Electric Violins - Noise or delay with amp and headphones?

August 11, 2017, 6:00 AM · Yesterday, I tested out a Yamaha silent 130, a Yamaha YEV, and NS design WAV, and a stingray I believe.

If I don't want to go with a silent violin, will a small amp with a headphone jack plugged into a YEV be completely reasonable to practice silently with??

A) Will there not be much noise in the headphones?
B) WIll there be such a small amount of delay that I won't notice it (in the sound going from the violin to the headphones)?? Because delay would kill any hope of practicing regularly. I am guessing there would be no delay.

Also, I forgot to try the bridge lyra violin. I have read it's much louder unamped than the other instruments, which concerns me. Is this true? I was completely satisfied with the loudness level of all the above unamped electrics, so would the lyra be much louder and potentially not safe for apartment playing (I regard the other instruemnts as 200% safe for apartment playing). The bridge lyra looks so beautiful. I'm annoyed with myself.

Observations about these instruments (creds: violinist of 16+ years, got into districts, regional, state orchestra back in high school, i make songs too):
ALL of these were WAY quieter than I was anticipating without amps. Like when people say "these aren't quiet FYI", I mean SURE, but they are so quiet that there is just NO way neighbors would hear these guys through the walls and complain about them (perhaps this is possible, but so ridiculously unlikely). They are quieter than the loudness of normal conversation for sure. I was SO impressed with how quiet they were. You could totally play them in hotel rooms, apartment buildings with neighbors above, below, and to your left and right, in college dorms, etc.

Also, when people say, "I don't even need the amp to practice on them, THAT's how loud they are". Um, yeah you could theoretically do that, but I observed a) they are so quiet that this strategy would NOT be enjoyable b) It felt awkward playing them without the amp. It didn't feel right and I felt the urge to adjust my playing without the amp. I felt no urge to adjust my playing with the amp.

I was SO pleasantly surprised with the quiet level AND sound quality of all of them. In youtube videos, I have to admit, many of these instruments sound HORRIBLE, but when I played them all, I thought they all sounded fantastic and sounded like real violins, and I could totally practice on most of them everyday.

Also, the NS Design WAV was uncomfortable with the built in shoulder rest. It sounded good like the others (I liked the low end the most), but I just couldn't get it to be comfortable with the adjustable shoulder rest. A complete pain in the *** actually. Given that the others sounded similar to my ears (obviously they all sound slightly different, but the quality levels were all very very great), I gave up on selecting the WAV.

Replies (18)

August 11, 2017, 6:13 AM · If you use a modern hifi amplifier with digital sound control (bass boost, reverb, etc.) or somehow manage to hook up a wireless bluetooth headphone, the audio will be delayed by 100-200 ms. So, don't do that. :-)
August 11, 2017, 5:06 PM · Thanks for responding. It sounds like you are saying an amp that you can plug headphones into will have too much delay (https://www.ehx.com/products/headphone-amp)? I wasn't expecting this response. Is this right?? How do other instrumentalists practice silently then without delay (electric guitar)? Are you saying getting a yamaha silent is best? (the newer yamaha silents come with their own external amp, and would this external amp also have 100-200 ms delay which also would be too much for them too??--which wouldn't make sense because then why would they sell it?)
August 11, 2017, 5:16 PM · A normal analog pre-amp, amp, and headphones will not have any delay. An amp that contains digital sound processing (including some home hi-fi equipment) may have delay. I think that's what Han meant. I doubt the pickup circuit by itself will offer enough gain to drive your headphones. My guess is that all of the violins will behave the same in this regard. Can't you test all of this in the shop where you tried them?
Edited: August 11, 2017, 5:42 PM · Thank Paul. So it sounds like you're saying that a regular non-fancy amp that can take headphones should be perfectly fine, but amps that do digital sound processing will encounter trouble. And by digital processing, you mean an amp that manipulates the sound such as by adding effects?

"I doubt the pickup circuit by itself will offer enough gain to drive your headphones."
The lingo in this sentence escapes me! ;_)

Unfortunately, the shop I visited was 3 hours away and didn't have a small amp, so I'd have to buy a small amp that can use headphones and then drive all the way back there. I'd rather not do another 3 hour drive .... I'm thinking of getting the yamaha silent or yamaha yev with a small pre-amp for practicing. I'm partial to the YEV but i just want to be sure it'll all work out.

August 11, 2017, 5:54 PM · Chris,

Contact the people at the Electric Violin Shop online. Just google them. They know everything there is to know about electric string instruments,amps,etc. They are string players also.

Edited: August 11, 2017, 6:13 PM · Thanks. I already did. The man I spoke to said there probably wouldn't be a problem. He didn't sound as confident as I had wanted him to be, so I'm checking here as well.

Okay the below threads further confirm the YEV is fine for silent practice. You literally just have to get your own pre-amp. I am confused as to why folks at yamaha don't mention that you can EASILY use the YEV for silent practice. They are selling their silent violins which now come with preamps not even built in but with a preamp on the side, when you can literally just do this yourself with the YEV and save 1000 bucks instead of getting the yammy 250 or whatever. This is assuming one is equally satisfied with the sound between the YEV and the more expensive silent yammys.


August 11, 2017, 7:19 PM · "And by digital processing, you mean an amp that manipulates the sound such as by adding effects?"

An amplifier, digital or not, that is designed for live musical instruments will not have problematic delays. A home-theatre amp, even a not-so-fancy one, can be problematic. Mine has an obscure setting to bypass all digital signal processing and eliminate the delay so that my digital piano becomes usable.

Edited: August 12, 2017, 4:26 AM · If i recall properly, both YEV and NS Wav are passive electric violins, meaning that they do not have a pre-amp installed. In other words, plugging headphones ( with no pre-amp) may not provide enough gain for your headphones to hear your violin properly.
You can try it with an (inexpensive) FiiO headphones amp and see how it goes.
On the other hand Yamaha 130 is an active electric violin with pre-amp on board and will work fine with just any set of headphones.
Edited: August 14, 2017, 5:05 AM · 10ms is similar to standing about 10ft. away from the source. 4-5ms is the maximum delay most musicians can stand and not hear any real noticeable delay. @Han N 100-200ms is a very Loooooong delay. More like an echo.Anyone who has played on stage is aware of the timing issues you can encounter when you stand too far away from either players or your own amp.

The only situations where delay is a real issue in a practice situation at home are when you play through an audio interface with a large buffer since the signal needs to pass through an A/D converter>through the interface> into the computer through usb, firewire or thunderbolt connections>through effects if any> Back out to a D/A converter to the headphones or amplifier.

This is all dependent on the buffers, computer,software drivers and interface. Modern setups can go to buffers of less than 64 and times of 3ms in a recording setup.

For your purposes, a small amp with high specs shouldn't introduce enough noise to really notice. Since you won't be navigating through all the electronics necessary to record, plugging direct instead you won't hear any latency in headphones.

Some of the lower end electric violins use low grade internal amplification which introduces some inherent hiss.The better ones don't.
As Rocky mentioned, you won't hear anything through a passive instrument. The catch 22 is most active portable amplification uses a battery and the nature of that circuit introduces noise.

The best setup is a passive electric violin using a nice amplifier with a headphone jack to bypass the main speaker.I think a dedicated acoustic amplifier is better than an electric guitar amplifier because they are designed for, you guessed it, electric guitars. Acoustic guitar amplifiers are designed more for the full frequency ranges. Some electric guitar amps will give a violin a tinny sound that might not bring out the lows as well.

Another consideration is stereo effects. Even though the violin will be in mono. Mostly applicable to recording situations since stereo is seldom used on stage. In order to use stereo hardware/software effects you'll need to use a system that splits your mono and feeds it into stereo.

August 18, 2017, 6:51 AM · One way you will get latency through headphones is if you are using bluetooth. Otherwise it shouldn't be a problem.
Digital effects designed for live performance won't be a problem for latency. Playing through an iPhone app or DAW on a computer may do sometimes.

I do own a Bridge Lyra. Yes, it's louder than a Yamaha but doesn't really project a great deal. I just played it in my studio with my doors closed and asked if my wife in the next room could hear it. She said not much! To me it seems the high end is louder acoustically. I guess you could mute it to make it quieter too.

As others have mentioned - as a general rule you don't go with an electric guitar amp and you usually need a preamp unless it's built into the violin or the amp. Acoustic amps such as the Fishman amps have a preamp built in. However, a fairly decent starter amp is the Roland Micro Cube which has a headphone output and some nice effects, also amp modeling (including acoustic). Yes, you can buy a designated headphone preamp but that's no fun!

August 18, 2017, 7:10 AM · I have used YEV directly plugged in to Yamaha THR5A portable amp via cable and don't recognize any latency or noise (except what I make). I also use a wired headphone. Hope this helps.
August 18, 2017, 8:35 AM · Sung, have you used the YEV in recording situations? If so, how has that worked for you?
August 18, 2017, 8:39 AM · Timothy,

No, I haven't. I'll experiment tonight and tell you about it. Thanks.

August 18, 2017, 8:39 AM · Thank you Sung Han.
Edited: August 18, 2017, 7:20 PM · Hi Timothy,

Just experimented with recording several sections from classical pieces including Wieniewski #2, Mozart #4, Mendelssohn VC, Vivace from H. Parry's Lady Radnor's Suite among other things. I recorded my daughter's playing using Canon camcorder, with acoustic mode on Yamaha amp.

My daughter and I watched the MP4 video clips very carefully on TV. Neither I nor she noticed any lag or noise. Of course this is a very informal test done at home so take the result as an anecdote. Hope this helps.

August 19, 2017, 9:43 AM · What kind of Yamaha amp was it? Yamaha makes both guitar amps and home-theater/hifi amplifiers (I have one of the latter).
Edited: August 19, 2017, 10:11 AM · I just played two restaurant gigs with a Fishman V-200 pickup, a small home-made pre-amp, and a Fender Rumble 25 amplifier. Sounded good. Might need a little more EQ than the Rumble provides. Because these were restaurant gigs I didn't really need all that much boost.
August 19, 2017, 4:32 PM · Han, it is Yamaha THR5A portable amp.

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