There are two main categories of electric cellos, one of which is simply a traditional instrument with an added pickup and preamp.
However, in our search for the best electric cello, we’re examining what are often called “silent cellos.” These are hybrid instruments that might physically resemble a standard cello to some extent but have no resonating soundbox. They produce very little sound without amplification.
Why play an electric cello?
Electric cellos offer several benefits over their acoustic counterparts. Primarily, you can practice silently, without waking your family or disturbing the neighbors. Also, they’re more portable, taking up less space and often fitting comfortably in an airplane overhead bin.
And you can go crazy with the sound, tweaking the tone and adding effects galore, just like an electric guitar. Finally, electric cellos look cool on stage. They’re nowhere near as common as electric guitars, and they will get you noticed.
Factors to Consider Before You Buy
As a general rule, the more you spend, the better the cello you’re going to get. Less expensive the instruments have to cut corners to keep the cost down. Some of these compromises may be more important to you than others. So here are a few things to keep in mind as you shop around.
How Important is the Sound?
Less expensive electric cellos usually have cheaper strings that don’t produce as full a tone as a premium brand like D’Addario. Of greater concern is that they might not stay in tune as well, and they might even break. A new set of premium strings makes a big improvement.
Unfortunately, you can’t do much to improve a poor-quality pickup, usually a piezo pickup mounted under the bridge. And the preamplifier might have very simple tone controls. All of the cellos reviewed here have at least a decent pickup/preamp system, though the less expensive instruments can’t compete against the best models.
Traditional or Nontraditional Shape?
Without a resonating body, there’s no need for an electric cello to take the shape of a traditional instrument. Some models follow the contours of an acoustic cello at least approximately, while others are slender and bear only a cursory resemblance to their origins.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both design approaches. A more traditional shape feels more familiar and comfortable to an experienced cellist, making it easier to transition from one to the other.
On the other hand, the more radical designs save space, making them more portable and plane-friendly. Some can also be picked up and played while standing.
Do you need a complete package?
Many electric cellos, especially those targeted at students, include all the additional bits you need to get started. At the very least, this includes a bow, rosin, and some kind of “gig bag” soft case. Other accessories often provided include a set of headphones, an auxiliary output cable to connect the cello to an amplifier, and batteries. A few brands also include an extra bridge or set of strings.
For higher-end instruments, the manufacturer usually assumes you’ll provide your own bow, which can be quite expensive, and headphones.
A Few Words About Size and Scale
Cellos and other stringed instruments are available in several sizes. This is so children can begin studying at a young age, progressing to larger sizes as they grow. The standard system for labeling instrument sizes is in fourths, with 4/4 being full size, 3/4 the next smallest size, and so on. All of the instruments reviewed here are full size, or 4/4.
Instruments are also specified in terms of their “scale.” This is the distance from the cello’s nut at the top of the neck to the middle of the fingerboard (where a string sounds one octave higher), times two. All instruments reviewed have a standard scale length of approximately 27 inches.
So let’s dig in and compare an assortment of electric cellos you can buy today.
Top 8 Popular Electric Cello Models In 2021 Review
1 Harmonia 4/4 Electric Cello w/a gig bag, bow, rosin, headphones, cable & battery – Best Basic Electric Cello
If you’re looking for a very inexpensive instrument for a beginning player, the Harmonia electric cello package includes all the accessories needed to get started at a very attractive price. The package includes a bow, gig bag, rosin, output cable, battery, and headphones, but no instruction manual.
The Harmonia has a slender shape, 49 x 7 inches, with a gloss black finish and a full 27-inch scale. It features ebony tuning pegs, a metal tailpiece with fine tuners for each string, and a maple bridge. Preamp controls are just the basic volume and tone.
Obviously, you shouldn’t expect exceptional quality at this price, but it does the job. A new set of strings would improve the sound. A few users have reported receiving instruments with broken or defective parts.
- Complete beginner package.
- Low price.
- Mediocre strings.
- Quality control could be better.
2 Yinfente Electric Cello 4/4 Full Size Solid wood Violincello – Best Student Electric Cello
Yinfente is a long-time maker of stringed musical instruments, including electric violins, cellos, double basses, and guitars. Located in He Bei, China, their master luthier has over 40 years of experience. This full-size electric cello is an excellent option for a student or casual player.
Designed to suggest the contours of a traditional cello, the lightweight frame is made of hand-carved maple with a metallic black finish. The fingerboard, tuning pegs, and tailpiece are ebony, and the tailpiece includes four detachable fine tuners.
Along with the usual volume and tone control and 1/8-inch output jack, the Yinfente electric cello includes a Line In jack for practicing with a backing track.
However, we have to mention that the headstock doesn’t feel very strong and looks like it could quite easily crack.
Yinfente also makes a more traditional electric acoustic cello made of spruce and maple, with a built-in pickup and preamplifier.
- Low cost.
- Contemporary, lightweight design.
- Headstock may be weak.
3 Cecilio 4/4 CECO-1BK Black Metallic Electric Cello – Best Beginners Electric Cello
Cecilio is a very well-known maker of orchestra and band instruments for students, including some electric cellos. The CECO-1BK is an excellent example, providing the beginning player with everything they need, including a well-padded soft case, a bow, rosin, output cable, and headphones.
Looks like the real thing…
The CECO-1BK is a full-size instrument with fully-rounded edges that define the outline of a traditional cello. It’s made of hand-carved maple with a metallic black or metallic mahogany finish and includes an ebony fingerboard, pegs, and tailpiece, with mother-of-pearl inlay and detachable fine tuners.
Powered by a 9V battery, the CECO-1BK features volume and tone controls, headphone and line outputs, and an auxiliary input. It comes with a one-year warranty against manufacturer defects.
- Respected maker of student instruments.
- Has the shape and “feel” of a real cello.
- One-year warranty.
- Poor-quality headphones.
4 Leeche Handmade Professional Solid Wood Electric Cello 4/4 – Best Solid Wood Electric Cello
The Leeche electric cello is made by Shanghai Kinglos Musical Instruments by master luthiers from the Shanghai Conservatory. It’s also sold under other brand names, including Aliyes. Its unique, slender shape implies a traditional cello contour while looking very modern. The Leeche cello is available in a variety of finishes, including natural wood grain, black, and white.
The main body is made of finished plywood, with a maple neck, ebony fingerboard, and an aluminum alloy tailpiece. Its German-made pickup and preamp system provides volume and tone controls, line and headphone outputs, and a line input. A built-in white noise suppression circuit provides a very quiet output.
What’s in the box?
Included is a soft carrying bag, a high-quality bow with a brazilwood stick and ebony frog, an output cable, and an extra bridge and set of strings. Headphones are not included. It comes with a one-year warranty.
- Unique modern design.
- Includes an extra bridge and string set.
- Excellent preamp.
- No headphones included.
5 Stagg ECL 4/4 BK Electric Cello – Best Electric Cello for Bass Control
The Stagg ECL Electric Cello is a mid-priced instrument that’s suitable for beginners and advanced players alike. The solid body, 28 x 14 x 4 inches, resembles a very slender cello. It’s made of maple, with an ebony fingerboard and tailpiece and metal tuning pegs, and beautifully finished in gloss black or white.
Control the bottom end…
In addition to a volume knob, the preamp has a single tone control labeled “sub bass,” which boosts or cuts frequencies around 100 Hz. The piezo pickup under the bridge produces a generally very good sound, although you’ll probably want to upgrade the strings for improved tone.
The supplied guideposts aren’t tapered the same as a real cello, which can be uncomfortable on the legs and chest. Also, while the kit includes a bow and a soft case, and rosin, there’s no output cable or headphones.
- Excellent construction quality.
- Good cello tone.
- Limited tone control.
- Guideposts can feel uncomfortable.
6 NS Design, 4-String Cello – Electric (WAV4CCOBK) – Best Value for the Money Premium Electric Cello
The NS Design WAV4CCOBK electric cellos takes us into the world of professional instruments, with a price tag to match. The Maine company was founded by award-winning instrument maker Ned Steinberger. All NS cellos are designed for outstanding performance in the music world of amplifiers, effects, and high-powered sound reinforcement.
Available in 4 or 5-string models, WAV is actually NS Design’s most affordable line of electric cellos, made in India.
Stylish and practical…
It has a unique and beautiful design, with a solid straight-grain maple body and neck that suggests an elongated electric guitar, and a detachable tripod support stand. A brass pin on the rear of the neck acts as a reference that corresponds to the heel of a traditional cello.
With a standard scale length of 69.5 cm (27.36 inches). The rosewood fingerboard is asymmetrically graduated, so every note is buzz free, and has inlaid dot markers to help with intonation. It uses a geared tuning system similar to a guitar. And the bridge height is fully adjustable.
Plus, it has some unique innovations…
At the heart of the instrument is its Polar Pickup System, which enables the player to control attack, sustain and bow response. In its normal mode, the pickup is highly sensitive to the strings’ lateral vibrations while rejecting vertical vibration. The result is strong dynamics with high bow sensitivity and sustained pizzicato. The preamp has controls for volume and tone (treble roll-off).
NS Designs cellos work with two available strap options. Their Frame Strap system is a lightweight frame supported by a guitar-style strap that provides the player with full mobility to play sitting upright or standing. And the Boomerang Strap system has a pivoting friction hub that allows the instrument to be played in virtually any position.
What’s in the box?
The WAV4CCOBK includes a padded gig bag with a bow holder and accessories pouch, a tool kit, and an owner’s manual. Other accessories, including flight case, bow, rosin, headphones, end pin, and straps, must be purchased separately.
- Beautiful looking and sounding instrument.
- Polar Pickup system.
- Fingerboard with inlays for intonation.
- Bow must be purchased separately.
7 Yamaha SVC-110SK Silent Electric Cello – Most Versatile Electric Cello
Yamaha’s SVC-110SK SILENT Cello is ideal as either a practice or performance instrument for musicians at all skill levels. With a shape that resembles a traditional cello, it has a small resonating chamber that helps deliver a superior tone. So the instrument is not completely silent, though it’s very quiet.
The spruce body and maple neck is highlighted by an ebony fingerboard and tuning pegs, a maple bridge, and a Wittner Ultra (hard plastic) tailpiece. It uses standard cello strings and comes with premium D’Addario Helicores.
Add a little reverb…
The preamp, powered by two AA batteries, has separate volume controls for the cello and the auxiliary input. A three-way switch controls an original Yamaha chip to select three preset reverb environments. No tone control is provided.
The SVC-110SK ships with a soft padded case. It does not include a bow or other accessories.
- Resonant chamber provides a superior tone.
- Built-in reverb.
- Premium strings.
- Bow not included.
- No tone control.
8 NS Design CR5 Cello – Best Premium Electric Cello
If you’re looking for the very best electric cello available regardless of price, the NS Design CR5 is worth serious consideration. Hand-crafted in the Czech Republic, this remarkable instrument is available in four, five, or six string versions. Physically, this model looks very similar to the WAV cello reviewed above.
But it offers several additional refinements…
For example, the Polar piezo pickup system can respond primarily to either lateral or vertical vibration, optimized for either bowed or pizzicato playing.
In addition, a dual mode preamplifier with individual treble and bass controls lets you choose between either a balanced, traditional cello tone or a full-blown electric sound. A three-way switch selects the desired pickup/preamp combination. The preamp runs on 18 volts for greater signal headroom.
As low as you can go…
Most notably, the CR5 has an additional fifth string, usually tuned to low F below the traditional cello’s C string. The instrument is also available on request with a high E instead. The six-string CR6 has both the low F and high E. All CR5 cellos also include premium grade tuners with full-enclosed worm gears.
- Five (or six!) strings.
- Dual-mode pickup system.
- Active electronics.
Looking for more ways to go electric?
And to get weird and wonderful sounds from your electric cello, how about one of the Best Flanger Pedals, the Best Phaser Pedals, or for some super exciting sounds, the Best Fuzz Pedals or even the Best Wah Pedals currently on the market.
So, what is the Best Electric Cello?
Well, to make things easier, we’ve split the winners into two categories, the first of which is…
Best Professional Electric Cello
This simply has to go to the…
This instrument is almost a work of art – beautiful to look at, a joy to play, and packed with innovative enhancements to the traditional cello design. If the cost is beyond your budget, consider the WAV4, which provides the same design and most of the features at a lower price.
Best Student Electric Cello
The prize goes to the…
The Cecilio electric cello is an excellent, affordable instrument for silent practice or performance. Its relatively traditional shape is familiar, the company has a good reputation among teachers, and it’s backed with a one-year warranty. However, we do strongly recommend getting a better bow and upgrading the strings.
If you’re looking for a practice instrument that won’t disturb your neighbors, any of the electric cellos reviewed should fit the bill. But better playability comes at a cost, so you should splurge a little and get the best instrument your budget can afford.
Happy electric playing and silent practicing!