The Electric Violin Buying Guide
Choosing an electric violin from the many available models can seem like a daunting decision-making process. There is a huge range of prices, shapes, colors and features that can be enough to make anyone’s head spin! Not to worry…Electric Violin Shop is here to radically simplify your choice by showing you how to narrow down your selection based these key considerations:
- What is your budget?
- What do you need (or want) out of your electric violin?
- What is your tone preference?
- What are your look, feel and style preferences?
By addressing this handful of considerations one by one, you can quickly narrow the selection of electric violins to a small number of instruments that fit all of your requirements. We are always available to assist you along the way and can be contacted at 866-900-8400 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knowing in which price range you are willing and able to spend to buy your electric violin goes a long way towards quickly narrowing your search and simplifying your selection process. The electric violin market doesn’t vary nearly is widely from a pricing standpoint as the acoustic market does, where cheap student fiddles can cost less than $100 while fine old European violins can cost in the $100’s of thousands or even millions! Electric violins range from around $100 for the cheapest models to about $5,000 at the top end. Tip: When shopping for your first electric violin, don't forget to leave space in your budget for a good amplifier and maybe even a multi-effects processor!
You can look at the range of available electric violin models as grouped into price tiers:
Budget under $500? Invest in a pickup & amp!
For more information on why to avoid super-cheap electric violins, read this article.
If your budget allows you to spend $500 or more, your electric violin options open up considerably. In this price range you can find instruments that are optimal for silent practice or that sound and function great as performance violins. The instruments in this price range are, by and large, still mass produced, but come from brands such as Yamaha, NS Design, and Wood Violins, who all have high standards for quality assurance and who have produced playable, great-sounding violin and pickup designs. Features in this price range are fairly limited and wood, paint and finish jobs are good, but fairly basic in appearance. Nevertheless, you won’t be disappointed with tone from a violin in this price range, nor left stranded on stage with a failed component. Best of all, this is the entry level for violins offered by Electric Violin Shop, so you will benefit from the free, industry-leading instrument setup we perform on each and every violin that passes through our shop!
In this price range you begin to find even more attention given by makers either to appearance, to build and component quality, or in a few cases, to both. This price range also presents many of the best values the electric violin has to offer, as all violins in this range are viable instruments for professional performance or recording. At the lower end of this price range are some very fine manufactured violins from makers Yamaha, NS Design and Bridge Violins. These instruments are a step up in terms of design or components that contribute to tone. For instance, the Yamaha SV-200 features a dual-piezo pickup and EQ dial, the NS Design NXT has a the advanced JackPot potentiometer, and the Bridge violins feature hollow Kevlar-carbon composite bodies that in combination with the Bridge-designed pickup produce a unique rich, luscious tone. The Aurora 4 and 5-string violins care made of transparent acrylic and have LEDs that light the violin up in 6 different colors!
Also in this price range is a nice handcrafted violin, the Vector Prodigy by Nick Tipney. His ingenious design and careful construction are optimized for gorgeous, acoustic-like tone and his home-grown maple introduces an unique of beauty to each individual violin.
Once you spend over $2000 on an electric violin, you are buying a top level professional instrument. These violins are hand crafted, in many cases offer advanced features or design components, and in all cases provide complex, full-frequency tonal output through their choice of pickup designs. Models in this price tier include the Fourness Fuse, NS Design CR, Vector Prodigy Pro, MSI, Stratton Skull hand carved violins, and some of the Jordan violin models.
Over $3000 there is really no improvement in pickup, build or tone quality over the $2000 and up tier of violins. At prices above $3000 you are now paying for rare, unique or particularly beautiful wood types, veneers and finishes. At this level you are not jsut investing in top-level tone an build quality—you are buying a one-of-a-kind work of functional, musical art. You will stand out on stage and possess a great conversation piece as long as you own the instrument. Jordan violins, Wood Violins Vipers, and custom finished ZETA and Fourness violins are among the most exquisite looking electric violins you will find anywhere.
Addressing Your Needs
After determining your budget, the most important question to ask yourself is, “What do I need from this violin?” In the case of an electric violin your answer might range from simply needing an instrument you can practice with through headphones in your apartment, to needing a violin that can lead a rock band on stage in front of 10,000 people! Some electric violin models can only effectively do one or the other, while others can do both and everything in between.
Headphone Practice violins
Any instrument that has a headphone jack on the violin itself can be used for silent practice. Violins without headphone jacks can be used with headphones as well, but will require an additional piece of equipment such as an amplifier or effects processor that itself has a headphone jack in order to serve as a silent practice instrument.
If your need is to perform or record, any of the electric violins in our catalog will work. However, the more ambitious your performance or recording goals are, the more you will want to invest in an instrument designed to give a strong, even, full-frequency output signal. For serious recording projects or professional performance gigging, you’ll probably want a violin from at least $1,000 and up range, above. Our under-$1,000 are perfectly adequate for more casual recording and performance needs, and can be bolstered by pairing with a quality amplifier and made more versatile through use of external preamps and effects.
A whole category apart from solid-body electric violins is acoustic-electric -- acoustic violins with permanently mounted pickups. If you are only playing acoustic styles and need amplification an acoustic-electric (or electro-acoustic) violin could suit your needs and provide the richness of an acoustic's tone. If you want to play in loud settings (e.g. in a band with drums and guitars) we recommend a solid-body electric as feedback can be an issue with acoustic-electrics. Effects can be used with an acoustic-electric, although distortion effects may cause feedback and, in general, a solid-body violin will provide a more predictable signal for processing at any volume. Acoustic-electrics vary in body and wood quality, pickups and other features such as integrated output jack and tone controls.
Frets provide a visual aid on the fingerboard as well as absolute pitch, which can be very helpful to violinists playing in loud bands where it can be otherwise difficult to monitor your pitch and play perfectly in tune. Frets also allow the violinist to incorporate guitar techniques into their playing and simplify left hand chord shapes.
MIDI & Notation
We now carry a large selection of violins that are MIDI-capable and can be used to control synthesizers, to trigger MIDI sounds in computers, to record MIDI tracks and even to transcribe in staff notation! Depending on their output type, the various models are only compatible with certain MIDI equipment. You can click here to learn more about MIDI compatibility.
Tone is subjective, yet some electric violin models are decidedly more "acoustic sounding" than others. Generally, as you go up in price, the tone of the violin becomes more complex and natural-sounding as a result of better, more advanced pickup technology.
For most players we recommend selecting an electric violin with a tone that suits their same tastes in acoustic violin tone: brighter, darker, or somewhat neutral. Electric violin tone can easily be altered through equalization (EQ) and effects, but for greatest satisfaction it is best to have a baseline tone that pleases you as the player.
For a forward, punchy, bright violin tone, choose an instrument with a Barbera Transducer pickup. Most Jordan, Wood Violins, Stratton Skulls and Vector Prodigy Pro violins feature a Barbera bridge (see individual item descriptions). The ZETA Strados pickup also provides a bright, edgy tone.
Violins with rich, warm tones include Bridge Violins and the Vector Prodigy (standard).
Yamaha, Fourness, MSI and NS Design all make excellent, ‘natural’-sounding electric violins that are more tone neutral—not overly bright or dark. NS Design’s CR-series violins are unique, however, in that a powerful onboard preamp and onboard knobs for treble and bass boost or cut put tremendous tone control at the player’s fingertips and allow a switch from neutral, to brighter to richer or darker with the turn of a knob. The ZETA Jazz pickup is renowned for its somewhat compressed, even, jazzy tone, made famous by Jean-Luc Ponty.
Tone is the most difficult aspect of a violin purchase to nail down and so our staff is always happy to consult with you to make our best violin recommendation based on your preference for tone.
Are you after an electric violin that will turn heads or make people ask, “What is that?!” Or are you more traditional-minded and want an electric violin that won’t look too outrageous? No matter your answer we have violins that will fit your taste.
Some of the more radical shapes we offer include the Wood Violins Viper, Sabre and Stingray models, NS Design violins, the Keebler Warhorse and the Vector Prodigy. No matter how different their body style may appear, in all cases they conform to standard violin measurements and will play like your acoustic violin.
Among the more conventional, more traditional looking designs offered are MSI, Bridge and Yamaha. There are any number of color and finish options available, so it is possible to select a more traditional-shaped violin in an outrageous color or finish.
Last but certainly not least among considerations when choosing an electric violin are feel and ergonomics. Feel includes such factors as shape, as mentioned above, weight and shoulder rest system. Most electric violins we carry are designed to allow you to use your favored shoulder rest comfortably. Exceptions include the Yamaha SV-130, which requires use of an included adapted Kun shoulder rest, NS Design violins, which have their own highly adjustable and ergonomic shoulder rest system, and the Wood Viper and Keebler Warhorse, which employ a shoulder strap system that allows for hands free, neck free playing and mobility.
Weight can be an important factor for many. Some models are just downright heavier than standard acoustic violin weight. These include Keebler and Stratton violins. Other violins, such as the Wood Violins Viper, NS Design CR and Jordan violins, may weigh in above average, but the weight is offset by excellent design principles that balance the load on the shoulder.
Most electric violins check in perhaps a few ounces heavier than standard acoustic weight, but the difference is scarcely noticeable to most players as the feel and ergonomics mimic closely that of an acoustic fiddle. Among the lightest models available, for players for whom lightest possible weight is a must, Yamaha’s SV-250 and 255 and the Vector Prodigy come in almost exactly at standard acoustic weight.
Where to go from here...
Having made key decisions regarding your budget, needs and preferences, you are now ready to shop our extensive online catalog of electric violins. If you need any advice or recommendations, don’t hesitate to contact us, or feel free to submit our online Shopping Assistant form. We will take your needs into consideration and respond quickly with our best recommendation to fit your budget!