me actully did in my "ultimate tonality test."
FYI, the seven violins in on the CD are:
1) N. Amati, 1640
2) G.B. Guadagnini 1771
3) A. Guarneri, 1671
4) P. Guaneri, ?
5) A. Horvath, 1992
6) A. Stradivari, 1683
7) J.B. Vuillaume, 1870
Q1: He correctly picked #5 as the newer violin, and #1 as the older.
This is probably the easiest of all questions. Mr. Horvath is a leading bow maker today, and his violins are very good as well.
Q2: He correctly picked #4 as the finer insteument (by the grandson), over #3. Pietro Guarneri is thought to be a better luthier than his grandfather, Andrea. Pietro's brother, Giuseppe, is even more talented and made Paganini's favorite violin. Guarneri violins all have a dark, seductive sound.
Q3: He correctly picked #6 (Strad) as the finer instrument over #2.
This is actually the hardest question. Guadagnini is famous for his ability to make his violins sound like Stradivaris. Guadagnini's fine instruments are unjustly callled "poor man's Strads." His best violins can fetch 1 million USD in today's market, and there is nothing cheap about its sound. Good Stradivari violins now easily sell for 4 million USD, and for a good reason. The richness of Stradivari's tone makes it a bit more alluring than the Gudagnini. Congratulations, Foo_me, you can differentiate the difference between two ultra-expensive violins in about 5 minutes. This is truly a million dollar question
Q4: He correctly picked #6 (Strad) as the brighter violin, over #4.
This question is pretty easy, but almost every top violinist has to go through a similar coice. Most of them play either a Strad or a Guaneri, based on personal preference. Although these two greatest luthier families are neighbors, their sonic appeal is quite different.
Q5: He picked #6, a Stradivari, and #7, a Vuillaume.
I personally pick #4 (P. Guaneri) and #7. It shows how Vuillaume's instruments truly rival the Italian masters. Oh I forgot, Paganini himself already acknowledged that long, long ago. Too bad Vuillaume isn't getting as much attention as it should, but that's about to change because Hilary Hahn plays a Vuillaume and I am pretty sure she is the next real maestro in the violin world.
When Audiophile Audition reviewed this CD
, it said the Cremonese masters (Guaneri, Stradivari and Amati) are way ahead of others. I am pretty sure Mr. Paganini himself would not agree. Once Paganini took his favorite Guarneri violin to Mr. Vuillaume for repair. He got two violins back and he could not tell which one is his. Vuillaume made a perfect replica and Paganini had to play them to hear a slight sonic difference. Paganini was so pleased that he offered a high price for it. Vuillaume was so honored that he gave it away as a gift. When Paganini died he donated his favorite Guarneri to the city of Genoa, and gave the Vuillaume to his only student. His student had fine violins by Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari, but his favorite was the Vuillaume. Foo_me picked #7 over two Guaneris (not who made Paganini's violin, though) and an Amati in a blind test, which just shows how good the Vuillaume really is.
I have also asked a non-audiophile, non-violinst friend to try a similar test on my K1000 setup. I asked him questions 1, 3 and 4 and he answered all of them correctly. I am now convinced that, with a proper playback system, anyone with some interest in music can easily distinguish the sonic differnces between great violins of the world. BTW, this other friend chose #4 (P. Guaneri) as his favorite.
Foo_me and I also listened to the same CD on HE-90/ES-1. The differences are still there, but violin does not sound as convincing as they do on K1000. Maybe the secret of K1000 lies in the fact that it uses violin varnish on its transducer to supress extra vibration.If anyone thinks his system has great timbre and tonal accuracy, I recommend trying this test I devised with your setup and a friend of yours.
Next to the human voice, the human ear is most sensitive to the tone of the violin and no other instrument's timbre has fascinated humans as much. After this test, I think it is OK to say that technology has enabled us to savor the tonal flavors of great violins at the comfort of one's bed room. Even untrained ears have no problem distingushing the charms of exquisite violins of various origins, on my K1000 system, and for this I am quite content
When I started my audio journey I wondered how realistic can violin sound on an audio system. Well, now I can say when it can meaningfully portray the difference between a one million dollar Guadagnini and a 4 million dollar Stradivari to the untrained ear, it is pretty darn realistic. But "realistic" has a limit, too. Once I had my friend play his $15,000 violin in my room and it's obvious that bringing the musician to the room
is only a metaphor and will never really happen. Although violin on K1000 sounds different from the real violin, but they do blend pretty well.