Shopping for a violin is easier than it ever was before.
But, you need to know exactly what you want.
Approaching this task without any previous prep work might result in you getting a violin that doesn’t fit you, or one which is simply not as good as you thought.
Therefore, I’ve put together this small guide. My goal was to give you all the information you need, and help you make an educated choice.
The first part of the guide is going to be focused on what to look for in a violin, while the second part contains some of my own recommendations. There’s also a complete section for beginners.
With that said, let’s begin.
What To Look For In a Violin?
The absolute first thing you need to figure out before you go shopping for violins is your budget.
As you might expect, the price of modern violins goes anywhere from $100 on the low side, while there is no upper limit really.
When setting a budget, you need to define what type of violin you need:
Are you a beginner? Someone who's been playing for awhile and is looking for an upgrade? Or maybe you are a professional in search of a quality violin? Answering these two important questions will make the entire process so much easier.
Next, let's talk about size:
Most adults will manage just fine with the full sized, 4/4 violins. If you are buying one for your child who is younger than 11 or so, you might have to look into smaller sizes.
Luckily, there are 7 more compact sizes of violins to choose from. Each of them is smaller than the other by an inch or so.
Other things to consider:
- The quality of tonewood and other materials used to build a violin will generally depend on its price.
- More expensive instruments will feature soundboards made of naturally aged, dense spruce.
- Budget friendly, affordable violins are going to utilize lesser quality tonewood. Same goes for other elements of the violin.
- Cheaper models will usually sport components made of plastic or other synthetic materials.
The Best Violin Brands and Models
There are many, many different brands and models of violins to choose from these days.
With that said, some of them have shown to be better than others. Here I've chosen 4 of the best violins you should check out this year.
The price and quality of the picks varies. I tried to include something for both intermediate and beginner players looking for a decent instrument.
|Brand / Model
|D Z Strad Model 301
|Nikola Zubak by Kennedy
|Bunnel Pupil by Kennedy
1. D Z Strad Model 301 Violin
While they are not a large shop, D Z Strad is known for their impressive quality and reasonable pricing.
This brand hosts some of the best luthiers in the business right now.
The type of performance you can expect from D Z Strad is suitable for both beginners looking for a quality first violin, as well as professionals who need a reliable instrument.
The first violin we want to show you is the S Z Strad Model 301.
This is a great copy of Stradivarius Hellier Masterpiece.
We're looking at a full sized, 4/4 model which comes with a case, two bows and a rosin.
Overall the instrument looks and feels great.
The S Z Strad went with a select maple back while the soundboard was made of seasoned Engelmann spruce. This tonewood was naturally air dried for over 15 years, ensuring top quality performance.
The neck comes off as very comfortable and natural. Unlike some models, 301 features a rather smooth fretboard which makes playing even the harder pieces that much easier.
One look at the scroll will tell you just what kind of craftsmanship this violin has to offer.
For the most part, D Z Strad Model 301 doesn't look flashy. There are no significant graphic details on it, which may or may not bother some players.
What does matter is that it's a reliable and well-made instrument.
In terms of sound, you are looking at a very warm range, full of definition and clarity.
Some might even say it's clinical in many ways. Perfect for both jazz and classical, D Z Strad Model 301 brings a great color of tone to the table.
Whether you are looking for a subtle expression or more aggressive projection, this violin delivers on point.
D Z Strad Model 301 is the type of violin I would recommend to seasoned players who know exactly what type of tone works best for them.
With that said, the fact that this violin comes ready to go in terms of what you get in the package, also makes it beginner friendly.
If you go for the 301 Strad, I suggest you take it for a proper set up if you want to experience its full potential.
2. Nikola Zubak Violin Outfit 4/4
Kennedy Violins is another name you can trust when it comes to advanced level violins.
As a matter of fact, this brand is among the most trusted ones at the moment.
Nikola Zubak Violin, the 4/4 version, has got to be one of the most balanced models with an impressive bang for the buck value.
Those looking for a complete package at a reasonable price need to look no further. Let's take a look and see just what this violin has to offer.
One of the main reasons why Kennedy Violins are a great shop is the fact that they purchase already made components and assemble them on their own.
One such violin is the Nikola Zubak model.
This instrument was made of solid maple and spruce tone wood. The fittings are real ebony, unlike some of the violins in this price range.
To top things off, Nikola Zubak comes with a nice oil finish, which gives it a rather refined look.
The bridge comes in form of the highest-quality French Aubert bridge. Fingerboard and pegs are made of that same Madagascan ebony the fittings are made of, ensuring top notch performance.
Finally, the strings provided are made by D'Addario, and belong to the Prelude family of strings.
It's worth mentioning that this violin is ready out of the box. Kennedy Violins not only puts together their instruments, but they also do good setup and testing of each one that leaves their shop.
In terms of sound, you can expect a lot of resonance.
The color of the tone is sweet, on the warm side, with a lot of clarity. You can definitely get a wide range out of this violin.
For the most part, Zubak is capable of keeping up with you no matter where you go in terms of playing.
Great as a stage instrument, as well as an intermediate practice violin, the Nikola Zubak by Kennedy Violins is a model you can trust.
There is rarely a company which offers the type of value for the money like Kennedy Violins does.
Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned player, this shop will offer something that will fit your budget. I definitely love their Nikola Zubak, and would recommend it to anyone.
3. Stentor 1500 4/4 Violin
When it comes to beginner violins, you will hardly find a better brand to turn to other than Stentor.
They've been in the business for over 100 years now, which allowed them to build a formidable reputation.
Sure, there are many violins on the market which feature better build quality and tonewood selection from Stentor, but none that you can get in the same price range as Stentor.
Here we're looking at their 1500 4/4 violin, which has proven to be one of the go-to beginner models.
Hand-crafted using decent tonewood, the Stentor 1500 offers a lot of violin for not a lot of money.
You are looking at a fine-grained solid spruce top paired with solid maple back and sides. Stentor offers this model with full ebony fittings as well as an ebony fingerboard.
Overall, the build quality is on point.
The chin rest is made of hardwood, however the tailpiece is fully synthetic. Considering the price of this violin, that is definitely not a deal breaker.
The only real downside of this model are the strings which come with it. They are of mediocre quality, and a beginner would find it almost impossible to tune them on their own.
Therefore I suggest you consider replacing the strings in near future. Aside from that, Stentor 1500 full-size violin is a great choice for beginners on a budget.
When it comes to sound, you get a very balanced performance.
With stock string, the tone features a nice color although the projection suffers a bit.
Once you put a decent set of strings on there, things improve considerably.
Overall, the performance of Stentor 1500 is good enough for any beginner, but I definitely don't see this on a stage in any serious setting.
Finding a good first violin is not easy, especially if you're not even sure what to look for.
The Stentor is a brand you can trust in such situations, and I'd say that 1500 is a model that will fit any beginner.
4. Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4
Finally, we have another Kennedy violin to show you, this time it's the Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4.
Aside from making great intermediate violins, Kennedy also has a great lineup of beginner models which follow the policy of this brand - quality above all.
Everything on this violin is hand crafted, carved and put together.
The soundboard is made of solid spruce while the back and sides are made of maple. Fittings, pegs, and fingerboard are all real ebony.
As for the bridge, you are looking at a hand carved maple unit which was custom fit for every violin.
Finally, the finish comes in form of an oil based satin, which was hand-rubbed into the wood during manufacturing.
One awesome thing about the Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4 is the fact that it comes with D'Addario Prelude strings, just like some of Kennedy's higher end models.
The sound of Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4 is both refined and balanced. The quality of the wood really shows when you go for lower, deeper tones.
Overall, the color is great and there is enough warmth to say the sound is more than decent. For a beginner violin, this is probably as good as it gets in this price range.
Kennedy's Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4 is not the cheapest beginner model on the market, however, it is one of the best ones for the money.
This brand is known for their exquisite craftsmanship, impeccable customer service and overall reliable instruments.
Hopefully, you've found this short buying guide helpful.
The information we included may not be as extensive, but it will definitely point you in the right direction when you go shopping for violins. The four models we've talked about represent the cross section of the entry-level and mid-range parts of the market.
I didn't really want to include high-end violins since those are very expensive. Also, someone shopping for a violin in that price range should know exactly what they are looking for by now.
If you are a beginner and you are working on a very tight budget, the last two violins we talked about should be more than adequate for your needs.
Both of them come with a case, a bow and everything else you could need as a beginner. On the other hand, if you are certain that playing the violin is something you want to do long term, the first two models might be a great way to future proof yourself.
Either way, the brands listed are ones you can definitely trust. Just make sure that you properly store and maintain your instrument and it will serve you for a long, long time.
The Best Violins and Starter Kits for Beginners
Beginner violins need to offer three specific qualities:
Solid build quality, decent tone, and affordable price.
We are talking about violins which are meant to serve as a learning tool and not Stradivarius level masterpieces that cost thousands or more.
Even so, shopping for a beginner violin is probably harder than shopping for a professional one.
There are so many of them out there, and you can't always know whether or not you are buying a quality instrument.
If you are dealing with this dilemma, you're in the right place.
I'm going to show you the 4 best violins for beginners with some starter kit options you can trust.
|Brand / Model
|Bunnel Pupil by Kennedy
|Mendini MV-500 92D
1. Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4
As shown above, this is also a great overall violin when compared to more expensive instruments, so it's definitely worth considering for beginners and those on a budget as well.
Kennedy Violin is a shop which is known for quality, great customer service, and overall great violins. They don't necessarily dwell into the high-end regions of the market, but you could say that they are the masters of the entry level.
Their Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4 is by far one of the best affordable beginner violins you can find at the moment, and here's why.
Made of solid spruce and maple, this full sized violin features all natural wood build. Kennedy's luthiers handcraft these violins, so you know the build quality is going to be on point every time.
For the most part, The Bunnel Pupil is the type of violin that will keep up with you as you build some skill It's is a great tool to learn not only how to play the instrument, but also how to tune it properly.
In terms of sound, this brings a very balanced tone across the range. Tone color is warm and has quite a lot of range. For this type of money, you simply can’t go any better than this.
With that said, the Bunnel Pupil Violin Outfit 4/4 sits comfortably at the top of our price range, so it’s definitely not the cheapest beginner violin you can get out there.
2. Mendini 4/4 MV500+92D
Another great student violin comes from Mendini.
We are talking about their MV500 violin which comes with everything you will need as a beginner. That includes a hard case, adjustable shoulder rest, a bow and a Cecilio 92D chromatic tuner.
Build quality of MV500 is more than decent. The violin comes in three sizes - 1/2, 3/4 and the 4/4 we’re looking at here. The price for each one of these is the same, so it comes down to what you are comfortable with.
The violin itself is made of solid, hand carved spruce soundboard which is paired with a single piece maple back, neck and sides. The finish is very nice considering the price, and the violin looks impressive straight out of the box.
At the end of the day, we would recommend this model to beginners with a more flexible budget who don’t want to commit to a more expensive violin.
On the other hand, those who are experienced players but haven’t played in a while will also benefit from this model.
3. Cecilio CVN-300
Cecilio is among the most trusted brands on the market at the moment, especially in the beginner and entry level range.
Their CVN300 brings a good mix of affordable pricing and overall quality. This violin comes in a bundle which includes a very nice hard case, a set of two brazilwood bows, Cecilio’s chromatic tuner and more. Compared to the other two violins we’ve mentioned, this one is pretty close in quality.
Cecilio CVN300 comes in four different sizes - 1/2, 1/4, 3/4 and the 4/4 we’ve chosen for this article. Tonewood of choice for the soundboard is solid spruce, while the back, sides and the neck are all made of maple. Fingerboard comes in form of an ebony piece, which is decently smooth all things considered.
In terms of tone, Cecilio CVN-300 get’s you a relatively balanced tone. The color is warmish, but it does lack some projection.
Even so, considering the price you are asked to pay, we’d say that Cecilio CVN-300 is a great value for the money option you can trust.
4. Mendini 4/4 MV300
Lastly, we have another Mendini violin to show you.
The MV300 is a part of their affordable entry level line. It’s designed and meant for those beginners who are working on a very tight budget.
As such, you can expect some trade-offs. Mendini ships these violins in a bundle which includes a hard case, brazilwood bow, an extra set of strings and more.
In terms of build quality, it’s impressive considering the price. Mendini MV300 features a solid spruce soundboard along with maple back and sides. Tuners are integrated and of decent quality, although you might want to take this violin to a shop for a proper setup. We recommend this for two reasons.
The Mendini 4/4 MV300 often arrives with an improper action height, and your intonation will benefit greatly from a professional set up.
This is definitely a beginner violin, one which you probably don’t want to take on stage. As a learning tool, it excels all of our expectation for the price, and is something we will gladly recommend to any beginner. Other than that, you will need a much better violin if you plan to perform on stage.
Some Final Thoughts to Consider
These four violins are all great choices for any beginner.
I’ve included models that should meet everyone’s budgetary needs, while offering good performance overall. With that said, we strongly suggest the Kennedy model as it brings the best bang for the buck value.
It is a bit of an investment, but that violin will easily keep up with you build your skill. One more thing we’d like to mention is that a professional set up of these violins is something you might want to look into.
That Kennedy model comes set up from the box, but the rest will greatly benefit from a professional touch-up.