After all that wondering if I should consider this tablet or that tablet, I found something I liked. It's old. In fact, it takes the cake for the oldest thing I have now. It's estimated to be from the later 1800s, German, and it has clearly lived an interesting life. It must have been smashed at one point because it's got seams and lines all over it. It's full of cleats and all the cracks seem well repaired from what I can tell. I took it to another shop for a second opinion (while also dropping off plenty of work for them) and they agreed the repairs are solid. They'll need to be because I'm not going easy on this little guy.
It's a petite 15" viola with the most comfortable neck I think I've ever played on. It's so lightweight too. The sound isn't huge, commensurate with the size of the body, but I think it'll be enough for my purposes. It's got Thomastic Visions on it right now and they've felt cold to me on other instruments. I think it's a good candidate to benefit from the new Evah Pirazzi Gold strings, which supposedly offer a good balance of power and warmth, so I'll put a set of those on when my business account has had a chance to recover from the shock of this purchase.
The most important thing is that it's petite, lightweight, has a string length similar to my primary instrument (which is actually short for it's size), and puts out enough sound to balance in the groups I play in. My previous "little viola" which I traded for this one didn't put out enough sound to be useful for anything other than the amplified gigs. It always had the pickup on. This new one I enjoy playing on it's own. And it's just so easy to play. It's really sparked a new energy for playing.
I'm not ready to let go of my "big" viola just yet, although I very nearly had it for sale after my back issues flared up. But, I finally dragged myself into a chiropractor and several adjustments later, I can play the big one again without pain. But this little one will let me play more with less effort so I don't risk more injury.
I also took advantage of the holiday break to haul all my stuff down to the shop for adjustments. I also had three bows that needed new hair. It's amazing how all that stuff can pile up until you realize you need to get your business deductions in before the new year. Anyway, it turned out that my big viola had an open seam. Oops. That explained my feeling that it was starting to sound like it was full of cotton balls.
Mine's a 1980 Erdasz and it turns out the shop had an Erdasz of their own, one with the cut away shoulder. I couldn't resist giving it a try. It was fun playing that one. It really plays a lot like mine, it's just a bit easier to get the sound out since the cut away is a 16.75" and mine's only 16.25".