The Best Electric Violins

May 14, 2006 at 03:03 AM · I've just ordered a NS Electric Violin from the Electric Violin Shop and wanted to see what others thought of it who have played it. I've not yet tried it but was told it has the best electronics and the most advanced pick-up system. My wife liked the look! I also have tried Zetas, Yamahas and most recently the Jordan 4 and 5 string which sounded great! I especially liked the Harlequin blue and red two tone which was very clear and the notes popped out which excellent responsiveness. What do you play on?

Replies (27)

May 15, 2006 at 07:44 AM · I play a purple Zeta Strados, just like the one that the fiddler from the Dave Matthews Band plays.

This model has an acoustic bridge that gives it a warm acoustic sound. Personally, I think that the Zeta sounds cleaner through amplification than a straight acoustic violin does. The Strados can do almost the same amount of expression as any acoustic violin, and there are no feedback issues either. On recording, the Strados sounds eerily like an acoustic violin.

I plug a Guitar bug into my Zeta so that I can jump around on stage while I'm playing.

June 6, 2006 at 08:59 PM · I am currently playing a seven string instrument made by John Jordan. It is by far the most ergonomic electric instrument available and allows the player the greatest freedom in the production of tone and color of any electric instrument that I have played.

I own a Zeta that is for intents and purposes NOT a musical instrument. Mark Woods instruments are well made but can be a bit unwieldy and have limited tone capabilities. T.F. Barrett instruments are beautiful and can be very comfortable to play but I have had problems with intonation stability - could just be the one I have played - but they seem to have a problem with hard playing changing pitch as you play. I suppose if your playing style allowed you to always play very lightly it could be a great instrument.

Many years ago I modified the bridge for an old E.H. Roth violin to facilitate playing jazz, rock and country. I was able to get some of the resin material that is used to make "back electret" microphone capsules which I sandwiched between the front and back halves of a bridge that I carefully sliced apart. This effectively turned the entire bridge into a condenser microphone. Although it required phantom power that was not an issue as I was using a tube microphone pre-amp with phantom power as my front end. The output from this bridge was very high which allowed me to easily controll any potential feedback and use this instrument to play VERY loudly on stage(even with a heavy metal band on occassion).

As much as I was happy with this instrument I was looking for more. That quest led me to John Jordan. The seven string that I have for ever changed my perspective on what an electric violin can be or do. If you have not checked out Jordan violins you need to!

Ther are many instruments available these days, so the best advice is try all of them that you can, find the instrument that explodes the boundaries of your imagination and buy that one.

Currently I am discussing having John build a nine string instrument for me, tuned in fifths starting with the regular violin e string and progressing e-a-d-g-c-f-b flat-e flat-a flat.

Hopefully we can make this a reality.

Hope this helps.

D Robert Burroughs

June 12, 2006 at 07:00 AM · robert,

what is the scale length of your 7 string and what will the scale of the 9 string be? I would like one but I never thought it would be playable and barbera's only go to 7. I'm having Eric Jensen build me a 7 string, he says the c needs at least 14" f and Bb strings need 15" scale. I thought to have a 9 string insturment I would have to learn to play cello.

June 12, 2006 at 08:16 AM · I like piezo-transducer pickups myself. You can even attach one to a bamboo flute if you want - which i have done a while ago, and got a decent, usable sound on disk!

Ok, the piece i'm working on with these samples is more pop/soft rock than orchestral or classical, but i'll keep you posted =)

June 13, 2006 at 04:56 PM · I have to comment that Jenson violins are superb, but just like the Jazz Fusion Zeta that I have, I find that it is very hard to feel the vibration of a note in my fingertips to tell me that I am in tune when the band is too loud and is louder than my monitors. Solid body instruments have that limitation over an acoustic mic'ed or those that have a tranducer. And while you can overcome that problem with a good sound check and having a excellent sound engineer who is watching you and understands the difference when you signal him/her for more monitor vs. more volume going to the audience, it can be fustrating. On the other hand when one plays an acoustic instrument on stage with drums and bass, our acoustic violins want to amplify that too. It is like my acoustic violin was not content playing what I want it to play, the top plate wants to vibrate and pick up everything on stage. An acoustic violin is a hog on stage. Thus feedback from the mic and even some tranduscers. So my solution was a solid body violin that I can take on stage and becomes a showpiece. Zeta Jazz Fusion, or any solid body violin is great for that. Plus I have the transparent finish on a maple top. To me it keeps the roots of a violin in front of everyone-beatiful highly flamed maple. It really is a mater of taste and budget when it comes to electric violins in my opinion.

I say that because what you should be really asking is what kind of amp will you be using? I have gone through ten amps before I finally, and I do mean finally have a sound through my solid body violin that sounds warm and rich. A Fender Acoustic amp with all the soft reverb and delay and room effects. I have gotten so many complents when I changed last year. I did a wedding at Pebble Beach golf couse this last weekend and the host told me that they were really stressed out. But when I played my Zeta through the Fender acoustic amp they said all ther troubles just went away. They were able to enjoy the day instead of stressing out. I took the solid body because it was an outdoor event. That is another reason I have a solid body. The elements will not effect the sound, and I don't have to expose my acoustic violins to the extreme damp or heat.

Lastly let me say if you have a violin and want to sound like you are playing in the best hall, no matter what you play or how you play your intrument, you have to try the BOSE Stick P.A. system. This is the greatest invention man has ever made since the violin and ice cream. I am telling you folks, hook your violin or viola, or cello, or...whatever through the Bose system and you will feel like a million bucks. You can hear what others hear when you play, no matter where you stand. And it sounds even better when you play through a Fender with some FX. The sound carresses the whole room. I also played my viola through the BOSE Stick and when I played on the low C string it was like a cello just sat down by me and played. Amazing goosebumps.

Hope this was information overload ;)

Wish you the best-Aaron

June 13, 2006 at 06:59 PM · Has anyone here ever tried "the band" piezo contact pickup? I tried some other pickups and I seemed to loose alot of sound but heard that because the band takes sound from the body instead of the bridge that it sounds alot richer and more full. I also wonder if it has feedback issues?

June 23, 2006 at 07:54 PM · Thanks all for your comments. I have to say, after trying several instruments out, nothing in my mind beats the NS electric violin. I now own a 5 string NS, a 15 watt crate taxi amp which allows me to gig without cords, and the zoom gfx-3 multieffects pedal. The crate has great sound and amazingly pumps out a lot of sound! I'm still tweeking the multi-effects pedal.

IMO, the NS has the best electronics on the market, with its polar pick-up technology and a toggle switch that allows you to switch from acoustic, electric or pizzicato. The acoustic and electric switch isn't as noticeable, but the pizzicato switch gives an amazing sustain when notes are plucked. Check it out at http://www.nedsteinberger.com/instruments/violin/cr/violin.htm

June 24, 2006 at 01:06 AM · Jordan, I do have THE BAND and it works very well. No feedback or any other problems. The sound is true and even.

Leo

June 28, 2006 at 11:51 PM · '97 Transpurple 4 string Zeta Strados and '06 NS CR5 string.

I bought the Strados new and never regretted it. For live stuff over the years, it has worked extremely well. Sounds a bit thin recorded, but not too bad if your layering tracks. I found it more comfortable to play than my acoustic, and rarely touch the acoustic since owning the Strados.

The NS is an entirely different breed altogether. Unlike my Strados, this has a killer preamp in it, made by EMG. Fair amount of tonality play with the bass and treble controls, plus the pizz switch. The setup on these instruments are extremely fast, and play like butter. The piezo pickups seem to sandwich the bottom of a standard maple bridge. Bridge height is adjustable from the bottom of the instrument. I think the Jordans are great instruments, sound wonderful, but I don't care for the fixed shoulder rest. I like the mobility of the shoulder rest on the NS. Two pivot points to adjust the shoulder rest to YOUR personal hold.

Both instruments, I run through (2)Trace Elliot Concert TA100R acoustic amps. Now that I have the NS, technically I can plug in anywhere, anytime, without any extra gear. I still prefer to have the backline. The more monitors, the better. I also loop a BOSS ME-50 into the Trace for some added effects, depending on the music I'm doing at the time.

July 7, 2006 at 07:18 AM · Hi,

for a really serious take on amplified violin, viola and cello check out http://www.stringamp.com

This is a pickup solution, that avoids the piezo sound issues by using a different transducer principle.

If your budget is zero , you will have to settle for less than the best - this website also has a DIY page for making a free pickup- maybe you already have the parts you need ?

July 7, 2006 at 11:29 AM · Michael Edinger, I have a question for you. You wrote something about piezo issues. I have ordered a fender fv3 electric violin (haven't recieved it yet)with a piezo pickup. What are the dark sides of the piezo?

July 14, 2006 at 07:27 PM · Hello, My name is Neil, newbie to all that is violin! I recently purchased an electric violin made by Rouge (used and off of ebay). I haven't received it yet(it arrives on monday). But once it arrives I will need to replace the strings on it(missing two strings). Does anyone have any recomendations? Also do electric violins and acustic violins use the same strings? I asumming that they do not, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

I chose the electric so I could practice without driving my roomates up the wall :D

July 28, 2006 at 01:37 PM · Hi Sarah Salmi,

there is a discussion on piezo pickups and why it´s not such a great idea for violin at the StringAmp violin tech stuff in the www.musiklab.dk website

April 27, 2007 at 11:49 AM · To Mr. Edinger, I cannot figure out from your website how your pickup system works. And, I could not find a US patent that describes this technology. Could you please explain or point me to a link that explains the physics of your pickup? Thanks!

Mots PhD

April 28, 2007 at 07:23 AM · Hi there. I have some custom made/modified semiacoustics and solidbodies. The solidbody is a chinese Musonic Zeta Strados copy

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/blu01_gr.htm

equipped with a Rebo magnetic Pickup

http://www.uli-boesking.de/rebo/

and custom made onboard preamp by Manfred Reckmeyer, Bremen, Germany. Great powerful instrument. Sounds balanced and fat, feels good, I have no feedback problems - even when I play overdriven through one of my tube amps. Another Musonic is strung as a viola.

These days I'm getting back to the Semiacoustics - I simply like them better. The semiacoustics are: a master instrument by Rudolf Johannes Dick (Bremen, Germany) from 1957 equipped with the Rebo PU

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/kvln1_gr.htm

a blue noname with Rebo, onboard Reckmeyer preamp and battery compartment

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/blue1_gr.htm

now strung as a viola, a black noname (fingerboard & bridge replaced) with Rebo PU, onboard Reckmeyer preamp, battery compartment and Pegheds pegs

http://www.uli-boesking.de/rebo/inst_gal/Seiten/15peg_gr.htm

strung with Thomastik Super Flexible Violin Octave strings - have fun with my version of "Misirlou":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrR3CsfD61s

a red Barcus-Berry violin

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/rvln1_gr.htm

now again in original condition without Rebo PU - listen to my old recordings:

Mozos Molones 1998 - 2000

http://www.uli-boesking.de/verg_u4.htm

Work with Blaine L. Reininger (Tuxedomoon) 1991 / 92:

http://www.uli-boesking.de/xtrpages/blaine/

Virulent Violins 1986 - 1993

http://www.uli-boesking.de/verg_u3.htm

... and a 15'' viola with Rebo PU and a Barcus-Berry piezo bridge (one of the last B-B viola bridges: 80ies)

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/vla1_gr.htm

now strung with viola octave strings (Super Sensitive - Sensicore) - that's my cello. The thickness of the strings needs gettig used to - you have to change your bowing technique a lot. Unfortunately I have to use the B-B bridge, because the Sensicores don't have magnetic properties. Mr. Cavanough is working out solutions.

My amps: A Fender Blues Junior, a mid-70ies Vox AC 30

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/vox2_gr.htm

a custom Reckmeyer 100 W rackmount amp

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/reck5_gr.htm

and a little Dynacord MV 15 totally modified as something like a Vox AC 15 with a Master

http://www.uli-boesking.de/inst_gal/Seiten/dyn_gr_h.htm

The two tops played through a Hughes & Kettner 1 x 12'' Cabinet. Amps are all tube.

Pooohh - I think these are the main things.

April 28, 2007 at 07:19 PM · Hi Steven;

After a 25 year "break", I recently started playing electric again... so naturally I got a bit curious about what was out there (things had changed!). I tried a good number of the electrics available and have taken a few out for a spin (approval). While I certainly haven't tried everything out there, I found that the Steinberger has stood out for me so far. Frankly, I don't know much about the electronics... and don't really care to. I just know what I like. What I liked was the "feel" and the sound. While not shaped much like a fiddle, it feels very natural... and seems to respond more like a "normal" violin than most. The Steinberger also seemed nicely balanced, flexible (able to create tone color even through the electronics) and can be driven without resorting to a stiff, lifeless bow (which I found was needed for some of the other electrics).

There are still a couple more I want to try before deciding (a Jordan for one), but I don't think I'd be wanting for much if I owned the NS.

BTW: I'm really old school. There weren't many, if any, decent violin pickups available when I started playing electric... so I made my first one from a Pickering phono cartridge (if anyone remembers what those were!). Kinda’ poetic, as later on I met Norman Pickering… who is big time into violin acoustics. Eventually, I purchased a B/B fiddle (which I still own; not quite an antique yet!).

April 30, 2007 at 12:32 AM · May I suggest that the amplified section on www.fiddleforum may help with this. Plenty of electric owners there.

Mark.

November 22, 2011 at 08:06 PM · My first electric was partly home made. Watch the video (Electric Violin Kinda Homemade)on my youtube channel for info on how I did it. http://www.youtube.com/user/Jtrevinoaff

Note - I started with a partially finished blank, then added components to finish it off. Ive experimented with two types of bridges and I settled on Schatten for my electric. Its cheap and easy to replace when needed. Examples of how it sounds are also on my youtube channel. Mostly metal riffs.

November 22, 2011 at 11:19 PM · The best electrics are those that run on 700,000 volts.

You get a better vibrato in very HT.

November 23, 2011 at 03:35 AM · I still like my ol' beat up barcus berry, although I hafta stick a coupla pieces of thin zig-zag cardboard under the volume control to keep it from buzzing. Cracked the top when it got dragged off a table by the cable at a bar jam a few years back. Still plays good tho, not radically different from my acoustic. well, at least not compared to a solid body.

but what I really like is my Cry Baby from Hell wah wah. Lots of good tweak knob settings on that baby including a great boost switch mounted on the side. Yes I know violin wah can be annoying if over used, but I really don't care.

I use a Crate Acoustic Telluride or a Traynor K4 keyboard amp. Both have XLR lines out, so if I need to I can line 'em out into a couple of powered Warfsdale cabs that I have. one 12" & one 15". I also have a little Boss ME20 pedal that seems to work well as a pre-amp and a little reverb and delay.

All kinda old school, but I'm stuck in the 70's. Besides, that's when all the best Rock music happened.

December 28, 2011 at 11:01 AM · The C-Violin is the best!

Why?:

It has a semiacoustic body with an optimal pickup system, all invented by a violin maker.

C-Violin.com

all the best

electric C- violin maker C.Kober

December 28, 2011 at 08:45 PM · Fender FV3

Yamaha SV

Mark Wood

NS designs

ftw

I use a fender FV1

December 29, 2011 at 01:35 AM · I use to own a Fender - top of the line - I believe the FV3 - in a beautiful sunburst color. Very nice for practicing since it was very quiet when not plugged in. However - remember that when it is plugged in it is very very difficult to obtain any type of nuance with an electric. When plugged in - it's either ON - or ON. Unless you use a volume pedal (which I hardly ever see an electric violin player use) it is near impossible to quickly adjust the overall volume.

In my opinion -the bluegrass boy's got it just right. One microphone in front of everyone. When it's your turn to solo - everyone else steps back - and you step forward. When you step back - your not coming through the microphone - so you can diddle around and experiment a bit without everyone hearing.

It's hard to beat an acoustic violin - that's why I put a bridge pickup on my acoustic. It can be either plugged in and played like an electric - or not plugged in yet played in front of a stage mike - or played just as an acoustic.

The best guitar players swear the best way to mike a great acoustic guitar is not to put a mike IN the guitar - but rather put a stage mike IN FRONT of the guitar. You can't beat the sound of a great violin or guitar with a very very nice condenser microphone in front of it. It just sounds out of this world!!!!

December 29, 2011 at 11:31 AM · Regarding the sound of the electric violin, personally I prefer it when it sounds like and electric, not an amplified acoustic. This could add another sound world to classical music; in the same way as the electric guitar is usually used differently from an steel strung acoustic guitar.

I am hoping one day one of the classical players I work with will get an electric violin.

December 29, 2011 at 02:59 PM · I wrote the following here:

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=21558

(December 20, 2011 at 07:20 AM)

but since it fits better here, I simply copy it. Hope that's ok:

I play electric guitar (as a pro since 30 ys)and violin. I haven't heared an electric violin that does not sound poor compared to an acoustic one.

This is different from the guitar. An electric guitar sounds like that, an electric violin sounds like a crippeled violin.

I think it will take a long time until the electric can used as a serious and full fledged classical instrument.

As a practise instrument they can be fine, as has been said. I have nothing against amplifying, only that even the best pick up systems known to me produce a limited sound.

And when the electric is used with a lot of effects, it sounds like an imitation of an electric guitar, not like something original.

My own solution is using a good mike for the vi, and picking a real git when aiming at hendrix.

I'm experimenting with a headway "the band" pickup right now, it seems a good compromise when it has to be loud, but no replacement for a mike.

Addentum:

Bridge pickups have their inherent disadvantages, they take only part of the violin's sound. That is, because the vibration of the bridge is only one part of the sound production. A bridge vibrates in different directions, and different at different locations (left, right, foot, etc.)

And piezo devices are always inferior to electrostatic pickups, for example.

The headway picks up the vibration of the violin top just behind the bridge and produces a fairly natural sound. Feedback is no problem.

And mounting/dismounting is a matter of few seconds. It won't harm your genuine stradivari at all.

July 18, 2014 at 01:54 AM · I play the Ned Steinberger 5-String Electric Violin. I have tried most of the main brands and feel that this is the best on the market for my purposes. Is very versatile with an excellent tone. Here is a sample:

July 18, 2014 at 03:32 AM · I did buy an electric violin to practise on late at night but I found that they are too easy to play. You get such a nice smooth sound with no effort at all so I do not use it now. My teacher confirmed this. He has some students who only learn on electric violins ; they struggle to play an acoustic violin as they produce a horrible harsh noise.

I would not advise a beginner to learn the violin on an electric instrument.

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