The sweet sound of the violin is captivating. Whether as a solo instrument, in an orchestra, or even in a rock band context, the violin is an instrument that holds its own.
Even those who have never picked up a violin in their life have usually heard of Stradivarius violins.
Fittingly, some violin brands have gone on to become legendary among the violin community. In this guide, we explore the best violin brands of all time.
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Yamaha (or Yamaha Corporation) was founded in October 1887. Originally it was called Nippon Gakki Seizo Company, Limited (literally “Japanese instrument manufacturing company”). Yamaha is considered the largest instrument manufacturing company in the world.
It’s not much of a surprise, then, that their expansive product range includes pianos, keyboards, guitars, basses, amps, brass, woodwinds, marching instruments, drums, percussion, music production equipment, audio and visual equipment, professional audio gear, and of course, strings.
Yamaha offers a range of violins suited to beginners and professionals alike, and their selection of instruments includes acoustic, electric, and even “silent” instruments for quieter practice sessions.
Yamaha is widely recognized and well-regarded. Their flagship violin is the YVN500S, based on the designs of the infamous Stradivarius. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that many manufacturers (not just Yamaha) take inspiration from one of the all-time violins.
Yamaha is a great brand to go with if you’re looking for high-quality, reliable, affordable instruments complete with a five-year warranty.
Scherl & Roth
Heinrich Roth learned the art of violinmaking under the guidance of his father and brother, in Markneukirchen, Germany. Persuaded by customers and friends, Roth would move to the U.S. to serve a hungry audience and begin managing the Simson & Frey violin department.
In 1932, Simson retired, and Roth partnered up with Max Scherl to buy Simson & Frey, renaming it Scherl & Roth.
Today, Scherl & Roth is a contractor under Conn-Selmer, which is a subsidiary of the infamous Steinway Musical Instruments.
Sordid history aside, Scherl & Roth makes several student and advanced violins, as well as the SR61 Premium Violin, which is handcrafted, and set up by hand too.
Knilling was founded in 1922, in St. Lous, by Bernard Kornblum. The company’s namesake is a well-known German luthier by the name of Johannes Knilling. Their instruments are known for their beauty and longevity.
In addition to violins, Knilling also makes violas, cellos, double basses, and accessories, including pegs, bows, and cases.
Their line of violins includes one Sebastian model, one Bucharest model, four Anton Eminescu models, and two Nicolo Gabrieli models.
Knilling is known to offer a variety of violins at different price points. While their student models are perhaps the most known, they do have more expensive models to serve an advanced and professional playing demographic too.
If you’re looking to save a little money on a quality instrument, Knilling is not a bad brand to look to.
D Z Strad
Located in White Plains, New York, D Z Strad is one of the leading string workshops for classic and modern violins, violas, and cellos. They also make accessories like bows, strings, cases, tuners, and pegs.
If you happen to visit the D Z Strad website, then prepare to drool, because in addition to their custom instruments, you’ll also find high-priced fine, antique, and European instruments to browse.
But whether you’re looking for something at the beginner or advanced level, D Z Strad has violins suited to every player. From the Model 100, starting at $295, up to the Model 1,100, starting at $8,000, chances are you can find something that meets your expectations.
If you’re in the market for an electric violin (which seems to be a current trend), D Z Strad has got that too.
The Eastman workshop works in much the same way 19th-century European workshops did, with skilled craftspeople using the tools of the trade – knives, chisels, and scrapers, to craft beautiful string instruments. Hey, why mess with a working formula, right?
Eastman was founded in 1992 by Qian Ni, a Boston University School of Music graduate. The company grew from a small operation out of the back of his car to a worldwide supplier of musical instruments.
Whether violins, violas, cellos, or basses, Eastman instruments are a formidable force. Some of the musicians representing the Eastman brand include the likes of violinists Eddy Marcano, Jordan Lawson, and Ada Pasternak, among many others.
Their handcrafted violin models include the Stradivarius (valued for its projection and well-rounded tone) and the Guarneri (known for its dark, complex, and earthy sound).
That said, they do offer a mix of student, performance, professional, and electric instruments, so you can find an Eastman matched to your level of playing and budget.
And if you need any extras to go with that shiny new violin of yours, you’ll be happy to know that Eastman supplies bows and cases too.
Ned Steinberger’s NS Design prides itself on creating unique electric instruments. That includes violas, cellos, omni basses, upright basses, bass guitars, and of course violins.
Their main violin offerings include:
- CR series electric violins. These come with active electronics (9v), tone-shaping controls, and a headphone out jack. Four- and five-string models (unfretted and fretted versions) are available. CR models are crafted in the Czech Republic.
- NXTa series electric violins. With active / passive dual-mode electronics (battery-free). Four- or five-string models (fretless or fretted) versions available. NXTa models are crafted in the Czech Republic.
- WAV series electric violins. With battery-free passive electronics. Four- and five-string models are available. WAV series models are crafted in India.
NS Design’s violin artist roster includes the likes of Ezinma, Laurie Anderson, Adam Baldych, Anna Blanton, Trevor Dick, Annabelle Freedman, Ken Ford, Taylor Hope, Edward Howe, Eliza James, and Gary Kuo, among many others.
In addition to instruments, NS Design also manufactures electric strings, bows, violin and viola accessories, cello accessories, omni / upright bass accessories, and flight cases. It makes sense – their instruments are rather unique!
And in case you were wondering, yes, we are talking about that Ned Steinberger, the one that became famous for guitars and basses without headstocks. He is alive and well and still innovating.
If you’re not looking for innovative electric instruments, NS Design is not for you, but otherwise, they are well worth a look.
German musical instrument manufacturer Höfner was founded in Austria-Hungary in 1887 by Karl Höfner. Höfner makes an array of instruments and instrument accessories, including guitars, basses, string instruments, and bows.
Fun fact – Höfner grew in popularity largely thanks to Beatle Paul McCartney, who has utilized the Höfner 500/1 electric bass over the course of his long-lasting career. As a result, the violin-shaped bass guitars have come to be known as the “Beatle bass.”
As you would expect, their string instruments include violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. Yes, they have an electric violin too – the Electric Violin AS-160.
Some of their violin models include:
- H115 Series
- H225 Series
While their artist lineup doesn’t feature any violinists, names like Paul McCartney, Joel Fisk, and Curt Smith still stick out at you.
Stentor Music is well known as a manufacturer for student string instruments, including violins, violas, cellos, and basses. You can find Stentor Music instruments through its distributors in over 30 countries across the world.
Stentor Music is a major player in manufacturing and distribution, and they even represent an array of brands like Andreas Zeller, Dogal, Harlequin, Hokada, Jupiter, Ozark, Pirastro, Schaller, and Valencia, among others.
One of Stentor Music’s stated missions is to get quality instruments into the hands of every student. That said, they also have advanced violin products for more experienced players.
Some of their student outfits include the Stentor Student I, Stentor Graduate, and Stentor Conservatoire. Some of their advanced models include The Stentor Verona, Stentor Elysia, and Stentor Arcadia.
Cremona Violins is a brand belonging to Saga Musical Instruments, a manufacturer and distributor of string instruments.
The brand got its start in 1981 in San Francisco. Cremona was the first to import instruments from China for distribution in the US and ultimately, in over 50 countries worldwide.
Underlying the manufacturing of Cremona instruments is a traditional Italian violinmaking philosophy. Cremona violins are well known for their lightweight construction, tuning stability, and quality of sound.
Cremona Violins has instruments suited to different levels of playing, including the Maestro Series, Artist Series, Student Series, and Novice Series.
Not one to linger on their story, Cremona primarily communicates their origins through video on their website and lets their instruments and famous quotes do the rest of the talking. Well, that’s one way to do it.
While their instruments do serve a wide demographic, they are well known for keeping their prices in an affordable range, which makes Cremona Violins a good beginner-oriented brand.
The Realist Violin
The Realist Violin makes fully carved string instruments from Carpathian spruce and sets them up in preparation for sale at their shop in New York, New York.
I like to think of them as a bit of an innovative company, and I think you’ll see why in a moment.
Their violins feature an input jack discretely hidden away at the back of the instrument (to keep cables hidden away from unsuspecting audiences, I suppose). Their instruments also come with a Realist Transducer to retain an organic, acoustic sound even when plugged in.
Their Instant-Active technology turns a passive pickup into an active one, giving you the hottest signal possible.
The Realist Violin also has four- and five-string models to cater to different interests. They have standard and professional models too.
Within their artist roster, you will find the names of Ann Marie Calhoun, Paul Dateh, and Lee England, Jr among others.
In addition to violins, The Realist also offers the LifeLine pickup for upright basses, Docking Station (universal volume knob for upright bass), SoundClip (travel bridge clamp for bass or cello), and Copperhead (piezo pickup for violin, viola, cello, mandolin, banjo, upright bass, and more).
The Realist website is a little strange, as they don’t seem to want to showcase their products much. But rest assured you can see their product range on dealer websites.
Scott Cao Violins
Scott Cao Violins was founded by none other than Scott Cao, one of the most well-known Chinese violinmakers the world over. Cao studied violin at the Guangzhou No. 2 Light Industry Municipal Bureau Professional Technical School and moved to the U.S. in 1985 to restore and repair rare instruments.
By 1989, Cao had established a violin factory in Guangzhou, China, and set up a studio and violin shop in California.
If Scott Cao violins are of interest to you, the following models are well worth a look:
- Signature Series
- Scott Cao Personal Master Made
Jay Haide Violins
Jay Haide Violins prides itself in making affordably priced, high-quaity violins, violas, cellos, and basses for students.
In 1992, master violinmaker and owner of Ifshin Violins Jay Ifshin grew frustrated with the inconsistent quality of instruments they were getting from suppliers. That’s when he had the idea of starting a workshop for consistently creating quality instruments at an affordable price point.
Along with master violinmaker Haide Lin, Jay established the new workshop, and of course, they are both the namesake of the company (Jay & Haide, get it?). Before they knew it, they were getting requests for their instruments across the world.
Jay Haide Violins offers the following models:
- 101 Model. Perfect for beginners.
- 104 Model. Crafted by senior violinmakers. Uses aged wood for the best tone quality possible.
- L’ancienne Model. Like the 104 model, the L’ancienne model is crafted by senior violinmakers and uses quality, aged wood. This model also uses a custom-formulated varnish and is suited to the advanced student and professional.
- Statue Model. Uses aged European tonewood and features flamed maple on the back. There are four Statue models available – Stradivari, J.B. Guadagnini, Guarneri del Gesu, and Tomasso Balestrieri of Mantua.
Snow was established in October 1989 by luthier William Hu in Beijing, China. Initially a small workshop employing six workers, the company grew into Snow Stringed Instruments, Inc. just nine years later, and was set up in New York.
William’s brother, Jack Hu helped the company expand into what it has become today, and by reputation, Snow is known for their quality violins, violas, cellos, and basses.
The starting price for a Snow violin is $1,600, so you should expect to pay more for a Snow instrument if that’s the direction you’re leaning towards.
The Basic models include the SV200 and SV400, the Advance models include the PerCasoViolin and PV900-V (starting at $3,000), and the Snow Professional models include the JackHu-Violin, JHS-Violin, and SIMONA-Violin (starting at $8,900).
Snow violins are a little harder to come by in Canada and the U.S. but there are stores that carry them if you go looking for them!
Antonio Strad Violin
Antonio Strad Violin was founded in June 1994 by music professor Mary Zhang, and violinist / luthier Guolian Zhou. The company quickly grew to become a large operation in Texas, and they have even been called a “Texas Treasure.”
Antonio Strad has a very polished web presence, and their website is nicely presented and organized. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, so you know they’re forward-thinking.
In addition to violins, they also make violas, cellos, double basses, bows, and an array of accessories – strings, cases, endpins / wheels, rockstops, rosin, shoulder rests, tuner / metronomes, books, instrument stands, music stands, gift cards, and more.
Their range of violins includes beginner, advanced, professional, electric, and fine violin models. Their instruments begin at around $399 and go up to $12,000.
Other Violin Brands
If you go looking for them, you can find other violin brands out there. Most are beginner oriented, so they may fall outside of the category of “best” (and may not have a website to call their own), but they are still worthwhile, especially if you are on a budget.
Here are several more brands to explore:
- Cecilio. Offers low-cost bundles. Acoustic and electric instruments available.
- Fiddlerman. Fiddlerman has quickly become one of the most sought-after brands. Violin outfits range from $389 to $1338.
- Franz Hoffmann. Reportedly makes great-looking, great-sounding instruments in an affordable price range.
- Carlo Lamberti. This brand is a little harder to find, especially on the internet, but they are reportedly good bang for the buck.
Top Violin Brands, Final Thoughts
If you’re currently in the market for a violin, then don’t rush the process. It can take some time, effort, and dedication to find the instrument that’s right for you. There are many factors to consider, including sound quality, features, accessories, budget, and more.
Remember that while all brands effort to make great quality products, they do have the occasional flops too. So, just because you’re buying from Yamaha doesn’t always mean you’re going to get an instrument you’re happy with long-term.
Take your time, ask around, and try a few instruments. It will be worth the effort!