I am new to this site and new to the mandolin. I've been trying to learn for about a year, more seriously of the past few months. I used to play violin and viola when I was young, played them quite seriously for a few years. So when it comes to intonation, I am very picky.
I have purchased 4 mandolins (one was a gift). The first was a A-style cheap mandolin that I bought online in China (where I am currently living). It looked nice but was not playable, because the intonation was totally off. Next I took a trip to Beijing and bought a classical style mandolin which was kind of playable, but still has intonation problems.
I find that the A string always has the most noticeable problems - going from A to B is always painful, because the B is always sharp - and this kills the G chord, at least for me. (every mandolin that I have played on has had this problem).
Next I had a friend ship a 4 string Epiphone Mandobird - a gift from a friend - it was absolutely, completely unplayable! On the back it a sticker which says 100& inspected and set up in the USA by E - what a disgrace!!!! And people wonder why customers go for overseas products!
Needless to say I was getting very disappointed and figured that my problem was my price range and the fact that I was buy factory made instruments. So I searched for and found a maker in the US and bought a beautiful looking 4-string electric mandolin for $1,350 (for now I will leave his name out of this).
This new mandolin is better than all the previous instruments I have played... However, it still has problems. The strings bind in the nut so that it's impossible to tune (a problem that I am probably going to be able to solve), the G string goes a little flat as you move up the scale and as usual the B on the A string is slightly sharp - though closer this time than it has been on previous instruments.
Today I feel like giving up on the mandolin! Is it not possible to get one with accurate intonation, without spending 10K? Should give up and just start playing guitar instead?
Below are images of the instruments that I bought and tried... I have not included pics of the most recent one since I am hoping to resolve the issues somehow, and I don't want to hurt someone's business... Well that's not exactly true, I would like to hurt Epiphone's business, if possible.