How to Choose an Electric Violin Online? Here Are 3 Steps!

How to Choose an Electric Violin Online? Here Are 3 Steps!

So you finally decided to buy an electric violin - you searched online, maybe walked into a few stores, until you realize - why am I still not getting the information I wanted???

It is true that electric violin is still a niche. At least in the US, you will only find very limited options at most stores that even carry any. When it comes to demo videos online, it obviously doesn’t seem right when a $200 build could sound as natural as an acoustic.

Well, we can relate especially if you are new to electric instruments. In this article, we provide actionable insights into choosing an electric violin regardless of budget and where you are. In the end, we will give you a rule of thumb that simplifies this tedious process.

(Disclaimer: as an electric strings designer workshop, our own offerings are currently $359-$825, while our method should work for all price points.)

1. Knowing the sound of electric violin

You never know how much technology is in there when you watch a demo video online. It is understandable that some people want to sell badly, and the sound may actually be achievable, except it won’t happen when YOU play the instrument at home.

We would be asking too much to let you travel all across America and try every electric violin out there. Let’s equip ourselves with some knowledge!

The Paramount Factor - Pickup

Contrary to a lot of people’s common sense, an electric violin captures the vibration of the strings through a pickup, which almost determines the sound quality. It is entirely different from an acoustic violin, where the resonance of the wooden body is the key. (This explains why a good electric violin can be quite affordable, as electrics are easier to produce)

Some pickups don’t require a battery, which we call “passive pickups”. It is favored for producing a warm, rich, and natural sound that closely mimics an acoustic violin. However, it may be more problematic in real life, as it is susceptible to noise interference, and only gets worse when you connect a longer cable on stage. You could try solving this problem with an extra device though.

More pickups on electric violins would require a battery, which we call “active pickups”. It uses a built-in preamp to boost signals, which reduces noise interference. It sounds clear, crisp, dedicated, more consistent, and less susceptible to loss over a long cable.

For sound only, it is almost certain that an active will sound better than a passive, as long as we compare within a reasonable price range.

When it comes to the hard question of comparing pickups within the same category, there are several specialty pickup brands you can hardly go wrong - Shadow Electronics (Germany), Fishman (USA), and Barbera (USA). Those companies offered only pickups for decades (except Fishman expanded their product line to other accessories). They are all supposed to be great, and it would be more about personal preferences. We partnered with Shadow Electronics for a more European vibe, and we liked how its passive pickup eliminated the noise on our Crozz model.

If an electric violin comes with manufacturer’s own pickup, you might refer to other resources. It doesn’t mean the pickup is worse, but you will have to listen to more videos made by people of different identities.

Our most popular violin "Dove" used the workshop's own pickup instead of Shadow's.

The secondary factor - body materials

This one is all about common sense. An all-wooden electric violin usually provides a richer and more resonant tone compared with plastic or composite ones.

Meanwhile, carbon fiber has emerged as a popular alternative prized for its durability and resistance to environmental changes. It offers a clear, direct tone, less warm than wooden tones. So it's more often to see them in genres like rock, jazz, or pop, where you would like to cut through the mix.

The iconic texture of carbon fiber - does everyone like it?

2. Finding utilities of electric violin that work for you

We all had our complaints about acoustic violin, but you won’t have to suffer anymore with an electric violin. Here are some perks you can look into -

Practise like no one else is alive

As many electric violins don’t have a proper sound box, they are much quieter and will not disturb your family behind the door. Some will come with a headphone jack so that you can hear the proper sound yourself wherever you are. This could be much better than having to use the headphone output on an amplifier.

Jam with your imaginary band

There are a few electric violin models that come with aux-in, where your play-along track can go in, and come out along with the part you played. This helps keep your setup minimal, and could come in handy from time to time - an input port on instrument? That’s crazy!

Our Knight violin has separate aux-in and headphones out, that's why we had to make custom electrics for this model.

EQ and other effects

It is not uncommon to see an EQ panel or at least a tone control on electric violin. This could be helpful with live gigs in particular, where you can quickly tweak between songs. However, if you mainly use the electric violin for recording, the software EQ is much more advanced.

On some premium electric violins, you get reverb, delay, or even distortion. This could be very cool, while we should acknowledge that effect pedals may be a more flexible option. Just balance between how much control you feel comfortable carrying around, and how big of a pedal you can travel with.

3. The ultimate rule of thumb when choosing an electric violin

What we mentioned above is actionable online, but we knew there’s much more about sound and controls. There are build quality, comfort, and playability, to which most people don’t have in-person access.

For such factors, you may only turn to the user community. In fact, a recommendation from a friend is often all it takes to let you buy. So let’s find some “friends”!

Top influencers can’t risk their reputation

You may imagine that brands would secretly pay KOLs thousands for a few nice words in their channels, while this is hardly the case for the musical instrument industry. Those with enormous fan bases can live a decent life by touring, teaching, or simply with rewards on social media views. It would ruin their everything by recommending a faulty product. It should also be quite obvious when some of them start monetizing their reputation - One can fake a smile, but one cannot fake objectivity.

Out of admiration for those brilliant artists, we managed to send our instruments to a few. We never fully absorbed that they were willing to do this for free. We could only say that people with a passion in music are nice people, and it’s our pleasure to work with them.

 Top creators with Kinglos Neo Classical violins, click a card to watch video.

One negative side of top influencers - they are usually accustomed to a particular setup. It won’t be realistic to convert them from the expensive violin they are used to. Therefore, although they might like a reviewed violin for a couple of weeks, you can’t tell how well it holds up in the long term. It leads us to the last resort.

Are there people proven to use the violin often?

Well, there are just a few top influencers out there, and how many violins can they cover anyway? Most violins may only have a chance to get reviewed by creators with around 10K followers. Except a well-made unboxing review, what you should look for is if they keep using the violin later. If you manage to find 3 artists who made several videos with a violin, or even gig with the violin, it is a promising sign. The violin is likely to endure high usage intensity.

No matter how nice a violin seems on paper, if no one is proven to be using it in real life, you will be taking a risk in your life!

A "social wall" of electric violins by Kinglos Neo Classical

A "social wall" that we put together, with posts made by artists around the world.

This is what we find many brands are missing. Instead of leaving the job to resellers, the artist user community should serve as an alternative perspective that feels closer to customers. The reputation caution applies to small creators, too.

Words in the end

The electric violin market is full of brilliant designs and crafts. Even for inexpensive electric violins, there are still people who’d like to share opinions. You will be surprised to find out the extensive reviews out there beyond the shopping sites.

For violinists, going electric is a great chance to seek some personal touch on your instrument, we hope this article has helped you pick the violin that doesn’t just look good, but works well, too!

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