Yep, the Fiddlerman himself is to be believed! You're not going to get a better viola to start on, than this Cecilio CVA-500 outfit! Incredible value at this price, even the 'extra' Cecilio bridge looks like it was cut specifically for this viola. The bow is decent for starters, and the violin setup and fit, form, and function just works. The Prelude string are mellow with the supplied bow, although I used my own light violin rosin, not the light rosin supplied by Cecilio. I needed to supply my own shoulder rest and Damp-It, and the case left a little to be desired (better room, better latching/zippers), but what the heck do you expect at this price point, I'm super impressed with the viola and bow, which are most important. I've been learning the violin, but the fingering is so tight for me that I wanted to try viola (in spite of the alto clef, haha), and so I constrained the budget to this Cecilio model, not knowing if I could handle playing viola.. I ordered the 16.5" since my arm measurement allowed for this, but the viola I received measured a 16" body length (I didn't include the heel at the base of the neck, because my violin body measures 14" not including the heel). Anyway, the end result is that with the 16" body, the fit is perfect for me, and the notes are under my fingers much more comfortably than with the violin. I placed the order with Fiddlerman, and the Cecilio arrived here from west coast to east coast in 5 business days!
One last thing, I am very impressed with the sound. I have heard that for a viola to be "truly alto" or "full scale" (or a viola scale equivalent of a 4/4 violin), it would have to be a 20" body! The viola does have a nice cello like sound on the C string, and when plucking the G, D, and A strings, it is violin like, but with more thickness. The antique varnish is nice on this viola, but I like that oil finish that my violin has. The CVA-600 is considerably more money compared to the CVA-500, but it must be awesome, if the CVA-500 is any indication. One last thing, I am pleasantly surprised that it really doesn't need any setup work. The bridge is perfect, the sound post is where it should be, and the string heights meet the standard. The nut height is slightly higher than it should be, but not bad enough to affect play or warrant expense to a beginning or intermediate player. I imagine Cecilio has improved in this area based on some past reviews (or I got lucky?). Thanks Fiddlerman !! Thanks Cecilio !!