File - Soloist Ilya Kaler wearing welder glasses so he can’t see the violin during a test of old and new instruments outside Paris in Sept. 2012. (AP/Stefan Avalos, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America)
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Ten world-class soloists put costly Stradivarius violins and new, cheaper ones to a blind scientific test.Of the six old violins tested, five were by made by the famous Stradivari family in the 17th and 18th centuries. The newer violins were about 100 times cheaper, said study co-author Joseph Curtin, a Michigan violin-maker. But the Strads and other older Italian violins have long been considered superior, even almost magical.Canadian soloist Susanne Hou has been playing a rare $6 million 269-year-old Guarneri del Gesu violin and knows what she likes and what she doesn't.Schmidt, who normally plays a different new violin with a little more down-to-Earth $30,000 price tag, called the surprise instrument "extraordinary" in a phone interview.Hou, whose four-year loan of a classic Italian violin has expired, explained that finding the right instrument was a personal quest.
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