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Winfieldpicker
Jan-21-2012, 12:26pm
All,

I have a credit at a store that would cover the cost of one of these mandolins:

http://www.acousticvibesmusic.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4_200&products_id=1611

I'm primarily a flatpicker, but thought I'd buy a mandolin for fun, and to improve my right hand in general. I don't know a lot about lower end mandolins..is this one worth the purchase or would I be better off buying strings and picks for my guitar? I appreciate any and all input, thanks.

Folkmusician.com
Jan-21-2012, 12:49pm
Very nice mandolins. Currently the best at the price point in my opinion. :)

Keith Witty
Jan-21-2012, 2:11pm
Sound and playability are top notch, sound is top notch for the price range, playability is top notch to anything, imo.

almeriastrings
Jan-21-2012, 5:43pm
It will need a lot of setup. As supplied from the factory, setup is non-existent. The frets in particular are often poorly installed. Overall quality control can be very poor. The finish is incredibly thick. They are also very variable in quality of materials used - some good, some not-so. The bridge is not very good, and really needs changing out. The tailpieces are also very poor, but you can get by with those. Even so, they benefit from changing. The tuners are surprisingly good. I am working on two of this model right now. Putting a speed neck on one, and doing full setups on both of them. They are a decent mandolin after a lot of setup and with a bit of customisation. The fundamentals of a decent mandolin are there, but it does take work to bring them up to standard.

Keith Witty
Jan-21-2012, 11:33pm
Almeria, you irritate the crap out of me with your nitpickiness of them. I've had the starter bridge on mine for over a year now; no problems. Sounds pretty darn good to me. I've had the original tailpiece on it; no problems. A person DOES NOT IN ANY WAY *HAVE* to upgrade them to make the mando. To say so is not true, and you do more than just hint that you believe that to be the truth. The fact is, they sound and play great, and are not hard on the wallet. It doesn't take much work to get it up to par. Just a set up. And most mandolins need a set up, so that point is nearly moot.

Have a good day.

Ben Milne
Jan-22-2012, 12:18am
Almeria's post pretty much sums up my feelings and experience on this subject.

almeriastrings
Jan-22-2012, 12:21am
Keith,

I have fully and objectively documented the problems with these. I am aware of your unbound enthusiasm for them, but it should not blind anyone to the facts. See:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?79415-Review-and-comparison-The-Loar-LM-700-VS

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?80943-Tailpiece-Questions&highlight=tailpiece

I actually own one of these, and do think they are a nice mandolin, but to pretend that the QC problems and other issues do not exist is really pretty silly. They self-evidently do. I am not going by one example, either. I've worked on 8 of them now (have two on the bench today in fact) and will shortly be posting a comparison between the LM-300 and the Kentucky KM-505. I'm sorry if you think things like an incorrectly installed tailpiece (actually touching the top), or a bridge of weak, low grade ebony with filler past in one of the feet is "nitpickiness". I don't.

Keith Witty
Jan-22-2012, 12:44am
I just think it is severely misleading to say something like, "They are a decent mandolin after a lot of work." That is just a wrong statement. A set up is all that is really *needed* for one. Not a lot of work. You write of them as if they are low grade junk because you don't like their cosmetics. I'm not the only Loar owner who feels that way. The bridge does not *need* replaced, the tailpiece is fine, you said so yourself. You should be aware that you really do seem to discourage buying one in all your posts about the subject, claiming that that require so much work. They don't.

almeriastrings
Jan-22-2012, 12:49am
the bridge is fine, you said so yourself..

I must be suffering from amnesia. Could you please highlight where I said that?

Unless my memory fails me, I have consistently said that in my opinion the bridge is not very good and really does need an upgrade.

Ben Milne
Jan-22-2012, 1:03am
Actually I got the vibe that you should buy one from a reputable dealer renowned for good setups, unless you are capable of dealing with such issues. I think Almeria's posts should serve to be very helpful to potential customers to be realistic about what they might encounter, and perhaps avaoid heartache and disappointment.
I understand how people could easily be blinded by the shiny gloss finish and fancy headstock inlays then be confused as to why their instrument didn't function very well.
Along with the number of rave reviews from The Loar fanboys such as Keith was what prompted me to see what all the hype was about.

almeriastrings
Jan-22-2012, 1:31am
FWIW, I think the "Loar" range can be very nice mandolins, and models like the LM-400, LM-600 and LM-700 punch far above their price point (once you have the setup and any issues ironed out). I actually do feel it takes more than just a "normal setup" to get these optimised, though. One thing is the "sticky" super thick finish on the neck. I found it really annoying and my hand felt like it was being "grabbed" by it. If you have ever scraped one of these down, you will know just how thick it is on there, too. A "speed neck" on these makes a huge difference to playability. At the same time, you can reprofile the neck to your taste if required. With that done, and a tung oil finish applied, it feels like a different instrument, but this is going beyond a typical "setup" of course.

I am not "anti" The Loar at all. I do use mine! It is great for taking outside, to parties and for travel. I also use it regularly onstage and find it mics up really pretty well. You just have to put it in context. It is a great mandolin for around the $1K mark, but is by no means perfect, and yes, an F5 Fern does outperform them by quite a lot.

Mike Bunting
Jan-22-2012, 2:49am
Actually, Almeria's posts on the subject have led me to respect the brand a little more. The limited number that I tried in the store where I teach did not impress me at all, fence post necks, bomb proof finishes and an undeveloped and, to my ear, somewhat harsh tone led me to ignore them as an instrument that I would recommend to beginning students. Thanks to his serious examination of them I can see now that they could be a useful instrument. Nevertheless, I cannot see why anyone would spend the money on a new instrument only to have to do such extensive modifications when you can buy other instruments in the same class and only have to do a basic standard setup.

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-22-2012, 4:09am
Keith - In defense of Almeira (although he doesn't need my input),if he's personally experienced the problems he mentioned,he's got a valid point. However, we all know that instruments from the same factory can be world's apart in set up etc.. Your particular instrument may have been fine from the outset,but, with a CA bridge for instance,it 'might' become very much better. If in Almeria's (and others point of view) the finish 'is' thick,then that's what they have experienced.I personally know of one 'Cafe member who took delivery of a 'The Loar' "A" style not too long ago & experienced almost exactly what Almeria points out.
The 'The Loar' instruments do have a good reputation,but they're not alone in needing a good set up in the 'as delivered' state. However,i haven't heard that the 'Kentucky' brand instruments need quite so much re-setting up,hence maybe Mike Bunting's comment re.'other instruments in the same class'. It's easy to become annoyed with the adverse views of others,when your own experience might have been totally the opposite,but we all have our own points of view,so let's learn from them - Peace brothers !,
Ivan;)

wildbill1962
Jan-22-2012, 6:32am
After reading this post, it makes me wonder if I have a made a mistake of ordering a Loar 520 as my first Mandolin. I had my mind set up that I wanted an F style. So I looked over all of the F-style at Folksmusician and for the money I had, and wanting a solid wood, "The Loar" looked like a good deal. Also from reading post about what would make a good starter mandolin, The Loar and Kentucky names always listed in the top choices. (For budgets like mine).

Mine will arrive later next week, hopefully it will be everything I hoped it will be. But now you guys have me worried that it will not perform as well as I had hoped.

Have a great weekend
Bill

Ben Milne
Jan-22-2012, 6:42am
Bill, rest your fears, you have made an excellent choice for your first mandolin.
Robert of folkmusician.com stands by his setups and is a valued member of the mandolin cafe community.
I wish you many happy hours of playing on your new instrument.

Dave Cowles
Jan-22-2012, 6:58am
These instruments are priced at a step above "entry level" mandolins, and are an incredible bang for the buck. A good setup is imperative on every mandolin at any price. I am not a "The Loar" fanboy, but I like mine very much, and play it just as much as I play my luthier-built F5. I don't think the OP will be disappointed.

nickster60
Jan-22-2012, 7:30am
I have only played 2 Loars and liked them both. Daves Loars played well and sounds very good. I guess it would be best to buy one of these mandolins from a shop that does a good setup. If you decide to buy from a big online retailer than who knows what you will get. You can't go wrong with Robert from Folkmusician or Steve from Giannas Violins

Keith Witty
Jan-22-2012, 9:22am
I must be suffering from amnesia. Could you please highlight where I said that?

Unless my memory fails me, I have consistently said that in my opinion the bridge is not very good and really does need an upgrade.

I was on my iphone, hard to type. Must have had a brain fart. I corrected it not 5 minutes later, though.

pefjr
Jan-22-2012, 9:34am
An interesting squabble thread. Hey, I have often wondered myself what is all the fuss about a tail piece? A piece of tail I can see arguing about, but what possible difference could a tail piece make, other than cosmetic? Plus, I have never seen a tail piece that really added much cosmetically over any new one. An old rusted one ,yes, I can see that. My son just bought a $3000.00 vintage jazz guitar with an ebony tail piece. However..........inside the tail piece was a small bone saddle to protect the ebony. How about that? An expensive ebony tail piece,....but no contact with the strings, oh well, he loves it.

almeriastrings
Jan-22-2012, 10:24am
Normally, I don't think a tailpiece does, or should, make any difference. The exceptions are when the cover is not properly fitted, when it will rattle, and again if it is not correctly fitted and damped which will result in unwanted overtones behind the bridge. Both can be fixed, of course. For around $15 you can also just put a generally nicer, heavier made one on there. The ones on 'The Loars' are very generic in terms of hole spacings so changing them takes just a few minutes. They factory ones work (provided they do not have the above faults), but are very thin and flimsy feeling. If you are OK with that, then save your $15.

Paul Hostetter
Jan-22-2012, 7:12pm
It will need a lot of setup. As supplied from the factory, setup is non-existent.

Will you please let up? Maybe you saw one from a European distributor and had a problem with it, but many people are having very different experiences, and your endless complaints are really wearing me (for one) out. Full and objective?—I think not. Endless is a better description. In any case, what can one possibly expect for $220?

almeriastrings
Jan-22-2012, 10:50pm
Will you please let up? Maybe you saw one from a European distributor and had a problem with it, but many people are having very different experiences, and your endless complaints are really wearing me (for one) out. Full and objective?—I think not. Endless is a better description. In any case, what can one possibly expect for $220?

Really? I think if people are considering a purchase they need to consider the full picture. Not just the sales talk. As for "maybe you saw one", well, clearly you have not bothered to even read what I have actually said. To date, it is 8 of them. All in here for setups because as purchased, they were unplayable and without exception had various defects. The "official line" that this only affects us poor European saps is also wearing rather thin and every defective example is an "unmarked second". I don't buy it. This is what Stephen Perry said in another thread:

I have been underwhelmed by some aspects of "The Loar" instruments, have communicated my concerns to the company, and have seen real effort towards improving those aspects. I can't help but acknowledge that issues coming out of the factory remain, including the quality of the bridges and finish work. The quality of the in-house setup at the warehouses also varies.

That is the US of course. The problem is basic factory QC with these, and potential buyers deserve to be made aware of it. Sorry if that annoys you, but if people ask about them I am entitled to provide my opinion on them. If they deal with the QC issues, my opinion will no doubt improve too.

almeriastrings
Jan-23-2012, 2:22am
Since we are talking specifically about the LM-220 VS here, this is what a normal bridge looks like when set to give a typical workable action at the 12th fret:

81353

This is what the bridges on two LM-220's look like to achieve the same string height:

81354

81355

There are several obvious problems. First, the neck angle is set back too far, second, the neck is set too high in the body, finally, the posts on the bridge are installed out of true. The result is a bridge saddle barely balancing on what little remains of the posts, and which has a strong tendency to lean.... the bridge itself is poor quality...

This is a structural/design/assembly issue. It seems more common on their 'A' styles than on their 'F's, but I have read of similar reports affecting those too. The owner of this one did not want to have to spring for a full bridge upgrade, but I don't think he has much option.

Barry Wilson
Jan-23-2012, 3:05am
I just got the 600. it was setup before I got it and it's just the stock bridge. all my buds have said that it sounds so much better than the other 2 I have and I love the way it plays and the dynamics. that blond I had was just loud.. I'm very happy... there's no light under my bridge so maybe I just got a good setup. the cosmetic crap inside the scroll doesn't bother me. mine actually has a nice finish under the neck I have heard complaints of. tailpiece doesn't rattle, lid fits and top edge doesn't touch the strings.

I also like the wider neck a lot. it feels less cramped to me. I would just go play it before spending the store credit and check for loose frets ;)

Ron McMillan
Jan-23-2012, 3:38am
There are clearly two sets of situations here. The ideal one is if The Loar is bought from a reputable dealer (most often in the USA), and it arrives having had a good set up job already done. The second situation could hardly be more different, and affects many buyers outside the USA, myself included. With no set up done, my LM400 arrived unfit for purpose and totally unplayable. Because of my location I had to do a complete set up myself - and I mean complete - AFTER which it was a superb instrument and great value for money. Almeria is correct, but his and my situation needn't affect buyers in the USA who purchase from good dealers, many of whom are members of this forum.

Ron

Keith Witty
Jan-23-2012, 6:24am
Mine, and a friend of mine who ordered one after always borrowing mine came in already set up, as well. The ones that need a good set up have been the 500 and under, excluding the 400.

Ben Milne
Jan-23-2012, 7:58pm
Since we are talking specifically about the LM-220 VS here, this is what a normal bridge looks like when set to give a typical workable action at the 12th fret:

81353

This is what the bridges on two LM-220's look like to achieve the same string height:

81354

81355

There are several obvious problems. First, the neck angle is set back too far, second, the neck is set too high in the body, finally, the posts on the bridge are installed out of true. The result is a bridge saddle barely balancing on what little remains of the posts, and which has a strong tendency to lean.... the bridge itself is poor quality...

This is a structural/design/assembly issue. It seems more common on their 'A' styles than on their 'F's, but I have read of similar reports affecting those too. The owner of this one did not want to have to spring for a full bridge upgrade, but I don't think he has much option.

My LM700 had the opposite issue, the stock bridge was wound as low as it would go (action wasn't too bad but the only adjustment was possible was to raise the height).
Because it was cracked, I needed to use a saddle from another instrument. The replacement allowed for a lower action as the material above the thumbwheel wasn't as deep.
I was able to dial in a nicer action, though this also revealed that the 11th fret is high on the G course, something that would have been picked up on had the original saddle had material removed in the first setup.

Paul Hostetter
Jan-23-2012, 8:18pm
There are several obvious problems. First, the neck angle is set back too far, second, the neck is set too high in the body, finally, the posts on the bridge are installed out of true.

No, I think you are totally mistaken on all counts. I suggest you get some help in assessing issues like this before you go on any further campaigns of misinformation. It's one thing when someone's had a hard time with a purchase and is trying to work it out in a dialogue, but when one poses as an authority and an expert, and makes all these pronouncements, there are a lot of impressionable readers on the internet who are going to get sent in very unproductive directions. I think this is regrettable, and I think it's what you're doing.

If you own all these fancy mandolins, why are you spending so much time hammering setup quality issues on budget instruments?

If you really are a dealer, what's your store? What's your real name? You seem to be this shadow firing potshots at consumer items in Europe that most of the readers over here are never going to source the way you do.

dcoventry
Jan-23-2012, 9:33pm
No, I think you are totally mistaken on all counts. I suggest you get some help in assessing issues like this before you go on any further campaigns of misinformation. It's one thing when someone's had a hard time with a purchase and is trying to work it out in a dialogue, but when one poses as an authority and an expert, and makes all these pronouncements, there are a lot of impressionable readers on the internet who are going to get sent in very unproductive directions. I think this is regrettable, and I think it's what you're doing.

If you own all these fancy mandolins, why are you spending so much time hammering setup quality issues on budget instruments?

If you really are a dealer, what's your store? What's your real name? You seem to be this shadow firing potshots at consumer items in Europe that most of the readers over here are never going to source the way you do.

I must say, I agree with this commentary quite a bit.

Justus True Waldron
Jan-23-2012, 10:33pm
But guys! It says "THE LOAR" on the headstock!!! How can that be bad I heard LOAR was goooood!!

This thread cracks me up. Everyone is so heated over these things. Can we just establish some ground rules?

1. Every instrument everywhere is junk without a setup
2. There is a huge quality variation in every mass produced instrument line, ESPECIALLY ONES FROM CHINA. If you don't know this you haven't played enough instruments...

What are people expecting here? It's a bunch of budget instruments. Please don't ever change [=

almeriastrings
Jan-24-2012, 12:31am
I am not a dealer. I do not sell mandolins for a living. I do not have a store. I have zero financial interest in praising or bashing anything (unlike some people). I have run a repair shop in the past however (for a distributor, 30 years ago), have worked in the tonewood industry, and built my first instruments 40 years ago. I still do repairs and setups for friends. I actually purchased a Loar LM-700 just like anyone else, and that kind of gives me a personal interest in them. I also know other people who have purchased them and experienced identical problems. As for your comment:

firing potshots at consumer items in Europe that most of the readers over here are never going to source the way you do.

How mind-bogglingly arrogant, unpleasant and out of touch is that? In case you had not noticed, this is not an exclusively American forum. There are players here from all over the world. You imply that players outside of the US count for nothing, and that our experiences with a brand are irrelevant... a brand that you, personally as it turns out, are directly involved with!

I see you disagree, and think there is nothing wrong with that neck set. OK. Well, I disagree with you. So do other people. You may not respect my opinion, and you probably do not respect theirs either. For example, see this earlier thread:

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?69257-Bridge-too-high

I am really pretty astounded that you think a bridge in that condition is perfectly acceptable. It speaks volumes.

I just perused a few earlier threads and find this from Big Joe:

"Paul Hostetler and I do work with TML in ensuring the product they present is the best it can for the price point they are striving for."

Now your over-the-top hostility suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Paul Hostetter
Jan-24-2012, 1:02am
I am really pretty astounded that you think a bridge in that condition is perfectly acceptable. It speaks volumes.

No, it doesn't, but I'm convinced that you just don't know enough about adjustable bridges on archtop instruments to make the categorical judgment calls you make. Bridge leaning? Straighten it. Bridge raised too high? Get a different bridge.


I just perused a few earlier threads and find this from Big Joe:

"Paul Hostetler[sic] and I do work with TML in ensuring the product they present is the best it can for the price point they are striving for."

Now your hostility suddenly makes a lot of sense.

Off the mark again. I consulted on their carved mandolins a couple of years ago, and continue to work with them on various products in their acoustic lines, examining and commenting on details. I don't now and never did work for TML, and unlike Big Joe, who I have never even met, I don't sell their instruments. I don't have a horse in the race. I have been an independent luthier (unlike you, my CV is no more a secret than my name) for nearly fifty years with a whole lot of experience with acoustic instruments, and a rather substantial clientele of serious and pro players.

almeriastrings
Jan-24-2012, 1:18am
More of the same, I see.

"Get a different bridge". These are on brand new instruments supplied by the people you "work with". You actually think it is fine and dandy for buyers to be told "go get a new bridge" on instruments they have just paid hundreds for? If the necks were set at a suitable angle in the first place, they would not have to, would they?. What an attitude to customers. Most people are going to have to pay for not only a new bridge, but also a luthier's time to sort this out. They should not have to. Maybe you should "work with" TML a bit more to get them to deal with this problem at the factory, instead of attacking paying customers who highlight the issue?

As for my comment being "off the mark", how so? You are involved with them. You say you "continue to work with them". That is precisely what I said.

Straight question. Do you "work with them" for free? If so, you must be a very charitable person indeed. If not, sorry, but you most certainly do "have a horse in this race".

dcoventry
Jan-24-2012, 1:42am
Ah, I see we have some good ol' fashion faceless internet smackdown to be had. It's about time! This place can be so.......civilized.

Get to it boys, times-awastin'!

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-24-2012, 1:46am
If I owned any interest in The Loar mandolin/guitar company, the last thing I would want to see would be posts defending my instruments that seem to communicate more arrogance than empirical evidence. Nobody here has the corner on experience with these instruments to the extent that they can simply dismiss concerns about product quality. Three dealers I have talked to have chosen to hold off on ordering any more Loar instruments (both mandolins and guitars) because of poor QC. Other dealers have stated here that they are concerned about the quality of the instruments they have received. To arrogantly dismiss people and comments regarding these issues helps no one and casts serious doubt (in my mind) about the objectivity of anyone who argues that these QC issues are imaginary.

dcoventry
Jan-24-2012, 1:56am
You're assuming folks on the internet, even on this hallowed site, have objectivity? Really? Really, really?

There's just no way. We have biased opinions by our nature. Someone as personal as an instrument choice is way out there on a limb. Plus, a;; the folks that have chosen Loars and really liked them feel a need to get in on the action.

Everybody just relax, and we can get back to enjoyable, polite arguing. It's the internet way!

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-24-2012, 2:06am
Blueron was the 'Cafe member that i was refering to,& in his post he says that he had to do a 'FULL' set-up himself to make the instrument playable.Almeira points out several of the things that needed (most likely) to be put right. I may be wrong but i believe that his 'The Loar' was bought from the USA. Regardless of individual points of view,if an instrument 'needs' a set up in it's 'as bought' condition then it needs a set-up - period !!. It's not a matter of opinion,it's a matter of fact.We all know the variations in set-ups in pac-rim instruments,more especially the lower priced ones (but that's not always the case). It seems to me that there are 2 things that you can do,1) either buy the instrument & set it up yourself or pay to have it done,or,2) buy from a dealer who will set it up prior to dispatching it to you. I also feel that airing the 'as bought' problems of these instruments is at least telling the truth of the matter. If i recommended an instrument to somebody,fully knowing that if they bought one,they'd have a whole lot of work to do on it to make it playable,then i wouldn't expect that person to view me as having a whole lot of credibility. As an aside to this thread,the Chinese built 'Gold Star' Banjo that i bought 8 Years back,was set up so superbly well,that in the 2 years that i had it,i never changed it,& that was bought for a price very similar to that of many mid-priced pac-rim Mandolins.So,if it can be done on one instrument,then it begs the question,why not on others ?.
It's not only Mandolins that have 'as bought' set-up problems,even a quite expensive acoustic Guitar that i bought several years ago,required a decent set-up to be really playable. In the case of mid-priced instruments,i'm sure that the main concern is getting them from the factory to the store,& not providing them with a pro.set-up.
So,it would seem that although the 'The Loar's' can be very good instruments,purchasing one comes with a requirement to DIY as regards set-up - or pay for it to be done. Knowing this in advance can only be a good thing IMHO,
Ivan;)

dcoventry
Jan-24-2012, 2:11am
Well, Ivan!

Well reasoned, well written and well done. A voice of reason in an ever more unreasonable world. How odd!

almeriastrings
Jan-24-2012, 2:13am
For the record - I do actually like them. I have one which, after quite a bit of work, is a very nice mandolin. I specifically purchased it to use while travelling, or in any other place I would not want to take my other instruments. It is ideal for that. It sounds good and plays well. I have no complaints whatsoever about that. It did have some real issues when it arrived, however. I have subsequently seen a number of them with the same kind of issues. Pretending these do not exist is ridiculous. The neck sets seem very variable... extremely steep on some, shallow on others, and normal on the rest. Far beyond the range of consistency and tolerance you would expect. This has quite serious implications, long-term. I do not see this kind of variability on other brands, even in the same kind of price range. I have to wonder what is going on at the factory and with QC that allows instruments with such apparently random neck sets onto the market. I have even seen two identical models with completely different neck angles..... very strange.

Mine was purchased in Europe, by the way, Ivan. Yes, a good setup is vital - though if you have an "out of whack" neck set it will not correct that. You can compensate in various ways, but the problem remains.

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-24-2012, 2:18am
You're assuming folks on the internet, even on this hallowed site, have objectivity? Really? Really, really?

There's just no way. We have biased opinions by our nature. Someone as personal as an instrument choice is way out there on a limb. Plus, a;; the folks that have chosen Loars and really liked them feel a need to get in on the action.

Everybody just relax, and we can get back to enjoyable, polite arguing. It's the internet way!

I'm actually not assuming that anyone on the Internet is being objective unless they present themselves in a reasonable manner and don't immediately dismiss people and their points of view without offering any support for their position other than years in the business. This point of this discussion has a body of facts associated with it and any number of folks who have ended up with good Loars does not dismiss the documented issues with QC that many others have experienced.

Ron McMillan
Jan-24-2012, 4:28am
I think Almeria has had to deal with an unfair amount of stick in this thread. As I said earlier, there are clearly a lot of customers who benefit from the fine set up work done by dealers such as Folk Musician, and who receive a great-value instrument that is fit and ready to go.

When I was shocked by the state of the LM400 I received and initiated a thread about it a few months back, I heard from various people who were (1) not surprised by my story, yet (2) somehow thought it only came about because I received my mandolin by an unusual route that meant it was never set up by an expert dealer - and that this was no big deal.

I always thought that this missed the point, which was that obviously instruments are leaving the factory in no fit state to be delivered to a customer, some of which arrive at the customer in this state - and THAT is damaging to the brand.

The majority of The Loars being sold in Europe seem to be sourced at a leading Internet retailer that is infamous for doing next to zero set up work. The Loar parent company knows this - yet apparently does nothing about it.

To get my new mandolin fit to play I had to:

1. Lower the nut by sanding it down - because action at the nut was a bad joke
2. Lower the action at the bridge by lowering it (same situation as the nut, but at least easily fixed)
3. Reposition the bridge to fix intonation that was W-A-Y out
4. Tap down at least seven frets whose ends were standing very 'proud' of the fretboard, far taller than they ought to have been
5. Adjust the truss rod to take the instrument from a totally unplayable state to a playable one

The end result was a mandolin that played beautifully, but the state that it arrived in has not done its makers any favours in terms of their credibility, at least so far as I am concerned.

ron

nickster60
Jan-24-2012, 8:00am
Have we really digressed to this? I think I will go over to one of those RV forums and watch the old men fight. Seems about the same over here.

Big Joe
Jan-24-2012, 8:34am
First let me state that I do not get paid by TML for anything. The people I know there are personal friends and I want them to succeed and build the very best product they can. I have found them quite open and listen carefully to input from those who know how to help them. We do sell their products because we believe in the product, and we know the good and less than perfect with the product line.

That being said, we are not primarily a retailer. We repair, restore, and custom build stringed instruments. Retail sales are a secondary thought to us. Our experience in both building and repair of stringed instruments is very broad. We have worked on nearly every brand, make, model, and variety of stringed instrument in the last 40 years. We know stringed instruments inside and out. It is very rare that an instrument comes across our path that we have not worked on and have knowledge of. Our understanding of mandolins is solid enough from any angle that we know what works and what does not and why. We are often called upon by people building mandolins to help them with an instrument they just cannot get right. In other words, our qualifications are second to none. This gives us a knowledge base to evaluate any mandolin including the Loar mandolins.

I have never seen a Loar mandolin yet that had a neck angle issue. Not a single one. In addition, I have never heard of an issue of neck angle with a single Loar mandolin. While anything can happen, and I have been around long enough to never say never, I would say it is extremely unlikely there is an issue with neck angle. I would suggest, like Paul, that it is a matter of knowing how to properly check neck angle. I would go farther and say I have never seen one with a twisted neck, which someone said was common. Checking neck angle, twist, and fingerboard flatness requires a bit more experience than most realize. We can see things by looking at an instrument that most miss. We have learned or been trained and followed by extensive experience how to detect these issues. If you really don't know what you are looking for you will not come up with a correct diagnosis. My experience with both the Loar mandolins and "repair" people in general is that they usually cannot diagnose these issues very well.

While it is possible a mandolin had a neck angle issue, it is highly unlikely. It may be possible the accuser can properly diagnose a neck angle issue, experience tells me most cannot. I would suggest it is likely related to other things, but the instrument is not in my hands soi cannot diagnose it.

The only issue we have encountered is setup. Once that is resolved you have a wonderful instrument. However, that is true with nearly ANY mandolin no matter where you get it or who made it with VERY few exceptions. The factory stock bridge is pretty cheap, but it will function and allow you to play the instrument but it will not perform at its optimum unless a good quality bridge is put on and put on properly for that individual instrument.

I appreciate everyone who is involved in this discussion, but there is a LOT of misinformation by well intended people who may not have the knowledge or experience to really know or understand the instrument. The downside to an open forum is that anyone can say they are an expert. While well intended, they really don't kow what they are talking about. As an example, there is a person who began their mandolin journey about a year and a half ago. This is a very nice, bright, and well intended perso who posts a lot. This person tries to speak on issues he has no real knowledge in and because he posts so often many take him as an authority. He is not, but he is a good guy. Getting advice from one who does not know what they are talking about can be much less than helpful to others who do not know either.

Any instrument we sell in our shop will have a pro setup. It does not matte what it is or how much it sells for (or how little), it will be setup. Our focus is not retail. We do that as a service to our customers and friends. We are more concerned with the quality of the product and the way it plays than we are with how many we sell. The reason we work with TML and the Loar is because of the quality of the instrument, the customer service the company provides, and the relationship we have with people in the company. I do get a bit frustrated when I see accusations that are very suspicious from sources that may not be very knowledgeable of the subject, or with personal first hand knowledge. Second hand information is rarely accurate.

One lat word....for now (I can be verbose :) ). I play a " The Loar" mandolin. It suits me very well and I love the way it sounds and plays. TML did not give it to me, nor did i get any special price. I got it because i like it. I am not Ronnie McCoury by any means, but i am able to play. I am far from a beginner and have played some of the finest mandolins built. I am pretty fussy about my instruments. If you have played my instruments you know what i am saying. With all that i chose an LM700. It has no issues that bother me. I can take ANY mandolin and find imperfections. It matters not price or builder. If you lookforthem you can find them. However, I am concerned about structural integrity, playability, and sound. Anything else is a distant 4th.

pefjr
Jan-24-2012, 9:05am
I think Almeria has had to deal with an unfair amount of stick in this thread. As I said earlier, there are clearly a lot of customers who benefit from the fine set up work done by dealers such as Folk Musician, and who receive a great-value instrument that is fit and ready to go.

When I was shocked by the state of the LM400 I received and initiated a thread about it a few months back, I heard from various people who were (1) not surprised by my story, yet (2) somehow thought it only came about because I received my mandolin by an unusual route that meant it was never set up by an expert dealer - and that this was no big deal.

I always thought that this missed the point, which was that obviously instruments are leaving the factory in no fit state to be delivered to a customer, some of which arrive at the customer in this state - and THAT is damaging to the brand.

The majority of The Loars being sold in Europe seem to be sourced at a leading Internet retailer that is infamous for doing next to zero set up work. The Loar parent company knows this - yet apparently does nothing about it.

To get my new mandolin fit to play I had to:

1. Lower the nut by sanding it down - because action at the nut was a bad joke
2. Lower the action at the bridge by lowering it (same situation as the nut, but at least easily fixed)
3. Reposition the bridge to fix intonation that was W-A-Y out
4. Tap down at least seven frets whose ends were standing very 'proud' of the fretboard, far taller than they ought to have been
5. Adjust the truss rod to take the instrument from a totally unplayable state to a playable one

The end result was a mandolin that played beautifully, but the state that it arrived in has not done its makers any favours in terms of their credibility, at least so far as I am concerned.

ronI have had the same experience with several used instruments over the last few years. I have bought many used instruments from first time buyers that sell in frustration over not being able to learn their music. If the instrument had been set up, they certainly would have stood a better shot at learning but they were not even aware of the problem. The last one I bought supposedly had just been set up professionally and with a new bridge. It did have a new bridge but it was sitting in the same location as the old one had sat. I could plainly see the fade in the finish from the bridge when I adjusted it 3/8" back. Some of the set up is personal preference , but most is standard and I would think a must. Intonation is critical. I have had to do the same list as you posted on every instrument.

JeffD
Jan-24-2012, 9:18am
Actually I got the vibe that you should buy one from a reputable dealer renowned for good setups, .

This is true for every mandolin you buy of any type any brand.

Now sometimes its not possible, for various reasons, and in those cases caveot emptor. Not that its wrong, but there is more that could be wrong.

This is not something unique to any brand.

almeriastrings
Jan-24-2012, 11:00am
Perhaps Joe would kindly provide us all with some facts, rather that generalities? Specifically, what is the specified neck angle on say, an LM-200 VS or LM-400 VS?

What precisely would be the possible cause(s) of the extremely high bridge settings observed on some examples of these models, given that the bridge is correctly positioned, that the carved top profile appears to be correct, the bridge itself is identical to that on others without the issue, and that the action is within normal parameters? There are only so many possibilities and as I am evidently so ignorant on these matters, I defer to others greater wisdom....

Awaiting enlightenment.

samwell
Jan-24-2012, 1:23pm
Apples and Oranges!!!

What exactly do I mean by that? I have no idea, but seeing as no one has used that infamous phrase yet on this thread I just figured I'd break the ice. :D

Happy Hunting!

Folkmusician.com
Jan-24-2012, 7:30pm
I don't agree with everything Almeriastrings has posted, but I wouldn't say that he deserves quite the backlash he is receiving either. :) We all see things a bit differently. My take: The Loar's are not perfect. They need setup work (which I happily do). I sometimes replace bridges or swap parts around (I have hundreds of stock bridges from these). I find myself apologizing to customers for cosmetic imperfections. I consider these to be minor, but I realize that it does bother some people.

Despite being a bit rough, I believe The Loar's standout as the best value going right now. I do find it interesting that so much emphasis goes toward the setup and cosmetic flaws (There are multiple threads going on as we speak), when The Loar is by no means the worst offender. I have spent the last 12 years of my life working on the popular Pac-Rim imports. Many thousands of mandolins have went through my hands. Just when I think I have seen every possible problem, something new will come up. When you look at the basic construction on The Loar's, the underling quality is there. Perfect? No. Good enough that I can spend a couple of hours on one and come out with a very nice playing/sounding mandolin at an affordable price? Absolutely! The best mandolin for the price point? Very possible. :)

I know it makes sense that when you spend $500 or $1000 or more on a mandolin, you would expect that the finish should be near flawless and it should play great as it comes from the factory, but that is just not the reality of the market. The mandolins in these price ranges that stand out as the best sounding are not going to be the best looking and do need additional work done.

dcoventry
Jan-24-2012, 8:03pm
Robert,

Well reasoned and well said. You certainly have a depth of view stemming from the fact you have dealt with so many mandos from so many makers. And let me say this: I believe that although you do sell all these mandos, you try and be objective, as that were your reputations lays.

Nicely done.

almeriastrings
Jan-24-2012, 11:16pm
Cosmetics aside, I wonder if Robert could let us have his opinion on the reasons why some leave the factory requiring bridges to be set as high as the LM-400 discussed in this previous thread?

http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?69257-Bridge-too-high

In your response there, you say "they do have a steep neck angle", and seem to suggest that example may have more than usual.

What degree of variability have you noted with neck sets on these?

Paul Hostetter
Jan-24-2012, 11:27pm
http://www.lutherie.net/wrong.on.internet.jpg

Mike Bunting
Jan-24-2012, 11:41pm
Your buddy did not make any statements about which he could be wrong. He asked three questions, you don't approve?

allenhopkins
Jan-25-2012, 12:24am
We are moving from a spirited, somewhat informative difference of opinion, toward a urination competition. Too bad; I really felt I was learning something about the vagaries of factory-produced mid-range Asian-made mandolins.

It is no doubt difficult to produce a well-designed, consistent quality, affordable instrument. Never have played a Loar mandolin; they don't seem to have acquired a dealer in my area, which is Eastman-and-Kentucky-heavy. Even those who like Loars have warned about inadequate factory set-up (probably no more true, than with any other factory-made instrument), and about mediocre bridges, as well as a certain lack of detail finishing. But I have heard a general chorus of satisfaction with most Loar models, other than the since-redesigned LM-500.

So it's hard for me to accept that all these Loar owners are satisfied with consistently shoddy, ill-designed mandolins, with poor neck location and angle, thick sticky finish, leaning bridges etc., as contended. Some persons' standards are higher than others, some "lemons" are made by every factory, and we have to remember we're talking mostly sub-$1K instruments. But if Loars were the disasters depicted, why would so many people whose opinions we respect, be pleased with them?

It would be more helpful if the ad hominem parts of this thread were to taper off, and we continued to explore the factual basis -- or lack thereof -- for the Loars' reported failings.

almeriastrings
Jan-25-2012, 12:56am
It would be more helpful if the ad hominem parts of this thread were to taper off, and we continued to explore the factual basis -- or lack thereof -- for the Loars' reported failings.

Quite.

I have to say, in more than 40 years of playing, building, collecting and working with guitars, mandolins and banjos I have never - ever - seen 'attitude' like this from anyone involved with a manufacturer. Quite the reverse, usually. Most are very upfront and willing to address various issues that arise. I once encountered a fairly serious issue with a guitar from a well-known and respected US mandolin and guitar company. Right away they admitted that the odd defect does make it though, and they could not have been more polite and helpful in resolving it. Maybe that is why they are so well respected? They certainly have my respect and I would have no hesitation whatsoever in buying their products again or recommending them to anyone else.

Based on some of the stuff that has been said here (and in previous threads), that is certainly no longer true as far as I am concerned of the people behind "The Loar". It is a litany of denial, far-fetched excuses (alleged "unmarked seconds or even thirds") and blame the customer who does not know what they are talking about. Cheap mandolins, even cheaper company in my opinion.

Dave Weiss
Jan-25-2012, 1:11am
Y'all must have answered the OP's question, 'cuz, he's gone...
I don't believe that it's unreasonable to expect a serviceable instrument when I'm paying hundreds of dollars. I think it's unreasonable that if I buy a new "The Loar" that I'm going to have to spend extra money to end up with a serviceable instrument. Big Joe has said many times that a "The Loar" NEEDS a CA bridge. Almeriastrings has confirmed that. The LM400 that I owned (for a short time) had a ridiculously high bridge on it, there wasn't much, if any adjustment left in it. I'm old fashioned I guess, when I buy something new, I expect it to be perfect...

Pete Summers
Jan-25-2012, 1:15am
In the words of Star Trek's Lt. Commander Data, "Please continue the petty bickering." I love reading this stuff, so much so it's kept me up until 1:30 a.m so far. Continue, please.
:grin:

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-25-2012, 2:07am
In the light of having seen many threads much less 'voiciferously' worded, closed down on here,i'm pleased that this one hasn't been 'closed' (yet).
I got to thinking of my example of the Chinese built Gold Star banjo that i bought 8 years ago when the 're-issue' models came out. Apart from a few minor plating blemishes on the resonator flange,the whole instrument was superb,certainly several levels above the fit & finish of the new Gibson RB-250 that i compared it to in the store.As i said previously,the set-up was perfect - absolutely !. The finish on the neck & resonator couldn't have been bettered (IMHO). It crossed my mind that one of the people responsible for getting the new Gold Star production line up & running was ex-Gibson guy,Greg Rich. I may be wrong but i think that Scott Zimmerman,who contributes to the 'Cafe on occasion was also involved. I remember reading an article regarding the Chinese workers' willingness to 'learn'. The banjo 'pots' were coming down the line assembled,but a bit 'wonky' ie.the tension hooks & the tension hoop were a tad lob-sided.This was picked up on & the assembly guys were shown how to do it correctly. That was the first & last time that they came down the line not properly assembled.After that they were spot on - mine certainly couldn't have been better.
I wonder how much input there's been from a luthier skilled in Mandolin manufacture in the building of the 'The Loar' Mandolins. Some of the criticisms do seem to be of a 'basic' nature,things which you'd take for granted in an instrument's build,such as the correct neck angle.
Almeira & Blueron weren't having hallucinations when they got their 'The Loars'.They'd got instruments in need of serious set-up work to get them to a playable state. Methinks that the quality control on the production line isn't all it should be,& this should be set before the makers.
The "The Loar" Mandolins have a good following & many folk have bought them & are enjoying their purchases,but,anyone buying one should have a right to expect much 'less' of a DIY project than some buyers have had - IMHO,
Ivan

Brent Hutto
Jan-25-2012, 5:15am
Ivan,

The broken record answer is to buy them from a proper dealer who will set them up and perform a final QC check. Period.

That was said literally every time I saw the brand mentioned before buying my LM-400. And that has been said the vast majority of the times "The Loar" mandolins have been recommended since. And it's been repeated over and over in this thread. Because it's true.

Also true of Kentucky mandolins. Also true of Eastman mandolins. Also true of Martin guitar made right here in the good old USA, they are shipped from the factory with certain work expected to be done by the dealer before delivery.

Fretbear
Jan-25-2012, 6:29am
I don't believe that it's unreasonable to expect a serviceable instrument when I'm paying hundreds of dollars. I'm old fashioned I guess, when I buy something new, I expect it to be perfect...
I don't blame you, and mostly feel the same way, but in a case like this it isn't going to happen. I am glad that someone (anyone) can now end up with a more than decent F5 for under a grand, even if it takes some tweaks and hassles. The new Kentucky's cost more, and seem to be more ready to roll as is, so there is also a choice for people who feel as you do and/or have more cash.
I am not in the market, but do feel that the instruments under discussion here should without exception be referred to as "The Loar" as opposed to "Loars" to avoid unnecessary confusion.

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-25-2012, 8:32am
I've only played one Kentucky Mandolin,a KM-505 "A" style & i was very impressed with it. It looked well finished,felt right,& given that the strings were probably months old & almost worn out,it sounded good.It was so good 'out of the box' (well off the wall actually),that i couldn't see it needing anything more than new strings & ensuring that the bridge was set correctly,to it being an excellent instrument,especially for the price. It certainly didn't (seem to) require all the effort put into the 'The Loar' Mandolins to get it up & running.
Brent - Point taken,but it does beg the question,just how many dealers out there actually know enough about Mandolins to set one up !.It's fine if you decide to get one shipped out to you by a dealer such as you describe,but if it's a local store,very often a Mandolin is an 'add on' to their inventory. I went into a large instrument store in central Manchester a few years back for some Guitar strings. On the wall, they had a couple of Breedlove Guitars & a couple of Breedlove Mandolins. I asked if i could play one & took it down off the wall. It was grossly out of tune & i asked the young guy who was 'guarding' the instrument why they didn't tune them up so as to be playable for customers. He personally didn't know how a Mandolin was tuned, & gave me to understand that most likely, nobody in the shop knew either - Ah well !!!,:(
Ivan:confused:

Brent Hutto
Jan-25-2012, 8:46am
Ivan,

When I travel out of town (not often) I've quit even stopping in music stores if there's one right convenient. Because what you describe seems to be the norm. Going back to when I played guitars, I finally despaired of finding anything worth trying to play or heaven forbid purchase in a randomly selected shop. And mandolins instead of guitars? Forget about it!

That's why I say criticizing "The Loar" or even affordable Chinese mandolins in general for the fact that there is basically no functioning retail channel in existence in any but a few places is not helpful. We get it, most places that will sell you a "The Loar" mandolin are going to hand it off to you in pretty much the condition it came out of the importer's warehouse. And that won't be good condition except very rarely.

If you want a $500 mandolin, the name of the importer or factory or the label on the headstock is not the way to identify a good, playable one. Buy any name you like: The Loar, Eastman, Kentucky, Fender, Epiphone, Washburn, et. al. If you get it from one of the hard-to-find competent dealers you'll get one that a beginner can learn to play on. If you get it from 99% of retail outlets the odds are very long for it being worth trying to play as-is.

What those brand names do tell you (or at least give you a clue about) concerns the potential for a really good sounding, responsive mandolin once it is properly set up and had a final QC check. That's what people on this forum mean when they saying the Big Three (Eastman, Kentucky, The Loar) are more desirable than Fender or Epiphone. They're worth seeking out because of how well they can perform.

My only objection is when newcomers to the Cafe or to mandolin playing are greeted with a claim that "The Loar mandolins are terrible because I bought one that wasn't even close to being playable. Don't ever buy The Loar". As though by implication if he had just bought a different name brand the result would have been guaranteed. No, if a box-reshipper sells you any of these $500 Chinese mandolins the odds might be slightly better or worse depending on brand but across the board the likelihood is they're going to need work. What they newcomer should hear is "I bought a The Loar mandolin from a place that had not even looked at it, much less properly adjusted and checked it before sending it. Don't make the same mistake, go with a reputable dealer".

P.S. And internet forum posters can rail all they want to about the Chinese producers woudla, coudla, shoulda be shipping mandolins that are 100% perfect and need no final adjustment or checkout. It ain't gonna happen, period.

P.P.S. And the fact that lots of dealers try to upsell the Cumberland bridge on most every mandolin they carry is neither a knock on the quality of The Loar mandolins, bridge included, or bad faith from the dealers. They think it's an improvement, their customers think it's an improvement, the cost is modest so they recommend it. That does not mean the mandolin is unplayable without a bridge upgrade, that's putting words in their mouths.

Dave Cowles
Jan-25-2012, 9:08am
Brent nailed it. A good setup is needed on any new mandolin purchase, a good dealer is an imperative when purchasing one of the "pacrim three" brands, be they Eastman, The Loar, or Kentucky.

Justus True Waldron
Jan-25-2012, 9:27am
Am I the only one that's cracking up (and a little disturbed as well) at the irony of a company named after the man that set the standard for what an F5 mandolin should be producing instruments for the masses with poor QC? The name almost feels like a dirty word of sorts now... I'd find this thread half as entertaining if we were arguing about Eastmans or the like...

George R. Lane
Jan-25-2012, 9:32am
I bet Lloyd is rolling over in his grave over the use of his name after reading the thread.

Dave Weiss
Jan-25-2012, 10:12am
Set-up is critical, I would expect that the instrument should come from the factory with satisfactory parts ie. the bridge. I'm hard headed I guess, but I don't believe that I should have to pay extra to get a playable instrument.

Maybe the auto industry could start saving money if they sold cars with 5 gallon gas tanks and treadless tires and left the upgrades to the dealer (after the sale of course).

CA bridges are probably the best thing since sliced bread and while the lower end instruments (Kentucky, Eastman, etc.) would probably benefit, they don't seem to be required as they are on "The Loar".

Brent Hutto
Jan-25-2012, 10:20am
Dave,

Honest to goodness I can't imagine that a CA bridge would have been anything but a minor improvement on my LM-400. It was a mighty nice playing and sounding mandolin. In fact I preferred its tone to a KM-505 (if that's the right Kentucky A-style model number) that a buddy purchased at about the same time.

I got mine from Robert Fear who sell them about as inexpensively as anywhere I know of. So basically I picked up the phone, ordered a mandolin at give or take a couple bucks the cheapest price around and 3-4 days later had a great-sounding, perfectly playable quality instrument. I've no reason to think the next guy buying one from Robert won't get just as good an instrument...and for that matter there are probably other competent and budget-friendly sources for The Loar mandolins in addition to Robert.

Hence my point. It's not how much you pay or whether you spring for the upgraded bridge (which BTW I've seen and it is indeed a very fine piece of kit) it's just matter of buying it from someone who cares to deliver a playable instrument.

Dave Weiss
Jan-25-2012, 10:44am
Brent,
I also bought mine from Robert. It was well set-up and played fine. I didn't like the fact that the bridge was maxed out, but that's not the fault of the dealer. He was working with what he had been given and I was unwilling (unable) to pay for an upgrade. It was a fine mandolin, just not really what I wanted (you know how that goes). Almost everyone here that sells "The Loar" agrees that they benefit greatly from a bridge upgrade. I don't hear (read about) the same issues with Kentucky or Eastman. I have serious doubts about the benefits of the CA bridges for beginning players. I'll shamefully admit that after almost 4 years of playing that I can't tell the difference...

Mike Bunting
Jan-25-2012, 11:22am
Brent nailed it. A good setup is needed on any new mandolin purchase, a good dealer is an imperative when purchasing one of the "pacrim three" brands, be they Eastman, The Loar, or Kentucky.
There are set ups and there is modifying the instruments. All instruments require a basic set up, no instrument will come out of the box with the string height that I like for example, but replacing the bridge does not fall under that category.

AlanN
Jan-25-2012, 11:27am
quote from above: A good setup is needed on any new mandolin purchase

No argument here. And sometimes, the new mandolin purchase fully arrives with just that setup already done (e.g., Gilchrist).

Dave Weiss
Jan-25-2012, 11:38am
I wish that this information had been available when I was considering my "The Loar" purchase. I got in on the "ground floor" so to speak, LM400 serial #2. I'm in a bit different set of circumstances than most of you I suppose.
#1, I don't get to see, touch or feel many mandolins where I live. So I research and read and try to base my purchase on the information that I can glean from the fine folks here on the cafe.
#2, it takes me months to save up enough money to purchase even a $500 mandolin. I need and expect to get my money's worth.
Unfortunately, the learning curve was long and relatively expensive. I've got a good mandolin that I'm satisfied with and finally learning to play. Amazingly enough, the more I learn and play, the better I (it) sound(s).

Big Joe
Jan-25-2012, 5:17pm
Almiera... You asked about the neck angle and bridge height. Rarely is a neck ever set to a too high angle. If there is an issue that is problematic it is a too low set. It could be possible to over set one, but that would be a very unusual issue. Bridges are made in different heights and fit differently. This is usually where the issue is. If the saddle is a low boy saddle and that instrument needs a high boy then the saddle will appear too high. If it has a tall boy and it needs a low boy, then it will appear to be unable to adjust low enough. Every mandolin is a slight bit different in the height of the bridge for that particular instrument. This is due to the slight variations in the neck being set, the final thickness of the fingerboard after planing, whether the mandolin is setup properly with the nut and truss rod adjusted correctly. If the TR is not properly set it can make the bridge appear to high and the neck angle to be too high.

Part of knowing how to do a pro setup is knowing what a particular mandolin needs. Sometimes it is the way the bridge bass is fit. If it gets too thin it will appear there it too much space to the saddle. There are just many things. While we do neck sets on mandolins and guitars and a lot of them every year. What we discover is that most players only know something is not right and don't have the skills or experience to know whether it is a neck angle issue or something else. In all the Loars I have seen, and it has been a good number, I have never seen one with a neck angle issue. I have seen bridges not properly fit, bridges on backwards, saddles the wrong size, on backwards, etc. Truss rods improperly adjusted, nuts too tall, just about everythng. However, once properly setup they were fine and would play wonderfully with nice low action and great tone and volume.

When they set these at the factory they use a jig to get the angle very close. Yes, there may be a very slight difference from instrument to instrument, but it is not much of a difference. That is where setup and bridge fit is so important. I would gladly check out any Loar mandolin free of charge to check the neck and any other issue.

One last thing, you mentioned you were mad at the factory because of the replies of members of this forum. First of all, the company does not post on this forum. There are some of us who are familiar with the forum, but we are not employees of the company and do not speak directly for them. Secondly, I know the company has attempted to contact you personally and that is pretty good service. I have worked with many different companies over the years, and the service I get from TML is second to none. Certainly better than I ever got from the other brands mentioned often here. Some of the other companies are pretty good. Some are not so good. However, TML (The Loar) are excellent in how they have dealt with me and any others.

I cannot speak to your abilities or skills when it comes to working on mandolins. You said you used to do some repair. We do it every day and have in great quantities for many years. Even with this experience we discover and learn new things regularly. I never assume to know everything there is. I have even been proved wrong once... actually I was right but just thought I was wrong :) (yes, I am kidding!). I can clearly speak to what I do know from everything I have seen and I have seen no documented reports to the contrary. I can say I have never seen a Loar with a neck angle issue. If someone has such an issue I would certainly like to see it and ensure it is the neck angle and not another issue.

Until there is some kind of proof it is really just like kicking a neighbors dog because you heard a rumor it was a bad dog. If you have proof of this, I am happy to view it. I will certainly say clearly it is an issue if it is. To date all I have heard is innuendo and accusations that have not been documented or proven. I don't think that is too much to ask when dealing with the reputation of a fine company and fine people who do a good service to the mandolin community. In addition, if there is a neck angle issue that is actually a problem with the neck set, the instruments if purchased through an authorized dealer have a life time warranty and they wold be repaired or replaced. Can't ask much more than that. That is another reason the Loar is a good deal and backed up by a good company. Thank you.

Ron McMillan
Jan-25-2012, 10:54pm
Despite having had an unfortunate experience with a The Loar mandolin, I go along with what Joe says above. The company did contact me about my problems, and did respond to my complaints. Unfortunately, even their responses leaned on a need for dealers like Joe and Robert and Stephen to clean up after the factory, and made no contingencies for instruments that make it all the way to the end user without having had such a good set up at a dealer. This to me says they know that mandolins leave the factory in less than ideal condition, even if some of those instruments get to buyers in less than ideal shape.

So the fact remains that some instruments are still going from factory to dealers in a condition that makes it crucial that they receive set up work at the dealer (work that Joe's words above indicate can often be quite extensive).

If the company wants to avoid this kind of damaging PR, the answer (however unpalatable it may be in terms of a need for costs to be re-assigned to different parts of the production process) is for instruments to leave the factory in something closer to ready-to-play condition.

I know, I know - that's not the way factories' supply chains work. But in the light of this sort of brand-damaging talk on a forum frequented by thousands of mandolin enthusiasts, why the heck can't it be made to work that way to protect the brand? If sending mandolins from the factory more 'ready to play' is somehow 'revolutionary', then I'm surely missing something here.

(Yes, I am perfectly aware that changing temperatures and humidity during shipping can create new, separate problems that will ALWAYS need addressed at the dealer. I am not talking about these, and referring to much more basic issues such as those listed by Joe and by others here, myself included).

The solutions and the responsibilities must lie with the maker, and cannot, if the brand reputation is to prosper, be left to dealers who quite often don't involve themselves whatsoever in the QC challenge. In Europe, the majority of The Loars sell through one Internet dealer that does zero set up work - and meaning many mandolins reach end users in bad condition. The makers must know this and the Internet dealer is not about to address it, so who has to take action to protect the brand by protecting the consumer? That's a no brainer. The maker has to change the systems in place to protect the consumer, and by doing so prevent its hard-earned reputation for quality and value for money from being blown out of the water.

ron

almeriastrings
Jan-26-2012, 1:05am
I will just make a few final points on this as I think it is pretty obvious that there are some serious issues here.

1. No-one is arguing that you should expect to buy "off the shelf" a mandolin with a perfect setup. It is accepted (by just about everyone) that you will need adjustments making.

2. A standard setup is just that, however. Adjustments and a bit of tidying up. I strongly suggest that if a purchaser of a $500-$1100 mandolin is then told that to get it playable they must spend another $55 + costs on a non-optional new bridge(almost 10% of the initial purchase price in some cases), then this is way beyond a "setup". It is a faulty instrument requiring replacement parts from the get-go. 'The Loar' need to realise this, and do something about it - not bounce this extra cost straight onto the customer. Not all expect it, and not all can easily afford it. They should not have to. To use another analogy that Joe himself raised in another, earlier discussion... if you buy a new washing machine you should expect the motor to work! How would you feel if the manufacturer just turned around and said "The motor does not work? Go buy yourself another one and get it fitted - not our problem!" I fail to see the difference.

3. Cosmetic issues and catalog descriptions. LM-600 "featuring a lighweight nitrocellulose finish". No doubt they would argue that yes the nitro overspray on the thick poly base coat is very light! Technically true, but extremely misleading in my opinion. We all know the "rough" (to use a well known dealer's description) finish issues... and I totally agree that expecting perfection at that price point is not realistic. That said, there is rough and there is rough, and I cannot see how shipping instruments in that state is particularly good for creating a positive impression.

4. Allegations (made by Big Joe) of unmarked seconds and even "thirds" on the market (even though these carry a FACTORY "QC OK" sticker). I see this as a huge issue. If this company really is allowing "unauthorized" dealers to buy substandard unmarked product and then sell it via Ebay, and online stores, how is the poor buyer (especially of USED instruments, down the line) ever to have confidence in the brand? How can you tell if yours is a "first", a "second" or a "third"? It is no use just saying "it is a first if purchased from an authorized dealer", because in some cases, you will not know. This is the companies responsibility. If they are allowing "rejects" on the market, they need to clearly differentiate them so buyers can make an informed choice. To allow them onto the market otherwise is totally unacceptable in my view.

In a nutshell, this company needs to accept responsibility for their products and cease trying to pass the blame onto everyone else (dealers, independent luthiers, even customers). I have just heard from someone out here who has purchased a new LM-520 VS..... I should get to see it over the weekend. I am not really looking forward to it. We'll see. Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-26-2012, 2:35am
From Almeira - "..To allow them onto the market otherwise is totally unacceptable in my view". It's fraud !.To pass off an ''inferior product'' as one that is 100% ok,is fraud,pure & simple.To sell sub-standard 'anything' is fine as long as the purchaser knows what he's buying is below standard. Many companies sell 'seconds' & very often,if their quality control is high enough,you,the buyer, couldn't tell what the defects are. As i mentioned in a previous post,i think that their quality control needs to be re-addressed,
Ivan

almeriastrings
Jan-26-2012, 3:40am
Actual Recording King or Loar dealers have several things to consider. First, they usually purchase first quality instruments, though we can purchase seconds. The originals have price points for resale we have to consider. On seconds there is more flexibility. Seconds are sometimes sold to others and there is a company that purchases unacceptable or reject instruments from various companies and resells them at a serious discount. However, they are not a dealer and they have no warranty and they do not care what the instrument is. They just sell them.

Most of the "cheap" Loar instruments are not being sold by authorized dealers and they are not first quality since they cannot get those. They buy seconds or thirds or discontinued items and sell them at a fairly heavy discount.

That is the comment regarding "seconds" or "thirds" I am referring to.

I just wonder how the ordinary customer or picker is supposed to know? Especially if purchasing used, down the line? If these Seconds or Thirds are not labelled as such, but are out there, on the open market, and not being disclosed as such... well.. that is a big problem, isn't it?

Surely, "The Loar" could solve this by either not releasing substandard product on the market in the first place, or if they do, by very, very clearly and preferably indelibly by at least marking it as such: a deep stamp or lack of serial number, or some-such?

If you have these "seconds" and "thirds" just unmarked, and circulating, it seems to me to be quite irresponsible.

Brent Hutto
Jan-26-2012, 5:10am
My final comment on the topic is to repeat once more...

There is no requirement for a Cumberland or any other aftermarket bridge on a "The Loar" mandolin. They play fine and in my opinion sound better than other brands in the same price range with the original bridge on them. It's a straw man argument to keep complaining that they arrive with any unusable component, bridge or otherwise.

Yes, there are aftermarket bridges that are of undeniably superior quality to the stock part. And yes, many people including most of the dealers prefer those bridges to the original one. That does not mean the mandolin fails to play and sound excellent with the stock bridge.

blacktoe
Jan-26-2012, 8:56am
Wow, after reading all these posts I am wondering if I made a bad choice. I was originally looking for an Eastman MD515 but had a hard time finding them in stock. I tried a friends "The Loar" and was very impressed (not hard to do as I am a newbie). So I ordered an LM-600-VS from a good and reputable dealer. It will arrive on Monday and I am still very excited. Will inspect it very carefully for some of the possible defects noted in previous posts. :(

Brent Hutto
Jan-26-2012, 9:04am
I own an Eastman MD504 (oval hole) and in the past I owned a "The Loar" LM-400. Both bought from dealers who are members at the Cafe, by the way. Each of them was perfectly playable two minutes after I got them out the shipping box.

IIRC, on the LM-400 I eventually gave the thumbscrews a twist or two to fine-tune the action height and on the MD504 I did not (maybe I have that backward). Oh, and I had to put a strap button on the LM-400 myself because I forgot to ask the dealer to install one for me. But they were both wonderful playing and sounding instruments when they arrived, both of them even had a fresh set of strings installed.

So give it a good, close look. You're going to want to admire it up close anyway! But outside of a a little action height tweaking to taste and maybe eventually trying a different brand of strings I'll bet it's ready to rock-'n-roll right off the bat. This time of year you might want to give the shipping box a little while to come up to room temperature before opening (although in Florida probably not a worry).

dcoventry
Jan-26-2012, 9:14am
Wow, after reading all these posts I am wondering if I made a bad choice. I was originally looking for an Eastman MD515 but had a hard time finding them in stock. I tried a friends "The Loar" and was very impressed (not hard to do as I am a newbie). So I ordered an LM-600-VS from a good and reputable dealer. It will arrive on Monday and I am still very excited. Will inspect it very carefully for some of the possible defects noted in previous posts. :(

PLEASE don't worry about this stuff. ANd PLEASE enjoy the worderful feeling and excitement of getting a new mando!

All this nit picky cr@p is just intelligent, mostly, folks discussing, mostly, the pros and cons of a new and popular product.

Congrats on your new toy!

Barry Wilson
Jan-26-2012, 10:05am
I worried about not getting a ca bridge when I ordered mine but quite frankly I am tickled with the 600 I got, and it's stock. this is my 3rd mandolin and all 1 of my friends said it sounded better than any others... ok I have 3 friends hehe

blacktoe
Jan-26-2012, 10:42am
Thanks for the replys, coming from my limited guitar background, I just have never seen so much back and forth about a brand before (maybe there is) so I just began to wonder.

Brent Hutto
Jan-26-2012, 10:48am
Keep in mind that what you read on a forum like this has as much to do with the people writing as with the subject being discussed. And yes, I include myself in that unfortunately. Some of us have a congenital weakness for prolonging back-and-forth topics that should just as well end after ten posts instead of a hundred. Don't mistake the volume level of an online debate with its importance.

Folkmusician.com
Jan-26-2012, 11:06am
I am still wondering why The Loar is being singled out here. Almost all of the import brands are selling unmarked seconds. Yes, practically ALL of them that I deal with. There is only one brand that seemed to make an effort and I am aware that they are not consistent about it. Some were marked with a 2 or B and some were not. I wish they would mark them, but once again it isn't the case.

The same goes for poor quality bridges. The Loar bridge is no worse than most of what you find on instruments at this price point. There are worse. :)

JimCaleca
Jan-26-2012, 12:38pm
I purchased a Loar 220 a few weeks ago. It started to buzz a couple weeks ago so I took it to my local shop. He looked it over and discovered a loose fret and a low fret. I'm waiting to get it back. Hopefully soon, the tone on this 220 is great for what I paid.

almeriastrings
Jan-26-2012, 3:15pm
I am still wondering why The Loar is being singled out here. Almost all of the import brands are selling unmarked seconds. Yes, practically ALL of them that I deal with.

That is interesting, for sure, as in the UK (and here in Spain) unless they were clearly described as such at the time of sale, that would be a criminal (not merely civil) offence..... is that not the case in the US?

hedgehog
Jan-26-2012, 3:24pm
Also remember, although people are quieter about it now than they used to be, many people simply hate the name "The Loar" being applied to any instrument not actually made by Lloyd Loar, even though his name was never actually on a mandolins head shock. Tie that in with "The Loars" being from China and ..... well "The Loar" instrument will likely never go without detractors sniping at it from time to time.

allenhopkins
Jan-26-2012, 5:26pm
Also remember, although people are quieter about it now than they used to be, many people simply hate the name "The Loar" being applied to any instrument not actually made by Lloyd Loar, even though his name was never actually on a mandolins head stock. Tie that in with "The Loars" being from China and ..... well "The Loar" instrument will likely never go without detractors sniping at it from time to time.

I get more PO'ed about mandolins labeled "Epiphone," "Washburn," "Flatiron" etc., nameplates that used to belong to quality American builders, and have now been attached to not-quite-so-quality Asian imports. I think there's an element of real dishonesty there. Go to Washburn's website and you get a lot of blather about the storied history of Lyon-&-Healy-built Washburn instruments. Of course the current company has absolutely no link to them, other than having purchased the trademark...

I don't think that those who are criticizing Loar mandolins in this thread, are all that concerned about the nameplate. I think some of them have found issues with individual Loar mandolins, and are inferring that Loar has some design or quality-control weaknesses. Others have found Loar to be an excellent brand of mid-priced mandolins. There's been some discussion as to whether "factory seconds" are being sold, which may have issues, but I find this somewhat puzzling. The problems almeriastrings has detailed are of general construction and over-finishing. Usually a "second" is designed exactly like a "first," if you know what I mean, but has acquired some processing defect -- scratch, finish bubble, ding or dent.

Having an improperly-designed neck placement or angle, or application of too much finish, or a less-than-satisfactory style of bridge, is not something that normally would differentiate a "second" from a "first." So I wonder if the "factory second" hypothesis isn't a bit of a red herring...

As I said above, it would surprise me if all the "happy Loar owners" who post on the Cafe, and the respected builders and repair persons who find Loar good bang for the buck, were gullible naifs or secret shills for the company. Lotsa people liking their Loars, seems to me, which must count for something.

Paul Hostetter
Jan-26-2012, 7:02pm
That is interesting, for sure, as in the UK (and here in Spain) unless they were clearly described as such at the time of sale, that would be a criminal (not merely civil) offence..... is that not the case in the US?

I'm sure you have more time on your hands than anyone else to find an answer to that compelling question, but in the meantime, for the record, Music Link does mark their seconds - the only exception is if there is a single (i.e. only one!) small blem, they will sell to a dealer at a slight discount and they do not mark those so that they can still honor the warranty. Any other sold seconds have a black mark preceding the serial number.

brunello97
Jan-26-2012, 7:41pm
I've been thinking about coming out of a self imposed F-less desert and sought to check out some things about the The Loar. Yikes, what a snake pit I walked into. Man, some heavy ego throwdown going on here. I'm sadly losing some well-earned respect for some of the playas. :( That doesn't make me happy.

Mick

Mike Bunting
Jan-26-2012, 8:24pm
Also remember, although people are quieter about it now than they used to be, many people simply hate the name "The Loar" being applied to any instrument not actually made by Lloyd Loar, even though his name was never actually on a mandolins head shock. Tie that in with "The Loars" being from China and ..... well "The Loar" instrument will likely never go without detractors sniping at it from time to time.

I don't believe that you understand why some of us don't like "The Loar" as a name. What you state above sure isn't the reason.

almeriastrings
Jan-26-2012, 11:27pm
I'm sure you have more time on your hands than anyone else to find an answer to that compelling question, but in the meantime, for the record, Music Link does mark their seconds - the only exception is if there is a single (i.e. only one!) small blem, they will sell to a dealer at a slight discount and they do not mark those so that they can still honor the warranty. Any other sold seconds have a black mark preceding the serial number.

Thank you for presenting some genuinely useful information and facts. That is actually very helpful. I can confirm that none of the instruments I have seen so far have had any such mark. I would be interested to know if any of the other people who have reported problems have instruments marked as you describe.

Ivan Kelsall
Jan-27-2012, 12:29am
To sell any item purporting to be what it's NOT - that's fraud = "An intentional deception made for personal gain". If this is indeed happening,then the people who should be really concerned,are the makers. Sub-standard products entering the market can only damage what might be an otherwise reputable company & their reputation,especially if these products are being passed off as 'standard' products.Also,what guarantee is there against one (or more) of these sub-standard products being passed to a reputable dealer - how would he know that the instrument hanging on his wall that appears to have a rather thick finish,isn't a sub-standard item that's slipped through ?.The question is purely speculative,but if it happened.......?
Robert Fear has a reputation second to none on here for his dealings with his customers. Maybe somebody like him,or indeed,other reputable dealers also, should pass the word back to the makers re.some of the problems that have arisen.Personally i still think that it's down to a lack of good quality control. With a quality control system running the way it should,there wouldn't be too many sub-standard instruments to begin with.After all,it maybe costs just as much to make a sub-standard instrument which sells for less (?) than a good instrument.They begin with the same woods,go through the same processes of manufacture & end up being sold for less money - not good for the company,or us,
Ivan

allenhopkins
Jan-27-2012, 1:24am
I've been thinking about coming out of a self imposed F-less desert and sought to check out some things about the The Loar. Yikes, what a snake pit I walked into. Man, some heavy ego throwdown going on here. I'm sadly losing some well-earned respect for some of the playas. That doesn't make me happy.

Really, don't take it to heart. I think it's an honest disagreement, sometimes expressed a bit more strongly than needed.

Reading Cafe posts over the past year or so, I've been impressed with the general approval Loar mandolins have received. Not that some haven't found problems, but overall most purchasers seem quite satisfied. So I'd keep Loars in your realm of "possibles." Of course, I'd also check out other makers in a competitive price/quality range.

Sometimes we get so involved in a controversy, that we state our case a bit more strongly than need be, or tend to question others' motives, experience, or intelligence. Shouldn't happen, but it does. Seems to me that the people on both sides have an honest difference of opinion, based on their differing personal experiences. Your experience will be unique to you, right?

Dave Weiss
Jan-27-2012, 1:55am
I'm thinkin' that after all of this, Winfieldpicker probably used his in store credit for a ukelele or a banjo...
I think the old adage of "you get what you pay for" is particularly true with mandolins.
Truth is, they'll all make music if you pick 'em right...

John Kinn
Jan-27-2012, 7:05am
Maybe we tend to forget that a few years ago getting an instrument as good sounding as "The Loar" for this $ amount would be unthinkable. Happy playing!:mandosmiley:

Big Joe
Jan-27-2012, 8:34am
For our friends not in the USA, the mandolins are shipped from the factory to your distributor. It is his responsibility to grade and mark appropriately if the instrument is not a first quality instrument. If they do not grade them accordingly, then that is a problem with them and must be addressed with the distributor. They buy wholesale in large quantities. The factor does not consist of mandolin players or officianodos any more than any of the other Chinese plants. How these distributors grade and market their product is beyond the scope of this board.

For those mandolins available in the USA, they do go through a more rigid grading and inspection system. They do get setup by the team at TML. They do a good job setting them up sufficiently to get them to play and get them to the dealer who is supposed to set them up for the consumer when they purchase them. That does not always happen and then there are problems. There is only so much the company can do. Once it leaves their warehouse, they must rely on the person selling the instrument.

Unfortunately, not all stores care whether they can set them up properly or if they have the bridge on right or backwards. You would be shocked to know how many mandolins we see where the issue is the bridge is on backwards, or the saddle is. Once it is put on right and the in the right place it works much better. Many stores... and owners... do not realize how easy it is to get the bridge or saddle backwards. When I work on a bridge I always mark the bass side of the saddle and bridge with a "B" for bass. While I can tell if it is right by looking, many others cannot. It happens usually when the strings are being changed. The usual guitar store will get a mandolin and at some point realize the strings have rotted off and someone... usually the new guy... is chosen to change the strings. Most people hate changing mandolin strings for the same reason most of us do. He cuts all the strings off, watches the bridge fall off and then just puts it back on any way it happens to go. Usually backwards and not in the right place.

This happens with owners as well. I always suggest marking your bridge, but you have to be sure it is right to begin with. So, the outcome can be less than optimal. The instrument does not play right or in tune with itself. This is not the fault of the instrument or the factory. This is the fault of the dealer or owner. Certainly these are not the only issues one may encounter. The instrument usually needs the nut adjusted, the frets checked to ensure they are down tight and dressed properly and then the truss rod set properly ( most guitar shops cannot properly adjust a mandolin TR because it is a different instrument). If the dealer is not going over the instrument completely, then they are delivering an instrument that may certainly be less than sufficient. This is especially true of the big box stores. They charge the same price as a dealer that will set it up, but the big box guys just ship the instrument in the box they got it in unopened. The buyer saves no money on the initial sale, and gets an instrument that may or may not play.

Yes, there can be other issues with Loar ... or any other instrument. That is life. That is why there is a lifetime warranty on the instrument. These are few and far between. I have never returned an instrument due to structural issues or playability issues. Every one that we have seen (the ones we sell and the ones we have worked on) have all been very good structurally. Setup is the only issue that we see. However, it is no more problematic than Gibson or other high end manufacturers. They all do a generic setup and need to be optimized to the owner. It does not matter if you pay 500.00 or 50,000.00 for a mandolin, you should have it setup to optimize that particular instrument. Stock setups are as exciting as stock motors for a race car. It just does not do the same job the same way as it could with the right tune up.

The issues talked about above are common to all mandolins made by nearly anyone. Even many good handbuilt mandolins from respected luthiers need setup work to make them play at their best. There are a few builders who truly understand setup, but most do not. This is not an attack on them. That is not where they specialize and is not a slam to them. Just a fact of life.

Again, these issues are not just for Loar, but just about any product. It is especially true for import instruments. Those that are deemed unsellable or discontinued or overstocked are sometimes sold wholesale to recover the investment. It is often not feasible to ship them back to China so they are sold off to refurb companies or dealers. They are supposed to reveal this upon sale, but some do not. If or when that happens, then there may be issues with the instrument and the owner can be stuck. Just as if you buy a Gibson from an unauthorized dealer, there is no warranty. It is considered a used instrument. This is the same with all the other companies as well.

Again, understand that domestic (US) sales are handled differently from international sales. This is true with nearly all companies. When at Gibson I faced the same issues and complaints about international sales and setups and the area under the fingerboard extension or inside the scrolls. These issues are pretty common in the mandolin world. I probably heard more complaints about Gibson when there than there are about the Loar. Even there international sales were not covered by the US warranty (yes, Canada is considered international). Sales made by a store outside the US were not covered by US warranty. The warranty was up to the distributor who handled that area of the world.

Everyone wants to get a 20,000.00 instrument for 500.00. I get that. We want perfection. Partly because we want it, and partly because even a 500.00 investment is a lot of money to most of us. It is not unreasonable to desire perfection. It is unreasonable to demand that in a product that is priced in this range. Perfection will never be achieved by anyone. However, near perfection can. The problem is that it costs. If you want a "prettier" instrument, you can get one. You will have to sacrifice quality of tone or playability and overall construction or you will have to compromise money. If you want an instrument with no visible flaws in fit and finish it can be achieved... mostly..., but not at the price point we are talking about. Every dollar invested in manufacturing becomes several dollars on the final retail level. If you want to spend 1K or less for a quality mandolin, then the Loar is perfectly set for that point. If you want to spend 10K, then your options may be great for very nice fit and finish and good tone. It is all about the money spent in production and where it is spent.

If you want a "pretty" mandolin with more difficult to detect finish issues, then get a poly finished instrument. They will look pretty and be hard to damage, but you will not be as satisfied with the tone and volume for long. If you want to improve the tone and get an instrument that can deliver professional quality tone then the Loar is an great choice. In this pricepoint there are decisions that have to be made to deliver the product to the consumer at a pricepoint. Certainly better finish can be achieved, but it comes at a price. Most of the customers for the Loar product find the price point to be perfect for them. If they felt they could afford to spend more they have other choices. However, these mandolins can play and sound as good as instruments priced MUCH higher. In the end, and especially in this economy, it is not possible to spend more. They want an instrument that can sound and play as good as the expensive mandolins. This has been accomplished. It is amazing that this product is in the market at the price point it is. I certainly did not have one available to me in this price range that played and sounded anywhere near this great when I started.

If you look at those who actually have seen, handled, played or owned a Loar instrument in the naysayer crowd, it is pretty low. Just was with Gibson it seemed like there were a lot of problems, but the scale of problems compared to the numbers produced proved that there were far less complaints in a percentage of production than most other companies. The same can be said for the Loar mandolins. As production and sales have sky rocketed, there are a few complaints. Even the other brands mentioned in this thread have an equal or greater number of issues but have not drawn as much mention on the cafe recently. Every dog has its day.

Finally .... for now.... TML is aware of this thread. They work very hard on doing its best at producing a great product and seeing to it that customer service is second to none. If you have one of their products, and you are the original owner, and you purchased it from an authorized dealer, they will do anything they can to see you are handled properly. Your dealer should help you but not all dealers care much about the customer after the check clears. Many complaints are the result of the dealer, not the manufacturer. In either case, the company wants you to be happy with your purchase. That is why I sell TML products. They have always done what they said they would and have kept every promise I have ever had.

If you want to discuss these issues with someone from the factory, Greg Rich (the designer) will be at our booth at SPBGMA for the whole show. Stop by and see him. He will answer any questions he can. Greg is always willing to discuss Loar products and takes to heart any issues that need to be addressed.

Folkmusician.com
Jan-27-2012, 8:49am
Robert Fear has a reputation second to none on here for his dealings with his customers. Maybe somebody like him, or indeed,other reputable dealers also, should pass the word back to the makers re.some of the problems that have arisen.

Thanks for the kind words. :redface:

I actually talked to The Music Link yesterday regarding these. Some images are being forwarded over to China. These guys are very good about listening. A good example would be the neck size on the LM-600 and LM-700. It changed quite a bit last year. I do see steady improvement, albeit very s--l--o--w. hehe

I am going to start pushing harder though. I just need some prodding. Thanks Ivan! :grin:

----------
On seconds...

I rarely buy blems and seconds. The discounts are minimal unless there are serious issues. It is very hard to deal in blems/seconds and be profitable. You pretty much have to eliminate service from the equation. Come to think of it, most of the businesses I see doing significant blems/seconds, do cut the service. hehe

I have not personally seen signs that dealers are buying up seconds and selling them as first quality. Every once in a while I browse eBay and notice things that look suspicious. Then there are a couple of dealers selling what they call "blems" that are marked as seconds. There is often a thin line between a blem and a second, but this is still completely dishonest. I am sure it occasionally happens elsewhere. For the most part, I don't think it is something potential buyers need to worry about.

I feel that threads like this are helpful. We do tend to get a bit emotional and at times completely out of line, but I'm glad to see that it "usually" comes back around to the topic at hand. :)

Ron McMillan
Jan-27-2012, 10:58am
Well said, Robert. If the company takes heed of what this thread says consumers and dealers think of difficulties sometimes presented by their products (difficulties that demonstrably threaten their brand's reputation), it will only do them good.

ron

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-27-2012, 12:28pm
I was wondering if the TML folks were aware of these discussions and am glad to hear that they are taking note of the concerns that have been expressed here.

Hopefully any steps they take to address these issues will spill over into their guitar production. Frankly, QC issues reported on their mandolins seem to be fewer than those reported on their guitars. Maybe it's because guitars are bigger and offer more surface area for flaws to occur?:)

Bob Borzelleri
Jan-27-2012, 12:34pm
For our friends not in the USA, the mandolins are shipped from the factory to your distributor. It is his responsibility to grade and mark appropriately if the instrument is not a first quality instrument. If they do not grade them accordingly, then that is a problem with them and must be addressed with the distributor. They buy wholesale in large quantities. The factor does not consist of mandolin players or officianodos any more than any of the other Chinese plants. How these distributors grade and market their product is beyond the scope of this board.

For those mandolins available in the USA, they do go through a more rigid grading and inspection system. They do get setup by the team at TML. They do a good job setting them up sufficiently to get them to play and get them to the dealer who is supposed to set them up for the consumer when they purchase them. That does not always happen and then there are problems. There is only so much the company can do. Once it leaves their warehouse, they must rely on the person selling the instrument.

Unfortunately, not all stores care whether they can set them up properly or if they have the bridge on right or backwards. You would be shocked to know how many mandolins we see where the issue is the bridge is on backwards, or the saddle is. Once it is put on right and the in the right place it works much better. Many stores... and owners... do not realize how easy it is to get the bridge or saddle backwards. When I work on a bridge I always mark the bass side of the saddle and bridge with a "B" for bass. While I can tell if it is right by looking, many others cannot. It happens usually when the strings are being changed. The usual guitar store will get a mandolin and at some point realize the strings have rotted off and someone... usually the new guy... is chosen to change the strings. Most people hate changing mandolin strings for the same reason most of us do. He cuts all the strings off, watches the bridge fall off and then just puts it back on any way it happens to go. Usually backwards and not in the right place.

This happens with owners as well. I always suggest marking your bridge, but you have to be sure it is right to begin with. So, the outcome can be less than optimal. The instrument does not play right or in tune with itself. This is not the fault of the instrument or the factory. This is the fault of the dealer or owner. Certainly these are not the only issues one may encounter. The instrument usually needs the nut adjusted, the frets checked to ensure they are down tight and dressed properly and then the truss rod set properly ( most guitar shops cannot properly adjust a mandolin TR because it is a different instrument). If the dealer is not going over the instrument completely, then they are delivering an instrument that may certainly be less than sufficient. This is especially true of the big box stores. They charge the same price as a dealer that will set it up, but the big box guys just ship the instrument in the box they got it in unopened. The buyer saves no money on the initial sale, and gets an instrument that may or may not play.

Yes, there can be other issues with Loar ... or any other instrument. That is life. That is why there is a lifetime warranty on the instrument. These are few and far between. I have never returned an instrument due to structural issues or playability issues. Every one that we have seen (the ones we sell and the ones we have worked on) have all been very good structurally. Setup is the only issue that we see. However, it is no more problematic than Gibson or other high end manufacturers. They all do a generic setup and need to be optimized to the owner. It does not matter if you pay 500.00 or 50,000.00 for a mandolin, you should have it setup to optimize that particular instrument. Stock setups are as exciting as stock motors for a race car. It just does not do the same job the same way as it could with the right tune up.

The issues talked about above are common to all mandolins made by nearly anyone. Even many good handbuilt mandolins from respected luthiers need setup work to make them play at their best. There are a few builders who truly understand setup, but most do not. This is not an attack on them. That is not where they specialize and is not a slam to them. Just a fact of life.

Again, these issues are not just for Loar, but just about any product. It is especially true for import instruments. Those that are deemed unsellable or discontinued or overstocked are sometimes sold wholesale to recover the investment. It is often not feasible to ship them back to China so they are sold off to refurb companies or dealers. They are supposed to reveal this upon sale, but some do not. If or when that happens, then there may be issues with the instrument and the owner can be stuck. Just as if you buy a Gibson from an unauthorized dealer, there is no warranty. It is considered a used instrument. This is the same with all the other companies as well.

Again, understand that domestic (US) sales are handled differently from international sales. This is true with nearly all companies. When at Gibson I faced the same issues and complaints about international sales and setups and the area under the fingerboard extension or inside the scrolls. These issues are pretty common in the mandolin world. I probably heard more complaints about Gibson when there than there are about the Loar. Even there international sales were not covered by the US warranty (yes, Canada is considered international). Sales made by a store outside the US were not covered by US warranty. The warranty was up to the distributor who handled that area of the world.

Everyone wants to get a 20,000.00 instrument for 500.00. I get that. We want perfection. Partly because we want it, and partly because even a 500.00 investment is a lot of money to most of us. It is not unreasonable to desire perfection. It is unreasonable to demand that in a product that is priced in this range. Perfection will never be achieved by anyone. However, near perfection can. The problem is that it costs. If you want a "prettier" instrument, you can get one. You will have to sacrifice quality of tone or playability and overall construction or you will have to compromise money. If you want an instrument with no visible flaws in fit and finish it can be achieved... mostly..., but not at the price point we are talking about. Every dollar invested in manufacturing becomes several dollars on the final retail level. If you want to spend 1K or less for a quality mandolin, then the Loar is perfectly set for that point. If you want to spend 10K, then your options may be great for very nice fit and finish and good tone. It is all about the money spent in production and where it is spent.

If you want a "pretty" mandolin with more difficult to detect finish issues, then get a poly finished instrument. They will look pretty and be hard to damage, but you will not be as satisfied with the tone and volume for long. If you want to improve the tone and get an instrument that can deliver professional quality tone then the Loar is an great choice. In this pricepoint there are decisions that have to be made to deliver the product to the consumer at a pricepoint. Certainly better finish can be achieved, but it comes at a price. Most of the customers for the Loar product find the price point to be perfect for them. If they felt they could afford to spend more they have other choices. However, these mandolins can play and sound as good as instruments priced MUCH higher. In the end, and especially in this economy, it is not possible to spend more. They want an instrument that can sound and play as good as the expensive mandolins. This has been accomplished. It is amazing that this product is in the market at the price point it is. I certainly did not have one available to me in this price range that played and sounded anywhere near this great when I started.

If you look at those who actually have seen, handled, played or owned a Loar instrument in the naysayer crowd, it is pretty low. Just was with Gibson it seemed like there were a lot of problems, but the scale of problems compared to the numbers produced proved that there were far less complaints in a percentage of production than most other companies. The same can be said for the Loar mandolins. As production and sales have sky rocketed, there are a few complaints. Even the other brands mentioned in this thread have an equal or greater number of issues but have not drawn as much mention on the cafe recently. Every dog has its day.

Finally .... for now.... TML is aware of this thread. They work very hard on doing its best at producing a great product and seeing to it that customer service is second to none. If you have one of their products, and you are the original owner, and you purchased it from an authorized dealer, they will do anything they can to see you are handled properly. Your dealer should help you but not all dealers care much about the customer after the check clears. Many complaints are the result of the dealer, not the manufacturer. In either case, the company wants you to be happy with your purchase. That is why I sell TML products. They have always done what they said they would and have kept every promise I have ever had.

If you want to discuss these issues with ....

I don't understand why an otherwise generally informative post has to be laced with dismissive references to folks who have issues with these mandolins. The term "naysayers", for example, implies someone who habitually complains. If anything, those references seem to ramp up the heat of the discussion and contribute little toward resolution.

bmac
Jan-27-2012, 12:44pm
Ron:

We of course don't know who you dealt with for your instrument but often the set-up is the responsiblity of the seller, not the factory. I had the same experience as you with an instrument costing a little less yours. Mine was also mail order from an internet seller... When I recieved the instrument it was unplayable. So like you I had to learn something about set-up. I purchased the instrument from an internet seller based on price alone, The set-up, done professionally, would probably have cost me another $80 or so and that would have just about eliminated any real savings from purchasing from the internet seller. I think for my own peace of mind I will buy from a responsible dealer next time, whether internet or not.

hedgehog
Jan-27-2012, 2:53pm
Bob - While I certainly can't speak for Big Joe, I must say this, he has posted long posts like this before and I believe he's speaking from the heart, but it must be beginning to wear a bit thin having written a long thoughtful post just to have some relatively minor word usages called into question. Consider that it might be possible that a bit of frustration is setting in, especially since it always seems to be the very same people saying the very same thing about "the Loar" instruments, seemingly investing 10 words of criticism for every 4 grudgingly positive words. I for one appreciate his (and other professionals) willingness to discuss their experiences working on and selling mandolins and other musical instruments. I was a moderator for 7 years on the largest predator hunting board in the world and have seen this very thing time and time again. Constant nit picking eventually drives quality posters away. While this is common on internet forums like this one, I hope it doesn’t happen with Big Joe and others here.

John Kinn
Jan-27-2012, 3:23pm
Bob - While I certainly can't speak for Big Joe, I must say this, he has posted long posts like this before and I believe he's speaking from the heart, but it must be beginning to wear a bit thin having written a long thoughtful post just to have some relatively minor word usages called into question. Consider that it might be possible that a bit of frustration is setting in, especially since it always seems to be the very same people saying the very same thing about "the Loar" instruments, seemingly investing 10 words of criticism for every 4 grudgingly positive words. I for one appreciate his (and other professionals) willingness to discuss their experiences working on and selling mandolins and other musical instruments. I was a moderator for 7 years on the largest predator hunting board in the world and have seen this very thing time and time again. Constant nit picking eventually drives quality posters away. While this is common on internet forums like this one, I hope it doesn’t happen with Big Joe and others here.

+1

jambalaya
Jan-27-2012, 4:02pm
+2

George R. Lane
Jan-27-2012, 4:27pm
+3

Paul Edwards
Jan-27-2012, 4:56pm
-3

.. no, not really. +1 :)

John McCoy
Jan-27-2012, 5:34pm
+4 (or whatever number we're at right now)

almeriastrings
Jan-27-2012, 5:58pm
<violates forum posting guidelines>

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