5 Best Electric Violins for Beginners & Pros Alike!

Author: Alexis Ronstadt | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Hot take: the world of electric violins is just as exciting and diverse as the world of electric guitars. 

I’ve always held a deep appreciation for the versatility of the violin. Without a doubt, it is downright iconic in the realm of Western classical music; but violin has also found a home in jazz, blues, jigs, Klezmer, Cajun, country, bluegrass, prog rock, and even metal.

And electric violin makers have more than answered the call to help violinists of every genre take advantage of this inherent versatility. 

From combination pickups, to unconventional minimalist designs, to pegless tuning mechanisms, to extra strings, (and instruments like Mark Wood’s Viper that could easily be classified as an entirely different instrument), modern models offer myriad choices to curious violinists. 

Let’s explore five wildly different and innovative models from some of the best electric violin brands on the market. These, here, are some of the best electric violins for beginners and pros alike!

The 5 Best (And Equally Interesting) Electric Violins

1. Yamaha SV-200

Let’s begin with a model that looks and feels more like a traditional acoustic violin. 

Featuring that familiar hourglass curve, a traditional peg box and scroll, and a fine tuner for your E string, the Yamaha SV-200 feels the most like an acoustic. (Yamaha is good at this.) 

For beginners, this is a tremendous benefit. You can use your favorite shoulder rest and replace the chinrest with most conventional models whenever it’s time. Its spruce body, maple neck and ebony fingerboard feel just like home, and it fits in a conventional violin case. 

Where the Yamaha SV-200 shines is in its dual piezo pickups and built-in preamp with EQ control. 

Dual piezo pickups translate into a nice, balanced sound. High and lows are clean, and this instrument is adequately sensitive to a range of dynamics and bowing techniques. 

For the money, the built in preamp and EQ control packs a major punch. During performance, there is tremendous value in being able to adjust your own sound before it hits your sound guy and the audience. 

Beginners may find this a little intimidating. And while this instrument is rated as semi-pro to professional, I find the Yamaha SV-200’s setup a great entry point for beginners who are training their ears. Indeed, I would argue that this is one of the best beginner electric violins on the market. 

It’s not a twelve band EQ; just a dial. Dive right in to begin hearing subtle differences in the brightness or warmth of your sound. 

2. Yamaha YEV104/105

For an entry level electric violin that gets it right and looks great, Yamaha offers its YEV104 and the 5-string YEV105

The first thing that strikes you is its stunning, infinity loop-like design. You’ll note, however, that all the traditional components are still there: peg box, tailpiece, chin rest, and reference bout (that little curve that sticks out near the top). Which means that it plays and feels a lot like your acoustic. (And fits in a standard violin case!)

Once you put the bow to the strings, you can’t help but be struck by a lovely, acoustic-sounding output. 

Don’t get me wrong; I plant my heels squarely in the purist camp. No electric could possibly sound exactly like an acoustic. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, they’re not supposed to sound *exactly* like acoustics — they serve an entirely different purpose. 

But for the price, the Yamaha YEV104 sounds fantastic with its high output passive bridge pickup. Just be advised that this violin can run loud compared to other passive pickup models, so adjust your pedals or mix accordingly. 

My favorite feature of this violin is the output selector switch, which allows you to toggle between sending your signal out directly or via the volume knob. This allows you to use the switch to completely mute your instrument during performance (volume knob all the way down).

Or use it like a boost effect by playing through the volume and switching to direct for emphasis during a passage.

Given its design and lower electric learning curve, this one also ranks among the best options for a beginner.

3. NS Design WAV4 Violin

Let’s be clear: there’s nothing traditional about the NS Design WAV4 electric violin. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play like one. 

At first glance, you notice the complete lack of a peg box. Instead, this violin boasts a proprietary endpin tuning system that is an absolute dream to use. 

Never again will you struggle with slipping pegs, and this violin stays in tune longer than any string instrument should be allowed to. 

While the NS Design WAV4 features the iconic Steinberger minimalist design, it maintains a traditional reference bout. But in a complete twist, this bout is removable for violinists who want to explore the upper positions without one. 

Another proprietary feature is its Polar pickup design. These passive pickups take into account the vertical rejection of vibration that naturally occurs during bowing. The result is crunchy staccato, crisp spiccato, and truer sounding sustain in pizzicato. 

Plus, it just sports a warm and full tone for the price. 

Where the NS Design WAV4 really diverges from traditional design is in its chinrest and shoulder rest. 

Both are proprietary, and some players gripe that the shoulder rest takes some serious getting used to. I find the extreme malleability of the shoulder rest to be a benefit, but can agree that it’s an adjustment.

In all, this is a solid entry level electric, but it’s probably best left to intermediate to advanced players. 

4. Yamaha SV-250/255

Yamaha’s SV-250 and its 5-string SV-255 counterpart take violins to the next level in electronics. 

For starters, Yamaha removed the electronic and EQ controls to a separate box and hollowed out the body for an electric violin that weighs nearly the same as an acoustic. Combined with the traditional body stylings, it’s super familiar to play. 

Here’s where things get really interesting. The SV-250 & 255 feature two pickups: one in the bridge and one neatly integrated into the body. What’s better: you can use the bridge pickup exclusively, the body pickup exclusively, or a combination of both. 

The control box is where the magic happens. It features a 2 band EQ so that you can control your treble and bass. And it features an XLR out (in addition to ¼ inch) for plugging directly into a PA, managing line noise, or for when you need phantom power.

Some people find the additional, external control box a little … cumbersome. But for my part, once you’ve reached this level, you’re probably playing with all kinds of effects and adding one more little box to the pedal board feels perfectly manageable.

Given the high degree of control, true sound, and endless possibilities the Yamaha SV-250/255 offers, it’s no surprise that it ranks as one of the most popular models by one of the best electric violin brands for professionals.

5. Mark Wood Viper

You’re going to want to strap in for this violin. Literally … 

Mark Wood has made so many modifications to the electric violin that there are some who would insist that his Viper model is no longer a true violin. (I will respectfully disagree. I am happy to welcome this beast into the viol family.)

Immediately, violinists will notice how this instrument is held. Or, rather, that it, sort of … isn’t. 

The Viper has no chinrest or shoulder rest. You use a guitar strap to strap it around your upper body, completely freeing up your neck and posture. (Wanna sing and play at the same time? Go for it.)

The Viper also comes with up to seven strings, the lower ones being C, F, and B flat. Congratulations, you now have an entirely different register available to you. 

Some models also have frets. Normally, I would reject this feature outright, seeing as part of the charm and prestige of the violin is due to its being fretless. 

However, as any violinist who has performed with a full, head-banging-ly loud rock band can attest to, you get drowned out on stage sometimes and can’t hear yourself. Imagine having frets in that situation.

This is to say nothing of the superior Barbera high performance pickups it packs. Feedback? Forget it. 

Ultimately, the high price tag and unconventionality of the Viper keep it off of most electric violinist’s lists. But, hey, we can dream, can’t we?

Silent Violins

It is not uncommon to see many electric violins marketed as “silent” violins. Let’s explore that.

“Silent” violins are quieter due to the fact that their volume is produced electronically. Acoustic violins are loud, on purpose. Deep hollow bodies and sound posts make for an instrument that projects without amplification. 

Electric violins, often solid bodied, benefit from neither of those things. So when you play one that isn’t plugged in, it makes a pretty dead sound. 

For this reason, many violinists seek electric “silent” violins for practice. Additionally, many electric violins come with a headphone jack so that you can play at full volume without disturbing the neighbors. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting a silent violin for practice. But a word of caution: if you are a beginner violinist, stick to muting your acoustic and treating (often referred to as “soundproofing”) your practice space. There is simply too much technique that you will miss out on by learning on an electric. 

Furthermore, electric violins are meant to be played plugged in. The joy of these instruments is in exploring and playing with a wide range of sounds and effects. It would be a shame to miss such an opportunity by just donning your headphones and running through the Bach double for the hundredth time! 

Passive vs. Active Pickups

Pickups come in a variety of configurations and styles; but they are only ever passive or active. Without getting into the nitty-gritty (see: very technical) differences between the two, here’s what you need to know about what these pickups mean for electric violins.

Passive pickups are powered by magnets and wire. Different configurations of wire, windings, and magnets produce different sounds: warm vs. bright, heavy lows or highs, clean vs. muddy, etc. 

Because of the way they work, passive pickups do not ever produce energy. (For that, you need a power source.) As a result, output on passive pickups tends to be lower, and tonal control is achieved only by attenuating, not boosting, different frequencies. 

Enter active pickups. Active pickups employ a power source, usually a battery, to produce a hotter, less noisy signal. (We’ll ignore, for now, the fact that there’s still a passive pickup in there.) 

Factor in a preamp and other filters, like the EQ controls you see on many electric violin models, and, so the argument goes, you get a more well balanced tone. 

One is not necessarily better than the other. Ultimately, only you can decide which you prefer. 

Very generally speaking, passive pickups tend to be more sensitive to technique, a decidedly welcome feature for violinists. Furthermore, you’ll never have to worry about a heavy battery pack on your instrument, or keeping a backup battery for when it fails. You might, however, experience more line noise and feedback. 

Active pickups are less susceptible to line noise and offer a more well-balanced tone, which is great for violinists who are eager to explore sound. But you will have to deal with those pesky batteries. 

Just remember: pickups are the foundation of electric sound. And you can’t EQ or FX your way out of an undesirable foundation. A trained ear will absolutely hear all of these differences, so when you’re choosing an electric, pay close attention to the untreated sound it produces. If you find yourself disappointed, keep looking. 

In Closing

Adding an electric to your collection can be a deeply rewarding and creative way to expand your musicianship as a violinist. Beginners and pros alike will find the best electric violins among this list, and with a variety of configurations and styles, you can’t really go wrong with any of them.

By focusing on what style of body you prefer, what kind of pickups you want, and how far you want to go with effects and tone control, your electric journey is sure to be … well, positively electrifying!

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About Alexis Ronstadt

Originally from Phoenix (AZ), Alexis has been performing since childhood. She picked up the violin at age 8 and has been attempting to make interesting sounds with it, sometimes even successfully, since then. Projects include instrumental rock band Larkspurs and an improvisational collaboration called The Bone Stitchers. Aside from adding effects to her pedalboard and discovering exciting new artists, few things delight her more than writing about all things music in support of the music community at large.

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