Buying a new violin is a huge investment and challenge if you don’t know what to look for. You want to make sure that you get the best violin from the best violin brand that you can at the lowest price. That’s why we’re here! We want to make your buying decision much easier. We have reviewed and tested the violins to below so that we can provide you the best violin brand recommendations.
In our recommendations below, we mention typical price ranges for each violin and our recommended skill level for each of the best violin brands below.
Don’t forget to get your violin accessories before you start playing your new violin! If you’re looking for violins meant for younger players, check out our best violins for beginners and best kids violins articles.
Best Violin Brands 2020
In our short list below, we mention the best violin brand for each skill level. We’ll start with an overview of the best violin brand for beginners, then discuss the best violin brand for intermediate players, and finally advanced players. We’ll then list the remainder of our recommended violin brands below in the order that we recommend them.
Use this list as a guideline for which violin brands to buy. While not every violin brand on this list will fit your budget, experience level, or other search criteria, we hope it provides a great baseline to begin your search.
Best Violin Brand for Intermediate Players
Kennedy Violins is one of the highest rated violin brands by customers and it shows. These fantastic intermediate violins are handcrafted from solid maple and spruce tonewoods, and come with everything you need to get started playing.
• Highly rated
• High-quality sound
• Includes complete kit
Best Violin Brand for Advanced Players
Eastman’s hand-crafted violins are known to be some of the best violins for advanced players since they combine beauty with sound quality. Often going for $1,500+, these violins should only be purchased by those who need a very high-quality instrument.
• Beautiful sound
• Look amazing
Finding the Right Violin
What level violin should you get?
Violins come in different levels for players on different stages of their musical careers. Many students start out by renting violins for practice until they are ready to own one. Essentially, violins fall into three categories:
- Student Violins: These are for beginners. Young students or players at the early stage of learning the violin are constantly working on the basics of playing, tone production, fingering, bowing etc. Hence, maple (dyed black to resemble ebony) is sometimes used for the pegs and fingerboards, areas that are exposed to more friction. Student violins are mostly machine-made to keep costs low while maintaining tone consistency. Quite affordable. Prices range from $200 – $2,500.
- Intermediate to Advanced Violins: With higher workmanship, the sound of an intermediate violin is also much better. There are more dynamics and stronger projection. The pegs and fingerboards are crafted with ebony and most of the instrument is handcrafted. Prices range from $500 – $10,000.
- Professional Violins: Pure craftsmanship using the finest quality of wood, professional violins exude a rich tone and wide dynamics. Masterpieces like these are expensive. Prices go from $10,000 onwards.
Typically, the more expensive a violin is, the higher quality it is. A violin priced at the extreme in the low hundreds is good for students but tends to be unplayable by professionals. Of course, the price is not always merely an indication of product quality. Sometimes, it also incorporates the name of the violin maker and famous violin makers tend to sell their violins at premiums.
What should you look for in a violin?
Ask Your Teacher
We first recommend that you consult your music teacher. Music teachers understand what their students need more than anyone else would. They can make better recommendations given their experience and close bond with their students.
Our second piece of advice is to go to a violin shop and test out their violins. Violins are less well-known than violins. Naturally, there will not be a variety of violins as comprehensive as the violins to choose from. The selection may be scarce at general music shops but that selection will open up a lot more at a good violin shop. Try not to purchase a violin over the Internet without testing it first. Trying out an instrument in person is crucial. Only then can the student feel if the size is comfortable, the projection far enough, or if the resonance is right.
Here are other factors for consideration:
- Chin and shoulder rest, the height of the ribs, the size of the upper bout, neck size, string or scale length all contribute to how big the instrument feels and how well it plays. Comfort matters more than size in the sense that if a violinist struggles during the playing experience, she simply won’t play well.
- Responsiveness, resonance, tone, projection. The violin’s sound is bright and haunting. In an orchestra, the violin section is usually the most easily heard, so clarity of the projection is key. You don’t want the sound to be muddled or screechy. All of these sound elements will affect a player’s performance, which is why choosing a violin in person rather than over the Internet, or investing in a higher quality violin, is necessary.
- Getting a singing E string is sweet, but do not neglect the other strings. Ensure there is coherence in sound quality in all four strings. You don’t want an E string that is screechy.
- The quality and weight of the bow can affect a performance. Be sure to test several of them out before buying.
To evaluate the violins, test them with different bows, play scales, play different passages (both fast and slow ones), play all strings in all registers, and play with and without vibrato. Check the tone of different violins. Which sounds most appealing? Is it easy to move on the fingerboard? If possible, ask someone else (perhaps another violinist or teacher in the shop) to play the violin while you stand across the room to listen. Does the sound project well?
Quality of the Material
The quality of the violin material impacts both the sound and the violin price. Cheaper woods from America and China usually have a brighter sound compared with the warmer and sweeter tones of the more-expensive European woods. The “flame,” or as some say “tiger stripe,” on the back, sides and scroll of the violin affects the violin price than the top spruce grain. A high “flame” content is highly desired for its beauty and is generally indicative of a higher violin price and better the sound as compared to a violin with little or no “flame,” mostly found on student instrument’s. A well-made violin will be able to hide the center crease on the back with the flame. This is one way of quickly identifying quality workmanship.
All Violin Brands
Recommended For: Beginner
The Stentor violins are very affordable and have made a name for themselves by being one of the highest quality violin brands for the price. This is a great instrument to develop your violin skills one before moving on to an intermediate violin. Stentor is often recommended as one of the best violins for beginners.
While these instruments are manufactured in Chinese workshops, Stentor checks each instrument in its United Kingdom warehouses for quality before delivery to your home or store.
Stentor is sure to have the right violin for your student, from absolute beginner to slightly below intermediate. They come in a variety of sizes and are very sturdy, a plus for parents worried about durability while being transported to and from school.
Like their other instruments, Stentor violins are made in the traditional way out of solid tone woods. This includes a solid ebony fingerboard (as opposed to the Cecilio below), pegs, and fittings with maple sides and back, and a spruce top. Stentor violins also have inlaid purfling to prevent the softer spruce wood top from splitting.
Packages on Amazon include a violin bag, wood and horsehair bow (usually brazilwood), and rosin.
2. Kennedy Violins
Recommended For: Intermediate
Kennedy Violins, a Washington state-based violin maker, is an up-and-coming luthier in the space. Their violins range from beginner to intermediate, but their intermediate violins are some of the highest-rated violins on Amazon.
The Louis Carpini G2 violin is our favorite. It has a 4.9/5 star rating on Amazon and glowing reviews. It is handcrafted with solid maple and spruce tonewoods and comes with everything you need from a violin kit.
This brand is definitely worth looking into if you are looking for a high-quality intermediate violin.
3. Eastman Strings
Recommended For: Advanced
While Eastman Strings does make student model violins, they are well-known for making advanced violins and violins that sound beautiful which is why we highly recommend them for the advanced player. Strings Magazine often recommends Eastman violins for advanced players due to their playability and tone.
The violins are handcrafted with a select spruce top and highly flamed maple back, ribs, and scroll. They come in either Stradivari or Tertis patterns. Outfits generally come with a base Despiau bridge, which can of course be modified after-market, and a metal alloy tailpiece.
Outfits on Amazon usually only include the instrument, no bow or case. As Eastman’s violins are built for advanced players, the bow choice is often up to the player.
4. Yamaha Violins
Yamaha has established itself as one of the premier musical instrument companies. Founded in the late 1800s as Nippon Gakki Company, Yamaha started with pianos and reed instruments. However, it slowly grew to be one of the most trusted instrument manufacturers in the world.
The main downside to Yamaha violins is that they are quite expensive. Most of their violins, especially the electric violins, are priced at $1,000 or above so they are not ideal for beginners.
Recommended For: Beginner
Cecilio is a well-known student stringed instrument brand whose violins, violas, and cellos are widely used for introductory lessons. The violins are made at a much lower cost than many of the other violin brands on this list and they’re all handmade, even the less than $100 CVN-100. To learn more about the other Cecilio violins, read our guide on the best Cecilio violins.
Cecilio violins are made from solid tonewoods that are hand-carved. They have a spruce top, flamed maple sides and back, and inlaid purfling. Their more expensive student violins also come with well-defined flames.
The main con of Cecilio violins is that their fingerboards are made of maple instead of ebony which erode faster with ther repeated pressure of fingers tapping on them. Maple fingerboards make for lower cost instruments, but repairs will be more likely in the future if your student chooses to continue playing with the Cecilio violin.
These violin outfits are also very generous. Most Cecilio outfits come with a quality brazilwood bow with unbleached Mongolian horsehair. They also come with boxwood pegs, tailpiece (with four fine tuners), and both a soft and hard case! Great value for your money.
Given the value you get for the price, the Cecilio violin brand gets a thumbs up from us, but if you are an advanced player, we recommend looking at some of the higher-end violins below.
6. D Z Strad
Recommended For: Intermediate
D Z Strad violins are consistently rated as some of the best mid-tier violins. Reviews on Amazon rave about the sound quality of these instruments so we had to give one a try. We were blown away! The Model 509 in particular is a great instrument for the intermediate violin student for its quality sound. Not to mention it looks beautiful.
The company has a workshop in New York and Minnesota and offer a complete range of services for the string community. The violins themselves are made with hand-rubbed Italian tonewoods that have been naturally dried outside on a covered, ventilated area for 20 years. The wood is then placed into a drying room, consistent with old world traditional European practices to ensures that the wood will not open or expand, and guarantees stability.
To see more DZ Strad violin options, you can read our guide reviewing the best DZ Strad violins.
The outfits include the violin, a violin case, and a violin bow. For a high-quality violin that ranges between $600-$2000 depending on size, this is a ton of value.
Recommended For: Beginner
Cremona violins make great beginner instruments for a decent price tag. While the parts are made in China, Cremona violins are assembled in California, so there is definitely American craftsmanship involved. Made out of select tone woods, such as hand-carved maple, spruce, and ebony, these violins perform pretty well as-is, but can sound a lot better with minor improvements.
Out-of-the-box, Cremona violins come with Prelude strings which are okay, but swapping them out for a higher-quality violin string brand can make a world of difference.
Cremona violins are built to MENC standards (National Standards for Music Education as prescribed by the Music Educators National Conference in 1994) in their Cremona workshop in the state of California. The MENC standard ensures that they are playable when they arrive, and can be easily integrated into your child’s school orchestra or ensemble. It’s no wonder that students and teachers alike favor Cremona over other student violin outfits.
Each outfit comes with a high-quality Brazilwood bow, a Cremona bridge, a violin bag, and a Breton composite tailpiece with 4 built-in fine tuners.
Recommended For: Intermediate
Primavera violins are a very affordable intermediate violin brand. Slightly more expensive than many of the beginner brands ($600-$1000), Primavera violins are made out of high quality solid tonewoods, including hand carved maple and spruce with inlaid purfling. The fingerboard and pegs are made out of carved ebony, as well as the fittings. In addition, the Primavera intermediate violin outfit comes with a “student-proof” (ie. very strong) composite bow with an ebony frog and Mongolian horsehair. To make it even more student-proof, you can get a hard violin case for it.
Primavera has made several decisions to cut costs while improving the musical experience. For example, they use a metal alloy tailpiece with four fine tuners, instead of a solid wood tailpiece.
Primavera beginner violin outfits come in many sizes, so you can find the proper fit for you or your child. Most also come with a hardwood bow and soft bag.
Recommended For: Beginner
Medini is a subsidiary of Cecilio that specializes in starter violins. The violins usually cost less than $100 and are useful for trying out the violin as an instrument for absolute beginners, but are not great for any long-term playing.
The lower cost is attributable to low-cost materials used for construction. Instead of the typical ebony components, Medini uses maple wood for the fingerboard, chin rest, and pegs.
The beginner Medini kits do come with everything you need to begin playing including rosin, a case, bow, and sheet music, but these instruments aren’t ones you’ll want to keep for long.
What else do you need?
While most of the violin brands above come with everything you need to get started, some of the packages don’t come with everything you need. Violins need the following basic accessories such as rosin, a case, a bow, etc. You can read more what you need to buy for a violin in our Buying a Violin Checklist guide.
Our list of the best violin brands below is based on quality and affordability. It is intended to help you select a high-value violin brand that fits within your budget. We have also evaluated each violin brand on whether it is intended for beginner, intermediate, or advanced level violin players.
Every violin brand on this list may not suit your individual personality. You need to find a violin that sounds right to you and that you know you will play for a long time, but also fits in your budget.
Buying a musical instrument online is a fairly recent thing with the advent of the internet. If you don’t feel comfortable buying an instrument online, we recommend trying out violins at a local music shop before you shop online for the best deal. However, if you feel comfortable with Amazon’s return policy, you can certainly buy from them and return the violin if it doesn’t sound quite right.