If you are looking to buy a viola, it can be a difficult process if you don’t know what you are looking for. This is because there are many viola brands on the market. Unlike most things, a lot about the quality of a viola can be determined by its external beauty.
That is because viola construction is an art, through and through. So, if the maker did not put the time and effort into making it beautiful, that is a reflection on the time and effort they put in to make it functional as well.
The price for a viola can vary drastically from $200 all the way up to $5000, so if you are not familiar with all the different options, it can be an overwhelming task to decide which viola to buy. Cecilio, D Z Strad, Eastman Strings, Yamaha, and Stentor are among the best viola brands. There are, however, a couple more viola brands that make products worth checking out. Those are Primavera, Merano, and Cremona.
In this article, we will go over all the best viola brands. This list will rank brands based on quality, affordability, and durability.
Top Viola Brands
Cecilio is without a doubt the best viola brand. This company makes high quality instruments at a price you would expect to pay for a mid-level viola. All of Cecilio’s instruments are hand-made, even their sub $200 CVA-400 model. Because of this, Cecilio is one of the most well-known student viola brands in the world.
All Cecilio violas are hand-carved from solid tonewoods in the traditional style which is a spruce top, inlaid purfling, and flamed maple sides and back. While usually reserved as a feature for much higher-end and costlier violas, the CVA-400 features a boxwood chinrest.
One of the drawbacks of Cecilio brand violas is the fact that they make their fingerboards out of maple instead of ebony. Ebony is more sturdy option to build fingerboards out of because its a hardwood. Ebony fingerboards are known to be able to withstand much more repeated pressure than ones that are made from maple.
The exclusion of an Ebony fingerboard in this model makes this viola cost a lot less. You should take into consideration, however, that while violas by this brand may have a lower initial cost, they may end up having a higher TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) due to their more frequent need for repair.
These viola outfits (sets) that are produced by Cecilio come with everything you need. Almost all Cecilio viola outfits include a high-quality brazilwood bow that uses unbleached Mongolian horsehair. Also included are boxwood pegs and chinrest that includes fine tuners.
Cecilio is among the best viola brands because of the value that they present for the money.
2.D Z Strad – Best Viola Brand for Intermediate Players
DZ Strad is a well-established viola brand that has consistently created some of the best-rated mid-level violas. These instruments have the kind of sound quality that you would expect a much more expensive viola to posses. The DZ Strad Model 400 is among the company’s best offerings for an intermediate viola player.
DZ Strad has a workshops in both Minnesota and New York. These shops offer the entire range of services needed by the string instrument community. The violas by this brand are all composed of hand-rubbed Italian tonewoods that have been naturally dried. After 20 years of drying naturally outside, the wood is then placed into a drying room to guarantee its stability.
Viola outfits from the brand include the viola itself, a carbon fiber viola bow, a D Z Strad Pernambuco Viola Bow, and a viola case. You get all of these high-quality components along with one of the best violas you can get from somewhere between $1000 and $1300 depending on the size. This is why D Z Strad is known for their impeccable value for the money.
While Eastman Strings may be known for making student model violas, they also make advanced and professional models that produce world-class sound. Eastman brand violas are known to follow striking, beautiful curves and are highly recommend for advanced players.
In particular, the Eastman VA305 is an instrument that advanced players should really check out. These are known to be highly playability and have an excellent tone to them.
4.Yamaha – Recommended For: Intermediate
Yamaha is a highly respected brand in the music industry in general. This is why it comes as no surprise that Yamaha is one of the top-rated viola brands. This company producing some of the best-sounding violas at affordable price-points, and Yamaha’s viola family is no exception.
Yamaha violas are hand-made in workshops that use the highest-possible quality woods given the mid-tier price-point that the company is asking. The hand-made nature of Yamaha violas is one of the reasons this viola brand makes it to the top of a lot of lists.
The Yamaha student viola outfits come in assorted sizes, and includes a case, Brazilwood bow, and rosin. Thhey are hand made out of solid spruce, maple, and ebony and fitted with a Wittner tailpiece with four fine tuners for easy tuning.
Yamaha violas use high-quality D’Addario Prelude strings, which sound fantastic. But its popular for people who have Yamaha brand violas to upgrade their strings to Evah Pirazzis or Dominants.
5.Stentor – Recommended For: Beginner
If you are a beginner who is looking for the best viola brand, then look no further. Stentor is known and loved by viola students and teachers the world over. They are very affordable violas, which is always a plus for any beginner. Stentor started to become popular recently due to making some of the highest quality viola brands for the price.
While Stentor brand violas are available in a range of skill-levels, most instruments by this company are geared more towards the beginner end of the spectrum. So, just about anyone starting out in the viola world will be able to find a Stentor viola that will be perfect for them. This viola brand makes instruments in many different sizes, including their own take on a ‘full size’ viola.
Stentor brand violas are constructs out of solid tone woods. Unlike Cecilio, which is a more expensive viola brand than Stentor, instruments by this company use a solid ebony fingerboard. Other ebony wood components found on violas by this brand include the instruments pegs and all of its fittings. They are fitted with maple sides and a maple back, with spruce adorning the top. Also, all Stentor violas have inlaid purfling that helps stop the softer spruce wood from splitting.
Kits from this viola brand generally include an authentic wood and horsehair bow, a padded rectangle case, and enough rosin to get your started.
Other Viola Brands
Primavera is a viola brand that is known to be very affordable. This company makes instruments that cater to the intermediate player. Primavera intermediate violas are only slightly more expensive than most beginner models. So, its not unusual to see a a great viola by this brand selling for well under $300 dollars.
As you would expect, Primavera violas are constructed out of high-quality solid tonewoods. The company makes heavy use of hand-carved maple and spruce. Also, you simply will not find a Primavera-branded viola without inlaid purfling.
The fingerboards, peg, and even the fittings on violas by this brand are made out of carved ebony. Primavera’s intermediate viola outfit includes an extremely durable, high-tech, composite bow. The bow has an ebony frog and features authentic Mongolian horsehair.
Primavera has done several things with its violas so that it can reduce cut costs while not only maintaining, but increasing their instruments quality. For instance, the company employs the use of a metal alloy tailpiece that has four fine tuners. Traditionally, a wooden tailpiece would be used. Also, they make use of a Styrofoam shaped case instead of a standard fabric case. So, the quality of the case is a little lower, but the most important part (the viola itself) is high quality.
Primavera beginner viola outfits are available in a variety of different sizes, so finding one that is a good fit for you wont be hard. Also, most Primavera violas include a high-quality hardwood bow.
Merano checks all the boxes when it comes to affordability. Many violas by this brand can be bought for a little over $100, so don’t expect the highest-quality possible. This does, however, make these violas the absolute best for a beginner who might not be ready to shell out that much cash. These violas are nothing fancy, but they work well, keep a tune, and sound great considering their extremely low cost. So, if you are a novice on a budget, this viola brand is the one you have been looking for.
Merano viola fingerboards are made out of hardwood instead of ebony, so you will more than likely have to repair your fingerboard more often.
Remember, there are a lot of bad viola brands out there, but Merano is definitely not one of them. When buying a Merano viola, you are getting a great instrument for the price. So, if you are not able to afford a high-end viola brand, then a Merano viola makes an excellent starting instrument.
Contrary to what you may expect from a budget viola brand, outfits by Merano include an enormous amount of extras. In each kit you get an extra set of strings, an extra bridge, a shoulder rest, rosin, and of course a case. You also get a music stand and an electronic tuner. So, if you get one of these low-cost kits for yourself or your child, they will be playing in no time.
Cremona brand violas represent a great quality for the price that they are sold at. They are constructed out of select tone woods like spruce, hand-carved maple, and, of course, ebony. These are low-cost violas that offer their own excellent performance, but these instruments can be made to sound drastically better with small, inexpensive upgrades.
For instance, Cremona brand violas include Prelude strings which sound just fine, but if you replace them with just about any higher-quality viola string, you will notice a massive difference in performance.
Cremona makes its violas in a workshop in California, USA. The adopts the MENC guidelines to ensure that it creates a high-quality and easy to play music instrument. So when you buy a Cremona viola, you can rest-assured that it will be ready to go and fully playable on arrival. Other viola brands generally require some level of user setup. So, this is one of the reasons that students and teachers both favor Cremona.
Each outfit comes with a high-quality J. LaSalle Brazilwood bow, a popular TL-33 case, Prelude strings by D’Addario, A. Breton VP-61 alloy tailpiece with 4 built-in tuners for easy tuning, along with a Kaufman chinrest, and rosin.
Finding the perfect viola for you can be an overwhelming process if you aren’t familiar with the best viola brands. There are a lot of options on the market and they all claim to be the best. Making violas and other stringed instruments is an art as much as it is a science.
Prices vary widely for violas. It’s not uncommon to find these musical instruments ranging from $200 to more than $5000. The most popular and best-selling viola brands are D Z Strad, Cecilio, Yamaha, Eastman Strings, and Stentor. The are a few other honorable mentions, however, and those are Primavera, Merano, and Cremona. These companies are also known for making some of the best violas you can get.
We hope this article helped you find the perfect viola that exactly fits your needs and expectations. Thanks for reading!