Amber Cello Review by James Halsey, Director of the Aboyne Cello Festival
The crucial thing to remember when reading reviews of different strings is that the reviewer is often just talking about a particular cello, with a particular bow, used by one person with one set of strings. So much in this set up can vary. This is a report of how Warchal Amber strings worked when used by me - James Halsey, on my fantastic 2014 cello made by Charlton Beare - supplied by Adrian Warrick, with my rather nice 1840s French bow.
I play a lot, and work my cello hard. I like a fairly tough set-up and enjoy really dragging sound out of my cello. When the Warchal Amber strings were first put on the cello I was absolutely blown away. The sound was big, round and complex - really allowing the cello to show all its layers and colours. What I should say at this point is that every time I change a set of strings, the new set sounds wonderful. I don't realise it is time to change strings until the previous set has started to go off, so the new set is bound to be such a relief after struggling with the end of life of the previous set.
Warchal though are good. It took a while to play them in. The first thing I feel is what the tonal possibilities are, and these strings really did deliver! However, it was about 6 days before I felt comfortable playing quick short notes as they did not respond quickly to start with. Do also bear in mind that there is a concurrent process where the player has to learn how to work with the new set-up, and perhaps on a second trial, the quick notes might appear sooner?
The next two months were wonderful. The cello sounded amazing, and I was able to enjoy more subtlety and variation of colour than I had found in the cello before. Then they started to go off. The fifths went - it became difficult to tune and my quartet colleagues found it increasingly difficult to tune to me. I assumed the problem was with me, but as I hinted at earlier, I changed the strings and suddenly could tune the instrument again! As the Warchal Amber strings were deteriorating, they still sounded great, which is partly why I struggled for a couple of weeks before realising they were worn out.
Guidelines on the Warchal website suggest that synthetic strings will be working well for perhaps 150 hours playing. I play a lot - perhaps averaging 4 hours a day, so the guidelines suggest that these strings are at optimum performance for around 5 weeks for me! In fact I did pretty well then, getting double this from my first set.
These Warchal Amber strings were absolutely fantastic for 2 months for me with my current set-up. They allowed and encouraged the complexity of sounds
within the cello to emerge.