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Thursday 14 November 2019

The Audio Engineering Society met at Solent tonight to listen to Sara Rubio discuss what makes a great violin and how we can analyse violin quality.

Professionals and students met in the Palmerston Lecture Theatre for an enlightening evening of information and discussion. Stringed instruments of the violin family have been analysed in a number of ways over many years. The methods vary from an objective frequency response analysis to subjective blind-testing while listening to different instruments. However, the outcome always seems to be somewhat inconclusive. Sara asserts that there appears to be a boundary of minimum quality about which it is possible to distinguish a poor and good quality instrument. Unfortunately, above that boundary, current methods struggle to show a significant difference between 'good' instruments and 'exceptional' instruments, such as 18th Century Italian violins. The comparison presented was based upon the experiments carried out in 2018 by Sara with the help from Jonathan Beecher, an experienced luthier who has been working with stringed instruments of all qualities for over 40 years.

Sara has a BSc in acoustics and music, along with an MSc in human responses in combined sound and vibration stimuli from the University of Southampton (ISVR). Having played the violin since the age of just two, Sara studied at the Conservatoire in Madrid before coming to the UK to combine acoustical engineering with her continuing musical education. This allowed her to further develop her passion about violin acoustics from the perspective of both a high standard violinist and a qualified acoustic engineer. Sara joined the Musical Acoustics Group of the Institute of Acoustics (IoA), becoming a committee member in 2017. She presented on this subject, together with Jonathan Beecher, during the one-day meeting held at Edinburgh University in October 2018.

The media technology programme is proud to host several meetings a year for the Audio Engineering Society, as several of our staff and students are active members. Such talks are great for providing students with context for their formal studies as well as a widening their appreciation of current practice and their industry networks. Many thanks to Sara and the AES for sharing their expertise with us.

The next AES talk will be from Simon Goodwin on 4 December and is titled “From Beep to Boom: Advances in Game Audio”.

Find out more and register

Sara Rubio Playing one of her violins