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Thread: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

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    Default Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    I am new to the world of mandolins and I am sure there are several if not many great mando makers today, but is there one maker who is arguably rated as the top living maker?

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    no

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    There are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of really good mandolin builders out there and many of them frequent this message board. Gilchrist, Dudenbostel, Nugget, Monteleone, Heiden, Kimble, Brentrup, Ellis, Red Diamond, Mowry, Phoenix, Collings, Hamlett, and the list goes on and on. Some are more expensive than others but I don't think there is a "best."

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    I agree, there is no way you can choose greatest. Most expensive, yes, but greatest, no.
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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Actually, yes. The OP asked about "top," not "best." In terms of numbers of instruments built and sold, "fame" (including the world outside the Cafe), duration of career as a "famous" maker, and sustained quality of instruments and reputation, Gilchrist is probably top dog (if we simply must ignore Gibson).

    I like the Cafe a lot, but sometimes simple questions and discussions here go wonky because of a kind of unchallenged Cafe conventional wisdom, or echo chamber effect.

    Just one example: in a post above, a list is given which includes one rather new maker (granted of gorgeous mandolins), as well as Collings (the pet factory-maker of the Cafe), as well as a salad of other well-known and less-well-known makers. It doesn't include Gibson, which is inarguably the MOST famous brand, with far and away the greatest number of quality instruments produced.

    Someone will probably very soon add in this thread that it's about individual instruments, not brands. Well, yes, in a way, but is that the intention of the OP?

    I mean no disrespect to the Cafe or to previous posters in this thread, but I think there are "common understanding" standards that can sometimes be applied, rather than "Cafe standard" answers.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    I don't think there is a competition and there certainly isn't a trophy awaiting to be awarded. Maybe you can get something from a) the prices they get or b) their back log of orders.

    I hesitate to speak for the builders but I don't think they would be comfortable with the question. Espescially given the top class folks who participate here who so willingly share information with each other and hobby builders.

    Another thing I think you might find is folks who own a mandolin by a builder will say it their builder is the best.

    A final consideration, may be that the best builder may be the best for a certain style. There may be a bunch of folks who make stellar Loar like instruments, or superb moder toned instrruments, the most innovative modern look, best distressed look, stellar Teens oval sounds, or stellar flat tops, or stellar bowls. Some folks can do a coupl of these, I don't think anyone does them all, nor should we expect such.

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    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    I responded the way I did for a couple of reasons. First off, I'm always leary of a new anonymous board member with three posts asking questions about the "top" or "best" anything. Sometimes it's someone new that is genuinely interested in mandolins. Other times it's jsut someone trying to stir up the natives. Let's assume this is the former.

    Secondly, if you're going to have a "top" anything there has to be criteria involved, and there were none given. So I just wanted to throw a few names out there for a new person to investigate. Using the search feature on this site you can find a wealth of information.

    As for leaving Gibson off, I'm not even going down that road today. They have certainly made a lot of mandolins! Gilchrist is somewhere around the 650 mark, give or take a few, and his quality is undeniable. But you can get on his list for a 2010 delivery.......

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Shaun--

    I hadn't thought of the good point you make in your first paragraph, second post.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    I responded the way I did for a couple of reasons. First off, I'm always leary of a new anonymous board member with three posts asking questions about the "top" or "best" anything. Sometimes it's someone new that is genuinely interested in mandolins. Other times it's jsut someone trying to stir up the natives. Let's assume this is the former.

    Secondly, if you're going to have a "top" anything there has to be criteria involved, and there were none given. So I just wanted to throw a few names out there for a new person to investigate. Using the search feature on this site you can find a wealth of information.

    As for leaving Gibson off, I'm not even going down that road today. They have certainly made a lot of mandolins! Gilchrist is somewhere around the 650 mark, give or take a few, and his quality is undeniable. But you can get on his list for a 2010 delivery.......
    Hey, I'm not trying to stir up anyone! I;m a beginning mandolin player ( I hope) with 63 years on me and very interested in instruments! I played fiddle for a number of years and was always interested in violin makers. Back when I played in the 80's and 90's many around the world considered Sergio Peresson of Haddonfield, NJ as the best modern day maker but he passed away in the early 90's. Just ordered an Eastman 505 and will begin playing next week! So relax, you are just dealing with a rookie!!

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I am new to the world of mandolins and I am sure there are several if not many great mando makers today, but is there one maker who is arguably rated as the top living maker?
    Arguably is the salient term.
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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by sgarrity View Post
    There are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of really good mandolin builders out there and many of them frequent this message board. Gilchrist, Dudenbostel, Nugget, Monteleone, Heiden, Kimble, Brentrup, Ellis, Red Diamond, Mowry, Phoenix, Collings, Hamlett, and the list goes on and on. Some are more expensive than others but I don't think there is a "best."
    It seems that everytime this topic comes up, all of the same builders are mentioned. No doubt they all make really fine instruments. But I just want to throw Hester into the pot as well. She has really come into her own. Because she's still so new, you don't see a lot of her mandolins out there. I think she deserves mention of one of the best builders.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    This is the golden age of lutherie. You have builders all over the world. The list can grow as you add Sumi and all the builders in Europe. You've got a ton of small builders that are emerging in the US. There is no way to ever quantify this.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    ......you are just dealing with a rookie!!
    Well good! Glad to have you here. You will not find a better music related site on the internet. The wealth of knowledge and information that is available on this site and from it's members is truly astounding.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    This thread screams controversy...

    Maybe a better question would be who are the "some" best up and coming builders...

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Reminds me of one of the Jethro Speaks columns at the back of Grisman's MWN.

    The topic of (then) current mandolin pickers came up. Jethro offered up the most popular pickers, and he was clear to say "Notice I don't say 'best'", then proceeded to tongue-in-cheek (Ah, Jethro!) list the usual gang. If he were alive today, that list clearly would have grown.

    So, it's a fluid thing, bound to ebb and flow.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    This is the golden age of lutherie.
    I've come to believe this in the last several years. Alot of folks don't agree with me but I think it's true.

    Sorry, back to thread.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    My original thread was not worded correctly! In my mind, I was not thinking of "best" in terms of instruments sold but in quality (sound) alone. After reading all your posts, I now realize that this would be a very subjective and impossible ! What would sound great to one person may not to another and then you would have to consider the type of music being played. I do remember a violin maker from central illinois who made beautiful violins but the tone was dead! So, I should have requested a list of very good to great mando makers today!

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    ..and sometimes some of us tend to over analyze things.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Gilchrist!!!

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    It does seem that a lot of simple, straight-forward questions on this board get answered with some variation of "You are asking the wrong question".

    Either you have an opinion about this or you don't, but there is nothing essentially "wrong" with the question as stated.

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Remember that mandolins are not only used for bluegrass!

    Someone like the English builder Stefan Sobell makes wonderful instruments that are rarely used for bluegrass, as far as I'm aware, so I'm not sure how you could say that his stuff was any better or worse than an American (or indeed Australian) builder who makes bluegrass instruments. Quite different.

    And indeed David Grisman himself now plays an Italian instrument that is considerably different from the bluegrass norm.

    Then of course there are classical builders, etc etc. Everyone's a bit different.
    David A. Gordon

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Welcome Yankee 1 to this site.

    I started mandolin 3 years ago at the age of 57 and its a blast.

    The gold standard of mandolins was made by Gibson. Gibson is still a well thought of mass manufacturer of mandolins.

    The gold standards were F5 models made in the early 1920's, when a man by the name of Lloyd Loar was supervising production and signed his name on the inside labels of the mandolins made in his tenure..

    Currently, Gibson Loars fetch over $200,000. Elderly Music has 1 or 2 for sale. They sometimes come up for sale in the classified section on this site.

    Regards,

    Lee Oliver
    Lee Oliver

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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    We can discuss and argue and nominate many great current luthiers for "King of the new golden age." But this history will be written 50 years from now when Cafe members (in live video perhaps) debate which new luthiers are most in the Loar/???? tradition.

    Who knows about music styles then. Maybe it will be Rover!
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    Default Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    Hey, I'm not trying to stir up anyone! I;m a beginning mandolin player ( I hope) with 63 years on me and very interested in instruments! I played fiddle for a number of years and was always interested in violin makers. Back when I played in the 80's and 90's many around the world considered Sergio Peresson of Haddonfield, NJ as the best modern day maker but he passed away in the early 90's. Just ordered an Eastman 505 and will begin playing next week! So relax, you are just dealing with a rookie!!

    yankees1,

    Don't let Cafe posters get to you. I suspect many of us are looking forward to the weekend when we can really get our fingers moving, maybe even on our mandolins rather than our keyboards connected to our computers. A good way of looking at what's happened this morning, though, is that your question about mandolin makers might have already initiated more responses than any other post you'll ever send! Speaking of the Yankees, you might have hit a home run your first time at the plate.

    Enjoy your Eastman! If you've been fiddling, playing the mandolin should be fun from the start.

    R.S.

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    Thumbs up Re: Top Modern Mandolin Maker

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    This is the golden age of lutherie. You have builders all over the world. The list can grow as you add Sumi and all the builders in Europe. You've got a ton of small builders that are emerging in the US. There is no way to ever quantify this.
    I have to agree with Mike. This is the Golden Age of lutherie right now. Never in the history of stringed instruments have you been able to get something of quality for such a relatively low price. Even just a couple decades ago "cheaper" instruments were, for the most part, made of laminate woods with low-quality hardware and truly awful finishes. But now you can get an all-solid wood instrument with decent appointments and a pretty good finish for a very decent price. An excellent example is the Eastman 505 I paid 4 bills for. It's not as "good" as a Gibson or Collings et al, but one could make music on it for years (if not the rest of their life) and have no trouble at all.

    I'm continually amazed at the quality of "cheaper" guitars, mandolins and fiddles that are being sold today. And then you have the small builders like Jade making things completely by hand, but just on a different continent. If a person isn't hung up on the "Made in China" (or wherever else) stigma, that person could have a lifetime instrument that in many cases would cost less than one month's mortgage payment.

    The US-made instruments will probably always have a strong hold here simply because of the history associated with many of the brand names. And let's face it, many of the US-made instruments are very, very good ones. I'm just glad that folks don't have to shell out $2k to get started on the mandolin; if that were the case I'd have never started myself.
    Eastman 505

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