Simply for Strings were lucky enough to hold an in-store event with D’Addario a few years ago and I’ve waited for the release of the Kaplan Amo and Vivo string sets for viola ever since. Violinists have had this range available for a while so when the sets were finally released for viola I jumped at the chance to review them.
Most viola players choose between the classics – Larsens, Evah Pirazzis, Obligatos or the newer Evah Pirazzi Gold. Larsens make my viola sound a little dull on the top end, and then the response time on the lower end isn’t quick enough. Evah Pirazzi strings sound beautiful on the top end of my instrument, but the lower end isn’t enough of a contrast and my C string will often sound strangled when playing forte. Obligatos are the opposite – beautifully rich on the lower end, but the top end sounds dull and strangled. Evah Pirazzi Golds used to be my favourite pick of the bunch, but I would only get a good three to four months out of them before my instrument was dull again. Obviously, I’m pretty picky so the new D’Addario Amo and Vivo sets had a lot of expectations to live up to.
Firstly, I fitted the Amo set. The initial sound was a little metallic, but I often find that happens with new strings. They settled surprisingly quickly – I practiced for an hour, left them alone for a couple of hours to settle down and by the time I returned to practice I only had to tune up twice. The next day they were perfect.
The first thing I noticed after fitting the Amo set was how rich the lower end was and how powerful all four strings were. The projection and evenness across the strings were excellent and the tone of the G and D, in particular, was divine. I didn’t want to make any hasty decisions in regards to choosing my favourite between Amo and Vivo, so after 2 weeks of collecting my thoughts, I fitted the Vivo set.
The Amos are the warmer of the two sets but I was surprised at how the Vivo set still offered a lot of warmth. They also settled in the exact same way, which D’Addario promises happens with all of their strings. The set is just as powerful and the clarity and projection definitely suits my viola, however, I found the set was a little too bright for my liking on the top end. Not wanting to give up only a few practice sessions in, I gave the Vivo set two weeks to settle into the instrument.
After a month of trialing the two sets, I realised how much I preferred the Amo. I can't believe after all these years of viola playing that I’ve finally found a set of strings that is perfect for me. The rich lower end, which doesn’t muffle or strangle even when playing fortissimo is amazing balanced by the top end which isn’t too warm or too bright – it is just right for my viola. They are extremely quick to respond to a number of different bow techniques and the peace of mind knowing they only take a day to settle in is just an added bonus.
These are strings are pricey – but they are most definitely worth it. If you’ve been struggling to find the perfect set of strings for your instrument, give these a go.
*Strings are press samples only and Simply for Strings are not obliged to give a positive review.
Written by Emily for Simply for Strings. Emily plays on a viola crafted for her by luthier David Heckenberg.