Top Electric Violas – Guide & Comparison
If you are here trying to find the best electric viola but you simply don’t have the time to do the necessary research on this complicated topic, this short but comprehensive paragraph should help you out. After reading plenty of electric violas reviews and after comparing aspects such as price to value ratios and overall brand quality, we have reached the conclusion that the NS Design CR4 is the unit that you should invest in. Apart from having a beautiful, clean-cut design, this model comes fitted with an ebony fingerboard and an active preamp that has a polar dual mode. Moreover, this product has a solid body made out of maple. If the NS Design CR4 is out of stock, please check out the NS Designs NS NXT4-VA-SB as it is a reliable second alternative that you might equally enjoy playing on.
5 Best Electric Violas (Reviews) in 2021
Because we are well aware of the fact that picking an electric viola for sale is not a task without its difficulties, we have compiled a list of top-notch products that you should consider before placing any orders. So, read ahead and decide for yourself!
1. NS Design CR4 Viola
With overall favorable reviews from both specialists and previous buyers, the NS Design CR4 is a product that should be on your mind. This unit stands out thanks to its unique design and the fact that it can deliver a high-quality performance.
This viola has a grain maple body with a distinguishing maple flame mark on it and a feasible ebony fingerboard. As a plus, the fingerboard is said also to contain special markers that draw the player’s attention to where specific notes are.
Even more so, this model has additional controls on the side that you can make use of to enhance the quality of the sound. When it comes to the pickup system used by the device, you should know that this viola comes fitted with a polar directional piezo.
Last but not least, this four string viola also contains precision 40:1 fine tuners that come fitted with an automatic string clamping system that you are likely to appreciate.
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2. NS Designs NS NXT4-VA-SB Viola – Sunburst
Another unit that you should pay additional attention to is the NS Designs NS NXT4-VA-SB. This product features a sturdy straight grain maple body that also has a visible flame maple face on its frame.
The model was constructed using a feasible polar pickup system that is said to be able to switch between the arco and pizzicato mode (in accordance with the player’s intentions). Moreover, the product fingerboard was specially created so that it has an asymmetric curvature, which enables left-hand players to play the instrument with ease.
According to the unit’s manufacturer, the NS NXT4-VA-SB also uses fine tuners that have been mounted on the bridge so that you will be able to tune this instrument with precision and finesse. Even more so, the automatic string clamping is said to enable effortless string changes.
A custom-made shoulder rest with a padded aluminum base is included in the product’s overall design. Similarly, a chinrest made out of ebony is also covered by the price.
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3. Stagg EVA 4/4-BK Silent Viola Set with Case
If you want to purchase a futuristic-looking instrument that is also cost-effective, the Stagg EVA 4/4-BK Silent might be just what you need. This model was created by a highly regarded manufacturer that comes from a long line of tradition, reason why the unit is quite reliable and worth a second look.
By comparison to other similar products, we feel like it is crucial that we point out that this model is particularly lightweight. Therefore, if you consider that the unit’s weight is a determining factor, this viola might be proper for you.
From a technical point of view, you should know that this product features a solid Lacquered maple body as well as 2-band Volume & EQ. Four type tuners are also included in the model’s construction.
According to a previous buyer of the model, this product is solid investments that will perform well when used. The unit is fit for those that don’t want to disturb others when playing.
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4. NS Design 4-String NXT4a Viola-Sunburst (NXT4AVASB)
Another top-quality model produced by NS Designs is the NXT4a-VA-SB NXT4a. This device is said to come provided with an NS polar pickup system that produces rich and beautiful tones that you are deemed to appreciate.
Moreover, because it contains an NXTa active output, the model is basically compatible with virtually any amplifier or sound system on the market. Therefore, if you settle for this unit, finding an appropriate amplifier won’t pose a problem.
The patented tuning system that the manufacturer has outfitted the device with enables the player to tune the instrument fast and with minute precision. Even more so, you won’t have to worry about it slipping while you are playing.
Lastly, the product’s ergonomic design accommodates a built-in custom-made shoulder rest with a padded and highly malleable base that can take the shape of your body so that you feel comfortable while using the device. A hard shell case is also supplied to the buyers and included in the shipped package.
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5. Yamaha SVV200 Silent Viola
Another silent unit that you are likely to appreciate if you don’t like to disturb your neighbors while practicing is the Yamaha SVV200 Silent. Because the model features both an EQ dial and Dual piezo pickups, this unit produces warm, rich tones that you will surely find appealing.
Because of the minimalist body design, this viola is lightweight, and thus you won’t feel hindered by its weight while using it. Similarly, the wood side frame is easy on the eye and practical as it offers the needed support one needs when playing the instrument.
As expected, this is a professional studio-quality preamp model. Furthermore, the unit has been made in such a way that it actually replicates the 16’ viola’s body length. Therefore, you can easily place it in a standard carrying case without fearing that it won’t fit.
A quick look at the reviews points to the fact that this unit is well thought of by previous users.
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Yearly Guide & Report
When it comes to selecting a quality electric viola, most buyers find it difficult to know what specific features they should consider. Given this state of facts, we have decided to lend you a helping hand by putting together a list of highly important aspects and features that you should necessarily have in mind before you settle for a unit. So, read ahead and make your choice wisely!
Material and body shape
If you are interested in purchasing a good electric viola, our recommendation to you is that you take a good look at the materials used in constructing the instrument. According to the specialists, the material is vital as this is the factor that actually influences both the model’s sound and its overall price.
However, given the fact that you are looking for an electric model, you should know that, differently from the classical units, some of these models might be constructed from other materials, not just wood.
Moreover, it is crucial that you understand that distinct from the older models, an electric viola instrument differs in construction. Therefore, the traditional shape of the product has been replaced by a new type of body where the pegs and the scroll part of the classical headstock are most likely missing, as in this case the tuning is realized at the bridge of the model.
As a plus, the instrument itself is fitted with a series of electronic supplementary parts that are said to supply the unit with the possibility of reaching new tonal heights. Still, the newer models still feature chin and shoulder rest so that the player feels comfortable while playing.
Amplification and strings
If you read any reviews of electric violas, you are surely going to notice a lot of references to the type of amplification used by various models. Usually, most instruments of this kind come fitted with a pickup and an amplifier that is capable of enhancing the sound produced by the viola.
Even more so, at current time these units can use two different types of amplification. On the one hand, there are models that have a rather fuller body. These units generally come outfitted with what the specialists call a piezoelectric pickup. On the other hand, there are the specialized electric units that can be easily recognized due to their minimalist body.
When speaking about the instrument’s strings, we feel like it is prudent that we remind you that violas usually have four strings: C, G, D, A (the viola has three strings in common with regular violins). Still, you can also purchase a 5-string electric viola.
Before you place any orders, it might also be wise that you check to see whether or not the unit produces a coherent, melodious sound in all of its strings. Although many players are usually likely to settle for the first unit that has a powerful C string, it is worth having in mind that this is not enough.
Similarly, it is also prudent that you purchase a unit that has can project the sound made in a distinct, powerful manner. This aspect is worth taking into account as violas usually need to have a particular sound that is easy to hear in an orchestra. If you want to end up with a unit that can do just that, it might be best that you invest the extra money and that you purchase a high-quality model rather than choosing a budget-friendly but less potent viola.
Additional tips and tricks
If you are still not sure what product to purchase, it is best that you talk to your teacher and ask him/her for an opinion regarding what model to buy. By doing so, you can be sure that the instrument that you will end up with is reliable and suitable for your aptitudes.
In fact, specialists argue that one should always select a viola that matches his/her abilities to play the instrument. Therefore, it is best that you invest in a unit that was particularly built to cater to your needs. For example, student violas are sturdier than advanced models so that the beginners won’t cause them to break easily.
Likewise, intermediate and advanced units have a higher workmanship and are more dynamic. Most of these models are handmade by professional craftsmen. Last but not least, professional violas stand out thanks to their exquisite craftsmanship as well as because of their rich tones and beautiful designs. Needless to say, the latter models are significantly more expensive than the former ones.
What is more, no matter if you purchase a cheap electric viola or a rather expensive one, you will probably have to carry the instrument with you wherever you go. Nevertheless, as you probably already expect, traveling with a musical instrument means exposing it to a series of environmental risks that might result in it losing its capabilities. Usually, the element most affected is the unit’s (wood) body.
One of these important risk factors is represented by humidity. To make sure that your possession is not in any way predisposed to being affected by this agent, we recommend that you invest in a humidifier as well as in a quality damper.
Other features that you should not settle without in a product like this are the chin and the shoulder rest. As you probably already intuit, these two features are particularly important due to the fact that they influence just how comfortable using the viola is.
Some more user-friendly units actually come with additional padding that is said to greatly improve the models’ convenience. This feature is particularly worth considering if you happen to spend long periods of time practicing.
If you decide to guide your shopping by following these suggestions, we are sure that you will end up with the best viola that will last you a long period of time and that won’t disappoint your expectations.
Types of electric violas
The simplest and the least expensive way to get an electric viola is to equip an existing acoustic instrument with electronics. This is called an acoustic-electric viola and it is achieved by mounting pickups inside the viola with soft clamps on the body and bridge.
The advantage of such an instrument is that it can maintain the feel and playability of the original instrument but with the ability to play both acoustically and electrically. Even when amplified, an acoustic-electric viola will deliver an authentic acoustic tone.
The main issue with such an instrument is the feedback since the large resonating chamber of an acoustic viola enhances the loop between the instrument and the amplifier. Nevertheless, this is a good option if you are looking for an affordable electric viola.
Another type that you can get is the modern electric viola and this is a good option for anyone who is looking to explore the unique tone and sound of a fully electric instrument. This model has the traditional body shape of a viola replaced by a solid, elongated block of maple and all the electronics are built directly into the instrument itself.
The sophisticated onboard electronics of a modern electric viola help it deliver a wide variety of tonal possibilities that are fully customizable from the instrument itself. There is also virtually no feedback for you to worry about.
Lastly, there’s the silent viola which offers a compromise between the dedicated electric viola and the acoustic instrument. The body of this instrument is usually partially outlined to provide a familiar feel and look. When amplified, a silent electric viola creates a sound that closely resembles the original acoustic tone. You can also use it to practice with headphones.
Frequently asked questions about electric violas
Q: How does an electric viola work?
The main difference between an electrical viola and a traditional unit lays in the fact that the former unit makes use of an electric device to amplify the sound made while playing it. This device is most often a piezoelectric pickup. Moreover, these violas can be constructed from different materials, not just wood.
Even more so, when compared to classical models, electric units tend to be more lightweight and therefore easier to play. Additionally, given the fact that older units are known for being difficult to tune, the modern, electric ones are significantly easier to tune.
Furthermore, an electric viola also comes with a wide variety of sound control options on the instrument itself so that you customize the sound however you want it. You can have an unprocessed sound or use built-in reverb to make it sound like you’re playing in a big concert hall.
Q: When was the electric viola invented?
Although the first viola was constructed in the 16th century (around 1500, in Italy), the electric models are newer to the market. It is safe to assume that the first electric unit was developed at the same time electric violins were designed, that is, 1958.
The first manufacturer that produced and sold electric violas and violins was Wood Violins. However, given the re-discovery of the beauty of playing the viola, the market is currently filled with countless models that you can choose from. As a plus, silent units are also available.
The silent viola manages to bridge the gap between an acoustic and electric viola. This type of electric viola was first manufactured by Yamaha and it includes a body that has an outline made from wood with traditional scroll and pegs. The dual pickups that this model uses allow it to be connected to both an amplifier and a pair of headphones for silent practice.
Q: How much does an electric viola cost?
It is not easy to give a clear-cut answer to this question. As we have pointed out earlier, the price of a viola is greatly influenced by the intended user of the product. In other words, the models that have been designed for beginners are usually cheaper while the ones constructed for intermediate, advanced and professional players are significantly more expensive.
Still, the latter units imply the use of high craftsmanship, reason why they are minutely handcrafted. To put it short, a cheap unit is a few hundred dollars while a proficient product might cost you more than a thousand dollars.
As time goes by and the manufacturing process gets better and more efficient, instruments will only start to get cheaper without a decrease in actual quality. To add to that, whether you are looking for a starter electric viola or you want to get a higher-quality instrument, the market has enough products to satisfy all needs and budgets.
Q: Which one’s better? An acoustic or an electric viola?
Again, one cannot answer this question directly. However, if you are a beginner, experienced players suggest that you start with an acoustic viola and that you switch to the electric model after you become a bit more experienced. However, there have been voices that have suggested that this is not necessarily necessary.
Because there is no general concession over this topic, we recommend that you hire a teacher and that you ask him/her for additional advice on the subject. By doing so, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll be able to play the instrument well. Thus, letting the teacher decide is the best option!
However, if you plan to play the acoustic viola, it is best to start and focus on it since practicing on a good electric viola for extended periods can be counterproductive to your ability to play an acoustic instrument.
That’s not to say that the acoustic is better than the electric, but it plays differently enough that if you want to get a good grasp of both, you’ll need to focus on the acoustic first.
Q: Does Yamaha make good electric violas?
According to many specialized reviews, Yamaha is a manufacturer of violas that you can certainly trust. The main reason why this is true has to do with the fact that this brand has been developing and selling such instruments for a significant period of time.
Consequently, they know what works and what doesn’t in terms of the technology employed in the creation of these instruments. Hence, if you have the resources to purchase a unit made by Yamaha we warmly recommend that you do so, you surely won’t regret it!
Apart from the care and expert craftsmanship that this brand puts into each of its instruments, Yamaha is also known for the innovative instruments it has created over the years. If you’re looking for cutting edge technology and some of the coolest electric violas you can find on the market, then Yamaha can certainly deliver.