By Heather K. Scott
What’s the best violin case? There’s no simple answer—shopping for a violin or viola case can be a daunting task. There is a wide variety of options, from basic cases that list for under $300 to truly beautiful pieces of art costing thousands of dollars. In deciding which instrument case is right for you, consider your lifestyle, your environment, and your budget. Here are some things to look for in a violin or viola case, ranging from $75 to $1,800.
Can you afford a case with all the amenities? The benefits include a humidifier and a hygrometer. Are you a gigging musician looking for the ultimate survive-the-commute case? Be sure to look for handy end straps, often called “subway straps.” Do you live in an area that subjects your instrument to extreme weather changes? Ask your dealer about water-resistant covers. Or do you need something that will stand up to heavy air travel? Manufacturers’ approaches to that problem range from cases that squeeze under strict carry-on guidelines to the virtually indestructible.
Whatever your needs, the Internet provides a unique opportunity to do some preliminary research and window shopping before purchasing a case. It also helps to make a list of what you are looking for, what you can afford, and preferred companies before you venture out to your local music store.
Do Your Homework
One of the first questions to consider is what type of case will best suit your needs. Because of their durability, hard-shell cases tend to be more popular with musicians looking for assurance that their instruments will be protected. Their traditional disadvantage has been a tendency to be very heavy. But these days there are more and more lightweight cases on the market (such as the Bam Trekking case included in this review), designed to hold your instrument tightly in place and provide a good deal of protection. On the other hand, if you’re content with your current case and only wish it were easier to carry around, you might want to look at case bags, which provide additional padding and make heavy cases more manageable via comfortable handles and backpack straps.
Cases come with a plethora of options; designs and features span from minimalistic to unapologetically excessive. We looked at cases equivalent to five-star hotels that would pamper and spoil any instrument, but not everyone is looking for a luxury case. Some of the more practical amenities to consider address basic care and maintenance of your violin or viola. Changes in temperature and humidity can wreak havoc on your instrument, so if you live in an area with an extreme climate, consider adding a hygrometer and a humidifier to your case wish list. Hygrometers measure humidity levels, letting you know if your instrument is too damp or too dry; humidifiers correct dryness (a common problem, especially in winter), usually in the form of a small tube filled with water-saturated material that releases moisture at a controlled rate.
If a hygrometer and humidifier are the case features you are most concerned about—and if you are looking for the most accurate equipment—you might be best off buying a stripped-down case and installing a hygrometer and humidifier yourself (you may also want to look into having a music shop do this for you). You can purchase specific hygrometers and humidifiers to fit your needs through most music shops and distributors.
You should also think about how many interior and exterior compartments you need. Will you be traveling with a portfolio case? Sheet music? Cases generally have between one and four inner compartments and one outer sheet-music compartment running the length of the case. Some include gusseted outer pockets for extra storage and others feature a detachable exterior pocket for carrying portfolios. Do you use a number of different bows?
Some cases have only one or two bow holders, some four. And even if you have only one, be sure to bring it to the store to make sure that it fits in the holders provided.
Examine The Options
Be sure to investigate your potential case thoroughly. Look at everything—from the instrument padding or suspension system to the hardware. Suspension cases have become the norm with most companies. They are well padded and prevent your instrument from resting flat against the bottom of the case, which can be dangerous if the case receives a blow or is dropped. The instrument neck is held in place with a Velcro flap or string tie, and padding hugs the instrument tightly in place. Suspension systems—like hardcover cases—are almost always preferable. Keeping an instrument safe while traveling is an overwhelming concern for most instrumentalists. While most of the cases we looked at will fit in overhead compartments on airplanes, airlines’ ever-tightening carry-on limitations increase the possibility of being forced to check your instrument—so the harder the outer case and the softer the suspension system, the better.Most cases also include a zipper-and-lock system.
For security, look for two zippers that start in the back and meet at the center front. Some of the better cases have weather flaps that shelter the zippers and Velcro or snaps encasing the vulnerable spot where the zippers meet. Zippered cases may or may not lock, but those without zippers generally do—sometimes one lock at the center of the case below the handle is the only way to secure the case. In other instances, two or even three locks are mounted along the sides of the case, with an additional snap-down weather flap to cover the hardware.
If you are a violist, you may have difficulties properly fitting your instrument. More and more companies are offering cases in various sizes, but another option is an adjustable case. Adjustable cases are a good investment for growing students who may need to switch to larger instruments throughout the course of their careers. Watch out for exposed adjusting hardware that could scratch the back of your instrument. Also be sure that the hardware holds the adjustable shoulder block securely in place so that there is no danger of your instrument slipping.
I spoke with several professional, touring musicians at the San Francisco Symphony to learn what they look for when shopping for instrument cases. Many pros sacrifice comfort for durability and depend more on sturdy designs than aesthetically pleasing ones. Geraldine Walther, the Symphony’s principal violist, uses a Weber case. “A suspension system was the most important thing I looked for,” she told me. “Bow holders were important too, but I really just wanted it to feel sturdy. I also needed it to fit a narrow viola, because I have a 16 3/ 8. The Weber is pretty heavy, but it’s sturdy.”
The real challenge is to find a case that’s nearly bulletproof but also feels comfortable when carried long distances. Assistant Concertmaster Jeremy Constant found himself in a situation no musician anticipates. “We were on tour in New York and something got spilled in my violin case, so I needed a new case very, very quickly,” he recalled. “I was looking for suspension construction and a hard shell. My feeling was that soft cases did not offer enough protection for me.”
Constant purchased a Musafia case partly for the long, wick-style humidifier it features. “When you are touring in the winter, it is a godsend,” he explained, “because everything is so horrifically dry. Dampits [sponge-like humidifiers] are a losing effort unless you are willing to have one in each f-hole.” The Musafia is expensive, Constant admitted, but for him it was well worth the investment.
With the help of Strings Editor Jessamyn Reeves-Brown and Teja Gerken, gear editor of Strings’ sister publication, Acoustic Guitar, I gathered and evaluated 20 violin and viola cases and case covers, ranging in price from $75 to $1,800 (list). The least expensive were made of industrial three-ply cardboard or molded plastic and featured velour interiors, one or two bow holders, and one inner compartment. The more expensive cases had better suspension systems and insulation, higher-quality hardware, more strength and durability, and in many cases built-in hygrometers and thermometers. The top-end cases combined comfort, durability, and beautiful craftsmanship. These were cases with fine wooden interior accents and bow spinners, Celsius and Fahrenheit thermometers, and steel-reinforced outer shells.
We tested each case and bag for weight, strength, comfort, durability, hardware quality, and instrument fit. Some of our tests were as simple as opening and closing inner compartments, unlocking and locking bow spinners, fastening and unfastening locks, and sitting on closed cases to test their resistance to weight. We also calibrated hygrometers and thermometers and tried out various instruments to see how they fit in the different cases. As you read through the report on our findings, presented in alphabetical order (not order of quality), pay attention to the pros and cons of each case and how any special features might or might not meet your own needs.
Finally, be aware that the following reviews represent only a portion of the total number of cases we evaluated. Prices shown are manufacturers’ recommended list prices, and will vary with different shops and dealers.
Here is a guide with links to the cases covered in this article:
- American Case Company Silhouette (violin)
- American Case Company Continental (violin and viola)
- American Case Company Passport (violin)
- BAM Trekking (violin)
- BAM Trekking (viola)
- BAM Artisto (violin)
- Bobelock 1017 Hill-Style (violin)
- Bobelock 1002 Velvet Suspension Violin
- Heritage IV (violin)
- Mooradian Case Bag (violin or viola)
- Musafia Master Series Exclusive Violin Case
- Negri Monaco (violin)
- Negri Diplomat
- Negri Virtuoso (violin)
- Pro Tec Pro Pac HS-2166-W Adjustable (viola)
- Ritter 1CH Case Bag (violin/viola)
- Shar S/L Adjustable (viola)
- Small Dog V100RH Case Cover (violin/viola)
- Weber Ruby (violin)
- Weber Dukov (violin)
American Case Company Silhouette (violin)
$790. 31½ x 9½ x 4½ inches, 7 lb. 13½ oz. Lifetime warranty. Three-layer plywood shell, double-arch design, nylon cover.
The Silhouette violin case from the American Case Co. is a heavy-duty, hard-shell case with an outer cover of stone-washed nylon. The outer shell is 4½ inches deep, giving the case a nice, slim silhouette (hence the name). The thin design is comfortable to carry and should have no trouble fitting into overhead compartments in airplanes (although the length, as with most cases, does not conform to current carry-on guidelines). The Silhouette case features an adjustable shoulder strap with a rubber grip as well as an extra-wide leather handle. The case also has a uniquely arched bottom—an unusual trait offering added shock protection
Inside, the case features a built-in humidifier and hygrometer and the Suspensionair suspension system, which suspends the instrument on a bed of thick cushioning. The neck of the violin is secured with leather neck ties rather than the more common Velcroed fabric strap. Unfortunately, the string tube rests in one of the four bow holders, effectively reducing the bows capacity to three (although of course the tube can be removed when not in use, freeing up the fourth holder).
The Silhouette includes an instrument blanket, two inner compartments, and an outer sheet music compartment. It is available in three color combinations (exterior/interior): black/gray, sage/olive, and gray/blue.
American Case Company Continental (violin and viola)
$700 violin. $900 viola (weather guard flap unavailable). 31 x 10 ½ x 5 ¼ inches, 7 ½ lb. Lifetime warranty. Three-layer plywood shell with Cordura exterior.
Our favorite feature of this cases—aside from the roomy interior (165 cubic inches of storage space)—is the sheet music compartment, complete with partitioned mesh pockets to hold anything and everything. The molded rubber grip on the subway strap is also a nice feature, and helps to balance and handle the 7 ½ pounds of weight (this is a heavier case). The Continental features a weather guard flap which snaps down to protect the full length of the zipper. This case also utilizes the patented Suspensionair suspension system and features four bow holders, a string tube, humidifier and hygrometer, and an instrument blanket. This case is especially durable (the music distributor, Shar, tells us that a customer had a case fall off the roof of a car—going 70 mph—with a high-priced instrument inside; and the owner opened the case to find the instrument unharmed, and still in tune). Available in brown exterior with blue or burgundy red lining and onyx black exterior with silver-gray, black, or burgundy red lining.
American Case Company Passport (violin)
$595. 31 x 10 ½ x 6 inches, 6 ½ lb. Lifetime warranty. Three-layered plywood shell with Duracover exterior.
American Case Company uses a patented suspension system (Suspensionair) to ensure optimal instrument protection. The case has additional suspension padding on the lid above the end-button, as well as a diamond-shaped pad for added bridge protection. A weather guard flap folds down over the zipper and lock to preventing the hardware from corrosion and rust. The inner compartments are exceptionally deep, and easily fit two shoulder rests as well as rosin and other accessories. The compartments also have snap-back lids—a nice feature. Worth noting is the lock: it utilizes a double action closure, making it difficult to accidentally knock open (unlike other locks of similar design). We especially liked the added mesh pockets in the outer sheet music compartment for storing everything from music scores to portable CD players, pens, and notebooks. The case easily withheld our body weight test and proved to be both aesthetically and structurally appealing. Other features include four bow holders, a string tube, humidifier and hygrometer, subway strap, and an instrument blanket. Available in various color combinations (exterior/interior): navy/camel, black/bluestone, green/camel, black/plum, tapestry/green, and tapestry/camel.
BAM Trekking (violin)
$375. 25 x 13 x 9 inches, 8 lb. One-year warranty. Semi-rigid alveolate frame with soft polypropylene cover.
The versatile and lightweight Trekking Violin case from BAM was designed with the traveling musician in mind. It features a subway strap and padded shoulder straps (which can be tucked away into a purpose-made exterior pocket on the case) and fits comfortably over the shoulders like a backpack. The case doesn’t at first appear to offer much protection, but the padded exterior is misleading—this is a hard case. A special feature is a removable bow tube that slides through loops on the side of the case. The added appeal of Bam’s design is that the case fits carry-on requirements for air travel, and the detachable bow tube can easily be carried separately—even smuggled inconspicuously within another bag if necessary (er, not that we are recommending such a course of action). The tube comes with two padded bow sleeves (it will carry two bows). The case also comes with a built-in, full-sized rain fly complete with a sleeve to cover the bow tube. (The covering zips up into its own exterior compartment when not in use.) The rubber bottom provides added protection against cold, damp weather, and the extremely comfortable handles are constructed of durable, flexible rubber.
The interior of the Trekking Violin case features a string tube, one open inner compartment (the case cover acts as a lid—once closed, nothing can get out), and two outer compartments: a small one and an expandable, backpack-style pocket. However, there is no humidifier, hygrometer, nor instrument blanket. The interior is well padded with high-density foam-injected molding, providing both insulation and a snug fit. The terry-cloth lining is soft and plush but easy to clean. The strings that must be tied to hold the instrument’s neck in place could be inconvenient, though. Trekking Violin cases are available in black, red, forest green, and navy blue.
For players who need to carry around a violin and a viola simultaneously, Bam also offers the Classic Double, a lightweight (8½ lb.) and surprisingly compact (31 x 16 x 7 inches) case that lists for $385. It fits violas up to 16¼ inches, and has removable backpack straps, a long music pocket, and a comfortable, molded handle. It is available in black, forest green, and navy blue.
BAM Trekking (viola)
$399. 31 x 12 x 9 inches, 9 lb. (Available in several sizes). One-year warranty. Semi-rigid alveolate frame, and polypropylene soft cover.
Violas are heavy, and can be literally a pain to lug around—whether it be from apartment to taxi or parking lot to concert hall. The construction of this case lends itself well to carrying a viola: padded shoulder straps and subway strap make the case quite manageable. Also, like the Violin Trekking case, the Viola Trekking has a rain fly-but no detachable bow tube (no need, since the viola and its bow are the same length) and two bows fit inside. Other features include a large expandable outer compartment, a rubber bottom, and a string tube. Available in black, red, forest green, and navy blue.
BAM Artisto (violin)
$350. 30 x 11 x 6 inches, 7 lb. One-year warranty. Hard cover with waterproofed nylon cordura cover.
This Bam case employs the use of Velcro strips to secure the violin’s neck, instead of the “shoe-string” ties utilized in the other Bam cases we reviewed. The Artisto is a light-weight, relatively durable instrument case. There aren’t many accessories here, but if you are shopping around with comfort in mind, this is a good choice. Features include a subway strap, padded shoulder straps, two bow holders, string tube, expandable outer pocket, and turn-key lock closure. Available in black, blue, and green.
Bobelock 1017 Hill-Style (violin)
$349. 6 x 30 x 9 inches, 6 lb. 14½ oz. One-year warranty. Hard-shell case with a polymer-backed nylon covering.
With a list price well under $400, the Bobelock 1017 gives the luxury cases we looked at a run for their money. The attractive hard-shell case has a slightly domed top for better pressure resistance, and proves to be quite strong—Bruce Weaver, sales and manufacturing representative at Bobelock cases, reports that the company has tested this durability by backing a Chevy truck over one of their cases, and the case survived.
The lock on this case utilizes a more advanced system than the basic pull-down lock on the cases lower priced sibling, the Bobelock 1002. The “pinch lock system,” acquired by Bobelock through a maker in Germany, ensures that even if the lock is slightly ajar, it will still catch and prevent the case from falling open. The Bobelock 1017 also features an adjustable shoulder strap (which can be attached with one strap at either end, or one strap against the case’s back and the other at the end), a subway strap, nickel-plated hardware, and one outer sheet-music pocket.
The interior features thick padding, a soft velvet lining, a basic suspension system, and a heavy instrument blanket that offers extra insulation and protection. There are three inner compartments, four bow holders, a string tube, and a built-in humidifier and hygrometer. The exterior is available in black, blue, gray, or brown, the interior in emerald green, dark blue, light gray, or a tapestry-like print.
Bobelock 1002 Velvet Suspension Violin
$259. 6 x 30 x 9 inches, 6 lb. 14½ oz. One-year warranty. Hard-shell case with polymer-backed nylon covering.
This simple looking case surprised us once we took a closer look. The basic design includes a full-length outer pocket and a basic handle, subway strap, and adjustable shoulder strap. For a relatively low price, you are treated to plush velvet or velour interior with a super-padded suspension system and a generous sized, knob-handled inner compartment. Other features include two bow holders, a string tube, instrument blanket, and one inner and one outer compartment. We looked at similar cases offering the same accessories for much, much higher prices. Available in velour (navy blue, burgundy, and dark green), velvet (emerald green, dark blue, light gray, and tapestry), cotton velvet (light gray), and German silk (light gray).
Heritage IV (violin)
$250. 31½ x 10 x 5 inches, 6 lb. 14½ oz. 30-day warranty. Hard-shell case with nylon and canvas cover.
The Heritage IV, available in North America only through Shar, is a good buy at under $300. It has a Velcro flap closure over the zipper and lock for added rain protection. The lock itself is an easy-to-use tension-style lock that latches when the upper teeth close into the corresponding lower casing—locking automatically when closed. The case offers an adjustable shoulder strap but no subway strap, and one outer sheet-music pocket.
The interior contains two compartments, both of them roomy enough to fit our sample shoulder rest. But the smaller of the two has a leather tongue-pull rather than a metal knob, which might wear out in time if subjected to heavy use. The Heritage IV also features four bow holders, a string tube, and an instrument blanket. The Velcro neck strap, the Hill-style suspension system, and the built-in hygrometer and humidifier make this a highly functional case at a reasonable price. It is available with an interior in red, blue, or olive silk plush or gray or green synthetic velvet.
Mooradian Case Bag (violin or viola)
$95–$118 (depending on specifications). One-year warranty. Oblong or shaped.
Mooradian case covers are made from a combination of the same water-resistant 600-denier polyester materials used by mountain climbers with thick foam and heavy, 5,000-pound polyester seatbelt webbing (used in the handles and straps). The half-inch cushioned exterior provides extra protection and a thick layer of insulation. The handles and backpack straps are well-padded and comfortable.
The covers looked small for our bulkier viola and violin cases to fit into, but they worked fine. We looked at both the oblong and shaped bags, and thought the construction and design to be high quality and very durable. Zippers are big-toothed and sturdy, and all the handles and straps are attached securely. We especially liked the positioning of the backpack straps—they hit just above the shoulder, preventing a heavy instrument from cutting the straps into your neck. A document pocket holds quite a bit. The bags are available in dark green, khaki, and black.
Musafia Master Series Exclusive Violin Case
$770–$1,800 (depending on specifications). 31½ x 9¾ x 4¾ inches, 7 lb. 13¼ oz. Lifetime warranty. 6-ply, cold-bent wooden shell with water-resistant nylon cover.
By far the most impressive of the cases we saw, the Musafia Master Series is every musician’s dream. According to the manufacturer, the cases have successfully been subjected to 220 pounds of equalized pressure on the lid during testing and have demonstrated a 60-percent reduction of interior heat or cold when left in direct sunlight or snow. Musafia even went so far as to secure one of its cases onto a coastal California roof for one year to study potentially waterproof exterior fabric; the result, a completely waterproof fabric, is an option now available for an additional charge. (Not content to rest on its laurels, Musafia is currently conducting workshop tests to prove that the case will actually float in water.)
Musafia’s cases include internal structural cross beams bolted through with zinc-plated steel L-braces and a six-ply, cold-bent wooden shell to ensure complete protection for the instrument. Features include one outer compartment, two adjustable shoulder straps, a subway strap, a double-action lock (after opening the lock, you must slip down an additional metal bracing that prevents the lock from flying open), polished olive-wood accents, and gold-plated metal fittings.
The quilted Italian silk-velvet interior sports a Celsius and Fahrenheit thermometer, super-insulated instrument blanket, string tube, hygrometer and humidifier, three inner compartments, and hand-stitched cord trim.
Negri Monaco (violin)
$400. 31½ x 10½ x 5¼ inches, 7 lb. 30-day warranty. Hard-shell case with rubberized canvas cover.
One of the most impressive features of the Negri Monaco case is its high-quality hardware. The lock, hinges, and shoulder-strap clasps and attachment loops are all heavy chrome. The two zippers feature handsome metal pulls emblazoned with the Negri logo, adding an elegant touch. The case also offers a basic suspension system, a slightly domed top for added pressure resistance, two adjustable shoulder straps (which double as backpack straps), a subway strap, and an outer sheet-music pocket.
We had a little difficulty fitting our sample shoulder rest into the one inner compartment, but with some coaxing we finally found the right position for it and were able to close the compartment lid. The Negri Monaco also features four bow holders, a string tube with high-quality rubber stoppers, and an instrument blanket. There is no humidifier or hygrometer. The case is available with a gray or black exterior and a choice of two-toned interiors: black/olive green, black/navy blue, or black/gray.
$1,995. 31 ½ x 10 ½ x 5 inches, 7 1/2 lb. 30-day warranty. Hard cover with cognac suede exterior.
Covered in cognac suede inside and out, the Negri Diplomat has the appearance of the wealthy traveler. There is no hygrometer or humidifier in this case, but there are some added aesthetics: All four bow holders come with wooden spinners, and there is one very small inner compartment especially for your rosin. Even the instrument blanket is trimmed in suede. Other features include a string tube, two additional inner compartments, adjustable leather subway strap, and a basic suspension system. (Shar Music offers the case for a $20 viewing—which is refundable upon purchase—because this case should really be seen first hand.)
The hard case is quite durable, but the soft suede exterior requires both waterproofing and care not to snag the leather. This is not a good example of a highly durable case for banging around on the city bus, but if you are searching for an impressive look—something elegant and refined—this is a wise choice. Available with an olive green or royal blue velvet interior.
Negri Virtuoso (violin)
$525. 31 ½ x 10 ½ x 5 inches, 7 lb. 30-day warranty. Hard case with nylon oxford exterior.
Billed as a luxury case, the Negri Virtuoso is a plush, heavily-padded case with a durable domed cover and high-quality hardware. The adjustable subway strap is a unique feature making the case much easier to carry for those of us with smaller hands. And the interior shoulder rest storage strap serves as a great space saver—freeing up the only inner compartment for other things. Our only criticism here is the leather pull-tab on the interior compartment. The lid fits so securely, that it sticks a bit when opened—something that could cause the small pull-tab to rip in time. Other features include a hygrometer, string tube, and instrument blanket . Available in various color combinations (exterior/interior): black/red, green/beige, blue/beige/ and black/dark gray.
Pro Tec Pro Pac HS-2166-W Adjustable (viola)
$249. 31 x 11 x 6 inches, 9 lb. 1¾ oz. Five-year warranty. Wooden case with Cordura-nylon cover.
We especially liked the large-tooth zipper on this case—the zipper pull stayed put no matter how much we tossed the case around, and the heavy-duty teeth could not be jammed or snagged. The Pro Pac also features a wide-grip handle, a shoulder strap, and one outer sheet-music compartment.
But the case’s most notable feature is a screw-and-turn-bolt extension system—a unique adjustment system with a movable shoulder block that allows the case to fit any viola from 15 to 16¾ inches. At first inspection, the exposed hardware from the adjustment system looks potentially dangerous to instrument finishes, but after fitting a viola into the case, we measured several inches between the neck and the screw underneath. The interior also offers a Velcro neck strap, a basic suspension system, four bow holders, an instrument blanket, two inner compartments, a string tube, and a hygrometer. The case is available in a black exterior with wine interior.
Ritter 1CH Case Bag (violin/viola)
$75. Shaped (available in 1/ 16, 1/ 8, ¼, ½, ¾ up to full-size). No warranty. Soft, dense nylon with reinforced panels in the headstock and bridge area.
The Ritter’s brightly colored, pocket-festooned exterior is great for kids—or anyone looking to add a little cheerful color and design to their instrument schlepping. There is a large, backpack-style front pocket, complete with a special keychain-like hook, and a smaller front pocket for pencils or snacks. Then there are two large side pockets that will fit liter-sized water bottles, and even a pocket on the shoulder strap for a cell phone and ID card. The bag loads from the bottom—which proved quick and easy—and the wide straps are extremely well padded and comfortable. There is a basic carry handle plus two handles at the front and back of the neck for carrying the bag vertically—a nice feature when traveling by bus.
These bags are created by Ritter Outdoor Ltd., and it’s obvious that this company’s specialty is outdoor equipment: every aspect of this bag’s design and construction was well thought out. From the thick outer exterior (padded for protection and insulation, and water-resistant) to the great look, this was our favorite instrument bag. It’s available in Planet Purple, Space Orange, Astro Blue, and Rocket Red, each with a matching-theme patch affixed to the front.
Shar S/L Adjustable (viola)
$395. 31 x 11½ x 6 inches, 5½ lb. One-year warranty. Molded foam and plywood shell, nylon-canvas cover with accent piping.
If you or your students are looking for an extremely lightweight, adjustable viola case and you’re less concerned about strength or durability, the Shar S/L might be the one. The outer case buckled a little when we put weight on it, but not enough to seriously endanger the instrument inside. The moderately padded suspension system would be fine for day-to-day use but might not provide the kind of security needed for serious travel. There is an adjustable shoulder strap, a subway strap, and one outer sheet-music compartment.
The flannel-like material inside is thick and durable. The adjustment system allows the instrument’s shoulder brace to move and accommodate up to a 16¾-inch viola comfortably. The case also comes with four bow holders, a string tube, an instrument blanket, one inner compartment, and a shoulder rest fixture to house your shoulder rest under the instrument neck. It is available in three color combinations (exterior/interior): olive/sand, black/light blue, and black/gray.
Small Dog V100RH Case Cover (violin/viola)
$143. Oblong and shaped. Lifetime warranty. 420-denier nylon packcloth with polyester shearling lining.
Cavallaro Case Covers, the maker of Small Dog Covers, builds a durable and highly padded case bag. The cover is made from an eight-ounce, 420-denier nylon packcloth cover—the same material used in making outdoor gear. And the fabric is water-resistant and hand washable (the bag comes with a charming “How to Care for Your Small Dog” brochure). The bag features a long exterior portfolio pocket, padded shoulder strap and handles, subway strap, and a durable wide-toothed zipper. For colder climes, this cover’s full lining of very thick polyester shearling would be a real asset. Exterior color options are black with pewter-gray pocket, or all black.
Weber Ruby (violin)
$795. 30¾ x 9¼ x 5¼ inches, 7 lb. 1¾ oz. One-year warranty. Hard-shell case with Cordura exterior.
The Ruby’s Victorian red cotton-velvet interior with hand-stitched gold cord trim exemplifies the care that goes into this family-owned company’s cases, (American-made in Seattle, Washington). The Ruby is also a very strong, highly functional case. It features an adjustable shoulder strap with a rubber grip that fits into two comfortable positions, as well as a subway strap. There is one outer sheet-music compartment, and plastic feet along the base of the case protect against scratching hardwood floors.
The case has some unusual—and admirable—features, such as a built-in compartment just for your shoulder rest (the open-flap compartment holds the rest under the instrument’s neck), an instrument bag, and extra Velcro strips that hold the neck straps out of the way when they aren’t being used. Other interior features include one inner compartment (with draw knob), four bow holders, a string tube, and an instrument blanket. The string tube housing is carefully covered with cotton velvet to prevent contact with your instrument, and the tube comes with rubber stoppers rather than less durable cork. Other positive features include a heavily padded suspension system (Weber is the original inventor of the suspension system), a built-in wick-style humidifier, and a hygrometer. The case comes with a black/gray exterior and ruby-red interior with gold trim.
Weber Dukov (violin)
$950. 30 ¾ x 9 ¼ x 5 ¼ inches, 7 lb 1.6 oz. One-year warranty. Hard-shell case with Cordura exterior.
This beautiful case has hand-stitched brocade trim and a two-tone interior. All of the inner compartments have brass piano knobs and snap-back tension. Another interesting feature of this case is a locking mechanism holding the instrument neck in place: one side locks into the case with a push-release knob, and the other secures to the opposite side of the neck with heavy Velcro. Additional features include subway strap, adjustable shoulder straps, string tube, basic suspension system, humidifier and hygrometer, instrument blanket, and added mesh compartments in the outer pocket. Available in two-toned gray interior.
Even the most expensive case can’t do everything, though. No matter how much insulation your instrument case or case bag has, it will withstand only about 30 minutes of extreme temperatures. Also, no matter how advanced your case humidifier is, you should still maintain optimal humidity levels in the place in which you store your instrument. A hygrometer and humidifier will help you measure and maintain these levels, but dial-reading hygrometers—such as the ones in all the cases outlined in this review—tend to be less accurate than digital hygrometers (such as the Stretto, available in North America through Shar). Digital equipment may provide the most accurate temperature and humidity measurement and control, functioning up to two weeks compared with the two-day duration of most other humidification systems. (See “Heightening Humidity,” Market Report, April 2000.)
When purchasing instrument cases, you generally do get what you pay for, but remember: you may not need all the extras. You might find the best case for your needs is a basic, sturdy, soft-lined, suspension-system case with a Velcro neck strap, two bow spinners, and one inner compartment. You can get a reasonable amount of protection at a reasonable price—and we found several cases that offer added perks for a very reasonable price that prove this. Whether your main concern is the winter dryness cracking your instrument’s varnish, or a trip to rehearsals on an uncomfortably packed city bus, there are many cases to fit your needs. Once you get past the hard part—choosing the right case—and practice common sense care, you will have a case that will be around to protect your instrument for years and years to come.