View Full Version : Best f style mandolin under $500?

May-29-2007, 6:44pm
I know it's been asked a million times and I've read countless threads on beginner Mandolins but what do you suggest for under $500? I'm wanting an F style Mandolin with the F holes. I'm leaning towards a Kentucky or MK. I'm not to sure, I need some suggestions guys.

Thanks http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Andrew Lewis
May-29-2007, 6:50pm
Rather than just telling you to search, I'll thrown in my basic impressions from reading all those threads:
I hear of more that seem happy with their Kentuckys than MKs. My only impression of MK is based on only one encounter and that one had some serious fit and finish issues. I have felt better about Kentuckys I have played. Look for the thread on Fullerton mandos. They are something like $200 and the one I played sounded pretty decent after a home setup. Fit and finish wasn't bad at all either.

May-29-2007, 6:54pm
Used Eastman 515. Ideally one that has been Voodooed by Stephen Perry from Gianna Violins. There may not be much difference between the MK and Kentucky at that price range tonally. Your choices may be aesthetic. The Eastman will be handcarved and have a thinner finish. Just my 2Cents that are Eastman biased. I've only played the KM140S from the Kentucky line.

I also think you'll get more mando and better tone from a used A style than paying alot more for the curly block of wood.


edit: due to close posting... If you look at the Fullertons, look fast. They aren't available much longer they are a close out. People really seem to like them, esp. for the price.

Fullerton thread (http://www.mandolincafe.net/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi?act=ST;f=13;t=42678)

When I just searched Fullerton on Music123.com there were no mandos...

May-29-2007, 7:01pm
Thanks for the comments so far.

I'm kind of weary about buying anything used off the internet. The music shops here are kind of limited also. I still have one more to go check out and see what they got, but so far it has just been cheaper Indianas which I have never heard or read anything about. How much is it to get Mandovodoo? I've read that a cheaper Mandolin like I'm looking for is going to require a lot of setup and would probably have to add that setup into the overall price of the Mandolin.

May-29-2007, 7:02pm
I have a MK Legacy that I have updated with the MK solid tailpiece and had a new ebony bridge put on, #I am very pleased with this mando,

May-29-2007, 7:29pm
So I've been checking out some of the Eastman Mandolins but they seem a little too pricey for a beginner like me. I would hate to dish out $500+ on something that I may not like or never learn to play. I'm just looking for something to learn how to play on but it has to be an F style and reasonably decent. $500 max I'm too poor for a nice one. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

May-29-2007, 7:30pm
Used Eastman. Best bet.

May-29-2007, 7:31pm
save a couple hundred more and get yourself a JBovier. I own an Eastman as well but it's not getting any play time since I bought the JBovier. This thing is just s-w-e-e-t! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Jim Broyles
May-29-2007, 7:39pm
There is no reason to be leery of buying used off the internet, as long as you take some precautions. For example, buying on eBay and using PayPal gives you a lot of leverage and a lot of support if there is a problem. Buying from a Mandolin Cafe member through the cafe classifieds is generally very safe. Not guaranteed, but the feedback I've seen has been generally positive. For $500.00 you might even get a trial period. Every mandolin I ever bought, including three used ones, have been off the internet. I have yet to be burned.

May-29-2007, 7:48pm
If you're taking up the mandolin just to see if you like it, I would recomend a new Kentucky KM140S (about $200) A style F holes. The scroll isn't going to add or subtract anything from the tone.

In our very own classifieds right now there is an Eastman 605 (mid line A style) for $525 shipped and insured. No financial interest for me but that's a good price on a good mandolin. This instrument could take you through intermediate playing or more. Since you would be buying used if you decide you don't like it you will loose at most another $50 bucks on resale (if that). If you buy a new X brand F style and don't like it, you'll lose 100-200 on the resale. You can always ask the seller if there is a 48 hour approval period (this is a reasonable request) to ensure you like the way the mando fits you.

There are plenty of bluegrassers who play A style instruments. And Lloyd had to make a ton of F5s but made only one perfect A style...

Now you have 2ą too many from me! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif


May-29-2007, 7:50pm
If you want the sound but do not want to invest the $ then go for an A.
You will have a better selection of a nice A instruments under $500.
Who 'told' to get an F?

May-29-2007, 8:19pm
No one told me to get an F style. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

F style is my personal preference. Too be honest I wasn't even considering buying an A style, though thats just me. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

I appreciate all the comments so far. I think Eastman might be too big of an investment. I have been looking around the classifieds here for some used instruments. HOW bad are the Kentucky KM630s? Or maybe even a cheaper one that that. Anyone have any experience with it?

May-29-2007, 8:24pm
i would bet money that one of the Kentucky A-styles that go for half the of the KM630 would be a better choice. at least with an A-style Kentucky you would get all solid wood. its better to have a mandolin that looks good than sounds good. if you have to get an F style a J. Bovier or Eastman can be had for around $100 more than your current budget.

May-29-2007, 8:28pm
I have not seen an Eastman F style yet for $600. If you don't mind could you please post me a link or point me in the right direction?

Jim Broyles
May-29-2007, 8:36pm
You probably won't see one at that price. I'd say that the best you'll do on a used 515 is around $700, but probably more like $750.

May-29-2007, 8:43pm
i bought my 515 for $600 off ebay. the mandolin store has had quite a few for $599 and $649, so they are out there. they mid-$600's seems to be the norm that I have seen for them used.

Jim Broyles
May-29-2007, 8:59pm
I did not know that. The price went up new, and I sold one over a year ago for $700.00, so I figured they were higher.

May-29-2007, 9:07pm
I have a very nice MK Elegante in the class. it is a heck of a mandolin. the only kentuckys I have seen and played I would not spend my money on.sound was okay but fit and finish was very not good.
the same MK at an online dealer is listed a bit higher.look around and buy the mandolin you want. the only caution I would say is the cheaper you buy at first the harder it is to get rid of,and the less you could get back.

May-29-2007, 10:30pm
Doesn't Gianna have some Eastman 515 seconds in stock? I am sure he could hook you up.

May-29-2007, 11:04pm
For $500 you can get a laminate top "f" that sounds and plays badly or you can get an"a" style with at least a solid, carved top. Lets see--- laminate top, poor tone and volume and a pretty scroll that adds nothing but a place to put a strap. Or an "a" with a carved solid top and better wood that gets better with time, good tone and volume and better playability. For my $500 I would rather have something to play than something that looks fancy and plays and sounds like dung. You asked and received good advice and information. It's your money.

Jim Broyles
May-30-2007, 5:34am
There are plenty of solid top F's in that range, new and used. You just have to look. Rover RM75 and Kentucky KM630 come to mind but there are others. There are KM630s on eBay for $430 with a hard case and free delivery. Spend the rest on a good setup and some picks and a strap, and you're set to go.

Keith Owen
May-30-2007, 10:08am
Check the classifieds on this site. #Click on "New Instruments." #Gianna DOES have Eastman 515 seconds in stock, and I bet he'll pick you a winner.

May-30-2007, 10:12am
Check the classifieds on this site. #Click on "New Instruments." #Gianna DOES have Eastman 515 seconds in stock, and I bet he'll pick you a winner.
I should get a commission! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Alex Orr
May-30-2007, 11:48am
The problem you're going to have with buying a low-end scroll is that the resale "may" suck if you don't want to hang on to it. From what I've seen, you can resale a sub-$500 solid-top, A-style mandolin for about what you paid for it, but a laminate top and/or back-and-sides model is gonna be a harder sale.

If you want a cheap F-style then buy it used. Get cheap Rover or Kentucky on eBay.

May-30-2007, 4:18pm
Thanks for all the replies!

This many people couldn't be wrong http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif so I believe I am going to go through Gianna and get me an Eastman MD515.

Even if I never learn to play this damned thing It will always look nice or resell.

Thanks again guys

May-30-2007, 5:08pm
Get a Kentucky 200S, 'A' style. Around $200.

May-30-2007, 9:40pm
I played a new eastman 515 last week at a festival. I was impressed. If you can get one for the $500 that your budget requires---jump on it. I didn't know that they were in that price range. If you do get one from Gianna, have steve set it up for you, even if it costs a little more. A good setup makes for an easy to play instrument which will help to learn to play so you wont waste money on a mando that just sits in a corner.

May-31-2007, 12:45am
Look for a Rover RM-75. Comes in a dark brown finish which is supposedly a clone of a historic nitrocellulose finish - but, looks aside, it is an astoundingly good mandolin...for an embarrassingly low price. I bought mine around 2 years ago from a fellow Cafe member and after buying it had a few tweaks done to it - added a violin style bridge and had a luthier friend set it up which improved the intonation and tonality radically - but in terms of playability and tone, it is an astounding instrument. They used to sell for around $300 new and now, when you can find them, new they seem to go for closer to $400 but I see used ones occasionally for between $300 and $350.

Apparently (someone correct me if I am wrong), Rover is a sub-division of Saga Music - and specifically manufactured in the same Chinese workshops where the higher-end Kentuckys are made. Word on the street was that the RM-75 series used woods which weren't quite sufficient for the higher-end and pricier Kentuckys - hence the decision to use the darker nitrocellulose stains. BUT....regardless of how much of this is true, false, or rumor, the fact remains - these are astoundingly great mandolins for the price in my humble opinion.


May-31-2007, 3:08am
Forget about a new pac rim F style mandolin and get yourself a vintage 70 year old mandolin with f-holes that will blow its competitors away. IŽm talking about the old Strad-O-Lin mandolins. They look way cool, if youŽll get a good one (Lowell Levinger and Elderly have some I think), theyŽll sound darn good, they are in your price range, and no IŽll not sell mine.

May-31-2007, 3:47pm
I'd second checking out a Bovier as well as Eastman if you can, I just got them, not better than Eastman but definately as good, .. My comments are on another thread..

Brandon Flynn
May-31-2007, 4:39pm
You can get a michael kelly in good condition at the mandolin store (link on cafe home page). They generally have one used for a great price. I bought my Michael Kelly from them "used" but it looked brand new to me. I think they also have used eastmans for a good price.

May-31-2007, 5:36pm
I did buy a Pac-Rim f a few weeks ago for a starter instrument. Sounded more like a bad recording than a mandolin when my "playing" friend tried it out.

Now I have a used A style on the way.

At least this plywood 1:1 scale model of a mandolin I got has no fit or finish issues. It looks great on the music room wall.

If you continue on the path of a cheap F style, I wish you the same luck I had and you'll at least get one that looks good.

May-31-2007, 7:47pm
He won't have a model of a mandolin in the Eastman. There are Pac-Rims and Pac-Rims.


Jim Broyles
May-31-2007, 8:43pm
Greg, what did you get? Before the Epi, that is.

Jun-01-2007, 7:22am
Greg, what did you get? Before the Epi, that is.
One of those closeout Fullertons from 123music or music123. I always get that confused. #Sure is pretty and is really worth the price as decoration. #I'm happy with it.

Jim Broyles
Jun-01-2007, 7:42am
A Pennington? Did you mean, "I did buy a Pac-Rim f a few weeks ago for a starter instrument. Sounded more like a bad recording than a mandolin when my "playing" friend tried it out" in a good way?

Deaf David
Jun-03-2007, 11:12am
As a novice player and owner of an "Old Hickory" I can give you some first hand advice. My local stores carry a lot of cheap mandolins (and very few good ones). I have had occassion to try many different brands in the stores.

My impression is that with the low end mandolins the variation in quality even within a single brand is pretty large. I've seen what appeared to be identical mandolins hanging side by side that played and sounded completely different.

If at all possible, try an instrument before buying.

There is a $600 Washburn hanging in a local store right now that has an incredible sound and almost plays itself. There is no comparison between it and the instruments in the same price range hanging all around it.

I've tried every way I can think of to justify trading in my Old Hickory for that Washburn. The dang thing just hangs there and taunts me...

The formula seems to be that if I played more I could justify getting a better mandolin; if I had a better mandolin, I'd play more.

Aug-16-2007, 8:37pm
DD above summed it up right. I can't say enough about the differences in each and every mandolin. Case in point: I just purchased one of the new Kentucky 630 models. It was hanging next to a higher model Kentucky 675 that was $200 dollars more. The lesser priced 630 sounded so much better than the 675 it was ridiculous. Even the shop guy questioned whether they were labeled wrong or something. The 630 has a deep and resonant chop and mid-to low end range that I have only heard in hand made, much higher end instruments. I figure this one is just "special", as I have played many a Kentucky and other P-Rim's and not had this experience. I guess the take-away here is...play before you pay.

Aug-16-2007, 8:52pm
Just a side Q. here... Refresh my memory... Are the low end Kentucky and MK F's carved or pressed?

Aug-16-2007, 9:07pm
i own a rover rm75 its brand new just got it in june
it came from Telluride music store
i could not happier with the tone
and the looks for the price it was given to me
as a gift but it cost about $350

Aug-19-2007, 7:45pm
Just a side Q. here... Refresh my memory... Are the low end Kentucky and MK F's carved or pressed?
They'd have to be pressed, otherwise they wouldnt be low end. Just my opinion.