Guide To Yamaha Silent & Electric Violins

Since the introduction of the original Yamaha SV-100SK Silent Violin™ in 1997, Yamaha's creation has evolved and branched out. Today Yamaha offers four distinct models (price ascending): YEV, YSV104, SV-200 and SV-250/255. Numerous other well-known models existed between the original Silent Violin™ and the ones offered today. This guide outlines the key differences in the current models and connects past models to their closest current match.

Current models

Yamaha YEV

Yamaha YEVA winner of 'Best In Show' when introduced at NAMM in 2016, the YEV is the first Yamaha electric violin to be introduced outside of the 'Silent Violin' line. Its physical design--while retaining all of the physical points of an acoustic violin, such as upper bout and chin-to-shoulder thickness--is markedly different than the Silent violins. Also, unlike its 'Silent' brethren, the YEV has no headphone output, as it is designed specifically with performance in mind. It is priced at well under $1,000 to capture the entry-level buyer.

A swooping, mobius strip frame defines the unique and attractive design of the YEV while helping to keep it extremely light weight. The YEV foregoes the under-the-bridge body pickup traditional to Yamaha's SV violins in favor of a dual-piezo bridge pickup. This pickup combines with the all-wood violin body construction to produce an organic, full violin tone that traditionalists find pleasing. Tonally well balanced, this pickup generates an output strong enough for any type of signal processing.

The YEV comes in two string options--the 4-string YEV104 and the 5-string YEV105--and two color options: natural and black. Our signature setup is included in the price, however, the violin does not include a bow, case or any other accessories. We offer a discounted YEV + bow & case outfit as well as a configurable full YEV package that includes violin, bow, case, amp, effects and cables at a discounted bundle price.


Yamaha YSV104Yamaha YSV104

The Yamaha YSV104 commemorated the 20th anniversary of their Silent violin with a redesign that is significantly lighter than previous models and incorporates advanced technology for an improved aural experience.

The YSV104, similar to the SV-150 (discontinued), is designed solely with quiet earphone practice in mind. Solid body violins without hollow resonating space, while not completely silent, produce very little sound when bowed or plucked, making them great for practice in apartments, dormatories and hotels where one does not wish to disturb their neighbors. An external control box powers headphones and contains other features such as reverb effects and auxiliiary inputs (for playing along to MP3 recordings) while keeping the weight of the violin down to about the same weight as an average acoustic violin.

Designed as a practice instrument for traditional acoustic players, the YSV104 is available only in 4-strings, not 5. Color options are brown, black and red. No bow or case are included. We recommend adding our discounted bow & case package or a padded Yamaha gig bag for protection.


Yamaha SV-200

Although it features a headphone jack for quiet practice, the SV-200 was the first violin in the Silent line engineered with amplified performance and studio recording in mind. Although similar in concept to its SV-100 series predecessors, it represented a departure from both in body design and electronics. The violin outline is sleeker and the key replacement of a molded chin rest with a traditional removable one, as well as the ability to attach any standard 4/4 violin shoulder rest, made a huge difference in player comfort as compare to the SV-100/110/120/130.

The SV-200 pickup is a dual-piezo body pickup, providing even, balanced, neutral tone (warm and not overly bright). Yamaha gave the SV-200 a powerful studio-quality onboard preamp (powered by a 9-volt batter) and an integrated standard 1/4" output jack, allowing you to plug cleanly into amps and PA systems. 

The SV-200 is available in standard colors Brown, Gloss Black, Ocean Blue and Cardinal Red. Each of these color options is semi-transparent, showing some of the wood grain underneath. Electric Violin Shop also custom orders Yamaha's custom Pearl White finish, which is a classic opaque painted finish. (Check our website or contact us for Pearl White availability.)

Our signature setup is included in the price, however, the violin does not include a bow, case or any other accessories. We offer a discounted SV-200 + bow and case outfit, and the Yamaha SV-200 works well with any amps and effects units in our catalog, but for a more advanced tone we recommend the BOSS Katana or Fishman Loudbox amps.

Drawbacks? If the SV-200 has one, it's only that it is not available in a five-string model. Apart from that, it represents a terrific value in the under-$1500 price range.


Yamaha SV-250/255

Favored by the likes of world renowned jazz violinists Christian Howes and Mads Tolling, as well as pop violin sensation Lindsey Stirling, there's no doubting that the SV-250 (4-string) and SV-255 (5-string) are at the top of the Yamaha line.

Weighing in at 500 and 530 grams respectively, the SV-250 and SV-255 are two of the lightest electric violins on the market. Yamaha's slim-down program for these SV models started with removing the electronics from the instrument. A rugged, professional-quality preamp is designed to clip to the performer's belt or be placed on a pedal board.

With their light weight and acoustic tone, the SV-250 and 255 are aimed directly at classical musicians who have resisted heavier, less natural-sounding electrics, as well as gigging professionals who regularly play more acoustic styles. You can use any brand of shoulder rest with these instruments, but the chin rest is fixed. However, it's quite comfortable for most players.

Both instruments employ the SV-series under-bridge piezo pickup, as well as the Yamaha VNP-1 dual-piezo bridge pickup, found also on the YEV. A pickup blend knob on the back of the instrument allows you to choose the balance between the body and bridge pickups. Used in conjunction with the bass and treble controls on the solidly-built preamp, the player has a huge amount of tone control.

Amplified tone is sweet, clear, and natural -- more like an acoustic violin than many electrics on the market. The highs are not as brilliant or the bass as dark and rich as some other electrics, but tone is even and convincingly acoustic across the full range of the instrument.

The playability of both the SV-250 and 255 is excellent. With the five string, in particular, Yamaha has done an excellent job with string spacing at the nut and bridge curvature, easing the transition to extended range for classically-trained players more used to a traditional four string.


Discontinued models

Evolution of Yamaha Silent & Electric Violin Violins

*Chart illustrates approximate lineage. Some models have coexisted and current models are not necessarily direct replacements for discontinued ones. Read more below.

SV-100 / SV-110 / SV-120 / SV-130

Yamaha SV-130First introduced in Japan in 1997 as the Silent Violin™, the SV-100 became the jumping off point for the diverse line of instruments outlined above.

“The whole idea was that in Japan everybody lives 10 feet from someone else,” explains Ken Dattmore, Yamaha’s strings marketing manager. “That’s a challenge when a high-pitched violin can pierce through a thin wall.” Japanese musicians snapped the instruments up.

Then the SV-100 arrived in the United States.

“And Americans, being Americans, said, ‘Cool—a silent violin! Let’s plug it into an amp and see how loud we can make it,’” Dattmore says with a laugh. Sensing opportunity, Yamaha reoriented its electric violins for performance. Demand skyrocketed, and Yamaha developed a whole family of electric stringed instruments—from violins to basses—that now includes some of the company’s fastest-growing product lines.

From The 20-Year Evolution of Yamaha’s Silent Violin by Patrick Sullivan, Strings Magazine

With the third iteration of the Silent Violin--the SV-120--Yamaha met the demand for an electric violin that could be easily amplified by modifying a 1/4 inch output to the SV-110's original 1/8 inch jack. This allowed an instrument cable to be plugged directly into the violin, however, since it was a factory mod and not an integrated 1/4 inch jack, some noise existed in the signal. In the mid-2000's the SV-200 came out as a more professional performance violin marketed towards gigging and recording musicians. By the late 2000's the SV-130 was eventually introduced as the first in the entry-level line to offer a fully integrated 1/4 inch output, making it a viable performance instrument for well under $1000.

  • If you are looking for replacement parts for an early model Yamaha SV, as an authorized dealer and repair center Electric Violin Shop stocks some and can often order obscure ones. We sell the SV-100/130 replacement shoulder rest and replacement tailpiece through our website or over the phone.
  • If you are searching for an SV-130 (or earlier) Silent violin model, you can contact us to check the availability of used instruments or you can shop the used market.
  • If you are looking for a new Yamaha violin, we strongly recommend the YEV, priced--as the the SV-130 was--at well under $1000.
  • If you want a Yamaha SV instrument solely for practice and do not intend to use it for performance, the YSV104 is a great buy, also under $1000.
  • For the best of both worlds at a still affordable price, consider the SV-200, which provides pro-level tone with a preamp and 1/4 inch output AND an onboard headphone jack for "silent" headphone practice.

Yamaha SV-150

Yamaha SV-150 Silent Practice PlusOnce the SV line branched out to embrace amplification, the SV-150 'Silent Practice Plus' was introduced as the ultimate silent practice violin. At the time it came out, the SV-150 was by far the lightest weight violin in the SV line and weighed in about the same as an average acoustic violin. This was accomplished by taking the bulk of the electronics out of the violin and putting them in a powerful external control box. The SV-150 control box contained a vast suite of effects, backing tracks and other practice features such as a metronome. While the SV-150 technically could be played through an amplifier, it required a special 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch cable and the control box connections were not really designed to transmit a performance quality signal. For this reason, we always recommended the SV-150 to players for whom amplified performance was not a requirement, and likewise recommended against the SV-150 for all other violinists.

  • If you are looking for a lightweight, silent practice-only violin, the YSV104, although lacking many of the control box features, is the closest available violin to the SV-150.
  • If you want an extremely lightweight Yamaha Silent Violin and need performance capable violin, the SV-250 or SV-255 are ideal, and their own external control box does include a headphone jack for silent practice.
  • If you own an SV-150 and need a special cable in order to amplify, we sell those here.