hey there forum,
i've been playing (dealing with?) my chirstmas-present kentucky km-150 for about a year and a half now. my parents got it at a shop no one had ever heard of, and out of the case it was still factory set, with the bridge flat on its side, the pick guard flapping in the wind, and the action at an ungodly .7 cm above the 12 fret after the bridge was finally erected. i got the bridge and nut shaved and the frets checked out by my trusted luthier, but still for the last year i've killed my fingers with the action.
as a violist and violinist, i know the realms of arch topped instruments, and how much of a financial pain in the butt they can be. i'm a classically trained violist in high school who loves his viola to death and got lucky and found his fiddle in a wall that only required $300 of repair. unfortunately, my parents are only willing to support my interests in the field of viol instruments, where as i'm left to scrape up the cash to pursue a bluegrass thread for myself. i play in a local fiddle band that does tours and jams at festivals and the like, and i always have my fiddle in hand to play the tunes i know, but when i don't know a tune or someone pulls out some skaggs or doc watson, i have to kill myself playing what i have now.
that being said, i want a new mandolin! i have a budget of $800 at the moment, and with odd jobs, i could raise that to $1100 by early summer. i've been saving up for a while, so i want to make the right choice. after this much commitment to a new instrument, i don't want to end up with the "wrong choice" feeling...
my requirements are a hand carved top (back is preferable) f-style. my mando mentors have urged me to look at the km-900 a style, but i'd rather be happy with what i play, and make a right choice to make up for it.
that being said, the options i have dug out so far are:
THE ALVAREZ F3ANT - not carved, but i play an alvarez classical guitar that works wonders, so if anyone knows about the quality of their mandos it would be helpful
THE LOAR LM600VS (or 700 if i save some more)
THE EASTMAN MD315
THE EASTMAN UMD805 2 POINT
THE MICHAEL KELLY FIREFLY (FBL321)
THE KENTUCKY KM675
i've stumped by the difficulty of finding places to try out anything besides the kentucky or the eastman. i've tried my friend marc berman's 515, which feels neglected because he recently got a lawrence smart F5 (grr.) i've tried the kentucky out and the sound is brighter and chuck-ier, while the eastman is a tad quieter. i've called up themandolinstore.com, and they played me a used eastman 2 pointer they have up. it sounded great on the phone, and very different from the 2003 804 that my guitar teacher plays. the alvarez is an outcast, but if their name holds true from their guitars to their mandolins, i could be in luck. the michael kelly has been IMPOSSIBLE to find at shops. i saw a glance at one in a brooklyn store i went to, but i hadn't the time to try her out. the loar, i hear, is the best value, but whether it beats the eastman is tough to say.
another factor i have in mind is that sometimes you get a good mando, sometimes you don't. a daunting example is the simple fact that i've played much better sounding 150's then the one i have in my possession. but if any of the mandolins i have listed hold true to what their brands say, i should get a good one.
which of the ones i have listed would be the best for an intermediate fiddle crossover mandolin player with a thin budget?
thanks much forum!