There is just no shortage of great mandolins in this price range and for that, we all should be thankful. My best case scenario (mandolin fantasy) would be to line up two or three A's (or two-points) from a wonderful variety of luthiers, play them all, take my time to find out what sounds best to me, what neck and fret radius feels best for me, what aesthetics appeal to me the most, and then make my decision. Of course, unless you are at a huge instrument show, that cannot be done, so for my mandolins, I did all the research I could and then chose a builder and all the details.
A new instrument will take time to break in but a lot of people enjoy breaking their new instrument. My Kimble (2009) sounded really nice from day 1, but it has really broken in over the last three years. It has a larger, fuller tone, the bottom end has come in a bit stronger and more defined (which is typical, I have heard, with red spruce) and the response has improved; the sound just pops out with less effort now. The volume has also increased. Will builds for an evenness across the strings, and not for a stand out bottom end. All these changes are from age, play time, and from using a Tonerite. An Engelmann top by the same builder would probably have a bit fuller, less cutting, and a more blooming tone; subtle changes, nothing drastic, unless it is paired with a softer species of maple for the back and sides. For the music I play, the red spruce does a fine job and it really pops in combination with the sugar maple.