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Thread: Virzi--What am I missing?

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    Smile Virzi--What am I missing?

    Please, please, anyone----share with me what I am not understanding about the Virzi. Is this for real? How does it aid in volume and or tonality. I know that this has been asked before but I am interested in a fresh and present contribution from builders and players.
    Is this purely a subjective thing and just another form of voodoo magic?

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Quote Originally Posted by pelone View Post
    Is this purely a subjective thing and just another form of voodoo magic?
    Its not a resolved issue. There are strong adherents to all sides of the discussion, and several who were on one side and changed their minds.

    Unresolved, and perhaps practically unresolveable, but that's not the same as voodoo magic. It just means we don't know.
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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    I agree with JeffD on the matter. I had a wonderful LaBraid (Brian Dean) L&H style A repro mandolin with virzi and I thought it had an exquisite voice. However, I never heard it without the virzi in it. As they are connected to the to, they add additional mass in the air chamber that vibrates. Does that have any effect? I tend to think so. I seem to like the sound of mandolins with them more than mandolins without them. The difference is subtle (hopefully not just in my head). They don't add to volume, in fact, intuitively, they should decrease the volume some as they account for more mass that the energy from the string vibration is transferred through with some loss.

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Hate them, love them, the Virzi does seem to carry that Love/Hate sydrome along with it's mystic. What we do know is Lloyd Loar sure believed in them. So much so that he wanted one in every Master Model free of charge. At first the powers that be at Gibson said no and in 1923 the Virzi carried an extra $15 fee for instalation. But by early 1924 they were standard and you had to order it without one. Loar even liked it when they went into the lower A and F models too. Didn't hurt he had a few shares of stock in the Virzi Co. of New York. We also know the Virzi seemed to vanish out the door right behind the parting of employment with Loar which leads one to assume others at Gibson didn't think much of the famous tone producer. I believe the Virzi haters are more tied to the reality that Bill's didn't have one. Had Bill found a nice '24 Fern with Virzi hanging on that barbershop wall in 1945 we would all be discussing how great the Virzi is and why everyone would want one today.

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    Registered User RichM's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    The Virzi always reminds me of the second resonating chamber that Mario Maccaferri designed into the earliest Selmer guitars. A lot of guitarists hated them because they came loose and rattled. Once Maccaferri and Selmer parted company, Selmer never again put a second resonating chamber in a guitar. But today, Michael Dunn builds his Mystery Pacific model in the Maccaferri style, with the additional chamber. Seems like there's a customer for every idea...

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    Registered User Bill Halsey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Compared to the Loars without a Virzi, I notice a bit more focused, round sound in most of the Virzi Loars I've played. Typically, it seems to harden up the tone just a shade and tame a little of the rawness sometimes heard in an F-5, and bring out more of the "head voice" from the instrument. I've played one or two that were less than remarkable, but there were others that were surprisingly good. I once spent an evening with a Virzi Loar from March 1924 that was as good an F-5 as I have ever played -- absolutely even and responsive from bottom to top, with that effortless, out-front "pop" that the best of instruments seem to have.

    I've never played around with the gadget in my own instruments. However, my imagination suggests that the floating mini-plate of the Virzi might be creating a feedback loop with the primary driven plate (the top) to attenuate some of the "noise". And, with its three legs, perhaps it could support the some of the more desirable nodal lines between responsive "hot spots" in the sound board. Pure conjecture -- obviously over my head here. But it's fun to dream.

    I'm not so into gimmicks, but I do have to admit that the Virzi often seems to dial up the Loar magic just a notch or two.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    Had Bill found a nice '24 Fern with Virzi hanging on that barbershop wall in 1945 we would all be discussing how great the Virzi is and why everyone would want one today.
    Ain't that the truth!
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    John Monteleone, who is no slave to traditional thought or design, and who is amongst a handful that know as much as anyone living about acoustic archtop instrument design, says the following:
    (from his CGOW interview)

    "John says that Mike Marshall's Loar once had a Virzi and fearlessly with no thought for his own safety says:

    "This mandolin had originally sported a Virzi tone reducer in it, which
    was removed before I worked on it. Once a Virzi is removed there are
    two remaining notches left on the inside wall of each tone bar, where
    these stupid things used to be attached. I don't know what they were
    thinking. But I would have loved to have overheard the convincing
    sales-pitch that Mr. Virzi sold to Mr. Loar. Amazing!

    Q - WHOA!!!!!!!!! How do you really feel about Virzis, John!
    An unprovoked attack on the memory of the Virzi brothers who are no longer here to defend themselves. This is almost a sacrilege! John, have you ever seen the video "The Sound of the American Mandolin," featuring Tony Williamson and our own Maxwell McCullough. I have that tape and I'll send it to you if you haven't seen it. I thought that Tony and Max pretty well proved that the Virzi's in various old Gibsons enhanced the tone. At least to my ears. They did side-by-side comparisons of As, F-4s, and F-5s, w/ and w/o Virzis. Your gonna hear about this one!

    A - Let it be known that I don't intend to step on anyone's toes, and I may have rattled someone elses cage or two, but I'm have great difficulty trying to recall anyone who ever said to me "gee, I wish I had that Virzi back in my mandolin". Nor have I ever been asked, thank God, to make one and put it in their mandolin.

    It's not often that you will see folks come to the defense of Virzi either. Sure, I'll take you up on your offer. I'd like to see the video but I'll tell you right now that chances are that the microphones, recording, and related engineering might not reveal a fair judgement. However, I do have an open mind about these and other things. You can't be a luthier of good reputation and not comtemplate the good and the rediculous. Perhaps it was during one of these open-minded sessions that Mr. Virzi had one too many thimbles of grappa.

    Regarding the installment of a foreign object inside and under the bridge of [let us say] a Loar mandolin; you could hang a bees nest in there and still be able to appreciate its wonderful tone, if it's there to begin with. And I will speculate that the tone will sound sweeter, not to mention buzzier.

    In fact, technically speaking, one could suspend a variety of objects in there of different material even, and because you are adding mass to the bridge area you stand a chance of increasing the sustain, one of the so-called advantages of the Virzi. But we gain questionable sustain at the more likely sacrifice of other more important tonal positives. Now, if the Virzi is so good why aren't they requested and built in as standard practice?

    The argument for Virzis, if there are any, may remain to be a debatable issue for those few. The argument against them is more convincing. Ask anyone who has had them removed. This issue by the way is not a new one. It's been going on for some time, probably since they were first installed.

    If I may quote myself from an earlier response to this question, "But I would have loved to have over heard the convincing sales pitch that Mr. Virzi sold to Mr. Loar", " I don't know what they were thinking." Well, perhaps it was also this very lunatic proposition that contributed to leading Lloyd away from Gibson in the first place. Who knows?

    Do you know where your Virzi is?
    Peace brother."
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    The problematic opinions about removing a Virzi made it sound better is that who would admit it sounds the same or worse after you have destroyed the originality of a historical instrument? Physcologicaly you will convince yourself it is better because you know you can't go back and put it back in to make up your mind. While Mr. Montelone is one of many well known F5 style builders that may be against installing a Virzi there are quite a few Master Luthiers who do put them in today. Even Gibson Co. in recent years has installed the Virzi in F5 models. There is something to the mystic if you like it or not.

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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    Had Bill found a nice '24 Fern with Virzi hanging on that barbershop wall in 1945 we would all be discussing how great the Virzi is and why everyone would want one today.
    Of course, if Bill had found a Virzi equipped mando and ripped it out we'd be having the flip side of this conversation.
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    There is a great history at http://www.siminoff.net/pages/virzi.htm . Turns out that Loar had one installed in his viola and considered the tone to be better. Then he started using them on guitars and mandolins. Whatever you think of the virzi, the article is worth reading.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Mike Black has an A/B video showing two oval hole mandolins he has built, one with and one without a Virzi. There is a subtle difference but, of course, it is not exactly the same instrument with and without. Maybe someone can build a mandolin with a removable back so you can see what it would sound like with and without.

    Come to think of it, IIRC Dave Cohen showed me a testing mandolin he has built with a removable back.

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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Interesting clip. Oval-holed ones- that A4 sounds like the ones I've tried. A bit more ring and hummm going on, slightly ethereal sound even.

    I have one in my F5, also have played several really nice Loars with them in that are among my favorite mandolins anywhere.

    I couldn't tell my mando with virzi from my pal Craig's without (made nearly same time with very similar specs by Jamie Wiens) when I tried a blind listening test.

    Hard to know what they do. You can play a note, reach in and touch it and feel it vibrating like heck though. I can do that on my f5, and recently on an A4 Virzi I visited.
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Lloyd never heard Bill play his without the Virzi. There ya go! If Bill's would have had a Virzi he would have plucked it out at the same time he gouged out the Gibson name.

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    Registered User Jim Ferguson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Great video Jim........I do notice a distinct diff between the two A models with & without the virzi & I would say the virzi mando has a sound more pleasing to my ear....:-) I wonder how a similar side-to-side comparison would go between two F-model mandos???
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    On my second build I put in a Virzi, I also tested the instrument in the white both with and without it, here's my entirely subjective viewpoint:

    * It definitely changes the sound.
    * Overall the instrument was better balanced and richer with it.
    * The instrument lost some tonal quality in the higher ranges with it.
    * The instrument gained some "zing" (technical term that) in the sustain with it - I've heard this described as built in reverb.

    But...

    * There's probably nothing about a Virzi that can't be achieved by other means.
    * I thought it had a tendency to bland everything out a little, improving any bad bits, harming the best bits. A sort of tone-averaging device.

    So perhaps we should regard it as a random tone altering device

  20. #17

    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    As noted the comparison is not perfect as they are not the same instrument, but in this case I also (much) prefer the Virzi-fied A4. How is the Virzi mounted in that oval hole A4?
    But Amsterdam was always good for grieving
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Quote Originally Posted by danb View Post
    You can play a note, reach in and touch it and feel it vibrating like heck though. I can do that on my f5, and recently on an A4 Virzi I visited.
    Oh wow, ok, here is something to try. Play a note, tremolo, and have someone poke a finger or pencil eraser in and dampen the virzi. Then compare with that person just putting a finger or pencil in the hole but not touching the virzi. See what difference that makes. Neither will be optimum because the hole is partially blocked, but there will be a difference attribtuable to the virzi, that could be heard and verified.
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Never in the same room with one,
    Seeing the structure, I thought of Whizzer cones, which got added to speakers
    right around the coil ring, to present some higher frequencies better..

    Classical ensemble players, of the era had different tone desires than contemporary BG players..
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    Mandogenerator Mike Black's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fretbear View Post
    As noted the comparison is not perfect as they are not the same instrument, but in this case I also (much) prefer the Virzi-fied A4. How is the Virzi mounted in that oval hole A4?
    The Virzi is mounted in the A4 the same way that it would be on an f-hole instrument, except that it doesn't touch or next to tone bars.
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    Thanks for the video taste test, Mike. I think I agree with Tavy mostly with the comment "tone averaging device" but the A4 was "etheral" and oddly attractive. I'd like to see an A/B with F holes if anyone has that.
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    I have always been a skeptic on Virzi's, however I like the tone of the A-4 with, better then the A2 without. Good work Mike.
    I have seen a few original Verzi's come through our shop in violins and cello's. Most of the time we removed them because of an extensive repair that involved a new bass bar.
    Charley

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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    F5loar: I have a 1993 F5 with Verzi. Dave Harvey says it is 1 of 2 he made in Custom Shop. Mandolin while in case was run over by a car. Neck broken, top cracked but repairable. Anyway is this mandolin special enough to restore?

    Ed

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    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    No doubt after the Monroe incident it can be repaired but at what price? I would put $2000 in it to have it restored. Any more and you would be better off to just have another one made the same way. 1993 year to me is not as great a mandolin as those made after 1999 when they really got into the MM with varnish finish. And while Dave may have put the Virizi it and should have been made in Bozeman.

  28. #25
    Registered User Loudloar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Virzi--What am I missing?

    For what it's worth, here's a September 1922 article on the Virzi Brothers and their new invention. Notice the picture shows a Virzi tone producer installed in a grand piano. I've seen one in a piano, by the way.

    I think Tavy's viewpoint above is very well stated. My impression is similar, based on the few Virzi Loar mandolins I've played as compared to a larger number of Virzi-less Loar mandolins I've played.

    Steve

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