So, taking the advice of several forum members, I took a cruise to Elderly and tried out *every* Octave mandolin they had. My opinion? I loved the sound of the Petersons the best of all -- I found the Weber Abaroska to be a bit too 'guitary' and the Michael Kelly flat and lifeless (not to mention the shoddy finish work around the scroll, ecchhhhh!).
The three Petersons were a Level 1 with spruce top/koa bank & sides, a Level 2 with spruce top/walnut back & sides and a Level 3 with spruce top/quilted maple back and sides.
The maple/maple had a nice clean tone, not as much fullness in the bottom end, the walnut was more 12-string guitar sounding to me, lots of bottom end and booming, the koa seemed to be the "brightest" sounding, and I could easily envision this cutting through at a seesion with no problem at all. The all-maple OM fell in the mid range of response, not as bright and crisp as the koa, nor as booming and rich as the walnut.
I learned lots from this trial run, and will bring those experiences to bear as I search for the perfect woods for my OM! Thanks to all of you!
Brian Dean Cittern #41
"By man's sweat and God's love, beer came into the world." -- St. Arnoldus of Metz