I started taking cello lessons after my cellist niece was killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the expressway. I really did it in her honor... I will never play in an orchestra like her, but it was a connection to her. ANYWAY, I don't have ROOM for a cello anymore, so on an impulse I put an ebay bid on a Yita viola. The auction ended during a televised disaster, so I got an unbelievable deal. For $60 I was afraid they wouldn't send it when I won, that's about the price of the Dominant strings on it.. I got a 15.5" which I realize is small for me, but I plan to give it to my granddaughter when she can use it. I am happy with the tone, at least it isn't an obnoxious nasal buzz and it's pretty even across the instrument. I would say it has a nice singing voice. The top is fine grain and the back has a nice flame.
The fingerboard orientation is driving me a bit crazy. At this point I am working on scales, and they don't come easy. I had planned to learn it like a big violin because learning tool are easier to find, but my conformist nature is stopping me. I should do it right if I do it...
Welcome to Violaman.com, Mark!
What a tragic story about your niece, but a beautiful way to honor her memory!
Now that you've switched to viola, you find the same strings and notes, just written in a new clef. I like to joke that a viola is just a "shoulder-fired cello."
Pierre/Violaman has all the major scales in his video section to help learn and compare intonation while you adjust to the new finger placement.
Best of luck!
P.S. the "Y'all" gives you away. In what part of the American South do you live? I grew up in New Orleans and Dallas.