During my cello search, I wish I had come across a blog that described other people's experiences in buying a cello, the processes they used and what they looked at specifically to determine why they chose their cello.
Although I have to admit...I am a bit picky and tend to over-analyze things...
Part three is my review of my Eastman Pietro Lombardi cello:
- Part 1: Selecting a cello
- Part 2: Jonathan Li cello
- Part 3: Pietro Lombardi cello
- Part 4: Calin Wultur cello (l'll post this later this week)
I knew right away I wanted to purchase the Jonathan Li cello, but choosing between the two remaining cellos (Wultur and Lombardi) was really, really difficult and confusing!!
A quick note: ALL cellos are different, so if you're looking at the same maker and model, the cello will most certainly have different characteristics, so none of this applies except to these specific cellos.
The contenders were:
2011 Eastman Jonathan Li 503 (left with the lightest color)
2011 Calin Wultur Student (middle)
2010 Eastman Pietro Lombardi 502 (right in case)
2010 Eastman Pietro Lombardi, Model 502, Stradivarius, Beijing, China
- This cello's price was discounted because it had some varnish issues, i.e. streaking or crackling. However, when it was selected by the dealer at the Eastman warehouse, she compared it side by side to German Wilhelm Kliers, Rudolph Doetsch, and many others in the same price range and found that this cello was by far the most open and even.
- I've discovered that this cello has been pretty consistent in beating out cellos in the same (and some above) price range as well - you rock cello! :).
1) Sound quality
- This has a very smooth warm quality, albeit fairly quiet. However, this cello has settled and opened up quite a bit; i.e. its volume has gotten louder and the sound has become more focused, which is what new cellos are supposed to do. This cello was shipped from California to Colorado and still has some settling to do, but I think when it finally does settle this will really sound very sweet and resonant
- I was informed that cellos that have just recently been set up and shipped, especially new cellos that have never been played before have a lot of complex things happening with regards to age, settling and opening up. I've discovered the cellos' sound is different 3 days later, 1 week later, two weeks later, and a month later and so on! Shops should really make their trial periods longer! Although the shop I purchased this cello from was extremely generous in allowing me to have a fairly long extended trial period
- My teacher also warned me that getting a new cellos can cause some headaches. The reason experienced cellists pick used cellos is because the sound has already settled and they know how it will sound and do not need to wait for the sound to develop
- The novelty of getting a "new" cello has definitely worn off on me (I'm definitely buying a used cello the next time around!), as I've discovered waiting for the sound to develop is frustrating and settling issues can cause some additional unexpected costs, especially for my Li cello where I had to open up the seams and let it sit for a few weeks to allow the wood to settle and shrink
- Type of varnish: This cello has an oil varnish which takes some time to fully cure (if I remember correctly 2-5 years). Oil varnishes are soft and take some time to harden, which makes the tone rich and lush, but not as loud. As the varnish hardens it becomes more focused and rings more. The wood itself is also changing and contributes even more to the maturity of the cello's voice as it ages
- Spirit varnishes come from the other spectrum - spirit varnishes are pretty much at full cure from the beginning and are hard. What is desirable in these spirit varnishes is for the cellos to mellow and round out a bit, as they tend to have more volume and can be more strident
- And of course, not all varnishes are oil or spirit varnishes - there are a plethora of varnish mixtures and combination between the oil and spirit varnishes, plus various secret "ingredients" that will also affect the cure and sound as well
2) Response & Comfort
- The volume of this cello in the beginning was fairly quiet, but now its become louder and the sound more refined! I received this a few months ago so I can't wait to hear it after a year
- The Lombardi is also more particular with my bowing and won't produce a nice sound unless I use the proper technique! It's great feedback - I'm learning from my cello! :). Although it has been frustrating, I've noticed that playing any other cello has become a piece of cake!
- Dynamics - this cello is learning dynamics! At first its sound was very closed, but it's coming around and is now able to sustain softer notes longer, not as well as the other two cellos I'm reviewing, but its getting there. It works much better with Evah A & D strings (instead of Larsen A&D), but Evahs are a little too bright for my taste for this specific cello. I tried Kaplan A & D strings next, which worked better but it brought out a wolf tone on F# so I'm still experimenting with strings on this cello
- Comfort - the string length for this cello is 26 3/4 inches which is fairly comfortable for me, but on the small side because I find my fingers get lazy and collapse going from one string to another
- Volume - this particular cello is on the quiet side, although I often times practice well into the night (sometimes past midnight) because I don't have time during the day because of school and work. So I'm able to use the cello without a mute - I'm sure my neighbors appreciate that! :).
3) Maintenance & Health
- This cello hasn't had as much settling issues like the other two cellos. One of the reasons is because it was made in 2010 and the other two cellos were made in 2011 (and yes, I was told that a cello sitting around in a warehouse or shop for a year makes a HUGE difference)
- I want to take this cello to the shop after a year to make sure it doesn't have any settling issues, i.e. the neck or fingerboard may start to bow and the top and bottom ribs may start to bulge from shrinkage from this climate, like the other two cellos have done already
- Adjustments - I also need to make adjustments on this cello which I will have to wait on because I've exceeded my cello budget already. The bridge needs to be adjusted (the feet so it's more flush with the body and the bridge thinned a bit so it's more straight) and the soundpost needs to be worked on as well
4) Resale Value/Trade-In Value
- I can get 100% trade-in for this cello, so I'm not worried about this, and I don't think I'd ever want to sell it either, but you never know and this is backed by the best cello warranty in the industry:
- Eastman Strings warrants its instruments and bows to be free of defect in material and construction for the lifetime of the product.
- Always a good idea to buy from a shop that you can trade-in the cello for a more expensive cello. Otherwise there is a reduction in resale value, especially for intermediate cellos like this one
- This cello has streaking, which was driving me a little nuts, but now I kind of like it! I also like the varnish color on this cello
- The streaking on this particular cello was caused by putting the varnish on too quickly and thickly, so the under layer dried faster than the top which caused the top layer to open up causing lines across the varnish
- The luthier said that a lot of older instruments have crackling and it just adds to the cello's character. He had an expensive 300 year old violin in the safe which has streaking and crackling throughout its varnish
- I think there's a difference between "crackling" and "streaking" in varnishes, but I don't remember specifically what the difference was, so forgive me if I use those terms improperly
Next up: the Calin Wultur Student cello