View Full Version : Ratliff R-5, 1996

Oct-29-2005, 5:10pm
Ratliff R-5, serial # 060696-596. I take it this means that Audey Ratliff built it in Tennessee in 1996, pasting in the label on June 6. I know a man who recently bought number 614, I think, built around three months later, so I take it Ratliff was building about sixty mandolins a year at that time (but I hear he's cut back).

Oct-29-2005, 5:15pm
This is a beautiful mandolin. This is supposed to have been the time when quality was suffering a bit, but not on this one. It's nine years old, and I'd say it's about a 9.9. Very near right out of the workshop. Just a few tiny surface scratches from polishing.

Oct-29-2005, 5:16pm
That's a fantastic inlay.

Oct-29-2005, 5:21pm
The sound? One of the finest bluegrass mandolins I've ever played. Not too woody. Not too dry. Definitely not classical sounding. Unusually good definition between notes. I love it. I still have MAS, but not because this is any less than superb. Despite the wonderful tone, I changed the tailpiece to an Allen. This made a wonderful mandolin even better, adding more sustain and adding some complexity to the tone. Whoa!

Oct-29-2005, 5:26pm
Charles Johnson at Vintage Mandolins writes, "Audey may make the best bluegrass mandolin on the planet for under $5000." I haven't tried enough of them to say that, but it's hard to imagine this one being better. (While admitting that there are a number of distinctly different mandolin tones to aim for. This is an outstanding example of ONE of them.) This one has a one piece maple back. There are figures that literally appear and disappear if one moves the back slightly. I could videotape this, but I can't photograph it very well.

Oct-29-2005, 5:27pm
Another view of the back, trying to catch the curve of it.

Oct-29-2005, 5:28pm
Another try.

Oct-29-2005, 5:29pm
Another attempt.

Oct-29-2005, 5:30pm
Front view, showing off the carving.

Oct-29-2005, 5:36pm
The fretboard is very narrow--only 1 1/16" at the nut--and flat, but the frets are beefier than most, and I really like them. This thing plays like butter--very well set up. I played it for two hours this morning without my fingers getting sore.

Oct-29-2005, 5:38pm
Nice polish. I've also added a ToneGard. Even with a terrific instrument, every bit of improvement helps. Sort of like souping up a hot rod.

Oct-29-2005, 5:39pm
If you have a Ratliff, give your impressions and add your photos. Are you as impressed with yours as I am with mine?

Oct-29-2005, 7:03pm
I think that is the best looking Ratliff I have seen! I love the color on it and I don't think I have seen another one with that sunburst color on it.

Skip Kelley
Oct-31-2005, 7:33am
I'll second that Jeremy; That is as nice a Ratliff as I have ever seen! Beautiful sunburst!

Philip Halcomb
Oct-31-2005, 8:38am
I'll have to third that...

Ken Berner
Oct-31-2005, 9:46am
WOW, if that is a '96, someone has taken meticulous care with it, That is what I would call pristine; an absolutely gorgeous mandolin. It truly looks as though it has been untouched since being built.

Jonathan Reinhardt
Oct-31-2005, 11:01pm
Hey BlueMountain,
Thanks for the post. Very nice instrument and glad you appreciate it. It's good you bring it to other's attention. I have 563, 11/95. Very similar (golden/yellow) burst, a little more open. 2 piece back. Although perhaps a busier/higher production time for Audey, these (and this time period) are very good mandolins. Head turners, too. (The few times I've been in proximity to some "big" names, and "no" names, they have quickly glanced over at me - or maybe I was just out of tune??). Audey's mandolins have their own sound, and it's a sweet one. Sorry, no pics, but your's tell the visual story well. All I can add is -- check them out. Not for everybody, of course. Some Cafe members have had issues with them (or Audey) in the past. Not a mainstream selection amongst this crowd, but awesome in so many ways it is surprising they are not more spoken of around here.


jim simpson
Oct-31-2005, 11:54pm
I used to own one and it was perfect as far as fit and finish. I always liked his headstock inlay. I also liked the neck profile and the fingerboard extension. Mine had the clearest, strongest high end. It didn't have the low end that I like but overall very good.

Dec-14-2005, 12:20pm
Now that I've learned to provide much larger photos in files only half the size, here are some in light that better shows the wood.

Dec-14-2005, 12:21pm
Nice grain.

Dec-14-2005, 12:22pm
Sun's bursting.

Dec-14-2005, 12:24pm
Different light.

Dec-14-2005, 12:25pm
Back with ToneGard. Finally got a photo that shows this one-piece back the way it really looks.

Dec-14-2005, 12:26pm
Back of headstock. Gotoh tuners.

jim simpson
Dec-15-2005, 8:02pm
This one is soon to end on Ebay at a very attractive price!

Ratliff F-5 Mandolin #016 w/ ProTec Case Item number: 7373889265

Dec-29-2005, 12:26pm
I played # 13 a couple of times at Gruhn's....it was played hard but was a really good sounding instrument. I didnt have the money at the time.