View Full Version : Kentucky KM-300E review

Sep-01-2004, 3:53pm
Just received my new Kentucky KM-300E 4-string emando today at work. Bought this from Chris B's Music in RI (USA) via their online store. Good folks to work with.


I picked this up since, for the price ($240 delivered), I just couldn't resist. Haven't played it much yet, but I plugged it into my Mac (GarageBand) to try it out.

Fit and finish are pretty good overall. Some scratching on the fingerboard, a few glue drips here and there. Still needs to be set up, and I'm going to replace the strings right away. Electronics worked fine in the quick test.

No thoughts on the sound until I hear it through my amp tonight.

Basic initial impression is that this was well worth the $. If it sounds decent, We'll have a winner. I'll post a follow-up once I can put it through its paces.

Sep-03-2004, 7:57am
Well, I've got a day or so of playing on the KM-300e, and have a few more thoughts.


Still think the mando was worth the $, but there are definitely a few areas that will need to be addressed to make it a truly gig-capable instrument. It needs a good pro setup as the action is atrocious. Probably needs a light fret dress and maybe some nut and bridge work to get it all playing smoother. Also desperately needs new/better strings.

The pickup is very weak, hums a bunch. And not particularly sweet sounding. It too needs to be replaced. As do the tuners, which look like standard Schaller knockoffs. They work okay, but some good ones are cheap.

Played this through a nice guitar rig at rehearsal on Wednesday, and it was quite fun, even with the issues mentioned (creamy overdrive!). This is the right setting for this. Also used it for a few tunes on an acoustic duo gig last night, plugged into a Fishman pro-eq into the board. This did not work as well. Output was very low, and sound was a little thin. Mostly stuck to my fishman equipped Gibson A ('23, snakehead).

My overall thought is that it is worth the $230 to get into the emando game. It will take a little more $ to make it truly playable (setup, tuners, pickup). The general quality of the non-replacable bits (body, neck) seems fine, but the attached bits reflect the price point. The fretboard has a bunch of tool marks/scratches, but a little 0000 steel wool will probably take care of the worst of them. The bridge is pretty low quality, but I think it will be workable. If not, I've got a machinist friend who can make me a better one.

It looks cool, too. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

So if you're in the market for an entry into the emando world, this is worth looking at. With a good setup job and fresh strings, it would be plenty playable, with room to improve the other bits as you go.


Sep-03-2004, 10:56am
I'm curious, have you played a mandobird? I'm wondering about the differences between the two...


Sep-03-2004, 1:34pm
From what you describe I am guessing that an additional $100-$125 will get it where you want it? Just trying to do the math. Also, how is the string spacing? I've seen some electrics use guitar or bass hardware which gives you a dramatically different spacing then a traditional mando bridge.


Sep-07-2004, 7:37am
I haven't played a Mandobird, so I can't compare.

As far as extra $ goes, somewhere in the low $100s seems about right. I'll probably pay my local repair guy to do a good setup on it, since my setup ability is only so-so (maybe $40?). I think that will be the biggest improvement. Tuner upgrade isn't too expensive, but it's also not an immediate need since the ones it came with are functional.

If the setup goes well, it will be worth putting $100 into it to make it sound better via electronics upgrades. If the pickup is a standard guitar-sized one, than a replacement will be a snap. I'll have to check on that.

As far as string spacing, it felt a little wide compared to my '23 Gibson A, but that could just be attributed to the single strings. My guess (don't have it in front of me to measure) is that the next width is standard mando, so the spacing will be a little wider. I'm curious, so I'll measure when I get home.

Sep-08-2004, 4:12pm
when you say "atrocious action" are you reffering to how the strings are a good inch or two off the fretboard?

Sep-09-2004, 8:18am
"atrocious action" = strings way too high off the fretboard.

I played a little with the bridge height, but it looks like that's only part of the issue. The nut looks a little high as well, and I'm pretty sure that a little fret attention would do wonders. I'm a big fan of low action, so I'm probably being extra picky here. It is playable as is.

Also, the neck feels a little narrower (side to side) compared to my MK Legacy Classic. Still haven't had a chance to measure the string spacing yet, but I do believe it is reasonably mando-ish.

Sep-09-2004, 3:50pm
For the extra money a used BlueStar MandoBlaster is well worth it, aethetics aside. I've owned both along the way.

Sep-09-2004, 9:28pm
Note on string spacing, as compared to a Michael Kelly Legacy Classic (measurements in inches):

Bridge -- 1 3/8"
Nut -- 7/8"

MK Legacy Classic
Bridge -- 1 9/16"
Nut -- 1"

So the Kentucky is definitely narrower.

Lee957 has a good point, that a used, better quality mando is probably worth the extra $ if you have it--although I generally hate to by mid-grade (MK aside, as it was for a specific hazardous-duty purpose). This is almost as cheap as an electric mando gets, and will work. It will be replaced someday by a really nice instrument when I can justify spending the required money to get a fine player.

The Kentucky is playable out of the box, but needs some love to be all it can be. I look at it as the pay-as-you-go plan. I don't have to spend anything more to have some fun with it, and if I get into a situation where I can make some money with it, I will be able to invest in improvements. Overall, I'm pleased with my purchase.

Sep-10-2004, 1:43pm
Are you sure that MK is 1 9/16"? Thats pretty wide. Most acoustics are around 1 3/8". My bridges come out at 1 5/16". I am surprised how close that a mando's string to string spacing is almost identical to a guitar. I assume that is by design.

Sep-11-2004, 9:03am
I just double checked the spacing, and the MK came out at 1 9/16". For a double check, I measured my '23 Gibson A snakehead and got these measurements:

Bridge - 1 1/2"
Nut - 15/16"

I measured with a ruler placed on the bridge and on the nut. These distances are between the outside strings, including the strings themselves.

Sep-12-2004, 3:56pm
I have some of the new KM-300E mandolins in stock and my price is $225 plus shipping. Let me know if you need one. 580-673-2474

By the way, I've also played on the Mandobird and hated it. The strings are WAY too close on those things. The spacing is pretty tight on the 300E but not as bad. I haven't had any unhappy customers with the 300E.


Sep-13-2004, 2:44am
No financial interest or anything, eh? http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

I've owned them both, and they're both not exactly Schwabs as far as fit or finish.. Personally I prefer the cheaper (and IMO more attractive) Mandobird, but then again I have small hands. #Whatever.

Sep-13-2004, 8:07am
[QUOTE]"These distances are between the outside strings, including the strings themselves."

That makes sense. I was thinking the center of the outside strings.

Sep-21-2004, 12:56pm
Just got the KM-300e back from my guitar tech, who did a complete setup on it ($35, including new strings). What an enormous difference. Here's what he did:

* recut the nut slots
* recut the bridge slots
* various adjustments (bridge height, intonation, truss rod, etc as needed)
* raised the pickup
* restrung with 10-15-24-38

After this work, the mando is now nicely playable, and really quite fun. Night and day compared to the previous state. We also figured out that the pickup looks to be a standard strat-style size, so a future upgrade should be a drop-in job. He didn't wind up needing to do any fret work, though he did mention a slight wonkiness on the high frets (above the octave) on the low G string--didn't bother to fix it since those won't be used much!

So my last thoughts on this little guy is that you need to figure in the cost of the setup work into the final price. Still makes it very affordable. I'm pleased.


$240 mando + shipping
$035 setup
$275 total so far

I'll get a cheap ($30) gig bag at some point if I ever start gigging out with it. Otherwise, I'm just going to play it!

Oct-13-2005, 3:33pm
A quick update (I've been away from the forum for a while). I recently added a Duncan strat-sized humbucker to the mandolin, and replaced the pots and wiring with some higher quality stuff. The stock pickup is not exactly strat sized, so I had to take the Dremel to the pickguard--just a bit though.

It now has a much better tone, far hotter in output with a fatter tone. I played it recently while sitting in with a friend's band, and got great comments from the band and the sound man ("Where in the hell is that sound coming from!"). I'm playing through a pair of tube screamers for some overdrive.

Overall, I'm still happy with the Kentucky. I will probably get a nicer quality emando one of these days, but I'm content with my purchase still.