Re: Flattop vs. archtop
I have both flat and archtop mandolins. I can hear the difference in them, but they don't necessarily (to my ear) adhere to all of the comments above.
I find my Martin, which is sort of a flat top (it has a bend in it) is louder than my Ibanez F-5. The sound from the F-5, however, is richer and more complex. My Martin is a little easier to play (and has a shorter scale) than the Ibanez. Nevertheless, I would not hesitate to play either in any type of music. I have a contact pick-up and both sound equally great (but a little different) thru an amplifier.
Mostly I choose one over the other because it is what I grab, but then I don't perform, only jam.
I think that "most" performers play arch topped mandos because they look better. Forgive me Flatiron and Kentucky (and other) owners, but I just think that most flat top mandos are on the whole, plain and unattractive. They may sound good, as my (plain and unattractive) flat top mandola does, but an archtop is just that much better looking.
c. '37 Dobro mandolin
'53 Martin Style A
'78 Ibanez 524 F-style
'98 Graham McDonald guitar body bouzouki
'08 Trinity College TM-275 Mandola
"It may not be smart or correct, but it's one of the things that make us what we are. --Red Green, "The New Red Green Show"