Many cello players start by renting instruments. Teachers will often advise against buying a cello outright until you have mastered some techniques and know that you will continue playing. But once you’ve taken that step, it can be daunting trying to find a cello that fits your budget. Yet the best cello brands are starting to create some fine instruments for the intermediate player.
It is tempting to buy some of the very inexpensive models, but these will often turn up badly set-up and require a lot of work to make them playable. Below, you will find some trusted brands that break the mold by offering good quality for a decent price.
Based in Ontario, California, the D’Luca brand is a well-known manufacturer of a diverse range of instruments, such as guitars, accordions, keyboard, percussion instruments, and strings. They’ve supplied schools and orchestras with the full range of beginner to advanced instruments. Many of those who start out on a D’Luca instrument will often progress to their upgraded counterparts. Simply put, they are a brand that has inspired a great following in the music world.
They are known for offering mid-priced cellos in a huge variety of sizes and finishes. Some of them are truly beautiful such as the flamed maple finish of the Professional, or the antique flair of the Hand-made Ebony Cello. The higher-end beginner cello, the Meister Handmade Ebony Fitted Cello, features a great rosewood bow and a lovely bright sound.
The D’Luca MC100 is easily one of the most affordable Cellos on the market. It’s a full-size Cello made with quality tonewoods and a fine rosewood fingerboard. It also utilizes rosewood for its tuning pegs and fittings.
One of the best features is actually the beautiful finish it comes in. Varnished to perfection it comes in a rich dark cherry tone. It generally comes as a package featuring a padded bag, chromatic tuner, rosin, and bow, but especially nice is the portable cello stand to keep your instrument unscathed. Definitely worth investigating when shopping around for your first cello.
Established in 2000, Merano have made it their mission to create affordable, beautifully crafted instruments. They offer brass, wind and stringed instruments all at reasonable prices. They have a large team of artisans who look over every instrument to ensure it maintains high standards. Many of their instruments are aimed at the beginner market but they also offer some fine examples of professional equipment as well.
Their cello range starts with the very basic CL100, which like many others features a spruce top, maple body and neck. The tuning pegs and fingerboard are not true ebony but have undergone a process called ebonization. There is a range other very inexpensive options which come in vibrant colors including bright blue, silver and purple. Very nice if you want to show off a bit!
For the serious player, though, you should look no further than the Ebony MC 400. It features a beautifully carved solid spruce top finished in a classic deep brown. The rest of the body is carved out of solid maple, and they’ve invested in a durable ebony fingerboard with matching tuning pegs.
When buying this instrument it is often packaged with a horsehair bow, an ebony frog and a well-padded carry bag, along with rosin to keep your strings stiff. What’s most remarkable is that Merano manages to keep their prices so low without resorting to cheap laminated wood.
Though a relatively young brand, Cecilio have made a name for themselves as creators and distributors of quality student instruments. Based in California, they specialize in Woodwind and Brass, as well as all manner of stringed instruments. Their Violins, Violas, and Cellos are hand-crafted using traditional techniques ensuring each instrument is held to the highest of standards. As specialists in student instruments, they offer Cellos in all sizes from 4/4 to 1/8, so even the youngest players can get their hands on one.
Cecilio offer an impressive range of Cellos. At the highest end of their range is the CCO-600. This beautiful instrument features some high quality, fine-grained spruce top and a body of flamed maple. Everything about this model screams class, from its hand-rubbed finish to the ebony fingerboard.
The mid-priced instrument, the CCO-300, features a maple fingerboard giving it a bright, lively sound not often associated with Cellos. It matches the fingerboard in its maple pegs and tailpiece. All of Cecilio’s instruments come with a lightweight padded bag and brazilwood bow with genuine horsehair.
The bargain range starts with the CCO 100. Like its more expensive counterpart, the CCO 300, it also features a maple fingerboard, tailpiece and tuning pegs. Though at the lower end of the market it is a beautiful piece of work, with solid tonewoods and built with the regular player in mind. It’s best known for its ability to hold tune for some remarkably long periods.
Renowned multinational, multi-discipline corporation Yamaha are known well for their electronics, sports equipment, and engineering. It may surprise you to know that they are also the world’s largest manufacturer of musical instruments. Their pianos can be found in orchestras across the globe, so it won’t surprise you to find out that they also supply a world-class range of violins.
Yamaha have created some truly wonderful cellos. Many of them are beyond the range of the casual player but they also do make some exciting and affordable less expensive instruments. At the very highest end you have the VC20G which feature carefully seasoned tonewoods and hand brushed finish.
At the lower end, you’ve got the half-size VC5S, aimed specifically at kids, but still utilizing traditional methods in creating something special.
In the middle you, have something rather special. The SVC 50 is a fully electric Cello, ideal for practicing musicians. It is incredibly portable. You are actually able to break the whole thing down for when you are on the move and very easily re-assemble it for when you want to start playing.
Purists may have their doubts about the authenticity of the sound. It is certainly not like a traditional acoustic cello, but the sound it makes is unique and still has that soulful rich edge that Cellos are famous for.
D Z Strad, based in the heart of New York City have fast become one of the most globally recognized brands of quality intermediate to advanced Cellos. Unlike some of the other manufacturers on this list, they deal exclusively in Violins, Violas, Cellos and Double Basses.
Offering and restoring also some of the high-end antique Cellos, which can fetch up to $150,000, their makers have a masterful knowledge of what goes into a quality instrument. It should be exciting to those on a budget to know that the instrument they buy comes from such an authority on instrument making.
Their very highest end models are true marvels, and one can expect to see them turning up in museums in a 100 years time. The 1100 is one of these, and it really looks and sounds the part of a legendary instrument. Made with aged Italian Spruce and Chinese maple it is capable of some deep and truly inspiring tones.
Further down in price is the 150, which features simply beautiful versatile tone created by some of the finest quality tonewoods. Every package from D Z Strad comes with a Brazilwood bow – worth a fair amount itself!
Coming in at the budget end of their range, but by no means a low-quality instrument, is the 101. This lovely Cello boasts many of the features of the higher priced cellos, but due to the lack of aging of its tonewoods, has a much more affordable price tag. It features a genuine ebony fingerboard on a maple neck. The body and sides are also maple and are very durable yet still attractively finished in a deep red varnish.
They’re all fantastically made by some prestigious brands, but in my mind, the best cello brand here is the D Z Strad 101. Their continued artisanal attitude toward instrument making is a touching thing to behold, especially as it’s clear that they care deeply about what they create and what it can do for early career players. Nowhere is this more evident than in the 101, which though inexpensive, will truly stand the test of time as a classic instrument.