View Full Version : Mandolin most like a Loar

Jan-28-2006, 11:41pm
Since most of us can't afford or find a Loar - what would you say is the next closest thing? A Master Model? A Nugget? A Duff?

Jan-29-2006, 12:05am
I think this post is in the wrong place...

My vote would go to Chris Stanley. #The Master Models I've played all had elements that were Loarish, but none of them nailed the tone like the Stanleys I've played. #I don't know how Chris is doing it but he sure has them dialed in.

Nuggets are great but they don't sound like Loars to my ears.

Jan-29-2006, 12:10am
Mr. Dudenbostel is responsible for the most traditional, vintage F5 sounding new mandolin I've ever heard. Nuggets and Gilchrists are excellent, but the ones I've heard and played don't have the complexity that Loars/Ferns have, and that Lynn gets real close to.

goose 2
Jan-29-2006, 12:59am
Without a doubt I think the modern Master Model is the one. The few that I hae played and the one that I that I own is so close that most of us would have to read the labels to ditinguish a Loar from the current MMs.

Tim Saxton
Jan-29-2006, 5:40am
My vote, reluctant as it may be, would be for a DMM. Secondly, would be a Nugget.

J. Mark Lane
Jan-29-2006, 7:24am
I've only played one Loar, and it wasn't set up well. But I've heard a few of them, some fairly close up.

From what I am able to tell, my guess is it would be either a Gibson Master Model or a Chris Stanley. That's from a fairly limited range of experience. I probably shouldn't even comment. But what the heck, this is the Internet, right?


Jan-29-2006, 10:41am
Tonally speaking, the two mandolins I've played recently that reminded me of "that" Loar tone were an F5 made by Gary Vessel, and a Red Diamond F5 made by Don MacRostie...

Jan-29-2006, 12:42pm
Among the dozen or so Loars I've tried myself, I've heard a wide range of tonal profiles. So it's hard for me to identify what exactly the "Loar sound" is, when there's quite a bit of variation from instrument to instrument. Even on the mandolin tasting CD's, when there is more than one Loar present, they don't sound at all the same to me (I blindly rated all of them on the 2003 CD, and I rated one Loar as #1, and the other didn't even make the top 10 per my taste). Maybe I'm alone here, but I wonder if the "Loar sound" can mean very different things to different people. Some hear a common denominator in the tone that stands out to them, but maybe others visualize a caricature of the tone from fuzzy memories and various verbal descriptions of the sound. (Kind of like how all the Elvis impersonators converged on the same look -- pompadour, mutton chops, and sequinned jump suit -- which is only an exaggerated snapshot of few Vegas performances, as most of the time, he didn't look anything like that.)

To get back on track here, if you can identify what about the Loar sound/look/construction you like, then you'll get farther in your quest for the perfect mandolin. Canvassing scores of people for opinions about which modern mandolins best represent a Loar will surely take you in a lot of different directions, and may not even cover what things YOU like about a Loar.

Jan-29-2006, 1:23pm
I agree with what Flowerpot said, though, to my ear, there is a certain similarity among the Loars I've played and heard, but by no means a sameness.
There are different philosophies among mandolin builders. A lot of builders, myself included, are not trying to build mandolins that sound like Loars, but are reaching for a different balances of tone, bass, treble, loudness, etc.
Other builders are striving for the "Loar tone", so I think it is a valid question, to some extent, but not one easilly aswered.

There are some that I think are decidedly different from the Loar sound, and one of those (Nugget) has already been mentioned as being Loar-sounding, so, it's obvious to me that it will come down to a matter of opinion, much like Flowerpot says.

Jan-29-2006, 1:56pm
Note that identifying the "Loar sound/look/construction" is also opinion - at least to a degree. Much of this message board is opinion actually. Opinion is a good thing.

Mandolins also have a certain level of "playability." Loars had a 1 1/16" nut, v-shaped neck and flat fingerboard. Should we all be playing that kind of a neck?

What would David McLaughlin (one of my very favorite mandolin players) say do you think?

Opinions are welcome.


Jan-29-2006, 2:47pm
David Mclaughlin was kind enough to leave his Loar with me for a couple of weeks one time, so I could really look it over. I've had long conversations with him about what he likes and doesn't like about the Loar, and mandolins in general. (There's not much he doesn't like about the Loar, BTW.) He said the Loar is the perfect mandolin for him.
He would be the first to say that his opinions, though strongly held, are just that. Opinions.

As for the neck, David likes the neck of his Loar. It's 1 1/16" at the nut, flat board, and not really that V-shaped, but instead shaped like this template that I made from the neck of David's Loar. (nut, and 8th fret) Furthermore, he prefers the frets inside the binding rather than over the binding like most people.
Should everybody play a neck like that? Absolutely not. Most people seem to prefer about a 1 1/8" nut witdh, a thinner depth from fingerboard to back of neck, and a radiused board.

Bob Sayers
Jan-29-2006, 4:33pm
Something no one seems to have asked is this: Do we tend to think of the "Loar sound" mainly in reference to traditional Monroe-style mandolin? Skaggs, McCoury, McLaughlin, and other proponents of Monroe-style mandolin apparently prefer Loars. At least they own and play them. That seems perfectly reasonable.

However, the mandolin players in, for want of a better term, contemporary bluegrass bands (Adam Steffey and my current favorite Shawn Lane) do not play Loars. And, in fact, they seem to strive for a very different sound from their instruments--a gentler, less strident sound that best suits the kind of music they play. I don't know if it's a varnish vs. lacquer thing. But it's just different, as is their technique, which owes a lot less to Monroe.

Therefore, maybe Loars are not the be all and end all of mandolins--especially when you compare the needs of "traditional" vs. "contemporary" players. Anyone care to weigh in?


Brad Weiss
Jan-29-2006, 5:59pm
Hasn't our beloved server maven been singing the praises of Jamie Wiens work on this score? I've played one Loar- Mike Marshall's - for four minutes, and I admired it more than played it so I can't say. And I've never played a Wiens, so what do I know? To make matters worse, the Loar sound is of little real interest to me, if by that we mean the woody chop of Monroe style- though sonding like Mike Marshall would float my boat. I'm REAL happy with my Phoenix, though I've never heard it described as Loar-like.

Jan-29-2006, 9:45pm
...maybe Loars are not the be all and end all of mandolins...
I don't think they are to every player, and I don't think anyone has suggested, in this thread, that they are.

The original question was "what would you say is the next closest thing?"
There wasn't really any implication that the Loar, or a very similar mandolin, is necessarily better than anything else, and furthermore, it was a request for opinions, not one definite answer. Considering how much difference of opinion there is about what a Loar sounds like, to start with, there are probably more opinions of what comes close than I can imagine.

But, OK, the mandolin that I've seen and heard most recently that was the most like a Loar in terms of look, feel, and sound, was a fairly new Gilchrist. A name that has been mentioned as being different from a Loar, (and many of them are quite different).

Jan-29-2006, 10:50pm
[QUOTE]But, OK, the mandolin that I've seen and heard most recently that was the most like a Loar in terms of look, feel, and sound, was a fairly new Gilchrist. A name that has been mentioned as being different from a Loar, (and many of them are quite different).

With the tone bar mandos he is building now he is getting his tone dialed in. Now if thats a loar tone or "the" loar tone is subject to debate.

I really havent heard one yet that sounds to me like "the" loar.

david blair
Jan-30-2006, 7:03am
Hey Robert-
I'm positive that McCoury (Ronnie) plays a Gilchrist, X-braced mando, and think Skaggs for a long time played a Summit. FYI.

What's interesting to me are the builders who consistently get the tone they're known for. Maybe they don't sell what they aren't happy with? Players also have different tone. Guy's like Marshall spend endless hours thinking about posture, pick position, and simple string changing (picking) exersizes. Maybe it was Perlman who said "show me a loud instrument, and I'll put tone in it"?

Philip Halcomb
Jan-30-2006, 8:34am
Not to toot my own horn, but I've played a few Loar's now, and one mandolin I own is pretty close to that sound (in my opinion). I tend to think of David Grisman's sound when I think of a Loar, that smooth well rounded almost perfect tone. When I "try" to imitate his playing the Cliff Sargent I own sounds the closest I've heard. I've played and heard Dudenbostels and Gilchrists not yet a Nugget, they are powerful good sounding mandolins, and I'm sure that some of them sound like some Loars. But as someone else already pointed out, not all Loars sound alike. As a matter of fact not all Loars sound good in my opinion. It all boils down to a matter a personal taste and how you personally attack the instrument. I've also heard Dave Grisman play other mandolins and he seems to pull that same tone out of it. So a lot is to be said for the player and not the equipment.

Jim Hilburn
Jan-30-2006, 10:05am
I personally haven't had that much exposure to many Loar's, but that's something I plan to remedy this Thursday in Bakersfield.

Jan-30-2006, 10:54am
I tend to think of David Grisman's sound when I think of a Loar, that smooth well rounded almost perfect tone.
See, now I tend to think of John Reischman's sound when I think of the Loar sound. #And therin lies the problem, is it the player or the instrument or both?

I tend to think it's the combination of the two.

Jan-30-2006, 11:08am
I'm positive that McCoury (Ronnie) plays a Gilchrist, X-braced mando, and think Skaggs for a long time played a Summit. FYI.

Actually McCoury just got a Loar, and that is what he was playing when I saw him just a few months ago. Although you are right in the fact that he was and probably still does play his Gilchrist when he doesn't want to pull his Loar out. As for Skaggs, I have seen him play his Loar and a DMM. And I am guessing he playing his DMM the most? I haven't a clue though.

Anyways, it is interesting that a Red Diamond was mentioned. I am playing a Red Diamond F5 and absolutely love the mandolin. Although I am dieing to get my hands on one of the new Vintage mandolins Don is making.

Philip Halcomb
Jan-30-2006, 11:33am
Exactly mandopete... I think you touched on the core issue there...


Jan-30-2006, 2:40pm
Regarding the players, and the instruments...

If you have a copy of John Reischman's "Up in the Woods" and a copy of "Tone Poets", John plays "The North Shore" on both. #It's a great example of one player playing the same tune on two different Loars. #Granted the recording situations are different, but I prefer Grisman's '22 Loar. #It's all personal preference.

Jan-31-2006, 10:30am
i seem to recall reading (mandolin mag/Frets/BU ??) where david mclaughlin said that john paganoni's mandos come the closest to the loar sound as any he has ever encountered. during a visit with him, and when talk of loars came up, he mentioned paganoni and nugget as a favorite. he wasnt so convinced of the gilchrist.

funny how this discussion morphs every decade or so - it seems in the late 70/early 80's you would be hard pressed to find a professional not singing the praises about how *close* and right john paganoni's mandos were. i can recall doyle lawson (obviously) - and jessie mcrenoylds both claiming pags were as close as you could *want*.

you rarely hear his name mentioned these days however - as players have adopted other more commonly named makers.

Jan-31-2006, 11:06am
Yes, david does seem to think Paganoni's are the closest in sound and feel. I don't think the ones I've seen really have the look, but I haven't seen very many.
In the old days, David said he didn't really like Gilchrists much, but back then, they were mostly X braced, and much different looking than current Gilchrists. My observations indicate to me that Gilchrist has started to stay much closer to the Loar model in his recent work. I don't know what David thinks of them now.
Yeah, there is a little bit of "what's in style" influencing this discussion from year to year.

Jan-31-2006, 11:24am
here is david's paganoni #35

Jan-31-2006, 12:00pm
Last time I talked to him he said he'd sold his Pag.

Jan-31-2006, 12:14pm
You tackled David McLaughlin?

Jan-31-2006, 12:56pm
yes john, - to ME! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

amazing mando....really, no hype

Jan-31-2006, 3:02pm
You tackled David McLaughlin?
Yep. He was a push over.
(See edit above.)

Jan-31-2006, 3:03pm
He didn't say who he sold it to. I'd like to check it out sometime. Maybe Galax.

Jan-31-2006, 3:08pm
The Paganoni's I've played have great tone, but they seem to have more low end than the Loars and a bit more growl. #They're not quite as mid-rangy as the Loars to my ear.

kudzugypsy - Your #35 is beautiful!! #Love that burst and finish.

Jan-31-2006, 3:35pm
i'll be there with it - i also want to talk to you about some repair work to another mando (or 2 or 3)....esp, fix a crummy factory neck set on my 95 Gibson F5L that was set to low. i figure i need to get it in the hands of somebody competent before i attempt something stupid. i *hope* that maybe a new thicker fingerboard might work? its a good loud mando, but it could be more.

I'll be pulling my *new* old '66 Airstream up there this year...i'm tired of *car campin'* - so i'll be easy to spot.

J. Mark Lane
Jan-31-2006, 3:55pm
I think Eastmans sound just like Loars.

Jan-31-2006, 3:57pm
I think Loars sound like Eastmans

JD Cowles
Jan-31-2006, 3:58pm
Counselor, one more outburst like that and we'll have to hold you in contempt of cafe

J. Mark Lane
Jan-31-2006, 4:04pm
That's alright, Your Honor. I'll just feel more at home then. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Jan-31-2006, 4:16pm
My Eastman sounds as good as every Loar I've played. All none of 'em. Oh Mark. In the words of Reagan, "There you go again."

Jamie http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Feb-01-2006, 10:24am
I play a 95 Gibson f5L Master Model - I hv played a couple of Loars & I spend a lot of time picking with Mr. Wakefield. There seem to be a couple of things at work: First, his Loar has a distinctive pop with a lot of ring in the G and D strings...It "croaks". But on some days mine holds its own...It has to do with string age and condition on the 2 instruments. Second, I don't believe 70+ years of playing and seasoning can be replicated in any new instrument. & I suspect that when my mandolin is played / seasoned for that long its sound will be much brighter and closer to the way Frank's Loar sounds today. I'll never know...&For 100,000$+ I'll keep it.

Feb-01-2006, 12:43pm
Good point...

I've played Frank's mandolin too. #It's a good one!!

Plus I'll bet you'll never bake your mandolin in the oven. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

J. Mark Lane
Feb-01-2006, 1:26pm
Last time I talked to him he said he'd sold his Pag.
Is that the one that was in a poke? #

No...wait, that was the poke that was in the mandolin.... No, wait, that was someone else's mandolin....

Feb-01-2006, 2:52pm
I've had the extreme fortune of playing 8-10 Loar F-5's, none my own. IMHO, the mandos that come closest the Loar tone are the the Gibson MM and DMM.

The next closest to the Loar tone, that I have played, are F-5's from Randy Wood.

David Davis' Kirk F-5 sounds Loar-like, at least to me. I've played a couple of Wayne Henderson F-5's that I thought were very Loar-like as well. As did a couple of Red Diamonds I've played. I thought a Sumi I played one time sounded Loar-like. As did a Sargent F-5.

Never played a Hieden or Wiens or Pag. Have played many other makes, however, including mandos by Dude, Gil, Nugget, Monte, Duff, Phoenix, Rigel, Collings, Webber, Apitius, Ludewig, Kimble, Daley, BRW, Brentrup, Stanley, Dearstone, Tucker, Rattlesnake, Glenn, Old Wave, Cole, Ward. All are great mandos, but none sounded as Loar-like. To me anyway.

There are so many quality mandos/builders out there. Wish I had one of each!!