View Full Version : my new (to me) Duff F5

Apr-05-2004, 3:59pm
I have been trying out my new digital camera today and thought I'd share a photo of my Duff. I got this a couple of weeks ago when I traded my Gibson Sam Bush for it. It's a Dec. 2000 Duff, number 63.


Apr-05-2004, 6:15pm
Homer sez....ummmmmmmmm, Duff.

Apr-05-2004, 6:32pm
Jim...its weird but i'm a "huge" Paul Duff fan and i've "never" seen or played one. Would you be so kind to tell us about yours.....sound,playability....how it compares to the Bush you traded or other mandos you've be exposed too. I'd be greatly appreciative of your thoughts. Thanks.

Apr-05-2004, 7:53pm
Does it have a Virzi? Cool looking Duff. I like'm there great mandolins

Apr-06-2004, 1:55am
From what I've been told, it had a Virzi that has since been removed. I think I'm something like the third owner down the line on this one.

As far as playability, I think it far surpasses the Bush. I ended up with my Bush because I got a good deal from Tony Williamson, but it wasn't necessarily what I initially wanted. I had a great Fern-era '27 F4 that I traded for the new Bush (I know, stupid move) because I really wanted an F5. I wanted the longer scale length and the sound of an F5, since I'm a dyed in the wool bluegrass guy. So I went with the Bush. Couldn't complain too much about the sound of the Bush, though it did tend to break up in the mid- and upper-midrange when pushed hard (bass response was great). But what I hated about the Bush was the jumbo frets, the wider/fatter neck and Bush's weird string spacing. My left hand would be tired and sore after any time I played.

Since I realized that the Bush mandos don't fair too well on the used market (there are always used Bush mandos on ebay and the Cafe and they don't seem to maintain they're value too well compared to other Gibson Master Model F5s), I figured I needed to go ahead and jump ship while it was still under a couple years old and try to find something a little closer to the Loar paradigm.

I was open to a variety of small luthier mandolins, but I ultimately either wanted a Randy Wood or a Duff. R.W.'s mandolins I've heard and am definitely quite familiar with the reputation. I considered Duff because I saw him as following the Gilchrist path. And being both a Compton and McCoury fan, having something like a Gilchrist (w/ x-bracing, great workmanship, etc.) at a fraction of the cost (and a fraction of the tone) was appealing.

The Duff's playability is fantastic. I really tried it out at a gig last night and it was very easy to play. Very fast, skinny neck (just barely above an inch at the nut). Sound wise, I'm still not quite sure. It's definitely a mandolin that seems pretty finicky about its sweet spots. It sounds best when really laying into it for that open G Monroe type licks (halfway between the bridge and florida). Above the florida, it gets a really poignant tone that works well for old time fiddle tunes or maybe classical (would loved to have heard it with the Virzi).

It definitely is a woody mandolin--between the red spruce top, X bracing, and spirit varnish. Has a helluva lot more sustain than the Bush. You beat on an open chord and the mandolin just hums.

It still doesn't have the bite that I would really like to see for bluegrass. But I really haven't experimented much yet with strings (currently EXP74s), bridge height, choice of pick (I use a Dawg), etc. I'm sure some heavier strings and some higher action could help this out.

Not a whole lot of Duff info about. Only one other picture of a Duff in the cafe. Not a lot in the archives of Co-Mando (except a few years back). Would be very curious to have other Duff owners post here to compare and contrast their instruments. Maybe figure out how many Duff mandos are actually out there.


Apr-06-2004, 7:02am
Jim: #Nice review of the Duff--the Bush will be in Big Joe's hands tomorrow for new(smaller)frets--love the neck, but those frets are real barriers. #Mike

Apr-06-2004, 7:16am
Hope you're enjoying the Bush, Mike. I still miss the bottom end of that mandolin. Almost felt like playing a good D-28. But they really are a different beast in tone and playability. I found after a couple of years, it just wasn't for me. The Duff does suit me, though I'm still learning how to play it.


Apr-06-2004, 8:14am
I have Duff number 68, and it is a wonderful instrument. I have played it side by side with a mid 80s Gilchrist, and I couldn't tell much difference in the tone. The Duff did seem to be a little louder thou. I have been very pleased with it, and havn't seen anything that I liked better.:)

Apr-06-2004, 11:55am
Are there other Duff owners out there willing to impart their thoughts about Paul's mandos? How long is the wait now and what is the price these days? Can anyone tell me the difference between the Loar tone and the Gilcrest tone in general.........? thx.

Apr-06-2004, 12:07pm
Wait, according to Tony Williamson's site (mandolincentral.com), is 3 years. Prices went up this year to $6000 for his standard F5. Elderly will be having one for sale sometime this year. Look at their new mandolins section to see some excellent photos of a Duff.