View Full Version : My new Clark A5

first string
Nov-10-2008, 10:28am
And now for something completely different. That is, assuming I can get this to post my images.

first string
Nov-10-2008, 10:30am
I don't have it in my hands just yet, so I can't give a non aesthetic opinion just yet. Should be here tomorrow. I will report back with a review in a few days, and hopefully post some more pictures. It has Rosewood back and sides, an Engelmann top, mahogany neck, and Koa binding. CF reinforcement in the neck, solid linings (just for fun, and because I think they look cleaner when you are peering inside), Waverly tuners, and S holes (as you can see). I'm really excited. Austin has been a pleasure to work with, and I am very grateful to have found a luthier who is so willing to try something new.

Nov-10-2008, 11:16am
Wow, congrats! That is a sharp looking mandolin, and I like the wood binding as a changeup. Definitely let us know how it sounds, it sure is nice to look at!

Nov-10-2008, 12:11pm
This is my idea of a great looking mandolin. Wood binding and natural wood, not sunburst and airbrushed color all over the thing. I think it also brings your attention to the wood and points to the woods acoustic effects. For example, rosewood huh, 'how does rosewood sound?"
On the other hand Collings seems to get an impressive sound out of ordinary looking wood. And the real test is how the mandolin performs. In any case, congratulations, you have one heck of a mandolin there!

Payit Forward
Nov-10-2008, 6:08pm
Austin Clark seems to be building some fabulous mandolins. I have admired his 2 pointers, and now this A5 of yours - top notch!

Please excuse my ignorance, but what are "solid linings"?

This is my idea of a great looking mandolin. Wood binding and natural wood, not sunburst and airbrushed color all over the thing.

I agree completely. As a woodworker myself, I love to see the wood, rather than having it hidden under the finish.

Nov-10-2008, 6:21pm
Love those woods. Beautiful!


John Hill
Nov-10-2008, 6:56pm

Nov-10-2008, 7:00pm
Very nice. That rosewood is really gorgeous looking.

Skip Kelley
Nov-10-2008, 9:03pm
That is one sweet looking A model! Congratulations!

Nov-10-2008, 9:09pm
I'm on the waiting list for a 2-point. I can't wait!! That's one beautiful mandolin! Congratulations.

Ken Olmstead
Nov-10-2008, 10:14pm
One of the combos I daydream about...rosewood back and sides and englemann top. There is only one word that can be used to describe how I think this mando will sound...WARM!!!

Bernie Daniel
Nov-11-2008, 1:35am
Stunning mandolin! Congratulations.

I assume you picked out the woods yourself?

It is hard to beat rosewood for beauty (not to put down quilted maple) and the koa binding is a great contrast.

I was wondering about the top -- obviously engleman has very tight grain. I'm not as familar with for the top.

Do the spruce top woods line up brighter to mellower: red to sitka to engleman?

Were the 1960's top Martin guitars like D41's and D45's made with engleman tops or were they sitka --I'm just trying to imagine what the sound will be like and I remember those guitars as being very "pungent".

Nov-11-2008, 1:48am
that is really really beautiful/amazing. thank you so much for sharing!!

first string
Nov-13-2008, 11:26am
Wow. I'm really exhausted. Stayed up too late playing last night, and woke up early to play some more this morning. Nonetheless I will try to compose something coherent. I'll also try not to gush, but I'm not promising anything. In short, it's really great. The first thing that struck me upon getting it tuned up, is that it definitely has the phenomenal sustain I was looking for. The second thing that struck me is that after a few months of being without a mandolin (I sold my good F5 a good while back and my beater recently imploded, so I have only been playing tenor guitar) I am really out of practice. But even so, I could hear that this mando definitely has something special. I guess it really is sort of what you would expect from a rosewood backed instrument--I.e. more overtones, more bass & more treble, and again that sustain--and yet the sound is also surprising...I guess those are just characteristics you don't necessarily expect so much in a mandolin. One way or the other, that extra sustain definitely gives it the potential to do a lot of things that aren't always possible with other mandolins. For me at least, it is a lot easier to play up the neck, because even at the upper positions there is more than just the fundamental.

As to volume...It's got plenty of that. In fact that was perhaps my one concern about the rosewood back. Maple has such a reputation for just a huge, aggressive sound, that I thought perhaps that was the reason it was the standard. Mandolins are such small instruments really, and yet they can compete with dreads, banjos, fiddles, and what have you. But the first few notes I played allayed those fears. I don't know what Austin did, but he definitely nailed it. The A5 is very responsive. Which is important. I think often there is a false dichotomy in the minds of many between volume and tone. But for me at least, if you don't have to play it hard to get good volume and projection, then it is much easier to achieve good tone.

I have to say I almost feel like a cheater. People spend years developing their own voice on mandolin. This one is almost like an instant signature sound. Powerful and ethereal...not really something I would have thought possible before. If only my playing were equally special. It's hard to sort out which good characteristics are a result of the woods we chose, and which are the results of Austin's skill. I've got to give the nod to Austin on most of them, though I do think the Rosewood contributes a lot to the sound. I'll never again buy into the argument that the back wood doesn't matter that much. One way or the other if anyone is considering a rosewood backed instrument I say go for it. And if you are considering a Clark, don't hesitate for a moment. Such statements may have become cliches here on the cafe, but I really mean it, and I am too out of it today to find a more original wording or form of expression.

Oh, and thanks to Ted and Scott for bringing Austin's work to my attention. It's been a great experience, and I am beyond thrilled with the result.

There. Not sure if that set a record for superlatives, but this instrument deserves it, and bear in mind I haven't had my second cup of coffee yet today. I can be more vociferous. Really ;). I'll try to post more images next week.

James :mandosmiley::mandosmiley::mandosmiley:

Bill Auld
Nov-13-2008, 12:28pm
Beautiful mandolin - congrats, James! Thanks for the "sound" report too!