One year ago, I saw Clean Bandit perform live for the first time. Grace Chatto, their cellist had the most amazing electric cello, which was on a stand and she could play and dance to the beat of the music. I loved that! Immediately I had to find out which brand it was, and found out it was the CR series Poplar Burl model by Ned Steinberger, or otherwise known as NS Design.
It took me one whole year to save up to buy the cello, but finally, I did it! I decided to get the 5-string edition (F-C-G-D-A), so I could have an extra bass string handy. I also bought the Frame Strap System, which is a wooden belt/harness so you can play the cello attached to your body instead of on the stand. More on this later.
Here is my humble take on it:
- The sound is amazing! For an electric cello, the sound is rich, natural and is the best sounding electric cello on the market in my opinion (better than Yamaha.. yes, I said it).
- The two tone controls (treble & bass) come in handy when you don't have an equaliser around and your speaker isn't the most flattering.
- The tuning pegs are like ones found on a guitar. They are smooth and work very nice.
- There are 3 modes for the pick-up: one for pizzicato, one neutral and one for arco. In pizzicato mode, the cello sounds very much like an electric bass and the notes pop out much more than any classical cello can with a piezo pick up or microphone.
- The build is very sturdy. It feels strong and well made.
- It is not too heavy.
- The need for 2 x 9V batteries! I'm not a fan of batteries in general for sustainability reasons, but in this case I think it's not safe to do a performance when there's the risk that the batteries go dead. There is also no battery monitor so you don't know that the batteries are going dead until you hear it going fuzzy.
- The dot on the back of the neck to show you where the 5th note is, is so tiny you can barely feel it as a reference. It may have been better to have a line not a dot. You can also buy a specific 'thumb stop' in case you really need it, but I think there's a beauty in having such a long and free neck.
- The strings are NS Electric Cello brand and once I replaced the A and D string with my preferred Larson and Spirocore tungsten strings and immediately the sound was better.
- The Frame Strap System is terrible! It is not built for different sized people and it is not adjustable in the right way so that the cello is able to sit comfortably away from the body.
- The bag on the Thomann website is incorrect. That is the bag for the bass version, which has a separate bag for the stand. The cello version doesn't have a bag for the stand.
OVERALL: an amazing investment, which has changed the possibilities to perform live in an amplified situation and to be free to move while playing instead of sitting down. I have a love-hate relationship with some of the peripherals, but because of the natural and beautiful sound of the electric cello, I stand firmly behind the NS Design CR series electric cello!
I bought it from Thomann for €3190,-- https://www.thomann.de/gb/ns_design_cr5p_cello.htm