TECH

Blind Testing Asks People To Choose Between A New Violin And A Priceless Stradivarius

Guess which one people preferred...

09/05/2017 13:50 BST | Updated 09/05/2017 13:50 BST

Stradivarius violins are considered not just some of the finest violins ever made but some of the best musical instruments ever to grace this Earth.

Their rarity and sound profile have meant that a single violin can often sell for millions of pounds.

Yet, when soloists where told to perform a series of piece blindfolded, it seems that the legendary Stradivarius came up short.

Reuters

In the latest battle between old and new, researchers led by Claudia Fritz, a researcher at France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) to put the Stradivarius to the test.

Renowned for having a contradictory sound profile of being delicately precise and yet able to project great distances, the Stradivarius has long been considered the gold standard by experts.

Fritz wanted to put this to the test and so in two experiments in two different concert halls she carried out a series of blind tests.

The first experiment took place in 300-seat concert hall near Paris and involved 55 musically-versed listeners.

Caiaimage/Martin Barraud via Getty Images

The second took place in a far larger 860-seat auditorium in New York where 82 listeners passed verdict.

Blindfolded soloists then stood behind a screen and played three Stradivarius violins and three newer violins. Some of the pieces were solos while others involved a large orchestra.

The results? “Regardless of musical experience, listeners preferred new over old violins and found that new violins projected sound better than old violins,” concluded the study.

What is perhaps even more interesting is that both the listeners and the players themselves were, “unable to consistently distinguish new from old violins.”

While it’s very unlikely that this would somehow alter the perception of sound waves hitting a person’s ear two of the researchers involved did point out a fairly massive conflict of interest.

One works for a company that actually makes violins while the other works for a company that makes orchestral strings.

As pointed out before though, it’s unlikely they could alter the soundwaves with their bias and indeed the paper has been peer-reviewed.