View Full Version : Highland strings

Ted Eschliman
Jan-31-2008, 3:38pm
No financial interest here, but I've had the privilege of a little extended "hands-on" with a fascinating asymmetrical two-point mando from Ohio builder, Jason Harshbarger. His Orpheus model is a treat to play, and was recently reviewed at JazzMando:

See more pictures and read review; Highland Strings: Orpheus (http://jazzmando.com/highland_strings_orpheus.shtml)


Jan-31-2008, 3:50pm
I think I am in love.

Jan-31-2008, 3:57pm
awesome - we're getting one of those in for the store very soon and currently have a phenomenal flattop from jason in stock! Glad to hear the good review ted.

Ed Goist
Nov-14-2010, 8:49pm
While researching possible vendors to custom build a 2-Point mandolin for me, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time 'test driving' one of the mandolins mentioned by Ted above. The Highland Strings (http://www.highlandstrings.com/mandolins.htm) 2-Point Orpheus mandolins build by Jason Harshbarger. Here's my review of this exceptional instrument:

Highland Strings Orpheus mandolin 05/09 # 035


Playability: Outstanding
Neck width - at first the nut width seemed just slightly more narrow than I'm used to. However, the more I played it, the more I came to like the width. It is easy to maneuver around, and also wide enough to allow for fretting 'close-finger chords' in the first position. Very nice. Measured width at nut - seems to be between 1 1/16" & 1 1/8" (maybe 1 3/32").
String spacing at the nut (just a hair under 1") - again, this is just a hair narrower than I'm use to, but I found this spacing EXCELLENT. Allows just enough space between courses for comfortable chording, but the courses are close enough to allow for fingering of two adjacent courses with one finger (even with my small/average sized fingers). Very nice.
Neck Profile - The neck has slightly less depth than I'm used to, but it's quite comfortable and easy to play. I'd call it a 'shallow V' and it adds to the great playability.
Feel of back of neck - Excellent. Smooth & fast with a 'violin finish'
Fretboard feel is fantastic! Really nice radius (12"?), and the larger than normal frets are a joy! Also, this mandolin has been set-up beautifully.

Sound/Tone: Outstanding +
* Across all courses and frets the mandolin displays exceptional richness, presence, and depth of tone. In terms of depth, it seems as though the sound coming from this mandolin is coming from a deeper place inside the instrument than I've experienced with other mandolins. This is exhilarating to experience!
* This mandolin is remarkably versatile in terms of tone. Performs exceptionally well on on blues, old-time, rock, and fiddle tunes. Chop chords are strong and vibrant. Wow!
* This mandolin seems to have a more sensitive response than I'm used to (slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs are much easier and more loudly voiced than I'm used to...On the down-side of this pick-click is also more evident :( - My bad!)
* This mandolin has a wonderful violin-like tonal character about it. Very classy.
* This mandolin yields a most incredible harp-like tonal character when it is strummed above the fretboard...This beautiful effect can be intoxicating, especially on open position chords.
* Chords sound deep and wonderful on this mandolin! This includes open chords, closed-position chords all over the neck, and chop chords.

Appearance: Outstanding
* I love everything about the design of this instrument. Innovative and Unconventional, yet Very Classy. A striking instrument. I particularly like the shape of the headstock, the shape of the soundholes, and the swoops off of the points.
* I love the wood binding, the wood point-tips, and the purfling! All of the appointments are impeccably built, classy and attractive.
* Finally, I really like the shortened fingerboard extension on this mandolin, and the appearance and functionality of the custom bridge & saddle.

All-in-all, and exceptional instrument!

Here are a few more pics of another Highland Strings Orpheus 2-Point mandolin:




Finally, based in large part on my experience with Orpheus # 035, I have decided to work with Jason on my 2-Point build.

I very much look forward to owning one of these great instruments of my own!

Ed Goist
Dec-27-2010, 2:13pm
For anyone interested, a Cafe Social Group for Owners & Fans of Highland Strings Mandolins (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/group.php?groupid=192) has been started.

Please feel free to join and post!

Skip Kelley
Dec-27-2010, 2:23pm
That is one cool looking mandolin!

Dec-28-2010, 12:01pm
I have been playing jasons mandolins for years. I played the first mandolin he built for quite awhile. I have played his copperhead models for the last 3 years. I have always thought jasons mandolins were as good as any out there. I have known him for years and I really enjoy talking about building, he's a wealth of knowledge. He loves experimenting with designs and woods, and it seems no matter what he does it sounds and looks amazing. I would like to see more people get there hands on these instruments, he has a great ability to fit the tone someone wants to there whatever they desire visually.

Ed Goist
Jun-08-2011, 5:25pm
I'm excited to say I'll be picking-up Highland Strings #047, an Orpheus 2-Point mandolin named The Raven on Saturday.
I'll be sure to post a clip once I've gotten to know her.
Here she is:




Jun-08-2011, 8:09pm
Does this mean soon you'll play the others Never More?


Ed Goist
Jun-08-2011, 8:53pm
I don't think so Jamie, I'll probably "Hop-Frog" from mandolin to mandolin while "The Black Cat" rests casually nearby listening. However, if I receive a "Purloined Letter" that bothers my "Tell-Tale Heart", the other mandolins could end-up in "The Pit and the Pendulum" along with "The Imp of the Perverse".

Of course, come Autumn, my custom build from Max Girouard will be complete, and as "The Oval Portrait" it is sure to ascent to a place of Honor in my "House of Usher".

Jun-08-2011, 9:03pm
Ed, We'll have to get together sometime and share a "Cask of Amontillado" and trade mandolins around for an evening.

Ed Goist
Jun-08-2011, 9:09pm
Jamie; you own one or more mandolin built by Brian Dean, right?...I can be there by morning.
Will open your Cask, and I'll bring my finest bottle of tequila.
Together, we'll play mandolins all night, finish both potent potables, and end the evening by consuming "The Conqueror Worm".
...Are we now officially Poed Out?

Jill McAuley
Jun-09-2011, 12:48am
No Poe-isms to contribute, but nice looking mandolin there sir! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it once you've got to know it better!


Jun-09-2011, 7:37am
I'm Poed out. ;) I have a Labraid (two pointer) and a Spira I like to share around hear better players than me on. I know you'll be in heaven on Saturday when you pick up The Raven. Enjoy Ed, all that waiting is almost over.


Jun-09-2011, 7:41am
Congratulations, Ed! That is a real looker. I'm looking forward to the report on your weekend.

Ed Goist
Jun-11-2011, 7:46pm
Had a wonderful day today visiting with Jason and his family, and picking-up my Orpheus.

Frankly, I was a little concerned because I was so impressed by the Highland Strings demo Orpheus that I played for a couple of weeks in November [see above (http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?38141-Highland-strings&p=858021&viewfull=1#post858021)], I was a little worried that mine wouldn't live up to my expectations. Well, that worry got blown out of the water after about 5 minutes with 'The Raven'!

Build quality, appearance, tone, and playability are all well beyond my expectations! The responsiveness, depth of tone, and richness of voice of this mandolin are just exceptional.

Jason's recommend tonewoods (Engelmann Spruce over Cherry) absolutely nailed the tonal profile I was looking for (more dark, warm, and vibrant & less bright).

Despite 9 hours on the road today, and poor recording equipment that will not do this wonderful instrument justice, here is a short one-take video I just recorded. Once I get to know her better I'll be sure to post more videos and pics.

I am one happy camper!


Jill McAuley
Jun-11-2011, 9:13pm
Dark and warm sounding indeed! Hearty congratulations to you on that one, Ed - enjoy! Look forward to seeing more pix!


Jun-11-2011, 9:24pm
Very nice ED. Well worth the wait. Enjoy.

Jun-11-2011, 9:44pm
Sounds real good Ed! I like a sweeter, mellower tone and yours is one of the sweeter, mellower f-holes that I've heard.

I had the rare privilege of getting not one but TWO mandos via UPS on Friday.....that may be the last time THAT ever happens!


Ron McMillan
Jun-11-2011, 11:03pm
It seems like Jason has been so busy building beautiful mandolins that he has let his website URL expire. Is there another site with photos and details of his work? I love the look of the two-pointers.....


Ed Goist
Jun-11-2011, 11:40pm
Ron, you are absolutely right about Jason's site. It must have JUST expired (I was on it just a few days ago!). I'll have to let him know.
Fortunately, he has tons of mandolin pics on his MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/highlandstrings/photos

Ed Goist
Jun-11-2011, 11:46pm
Dark and warm sounding indeed! Hearty congratulations to you on that one, Ed - enjoy! Look forward to seeing more pix!

Thanks so much Jill! Here are some more pics. (I just love the wood binding...Even more striking in person!)






Ed Goist
Jun-12-2011, 12:01am
HP; thanks so much! I do wish that my recording equipment and playing did this beauty justice.

I was literally stunned by the tone of this mandolin (and by it's weight [or lack thereof]). It was a little weird to sit down to play a mandolin that weights next to nothing, and then to find out it is substantially more responsive and "vocal" than any other mandolin I've played (with the possible exception of Rebecca Lovell's Duff F5). This is a treat while playing, but there is a down side...Every little picking error on adjacent courses is amplified...Oh well, practice, practice...

Anyways, congratulations on the 2 mandolins! Be sure to post pics.

Ed Goist
Jun-12-2011, 10:58pm
Just one more quick video that I think displays the tone we were after with this mandolin pretty well...


Jun-13-2011, 1:03am
She sure is a looker and sounds great.

Jun-13-2011, 9:34pm
Hi All,

I just wanted to thank everybody for the kind words. I apologize for my website being down temporarily. It should be back up by Tuesday evening. In the meantime I started a Highland Strings Facebook page so stop in check it out if you have a minute http://www.facebook.com/pages/Highland-Strings/198701560175461

Thanks, Jason

Ed Goist
Jul-01-2011, 8:20pm
We had a beautiful, sunny day here today. Hence, I took some photos of The Raven out in the yard.

I think the coloring is a little more accurate in these photos. Also, the distinctive swoops coming off of the points are much more noticeable.

73880 73879

73877 73875

73874 73873

Ed Goist
Jul-01-2011, 8:29pm
And a few more...

73886 73883

73884 73885

Jill McAuley
Jul-02-2011, 1:09am
Nice! Love the wood binding!


Ed Goist
Oct-04-2011, 11:04am
I've owned my Highland Strings Orpheus for about four months now and feel compelled to post this short follow-up.
I continue to be utterly amazed by the overall quality of this instrument.
After each playing session I find myself thinking..."Wow, not THAT is one fine mandolin!"
I feel truly privileged to be the caretaker of such an outstanding instrument, and I look forward to the day when my playing skills will do her justice.
In the meantime, I am certainly having a blast getting to know this magnificent instrument!

Ed Goist
Jul-07-2012, 6:08am
Nine months later and The Raven continues to impress.
The Engelmann over Cherry provides a dark, woody and remarkably unique tone.
The responsiveness and playability of this mandolin never cease to amaze me.
What a Cannon and MAS killer this beauty is!