What makes the sound of Stradivarius violins so special? Musicians and collectors have long prized Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari’s instruments. “The 1726 Belgiorno Stradivarius is one of the great violins of the world and carries all of the trademarks of Stradivari’s inimitable artistry; the tone is exceptional in its brilliance, and it has a spectacular palette of colours and expressions,” Australian Chamber Orchestra principal violinist Satu Vänskä said earlier this year when the orchestra acquired the almost 300-year-old instrument. “Owning a Stradivarius is practically impossible for my generation of musicians, so to be the custodian of an extraordinary instrument such as this one is the opportunity of a lifetime. But what makes this instrument so special is that, like all of Stradivari’s best instruments, it has a soul and a personality of its own.”

Stradivarius, Research, Australian Chamber Orchestra Australian Chamber Orchestra principal violinist Satu Vänskä. Photo © Nic Walker

According to a team of researchers in Taiwan, while “the construction methods of Amati and Stradivari have been carefully examined, the underlying acoustic qualities which contribute to their popularity are little understood.”

The team’s study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy...