CELLO REVIEW! Struna Maestro vs. Scott Cao Cello

Posted by Richard Bodinnar on 1st Oct 2015

Scott Cao 900 Cello and the Struna Maestro Cello

Welcome one more to Whitehorse Music Review. In this section, we will be comparing two amazing cellos that can be found in this beautiful shop. The two cellos that we will be comparing are the Scott 900 Cello and the Struna Maestro Cello.

The Scott Cao 900 Cellos is labelled as SCC 900. However, in Australia, it goes by the name of SCC 300. Hmm. Quite interesting actually, because there is some kind of a story behind it. The often ridiculous change in names can be traced to the fact that importers often decide to change or upgrade the different parts of Scott Cao cellos. Because of these changes, they do not want these cellos to be labelled like those that are found in the US or overseas.

Here at Whitehorse Music, we really do not put too much emphasis on the names as we normally cast our own magic on the string instruments that are found in the shop. We usually put a new sound post, a bridge, super fancy strings, or whatever it takes to maximize the best sound qualities of the string instruments.

Scott Cao, first of all, is a renowned master luthier that has gained international acclaim for the quality and beauty of his cellos and practically all of his string instruments.He is like the Rolls Royce of modern luthiers. More than being a superb luthier, he is also very good at transferring his knowledge and expertise to many of his students. His shops in China and the US are supervised by many of his students. In fact, a number of his students also work there as apprentices.

Scott Cao cellos are the kind that makes people drool over. The quality of the workmanship of his cellos is simply amazing. This is especially very exciting for a luthier like me to see a cello of amazing quality. It is often a common sight to see very wet Scott Cao cellos on display. So I suggest, you get one yourself before the shop owner or the string specialist drools all over the masterpiece.

If you have seen the video review of this section, you should hear the kind of top sound quality that the Scott Cao 900 cello brings. It has a full and warm sound that is really pleasing to hear. The top strings are not brassy, while the bottom strings are not unfocused. It has a very nice sound across all four strings.

One very nice sound quality of this Scott Cao cello is its projected power. Soloists or those who have parts that require them to stand out should make a beeline for this cello. The power it brings makes it very nice to hear, especially when you are sitting near the back rows of a concert hall. You might even find the sounds more pleasant and warm when heard from a distance. It is a very nice feature of this cello.

The second cello in this blog is the Struna Maestro. If you have seen the video reviews, then you would know that the Struna Maestro is one of the four Struna brands that is a result of my collaboration with an amazing Chinese luthier. The Struna Maestro is the top of the range in the Struna brand and is personally handcrafted by the master luthier himself.

Being China-made is a feature that is shared by the Struna Maestro and the Scott Cao 900 cellos. One thing that strikes me about customers who come into the shop is the belief that if a cello or a string instrument is made in China, it is supposed to sound tinny or even harsh. Well, with these two, that is just not the case. Of course, China has millions of people and there could possibly be hundreds of luthiers around. There is also every bit of a chance that you could buy a tinny or harsh sounding cello in the process. However, with these two, you should be assured with the beautiful, warm, mellow, but strong sounds that they bring.

Since we cast our own magic spells of Whitehorse Music, we made our own spin on both the Struna Maestro and the Scott Cao cellos. What I did was to put very bright strings on the bottom strings to clear up the sound. Although the sound in the beginning is a bit harsh or metallic, it would soon really clear up the bottom strings with enough playing.

For the top, I used this magnificent Larsen strings that are very warm-sounding. Since it is usually at the top where the tinny sounds come from, the Larsen strings would eliminate that tinny sound and in place would be a warm and mellow sound. So the bottom strings, where it is usually muddy or unfocused will become very clear while the top strings, where it is usually tinny would have a warm and mellow sound. It is one way of enhancing the harmonics of these amazing cellos.

Another unique advantage with using the bright strings for the bottom strings is the addition of resonance and vibration. Because of the kind of strings used at the bottom, the top two strings start to ring longer. The changes in the bottom string also allow the ring to be more noticeable. It means that I have taken two quite mellow cellos and made them slightly brighter down the bottom. The changes have really helped since they really sound fantastic and have even better consistency in the sounds across all four strings.

One thing of note with the Struna Maestro is the kind of spirit and oil varnishing that is being used here. It makes the cello look like a 300-year old string instrument and allows the wood to vibrate the way it wants to.

A feature that is common among all Strunas and is very evident in the Maestro is the warm and mellow sounds in the top two strings. It also has a very focused top sound. My goal is to make the Struna sound like a choir of angels. For me, this is clearly heard with the Struna Maestro.

Both cellos have warm and mellow top strings while the bottom strings are very clear. I would give the slight edge of power to the Struna. However, the projected power of the Scott Cao is something to marvel at also. They both get a thumbs up from Whitehorse Music.