The decision to buy your first cello can feel daunting at times. Without experience you won’t know the best cello brands to look for, or what might be the best beginner cello for you.
There are a plethora of cello reviews out there, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by confusing websites.
We’ve compiled what we think are the top 10 best cello brands, especially for those who are new to the market.
- Best Cello 2018 Buying Guide: What Should You Look for as a Beginner?
- Top 10 Cello Brands & Best Cello Reviews
- D Z Strad
- Eastman Strings
Best Cello 2018 Buying Guide: What Should You Look for as a Beginner?
A Short History
The cello is one of the newer instruments in the violin family, first introduced sometime in the 16th century.
Andrea Amati was the first person on record to build them, making them for Charles IX, the King of France. Some consider Amati cellos to be the best cellos in the world.
It wasn’t until Bach composed his famous six unaccompanied cello suites in the early 18th century that the instrument really came into the spotlight.
The famous violin maker Stradivarius was one of the best cello makers in the world. He created the standard size for the cello, and many of his instruments are still played today.
Stradivarius and Amati cellos that have stood the test of time are among the most expensive cellos in the world. Their sound has only improved with age.
Many luthiers today model their instruments off these famous ones, attempting to imitate their craftsmanship to produce a similar sounding instrument.
Know Your Budget
There is a lot to consider when you start your hunt for a good cello. The first thing to decide is what you’re willing to spend.
How much does a good cello cost? The best professional cello brands can cost upwards of $1 million.
Even a cheap cello generally starts at around $1,000, although there are several reputable brands we’ve included that sell instruments for less than that.
Some of the most expensive cello brands can cost several million dollars.
If you’re willing to invest, we recommend looking for something in the $2,000-$5,000 range. If this still seems like a lot of money up front, there are often financing options available.
If you’re trying to avoid renting and are determined to save money there are cellos available for as low as $150-$200 that will quickly cost less than even a cheap rental.
A cello at that price is never going to be completely handmade, and will be using lower quality materials.
If you’re buying a $200 cello and continue with your studies it will eventually hold you back, as cellos that cheap are just not capable of producing the type of sound quality that a more experienced musician requires.
Investing a little bit more money in your cello will make playing it an easier, more enjoyable experience.
If you aren’t sure about whether you want to continue with cello we recommend going the cheaper route and upgrading when you get serious.
Cellos are made in 1/10, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and 4/4 sizes. Generally, most adults play a 4/4 size.
For 4 and 5 year olds the 1/10 size is probably best. Kids ages 5 and 6 typically use a 1/8 cello. The 1/4 size is best for ages 6 and 7.
The 1/2 size is generally suited to 8 to 10 year olds, and the 3/4 size is usually for 11 to 13 year olds, although some very small adults might feel more comfortable playing a 3/4. Full size is 4/4.
The only way to know for sure which size is best is to follow a sizing chart and take personal measurements.
Cello Materials – Wood vs Carbon Fiber vs Electric
What makes a good quality cello? There are many types of cellos out there.
Cellos are traditionally made with a spruce top and maple sides, back, and neck. Poplar is sometimes used for the back and sides.
These are the types of wood you’ll typically find, but very cheap cellos are often made with laminated wood.
If possible, avoid laminate cellos. They will never be able to produce the same sound quality as spruce and maple models.
How do you know if it’s laminate? Of course, you should ask first, but you can also check through the sound holes on both sides of the bridge.
If the wood has layers instead of one single piece, it’s likely laminate.
Carbon fiber is growing immensely in popularity. It might sound crazy that a material used to make airplanes and boats can also produce quality instruments, but the company Luis and Clark has been paving the way with these revolutionary new instruments.
We wouldn’t recommend carbon fiber for your first instrument, but it produces a shockingly good sound and is extremely durable and light.
These are best used for musicians who must play outdoors frequently, because the material is not vulnerable to environmental changes like humidity and temperature.
Yo-Yo Ma plays a carbon fiber cello for some outdoor performances – he was apparently confident enough in its sound quality that he strongly considered using it at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, due to the extremely cold January temperatures.
Electric cellos are in a class all their own. They will never produce the type of rich sound that a traditional cello can, but they are fantastic for specific needs.
It’s not recommended that this be your only cello, but as you get more serious or want to branch out into different music genres an electric cello is perfect.
Two of the most reputed electric cello makers are Yamaha and Cecilio. An electric cello can cost as little as $300 up to several thousand.
They are incredibly quiet, and can be played connected to headphones so that you don’t disturb roommates or neighbors.
If you’re interested in playing in jazz or rock groups the electric cello gives you the type of sound you need.
They’re extremely fun to own, and a great addition to your instrument roster once you start advancing.
You can’t make a cello purchase without also considering the bow. Your bow is a separate purchase.
We could easily write a second guide on bow purchasing alone, but we’ll include some basic important guidelines here as well.
First, you shouldn’t purchase a bow until you’ve chosen a cello. Bows respond differently to different instruments, and what might feel like the best bow in the world with one cello could seem lackluster on another.
You should consider your bow purchase as equally important to your choice of cello, and budget accordingly.
The consensus is that your bow should cost between 20% and 25% of the cost of your cello. This isn’t a strict rule, but it’s a good place to start.
Classically, bows are made of wood. The standard is Brazilwood, especially Pernambuco. There are also synthetic options made of fiberglass and carbon fiber.
Typically, wood bows are more expensive. Bow prices have an extremely wide range. Generally, the synthetic ones are cheaper.
The bow should feel balanced in your hand, and should produce a clear sound from your cello. Play using different techniques and styles to see how it responds.
Bows come in two different shapes: round and octagonal. Typically you get a warmer tone from round bows. They’re also a bit quieter. Octagonal bows often produce a bigger sound.
There is no right or wrong with bow shape, the differently tones and qualities suite different cellos and needs. It’s always best to try out both types.
You also need to consider the strings you buy for your cello. Invest in some decent strings to produce the best possible sound from your cello.
The best brands include Evah Pirazzi, Larsen, and Thomastik-Infeld. Most cellists use a combination of different brands depending on the string.
A popular combination, for example, is a Larsen A, Larsen D, Spirocore Tungsten G, and Spirocore Tungsten C.
However, this is up to you and your budget. Beginner strings can run around $50 while professional quality can reach $300.
If you’re playing a lot you should change your strings every 6 months to 1 year.
Many of the cello brands recommended below come with a soft case to carry the instrument.
For a beginner, the case you keep your cello in might not be at the forefront of your mind. However, the case is absolutely essential for protecting your cello. Soft cases cannot do that job well.
A good case can start at around $150-$200 up to $1,000.
The Bam France 10001S 4/4 Cello case is one of the best on the market, and retails for about $700 on Amazon.
It might seem crazy to spend that much on a case, but if you’re investing in a good cello you need to invest in its protection as well.
If you’ve got a very cheap cello the Cushy Hard Body for Cello is only about $200.
No matter how good your bow is if you don’t use quality rosin you won’t get any good sound out of it.
Rosin is a resin that makes your bow hairs sticky, which creates the necessary friction to get your string to vibrate.
If you ever feel like the sound you’re producing is weak, one problem might just be that you need to rosin.
There are different types, and cellos usually need a darker, medium-strength rosin to get the best sound.
Some of the best brands include Pirastro, Andrea, and Kaplan/D’Addario.
Cello Brands to Avoid
Many people researching where to buy a cello want to know if there are certain cello brands to stay away from. Beyond specific brands, the key is finding a good seller.
Amazon often has the most competitive prices, but some of their sellers can be unknowns.
It’s important to check the reputation of the company you’re buying from. Read the cello reviews and research the sellers!
Top 10 Cello Brands & Best Cello Reviews
Who makes the best cellos? What is the best cello brand?
In reality, it’s totally dependent on the target market and budget range. There are so many good cello brands, and a plethora of student cello reviews.
We tried to focus on brands that serve both beginner and intermediate cellists.
In the past, European cello brands were considered the best. The most famous cello makers in history came from Europe, and they set the standard.
However, Chinese cello makers have begun to produce great cellos, especially good student cellos.
American luthiers have also stepped up and have begun making quality instruments.
Cecilio is one of the best student cello brands on the market. They’ve developed a reputation for producing instruments of surprising quality for their price range, and because of that they’ve become one of the most famous brands in the world.
They set themselves apart by using quality materials as well as providing what is basically a cello starter kit with your purchase.
With their beginner models you don’t just get the cello, you get strings, a soft case, rosin, and a bow.
Even their cheapest cellos are hand-made, which is not standard in the beginner cello market. You’re going to get the best cello for your money.
If you’re looking for a more mid-range instrument or are an advanced player, Cecilio isn’t the best option for you.
However, it’s an excellent choice if you’re starting out and want to own your instrument instead of rent.
If you’re looking for the best affordable cello, Cremona is another one of the best cello brands for beginners.
While their instruments’ parts are originally made in China, they are assembled in the United States.
Their student cellos are designed to use quality materials at a low cost. A lightweight hard case is generally included with purchase.
The brand has an established reputation as a top manufacturer of student cellos.
D Z Strad
D Z Strad produces excellent cellos that go beyond beginner quality. They’re one of the top cello brands for intermediate players.
They make instruments that go up into the thousands, and are known for their incredible quality.
They set themselves apart with their traditional methods, using Italian tonewoods that they dry outside for 20 years, followed by time spent in a special drying room that ensures the stability of their woods.
Their higher end cellos are an excellent investment that you can keep for your entire playing career.
Their instruments are a bit more of a commitment, but if you’re getting serious about cello they are an excellent choice.
They’re perfect for intermediate players who see themselves continuing with music.
Merano have developed a great reputation for producing affordable, quality instruments. Their brand focuses on student models, and are especially popular with schools.
Their cellos are available in traditional wood tones, as well as a range of fun colors that would appeal to young players.
They aren’t the best quality instruments in this guide, but they include everything you need for a very low price.
They’re one of the most accessible instruments available, and would quickly save you money over renting.
Their lowest-end instruments have “ebonized” fingerboards and pegs, and we don’t recommend them.
They are so affordable that their top line cellos are still very cheap. They make a good starter cello.
Crescent started in 2001 in Southern California and is now one of the most popular beginner cello brands available online.
All their instruments come with a case, rosin, cello stand, extra strings, and bridge.
Yamaha is a massive Japanese company that produces instruments, electronics, and sports equipment.
They are probably the most recognizable instrument brand to any kid that’s played in a school band or orchestra, and everyone knows their iconic tuning fork logo.
They have a long and storied history and are the single biggest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world.
Yamaha is most famous for their electric cellos, and we thought we’d include them on this list for those interested in non-traditional instruments.
If you’re buying your first cello, stick with a classical instrument. If you’re looking to expand out or start doing recording projects an electric cello is a great addition to your collection.
D’Luca makes a wide range of instruments, and they offer something for beginners up to serious, advanced players.
They’re a company that inspires brand loyalty, and many players who start out on their student cellos end up upgrading to their more advanced models as they improve.
Knilling has been making instruments since 1922, and since that time has developed an extremely trusted reputation.
They are an innovative company, developing Perfection Pegs, that look like traditional pegs but have inner gears that make tuning easier and far less temperamental regardless of the weather.
Their cellos are also customizable.
Eastman Strings was founded in 1992 and has quickly built up a reputation as one of the premiere workshops in the world.
Eastman was founded by a Qian Ni, a flautist based in Beijing who was committed to creating quality instruments. Eventually, Eastman also opened a bow making workshop as well.
Eastman is beloved by novices and professionals alike, and has an extremely wide range of cellos across several price points.
An Eastman cello is a fantastic investment, and their instruments will last a lifetime. Eastman is one of the best cello brands for intermediate players.
Primavera cellos are another popular entry level line that are good for those just starting out.
They’ve developed a solid reputation for beginning players who want to buy instead of rent.
Their materials are generally of pretty good quality – using spruce and maple as well as real ebony.
In the end, this guide is just meant to give an overview of what you need to look for when buying a cello, especially as a beginner.
You might still be wondering, what cello should I buy?
The absolute best thing you can do is play the cello before you buy it, and try more than one.
If you are completely new to the instrument, see if you can bring your teacher or get their advice as well. It’s difficult to know how to buy a good cello without experience. If you don’t know where to buy a cello, look up local shops as well as online retailers like Amazon.
Cellos are a serious investment, and a lot more goes in to making a cello sound its best than the instrument alone.
It’s worthwhile to buy instead of rent if you are even remotely committed to playing, and the moment you upgrade to an instrument made with quality wood and real ebony your entire playing experience will improve drastically.
It’s not a requirement to break the bank on a new cello, but by focusing on the details and buying good accessories you’ll wind up with an instrument that suits your needs at any price point.