PDA

View Full Version : Virzi inquiry - Models offered? Tonal effect?



tryingtopick
Feb-06-2021, 7:08pm
After much research I am puzzled an confused about Virzi "tone enhancers". This appurtenance was fitted to 1920s A-4s, F-4s, and F-5s correct? Did other manufacturers offer this product? Who was Mr. Virzi? Were these offered at an additional charge as an option to the purchaser? What is the effect on the tonal characteristics of the instrument? Are they attached to the mandolin braces? Instruments are described as "Virzi removed" WHY do this? Thanks to the Vintage Instruments community for the clarity!

Bill McCall
Feb-06-2021, 7:22pm
You might judge the success of them by their popularity in the marketplace since Lloyd Loar left Gibson. Removal might have been done as an indicator of their impact on the instruments.

Just sayin........:whistling:

rcc56
Feb-06-2021, 7:56pm
If I'm not mistaken, it was the Virzi brothers, and they were engaged in either making or marketing violins in Europe.

The "tone enhancer" was sort of a disc attached to the top with stilts or legs. It was not attached to the braces, at least not on the mandolins. I'm not sure, but they may have been standard on F-5's built in 1924. On all other instruments they were an option available at extra cost. Along with the models you mentioned, they have also been seen on a few F-2's and a few L-4 guitars.

Many of the Virzi's have been removed because owners thought it would improve the sound of their instruments, and in many cases, it did.

But paradoxically, even though many of the instruments did not sound their best with a Virzi, the most powerful Loar I've come across does have a Virzi.

luthier88
Feb-06-2021, 8:07pm
They were brothers who trained with their father in Naples, as violin makers. I have a reprint of the catalog somewhere that extolls the virtues and talks about the development. They were in violins ranging from $25 to $300. The instruments that they made themselves are quite nice.

The joke amongst violin makers, Sacconi in particular, is that the Virzis charged $50 to install one in your violin, and Sacconi charged $300 to remove it!

I have one here that I soaked out of a Virzi fiddle, bass bar intact. Most of the violinists who have them in their instruments didn't know that it was there until I mentioned it. I haven't removed one from a fiddle that I didn't own.

Joe Bartl
Feb-07-2021, 12:37pm
Posted about a week ago by user "Nashville" was a link to this Youtube video, The Sound of the American Mandolin (https://youtu.be/gv5E7OlKI5k), featuring Tony Williamson playing mandos from various eras. The virzi discussion starts at minute 20:00-- Williamson shows you what a virzi looks like, talks about how it is attached inside, and you get to hear a comparison of a mando with and mando without a virzi. Good video. -- Joe

pheffernan
Feb-07-2021, 1:48pm
What is the effect on the tonal characteristics of the instrument?

I always like to return to this video by Mike Black:



Obviously, any two mandolins are different, but this pair was made by the same man on the same bench at the same time.

Ray(T)
Feb-07-2021, 6:01pm
What a shiny pair! Some might suggest that the difference in sound was down to the lack of grommets on the A4.

slimt
Feb-07-2021, 7:39pm
What a shiny pair! Some might suggest that the difference in sound was down to the lack of grommets on the A4.

What do the grommets do?

Alfons
Feb-07-2021, 8:42pm
I got to play a Gibson A4 with a Virzi, and I was amazed at how big and full that particular instrument sounded. I remember thinking at the time that it sounded almost like a guitar was coming out of that little body. While I was trying to decide if I liked that one or another more, someone else bought it. :(
I'd love to try one again some day.

Ray(T)
Feb-08-2021, 4:11am
What do the grommets do?

They mute any sympathetic vibrations of those parts of the strings between bridge and tailpiece and, occasionally, nut ant tuners. The A2Z has them but the A4 doesn’t.

This has been discussed many times and I’m sure we don’t want to hijack this thread with a discussion on the benefits of them here. It’s just notable that one of the mandolins has them and the other doesn’t which could account for any percieved difference in sound.

Timbofood
Feb-08-2021, 7:14am
What do the grommets do?

They give people something to disagree about.:))

Ray(T)
Feb-08-2021, 9:53am
They give people something to disagree about.:))

Oh no they don’t !!!!

j. condino
Feb-10-2021, 11:51pm
The Virzi brothers made them across the spectrum of instruments, from violins all the way up to piano. Here is a 1924 Gibson Harp guitar that has one in it about the size of a frisbee:

j. condino
Feb-10-2021, 11:55pm
Here is one that was on display at Loarfest last year, as removed from an F5. As I recall, it was removed, stuffed away in a paper bag, and then later reunited with the instrument decades later.

zookster
Feb-11-2021, 8:38am
I always thought of the Virzi as a marketing gimmick, until I had the opportunity to see Tony Williamson demonstrate a number of Loars at MerleFest a couple of years ago. He played the instruments both unamplified, and with the system on, and because the performance space is so small (it's a lecture hall) you could REALLY hear what the mandolins sounded like. Yes, as Tony pointed out, the Virzi models had a more "focused" sound, a bit "tighter" than others. I know that's subjective, but you see where this is headed. However, I would say there was a bit of loss in volume, but -- again as Tony reiterated -- the mandolins were not designed for the music that is performed today.

William Smith
Feb-11-2021, 11:35am
Correct the Gibson Loar signed F-5's with and without Virz's were not voiced for Bluegrass music! They were voiced for classical and such music of the day right. They were also voiced for 432 tuning not 440! So if one has a Loar I suggest you try that tuning because that is what Lloyd was originally hearing. I have on my Virzi 24 and love it. 432 is the natural voice of everything, the earth, birds, etc. some say also healing. I don't know exactly what year it was changed but I heard that that evil party that came to power before WWII changed it to 440 because that is a unnatural voice! WHY DO WE STILL USE THE 440 TUNING! Think about that one if you will, I think its nutty in a very bad way!

Personally if your Loar F-5 is set up perfectly with or even without the Virzi and everything is working the way it should, they all are pretty special, each one has something, most people gravitate to what I call "Power" Loars! The in your face type, those "usually" don't have the Virzi, I really like what the Virzi does, and it works great for my style. For me the ones I've heard or played with it have it going on to my ears! OH NO THE HARDCORE GRASS POLICE ARE COMING FOR ME-I HEAR THEM NOW.

zookster
Feb-13-2021, 8:10am
Add to that the fact that MANY modern acts, especially in bluegrass, play tuned up a half step, to create a brighter tone. This changes the tonality of the instruments themselves, in particular when they are vintage.

pheffernan
Feb-13-2021, 9:14am
Yes, as Tony pointed out, the Virzi models had a more "focused" sound, a bit "tighter" than others. I know that's subjective, but you see where this is headed.

That experience might explain why a number of people believe that the Virzi particularly benefits a mandolin with an oval hole.

Bob Clark
Feb-13-2021, 10:31am
Correct the Gibson Loar signed F-5's with and without Virz's were not voiced for Bluegrass music! They were voiced for classical and such music of the day right. They were also voiced for 432 tuning not 440! So if one has a Loar I suggest you try that tuning because that is what Lloyd was originally hearing. I have on my Virzi 24 and love it. 432 is the natural voice of everything, the earth, birds, etc. some say also healing. I don't know exactly what year it was changed but I heard that that evil party that came to power before WWII changed it to 440 because that is a unnatural voice! WHY DO WE STILL USE THE 440 TUNING! Think about that one if you will, I think its nutty in a very bad way!

Personally if your Loar F-5 is set up perfectly with or even without the Virzi and everything is working the way it should, they all are pretty special, each one has something, most people gravitate to what I call "Power" Loars! The in your face type, those "usually" don't have the Virzi, I really like what the Virzi does, and it works great for my style. For me the ones I've heard or played with it have it going on to my ears! OH NO THE HARDCORE GRASS POLICE ARE COMING FOR ME-I HEAR THEM NOW.

Thanks William, this is fascinating. I will try 432 on my instruments and especially look forward to hearing how it sounds with my mandolin/guitar duo partner when we resume playing.

William Smith
Feb-13-2021, 10:56am
No problem Bob, I've been using this tuning on my 24 with Virzi for a long while now just playing around the house and love it, soothing and if there are beginners on mandolin this tuning may help them on the fingers since its less tension. Honestly I haven't played this tuning in a group but I was talking with David Harvey a year or so ago and he said that the Issacs put out a CD of all of them playing with this tuning and its GREAT!

Its not hard to tune down if you have really great tuner like I use, "NFI" but those little black Peterson Strobo-Clips are IMHO the best! No idea of what model?

Another thing I have no idea about is if builders that chase that Loar voice tune the top and back to 432? I know some builders and should ask I guess. Maybe some will chime in as I find all of this pretty fascinating:cool:

James Vwaal
Feb-13-2021, 9:38pm
I have a Mike Black oval hole A2z with Virzi. I like it. The sound has slight overtones which gives a fuller sound to my hearing.

James Vwaal
Feb-13-2021, 9:39pm
No problem Bob, I've been using this tuning on my 24 with Virzi for a long while now just playing around the house and love it, soothing and if there are beginners on mandolin this tuning may help them on the fingers since its less tension. Honestly I haven't played this tuning in a group but I was talking with David Harvey a year or so ago and he said that the Issacs put out a CD of all of them playing with this tuning and its GREAT!

With a standard Snark tuner, how does one dial in a 432?

Bob Clark
Feb-13-2021, 10:36pm
No problem Bob, I've been using this tuning on my 24 with Virzi for a long while now just playing around the house and love it, soothing and if there are beginners on mandolin this tuning may help them on the fingers since its less tension. Honestly I haven't played this tuning in a group but I was talking with David Harvey a year or so ago and he said that the Issacs put out a CD of all of them playing with this tuning and its GREAT!

Its not hard to tune down if you have really great tuner like I use, "NFI" but those little black Peterson Strobo-Clips are IMHO the best! No idea of what model?

Another thing I have no idea about is if builders that chase that Loar voice tune the top and back to 432? I know some builders and should ask I guess. Maybe some will chime in as I find all of this pretty fascinating:cool:

Hi William,

Thanks again for the info. I just tried it out on two of my instruments. First, on one of my 13" scale flat-top mandolins (one of my Barn Cat 'Moggy' builds). It was oddly disorienting at first, but once my ears adjusted, it was soothing. I played a few Renaissance-era pieces and they sounded good. Then I tried it on my 18.5" scale Weber OM. Wow, did that ever sound good. This instrument is a bit of a different animal anyway, built by Bruce Weber back in 2004 with mandola-sized plates and OM-sized ribs. Carved arch top, D-hole. A deep, resonating instrument. It really rumbles with 432 tuning. That instrument sounds right at home with it. As I said initially, I can't wait to give it a try in my duo. My duo partner plays a classical guitar along with this OM and I think it will really work at 432.

And for James Vwaal:

I also have a Mike Black instrument with Virzi. I have one of his A4 Piccolos with a little tiny Virzi. I had him build it with a Virzi based on his recommendation and have not regretted it for a minute. It really sounds rich. Oh, and you need to have a tuner that allows this calibration to do it. I am not sure Snarks are capable of that. I have a Korg CA-1 which is relatively inexpensive and does this. It is adjustable from 410-480 Hz at 1Hz increments. It's not a clip-on, but it is pretty small and I think it is more accurate than most clip-ons (YMMV).

William Smith
Feb-14-2021, 11:07am
The Virzi on my 24 F-5 makes it sound focused, tight, clean and crisp if that makes sense. Very refined and more delicate I guess I'd call it than the 24's I've played that don't have a Virzi. It seems to have brighter lows and highs also. The Virzi on mine isn't in your face, but projects very well in a jam. The ones without are very open so as in everything its in the ear of the beholder on what you personally dig! So heck I'll play and enjoy them with and without the Virzi as you sure get those "Ancient Tones"! And with 432 tuning that's very possible!

I had a 24 A-4 Gibson with a Virzi "I swapped it off-sure don't know why except I love trading and trying different mandolins!" Anyway, that A-4 sounded really sweet, had great tones. It tightened the top so it didn't have the bass that most every oval/round hole Gibson from that era has! I think the Virzi on that one had more of a midrange also. They are very great A's if you love that oval hole voice.

I don't know anything about a Snark tuner as I've used chromatic tuners in the past, IntelliTouch and for years now those Peterson Strobo Clips as they have the most precision tuning possible that's out there-that I know of anyway! They are worth every penny! NFI, just recommendations.

Eric Platt
Feb-14-2021, 1:22pm
With a standard Snark tuner, how does one dial in a 432?

Not sure with a standard, but with the "Super Tight" after turning on the Snark, there is a button the side at about 11:00. Press it once, it goes to the metronome, press it again and it shows 440. Then press the down arrow in back to get to 432.

For the HZ-1 model, switch to Hz on the back and then tune the A until it registers 432. Not sure what the other frequencies are. You'll need to look that up.

At least one old time banjo player I play with really likes 432. We haven't done it in a jam, but maybe once things get back to closer to normal, we might try.

lowtone2
Mar-16-2021, 7:46pm
432 Hz was championed by Virzi for a very short period when composers in Europe were beginning to talk of moving to a standard pitch. It was certainly not a standard that Gibson ever used, and the nazis did not demand 440 because it was unnatural. These are nothing but wild theories, and if you believe them, watch out for the nano-transmitter in your covid vaccine.

Hendrik Ahrend
Mar-17-2021, 8:20am
With a standard Snark tuner, how does one dial in a 432?

I'd suggest not to be all too enthusiastic about A432. My personal 1924 F5 sounds just fine on either A440 or 432. As our highly respected MC member Roger Siminoff suggests (without giving a source, though), we may well assume that Mr. Loar was fond of the 432 Hz idea, which is also called "scientific pitch" (aka philosophical pitch, Sauveur pitch or Verdi tuning). It is based on middle C (C4) being set to 256 Hz rather than 261.62 Hz. Since 256 is a power of 2, only octaves (factor 2:1) and, in just tuning, higher-pitched perfect fifths (factor 3:2) of the scientific pitch standard will have a frequency of a convenient integer value. With a Verdi pitch standard of A4 = 432 Hz = 24 33, in just tuning all octaves (factor 2), perfect fourths (factor 4:3) and fifths (factor 3:2) will have pitch frequencies of integer numbers, but not the major thirds (factor 5:4) nor major sixths (factor 5:3) which have a prime factor 5 in their ratios. However scientific tuning - as in our beloved mandolins - implies an equal temperament tuning where the frequency ratio between each half tone in the scale is the same, being the 12th root of 2 (a factor of 1.059463), which is not a rational number: therefore in scientific pitch only the octaves of C have a frequency of a whole number in hertz.

The 1923 Gibson Handbook suggests a pitch that was considered the international standard (without further stating, which pitch is actually meant – and there was no standard). Loar may have favored A432, but there is no way of telling that "his" master Models were actually tuned in A432 in daily combat, as the pitch prior to the 1939 London conference was all over the place, eben within the USA. The 1939 A440 decision was more or less a compromise between two popular extremes c. A415 (chamber pitch) on the one and c. A468 (choir pitch) on the other hand.

C256 being a power of 2 certainly doesn't make A432 a more valid or even more natural pitch than others. It reminds me of the obsession with the 19th. century idea of the Golden Section, which - in a similar manner as scientific pitch - is part of the then popular idea of rationalism, that is explaining the world mathematically. We haven't touched upon those many temperaments of historical instruments, yet.

lowtone2
Mar-17-2021, 10:38am
Excuse me, Verdi, not Vrzi.