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Thread: Mandolin buying advice

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    Default Mandolin buying advice

    Hi all,

    I play guitar and am looking to start playing mandolin. But i am not sure which ones to start looking at. I want an F style, I want it to be electric (however i can always install a pickup in an acoustic, so that should not limit my options). And i would prefer it to look similar to the epiphone MM-50. I really like the burst.

    Price range does not matter. Even though I am a beginner, I always play all the instruments i own, so im not worried about not playing it. But i will say mando will not be my main instrument. So probably not worth investing thousands of dollars into it like i do with my guitars.

  2. #2
    Long , Strange Trip Jim's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    How much do myou want to spend? Kentucky, Eastman & The Loar get the best reviews around here for entry to mid level instruments.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    If you have spent thousands of dollars on guitars. We can assume you are sensitive to the little nuances (wow, I really used that word?) of the instruments. Get yourself to a store that carries stuff like the Webers, Breedloves or Gibsons and plink around on them. Should be able to find one that will put MAS (Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome) in it's place. Bwah ha ha!!!Not gonna happen!!!

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Any recommendations on specific mid level ones to go try out?

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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    I find that around $1k you can get quite a wide selection of some easy-playing, nice sounding mandolins, in both A and F style. Given the scroll does not have a significant impact on sound yet requires many more hours of hand-labor, for all price ranges/makers you can get a nicer A style than F.

    What kind of music do you want to play?

    As you stated - adding a pickup to a great acoustic instrument is far better than only looking at the ones with pre-installed pickups [which generally are inferior to the same priced just-acoustics]. You can often have the place you get it from install a pickup too [as you want to buy from a good mandolin dealer who sets them up well, setup matters more on short-scale mandolins than guitar IMO].
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    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Checked on their website. A Weber Aspen, which is a flat A-style with D-hole. (a modified oval) starts around $1300.00. Gallatin A-style with F-slots, $1659.00 and the Hylite, F-slots $1600.00.

    Breedlove site has the American series starting at $1999. The OO=an A-style oval hole, the OF= an A-style F slots all the way up to the Master Class, Kim Breedlove Signature at $9329.

    NFI,

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus View Post
    I find that around $1k you can get quite a wide selection of some easy-playing, nice sounding mandolins, in both A and F style. Given the scroll does not have a significant impact on sound yet requires many more hours of hand-labor, for all price ranges/makers you can get a nicer A style than F.

    What kind of music do you want to play?

    As you stated - adding a pickup to a great acoustic instrument is far better than only looking at the ones with pre-installed pickups [which generally are inferior to the same priced just-acoustics]. You can often have the place you get it from install a pickup too [as you want to buy from a good mandolin dealer who sets them up well, setup matters more on short-scale mandolins than guitar IMO].
    I play country music. I would say those Weber and Breedloves are out of my price range just because guitar will still be my main instrument most of the time, unless i could find a used one for less. I guess im looking more in the 500 to 1K range. I do realize i can get more bang for the buck with an A....but my heart is set on an F style.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    The ratio between price and quality is calibrated differently for mandolins than it is for guitars. An F-style mandolin takes much longer to make than a flattop guitar, so assuming a direct relationship between price and hours to build, you should pay more for an F-style mandolin than for a guitar of the same quality.

    Hence, if you pay the same amount for a mandolin as you do for a guitar, the mandolin will be of lower quality. $1,000 buys you a guitar that's twice as nice as any mandolin you could get for $1,000.

    And if you pay LESS for the mandolin, then you're really giving away a lot in quality. A $500 mandolin is not half as good as a $1,000 guitar. It's only one-quarter as good.
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    Registered User Rodney Riley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Watch the classifieds here. Some great looking mandos at reasonable prices have been posted before. If your heart is set on the scroll, get one.

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Maybe a used KM1000 is what you are looking for? I think anything in the Kentucky line KM675 and up can be good if you find a good example of one....I think the new ones might be better than the old ones. Or you could get a *sigh* "The Loar"
    Last edited by OldGus; May-20-2012 at 9:27am.

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    The ratio between price and quality is calibrated differently for mandolins than it is for guitars. An F-style mandolin takes much longer to make than a flattop guitar, so assuming a direct relationship between price and hours to build, you should pay more for an F-style mandolin than for a guitar of the same quality.

    Hence, if you pay the same amount for a mandolin as you do for a guitar, the mandolin will be of lower quality. $1,000 buys you a guitar that's twice as nice as any mandolin you could get for $1,000.

    And if you pay LESS for the mandolin, then you're really giving away a lot in quality. A $500 mandolin is not half as good as a $1,000 guitar. It's only one-quarter as good.
    Thanks for that info... that is interesting, although not really what i wanted to hear lol. But in the end, it still won't make sense for me to spend tons of money on an instrument that isn't going to be my main instrument. If at some point it became my main instrument, i guess i could always upgrade. At the same time i still want to try and find one that sounds solid, even if its not the best. Maybe i will try to find a used one to save money.

    There was one used KM-1000 i saw in the classified for 975. That seems reasonable.
    Last edited by Mike7300; May-20-2012 at 6:19pm.

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    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    That KM1000 is being sold by a friend of mine (NFI) and knowing how picky he is about his instruments, you can bet it is a good one. It should satisfy your need for quite awhile.
    2010 Weber Yellowstone

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    There are lots of ways of looking at this. I always say that if you have through experience got a good idea how much guitar you can get for a buck, then a pretty good rule of thumb, to guage your expectations, is that a mandolin will cost twice, more or less, what a guitar of comparable quality would cost.
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    There is a nice looking Km1000 in the classifieds for 900. You might jump on it if you really want it...

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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Classifieds have had a few nice deals of late. That Kentucky, some Webers above the price range here. Keeper mandolins.
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    How in the world does one determine that a $1000 guitar is "twice as good" as a $1000 mandolin, or put another way, that it takes $2,000 to buy a mandolin that is equal to a $1000 guitar? Equal in what way? Other than taking into account antiques, investments, or buying a fashionable name, the cost is generally related to the cost of labor. If a mandolin requires X number of hours to produce and a guitar requires X number of hours to produce, wouldn't the cost be roughly the same?

    Now I understand that the "scroll" versus "non-scroll" adds a new variable into the equation, so one might say that a "scroll" mandolin will generally require about 30-40 percent more cost to a "non-scroll" mandolin for the equivalent sound and therefore, this decorative scroll mandolin might have to be considerably more costly than a guitar that took the same number of hours to make. But then again, there are decorative guitars as well --

    How to compare the "quality of sound" of a Chinese-made Loar to a Martin D-16? Or D-18? or a Gibson A-9 to a Chinese-made, nice sounding Blueridge 160? or do we compare the Chinese Loar to the Chinese Blueridge? And what is a "good guitar sound?" Gibsons often have more sustain in the bass -- great for blues--a little muddy for single string bluegrass bass runs...and so it goes....

    But while I'm trying to challenge easy formulas for comparing guitars to mandolins, I most certainly am in agreement with the basic point that one most definitely gets better sound value for the dollar buying a "non-scroll" mandolin over buying a "scroll" mandolin, just as one gets better sound value for the dollar buying a Martin D-18 over a Martin D-45. However, that also doesn't necessarily mean that one should ignore "decoration" because how someone "feels" about their instrument also can have a big impact on how they play it!

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Mike7300,

    If you've gotta have the scroll, then go with a used KM1000, Eastman 515 or 615, J Bovier, or Loar 700 series.

    FWIW, I love the scroll, too, but since I discovered first hand how much better my Silverangel "Econo" A-style sounds and plays than my KM 675-s, I don't know that I'll ever go back to the scroll...and if I do it will be at the 2000 and up price point. Got the SA for just under 1000...would HIGHLY recommend getting a used SA, A-9, Breedlove, Gallatin A, Rigel A, 19-teens or 20s Gibson oval A, etc. But, if you've gotta have the scroll, then go with one of the ones above.

    Also FWIW, all of the mandos mentioned have different neck profiles, radiuses (or not), fret sizes, etc. So it's really worth it to try them out if at all possible, if for no other reason than to eliminate the ones that don't feel as good to you. I personally prefer the profile of Loar and Bovier to Eastman and Kentucky, but that's a completely personal opinion that I've come to after an afternoon of sampling one day (when I actually got to play all of the imports listed above), as well as throughout the years...

    Good luck, and don't sweat it too much, as you'll get used to whatever you buy pretty quickly!

    EDIT: Almost forgot to mention Howard Morris mandolins...you can often find his F-styles used near your price point. Rarely, used Bulldogs will turn up around 1200-1300 also...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Has anyone ordered from the madolinstore.com? Any opinions?

  19. #19
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike7300 View Post
    Has anyone ordered from the madolinstore.com? Any opinions?
    If you mean http://www.themandolinstore.com/Scripts/default.asp, all Cafe comments have been very positive.

    The query is because you typed "madolinstore" with no "n"; assuming that's a typo and you mean The Mandolin Store in Surprise AZ.
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Brutus1999 View Post
    How in the world does one determine that a $1000 guitar is "twice as good" as a $1000 mandolin, or put another way, that it takes $2,000 to buy a mandolin that is equal to a $1000 guitar?
    That is a fair question, so let's define the premise a bit more accurately. The issue isn't actually one of "mandolins-vs-guitars" (where most of us envision a Gibson-style f-hole mando and a Martin-style flat-top guitar); it's one of "archtops-vs-flattops". Ever notice how much a good archtop jazz guitar costs? Yikes!

    A quality archtop (whether guitar or mandolin), with its carved top & back and floating bridge & tailpiece, will always be more expensive than an equivalent guitar (or the rare mandolin) with a flat-ish (certainly not "carved) top & back and a glued-in-place bridge & saddle.

    Since it takes about twice the time & effort to build an archtop instrument, the practical result is that, at any specific price point, the archtop instrument will be about half the quality of a similarly-priced flattop. Add some scrolls to that archtop and the comparison just gets worse.

    Hope that eases your confusion!
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    Default Re: Mandolin buying advice

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    If you mean http://www.themandolinstore.com/Scripts/default.asp, all Cafe comments have been very positive.

    The query is because you typed "madolinstore" with no "n"; assuming that's a typo and you mean The Mandolin Store in Surprise AZ.
    Yes my bad. Thanks

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