Cello Zone! Pirastro Eudoxa String Review (for 1st time buyers) Part 1

(Part 2 here)
(Part 3 coming soon)

Detail 1: Three different ways to secure your gut string to the ebony tailpiece. C & G strings are looped, like viola da gamba or classical guitar. D-string is laced, with the knot catching underneath the tailpiece. Eudoxa A-stings have a ball end with a thick cushy washer, so I have it saddled in the fine-tuner.

Links to Sets: Eudoxa Medium Set | Oliv Medium Set |

String Gauges for Part 1

the “Isserlis” set up

I recently had a month away from my cello while it was being repaired for some damages caused by United Airlines (more on that in another post). During the interim, I was researching both plain and wound gut strings to outfit my cello(s) with. It became clear that a lot of my heroes – Pau Casals, Pierre Fournier, Jacqueline Du Pré, Daniil Shafran, Steven Isserlis, Pieter Wispelwey – have used wound gut string set ups. It was high time I gave it a try.

Now, I don’t know which gauges British cellist Steven Isserlis uses… but I know that his set up is Pirastro Eudoxa for a, d, G & Pirastro Oliv for C. [ Edit from Steven: “I use 21 ½ gauge A’s , and normal for the others. I use the A strings for c 6 weeks, others till they break!” ]

Isserlis is a benchmark among modern cellists for the tone he draws from the cello. He is famous not only for his wonderful performances of cello repertoire, but also for his decades long use of Eudoxa strings, handmade by Pirastro in Germany. If it’s good enough for him, then it’s certainly good enough for me!

||>> 2020 edit (see Part 3 – coming soon)

I suggest starting out with Medium Gauge Eudoxa A, D & G with a Light Gauge Oliv C string.  Then work from there if you need to adjust the gauge of any string individually to balance your instrument’s sound and response.

Here is my Recommended First Time Set-Up!

2020 edit <<|| 

In this Part 1 Review, I used this setup, based on what I knew of Isserlis’ set up at the time and what I thought would make sense on my cello…

Here’s the Set Up for This Review:

The new strings have been on for a three weeks now. I love the tone they produce, there is a complex, vocal quality to it. They feel nice under the fingers and allow you to sculpt each note. This is exactly the sort of color and depth I felt was lacking from my steel string set ups. It’s a robust round sound, rich in harmonic content and full of resonance. Quite honestly, they are much louder than I anticipated. I know the stereotype is that gut strings are quieter than steel, and maybe this is more to do with projection or is about steel vs plain/open gut … but I must say that on *my cello, these wound gut strings are actually louder than the steel string set ups. *Loudness results may vary from cello to cello… I’m having the opposite problem, I can’t seem to play quietly enough. So much so that I’ve had complaints from my upstairs neighbors about the volume being too loud when I am practicing.

Initially, the G/C strings seemed too stiff and limited in their range of expression via variation in tone. However, they have since opened up a lot. Now it is easier to bow near the fingerboard and activate the string quietly. At first I felt trapped into pushing towards the bridge for every note, just to get it to speak. There is a limit to how aggressively you crank on these strings, especially on the low end. You can’t bend the string to your will with crushing down bows. It won’t respond the same way, it certainly won’t give you the sound you want. There is a lot more subtlety to be explored in the sound and the technique.

Detail 2: Here you can see the “ball end” with cushy “washer” on the a-string. My a-string was and friction peg were fighting the tension a bit when I had it threaded underneath (like the d-string). So after a week, I switched to saddling it in the fine-tuner and it hasn’t given me any trouble since. This may have to do with the added downward tension behind the bridge when threading in the tailpiece vs saddling in the fine-tuner – where it sits higher. I looped the low strings, because they held tension better and were more secure on my cello that way. You can keep it simple though, and thread all of the strings like I have the d-string, just let the knot catch on the underside of the tailpiece.    [**2020 Edit: the Loop on the G & C should sit more flush to the tailpiece, it was my first time trying that set up.  You’ll see what I mean in future photos in these posts]

Pros & Cons


The tone is incredible (see video above). Many of my adult students (and student parents) being more familiar with what a cello sounds like, immediately remark at the Eudoxa’s beauteous sound. With a nice ebony wood tail piece and the gut string set up, it feels like I turned on a super wet reverb inside the cello!

Gut strings have been the sound of bowed string instruments for centuries! Steel strings only came into prominence in the 20th century during WWII when sheep gut was hard to come by and steel was cheaper to use. Playing on gut puts you in touch with centuries of tradition and helps you understand the repertoire of the past (from 1940’s back to the 1600’s) in a deeper tactile way.

Eudoxas are uniquely flexible all the way up the fingerboard! I feel more relaxed when playing in thumb position. Planting the thumb and fingers down to the fingerboard two octaves up the A&D strings is easier to do than on steel.

The staccato and spiccato bow strokes sound is unreal on these strings. I truly feel I’ve never executed a proper sounding staccato or spicatto stroke until using gut. The bite is there, but it’s still a round note unlike steel where it can sound only like the bite and nothing else.

Pizzacato feels/sounds AMAZING. If you are a jazzer or get into chordal playing, definitely give these strings a try. It makes me feel like I’m playing fretless bass guitar, Jaco style. Pizz has never sounded so lush on my cello!

Shifting is very enjoyable and fun to do on this set up (which I can’t say for most strings).

Eudoxa strings are not as expensive as one might think! A full set of Eudoxa is about $250, whereas an equivalent set of Larsen Magnacore (steel) or Thomasitik Versum (steel) runs about $350-$400. These are professional, high end strings used by such greats as Isseralis and Jacqueline du Pré. While Du Pre was transitioning from plain gut to steel strings, she used Eudoxa C4, G3 and Prim (steel) d2, a1 – as you can see and hear in the video below. Again, if Eudoxa is good enough for THE Jacqueline du Pré, they are good enough for little ole me!


The obvious one (no getting around it) – gut strings have a longer break in period. New steel Larsen Magnacore strings are said to break in within an hour. It has taken two full weeks for my Eudoxa strings to settle up-to pitch and into tension. I spent hours playing in the strings everyday, tuning constantly throughout each session. My (friction) peg tuning skills have much improved as a result! – Update: For this entire 3rd week I haven’t had to peg tune my strings once, they have held steady at A=440Hz! Wohoo!

More subject to temperature and humidity changes.

Animals definitely died in the making of these strings… they are not vegan-cellist friendly.

The Intonation Game

Sometimes it feels like you are chasing intonation around the fingerboard for the first couple of weeks. The strings are all going out of tune at slightly different rates. Because the strings are thicker, rolling your finger from back to front results in a much larger sweep of pitch. There is a bit of retraining for how to place the finger and correct the intonation. Some of these issues are break-in period ones. Now that the strings have settled in and relaxed, it feels mostly back to normal when placing and adjusting the finger to achieve good intonation.

I could foresee a couple of issues for some players/cellos in respects to the low strings: they may feel too chunky; be slow to speak; have overpowering bassy low end; not bright enough lows for your instrument to cut through; vibrate too widely for your string spacing (I can get the C string to vibrate so widely that it hits my G string!); have trouble getting the edgy tone that one can get from a tungsten wound steel string.

My one tonal complaint is with the aluminum winding on the a1 string. It sometimes sounds tooooo much like aluminum. You get a gross sound sometimes when you portamento. The toothy crunching crinkle winding-tone comes out harshly if you don’t get the bow tilt and placement just right, especially without enough rosin on.

The sweet spot on a gut string during the break in period seems to be very specific. If you aren’t listening to the physical feed back loop of the string<>bow interaction, you’ll get a false sounding note, or it may not even speak at all. Certain high register notes are particular to speak; some of the wolf-tone notes of a string can go false or simply disappear on you – if one is not using the proper bow speed, placement, pressure/weight, tightness.

Wound gut strings demand respect from you, the player. With both left hand pitch and point-of-contact for the bow – the feeling is similar to having a feral cat or rescue dog in the house for the first time. You can’t necessarily predict how they will react and behave so you are on your toes, more ready for a slew of possible outcomes. With steel strings, it’s more like having a domesticated dog or cat, you can predict fairly accurately how they will behave in each situation.

On many cellos, the strings may be too wide/thick for your bridge &/or nut – you may need to get those re-cut or altered by a luthier.

Winding Up

The first recording I ever heard of the Bach cello suites was by Pau Casals. These recordings from the late 1930’s were given to me by my Classical teacher Janet Marshall. She was part of the generation of cellists following after Casals in the mid 20th Century. Both Casals and Marshall had an incredibly powerful yet simultaneously beautiful sound. When I play on this Eudoxa gut string set up, I feel that the sound of Casals comes out of my cello. I hear all of those lessons with Janet playing back in my head, how she sang phrases and demonstrated passages with the highest passion and musicality. Playing on these strings feels like being home.

In Part 2 & Part 3 I will review a Full Set of Eudoxa Meduim + Full Set of Oliv Medium Gauge strings with more thoughts on combos. Stay tuned and Happy Practicing!


9 thoughts on “Cello Zone! Pirastro Eudoxa String Review (for 1st time buyers) Part 1

  1. Hi Brian, I am loving my A-C, Medium set of Eudoxas. I guess its’ been about 4 weeks and they produce the most beautiful sound on my cello. The only thing I may change is the C string to something that projects a little better – Maybe the Light Gauge Oliv similar to the setup in this article. although It sounds better of late. I think it may be an issue where most of the music I am playing does not use the C string as much and the C string needs to play in some more.

    • Hey Mike!
      I agree, I am absolutely loving the sound of my cello with the Eudoxa set!

      I’ve been happy with the light gauge Oliv C string, now that my strings are broken in. It speaks easy now and I can get a wider range of tones than when I first put it on. Just be forewarned that the light gauge Oliv C is still quite thick and I’ve found it is the most temperamental of all the strings in regards to humidity and heat changes. My C string actually drifted all the way up to a C# during a piano quartet rehearsal on Sunday when it was 95 degrees and super humid. Bear in mind that I have no central AC, like most apartments/homes in Madison. I do have a window unit – so during the summer when I practice in front of the ac, my strings hold their pitch perfectly. A consistent temp is makes a huge difference.

      ** I also switched over to saddling all four strings into my fine tuners and this has helped tremendously in stability of pitch and fine-tuning!

      Thanks for the comment and keep in touch about your gut string adventures!


      • Brian, Thanks so much! . The Eudoxa C has broken in nicely and has developed wonderful sound quality. Still need more projection so I will be replacing the Exudoxa C with Oliv C. BTW – I went ahead and ordered the Oliv C (thin gauge). And thanks for the note about thickness. I may have to take my cello in to make the Oliv C fit the. Love your blog. Keep up the great work!

  2. Pingback: CelloZone! Pirastro Eudoxa & Oliv String Review: for first time buyers (Part 2) | GRIMMUSIK RECORDS

  3. Hi Matthew, and thanks for your articles. I bought a set of Oliv light C and the rest Eudoxa mediums about a week ago, and finally they are pretty mich stabilzed. We’ve been having a lot of rain and humidity here in Richmond and I think that played havoc with the tuning.

    I know I need a lot more breaking-in time, but my initial impressions are that the C and G are warm and fuzzy and the D and A are harsh and strident. You allude to a similar issue with the A string, and I wonder if time has mellowed tham out at all. I am considering getting G, D and A Oliv to try, but not until I’ve given the Eudoxas a month or more. Here’s the passage I was referring to:

    “My one tonal complaint is with the aluminum winding on the a1 string. It sometimes sounds tooooo much like aluminum. You get a gross sound sometimes when you portamento. The toothy crunching crinkle winding-tone comes out harshly if you don’t get the bow tilt and placement just right, especially without enough rosin on.”


    Richmond VA

    • Hi Eric!
      It has also been very humid recently in Madison. And YES, it will absolutely mess with the tuning of your gut strings. The “pitch drift” is real. I’m not sure what the winters are like in Richmond, but here in Madison we have pretty intense seasonal swings from Dry-Winter to Humid-Summer. This transition times from dry to humid or visa versa are the worst for tuning inconsistencies and grumpy gut strings. Because of this, I tend to keep my (almost dead) strings on through the seasonal transition and wait to change to my new strings until the weather is more consistent and settled, one way or the other.

      My Eudoxa D strings tend to die going from Summer to Fall (even newly installed ones…). My Oliv G strings tend to die going from Fall into Winter (has not been a problem for Eudoxa G, yet!). My A and C strings (sometimes) have flopped out on me when it starts to get very humid or don’t respond well when it’s extremely dry. This could be different for you, but that’s been my experience, with my instrument in my geographic location.

      The D & G Eudoxa strings always break in and get really warm and expressive on my cello. I’ve been able to play these strings for over 1 year (actual playing time). Some times on and off for certain periods over the course of a few years & sometimes on straight for 1 year at a time.

      I still have difficulties with the aluminum sound of the A string. Especially Open A, which can be a gamble on both Eudoxa and Oliv As. When it is behaving, it’s the best tone and I love it (my cello is pretty deep and dark already) – very responsive to the touch and a bit light in character. For me, I get the harsh crunch &/or whistle tones on the Eudoxa A when the string has become too Dry. Especially towards the end of winter. So if the cello has been out in a dry room for too long, I try to get it back in the case with the humidifiers to let it soak up a little humidity. This squeaking and whistling and non-responding was happened on my plain gut strings too. For example, when doing 12 hour days in the recording studio last summer for Lovely Socialite’s new record, the strings would end up being out in the room for too long. They’d get too dry and crap out on me. So I had to oil the plain gut strings (and traditional wound gut G&C, with no silk wrapping) and then they responded great again for the rest of the session. (in my experimenting, I don’t recommend oiling the Eudoxa or Oliv strings, since they have the silk padding in between the winding and the gut core – I haven’t had the best results…)

      On the Rosin point. It depends on what bow hairs you have on (white, black, salt’n peppa) and which rosin(s) you use. That combo will make a huge difference. I found that the Eudoxa A string responds best when there is no rosin caked on. So I was sure to clear away the rosin mid playing, if I was getting lots of squeaks or whistles. I also found myself using light historical bows (baroque stick with black hair and a classical bow with white hair) and a rosin like Aquila’s or Melos dark (or sometimes Kolstien) to get the right sound and response (for my particular bows). Every now and again, the Kolstein was overkill for my Eudoxa A string. Recently I had my Tourte style bow re-haired with black hair and that was just too much for the Eudoxa A. I was overpowering it constantly… I ended up switching back to an Oliv set up because it has more tension and found it to be a perfect combo for my more heavy duty Tourte bow strung with black hairs. I’m currently loving that set up and getting the sound I want. So… it can be fussy and take a lot of experimenting to find the right combo.

      I hope I am not too late in this response, but at this point I feel like your strings should be nice and settled in, if you left that set up on. I’d be curious to know if your A & D mellowed out for you at all. I noticed my worst “whistle note” was F# in 4th position on the A string – for both Oliv and Eudoxa (and the open A). I just had that same set up, Eudoxa medium A, D, G and light Oliv C, on my cello from January through June 2020; my A string stayed bright, sounding like new for the whole 6 months! It was kinda crazy, and took me by surprise – I was lucky to have no winding damage this time. If there is any winding damage at the nut, the A string will become fuzzy and dull sounding (which I was more used to, from previous malfunctions…).

      Let me know what your 1 month later update is!
      Hope this helps,

      • Also! I forgot to mention that if my bow tension was set too tight, this often contributed to a harsher, brittle sound from the A & D strings. If you run a tight bow, try loosening it up a tiny bit at a time until you find that sweet spot where it still has enough tension to play the way you are used to playing, but the bow/string tone starts to soften up a little bit. It will lose it’s edge. With the Eudoxas, I was generally playing with a looser bow setting (pretty normal for me). But with the Olivs, I’ve been setting my bow to a higher tension without getting the harsh quality from the strings. Because of the Oliv’s higher tension, they can take the extra pressure without bottoming out or crunching, and they still sound rich, dark and powerful (on my instrument). With the

        Eudoxas, try a slightly looser bow setting, and see if that helps soften up the tone and avoid whistles.


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