It's really a tough call. I've played tons of older instruments, and tons of new ones. Once you get past the first few years of break in time with modern instruments, the differences get minimized. And by break in, I mean by a pro who's using it for hours every day, so it really gets played a lot. But quite often, the old master instruments still have a "thing", a sort of "patina" or shine to the sound that newer instruments usually don't have. Highly subjective stuff here though.

I play on a modern instrument, built for me in 1997 by Nicholas Frirsz, and it's been an interesting ride. It's always been a big, loud, robust instrument. But it's big loudness almost doubled between year 1 and 2, almost too much - it was still very rough sounding. But by year 10, it was starting to get some of that "old instrument" patina or warmth, and now, at 20 years, it's almost the equal of many really nice old master instruments. We'll see if it keeps that - I had an accident with it a few weeks ago, and got a soundpost crack - the top is off, it's getting a patch, oh my.

I've only heard recordings of Bob's Vuilluame, but it really sounds great. I had the opportunity to play a nearly brand new Vuillaume a few year back - a presentation or show instrument that had only been owned by collectors it's whole life. It was virtually like new - not a scratch on it. I only got to play it briefly, and I wasn't really supposed to but did anyway, and it played like a new modern instrument, but did this amazing thing while I was playing it - it went from a tight little unplayed sounding instrument to a really rich full sounding instrument in a very short time.

Steve -