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Thread: Hora Mandolins

  1. #1
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    First of all, here's my story:

    I'm a guitarist of 6 years and would consider myself to be fairly accomplished for the limited time I've played. I have a home studio and record music that I write. I like to implement all sorts of aural elements into my music, prompting me to gobble up anything that makes an interesting sound. My most recent acquisition was a cheap chromaharp and it has already brought me great joy.

    I've been considering investing in a mandolin for a number of reasons. 1) It's an instrument I would genuinely like to learn to play; 2) I love the sounds it can put out and think it would make for some interesting solo and lead sounds in my music; and 3) I would like to eventually be able to play the mandolin at the level I play guitar, using it live and such. Right now guitar is the only instrument of my several that I feel comfortable enough to do that with.

    So I've been browsing Ebay, Folk of the Wood, and this wonderful site for some information on a good mandolin to get for my purposes. I am a junior in college and money is tight. And by tight I mean it's probably bad that I'm even buying Taco Bell for lunch every now and then. So, I'm looking for a wonderfully cheap yet halfway decent instrument.

    I happened across a manufacturer called Hora out of Romania. I was only able to find a little bit of information on them on these boards. Their mandolins are extremely affordable. Their selection can be seen here: http://www.hora.ro/pages/mandolins.htm
    Their laminated Portuguese model mandolins come in at a mere $85 US, but oddly enough the solid models of the same mandolins are only $1.50 more at $86.50. They also have the RG II mandola for $106. (by the way, what is the difference between a mandolin and mandola?)

    I realize this is way less money than I should consider spending, but I've been to Romania on several occasions and I know what the economy is like there. I've eaten a full meal at McDonald's for 10 cents, and bought beautiful hand crafted glassware for a few bucks. So, I'm wondering if the price is cheap because, in reality, $86.50 US is a ton of money in Romania, or because they really are cheap cruddy instruments.

    Any help on this would be appreciated. Keep in mind my main purpose is to have another instrument to record, so I'm not even necessarily going for the "mandolin sound" so much as I am a new and different sound for myself. But I certainly want an instrument that feels good and plays well. I can upgrade later if I get really into it.

    Thanks a bunch if you've read this far. Please help a mandolin newbie out! I'll be much obliged.

    -Matt Compton

  2. #2
    Retro Rules!!!! BauerHaus's Avatar
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    Hey Matt...I don't know anything about the Hora mandos, but if you look at the bottom of the web page it says "Minimun order 300 USD". That may be something to consider.

    Steve

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    Hmm...that's interesting. Do you think the site is meant for dealers to resell them? I'd have to buy 4 mandolins to even qualify. There are a few of these mandolins on Ebay though, and I would be willing to get one from there if they're decent instruments.

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    These are probably a step up from crud to be honest. Can you play and learn on them...sure. But I'd invest in a Mid Missouri used MO for about 200 and save myself loads of heart and hand ache. A good flatop can be just as much a classical mandolin as a bowl.

    The mandola is a fifth lower than the mandolin. Is tuned CGDA like a viola (is this right). Nice mellow tone but a longer reach than mandolin. Need to have fast, long fingers or a quick hand. You could chord on it and play some nice stuff. Fun instruments for sure. Really great with a guitar and a woman's voice. Maybe I say that because my wife does songs in C all the time.

    Paul

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Actually, the Horas are pretty decent. That web site is intended for wholesalers; they are widely rebranded and sold under a variety of names, including Ozark and Troubadour. If you do a search for "Troubadour" on the Cafe, you'll find loads of discussions, in particular of the Celtic bouzouki model. They are the same instruments as the Hora, it's just that Dave Kilpatrick (who distributes Troubadour) has asked the Hora factory for a slightly different (and nicer, in my opinion) all-blonde look. I have a Troubadour bouzouki, and for the price, they are very nice (once you've replaced the bridge and done a decent setup).

    In their price bracket, I'd say they are just about the best choice for a new instrument. Nevertheless, they do need a decent setup, meaning you either need to have some know-how yourself or have to pay someone to look it over (which eats into the savings, but which you'll probably should do for any other instrument anyway).

    Some of these models are nicer than others; of the mandolin models, the one to get is the "solid series, Portuguese I mandolin". This is also the one that has been picked up by just about all of the resellers out there. If you don't want to order from Hora directly (that $300 minimum order...), there are usually several new ones being sold on Ebay. Alternatively, have a look at the Troubadour web site. Dave Kilpatrick does a decent quality control and sends the duff ones back to Hora, so that he's a fairly reliable source. Not so great for the US at the moment, though, because of the exchange rate.

    I should say that I only recommend these if you are really stuck in that price range. If you can stretch to around $300, then a used Mid-Missouri is an infinitely better instrument and one that you will never outgrow (you will outgrow the Hora).

    Martin

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    Quote Originally Posted by (martinjonas @ Sep. 29 2005, 01:34)
    Some of these models are nicer than others; of the mandolin models, the one to get is the "solid series, Portuguese I mandolin". #This is also the one that has been picked up by just about all of the resellers out there.
    I've had plenty of these through my shop, labelled either as Reghin or Ozark, but my own preference would be for the smaller Potuguese II model. To my ears it has a much nicer sound, and I think it would record better.



    Stephen Chambers

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    Thanks everyone, this has been extremely helpful. Right now I can only find one mandolin on Ebay under any of the names you have listed. It's at http://cgi.ebay.com/ws....IT&rd=1

    Would this be a worthwhile purchase? I'm not sure if it's solid or laminate.

  8. #8
    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    That's the "Portuguese I" model, all solid woods. I have heard several of these, and they are fine instruments if set up properly. Unlike Stephen, I haven't had the chance to listen to them side-by-side with the "Portuguese II" model. He may well be right in saying that those are nicer. As I've said before, however, the "P I" model is very much more common, at least in the UK, than the "P II" model. If this one stays below $100 I think it'll be a good buy.

    You can find comments on how to set these up elsewhere on the site (search for "Troubadour"). I strongly recommend taking off the stock bridge and replacing it with an ebony flattop bridge. You can get one at International Luthier Supplies for $7.95 (part #801). You'll probably have to lower the bridge quite a bit, to achieve an action of below 2mm at the 12th fret on the G-string and 1.5mm on the E-string. These are true flattops, so this should be quite easy by sanding the bridge base down on a flat surface. The bridge blank comes without notches. You can copy the notch positions from the existing bridge. For the actual notches, keep them as shallow as you can and, most importantly, make sure they are deepest at the tailpiece edge and shallowest at the soundhole edge of the saddle. In fact, it is best to ensure that the soundhole edge of the saddle is completely unnotched, for the cleanest possible termination.

    These instruments have a zero fret, which tends to be too high, so you'd better lower that as well to get a decent action at the nut. Again, straightforward to do with a file and some sanding paper for metal. For guidance on what constitutes a good action at the nut, look at frets.com (this article covers nuts, not zero frets, but the principle is the same). These things aren't all that difficult. Finally, you will need to set the bridge position correctly. There are loads of discussions here on the Cafe on how to do that. In brief, the ideal bridge position is reached when for all strings, the note fretted at the 12th fret is exactly one octave higher than the open string. This is best measured with a strobe tuner. If you have a computer microphone, you can find a shareware downloadable strobe tuner program here. For a straight non-compensated saddle, some compromise is required to achieve decent intonation across all strings. Alternatively, you can compensate the saddle yourself by using the method described by Richard Walz in his contributions to this thread. All of this requires a bit of experience, though. The principles are fairly similar to guitar setup, but the fact that the mandolin bridge is floating rather than fixed complicates matters a bit.

    Incidentally, these mandolins take light gauge strings, not bluegrass gauges. I would try them first with the D'Addario J62 bright bronze set.

    Martin

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