View Full Version : A-9 vs radius?
My long skinny 53 year old fingers are having trouble with this flat fretboard on my recent A-9 purchase. I love the wide open sound, but wonder if something with a radius fretboard should be in my future, such as a Rigel A+ deluxe. I don't have a music store around to try out others---any comparable A-styles in the A-9 category which have the radius AND great open sound??? Or do I just need more time with the A-9http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif?
You might consider a Breedlove Quartz, they have a great radiused fretboard.
I will put in a plug for the Rigel. I transitioned from a flat fingerboard F-style a year and a half ago for my 50th birthday. I, too, was fighting hand problems. I do think the radius makes a difference. I think the sound is great, but it is not the same as a Gibson. The Breedlove sounds great also, not as good as the Rigel IMHO, but I don't think it has the Gibson sound either. That is not an issue for me, but if it is for you, there are some other possibilities.
Bill Bussman custom-builds really nice, Gibson copy mandolins with radiused boards under the "Old Wave" brand. His A-5 copy is under $2000. You can also have an existing mandolin modified with a radius. I know a good mando luthier who quoted me $200-$250 to do it if the fretboard was not bound, somewhat more if it is bound, depending on what he runs into. If you have an axe that you really like the sound and looks of, that might be a way to go.
If your already considering a Rigel, your in the Old Wave price range for an A-model. Everyone I've heard was sweet, problem is there aren't a hundred available for you to try out. But something to think about. I think they come standard with a radius fingerboard, as well as a varnish finish.
Rigels are great. I used to own one, and ironically decided to sell because the radius on the fingerboard actually gave me hand cramps and I couldn't play it without some fairly distracting pain kicking in. That just to say that if you haven't tried a radius, you probably should before you commit because some folks find them very comfortable, but others, like myself, find them less comfortable.
Also worthy of note is that the Rigel has a very distinct sound...fairly different from that modern Gibson sound that comes out of your A-9. Hard to describe. You won't get as woody chop, but boy, I think the Rigel I had was the loudest, most projective mandolin I've ever owned.
Well, thanks all......I was wondering if the Rigels had as good a woody open sound as the A-9. Did see the SilverAngel A-style on EBAY, and was wondering how those compared. Haven't noticed anyone on the list mention them.....anybody hear one of those???
The Silver Angel A on the classifieds is a 1998 model made by Ken Ratcliff. Now his wife Laura builds the A's. They currently list for $1700. The neck geometry is very easy to play and mine has terrific tone.
Definitely heed the comments about this being a personal preference issue. You'll not hear the voice of "reason," as the conclusions are merely subjective, and within the context of both personal experience AND style preference.
Now having said that, I thoroughly enjoy the rich, but focused sound of my Rigel Blue (CT110). It's complex overtone series gives me a "sweetness" that suits the jazz, choro, and classical playing I enjoy. That it's an F-style, it especially works well for Bebop, or anything that needs a "punch" to it. However, it's not the woody, Gibson Bluegrass "rasp" needed to force it's way above the mix of other instruments in an acoustic environment.
My Ovalhole Lewis 'Django' gives me that gushy warmth for lush ballads and sustain, but it's the Rigel I turn to for more compression. I also prefer the radius fingerboard (over the F9 I used to own); it's comfortable for me.
There's been some good advice already on this thread, but ultimately, it's what you want to do with the instrument.
The first thing you need to decide is which sound do you prefer-that is more important than the choice of a fretboard. If you like the Rigel sound AND a radiused fretboard the choice is clear. If you prefer the Gibson sound and a radiused fretboard, you can either get a radiused fretboard installed on the A-9, or get another mandolin with the dry woody sound that has the radiused fretboard.
I -love- my A-9. I'd love it even more with a radius, and I may have one installed. I'd talk with Charlie or Bigjoe about having one factory made for you-- I think Bigjoe said there's no extra charge!
I wish someone had told me that a few months ago!
I'm not even sure I should enter this discussion, other than I had an A-9 and sold it, and now I have a Rigel A+Deluxe... #I've only been playing mando for 6 months after many years of guitar, so my skills are pretty crude, and I'm definitely still on the tonal learning curve. #But....
As a guitar player, the Rigel neck feels much more comfy than the A-9 felt. #It seems wider to me, too, but not too wide. #The radius and the guitar frets have a familiar feel... #I also have an old oval hole with the flat neck... #Different things fall under the fingers more naturally on each instrument. #The A-9 neck felt a little cramped to me, a combination non-radius, narrow nut, and not much girth to the neck profile.
Tonally, the A-9 is definitely woody, dry and barky. #Its a powerful instrument. #It doesn't have a real complex tone, but I bought it new, so its still opening up. #It seems voiced for bluegrass and cutting through. #The Rigel has a more complex, lively tone. #Its shimmers, but its got power too. #The Rigel is more versatile, I would say. #It has a warmth and openess that lets me forget its a F hole, while chop chords sound good (but not as good as they souned on the A-9). I haven't played this mando in a group setting, but I have no doubt that it projects well.
If aesthetics are important to you, there is no comparison... #the Rigel is stunning. #The A-9 isn't.
They are both great instruments, in my vast 6 months of experience. #As a guitar player who doesn't play a lot of bluegrass type stuff, the Rigel suits me better.
Thanks for the words on A-9 vs Rigel. I'm not worried about aesthetics..sure would like to keep the A-9 because of the great tone!
Now that's an interesting question.... Does Gibson even put the radius fretboards on their A-9's?? Wonder how much that is?
The Rigel is wider @ the nut by 1/16" (1 3/16" vrs 1 1/8" on the A9) & has more radius than most. All radius fretboards are not created equal. 12 - 10" radius being the norm.....while many of us prefer one in the 7" radius vicinity. The Rigel is somewhere in between.
Lots of good advise on this string. Your decision might come down to playability vs. the woody bluegrass tone that you described. I bought a Rigel because my most important consideration was comfort and playability. I know I gave up some "chop", but the Rigel is so easy and enjoyable to play.
We can do one of two things at Gibson. #First, we can change your existing mandolin to a radiused board (not free) or we can build one for you with a radiused board. #There is no upcharge for the radiused board on a new F5G mandolin ordered that way. #If it is an existing mandolin we have to pull the frets, radius the board, and then refret the instrument (yes...we use new frets). #Anyway, that service is available on any mandolin. #We can change any mandolin no matter the maker into a radiused board. #So, if you love the mandolin you have but want it radiused, that is not a problem. #Thank you.
Joe, If I wanted 1 3/16" width @ the nut & a 7.5" radius there is no upcharge?
Dale, from the G on up, no charge. There would be an upcharge on a 9 for each change. It's a dealer cost charge that I can't quote here. You'd have to contact a Gibson dealer for a retail charge.
Now.......somebody order an A9 decked out that way & let me try it! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif
Yes, very interesting. I'd like to try that too!!
Uhh, Charlie...you mention contacting a dealer about the cost of putting a radius fretboard on my A-9. What if I stop in at the Gibson Showcase in Nashville, when visiting my son there, and bringing it by......would I get "dealer" prices, or "sticker" prices?? I would like to get a radius.....makes my A-9 "cost" more, but I'm not buying a whole new mandolin$$!
Maybe Charlie would like to have an "experimental" A9 built to those specs & send it down here....... I promise to give an honest review! #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif
Dave, you'd get retail pricing at the Showcase. The only way to get dealer pricing is to become a dealer.
ps Dale, I'm just going to ignore you. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
Ok, maybe I'm the only person here that doesn't get it but I've played radiused and non-radiused finger boards and I really can't tell that much difference. After all, they're not the width of a guitar neck. I think the fret size, set-up, neck size, and action all play a much more important role in determining how an instrument plays or its playability than a radiused fingerboard. Am I the only one that isn't in the "IN" crowd? (Leave it alone Dale http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif )
"Am I the only one that isn't in the "IN" crowd?"
............. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/cool.gif ..........Jim, I don't think your the ONLY one........
Hey 5 string...If you bring your existing A9 to the showcase it can be done but there will be a charge for that. The same charge everyone else pays. On an existing mandolin the charge is for the repair department not the retail store. If you want to order a new one there is a charge and that can be discussed there. Unless you have some reason to want a different A9 it is cheaper to convert yours than to replace it. Hopefully this clarifies the issue. Thank you.
Thanks Big Joe...it does help. Might see you soon!
JimW, I did get to play a Breedlove KF last month and those frets and fingerboard felt really easy to work with. There was more room to stretch out. But I'm stunned by the sound of this A-9, so it's staying. It plays like butter.
I've only been at this three months.....maybe I need one of each...uh oh