The violin pickup is a small device you can clip or attach to a violin to amplify its sound.
The thing is, getting a faithful reproduction of your violin when it’s amplified can be a tricky affair.
For this article, we went on the hunt for the best violin pickup, and here’s what we found.
Best Violin Pickups: Product Guide
Fishman V-200 Classic Series
Fishman are renowned for their expertise in acoustic amplification. The Fishman V-200, a further incarnation of their best-selling V-100, is no exception. It’s a high quality, piezo-ceramic pickup that faithfully reproduces the sound of the violin.
It requires no alteration when installing, and uses a Carpenter-style, 1/4″ output jack which mounts on the side of the instrument.
As it’s passive, it doesn’t require any batteries and can be either permanently fitted or attached/removed as and when suits you.
To realize its full potential, Fishman recommends you use an impedance-matching preamp such as the Platinum Stage, Platinum Pro EQ, or Powerjack (even better, one of their Aura Imaging preamps). However, if you want simple reproduction, it does the job just fine, and you always have the option of adding the preamp at a later date.
- High quality, piezo-ceramic pickup that produces a gorgeous, natural tone.
- Easy installation with no alteration.
- Pair it with an impedance-matching preamp (ideally an Aura Imaging preamp) for the ultimate tone.
- Lightweight to minimize muting.
- Great value for money.
The Feather Violin Pickup with Flexible Micro-Gooseneck by Myers Pickups
The Feather is super lightweight – hence ‘the Feather’ moniker – pickup that’s made in the USA.
It has an internally powered, active preamp that faithfully amplifies the natural tone and beauty of your violin via its sensitive omnidirectional microphone. The clip has a flexible goose-neck, so you’re able to make fine adjustments to the position of the microphone as required.
This pre-amp has a soft rubber fluted volume knob, putting you in control of your output and allowing you to make small adjustments from the stage.
As the pickup is so small and subtle, it will barely affect your instrument’s aesthetic, making it perfect for purists or classical musicians who would like their look to remain unaltered.
- Super lightweight and discreet pickup.
- Internally powered, active preamp.
- Built-in highly sensitive omnidirectional microphone.
- Soft rubber fluted volume knob.
- Made in the USA.
KNA VV-3 Detachable Passive Piezo Pickup
The KNA VV-3 is a superbly priced piezo pickup with a lightweight, wood-encased sensor that’s designed to deliver the natural sound of your violin.
It clips to the bridge, then the small ebony jack output box is attached to the side of your violin’s body. The solid ebony, cork-lined 1/4″ Carpenter jack holds firmly to the instrument via a clever adjustable cork-lined clamp.
It offers a clear, warm, and transparent tone which truly amplifies what’s already there. One drawback is there are no controls – so you’ll need to adjust volume, EQ, and anything else on your amp.
It’s perfect for the beginner, or if you’re shopping on a budget.
- easy installation without instrument modification.
- solid ebony, cork-lined ¼” Carpenter jack sits snug to the violin with an adjustable barreled clamp.
- clamp feet and the bottom of the pickup are lined with soft cork to protect instrument varnish.
- superb value for money.
Barcus Berry 3100 Clamp-On Bridge Violin Piezo Pickup
The Barcus Berry 3100 is another budget-friendly piezo that works after it’s clipped on to the bridge and then connected to a jack output, although – unlike the KNA VV3 – this isn’t in a stylish, wooden casing. Rather, there’s a small, black case that holds the jack output socket.
It includes a ‘feedback rejection’ feature, ensuring a clear, isolated signal that’s true to your violin’s original sound. There’s also a wideband frequency response in the device, adding to the clarity and transparency of the sound.
Price-wise, it costs a little more than the KNA model. However, the clarity of sound is superior and it’s extremely easy to connect to your instrument. Removing it isn’t too difficult, either, as it’s clipped on with a no-tools-needed holder and the output jack is connected via a metal clip that fits easily onto the body of the violin.
Its looks are a little subtler than either of the other products, making it a good choice for those who are keen not to alter their instrument’s aesthetic. However, it isn’t the most invisible accessory out there.
The Barcus Berry will suit those who are looking for something not too costly that will amplify decently and transparently, which can also be applied with little trouble. Like the other two budget models, there are no volume or EQ controls here, so it might not be suited to more advanced players who require immediate control over these settings.
- Easily fitted with no tools or drills needed.
- ‘Feedback rejection’ feature.
- Includes an output that you can plug your own jack into.
Headway’s ‘The Band’ Violin Pickup System
The Band by Headway is an easy to use system that sounds great. It’s an instant, passive, magnetic pickup system that attaches using velcro around the body of the violin (as opposed to a clamp or mount). This enables it to pick up the full, natural sound of the instrument that’s very intuitive, with a large dynamic range.
As it’s passive, no batteries are required and the way it’s fastened means that no tools are necessary for attachment.
Obvious downfalls to the Headway system are the velcro fastening – which wears out over time – and the way it dominates the looks of the instrument. The Headway goes across the width of the instrument, with a logo on the front. The jack output is also on the top, so you’ll have a lead sticking out of the side of the instrument. This won’t bother everybody, but it’s far from subtle.
The good sound quality and dynamic capabilities make it appropriate for professional and semi-professional performers who want something that’s easy to put on and take off, to instantly amplify their instrument. Its bulkiness will make it unsuited to those who wish to keep their fiddle’s traditional aesthetic.
- Easy to apply and requires no tools or drilling.
- An intuitive sound that’s true to the instrument in all its dynamics.
- Passive and magnetic, so no batteries are required.
LR Baggs Violin Pickup with External Jack Mount
This bridge pickup from LR Baggs looks very discreet and sounds great. The bridge has multi-directional sensors built-in, which enable a natural sound that comes from your violin and nothing else. As it’s a bridge, you might need to get it fitted professionally, and even trimmed, but once it’s there, you can leave it be.
Linked up is a small jack output that can be clipped to the edge of your violin. This has a protective cork casing to protect your instrument, but getting the jack in place will require soldering, which you might prefer to ask a professional to do.
This includes transducers that reject unwanted sounds such as finger noise and feedback, encouraging only the musical sounds you would like to project.
It’s a little pricey, but not as much as a high-quality electric violin would be, making it still a bargain for what you get. It’s the top choice of many professionals, especially in classical music due to its nonintrusive looks and sensitivity of sound.
This is perfect for classical musicians who need to amplify themselves without feedback, and want something that’s permanently fitted. At this price, it won’t be appropriate for those who are looking for something as an alternative to getting an electric violin.
- Extremely subtle and can be permanently fitted.
- It has a natural sound whilst also eliminating feedback.
- Multi-directional sensors make the tone even truer.
Carpenter Jack Pickup with Micro-Gooseneck by Myers Pickups
The Carpenter Jack (love the name!) is a small, active, all-in-one choice that’s versatile, easy to use and quick to install. It looks like a little black box, with a thin microphone attached and it’s very easy to forget it’s there whilst you’re not using it.
Like The Feather, it can be used on a variety of instruments and it also has a micro-goose neck which is adjustable so that the miniature microphone picks up from an angle that you think sounds best.
The Carpenter Jack’s pre-amp is clipped on to the edge of your violin along with the built-in jack output. This will need a battery to work but there is one included and pre-installed. It’s probably the most subtle, effective and easy to use pickup here, as, once it’s installed, all you can see is the small black box on the side of your instrument and a tiny microphone pointing wherever you choose to point it.
Sound-wise, expect a transparent, high-quality tone with no feedback. This is truly a fantastic device, with the only downside being that the micro-goose neck might be difficult to fit permanently into place.
The Carpenter Jack will suit those who require a versatile, flexible source of amplification, that they can adjust themselves mid-performance. It will be less suited to those who need a ‘permanently-in-place’ one.
- Easy to install and to adjust.
- Nonintrusive to the design of the violin.
- Feedback-eliminating features.
The Cherub WCP-60V is a super cheap piezo pickup. It was designed with ease-of-use in mind, and can easily be clipped onto the violin’s ‘f’ hole to then pick up all of the vibrations from the instrument’s surface. The clips have rubber fittings to ensure that there’s no damage to the instrument and that it can be taken on and off easily.
It’s plastic, making it lightweight and it requires no batteries to get going and is connected to a 2.5M cable with a standard ¼ jack at the end. This is quite short, but on a small stage or at home this won’t be a problem.
As well as being short, the included lead is quite thin, which doesn’t scream ‘quality’, but at such a low price it’s to be expected. It’s able to eliminate external noise, making it less prone to feedback than you might expect for such a low-priced product and capable of creating a clear sound.
Looks-wise, this is a little bit obvious compared to some of the others. As it clips on the f-hole, it covers the body and can take away a little bit from the good looks of your instrument. If you’re keen to keep the traditional aesthetic of your violin, you might prefer something that subtly clips onto the bridge.
At its budget price, the Cherub WCP-60V will be perfect for the beginner who would like to try out plugging in either at home or on a small stage. The sound isn’t perfect, or very adjustable in terms of EQ, so it will be less suited to professional musicians.
- Super cheap.
- Easy to clip on and off.
- Rubber fittings mean your instrument won’t get damaged.
Alternative to an Electric
One of the main reasons you might be considering one of these is as an alternative to buying an electric violin. Perhaps you play in a folk or rock band and have a nice acoustic model that’s proving impossible to mic up at gigs.
You could buy an electric, but decent ones are pretty expensive, and you might lose some of your acoustic tone.
Could a pickup be a cheaper, better option? You bet! Even some of the high-quality options, as we’ll see, cost significantly less than a new instrument would.
Lead Parts in an Ensemble Performance
Perhaps you are a classical musician or a teacher of classical musicians, and you’re wondering how you can make solo parts stand out above an ensemble. These are perfect for that, as they can be quickly and easily fitted and transferred to different members of a band, to amplify sections when necessary in order to help them stand out from the backing instruments.
It might be the case that you’re a performer, who needs a louder sound than you can get acoustically, or with a mic before it feeds back. Installing a pickup will boost your volume infinitely, without any unwanted feedback.
It’s the only real option besides buying a different type of violin such as an electric violin, which could be expensive (and may not be the sound you’re going for).
Buyer’s Guide – Key Considerations
So, now let’s have a look at some of the different types out there, and features you’d expect to see.
Types of Pickup
There are four main kinds: piezo, magnetic, micro-goose, and bridge pickups.
- Piezo – Piezos are extremely common, available at all price points. They work by picking up vibrations from your instrument to create a high output and bright sound. Many people deem the bright sound that they create ‘too harsh’, but this isn’t always the case. Fitting a piezo close to the f-hole will produce a deeper sound to one that’s positioned behind the bridge.
- Magnetic – Magnetic pickups are similar to piezos, but they’re more sensitive to dynamics and produce a warmer sound. Unlike piezos, which convert vibrations immediately into a high output signal, magnetic pickups are modulated by the vibrations of the string balance, depending on the dynamics of the playing. They tend to be more expensive than piezos, but are favored by the pros.
- Micro-goose – Micro-goose style pickups are very versatile and natural-sounding. They are tiny microphones that are attached to little pre-amps so that you can control the sound. The micro-goose fitting means they are omnidirectional, so you’re able to experiment with different positions.
- Bridge – Some pickups come as full bridges that you will need to install as your permanent bridge. These bridges contain transducers that pick up the sound and convert to signals. They’re are the least noticeable of all the pickups, so great if you don’t want to mess with the aesthetics of the instrument. However, they’ll typically need a professional to install, and they’re usually on the expensive side.
Passive vs. Active
Pickups are either passive or active, both of which have their benefits.
The passive type is called so because they require no batteries. Their magnets and transducers produce electrical currents themselves, so you can plug them in straight away. These then pass over the job of further shaping the sound to the amplifier or preamp they’re plugged into.
The active sort requires a battery, but they also work as a mini amp in themselves, some of them even including a pre-amp. The output is higher, so your tone will be more consistent and will require less external shaping.
While some are designed to clip onto bridges, or even come as full bridges, there are others that have more versatility.
Stick on piezos can be stuck wherever you please, while others clip onto or inside the ‘f’ holes (the f-holes are cut into the front panel of the violin’s body).
Micro-goose pickups are by nature extremely flexible, so you’re able to experiment with positioning until you find the perfect, richest and most transparent tone. One downside here is that it might take a bit of fiddling to find that again, and again.
Generally speaking, for a louder, deeper sound you will position the mini mic towards the f-holes, while beneath the bridge is more likely to give a natural sound, though that can seem ‘harsh’ to some people.
Removable vs. Permanent
How often are you likely to use your violin plugged in? For those who are rarely going to require the feature, it might be best to opt for one that’s easy to remove as well as to install. Many can be clipped (or clamped) on and off effortlessly, with obvious positioning and no alteration at all to the instruments.
More permanent options are the bridges that include transducers. These are perfect for those who regularly perform plugged in, and want something that’s consistently high quality.
So, Which Should I Choose?
Our top pick goes to the Fishman V-200, a superb quality, piezo-ceramic pickup that faithfully reproduces the sound of the violin. With easy installation with no alteration required, it’s a superb bit of gear from a reputable brand.
Our premium pick is The Feather by Myers Pickups, an exceptionally made active pickup with built-in preamp. Light ‘as a feather’ and discreet, it faithfully amplifies the natural tone and beauty of your violin via its sensitive, omnidirectional microphone.
Our budget pick is the VV-3, a passive piezo pickup that delivers the natural sound of your violin. With a solid ebony, cork-lined ¼” Carpenter jack and adjustable barreled clamp, it’s great value for money.