I received a Duff A5 a couple of weeks ago. Paul Duff had sent 2 to Gruhn and Mike Compton was gracious enough to go play them for me. He liked this one and Walter Carter at Gruhn like the one they still have there. I suspect they are both great.
It has a wide grained red spruce top and birdseye maple back and sides that also has some curl to it. Just amazing wood. Duff's workmanship isn't Collings perfect, but it's very well made with a nice varnish finish. This one has small mando frets and a flat fretboard, with a slim Ellis-like neck profile. It's super easy to play and the setup is just right. The tuners are the new Stew Mac tuners and work well. James tailpiece and quality bridge. It came with a nice Aussie-made Presto fiberglass case. Really a quality case.
I recorded a couple videos using my Kodak Zi8, no other processing so you can get a sense of the tone. It seems to be a pretty accurate representation of its tone. I think it has one of the nicest high ends of any mandolins I've played. Tremendous midrange pop and low end too. The mandolin is very responsive--it can play sweet or you can dig in closer to the bridge and it'll give you that signature Monroe tone. Compton thought this one had a meaty tone--I think that description is a good one.
I'm really happy with everything about this mandolin. I had heard that Duff had reached a new level in his building in the past few years, and I'm very glad to have this beautiful A5 of his. I've bought and sold a lot of mandolins through the years; this one will be staying here for a long long time.
First video uses all the strings and goes up the neck. I'll try to post some still photos later.