Depending on your taste, the electric violin either looks insanely cool or absolutely terrible. But you have to admit. They’re incredibly useful instruments.
For a start, they make practice a lot more accessible as you can ‘play silently’ via headphones. As you have to run them through an amp, you have the option of adding effects too such as reverb or delay, opening up a whole array of different sounds (which is perfect for experimentation).
They’re also perfect for recording. Sure, you can play an acoustic violin through a microphone, but nothing beats the ease of just plugging one into your recording gear.
In this article, we’re going to guide you through buying the best models. We’ll show you our favorite models at three price points, and help you work out which one fits your needs.
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Electric Violins
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Here’s what we’ll cover.
Buying Guide – Key Considerations
Types of Electric Violin
Perhaps you live in a shared house or have neighbors that prefer peace and quiet? If so, then a silent violin is a good option for you. These instruments are designed to be heavily muted and have a built-in headphone jack so you can hear what you’re playing without disturbing people. Don’t worry, of course. There’s still an amplifier jack so you can play loud when you get the chance.
If you’ve ever seen or played the guitar before, you’ll recognize the marked strips across the guitar’s fingerboard, which are known as frets. This design is occasionally incorporated into electric violins so you can visualize what you are playing slightly more easily. This is especially handy if you’re playing with a loud band as you’re far more likely to play in tune despite the other instruments blasting in your ear. Frets also mean that you can incorporate guitar techniques into your tune, for some extra diverse sonic creations.
Performance violins are designed to be the best that money can buy, so are great options for professional musicians or those about to embark on a serious recording session. These instruments look different from classical violins, and are usually an S or trapezoid form, with finetuning keys set into the tailpiece. Saying that, they are still built to be a standard length and are played in the same way you would a traditional model.
Number of Strings
Traditionally, violins have 4 strings tuned to G, D, A, E in ascending order, however, a 5-string model will give you an extra low C, so the instrument’s tuning is C, G, D, A, E. This is great if you’re experienced at playing alternative tunings and love low-end tones similar to those produced by violas, but not so great if you’re a beginner. Novices may struggle with the extra string, as fingering becomes slightly different due to the wider fretboard which requires extra handspan and stretch. Additionally, five string violins can cost a little extra too, so just bear that in mind before you go buying one.
Traditional acoustic violins are hollow bodied and made from wood. Their sound is amplified via the f-holes located on either side of the instrument, so there is no output jack for plugging into an amplifier. Undoubtedly, acoustic models produce the truest tone, but it has to be said, some good quality electric ones still come close.
For example, electric violins are often crafted from spruce and maple for their authentic tone. Maple itself gives out a bright, sustaining sound, whereas spruce is well balanced and vibrant. Other models can also be made from artificial material such as acrylic or carbon fiber, but with the help of decent pickups, they still sound acoustic and wooden.
Though sizes work the same, solid-body electric violins don’t follow traditional shapes and are often minimalistic and lightweight for convenience and playability. Just bear in mind, some shapes get pretty abstract, so make sure you try out the type you’re interested in before you buy. Semi-hollow electric models, on the other hand, are the same shape as classical versions but have sealed F-holes which create a hollow center for more realistic resonation and tone.
Equalization and Effects
Electric violins usually come with a built-in volume dial, but if you’re lucky and get extra, there may be a treble, middle and bass control too. These alter the level of each cutting through your sound. With that in mind, the amp itself can also have several similar EQ settings and additional effects like reverb, delay, flange or chorus built-in, so don’t worry too much if yours doesn’t have everything included. You can even buy extra effects pedals and add them into a circuit if you fancy getting creative, just remember, the more pedals you have, the more complicated playing live will get.
Product Round-up & Mini Reviews
Merano MVE10BK 4/4
So, we’re going to start our reviews by looking at three of the most affordable models out there. Merano’s MVE10BK is the second-best value kit we’ve included and is the perfect choice for those of you looking for an instrument that comes with a full set of equipment. For your money, you get a carry case, bow, amplifier cable, 9v battery, earphones and an extra set of strings, which is pretty generous considering!
We think that the best aspect regarding the instrument itself has to be the hand carved, solid maple body and the quality ebony fingerboard. Merano has used maple because it is tough, durable and allows the instrument to produce some well-sustaining bright tones. The ebony fingerboard further strengthens the MVE10BK’s upper midrange by adding some extra high-end bite.
Just be aware that the strings do not come set up, so if you’re a novice, you’re likely going to have to spend a little extra money taking the violin to a music shop for stringing. With that in mind, the strings provided are not great, and you may be better off getting the shop to install a completely different set that is higher quality. Once set up, Merano’s design is pretty quiet when it’s not amped up, so you won’t annoy the neighbors by practicing with headphones or without them.
Overall, the MVE10BK’s build and tone it produces is fair, but not fantastic. But saying that, the bundle is very convenient, so would be a perfect choice for a novice violinist who wants to avoid having to shop for everything separately.
- Price – The amount of equipment you get here is excellent value for money.
- Tonewood – The maple and ebony used produce a beautiful bright tone.
- Doesn’t stay in tune – The tuning pegs do not hold the strings in tune for long.
- Strings – These are not great sounding, so you’ll probably want to upgrade to some that are higher-quality.
The CEVN-2BL by Cecilio is the most affordable e-violin bundle we mention today, so what exactly do you get for the cash? Well, as well as the instrument, you get a well-padded hard case, 9v battery, bow, auxiliary cable, rosin block, and set of headphones, pretty generous right? The whole package even comes with a year’s warranty, so you can be sure the manufacturers are confident with their design.
The Cecilio 4/4 is pretty cool looking with its metallic blue finish and cutaway side, so is likely to please anyone looking for something with a bit of edge. But ultimately, the best aspect here has to be the technology incorporated into Cecilio’s design. As well as the standard amp and headphone ports, there’s also a line in jack so you can practice playing along with a backing track. This is handy, as it means you can learn songs and play along silently with headphones, for a 100% disturbance-free practice!
The bow that comes with this set is also high-quality, made from Mongolian horse hair and Brazilwood, for an authentic playing experience. The body wood and fingerboard are similar to the Merano we mentioned above and consists of a solid maple body and an ebony fingerboard. So, the tone the CEVN-2BL produces is on the bright side, with plenty of mids to cut through a mix.
Overall, this package offers slightly more technology than Merano’s gear we talked about above and produces a similar kind of tone. So, we’d say that this model is therefore great for those of you wanting to practice their band’s tracks or favorite songs on a budget – For the money, you really can’t complain.
- Line in jack – So you can practice along to any tracks you need to learn.
- Looks good – For the price this thing looks quite edgy with its unique body shape.
- Heavy – This is heavier than most acoustic versions.
- Headphones – The headphones included are cheap, so you might want to invest in some higher-quality versions.
Out of all the budget kits we review in this article, the Kinglos 4/4 is the pricier option, so what exactly do you get for your money? Well, the kit includes a case, bow, rosin, aux cable and an extra set of strings/ bridge, which is pretty much the same as both packs we mentioned above, except for the battery, which isn’t included.
But two things set this instrument apart from the other low-cost versions; its aesthetic and its pickups. It looks beautiful, with its striking reverse S shape body and floral blue and white print, so it’ll suit anyone looking for a design with a touch of elegance. The pickups are a set of active DV-9s, for heightened sensitivity and a richer sound – these help enhance the natural tone that comes from the solid spruce body and an ebony fingerboard. A 3-band EQ controls all this output, so you can fine-tune the bass, treble, and volume coming through your mix to just how you like it.
The Kinglos 4/4 also features a durable carbon fiber tailpiece and a set of fine tuners which should withstand plenty of use and ensure that the instrument stays in tune for a more extended period of time than most budget options out there. We’d, therefore, recommend this instrument to anyone wanting something elegant, with great sound and plenty of tone control.
- Tone – The set of active DV-9 pickups enhance the natural tone of the body and fingerboard wood.
- Pretty – One of the nicest designs we’ve seen.
- High bridge – The bridge is set so high that tuning the strings can initially be very difficult.
Stagg EVN 4/4
So now we’re ready to review some of the best, mid-range models out there, starting with the EVN MRD by Stagg. The great thing about this instrument is that it’s made from high-quality maple, which means you get an authentic, bright tone, similar to that you’d expect to hear from a classical version. Then there’s the option of controlling all this sound with three-band EQ, which includes volume, treble and bass definers. So yes, this instrument would be great for anyone that needs to the option of altering their tonal dynamics during a set.
Like the Cecilio we reviewed above, the EVN MRD also features a handy 1/8” input jack for MP3 or CD input, which is great if you need to be able to practice along to backing tracks. Of course, there are additional headphone and amplifier slots too, so you can play loud or as close to silent as possible. It’s worth mentioning that the strings provided with this kit are medium, which seems to add quite a lot of tension near the bridge, so you’ll need to swap them for a set of lighter gauge versions to avoid structural damage with long term use.
Aesthetically, Stagg’s design looks pretty classy with the metallic red lacquer across the S-shaped body, although perhaps not quite as eye-catching as Kinglos design we mentioned above. To us, this is more designed for those that prefer a subtle, yet sophisticated look.
Overall, we feel that the EVN MRD will be excellent for those of you that want an authentic sound, with the option of some extra tone control. The technology here is pretty modern, so you’ll be able to record songs, add effects into your loop and play along with your favorite backing tracks too.
- Durable – The quality build here is good – the solid maple body will withstand plenty of use.
- Nice tone – If you’re a fan of brighter classical violin, this is the instrument for you.
- High bridge – This means the action is too high to play initially, so you’ll need to take this for a proper setup.
- Needs thinner strings – This pack comes with medium gauge strings, which creates a lot of stress close to the bridge.
The SV-180E by Cremona is currently selling for about $20 more than the EVN MRD, so what’s the difference here? Well, firstly this model is set up to slightly higher standards and is finished by hand in the company’s California based workshop. But the thing that stands out has to be the Piezo pickup, which captures and enhances the natural, warm tone that comes from the instrument’s rosewood bridge. Saying that, the ebony fingerboard also adds a touch of brightness to help achieve a brighter mid-range within your mix.
Another cool feature that the SV-180E offers is the lower bout, which has been designed to accept any chinrest and shoulder pad you like, so you can adjust the settings to ensure you’ll always be comfortable playing. The lower bout is also fitted with four sturdy fine tuners, which mean your violin will stay in tune for longer than those with cheaper options. Of course, there’s also a line in and out jack so you can play along to your favorite tracks, or blast tunes out through an amp. With that in mind, you can also use headphones with the SV-180E if your housemates want some peace and quiet.
In regards to aesthetics, this thing has been designed as a sort of modern take on traditional acoustic models, with its lacquered maple body wood elegantly cut out at the sides. So, overall, thanks to its authentic tone and look, the Cremona SV-180E will undoubtedly please anyone who loves classical violin, but wants an instrument with a little more character and amplification.
- Piezo pickups – These enhance the tone of the instrument for a more natural sound.
- Adjustable – The lower bout can be fitted with pretty much any chinrest you like so should be pretty comfortable to play.
- Rough bridge – The bridge itself isn’t smoothed down, so it tends to wear your strings out faster than usual.
- Heavy – This instrument is heavier than most acoustic versions.
Bunnel’s EDGE Outfit is the priciest of the mid-range packs we mention during this article, but for your extra dollar, you get an amp included as well as similar items we mentioned earlier. But what’s so great about the instrument? Well, we’d say it’s a combination of the solid carved maple body, the ebony fingerboard, and the ceramic Piezo pickups, all of which complement each other nicely and enable the EDGE to produce it’s pleasing bright tone. There’s also a three-band EQ to control all this sound easily during a set. For example, you may want to increase the high end if you’re playing amongst lots of bassy instruments, this way you can ensure you’ll be heard through the ensemble’s mix.
Some of the extra items that come with this instrument are also pretty cool. In particular, the bow is high-quality. The shaft is made from super responsive Brazilwood, with stylish mother of pearl accents, and Bunnel has also included Mongolian horse hair for a smooth, rich tone. The amp itself is also capable of getting pretty loud considering its small size, and the case has a built-in hydrometer, so you can rest assured the violin’s wood will not warp in extreme conditions. Overall, the EDGE kit is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a full set of decent quality equipment. We think for the price, Bunnel have tried to make this package as convenient and innovative as possible.
- Comes with amp – This saves a lot of money, as amplifiers can cost hundreds of dollars.
- Convenient – Bunnel has thought about everything here, there’s even a built-in hydrometer in the case!
- Tuning pegs – These tend to slip a little unless you have the instrument set up correctly.
- Low-quality strings – You’ll probably want to upgrade these as soon as you can, as the accompanying set reduce playability.
D Z Strad
So, now we move onto our favorite high-end models, starting with D Z Strad’s E203. So, what’s so great about this model? Well, firstly the instrument itself arrives at your door with a professional setup, which saves quite a bit of cash and hassle taking it to a music shop. But what sets it apart from the rest is the premium quality ebony tuning pegs and fingerboard. Firstly, this means the instrument will be extra tough and durable, so it’ll survive being carted around to plenty of performances. Secondly, when it comes to tone, ebony is crystal clear and bright and will feel smooth on your fingers. So, the overall playability here is pretty decent.
There’s also a strong, but lightweight carbon fiber tailpiece and four fine tuners, which allow you to adjust your strings to the perfect pitch. Carbon fiber as a material is extra light, so you’ll not tire out as quickly while playing. It’ll also last longer than plastic or wooden alternatives you find on low-mid range electric violins. The case Strad have included with this package is also really well-padded, so you can rest assured that your instrument will be protected while you’re on your travels. The bow is of a similar quality to Bunnel’s design, with tasteful pearl inlays and a responsive Brazilwood frame.
Overall, the E203 is designed for ultimate playability and pulls it off well. The ebony fingerboard is super smooth, and the carbon fiber tailpiece is exceptionally lightweight, so you’ll have no problem creating music for hours.
- Durable – The carbon fiber and ebony materials used to craft this are extremely tough and will withstand plenty of use.
- Tone – The overall sound the E203 produces is bright and clear.
- EQ – There’s only an option for volume alteration here, so you’ll need an amp with plenty of controls if you want to change your mix.
- Cost – This instrument is quite expensive despite being somewhat similar to some of the mid-range models we mentioned above.
Wood Violin Stingray SV
The Stingray is the second most expensive model we review today, and for the price, you get some nice features. Two aspects really stand out here.
Firstly, the Wood Tru-Tone pickup is a great choice, as it closely mimics an authentic classical violin tone, but also brings increased clarity and precision. This means there is zero noise interference when you plug into your amplifier. The second most refreshing thing about this item has to be its design. Only the bottom half of the body is preserved, which creates a unique ax type shape, all covered in a sparkling black lacquer.
So, yes, this thing would suit violinists that play in metal or heavy metal bands or could look edgy in other genres of music too.
The Stingray is also very lightweight, thanks to its advanced, composite tailpiece – so your arms won’t be aching after playing for long periods. The tailpiece itself also includes a set of four fine tuners, which are incredibly precise and will keep your instrument in tune for hours. We should probably also mention that you don’t need a battery to play this model, plug it in and go. Overall, we think the Stingray is excellent for those looking for something with lots of style and bite, to work in a metal band.
- Stylish – Looks pretty gnarly and is unique enough to turn some heads.
- Pick-ups – The Tru-Tone pickups sound just like an authentic acoustic.
- Pricey – The Stingray is the second most expensive item on our list, but you get an excellent design for the price.
- Needs a setup – To get the string tension correct, you’ll need to take this for a proper set up at a shop.
NS Designs NXT4a
NS Design’s NXT4a is our premium choice, but what sets it apart from the rest? Well, firstly this model is fretted so that you can incorporate guitar techniques into your playing style for extra sonic versatility. Secondly, there are some high-tech NS Polar Pickups installed, for an intensely rich and well-balanced tone. The output circuitry is also active, so it gives your sound a bit of extra kick when playing through an amp.
There’s even a specially crafted tuning system built into the bottom of the body. This is designed to prevent any slipping and to allow you to restring your instrument quickly, without any faff. As well as being convenient, NS Designs have also tried to make this thing as comfortable as possible. They’ve included a custom, balanced shoulder rest and a well-padded, adjustable base, that molds to your body shape, for ultimate security and comfort while you play.
The manufacturers have also included set screws, which mean you can adjust the bridge to the exact height you prefer your action. It’s worth mentioning that the bridge itself is made from maple, so it adds a nice touch of brightness to the violin’s tone. This works well with the rich sounding pickups, by letting the midrange cut through with a little extra oomph. Overall, we’d say the NXT4a is best for those of you wanting something comfortable. With all these adjustable, padded features you definitely won’t be disappointed! Just remember, the frets can take some getting used to if you’ve not played an instrument like guitar or ukulele before.
- NS Polar Pickups – These bad boys mean the tone is super rich and full.
- Comfortable – The chin rest and shoulder rest are both adjustable, so you’ll be able to play for hours without getting any aches or pains.
- Price – This is a lot more expensive than any of the other models we’ve mentioned so far.
- Fretted – This isn’t a con, but the fretted neck may be confusing if you’re an absolute novice.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this read and feel like you’ve learned something, or at least have some idea of what to look before you buy one. Just remember, there’s isn’t exactly a perfect choice, rather it depends on what you need as a musician.
Saying that, if you’re looking for a beginner violin or shopping on a budget, then you can’t go wrong with Merano’s MVE10BK or Cecilio’s CEVN-2BL bundles, both are very affordable and come as a complete kit to get you started. Bunnel’s EDGE package could also save you some money too. Yes, it’s more expensive than the other two; however, their kit includes a small practice amp so that you may save quite a bit of cash investing in this.
If you’re after something that looks great, then the Kinglos 4/4 will add a touch of elegance to your performances. With that in mind, Wood Violin’s Stingray will bring some extra sturdy presence at a metal gig too! If you want something that sounds genuinely authentic, then go for Cremona’s SV180E, this instrument has a set of Piezo pickups fitted for a classical tone.
Perhaps you’re looking for something with lots of handy technology to enhance your set? If so, you can’t go wrong with NS Design’s NXT41 fretted model. Just remember this is our premium choice, so if you’re shopping on a budget you may be better off with Stagg’s EVN MRD, this still has a three-band EQ and MP3 input, for practicing.
If playability is what you’re after, then D Z Strad’s E203 has a high-quality ebony fingerboard for silky smooth fingering and key changes. With that in mind, the NXT41 is almost fully adjustable too, so that would be an excellent choice for any comfort lovers out there.
What did you choose in the end? Let us know in the comments below…
Happy Fiddling! 🙂