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Why are electric violins so expensive compared to an electric guitar, why is a guitar pickup so relatively easy and cheap to produce compared to an electric violin's pickup?

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    The price is probably because the world and his dog have bought an electric guitar, whereas only those who are really serious will buy an electric violin. Again, similar with pups. – Tim May 6 '18 at 14:52
  • As the first sentence of Alphonso's answer clarifies, electric violins are not expensive relative to electric guitars. A quick web search reveals that violin pickups are priced very similarly to electric guitar pickups. Perhaps you live in some part of the world where the market is skewed for some reason related to the local economy? As it stands, this question is very confusing to me because it is asking the reasons for something that isn't even true. – Todd Wilcox May 7 '18 at 1:45
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    @ToddWilcox Compared to the amount of materials and quality of construction work, availability of instruments, the electric violins are more expensive point by point to electric guitars. That is rapidly changing however, which is why I stated "at the time of writing" in the answer. Sub $100 USD electric violins are showing up in the market, although their play-ability and tonal characteristics haven't quite caught up to the electric guitar market in the equitable price range. As more electric violin players become popular (thank you Lindsey Stirling) the violins will soon catch up. – Alphonso Balvenie May 7 '18 at 7:02
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At the time of writing this answer, there are roughly two ranges of electric violins available on the market. Inexpensive instruments in the $150 - $400 USD range, and better quality instruments starting around $800 USD and ranging up into the thousands.

The build and physics of the violin create some technical issues that an electric guitar does not have, causing more expense in the manufacture.

Some things that affect the price of manufacture and selling:

  • Pickup choice and manufacturing

  • Tone reproduction considerations

  • Market demand

One of the main issues with amplifying the violin is that it is difficult to use a magnetic pickup due to the arch of the strings over the fingerboard. Guitar strings being on a flat plane are more amenable to a magnetic coil, where you can get an even volume in the magnetic field. Magnetic coil pickups are inexpensive to make compared to other options.

Because of the arched configuration, Piezoelectric pickups and micro-phonic pickups are better suited. To get a better tone and other electronic considerations, the violin will often have active (battery powered) circuitry, increasing the cost.

Tone is also another issue. While electric guitars may get some tone variation with different wood and construction, the majority of sound is coming from the strings and magnetic coils. Electric guitars over the years have developed an accepted sound, where people are not expecting them to sound like louder acoustic guitars.

Violins do not have that history, so consumers are looking for the electric version of a violin to resemble the acoustic version, which again adds the expense of adding tone filtering circuitry or using specifically designed pickup systems.

Market rarity is also a driving factor for the price. The electric violins have a very small number of units sold each year compared to the electric guitar. Recouping the cost of development, manufacturing, distributing, and marketing requires a higher percentage return per unit sold.

Companies like Ned Steinberger and Yamaha have spent much research and development to design systems that create or emulate the tonal qualities of the violin. Other companies like Wood Violins focus more on the specialty of the product, and market specifically to the higher end consumer.

I have seen the low end instruments turn over quite rapidly. A manufacturer will produce an inexpensive version for a brief time, then disappear from the market. Usually the sound quality of the inexpensive Piezo pickup is quite harsh and brittle sounding and lacks the resonance and warmth of the acoustic instrument.

EDIT: Thinking about it, I should also add that in the electric violin market besides making instruments for performance and amplified playing, manufacturers are making instruments for "silent" playing, which includes a headphone amplifier in the instrument itself, also increasing production costs.

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In additin to Alphonso's quality answer, take a look: top-end acoustic guitars run at most a few thousand, other than some specialty customs which still end at maybe $25 000 to $30 000 USD. That same $30 000 will get you a decent pro-quality violin, but excellent instruments run into many hundreds of thousands of dollars. There's a lot more work involved in making a playable violin- bridge height and shape, fingerboard is not flat or fretted, etc.

The better "electric" stringed instruments, as AB wrote, are designed to produce a tone vaguely similar to the acoustics, whereas electric guitars (solidbodies at least) are little more than pitch generators. The tone is controlled with a slew of footpedals/switches/followers. I'm not trying to start a flame war here, so those of you who love your particular Fender or Ibanez solidbody just stay calm :-)

  • Thank you for the addition. I was going to include cost of work but ran out of time. Although the bridges on electrics don't have to have feet individually fitted, the fingerboard does have to be carved and shaped, and if the instrument is using traditional pegs, those have to be hand fitted as well – Alphonso Balvenie May 7 '18 at 19:15
  • Not starting a flame war but The tone is controlled with a slew of footpedals/switches/followers is entirely incorrect. Player technique, strings, pick-up quality, neck, nut and bridge design are far more important factors in the tone of an electric guitar for those who actually play the instrument. Any number of great players don't use any "footpedals/switches/followers" . – Stinkfoot May 8 '18 at 0:43
  • @Stinkfoot you're dangerously close to "golden ear" land with those claims. – Carl Witthoft May 8 '18 at 12:23
  • @CarlWitthoft - IDK what you're referring to. I stated a simple fact. – Stinkfoot May 9 '18 at 16:01

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