I was in Nashville this week and made the mistake of stopping by Cotten Music. Two reasons why this was a mistake:
1. They charged me $11.95 for ONE set of plain old J74's
2. I asked the fateful question, "Got any good mandolins?"
The guy pulled a shaped F-style case from under a desk and unleashed a beauty on me. As I turned it in my hands, the outragous flame seemed to jump out at me from the sides, the back, and the back of the neck. I admired the flawless craftsmanship.....perfect binding, a well-fit bridge, and vintage-style bar frets on a radiused neck. The sunburst reminded me of something vintage, like a well-worn saddle, with all the grain of the both the maple and the spruce highlighted perfectly. The neck was a chunky, comfortable shape that felt right from the start. Then I sat down to play it, and.......oh my. Oh My. The single notes shot out loud and clear, punching fist-sized holes in the air, completely even both across the fretboard and up and down it. The chop was dark, woody and thumping, unreal for a brand new instrument. The definition of each note was pure and clean, the sustain just right. This was a loud, commanding, dark, throaty, COOL sounding mandolin.
And lo, one well out of my price range. It was a brand spankin' new Collings MF-5.
Now, having owned a Collings A, I can report that it was not half the mandolin as this particular F. I can't for the life of me figure out what accounts for the dramtic difference in tone. But as much as I would hate to send business to a place that raped me on a set of strings, if you are the least bit inclined to own a Collings F you might want to give that one a try. It was fanstastic, among the best I've ever touched.