OK I admit it I'm in the market for a new or new to me mando. I've been savin nickels an dimes an expense claims an probably have 2/3rds of what I think I need. My MIC Kentucky 250 is headed for my fiddle playing daughter who is interested in adding mando to her repertoire. Perfect opportunity for me to experience some MAS satisfaction.
I'm looking in the $750 to $1200 range and would prefer to keep it under a grand. I do not suffer scroll envy, want f holes and am learning to play a variety of music. The obvious choices are Riegel A natural (best price $775), Breedlove KF (best price $900), Gibson A-9 (best price $900, Weber Absaroka (best price $1100), perhaps a Sucek (only price $1100), perhaps a Morris (price unknown), perhaps a...
Quite frankly being a native Montanan and loving hiking in the Beartooth Absaroka Primitive area I lean heavily in the direction of a Weber - some reason huh. I need some kind of reason having never seen or played one! However I have not yet found a tone bar braced Absaroka on the used market (it is a free upgrade) every one I've found is x braced. My question is - does it matter? I've read in several posts that x braced can be overdriven which I take to mean played too hard and the tone muddied. Apparently this is not true of tone bar braced mandos - or is it?
Concerning the Gibson A-9. I've read mixed reviews of the tone delivered. I wonder if the issue is whether or not the instrument has had adequate playing time. My understanding is that tone bar mandos just get better. As such an initially unimpressive tone bar mando may in time deliver really good tone - True? I know my Kentucky sounds bad if it isn't played for a while.
As far as the others are concerned - the Riegel is short scale (proper term?) that is the cross brace is at the 12th fret. I definitely prefer the 14th or 15th based on experience with an old Martin my instructor has. The Breedlove (I've tested one in a local store) sounds great but I wish it wasn't the plain white or a sunburst - Poor excuse I know. The Sucek or Morris - no experience - don't know what to think.
As an aside how feasible is it to have an instrument refinished? That is suppose you want the coloring redone or changed or fret board markers added but not binding or some such that would require some obviously serious reworking. Is this economically feasible or just too expensive to justify? Does it or could it mess up the instrument (assume the luthier is competent)? In other words is the value added ever worth it?
TIA for any responses to the three general questions I'm interested in - 1) tone bars versus x braced 2) Gibson A-9 tone improvement over time and 3) refinishing mandos.
Take Care! -Ed-