For the first time a carbon fiber violin wins the top honours at German instrument awards.

For the first time since it was founded in 1991, the Deutschen Musikinstrumentenpreis (German Music Instrument Awards), which annually recognises excellence within contemporary instrument making in Germany, has awarded its top honour to a carbon fiber instrument. The violin made of the space-age material impressed judges in blind-tests assessing sound quality and acoustic performance, as well as more detailed examinations of craftsmanship and “price/performance ratio.” The winning instrument was made by Mezzo-Forte Strings, a specialist carbon fiber instrument manufacturers based in Saxony. Judges said the instrument had “a very pleasant sound characteristic” and praised the company for its innovation in construction and design.

The second-prize went to a Guarneri replica by Andeas Haensel, who is a maker specializing in detailed copies of old masters. Haensel is already highly decorated for his violin-making skills, having won both the gold and silver awards at last year’s Violin Making Competition of the Associazione Nazionale Liuteria Artistica Italiana, in Pisogne, Italy.

The use of carbon fiber to make string instruments has been around since the early 2000s, with high-profile advocates of the instruments including Yo-Yo Ma and principal viola of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Alexander Mishnaevski. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this landmark win is the accessible price of the carbon-fiber instrument over the substantially higher price tag of its wooden equivalent. Haensel’s instruments can cost in excess of $20,000, where as Mezzo-Forte’s winning carbon-fiber instrument costs the equivalent $2,660.