We are seeing a large uptick in imitation (fake, knock-off, not-the-real-thing) strings and thought we should address this issue and discuss ways to avoid purchasing knock-off strings.
An Example We recently had a situation with a customer go something like this...
The customer set up an appointment to drop off their instrument for repairs and requested we install the new set of Dominant strings stored in their case.
When we opened their case to evaluate the repairs needed, we found a coil of new strings in a zip-top, plastic bag. Since we didn't see any Dominants in the case, we called the customer back to see if they still had the Dominant strings with them in their car.
They informed us that the coil of strings in the zip-top bag were the Dominants they purchased and that packaging was how they were shipped to them from the online seller.
As you might have guessed, the customer did not receive Dominant strings from the online seller.
How to Identify Authentic Strings 1. Shop with a Reputable Business! Did you find an online price for name-brand strings which is half of what your local music store charges? Does that price feel kinda too good to be true? It probably is!
Many string manufacturers have worked to level the market for businesses big and small by implementing Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) guidelines for their dealers. When a business (or dealer) sells items from the actual string manufacturer, that business is then legally required to advertise the strings for no lower than the MAP price.
Sellers/business entities who sell through large online retailers and auction websites generally have little motivation to offer you authentic strings because they can easily re-name themselves when they get into trouble for selling knock-off items.
However, your local music store not only has a legal responsibility to sell you authentic items at a fair price, but their reputation is on the line when they sell to you! An actual music store can't just create a new user account, pick a new business name and then slap a new sign on the building just to sell some strings of questionable nature. No small business owner has time for that!
2. Look at the Strings The other tricky thing that happened with our customer in the example above is they were able to see a photo online of the strings they ordered.
In fact, the winding on the top AND the bottom of the strings matched the same color windings that the manufacturer, Thomastik-Infeld, uses on their Dominant strings. When the customer saw that the winding colors in the online photo matched the winding colors of the Dominants currently on their instrument, they went ahead and ordered the strings.
Although our staff noticed that the thicknesses of the knock-off strings were incorrect, this isn't something we would expect the average player to notice nor is it something that would be terribly easy to identify from a photo.
The real give-away for these specific imitation strings was that the ball ends of the strings were all the wrong color. A silver-colored ball end is a subtle difference from a brass-colored ball end, but it something that was identifiable from the photo listed by the trickster online seller.
What Should Your Strings Look Like? We knew the ball end colors were incorrect from experience, but you can figure out this information by visiting our String Identification Chart or by directly visiting most string manufacturer's websites.
For example, if you visit Thomastik-Infeld's website and click on Dominant Strings, you will see the following on their website: If you zoom in on the center of the screen, you will see that the "Tailpiece End" of the string is labeled with the color of the actual ball end. You will also see other helpful identifying information like the colors of the silk windings at the tailpiece and peg end of the string. Support Actual Music Stores!
Ultimately, community trust is what small businesses are built upon. Honest businesses rely on happy customers who want to keep coming back.
We at Lashof Violins sell only authentic strings. This not only honors the people who work hard to make your strings, but also helps you make wonderful music with great quality strings!
Do what you can to support music stores when you can. Give them your business and they can keep working to make you happy!