If your music is also your livelihood, you need a great violin. But with a constantly changing market, keeping up-to-date with the options available can be a challenge.
That’s where we come in. Here, we take a look at seven of the best violins for professionals. And we give our honest assessment of what’s great, and not so great, about all of them.
If you need more help in narrowing down your search, check out our buying guide too. It will help you consider how to make the right choice.
So step this way to find your perfect violin …
The Best Violin for Professionals 2021
1. DZ Strad Maestro Old Spruce Model 509 (Our Top Pick)
DZ Strad’s Meastro violin comes in a wide range of sizes. Child prodigies who need a professional-level violin can choose from models down to one-eighth. And unusually, there’s a seven-eighths size for smaller adult violinists. It is, of course, available as a full-size violin too.
It’s completely handmade by DZ Strad’s award-winning luthiers. The finish is a mellow antique varnish which gives it the look and feel of a much older instrument.
All the tonewood is naturally seasoned. The top of the violin is made from Alpine Italian spruce. The back and sides are made from hand-selected cuts of maple.
The wood is meticulously graduated to produce a rich, powerful yet refined tone. The sound has color, depth and sophistication.
It is strung with Thomastik-Infeld Dominant strings. These have a synthetic core made up of multiple strands for a warm tone and soft, clear sound. They’re flexible, yet won’t be affected by changes in humidity.
Here, you’ll get a number of extras included in the outfit. There are two bows, one with a Brazilwood and one with a carbon fiber stick. Both frogs feature attractive mother-of-pearl fleur-de-lis inlays, and the windings are beautifully detailed.
There’s also a decent shoulder rest from FOM and a cake of quality Pirastro Goldflex rosin. Everything comes inside a hard-shell case with a weatherproof fabric covering.
This is an instrument that is responsive and pleasurable to play. Amongst its owners are many private violin tutors and teachers at the renowned Suzuki school. And the whole outfit represents exceptional value for money.
It’s hard to find anything here to dislike. We will say that if you prefer a glossier finish, this violin won’t be the right choice. And note that it comes with only one adjuster pre-installed, which sits on the E-string.
But with these the only issues we’ve been able to find, this is a really great violin outfit.
- Meticulously graduated body produces a warm, rich and resonant tone
- Thomastik-Infeld dominant strings for clear sound that’s impervious to changing humidity
- Comes with one Brazilwood and one carbon fiber bow
- Only one adjuster is pre-installed
- We love the subtle varnish, but if you prefer something glossier it won’t be the right choice.
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2. D Z Strad Model 326
At a slightly higher price point than the Model 509, DZ Strad offer their Model 326.
This is a copy of a violin by Gasparo da Salo, one of the earliest makers of the modern violin. Active in the sixteenth century, around 80 of his instruments survive to this day. They are famed for their quality and cost as much as a family home.
This instrument has been based on designs from da Salo’s “Adam Collection”. As such, it has the look and feels of an authentic antique Italian violin. Fortunately, the price tag is considerably lower.
The front and back plates are made from aged maple and inlaid with double purfling. The back is particularly striking, featuring flourishes at the top, middle, and bottom. It’s this distinctive pattern that makes the direct connection to da Salo.
The sound here is warm and resonant, with great dynamic range. The violin is strung with Dominant strings handmade by Austrian maker Thomastik-Infeld. These will resist humidity, helping prevent your violin from going out of tune when environmental conditions change.
The violin is set up with a Rock Maple bridge by DZ Strad’s professional luthiers. All you’ll need to do when it arrives is check it hasn’t moved in transit, and fine-tune the strings. Note that you will need to add your own adjusters for the G, D and A strings if you want them.
As with other D Z Strad violins, this one comes as part of a wider outfit.
This includes two bows, one with a carbon fiber stick, and one made from Brazilwood. Both have ebony frogs embellished with a mother-of-pearl slider and fleur-de-lis inlay. A cake of good quality Pirastro Goldflex rosin is included too.
There’s also a striking violin case. The weatherproof fabric cover features contrasting deep and powder blue panels that make it stand out from the crowd. You won’t have to worry about anyone accidentally picking up the wrong case at the end of rehearsals!
The flourishes on the back of the violin and the colorful case won’t suit those who prefer an understated look. But they rightly mark this violin out as something rather special.
- Beautiful and striking violin, based on a sixteenth-century design
- No set-up required
- Outfit includes two bows, good rosin, and a high-quality case
- The flourishes and bright case won’t suit everyone
- Only one adjuster is pre-installed.
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3. D Z Strad Model 220 (Budget Pick)
For a violin with a good tone at a more modest price, consider the Model 220 from D Z Strad. Truthfully, this is more for an intermediate to advanced student than a professional. But if you’re on a budget, it’s a good compromise.
It’s available in 1/8, ¼, ½, ¾ and full-size. Look around and some retailers will also stock it in 7/8. It’s half the price of the Model 509. So what do you get for your money?
You’ll get a top made from seasoned Engelmann spruce. This has been naturally air-dried for at least ten years. The sides and two-piece back are made from maple.
The fingerboard is ebony, while the pegs, chinrest and tailpiece are made of boxwood. If you don’t like lighter color for the chinrest and tailpiece, you won’t love the appearance.
It’s strung with the same good quality Thomastik-Infeld strings that feature on D Z Strad’s more expensive violins. The multi-strand synthetic core means they won’t stretch or retract when the humidity levels change.
It comes with one adjuster on the E-string. If you prefer a full set, some sellers will install them for you prior to dispatch.
It’s entirely made by hand. That includes the application of the varnish, which is thinly applied so as not to impair the tone. The sound here is expressive and sophisticated, with color and depth.
The outfit includes a case, bow, rosin and shoulder rest too.
The shoulder rest has a comfortable foam top and ergonomic curve. The base is made of polished wood and looks very smart.
The bow has a Brazilwood stick and ebony frog. There’s a mother-of-pearl fleur-de-lis inlaid on the frog, and an attractive winding screw with more mother-of-pearl. You’ll get a good grip and sound with the Pirastro Goldflex rosin.
Last but not least is the smart black case. It has a hard shell to protect your violin, and a canvas cover to keep out moisture.
All in all, this is a good option for anyone needing a violin with mellow sound at a modest price.
- Expressive and sophisticated sound
- Strung with humidity-resistant Dominant strings
- Comes with Brazilwood bow, rosin, case and shoulder rest.
- Targeted at intermediate to advanced students, more than professionals
- The boxwood chin rest and tailpiece won’t be to everyone’s taste.
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4. D Z Strad Model 800
The final violin from D Z Strad to make our list, the Model 800 is also the most expensive. It’s well over twice the price of the Model 326. Compared to antique Italian violins however, it’s still very modestly priced.
It’s available in full-size only, and there are some familiar features from the other D Z Strads.
The spruce and maple tonewoods come from the Italian Alps. They’re air-dried for many years to ensure they’re fully seasoned before use. Spruce is used for the front panel, and maple for the back and sides.
The back is made from two pieces of beautifully flamed maple. A light layer of varnish brings out the beauty of the wood without dulling the tone. It has a similar look to a violin hundred of years old – and many times the price.
The bridge is made from maple too. The boxwood tailpiece and chinrest are a deep warm brown and beautifully shaped. The fingerboard and pegs are ebony, and the pegs turn smoothly and hold their position well.
There’s one adjuster in the tailpiece. If you want others for the G, D and A strings, you’ll need to buy them separately. It’s strung with Dominant strings which will resist changes in humidity without losing their tension.
The sound is full and rich, with outstanding projection. This is a great violin for the concert hall. If you can afford it, you’ll be getting a violin that can rival boutique instruments at a fraction of the price.
It comes fully set-up. All you’ll need to do is check the position of the bridge and fine tune it before playing.
The violin comes with a hard shell case. It has a canvas cover to protect your instrument from moisture. Also included are an attractive bow and a good quality cake of rosin to give it bite. The bow is made of Brazilwood and features D Z Strad’s signature fleur-de-lis inlay and mother-of-pearl slide on the frog.
- Full, rich sound and outstanding projection
- Attractive flamed maple back
- Comes fully set up
- Available in full-size only
- Only one adjuster.
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5. Hiroshi Kono
In terms of price, this beautiful violin is positioned mid-way between D S Strad’s Model 326 and the Model 800.
The spruce and maple panels and sides are carved by hand by Japanese violin maker Hiroshi Kono and his two assistants. The gradations are then refined by American luthier Bill Weaver, whose family have been selling fine instruments for over a hundred years.
Bill Weaver then installs a new bass bar. Finally, a thin coat of varnish is expertly applied to enhance and protect the wood, whilst maintaining its rich tone. The finish gives it the appearance of an antique violin worth many times the price.
This is a violin with plenty of power across both the lower and upper registers. It’s dynamic and responsive, with a full, expressive sound.
As with many other violins aimed at the professional player, the only adjuster pre-installed here is on the E-string. If you prefer to fine tune your other strings, you’ll need to buy the others separately.
The violin doesn’t come with a bow or other accessories, although you will get a case. What’s more, you’ll be able to choose that case yourself from a range of different options. These include models by renowned manufacturer Bobelock.
If you’re looking for a full outfit, this won’t be the right choice. But if you’re prepared to buy your accessories separately, you’ll be able to choose options that perfectly suit your playing style and budget. While it will take more time, you may end up with a better result.
- Powerful sound across both lower and upper registers
- Elegant antique finish
- Your choice of case, from a range of options, is included in the price
- Doesn’t include a bow or other accessories
- The only pre-installed adjuster is on the E-string.
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6. Cremona SV-1400 Maestro Soloist Violin
Cremona is a manufacturer that focus on beginner and intermediate violins. The SV-1400 is their top-of-the-range violin, and it’s suitable for advanced players.
In terms of price, it sits between the DZ Strad Model 220 and the Model 509. For professional violinists on a tighter budget, it’s worth considering.
It’s a very attractive instrument. The back is made of a single piece of flamed maple, and the sides are maple too. The front is made of spruce. A thin layer of varnish gives it a classic mid-sheen.
The bridge is maple, the pegs and fingerboard are ebony, and the chinrest and tailpiece are made of boxwood. Four VP14 adjusters are integrated into the tailpiece for easy fine tuning. The sound is clear, with a bright, full tone.
The violin arrives fully set up with VNS-150 Perlon strings made by Anton Breton. You won’t need to do anything more than check the bridge hasn’t moved in transit, then tune it up.
You’ll get both a case and a bow too. The bow is by J LaSalle. It has a Brazilwood stick, Mongolian horsehair, and it’s well balanced throughout the length.
The case is the deluxe model TL-35 by Travelite. It’s robust and well padded, with a weatherproof cover. Inside, there’s plush velvet lining in forest green and holders for four bows. A hygrometer allows you to keep an eye on the humidity.
There’s a generous compartment for your rosin, cleaning cloth and so on. But it will be a tight fit for a shoulder rest, even one with collapsible legs.
If you can afford a few extras, you can also upgrade some elements for a superior sound. Replace the strings with Dominant ones, and get your luthier to fit a bespoke bridge. You’ll get impressive results from a violin at this price point.
Last but not least, note that the pegs here can be a little tricky to tune. Rub rosin on the peg holes or apply a drop of Peg Drop, and they’ll stay in place more easily
- Clear sound and bright tone at a very economical price
- Beautiful back made with a single piece of flamed maple
- Comes with a good quality case and bow
- The pegs have a tendency to slip
- You’ll get better sound if you upgrade the strings and bridge.
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7. Ming Jiang Zhu 909 Violin (Upgrade Pick)
At a similar price to the Horoshi Kono violin, the 909 from Ming Jiang Zhu has lots to recommend it.
First up, it’s got a great pedigree. It’s handmade by senior luthiers at the workshop of Ming Jiang Zhu.
Ming won numerous awards in the Violin Society of America’s international competition, including two gold awards for his violins. Since his death in 2014, his workshop has been overseen by his son and brother-in-law.
The sound here is rich, warm and full, reminiscent of antique Italian violins that cost many times the price. Any doubters may be interested to know that the 909 has beaten far more expensive violins in double blind tests.
This is, however, a new violin. Be prepared to hear its tone develop and open up as you play it. After a few weeks of regular playing, both tone and volume will improve still further.
It’s beautiful to look at too. The back is made of two pieces of flamed maple, with maple sides and a spruce front. The fingerboard is ebony, and the pegs chinrest and tailpiece are all made of boxwood. The varnish is applied thin for a medium sheen appearance that won’t interfere with the rich tone.
You have a choice of two models. The G909 is modeled on the violins of Guaneri. The S909 takes its shape from those of Stradivari. The S has a sweeter tone, the G is darker with more bite. Choose whichever you prefer.
Take care though. The news has got out about how good this is, with the result that there are fakes on the market. Make sure you’re buying an instrument that’s traceable back to the workshop.
This is a violin-only option. If you’re looking for a bow and other accessories, you’ll need to get those separately. If you purchase through Fiddlerman, however, they will provide a case free of charge. You’ll be able to choose from a range of good quality options too.
- Wonderful sound from a workshop with an award-winning pedigree
- Choice of Guaneri or Stradivari copies
- Beautiful appearance with flamed maple back and mid-sheen varnish
- No accessories, although you can get a case if you buy from Fiddlerman
- Watch out for fakes.
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Still not sure which violin to buy? Read on for our guide to some of the factors to consider.
How much should you pay?
With antique violins from master violin makers costing up to millions, how much does a professional player need to pay?
If you want the status of an antique violin, that’s going to cost serious money. But despite what some violin snobs would have you believe, it’s not necessary to get great tone.
Yes, the tone and volume of all violins will improve with playing. But that doesn’t mean you need a violin that’s hundreds of years old. And antique instruments will have problems of their own. Joshua Bell’s beloved multi-million dollar Stradivari, for example, occasionally needs repair for splits at the seams.
Modern instrument makers have a range of techniques and equipment available to them that weren’t there hundreds of years ago. And in the hands of a skilled luthier, they can produce a modern instrument with rich, resonant tone.
Violins from the renowned Chinese workshop founded by Ming Jiang Zhu have out-performed valuable antiques in double blind tests. That should be reason enough to question whether it’s necessary to spend more on your violin than you would on your house.
It’s possible too to upgrade even a more modestly priced violin with a customized bridge and good strings. Investing in a quality bow will help too.
If you can, try before you buy
Much as it pains us to admit it, there’s a limit to how helpful reviews can be. Trying to describe sound quality in words is challenging. And everyone will have their own acoustic and playing preferences.
Trying out a violin will allow you to test both its tone and its physical fit. Does the neck fit comfortably in your hand? Is the chinrest smooth and well-shaped? Is the bridge the right height for your fingers?
Some shops will often allow you to take home a violin for a trial period, or to rent before buying. These are both great ways of learning whether a violin is a right fit for you.
Don’t be distracted by accessories
Although it can be very convenient to get accessories alongside your violin, don’t let them be the deciding factor. A case, shoulder rest or bow can be upgraded at any time. And they’re likely to be a fraction of the cost of your violin.
Instead, focus on the violin itself. As a professional musician, it will be an extension of you. Make sure it speaks with your voice.
But if you’re going to be spending lots of money, it’s always worth asking whether accessories can be provided too. Retailers will often offer a choice of case to close a deal on a pricey violin.
Ready to choose your violin?
That brings us to the end of our tour of seven of the best professional violins we’ve found. We hope we’ve convinced you there’s no need to remortgage your home to get a beautiful instrument with great sound.
Our top pick is the Maestro Model 509 from D Z Strad. We love its powerful yet refined tone, and the depth and color of its sound. And with a range of accessories included in the modest price tag, it offers unbeatable value.
But if you’re able to spend more, the 909 from the workshop of Ming Jiang Zhu is a wonderful violin. Its award-winning pedigree is evident in its power and rich tone. Have fun telling your fellow violinists you’ve spent three times what it cost – they’ll believe you.
Whichever violin we choose, we hope it brings you, and your audiences, many hours of pleasure.