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Are Stradivarius Violins Really Better Than Modern Violins?

Are Stradivarius Violins the Best?

Hey everybody, this is Joel Kennedy with Kennedy Violins. Today, we're going to tackle a highly contentious question: are Stradivarius violins the best you can buy? This is a question that has sparked debate among violinists, collectors, and music enthusiasts for centuries.

As a violinist and owner of a violin shop, I've had the privilege of playing on numerous Stradivarius violins, as well as other instruments from famous makers like Guarneri and modern luthiers. In this blog post, I'll share my personal experience and insights, and provide a balanced perspective on this age-old question.

Stradivarius Violins


Stradivarius is probably the most famous violin maker in the world, having lived between 1644 and 1737. During his lifetime, he made almost a thousand violins, as well as cellos and violas.

His instruments are renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship, beautiful tone, and playability. Stradivarius violins are highly valued and can sell for millions of dollars. In fact, one of his violins sold for a record $44 million in 2010.

Personal Experience

Stradivari vs. Guarneri - What's the Difference? – Violin Pros

Over the years, I've played on thousands of violins, including Stradivarius, Guarneri, and modern instruments. I've had the opportunity to try out instruments from various makers, and I must say that each one has its unique character and sound. Recently, I visited New York to find a new violin for my daughter, an accomplished violinist. We tried instruments ranging from $30,000 to multi-million dollars, and it was an eye-opening experience.

We visited several shops and tried out various instruments, including some Stradivarius violins. I was struck by the inconsistency in quality, even among instruments from the same maker. Some old violins were bad, while others were amazing. I remember trying out a Stradivarius violin that was worth millions, but it didn't sound as good as I expected. On the other hand, I played a modern violin that was only a fraction of the cost, but it sounded incredible.

Joel's Thoughts...

  1. Not all old violins are created equal: Even among famous makers like Stradivarius and Guarneri, there's a lack of consistency. Some old violins are bad, while others are amazing. This is because each instrument is handmade, and the quality of craftsmanship can vary.
  2. Modern makers are more consistent: Violins from modern makers are more consistent in terms of quality, even when made years apart. This is because modern makers have access to better tools, materials, and techniques, which enable them to produce instruments with greater precision and consistency.
  3. Modern violins are better tools: Modern violins produce a bigger sound, are more responsive, and are easier to play. They're designed to meet the demands of modern music, with a focus on clarity, projection, and playability.
  4. Older violins have better sound quality: On average, older instruments have a better sound, with more complexity and character. This is because older instruments have had time to mature and develop a unique tone, which is often described as warm, rich, and full-bodied.

The Advantages of Modern Violins

  • Consistency: Modern violins are more consistent in terms of quality, which means that you can expect a certain level of performance from a well-made instrument.
  • Playability: Modern violins are designed to be easier to play, with a focus on comfort, ergonomics, and playability.
  • Projection: Modern violins produce a bigger sound, which is essential for modern music and large concert halls.
  • Durability: Modern violins are made with better materials and techniques, which means they're more durable and less prone to damage.

The Advantages of Older Violins

  • Unique sound: Older instruments have a unique sound that's developed over time, with a warm, rich, and full-bodied tone that's hard to find in modern instruments.
  • Character: Older instruments have a history and character that's unmatched by modern instruments. They've been played by countless musicians, and each one has a story to tell.
  • Craftsmanship: Older instruments are often made with exceptional craftsmanship, with intricate details and a level of precision that's hard to find in modern instruments.

The Future of Violin Making

As a violin shop owner, I'm excited to see the evolution of violin making. Modern makers are pushing the boundaries of innovation, using new materials and techniques to create instruments that are both traditional and modern.

We're seeing a resurgence of interest in traditional craftsmanship, combined with modern technology and innovation.

Final Thoughts

So, are Stradivarius violins really better than modern violins? Yes. However, with enough time I suspect the modern violin will achieve even better results in the future.