View Full Version : Is there a market for a decent $3-400 e-mando?

Pedal Steel Mike
Apr-26-2005, 8:27pm
I've recently become friends with the owner of the newly resurrected Raven guitar company. For those who don't know, Raven made some of the finest electric guitars to come out of Korea. These were (are) copies of guitars in the $3-4000 range, that are so good as to be almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Check out the reviews they have received at Harmony Central.


The original company folded 3 years ago when the principle owner died. Now his stepson and former business partner has started it up again. This is the man with whom I've become friends. If you want to see his new guitars, you can do so here:


We have discussed the possibility of his putting out an electric mandolin. No decision has yet been made.

So I ask, is there a market for a well made Korean e-mando in this price range? If so, would it be better to make solid or hollow body instruments. If you go to the Ravenwest web site, please look at the models 350 and 450, as the mandolin, if it is made, would be one of these body styles. They could be made in 4,5, and 8 string configurations.

The response here will be a factor in whether or not to go ahead and have some of these made, and which body style, so I ask everybody reading this to voice their opinion.

Thanks in advance for your answers.

Apr-26-2005, 8:47pm
If you have to choose between solid and hollow, choose hollow or semi-hollow. There are two decent solid big-name instruments in this range, and a high-volume small company. Now that the Fenders have been discontinued, there's just the Samicks and the GoldTones for hollow instruments. The former are junk and the latter are a little more expensive.

The Ravens look like they could appeal to Rono fans.

If you need online dealers, I've been thinking about expanding what I sell on emando.com, since I don't seem to be doing too well with Rigels. Of course I won't sell 'em if I don't like 'em!

Apr-26-2005, 9:45pm
The 350 and 450 are pretty cool looking. It seems like the downfall of a lot of cheap e-mandos are the awful pickups. If you try something like this, please avoid just grabbing a bass pickup.

Apr-27-2005, 6:08am
As a guitar player (acoustic and electric) as well as a mando player, I also vote for a hollow or semi-hollow body style. I think it might be a challenge to get a good tone from an 8-string e-mando, especially if you are considering using humbuckers - single coil or P90 type pickups might yield better results, but they need to be voiced for mandolin, not 6 string guitar or 4/5 string bass.

These new Ravens certainly look beautiful, and the prices are very good. Please keep us posted on the progress if they decide to add mandos to the line.

Apr-27-2005, 12:54pm
I'm going to part from the crowd here and suggest a solid body with a good pickup in the $300 range. My rationale is that the low end market really only has one player ... the mandobird. I just bought one and will probably spend between $100 -150 getting it set up properly (intonation and nut were awfule even for a $200 instrument) and a better pickup.

I'd have gladly plunked down an extra $100-150 over the mandobird for something else if I knew the setup and pickup were going to be good "out-of-the-box"

At $400 you start to lose me ... for slightly more than that there other options out there that are pretty alluring (i.e. Bluestar)

So there you have it ... one man's opinion for wahtever its worth. Hope this helps and please keep us posted!

Apr-27-2005, 1:10pm
I haven't seen a real live Mandobird; but from the reports their quality and consistancy could be improved. The Blue Star MandoBlaster is a fantastic emando, though the phenolic body detracts somewhat, tho it's very functional. #
I'd like to see a 4 and/or 5 string solid body with good pick-up(s) and a slightly arched fingerboard. #
I would like to see it designed especially for emando players, not "a tiny guitar" to draw in the guitar players.
Another nice, very rare touch is the belly relief and forearm relief cuts in the back and front of the body. Like a Fender "mandocaster".
For us 5-string players I don't think 13-7/8" is long enough for the low C, or for 4-string players who prefer the mandola tuning.

Apr-27-2005, 3:32pm
Hope I don't appear to be hi-jacking the thread and turning into a mandobird discussion but just a few observations for Lee957.

I've played three mandobirds now including the one I own and all were pretty consistent. Generally speaking they really aren't bad at all ... especially given the price. That said, all three suffered from the same really lousy set-up problems ... a nut set high enough for a Dobro player and a saddle that doesn't allow proper intonation of the G string.

So ... in my experience, the mando bird is very consistent ... both in good and in bad ways. That's why I think at a $300-$350 price point, something with better setup and a better pickup would give Epiphone a run for thier money.

Hope this helps ...

Apr-27-2005, 5:27pm
IMO if these were to come out they wouldn't have an impact on Mandobird sales - the Mandobird is perfect for it's price/quality point, and I see them outlasting the Kentuckys. But you'd DESTROY the Bluestar market. And if they were good enough, you might put a dent in the handmade market as well.. Now as to how many actual units get sold, who knows. Bluestar is still around after all these years, but I have no idea if they're thriving or not. <Sigh> What would Dale say?


ps I'd personally vote for 5 string semihollow, in all string-cheesiness.

Pedal Steel Mike
Apr-27-2005, 5:44pm
Personally, I'd prefer a solid body, because I occasionally play in a blues rock band and use distortion, and need an instrument that won't feed back.

Be that as it may, I'm not actually associated with, or enployed by the company. My relationship with the owner is personal, not professional. I have no part of the decision making process, other than offering my opinions.

The owner of the company will be reading this thread, and the decisions as to whether or not to make an electric mandolin will be based in part on what it written here.

Apr-27-2005, 6:24pm
If you need online dealers, I've been thinking about expanding what I sell on emando.com, since I don't seem to be doing too well with Rigels.
Time for a Brazil Malagoli connection?

Apr-27-2005, 9:56pm
Anyone that ships mandobirds and the like, take the time to open the box and do the pre delivery setup work, or at least send the real dog's poo ones back to the wholesaler? I hate it when I [customer]am the first one to do QC at the end of the line.

Apr-28-2005, 8:53am
Put me down for a semi-hollow 4 string single pickup. I know it looks cool to have 20-26 frets, but in my opinion any more than about 17 is taking up valuable real estate where the pickup should be.

Apr-28-2005, 9:44am
"Another nice, very rare touch is the belly relief and forearm relief cuts in the back and front of the body. Like a Fender "mandocaster"."

Do you notice these features on such a small instrument? I think Wendler(?) does this on his emandos.

Apr-28-2005, 10:31am
I'll say this much: electric mandolinists are starting to crop up here and there in high-profile settings. The more this happens, the more kids in the audience will want to be like their idol on-stage. Personally, I think the electric mandolin market overall will be growing substantially over the next ten years, and establishing a foothold at the "slightly more costly than rock-bottom" price point seems like a wise move to me. I wouldn't be surprised if at some point soon, someone were to come out with an amplifier or two voiced for mandolin, maybe even a (very short) line of effects pedals. Just look at how the other manufacturers are headed: Epiphone can't keep birds on the shelf, Fender's re-issuing the mandocasters as custom shop instruments, Kentucky's introduced a new model targeting grassy types: this is a growing market all told.


Apr-28-2005, 1:06pm
Christian, I agre wholeheartedly, and don't forget BlueStar MandoBlaster still being with us.
WJF; I admit I've never laid my hands on one Mandobird but reviewing previous threads will show other problems than the ones you mentioned. Not to suggest a close-to-bottom-dweller will be flawless.
If the body/forearm reliefs are too much to ask at this price point then please make the edges more rounded than I see on the RavensGuitars website.

May-01-2005, 8:53am
i'm new to this so my opinion doesn't count that much - plus i've got a terrible case of acquisition fever at the moment so i'd probably say yes to anything. but the magic word for me is korea. i have a samick guitar and a crafter mandolin, both of which are made there and i'm delighted with them.

i don't think either one - solid body or acoustic/electric - will effect the crafter market as the leap to carbon resin backing is not an easy one to make.

i'm saving my pennies for a mandobird but would welcome something like it in the same price range for comparison. in fact, i think i could manage a little time for market research, if anyone's interested ...

- bill