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In light of suspected terrorist threat airport security has been tightened to include new restrictions on "electronic devices". For example, on Heathrow Airport's site they say:

Make sure your electronic devices are charged before you travel. If your device doesn’t switch on when requested, you won’t be allowed to bring it onto the aircraft.

I travel with an electric violin, not so that I can rock-out during business trips but so that my practise does not disturb people in neighbouring hotel rooms since the electric violin is near-silent without an amplifier.

Will my electric violin fall foul of new airport security restrictions? If so how does one prove that an electric violin (or any other active electronic instrument) is "turned on" without an amplifier to hand?

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My corporate travel folk (which I think Amex provides) phoned British Airways who said that as it is battery operated it falls within the new guidelines, and that if I am unable to demonstrate that it has power I will be asked to leave it behind. My current plan is to leave it at home and take my normal non-electric violin with a practice mute and save up for a non-electric 'silent' violin for next time. – dumbledad Jul 11 '14 at 15:26
Is it a possibility for a miniature amplifier to work? Such as this:… – Eichhörnchen Jul 11 '14 at 15:43
Rather annoyingly no-one at security asked me to turn anything on: not my phone and not my laptop; so I probably could have taken my electric violin through (at least from the UK) without issue. The thing that did cause them to ask me to open up my violin case was the metal practise mute, which looked odd on the x-ray. – dumbledad Jul 12 '14 at 7:59
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I doubt this will be an issue, but there are plenty of ways to connect your guitar to an mobile phone. I'm guessing the electric violin outputs the same signal, so it can be used in a guitar amplifier. If so, you could use one of those together with your smartphone, and some sort of sound will be produced. Or even simpler, use one of those portable practice devices, which are just a 1/4" plug and a small box you can connect headphones too.

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Good answer but I'd rather not have to carry another thing in hand luggage purely to keep security happy. – dumbledad Jul 11 '14 at 15:21
Plus current advice from BA is that it will be an issue :-( – dumbledad Jul 11 '14 at 15:27
@dumbledad: How is it with checked in luggage? An electric violin should be able to be safely packed and checked in. I doubt they can screen checked in luggage to that extent. Since it's a business trip you only have carry on luggage... – Meaningful Username Jul 11 '14 at 16:17
@dumbledad: Well, since the violin itself isn't capable of proving it is working, I don't see how it's possible to show how it works without extra paraphernalia... – Meaningful Username Jul 11 '14 at 16:19
I missed this on my first reading but I think your point about headphones holds the key. I don't even need a portable practise device, headphones will plug directly into the preamp built into my electric violin. – dumbledad Jul 14 '14 at 16:25

This security change in Airport exists because they fear that the batteries might have been replaced by explosives or that the device might be a fake one, so they ask you to switch on your electronic device in order to check that it's a real battery and a "real" working device. Moreover, the targeted devices are mostly phones, tablets and laptops (I even read that they especially look for Samsung & Apple devices).

I guess an electric violin is quite similar to an (passive) electric guitar, so there is probably no battery on your device and not much electronics.

So you're probably okay with your instrument (regarding this specific safety rule change).

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I totally agree that this should be the answer, but current advice from BA is that it will be an issue. Mad. – dumbledad Jul 11 '14 at 15:27
This is why I added "regarding this specific safety rule change", there might be A LOT of other security rules that would prevent you from doing that (I should probably add that to my answer...) but I don't really know all the rules, I never travelled to the US so I don't know how hard it is to get on those planes with any hand luggage :). – Julien N Jul 11 '14 at 16:18
No, BA advised that regarding this specific rule change it would be an issue (though I agree with your reading of the ruling and not theirs). – dumbledad Jul 12 '14 at 8:01

I asked my friends on Facebook too and got several recommendations for miniature amplifiers like the Roland Micro Cube

Roland Micro Cube

the irig (though I don't use an iPhone)


or the Amplug


but then one friend pointed out that headphones suffice to demonstrate the difference between the electric violin turned off and the electric violin turned on and many of us travel with headphones in our hand luggage anyway.

Next time I'll take the electric violin again and keep some simple headphones to-hand when going through airport security.

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