In This Issue
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Listeners prefer new over old violins in blind tests Previous blind tests have found that seasoned violinists largely failed to distinguish new violins from Old Italian violins, such as Stradivari violins, preferring to play new over old violins. To test whether listeners find new violins to be tonally superior to Old Italian violins and capable of better sound projection in concert halls, Claudia Fritz et al. (pp. 5395-5400) performed two separate experiments involving 55 musically versed
... sically versed listeners in a 300-seat concert hall near Paris and 82 listeners in an 860-seat hall in New York City. Together, the blind tests compared listener preference and sound projection for three new and three Stradivari instruments played behind a screen by blindfolded soloists with or without an orchestra. Regardless of musical experience, listeners preferred new over old violins and found that new violins projected sound better than old violins. When the violins were played for an audience in a hall, more than two-thirds of players' estimates of sound projection comported with those of listeners. Similar to players, listeners were unable to consistently distinguish new from old violins. Contrary to conventional wisdom and practice, soloists might benefit from playing new rather than old violins during auditions and competitions, as long as the violins' provenance is shielded from the judges, according to the authors. -P.N.