Sunday, May 7, 2017

Glasser Carbon Composite Violin. Review and Comparison

By Andy Fein, Fein Violins, Ltd.

The best thing I can say about the new Glasser Carbon Composite Violin is that it's COOL looking. Really, really cool!

Glasser Carbon Composite Violin

Bows made from carbon graphite. carbon composite, etc. have been on the market for a decade or more. Stringed instruments made from the same materials have been available for several years. The problem (for me) with the carbon instruments that have been available is the price. Thousands of dollars for instruments that I think sound like they should be in the under $1,000 category.

Hey! That's my opinion!!! But I'm a wood guy. I like the standard violin family instruments with Spruce for the top, and Maple for the back, sides, and neck.

Now, the venerable Glasser company has produced a very nice carbon composite violin that easily fits into the under $1,000 category. You might recall Glasser as the manufacturer and purveyor of the standard fiberglass bow. You might even recall the first time you left that fiberglass bow in the case and played a "real" bow, whether it was wood or carbon. In recent years, Glasser has been very innovative with carbon composite bows and tailpieces. And now.... Carbon Composite Violins!

Glasser Carbon Composite Violin

I'll be honest. I'm not in love with this violin. But, it's a very good violin in a number of ways.
Here are the good things I can say about the Glasser Carbon Composite violin:
1) Carbon Composite is a pretty bomb proof material. Weather and humidity be damned. If you don't like taking care of a traditional violin, or worrying about temperature and humidity changes and how that will affect your instrument, then a carbon violin might be for you. They're almost completely crack proof and the seams are close to permanently glued.
2) The standard set up they come with is great! Larsen strings, Perfection (internally geared) Pegs, a comfortable chin rest, and a decent quality bridge.
3) They're available in 4/4 (full size), 3/4, and 1/2 sizes.
4) They're relatively cheap. Under $1,000 for violin, case and bow? Yes! We're selling them for under $600 for the entire outfit- violin, case, and carbon bow.
5) They make a great electric/acoustic violin. I'd recommend setting it up with The REALIST pickup by David Gage. Given the very homogenous material, the carbon violin should be much easier to EQ than a standard wood violin.
6) They look cool. Really, really cool! OK, I said that before. But coolness is definitely a distinguishing factor!
7) If you go to outdoor festivals or jams, or play outdoor gigs, this violin should be your 'go to' instrument. You'll have far fewer worries about all the changes of sunlight, temperature, and weather.  Leave your 'good' violin made from delicate wood at home. Your 'good' violin will thank you.
8) They probably won't need the same maintenance you have to put into a traditional violin. Soundpost adjustment? Probably not. Seams coming unglued? Not likely. Cracks? I bet you dollars to donuts you won't have any. Peg problems? I prefer Wittner FineTune Pegs, but the Planetary Perfections Pegs should work just fine. You'll still need to keep the bridge straight and change the strings occasionally. But other than that they're a pretty worry free violin.
9) Have a rambunctious child violinist that might drop their violin? Except for the bridge, the carbon violin is fairly bounce proof.
10) They're available in a 5 string version (E-A-D-G-C).
11) Play in crowded orchestra pits or bar gigs? Again, the bomb proof nature of the Carbon Violin should make this your 'go to' violin.

Here's Diane Houser playing the Glasser Carbon Violin  and comparing it to our Presto and da Salo violins (not currently available) for a side by side comparison.

And now.... Here are the not so good things I want to say about the Glasser Carbon violin:
1) Tone and playablitiy- To invoke 'The Simpsons' and my own Yiddish culture- Meh. I'm unexcited about the tone. It's consistent and even, I'll give it that. But consistent and even at a pretty low level. No warmth, slow response, and not much volume.

2) Weight- This thing is heavy! Violins are hard to accurately weigh, but a comparison weighing of the three models in the video above shows a full size Glasser violin weighing in at 16 ounces, the da Salo model at 11 ounces, and the Presto violin at 13 ounces. I would highly recommend a good shoulder rest if you're going to play the Glasser Carbon violin!
3) The 5 string version- I have the same problem with this 5 string violin as I do with every other 5 string violin or 14" viola- There's not enough air volume inside the instrument to power the C string. The C string just sounds BAD! But, with a pickup or for a teaching studio, it should work OK.

Do I recommend the Glasser Carbon Violin? I'll give it a qualified YES. I think it's a very good student violin, an excellent outdoor violin, an excellent bar gig violin, and way cool violin to have in your collection.


  1. Are they now shipping that outfit with a CF bow? I saw one a few months ago, and the whole thing looked real cool and heavy-duty... tough-looking case, two bows-- but those bows were Glasser's cheapest rubbery fiberglass! Made the fiddle feel and sound clunky and cheap.

    My reaction of "how very stupid!" to Glasser not including a better composite bow put a damper on what should have been enthusiasm for their pioneering effort at producing a moderately-priced CF violin.

    1. Dan,
      We include our own FEIN Carbon Composite bow and a lightweight case.

  2. Wow! I literally just pulled the trigger on a student violin half the glasser's price from SHAR, but if I get past "Twinkle" I think I've just found my next violin, because I'm interested in busking. It looks FEIN for the changeable weather here in the SF Bay Area, and frankly, the standards for buskers here are low, I mean, really, really, low. Which is why it's reasonable for me to assume I can buy a fiddle, practice a month or three, and get out there.

    Hell of a FEIN deal you're offering.

  3. You mentioned that you didn't like the sound quality. I'm curious to know how it stands against other instruments in the same price range. Is it comparable?

    1. No, I didn't say I "didn't like the sound quality". I said "Meh", implying a pretty neutral and unexcited opinion. For the price range, it's great. But I think anyone would do far better with the next step up from us, our 'Grand' model violin-

  4. How does the dynamic range of the carbon composite violin compare to a wood violin?

    1. It sounds better and is set up better than violins in a similar price range ($500 to $600). Does it have the dynamic range of a $1,000 wood violin? No.

  5. I own one for about 3 years I play bluegrass and country and many jamb out side I always looked for a mellow sound and found that it was hard too find but the carbon fiber was so mellow I changed the strings to a brighter string, well worth the price.

  6. I've had mine a year. I replaced the Larson strings with Heliocore and got a brighter sound, but I wouldn't call it "warm" yet. That said, "Lil Sister" resides on a sailboat, where the heat and humidity spell doom for any wood instrument. Does it sound like a 1930's German violin? No... But it is impervious to the abuse placed upon it in a sailing environment, it projects well outdoors, and it sounds good enough for any church choir or group of sailors having fun on the water. It does exactly what I asked it to do.