It’s not only audiophiles who fool themselves …

The most recent episode of Skeptoid deals with the subject of the superiority of Stradivarius violins. It has been an article of faith for many decades at least, perhaps even centuries, that these violins are the best and possess some unique features of manufacture or material that make them so.

But are they really the best in the first place?

Skeptoid looks at a 2010 study in which blind playing of six violins was conducted. Three were highly regarded examples of 18th century Italian manufacture (two of them Strads), while the other three were new violins. The old ones were worth, between them, about $US10 million. The three new ones were pretty much top of the current art, and so cost between them about $US100,000. That is, one per cent of the price of the antique violins.

The results were clear:

We found that (i) the most-preferred violin was new; (ii) the least-preferred was by Stradivari; (iii) there was scant correlation between an instrument’s age and monetary value and its perceived quality; and (iv) most players seemed unable to tell whether their most-preferred instrument was new or old.

They add:

These results present a striking challenge to conventional wisdom.


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