View Full Version : Pics and review of Bill Davis flat top

Darren Kern
Aug-14-2005, 4:54pm
About a month ago, I posted to the board asking if someone could loan me an old beater mando until my new one came in, since I was inbetween with no backup and didn't want to go without playing. #The first guy that spoke up was Cafe member Johnathan James who offered to loan me the Bill Davis flat top he has listed on the classifieds (certainly NOT a beater mando!!). #Now that my new mando has arrived and it's time for the Davis to go back to it's owner, I thought I would write a review and post a couple of pics as a thanks for such a generous Cafe member. #He in no way asked me to do this (we don't know each other except for him loaning me his mando), and I hope I'm not breaking/bending any rules by doing so.

The first thing I noticed was the fit/finish. #It is obvious to me why Bill Davis has the reputation that he does, this is a finely crafted instrument, something you don't always see with instruments in this price range. #The wood is beautiful, and the binding is very well done. #I love the stamped logo in the headstock. #

I can honestly say that it plays easier than anything I've ever had in my hands. #The fretboard is very fast, and the neck has a good ergonomic shape. #Not too much of a V like some that I've played. #Fretting notes feels like playing an electric guitar, partly because of the light guage strings I'm sure.

As to the sound, I've never played a flat top or an oval hole for that matter, so I didn't really know what to expect other than what I have read here on the Cafe. #The first thing I noticed is how much volume you can get out of this thing. #It really is surprisingly loud. #The tone is beautiful, and resonates more than the F hole mandos I've owned, as I expected it would. #The tone is consistent across all strings and frets. #I'm not sure what brand tuners it has, but I didn't have any problems at all with it staying in tune.

The bottom line is that if I had the cash, I'd pay what he is asking for it without hesitation. #Would make a great travel mando, or a good one for someone that wants a different sound than your typical bluegrass mandolin.

Here's a couple of somewhat high res pics on my webshots site- http://community.webshots.com/album/422577764zauuzk

The classified ad number is 14964 if anyone is interested.

Aug-14-2005, 10:18pm
Best bang for the buck out there in my opinion. But I own one of his F5's so I'm a little biased. His fit and finish is first rate. It rivals anything else I've had the opportunity to play. One of these days I'm gonna get one of his flat tops. Just gotta scrape up a little cash first.


Aug-15-2005, 10:35am
The Davis Flat Top could be the best under $1,000.00 Mandolin on the market. Bill's fit and finish work is top drawer and it could stand side by side with the some of the best builders out there today. I've played a number of these over at Mass Street Music and they sound great - easy to play too. Super offer by the owner to loan out the Mando!

Aug-15-2005, 12:47pm
Yeah, but how does it compare to a 1N? (there's both a "ha" in there and a "I really want to know").


Aug-15-2005, 4:31pm
If ever a Flat Top tempted me, it was one of these. The Davis compares quite favorably to my Flatiron 1N. It has a better fit and finish than the 1N, and has nicer looking wood. Both are easy to play and both have great tone and volume. I like the oval sound hole on the Davis better than the round sound hole on my 1N. Just looks nicer IMO. Aesthetically, I like the looks of the Davis better.

My 1N is a 96 so it has close to 10 years of playing time logged. Lots of mojo. That's certainly a factor in relation to its great tone and volume. The Davis Flat Top plays great right out of the box. Obviously there is no way to do this but it would be interesting to have played these side by side when they were both new. I'd call the Davis a new version of the Pancake. I have 3 Mandos right now - not to mention my Guitars. At present, I'm in a holding pattern and I can't justify a serving of 2 Pancakes http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Nathan Sanders
Aug-15-2005, 4:36pm
I've not had the opportunity to try a Davis flattop but I would be interested. I have played sgarrity's Davis f-model and it is really nice looking, with clean sharp lines and easy playability. Personally, I like the looks of my 1N better than the Davis flattop but I would like to play one sometime to compare sound.

Aug-16-2005, 1:18am
Funny how things evolve so quickly in the mando world.
I don't think I would be going too far wrong to say that right now a person looking for this type of mandolin #has at least 3 excellent choices,,, Bill Davis, Chris Baird, and Brian Dean.
I can't think of any more right now but perhaps there are more builders producing this type and quality of mandos also.
Good selection of quality work to pick from. Good stuff!
Nice to see some new takes on an old theme.