Today's Top Best Value Violin Makers

Much is made of old violins. Ancient esteemed Italian violins routinely fetch millions at auction, but now the climate is such that certain very good European factory violins from late 19th to early 20th centuries can command higher prices than quite well-made single-maker modern violins. While there is no substitute for old seasoned wood, there is also no shortage of very fine makers who may well know more about the instruments they make, technologically, than in any previous century.

Its true. We might just be living in another golden age of violin making. From well-published studies of the graduations of Del Gesu's to studies of the wood densities of little ice spruce trees, today's makers have far more information at their fingertips than makers just thirty years ago. While the tools generally haven't changed much, the knowledge has. And with violin prices being what they are, one can get a fine hand-made instrument today for less than a mediocre 19th century instrument.

Our aim is to look at ten of the top violin makers today. Some represent value, others quality and expertise, and some innovation. This is not specifically a rating of any of the makers, its too complex to account for variations between instruments to attempt anything like that, but more an exploration of what they do and where their instruments are ending up.

Gainesville Violins. 4240 NW 129th Street, Gainesville, FL 32606 www.gviolins.com

Master maker Jan van Rooyen produces truly amazing hand-made violins at very reasonable prices, considering the custom nature of his instruments. He has a very loyal following, even Joshua Bell owns one.

David Wiebe. 2290 Glasco Turnpike. Woodstock, New York 12498 www.violoncello.com

Very fine instrument hand-maker that has seen some of his instruments rise in value in the secondary market. Past customers include Yehudi Menuhin for a viola.

Peter Zaret and Sons Violins. 5767 Mayfield Rd. Cleveland OH 44124 www.zaretandsonsviolins.com

While not a maker per-se, they offer a patented bass bar modification that potentially could revolutionize violin-making. It represents a close look at an all too often ignored part of the instrument that can drastically affect tone for the better.

Scott Cao Violins. 1860 Winchester Blvd. Campbell, CA 95008 www.scottcaoviolins.com

Offers many pricing levels all representing good value, but the more expensive instruments are truly world class.

Philippe Girardin. 11, Rue de Port-Roulant, 2000 Neuchatel Switzerland www.philippe-girardin.net

Superb maker that is an expert in the old Italian varnishes as they were originally formulated. Some swear that varnish is everything, so if authentic finishes are desired this is the place.

David Widmer. Studio Souffles. 7044 St-Urbain. Montreal QC Canada H2S 3H5 www.widmerluthier.com

Superb award-winning maker that also offers unique olive wood chinrests for players that suffer from arthritis or skin conditions.

Raymond Schryer. Schryer Violins 1009 Queen St. E. Sault Ste. Marie, ON Canada P6A 2C2 www.violincello.com

Very fine award-winning maker with excellent Guarneri and Strad models.

Gliga Violins. Romanian Made. Gliga Violins, USA 245 N. Carmelo Ave Ste. 105, Pasadena, CA 91107 www.violinslover.com

Highly thought of instruments available for students and professionals. Good workmanship and pricing.

Marcus Klimke 138, rue de la Madeleine, 49000 Angers, France www.klimkeviolin.com

Award winning European maker that is truly making waves with the quality of his instruments.

Kelvin Scott Violins. 1329 Armstrong Avenue. Knoxville, TN 37917 www.ksviolins.com

Very high quality maker that wins awards consistently for tone. It would be hard to beat this maker in tone quality.