Re: Are the Loar F5's the Gold Standard?
This is a real "chicken and egg" question. Because Bill Monroe basically invented bluegrass music, putting together the mid-1940's band with Flatt, Scruggs, Chubby Wise, and Howard "Cedric Rainwater" Watts on bass, the instrument he played became the archetype of "bluegrass mandolin" sound. That instrument was his Lloyd Loar-signed Gibson F-5.
Originally Posted by Chuck Naill
If he'd played a different instrument, such as the Gibson F-7 or Epiphone mandolins he'd played before, quite possibly those instruments would now be considered the ones to play for bluegrass. This doesn't mean that they would be "better," "higher quality," or "better sounding" than the Loar F-5's, just that they'd be more closely associated with bluegrass.
There is a consensus that Loar F-5's represent one pinnacle of mandolin construction and sound. Those mandolinists who don't play bluegrass, and don't find the Loar F-5 sound as suitable for their styles of play, may prefer Calace bowl-backs, Lyon & Healy two-points, or Phoenix "neo-classical" instruments. But almost everyone respects the design innovations Loar brought to Gibson, and the few hundred early-'20's F-5's that he signed, as embodying unusually good design and sound.
And a "modern mandolin designed for bluegrass" ends up being one designed very close to a Lloyd Loar F-5, just because that's the sound we most closely associate with "bluegrass mandolin."
Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
Natl Triolian Dobro mando
Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
Stradolin Vega banjolin
Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
Flatiron 3K OM