The violins of 18th Century craftsman Antonio Stradivari are legendary. The most perfect violins ever made. They're so perfect, in fact, that renowned violin soloists not only can't tell the difference between a Stradivarius and a modern violin, they actually tend to prefer the latter. Wait, what? Crap.
The Strad ("Essential Reading for the String Music World Since 1890"!) sums up the test, which asked blindfolded violinists – professional violinists – to play a range of violins and compare their sounds (featured below is a video of the experiment):
A modern instrument was the clear winner and a Stradivarius the loser in a double-blind test of old Italian and new violins, conducted at the Auditorium Coeur de Ville in Vincennes, Paris. In a follow-up to the controversial experiment conducted in Indianapolis in 2010, ten professional soloists compared the tonal qualities of twelve instruments – six by 18th-century Italian luthiers and six by contemporary makers. The results, published on 7 April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirmed those of the 2010 study, which showed a general preference for new violins and that players were unable to reliably distinguish new violins from old.
Proving once again that a double-blind test is a pretty good litmus test for distinguishing general snobbery from true connoisseurship.
Read more details over at The Strad.