2021 Guide: Best Violins Under $500

Trying to buy your first violin as (or for) a beginner student can be overwhelming. The more you look the more the prices seem to soar and there are just so many violins on the market. The process of narrowing down your options can be daunting, but picking a starter violin or peeking at the price tags doesn’t need to be scary.

Below are our top picks for beginner violins under $500. Each of the violins listed has been personally tested by us, so we’re confident in our picks. Scroll down to see our top three choices, our reasons for choosing them, and the criteria you will want to consider when making your choice.

OUR TOP CHOICE

The best choice for a student instrument under $500.

$489.00

How We Chose Our Top Choice?

The Antonio Strad Model 5H Violin is our top choice for the best violin under $500. This model is on the higher end of the price range, but it’s also a higher-end instrument. It’s handmade with aged warm woods and is meant for players on the cusp of being intermediate. This may feel intimidating if you are buying for a beginner, but this makes it a great instrument to grow into. You can expect the Model 5H to stay with you for a while so you won’t have to worry about investing in another violin.

You can’t get in a size smaller than a ½ so hold off on buying this one for the littlest violinists until they grow a few sizes. But for everyone else; you’ll love the clear, precise tone this violin has without being too cutting. It can hold its own in a solo and mesh well into group playing.

Key Features:

  • Comes in a complete outfit
  • Set up is done for you
  • Handmade
  • Hand-carved French Aubert Bridge
  • Strung with Pro-Arte strings
  • Sizes: 4/4, 3/4, 1/2

Please read our in-depth review of the Antonio Strad Model 5H Violin.

OUR SECOND CHOICE

The next best option for a student instrument under $500.

$419.00

How We Chose Our Second Choice?

The Antonio Strad Model 4H Violin is our second choice. Compared to the AS 5H above the main difference is that it was made for a slightly more beginner player. This distinction is reflected in the lower price, difference in wood aging, and the availability of the 1/4 size. It is still, however, one of the best violins under $500, especially if you are looking to buy it for a younger beginner, or to upgrade from a rental violin. The sound itself is more sweet than rich, making it easier for beginners to develop a good ear since the tone is distinct and without the potential for a messy sound that advanced violins sometimes have in a beginner’s hands.

It’s a tough pick between the 4H and the 5H. The deciding factor is ultimately who you are getting the violin for. The 5H offers a lot more room for improvement than the 4H, but the 4H is an excellent starter violin for beginners, especially for a violin under $500.

Key Features:

  • Comes in an outfit
  • Fingerboard tape for marking finger positions included
  • Set up is done for you
  • Handmade
  • Strung with Prelude Strings
  • Hand-carved French Aubert Bridge
  • Sizes: 4/4, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4

Please read our in-depth review of the Antonio Strad Model 4H Violin.

OUR THIRD CHOICE

The last option for a student instrument under $500.

How We Chose Our Third Choice?

The Cremona SV-1220 Maestro First Violin is our last choice for the best violin under $500. This model is widely available through several storefronts, although they typically need to visit a local music shop to be properly set up. Note that the price point isn’t always reliably under $500, so it’s in third place. Like the 5H we’d recommend it for beginner-intermediate players. It has a mellow and resonant sound that welcomes growth and nuanced technique from its player. We struggled to find this model in anything, but a full size, so it’s best for older teenagers and adult violinists. The tailpiece, pegs, and chin rest are a slightly rarer light brown, so if you value aesthetics that might appeal to you. It also comes with a nice roomy case, that can come in handy.

Key Features:

  • Comes in an outfit
  • Needs to be set up in-store
  • Hand carved
  • Strung with Anton Breton Perlon Strings
  • Sizes: 4/4

Picking the Best Beginner Violin for You

Now that you’ve seen the models we recommend here are some factors that are most important to consider when making your decision. Some may apply to you more than others, and those are the ones that will be most valuable when it comes to narrowing your options down.

Size

When choosing the best beginner violin for you, size is often an important factor because many beginner violinists are also children. Making sure that a violinist has the correct size instrument is imperative as playing on the wrong size can damage not only their technique but also cause physical harm. If a model doesn’t carry the size you need right now, it is not worth buying. Save it for when you’ve grown into it, or find a similar model that carries your size.

Construction

You may have noticed that all of our picks are handmade or hand-carved in some capacity, this is because it makes a world of a difference over factory-made instruments. The expert touch of an experienced luthier means each instrument is optimized for its intended player. The construction, in general, will also be better; you can expect a handmade instrument to stand the test of time as long as it is maintained regularly.

Outfit

A violin outfit is essentially a bundle of everything you need to start playing including, of course, the violin and bow, but also often things like mutes, tuners, rosin, and more. If you are upgrading from a previous violin, you may already have some of these things, and therefore do not need an outfit. Or if this is your first violin, you may need these things and won’t have to buy them separately thanks to the outfit. Think about what you need beyond just the violin when making your decision. Often, but not always, you can get a specific violin model with or without the outfit. Checking if an outfit is or is not available and what is included may be worth your while!

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