Best Electric Cello Review in 2018
The electric cello is a fascinating twist on a classic, and it appeals to recording musicians curious about new tones as well as performers looking to try something different. The relationship between the artist and the music changes with an electric instrument, and that is at least as true for the cello as for more common choices like the guitar.
What To Look For In An Electric Cello
Features and Portability
In general, electric cellos are more portable than classical ones because there is no need for a hollow body. I will talk more about this in the Design section, but for now the most important part of the body is that it affects how easy it is to move the instrument. Body types vary considerably from cello to cello, which affects the kind of case you need and how delicate the instrument is. You should also keep an eye out for extra features. For example, some electric cellos have some limited onboard mixing or EQ tools. Others have headphone ports, which are convenient for practicing and quiet recording sessions. The electronics, the number of strings, the tone- all can vary. Each feature affects the price of the instrument, so it's important to pay close attention and not pay for things you do not need. There is no reason to spend money on a feature you will never use. It's a very good idea to try to get your hands on the instrument before buying it so you can decide if you will actually use a given feature. That is often not possible with electric cellos, so instead use your prior experience and be prepared to make returns or exchanges.
One significant obstacle to the transition from an acoustic to an electric cello is the different physical feel of the instrument. Perhaps unlike any other instrument, the cello touches and contacts the musician's body at multiple different points and with a different weight and feel at each point. It can be hard to adapt to en electric model that lacks those same contact points. In general, from a music perspective they are unnecessary. Without a hollow body, an electric cello can be nothing more than a thin stick light enough to carry while playing. That can feel so different from an acoustic cello that it can turn off potential players. Some electric cellos add extra bouts, rests, and an endpoint to restore that feeling. In extreme cases, electric cellos actually look and feel much like acoustic ones and even have a limited hollow body. This not only alters how the cello feels, but it also changes the tone itself. If you find it odd to play without the physical feedback of contact points, consider a cello with these additional bouts, at least at first.
Frets, Design, and Appearance
The look of the electric cello matters more than it does for an acoustic. Partly, this is because there is simply more room for variation. The design of an acoustic dictates that it has to be a particular shape and a particular type of wood. Electrics can look very different, for everything from color to shape. In addition, electric cellos are more commonly used in genres outside classical like rock and jazz, where the appearance of an instrument contributes more to the aesthetic of the performance. One particular part of the design that does play a functional role is the frets. Some models of electric cellos come with frets and others do not. Acoustic cellos, of course, do not have frets. The main reason for the frets is because the intonation and performance of strings, especially long strings as on a cello, can change in environments where there are a lot of strong vibrations in the air. This is not common at all in classical concert halls, but during rock, jazz, or other genres' performances, it is much more frequent. Frets help to maintain tuning in those scenarios.
Of course, it is important to think about how much the electric cello will cost. In general, you can expect that the most expensive acoustic cellos are far more expensive than their electric equivalents. Yes, it is true that the electric models have circuits and other components, but they don't have the same antiquity as the acoustics. They also tend to be made of lighter, less expensive wood and don't require as much handicraft due to their lack of a hollow body. All of this adds up to say that electric cellos are cheaper to construct. A good range for electrics is from about $500 to about $5000. Under $500 and you risk getting a very flimsy instrument with poor design and other problems. Over $5000, and you likely aren't getting that much for your money and could do better by going cheaper. It's a very good idea to try out some electric cellos in person so you can get a feel for what features you want to pay for and which ones are not worth it for you. I will present five examples of good-value cellos, but you might have very different tastes, and the best way to find that out is by testing.
Five Best Electric Cello
Yamaha SVC-110SK Silent Electric Cello Brown
The SVC-110SK will cost you just under $2500. It is very close to the acoustic cello experience. Although it has a thin body, it has a small resonating chamber and bouts to replicate the feeling of a concert cello. The cello comes with a few useful features. First of all, there's a headphone jack for silent practice. That's very useful for anyone who wants to play cello but is in an apartment or is trying to play late at night when others are sleeping. Next, there's an aux-in port for playing along to mp3 players and other sources and a master out that you can connect to an amp, computer, hub, mixer, or anything else. There are three included reverb settings that each have a different tone. Speaking of tone, the SVC-110SK has a warm and pleasant sound, and it comes very close to the tone of an acoustic cello. If you choose to connect it to an amp and layer some effects over it, you won't have as much freedom as with other electrics due to the reverb, but you can create a variety of sounds. The electronics require a AA battery to work. The one point at which it departs from classical design is the bridge, which is not rounded enough, but it is not difficult to change this and replace it with a different bridge if necessary.
Yamaha SVC-210SK Silent Cello Brown
The SVC-210SK is one step up from the 110SK. It has a lot of similar features but sports a new design and comes with a few extras. It costs about $2750, so you pay an extra $250 over the previous model. For that reason, I rate the 210 as being slightly worse value. In my opinion the increased price is a little more than the worth of the new design, but if you do prefer this body type then it will be worth the upgrade. Here are the main differences: the bouts are a different shape. They are less round and open and are smaller. They are located in the same position, so you still get that feel of the concert cello, but you can also collapse them down to the center body frame to get them out of the way. This is useful for portability or if you just don't want to play with them. The 210 has the same aux in, headphone out, and master out as the 110 and the same set of three onboard reverb settings. It also has the same flawed bridge. It comes with headphones, a set of batteries, and a gig bag.
NS Design NS NXT4 Cello
NS Design takes a different approach to the electric cello than Yamaha. The NS style is a little more suitable for anyone looking to move beyond the classical genre, especially if they are interested in playing live. The NXT4 costs about $1500, so it is a notable discount relative to the Yamaha models. Perhaps the most striking difference is the way it looks: there are no bouts and the central body is very thin, creating the prototypical "stick" look that describes many electric cellos. NS Design actually does sell an assortment of endpoints and bouts as additional attachments if you want to get back to the concert feel. The lack of bouts makes the cell very light; it's possible to carry it around while playing it on stage. It has some other interesting features as well: a switch that lets the cellist choose between arco and pizzicato modes for a different tone, a volume control, treble control, and passive pickups that do not need batteries. It comes with a gig bag for transportation and a detachable tripod mount that can get close to replicating the thigh contact of a concert cello if you are interested in that.
Cecilio 4/4 CECO-1BK
The Cecilio is different from the others on this list. At $350, it is an extreme bargain buy. I warned you about going under $500 earlier in this post. I can tell you that this is one of the few exceptions. As long as your expectations are not too high, you'll find that the Cecilio is an attractive entry-level electric cello. What it lacks in durability and sound quality, it makes up in sheer value. It works best for people who want an electric cello exclusively for practice at home or who aren't sure about going electric and want to try out an inexpensive model first before committing to a pricier one. It has a classic cello shape with an outline that has all the usual contact points. It has a headphone jack, a 1/8 inch out, and line in. It comes with its own bow, resin, aux cable, and headphones. It won't last as long as more expensive cellos, but it's at the right price point to be worth a try. Take note that you may run into some distortion if you play two strings at once depending on your amp and the positioning of the cello, so if you do hear distortion, it is probably because the small pickups are overloaded.
NS Design CR6 Cello
If you are willing to spend a little more, you can look into the $3500 CR6 from NS Design. It has a few special upgrades from the NXT4. First of all, as the name implies it is a 6-string cello while the NXT4 has only four strings. That gives you more range of tone and potential outlets for your creativity. Next, the CR6 has more tone controls: in addition to the volume and treble, there's now a bass EQ knob as well. It is designed by Ned Steinberger and contains an active preamp, meaning that it needs battery power to work. The body, neck, and head are all solid maple. The cello itself has the typical NS Design "stick" look. It also uses the same "BiPolar" setup where the pickups can be adjusted via a switch on the side to have a more smooth or a more percussive sound.
I believe that the best value you can get currently is the Yamaha SVC-110SK. It occupies that perfect balance of quality and price, it will provide you with a concert-like feel, and it still lets you experiment with the electric sound and get involved with that world as well.
I truly hope you have enjoyed this post. I love the electric cello and if you are an experienced cellist, then I think you will too. It opens up a lot of exciting new possibilities and it's also very useful as a practice instrument. You should now know enough to tell what you want in an electric cello and how much you should pay for it, so even if you don't choose one of my recommendations you can at least find something that suits your needs.