"exceptional" takes a while to "get" too though.. In my experience so far, nearly any old Gibson I've had a couple weeks sounds better as you figure out how to play it.. move the bridge to just the right place.. Mandolin players are always retuning, tweaking. It's a pretty large set of variables to get just right, and not the same for any two people.
Anyway, it takes a good 20 mins minimum to really get the swing of an instrument. I make a nuisance of myself when I try a luthier's wares, but you have to do that to know how to get the note out..
As far as the list of instruments & the F5 journal- Darryl could speak on the "biography" of it all.. there are inputs from many folks now at the mandolin archive, but nothing approaches in scope or detail the notes & photos Darryl has collected. I'm starting to get the knack of these instruments, but I've still got years of catching up to do