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The 6 best cello brands for students and what to avoid

Choosing the right instrument can make a big difference in your cello journey. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player, finding a reliable and high-quality instrument is crucial.

Playing with a great cello from the beginning of your learning process will accelerate it and will also be more pleasurable, but most importantly, it will save you from vices that come from trying to resolve acoustic problems that come from the instrument and not from your playing, deriving in faulty acquired technique which is then difficult to wash off.


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Why you should trust me

Manuel Villar Lifac, writer at Higher Hz

With years of experience as a professional cellist, I’ve been lucky enough to play and test various instruments from different brands.

My experience allows me to evaluate the playability, sound quality, and craftsmanship of cellos to provide reliable recommendations.

This guide is based on a combination of first-hand experience, extensive research, and feedback from other musicians in the field.

How I chose the brands for this list

The brands listed here were selected based on several key criteria:

  • Sound quality: How good the cello sounds. Of course, this is very subjective but can be appreciated with how rich the tone is. It can be a warm sound or a brighter sound. Some cellos may be louder, and some other cellos may not be so loud but have a nicer tone. The best cellos have both of these characteristics.
  • Craftsmanship and reliability: Quality of materials and details. This will determine not only the looks of the instrument but also its durability. Bad craftsmanship will result in a fragile cello.
  • Reputation: Aside from having tested cellos from all these brands myself, I’ve also looked for positive feedback from colleagues – professional cellists.

These are the top cello brands I recommend for beginner to advanced students:

Best budget cellos: Yamaha

Yamaha is known for producing not only cellos, but a huge array of instruments of all kinds and levels. Manufactured in Japan, their instruments range from beginner to professional.

I’ve known many professional cellists who play Yamaha instruments in the National Symphony Orchestra, as well as many beginners who have started their musical journey with an entry-level Yamaha. Their cellos offer consistent quality and are easy to maintain.

The models I recommend are the Yamaha AVC5 and the Yamaha SVC-110SK (electric).

The electric Yamaha is an excellent option if you don’t want to annoy the people you live with or your neighbors. The instrument responds very well to the bow and its tone is very natural while using earphones.

What I like

  • Great price-quality ratio.
  • Durability and reliability.
  • Excellent customer support.
  • Wide availability.

What I don’t like

  • Less nuanced sound compared to better-quality brands.

Best value for beginners: Eastman

Eastman produces its instruments in China. However, don’t let prejudice take over your good judgment.

While instruments manufactured in China didn’t have a very good reputation in the past, the country’s musical instrument industry has significantly developed over the decades, achieving excellent results.

For example, I personally own a double bass, a similar instrument to the cello, that has been praised by well-renowned musicians such as Dino Saluzzi, and they were surprised to find out it was made in China.

Eastman cellos are highly regarded for their excellent craftsmanship and sound quality. The company offers a range of instruments for beginners and intermediate players.

Some good models that I’m happy to recommend are the Eastman VC100 and the Eastman VC305.

One significant caveat here is the poor-quality strings that Eastman cellos typically come with. This is always the case with cheaper Chinese instruments, and it’s crucial to remember that the strings are even more important than the cello itself.

The sound originates from the strings, while the cello merely amplifies that sound. Therefore, upgrading the strings can make a substantial difference in the instrument’s performance.

What I like

  • Handcrafted craftsmanship.
  • Rich sound.
  • Good value for money.

What I don’t like

  • Requires immediate re-stringing for optimal sound.

Most durable cellos: Stentor

Stentor instruments are also made in China, so the observation I made about Chinese instruments previously applies to this brand as well, along with the other brands listed here.

Stentor cellos are a popular choice among beginners. The main reason for this is their affordability and decent quality. Stentor cellos are more accessible than Eastman while being well constructed.

Stentor instruments are often recommended by music educators for entry-level students. Some of the company’s best-selling cellos include the Stentor Student I and the Stentor Conservatoire.

These instruments are ideal for beginners who need a durable option during their first years, especially if they are not yet experienced in caring for a relatively fragile instrument like the cello.

The biggest drawback that I’ve noticed is that Stentor cellos can have inconsistent quality control, with each cello varying considerably from one another.

So, if you’re planning to purchase a Stentor cello and have the opportunity to test it at a shop, I strongly recommend going to the store and trying all the units, even if they are the same model.

What I like

  • Good starter instruments.
  • Robust, guarantee good durability.
  • Affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Inconsistent quality control.

Best super-affordable: Cecilio

Also made in China, Cecilio offers low-budget cellos that are ideal for beginners. They also provide some accessories that come in handy for new players who are just getting started.

The tone may not be so good, but the design of the instrument meets the standards a player needs to develop a correct left-hand technique and bow placement, which is most fundamental in the initial steps.

Some recommended models are the Cecilio CCO-100 and the Cecilio CCO-500. These are very affordable instruments, but they usually require setup adjustments.

This means that it is advisable to take them to a luthier for fine adjustments, such as adjusting the angle of the strings or possibly replacing the bridge.

Although this is very advisable regarding Cecilio instruments, this is usually the case with all cellos that are made in a factory and not by a luthier.

What I like

  • Very affordable.
  • Decent sound for the price.

What I don’t like

  • Require setup adjustments.

Best intermediate cellos: Cremona

Cremona cellos are very well known for their quality sound and reliable craftsmanship.

These cellos are manufactured in China as well and are an excellent choice for intermediate players looking to upgrade from a beginner instrument.

The Cremona SC-100 and the Cremona SC-500 are some of their most popular models.

You’ll notice that more expensive Cremona cellos use better wood in their construction, such as maple and ebony, instead of generic wood material.

What I like

  • Good sound quality.
  • Great for intermediate players.
  • Solid construction.

What I don’t like

  • Higher price point for better models.

Best advanced cellos: D Z Strad

Handmade in China, D Z Strad instruments are known for their superior craftsmanship and excellent sound quality, which makes them a great choice for advanced players.

The company primarily utilizes better-quality materials, such as ebony in the fingerboard, and flamed maple in the sides.

Their most popular models are the D Z Strad Model 101 and the D Z Strad Model 600.

Although D Z Strad cellos are much more refined in construction, purchasing one of these, setting it up with the best strings available, and taking it to a luthier for fine adjustments will result in an excellent instrument.

What I like

  • High-quality craftsmanship.
  • Rich and nuanced sound.
  • Suitable for advanced players.

What I don’t like

  • Quite expensive.
  • Limited availability in some regions.

Honorable mentions

  • Fiddlerman. Known for their good quality and customer service, Fiddlerman offers solid starter cellos for any beginner student.
  • Knilling. The brand offers cellos with good craftsmanship and sound quality, suitable for both beginners and intermediates.
  • Scott Cao. Renowned for manufacturing high-quality instruments, Scott Cao is especially popular among advanced students and professionals.

Frequently asked questions

Should I rent or buy a cello as a beginner?

My personal advice is to purchase a cello if you know you are truly interested in playing.

The first and most logical step in order to play cello is owning one, so you can play often. If you have doubts about wanting to learn cello, I advise you just take some lessons, which will be sufficient to realize if you resonate with it and feel it is something you will actually do.

How much should I expect to spend on my first cello?

Expect to spend between $300 to $1,000 for a decent beginner cello.

Higher-quality instruments are much more expensive, and there’s a big leap between factory-made cellos and luthier-made cellos, especially if they are a couple of centuries old.

When should I upgrade from a student cello?

You should upgrade as soon as you can. As I said before, being a beginner who uses a professional cello is a privilege that will not only make your learning process more pleasurable but also more efficient.

Of course, this is a luxury, but if you can afford it and you evaluate it’s worth it, you will end up saving a lot of time, and you will avoid developing a faulty technique that compensates for the cello’s limitations.

What’s the difference between factory-made and handcrafted cellos?

Factory-made cellos are mass-produced and are often more affordable but may lack the nuanced sound and build quality of handcrafted cellos, which are individually made by skilled luthiers.

When a luthier makes a cello, they really care for the fine details such as the angle of the strings, just to give an example. One degree of difference in the angle may sound like a nuisance, but it really makes a difference.

Which brands are preferred by professional cellists?

Professional cellists often prefer brands like Stradivarius, Montagnana, and Guarneri. These instruments are centuries old and have been produced by historically renowned luthiers.

Which brand of cello does Stjepan Hauser play?

Stjepan Hauser plays a 1740 Gagliano cello.

Which brands of cellos do Apocalyptica play?

Apocalyptica members play various custom-made cellos, including those crafted by Finnish luthier Raimo Sirkiä.

Which brand of cello does Yo-Yo Ma play?

Yo-Yo Ma plays the 1712 Davidoff Stradivarius.

What accessories should I purchase with a cello?

Essential accessories include a good rosin, a sturdy case, a cello stand, and a tuner. Also, consider purchasing a shoulder rest and endpin stopper for added comfort and stability.

Some would say the bow is an accessory, but I consider the bow to be an instrument in itself. I’d rather have an excellent bow and an average cello, than an excellent cello and an average bow.

The bow works literally as an extension of your hand. If the cello is an arrow… well, the bow is the bow!

Are there any cello brands I should avoid?

I have never known of a factory-made cello that, after being restrung and correctly set up by a luthier, didn’t turn out to be decent. What I have seen are suspiciously cheap handmade cellos from luthiers, probably amateur beginner luthiers, or just people who enjoy constructing things and decided to try making a cello. These should always be avoided.

The dimensions usually don’t fit, the different parts of the cello are disproportionate to each other, and there’s nothing a luthier can do about it, no matter how skilled they are.

Are more expensive cellos always better?

Although there is generally a direct correlation between price and quality, this is not always the case. Some cellos have inflated prices due to their well-known brands, while others of higher quality might be more affordable because their brand isn’t as famous.

Additionally, a cello might be very expensive because it was made in the 1800s, but you might not like its tone when you play it.

Ultimately, what defines how good a cello is depends on your personal preference.

Can I find good second-hand cellos from reputable brands?

Absolutely. In fact, finding good second-hand instruments is my preferred approach. They tend to be less expensive than brand-new ones and have the added advantage of already being set up by a luthier, restrung, and played by their previous owner.

A brand-new cello doesn’t sound as good as one that has been broken in for several years. That’s why Yo-Yo Ma and Stjepan Hauser play cellos that are so old.