Table of Contents
on May 28, 2023
If you’re a violinist with an acoustic violin and you’re looking to play live with a band or in a large venue, you’ll need something to help amplify your sound -- specifically, a violin pickup.
A pickup is a small device that is attached to your violin and then plugged into an amp to allow it to be played like an electric. While you could use a microphone, it diminishes your sound and makes it difficult to move around on stage, but a good pickup ensures that you’re heard while maintaining a good sound quality.
A pickup (also known as a traducer or microphone) uses the violin’s mechanical vibrations and transforms them into electronic signals.
There are two different types of pickups: piezo pickups and magnetic pickups.
Piezo pickups: These pickups don’t use magnets and work due to piezoelectricity: they simply pick up the vibrations from violin strings, measure the pressure, and then convert it to an electrical signal before it’s amplified.
Piezo pickups can result in a more authentic, brilliant, and brighter tone from your amp, as opposed to the warmer sound from magnetic pickups. It can generate a deeper sound when it’s closer to the f hole than if it’s placed behind the bridge.
You also won’t have to deal with electro-magnetic interference, which comes along with magnetic pickups. However, you can also use these along with magnetic pickups.
Piezo pickups are usually attached the the violin bridge and can be used for live performances and recording, although they are typically used more for live performances.
Magnetic pickups: These pickups are made using a copper wire coil that is wrapped around a magnet; when the strings vibrate and create sound waves, the electromagnetic field generated by the coil converts the vibrations into electrical signals that are then amplified or recorded.
Magnetic pickups are usually attached to the violin body; there may also be an internal preamplifier between the cable and pickup. These are more sensitive to sound dynamics and generally have a warmer tone.
These pickups tend to be more expensive and more popular than piezos.
There are plenty of different options for pickups and what you choose can depend on what you feel is important:
Below, we break down the best pickups available on the market that will fit all your needs, all from reputable brands. (Remember, you’ll also have to get an amp to connect to your pickup.)
The Cherub violin pickup is a piezo pickup and the most affordable pickup on this list. It’s a small clip-on with a ¼ inch jack and 2.5m cable that is easily attached to the f hole and remains stable while playing. The end of the pickup is fitted with rubber to make sure the violin isn’t damaged. However, the downside is that the rubber tip can break after some time.
The Cherub can be hooked up to an amp or PA and doesn’t require a battery. Despite being a small device, it produces a natural sound and eliminates external and ambient noise which results in less feedback.
The Cherub is a popular choice for a pickup for beginners for those looking for decent tonal quality while playing on a small stage.
The SUNYIN transducer is a piezo pickup that can be used on different instruments, including the violin, ukelele, guitar, banjo, cello, kalimba, drum, and more. It produces a clear, crips, and warm tone, high output, and has adjustable volume to avoid feedback.
This pickup is easy to install and uses an adhesive to attach to your instrument near the f hole; it doesn’t damage the instrument due to its padded clip guards and is easy to remove. It also doesn’t require a battery.
The Barcus Berry 3100 is a piezo pickup that is simple to attach and remove. You only need to clamp it to the bridge and connect it with a cable to the 3100P output jack.
This pickup has a perfect string balance, wideband frequency response, and feedback rejection function that provides signal isolation for a clear, loud, and natural sound. It’s an ideal pickup for professional violinists looking for a true acoustic sound.
The Fishman V-200 pickup is a high-quality, long lasting ceramic piezo pickup that provides a rich, warm, and clear tone and is ideal for professional violinists. It’s lightweight to minimize muting and is easy to attach to the side of your violin without alterations (it can be permanently or temporarily installed). Because it’s passive, it doesn’t require any batteries for power.
It’s recommended that you use an impedance-matching pre-amp to reach the full potential of the Fishman pickup, although this is not required.
The Kmise is a piezo pickup that can be used for multiple instruments such as violin, banjo, mandolin, ukelele, cello, kalimba, and more.
It plugs into an amp or other recording device and comes with a ¼ inch jack and 10-inch cable; the double-sided tape, self-adhesive Velcro, self-adhesive clip, and screw-on clip make it easier to attach the pickup.
The Luvay piezo pickup is a contact microphone transducer that can work for multiple instruments, including violin, ukelele, mandolin, banjo, cello, kalimba, and more. It can be easily installed on the instrument near the f-hole with an adhesive and it comes with a 10-foot amplifier cable. The sound created is bright and crisp, and without feedback, while the volume can be easily controlled using the knob.
Headway The Band is a unique violin pickup that amplifies your instrument by simply wrapping around the body of a violin like a large rubber band and it can be secured with a Velcro strip on the back. It’s lightweight and easy to play with, even though it’s larger than most clip-on pickups. The Band can be used with a wireless system that has a ¼” input on its transmitter.
The Band doesn’t require batteries or a pre-amp, and the signal can be routed to a mixing board or amp. It’s often used by professional violinists due to its warm and clear tone, the ability to minimize body boom and feedback, and getting rid of any bowing sounds.
Myers violin pickups are some of the absolute best on the market. There are multiple different options, but the Feather series is highly regarded.
This series of pickups are called “The Feather” series due to being compact and extremely lightweight. It’s simple to attach to your instrument, requires no modifications, and comes with the hardware needed to install it. It does require a battery, which comes pre-installed in the package. Once set up, you simply have to plug it in and begin playing.
The Feather pickups come with a powerful and sensitive omnidirectional preamp to help produce a rich and natural sound. The preamp has a soft rubber volume knob that allows you to control the output when you’re performing and the goose-neck on the clip allows you to position it to capture your ideal sound.
The Kremona KNA VV-3 is a piezo pickup made with wood casing to help it blend with the violin. It’s handcrafted in Europe and made of solid ebony. It comes with a cork-lined ¼ inch jack that is easy to install and remove from the instrument, along with an adjustable cork-lined clamp to ensure the pickup stays in place -- the clamp is made with soft cork to keep your instrument’s varnish intact.
The pickup can be clipped to the bridge and the ebony jack output box can be attached to the side of your violin; you’ll have to plug it into an amp to control the volume and EQ. When played, it provides a warm and clear sound.
The Mighty Mini is a powerful pickup that can be used for all types of stringed instruments, including violin, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and more. It shows off the violin’s natural sound and has excellent tonal quality, enhanced sensitivity, and a warm tone.
It can be used for live performances and professional recordings. There are no clips required or any bridge alteration necessary to install it. All you need to do is plug it into an amp and start playing.
LR Baggs is a company that specializes in pickups, microphones, and other performance accessories, and this pickup is a great option for professionals.
It’s a subtle, sensitive transducer with multidirectional sensors that captures the tone-rich bridge movement and dynamics excellently while eliminating nasal sounds and feedback. It has a small external jack output that you can clip to the edge of your instrument, and it also comes with a protective cork casing to protect your violin. Because it’s a bridge pickup, you will need to get it professionally fitted.