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Thread: Best Mando Under $500

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    Default Best Mando Under $500

    I am in the market for an upgrade. I am a novice and would like a quality mandolin without breaking the bank. Of course, I would prefer an F-Style mandolin. Are there any in my price range worth purchasing? I owned a Michael Kelly F-Style previously which was decent but the action was way too high for my liking. Any input on a nice, playable mandolin with lower action would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you and happy picking.

    Ben

  2. #2
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Given you report action issues, I would either buy from a good online or local place that does a bang-up job at mandolin setup [a guitar tech is not the guy you want] - or buy in person or from a mando player who has had it set up. When you're looking for the best deal, you don't want to forget that - it matters a lot.

    If you're on a budget, I'd always advise against fancy curves or fancy binding. Best to have the money spent on wood and carving, tuners, fretboard, and bridge.

    Thus I'd personally aim at an A-style.

    I shopped mandolins some this summer, and while they run $599 I really liked the Eastman 505 like here:
    http://www.themandolinstore.com/scri...idproduct=7479

    Nothing fancy looking about it, but it played and sounded great and was all solid wood. Don't know if new matters to you, but if so that's what I'd be looking at [or similar]. My budget was $1000, and the one I played wasn't far outclassed by mandolins a few hundred bucks more. I will note that it was being sold at a great repair shop, so it was set up absolutely perfectly - perhaps impacting my impression as a better mandolin poorly set up wouldn't play as well.

    I would also strongly consider patiently checking the classifieds here daily for a few weeks or more. Some great deals now and then, if you're ready to jump on it.

    Frankly, if you want to stretch your dollar then I'd go with a used one of the classifieds. My guitar came to me used ... $700 bought what was $1200 new [a guitar I love a decade later].

    Good luck!

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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    try some of the fenders with solid tops it will have an "S" in the description like this one. nato is like eastern mahogany for back and sides. take it to a luthier for set up. and it will rock.
    http://folk-instruments.musiciansfri...lin?sku=510461

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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    If you look around you can find some great deals. I bought my "the loar" lm-600-vs for $570, people highly rate them on here, its all about just looking around and finding the best deal. I was willing to accept my mando with some small blemishes, that are hardly noticeable, for a really decent price cut from retail, and no affect to the sound or playability. So if you don't have a problem with buying blem instruments, or used instruments even you can find some decent f-styles for around your budget. But also looking into an A model like Markus said is your best bang for your buck. I personally had to go with my scroll envy and just waited around until i found something in my price range that was also quality : )

  5. #5
    Registered User Lefty Luthier's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Many custom builders maintain a registry of clients wishing to sell their instrument. I suggest checking that source for an older but still great instrument.
    Byron Spain, Builder
    www.theleftyluthier.com

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    AT $500 price point, something more basic may have been sacrificed to make the labor
    needed for that decoration, like sound quality.

    something in an A5 style will give you the playability of that Neck length,

    Go forth and play a bunch. if you were in a warehouse and could play a sampling of same make/model, Fresh off the boat, each would be subtly different..

    Action is from Dealer setup, not brand choice. we always suggest setup is the key
    andthat is done at the retail end of the supply chain, or after the sale if the dealer
    was discounting because they don't do setups.
    writing about music
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    Robert Fear Folkmusician.com's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Rover RM-75 or the New The Loar LM-520 are both nice all solid, carved instruments in this price range. as mentioned, look for one with a good setup, or plan to have it done locally.
    Robert Fear
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    I bought an Eastman 305 in December for $400. It's an A-style, not an F. I picked it up from Gianna's. Stephen set it up great. I love this instrument. I played a Kentucky 150 before this and it was a big upgrade. Tone and playability are phenomenal. There is also an F in the 300 series. Not sure of the price of it.
    There's a fine line between stupid and clever. -- David St. Hubbins

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  9. #9
    Out in the woodshed Ten_or_Fifths's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    You can find Big Muddys below $500. They're A style, great value for the money.

  10. #10
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    Rover RM-75 or the New The Loar LM-520 are both nice all solid, carved instruments in this price range. as mentioned, look for one with a good setup, or plan to have it done locally.
    Second Robert's motion! The new "stripped down" The Loars are getting excellent initial evaluations.

    And remember: the OP asked about F-model (which I would guess would mean scroll-and-points, carved top, etc.) instruments in the sub-$500 price range. I think it makes sense to respond to Ben's inquiry, before sending him off looking at A-models, flat-tops, etc. The two Robert suggests are all-solid-wood, carved-top Asian-import instruments at that price point.

    Standing advice, of course, is to play as many mandolins in that range, as can be accessed, and pick the one that comes closest to what you're looking for. Not everyone has access to a range of mandolins, however, and Rover and The Loar seem to respond directly to the initial request.
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    And remember: the OP asked about F-model (which I would guess would mean scroll-and-points, carved top, etc.) instruments in the sub-$500 price range. I think it makes sense to respond to Ben's inquiry, before sending him off looking at A-models, flat-tops, etc.
    Asking a question does not mean you will get the answer you want. If a friend asked me the same question I would point out why an A in this price range is a far better option. I would then suggest a couple of A's or recommend saving to get into a reasonably quality F. My friend is welcome to take or leave my advice.

    My suggestion here would be a Kentucky KM-505 the new Eastman 300 series or save for a better F.

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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Regrding "... nice, playable mandolin with lower action would be greatly appreciated."

    That is a settup issue.... You will have high action if the instrument is not settup before (or after) sale... Which is almost certainly the case with your Michael Kelly. Because settup is labor intensive the action is seldom adjusted at the factory and if you purchased it at a discount place they don't know or care about adjustments. Not their job...

    In my thinking if you buy a new one, buy from a reputable established dealer who sets them up before sale and can adjust your instrument to your needs. You simply don't get this with discount instruments. That's why they are called discount instruments. If you want a decent player you either pay for settup or you learn to do it yourself.
    Bart McNeil

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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    It's one thing to advocate going to an A-style instead of F-style, but when Ben asks about F-style and 5 out of 7 recommendations are for A-style, it does make you wonder whether people actually read his message closely.

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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by bblaedorn View Post
    I am in the market for an upgrade. I am a novice and would like a quality mandolin without breaking the bank. Of course, I would prefer an F-Style mandolin. Are there any in my price range worth purchasing?
    Ben
    No.
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    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by michaelpthompson View Post
    It's one thing to advocate going to an A-style instead of F-style, but when Ben asks about F-style and 5 out of 7 recommendations are for A-style, it does make you wonder whether people actually read his message closely.
    Excellent point. I thought it was time for a direct answer.
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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    You can get the Rover RM-75 S for $419 at http://www.themandolinstore.com/scri...idproduct=8383, or the Loar LM-520 for $450 at http://www.elderly.com/new_instrumen...ms/LM520VS.htm. I don't know anything about the quality, but they're both brand new F-Style mandolins.

    Obviously, Ben's choices are limited for F-style mandolins under $500, but there are a few out there, and that doesn't even include used ones. As Markus recommended, patiently watching the classifieds can really pay off here.

  17. #17
    Robert Fear Folkmusician.com's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    There are very few LM-520 mandolins out there right now and it is easy to look at the price and blow it off. The 520 should not be bundled in with the other F-style mandolins at this price point.
    Robert Fear
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  18. #18

    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    No.
    Wrong. See other answers about the new low-end Eastmans and The Loars.

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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    There is no wrong here. Some people feel that at this price point, buying an F is not money well spent. That is free advice, and the OP or others readers may consider it or disregard.

  20. #20
    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas McMullin View Post
    There is no wrong here. Some people feel that at this price point, buying an F is not money well spent. That is free advice, and the OP or others readers may consider it or disregard.
    Very well said.

    In my opinion, the F-style mandolins available for less then $500 are so vastly inferior to the A-style mandolins available in that price range, that I can not in good conscious recommend them as being 'worth purchasing'.

    This question is very much like being asked, "what's the best new sports car for under $15,000? Are there any worth buying?"

    I wanted to provided the OP with my honest opinion, and directly answer the question. But this is admittedly just my opinion. The opinions of others (and others more well informed) will differ. I am certainly not an expert on the subject, just someone with an opinion.
    "What a long, strange trip it's been..." - Robert Hunter
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    If you're willing to consider an A, I bought a Kentucky 505 about a year ago. I'm very pleased with it, though I have no idea how it compares to the similarly priced Rover and the Loar Fs.

    Aesthetics matter, and if you have your heart set on an F, get one. When I was shopping, people recommended the flat top, Big Muddy style as the most mandolin for the money. They're probably correct, but the flat tops just don't quite look right to me. More recently, I have developed a serious crush on a Weber Custom Vintage F. I'll gladly admit that the attraction is probably skin deep (although it sounds absolutely lovely), but so what? If I had an extra 4-5k burning a whole in my pocket, I'd buy it in a second.

    All of which is a long way of saying buy what feels right. If it doesn't work, you've learned a lesson, and you can sell it in the classifieds.

  22. #22
    Work in Progress Ed Goist's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Ian makes a great point - Aesthetics matter.
    Please take our advice only so far - Get the mandolin style you want regardless of what we say.
    The whole point of the endeavor is to have a mandolin that will be pleasurable for you to spend time with, and that will provide you with the overall maximum joy possible over the long run.
    Bottom Line: Make sure it's playable, but get the mandolin that you feel will provide you with the most overall joy in your playing experience.
    A mandolin that is a killer deal is of no value to you if you don't like the way it looks and you hate spending time with it.
    "What a long, strange trip it's been..." - Robert Hunter
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    Celtic Bard michaelpthompson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    This just appeared at the Mandolin Store. Don't know if it's of interest.

    http://www.themandolinstore.com/scri...idproduct=9261

  24. #24
    Robert Fear Folkmusician.com's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    That LM-520 is one outstanding mandolin deal. Look out RM-75.
    Robert Fear
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  25. #25
    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mando Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Goist View Post
    Ian makes a great point - Aesthetics matter.
    Please take our advice only so far - Get the mandolin style you want regardless of what we say.
    The whole point of the endeavor is to have a mandolin that will be pleasurable for you to spend time with, and that will provide you with the overall maximum joy possible over the long run.
    In the end, this is about satisfying you, not the internet peanut gallery.

    If there's something that speaks to you - forget what anyone says. You are the guy who will be holding it in your hands every day, who will hear every note that you play in every context on it. You will also suffer buyers remorse if you listen to others more than your own take on the decision.

    Take our opinions, ask more questions here and elsewhere ... and then buy what makes you happy.

    Just be sure it has a good setup, whatever you decide.

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