I recently upgraded from a used MK firefly to an A9... and the difference is -immense-. I chose the A over the F for financial reasons, but if you have the added cash-- go for it. I really love the A9, and the sound on mine is just massive... and clean.
Local luthier is not a bad idea in the price range, if you'd consider going for an A style. I know Keith Newell in Oregon -had- some F styles in a similar price range as well... I certainly like the idea of supporting your local economy and a small business. The F mando pictured on Keith's website is a real beauty, with a similar no frills look to the F9, at a similar price.
But the A9 had the look and sound I'd have asked for in a custom instrument. It met my needs for an archtop F holed instrument, but to each his own. I'm considering having my blank fretboard inlayed with Turquoise and Lapis.
A bit of advice given to a young native upon initiation:
As you go the way of life, you will come across a great chasm. Jump! It's not as far as you think.