View Full Version : shopping for my first mandolin

Feb-18-2004, 9:34am
howdy. I'm a guitarist and I've started looking at mandolins - wanted one for years, and I'm thinking this is the year. I wanted some suggestions of what brands/models to consider.
My criteria - it must be a decent instrument, stay in tune, well made, and around $1000 or less. It would be something I can use for gigs without worrying about it falling out of tune. Did I mention it needs to stay in tune? ;-) a pickup would be nice.
I also would like to know the differences in tone between oval soundholes and f holes. I'm particular to the A shape. IN fact I've been slobbering over webpages of quartz breedloves, fortunately I haven't shorted out my monitor yet.
Type of music - well I have no idea. bluegrassy folksy stuff. I can't say anything about how important chops or other tone issues are to me because I'm ignorant of these things. This will be the mandolin I learn such matters on.
ME: well I love the cat-in-the-mandolin-case thread. I have electric guitars mostly, a seagull acoustic little body guitar that I love, and a Charango that I can fumble around with a bit. I've been playing 20 years and I believe in world peace and I love sushi. my website is www.dangerjudy.com if you'd like to peruse it.
Thank you all


Eric F.
Feb-18-2004, 10:23am
Welcome, and yup a Breedlove Quartz would meet all your needs except for the pickup. If you poke around, you'll probably find discussions of oval versus f holes, but in general, f holes give a more percussive, linear, pop-pop-pop sound while oval holes give a "rounder" tone. I have always thought you got more warmth and resonance for the dolalr in an oval hole (not that f hole mandolins can't have those qualities, but they tend to exist in the more expensive ones) but I am beginning to like f hole instruments more. I had a Quartz KF and found it very comfortable to play, very well made and a warm-sounding instrument. You ought also to consider the Rigel A Natural and Gibson A9 in that range. Also, check out the classifieds here. There are often very sweet deals. Some frequent posters here are also dealers and have sold to many members of the Cafe.

Frank Russell
Feb-18-2004, 10:24am
dangerjudy - First off, you might have trouble finding a mandolin that stays in tune at all times. Good tuners help, but the string tension alone seems to make them hard to keep precisely tuned for long periods. Add to the fact that some folks pick them pretty hard, often to be heard over louder instruments, and that equals lots of tuneups. All that aside, if it's an A you want, you're in a good price range. I've got a Gibson A9 that I got for under 1K, and a Weber Absaroka that I may be selling for around that. Both are worth every penny. You say you've been looking at Breedloves, and they are also good instruments. My good friend I play with has a Quartz with f-holes, and it looks and plays super nice. They are well-constructed, and I like the lack of over-finishing on them. Sounds like you are headed in the right direction. Take a look at the A9 also, I've been really happy with my new one. Frank

Feb-18-2004, 10:39am
If you are not looking for a 'pure bluegrass' mando then see what rigel A+ are available in the classifieds. I picked one up for a little more than a grand and I'm way happy with it. Radius fret, pickup, nice instrument...something to consider.

And I'm partial to sushi myself...

Feb-18-2004, 10:49am
Judy, coming from Guitar I think you would apprieciate the radiused fretboard & extra width of a Breedlove or Rigel A Natural. You'll have no problem finding either within your price range & don't be afraid of used examples of either make.

Shameless Plug: A few Breedloves available (http://www.mandolincafe.com/cgi-bin/classifieds/classifieds.cgi?search_and_display_db_button=on&db_id=8723&query=retrieval)

Good buy on a used Rigel A Natural (http://www.mandolincafe.com/cgi-bin/classifieds/classifieds.cgi?search_and_display_db_button=on&db_id=8727&query=retrieval)

Feb-18-2004, 11:46am
do the mid-missouri's have radiused fretboards?

Feb-18-2004, 11:57am
No, but they do offer a wide neck model.

Feb-18-2004, 12:14pm
I can personally vouch for the Breedlove KF Dale has reduced to $850. I used to own it. It has volume, playability, and a nice bright tone. I traded for a new Breedlove KO because I already had a good F style and wanted an oval hole;i.e. I wanted one of each type. The KF is more versatile and would be my choice of the two if I had only one mandolin.

Dru Lee Parsec
Feb-18-2004, 12:30pm
I also have a Breedlove KO (K style, Oval sound hole). I love it. The thing that realy enhances the playability is the slightly wider neck (1 3/8 at the nut instead of 1 1/4) and the radiused fingerboard. And I absolutly love the tone. I found mine used for $999 and it even has an integrated pickup with an end pin jack.

The Micheal Kellys are decent mandolins as well, although I'm not sure which models have a radiused fingerboard.

Feb-18-2004, 12:37pm
Standard width @ the nut 1 1/8"
Breedlove, Rigel are 1 3/16"
Mid Mo wide neck option 1 1/4"

You need a new ruler Dru..... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Michael H Geimer
Feb-18-2004, 12:53pm
" I've been playing 20 years and I believe in world peace and I love sushi. "

The connections are obvious! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Seriously though, I love my Mid-mo. I say that all the tinme around here, but if you can stretch that budget up to that Rigel, Weber, Breedlove range you'll be mighty happy.

I got to play stanley's Rigel, and it's a dream. Easily the nicest playing mandolin I've had the opportinuty to hold. Plus, the A+'s have built in electronics hidden inside.

Mid-mo's are awesome instruments, but with 20 years of playing behind you ... you'll likely appreciate something off the 'next shelf up'.

- Benignus

Feb-18-2004, 1:00pm
Folks, adding an internal pickup is no big deal...Check out K&K.


Feb-18-2004, 1:52pm
Welcome Dangerjudy,
Since you're new here; anything Dale says you can take to the bank!

Feb-18-2004, 2:33pm
where are you located Dale?

Feb-18-2004, 2:42pm
Dale is from Texas....Now don't fault him for that...Some folks just don't know any better! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif
Dale is a great guy and comes very highly recommended!

Feb-18-2004, 6:39pm
dave could you put up a pic of the breedlove that's $850?

Feb-18-2004, 6:39pm
oops I meant dale not dave.


Feb-19-2004, 2:55pm
another question - if a mandolin is new does that automatically mean it needs to be 'set-up' or is that only the super-cheap ones?

Feb-19-2004, 3:05pm
Generally if it comes from a good source it will come set-up....I'm sure Dale sets them up to a general standard as most other dealers on this board....Sometimes you may want to raise or lower the bridge according to your style but other than that it should come ready to play. It should save you money in the long run to get from a dealer that will set it up beforehand....You might save a little by going with one of the box companies but then most of the time you are own your own as far as getting it set-up and ready to play.

Nice pics on your site!

Feb-21-2004, 7:10pm
I'm new at the manbdolin or any stringged instrument for that matter. But I just bought a Quartz OO upon the suggestion of a local retailer and I really enjoy this mando. It plays easily and the sound is amazing. Sorry though, I don't think you will find any mando that does not need daily tuning.

Feb-22-2004, 7:48am
yes, I've been set straight about the tuning. I guess I emphasized staying in tune because that's one of the attributes of a decent guitar. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Feb-22-2004, 8:06am
Incidentially, I went to some local shops yesterday and played a few different brands/models of mandolins. By far my favorite was a Gibson A model. The Gibson A was the easiest playing mandolin I tried yesterday; it sounded awesome; and it was a few hundred out of my budget (of course!) The only thing I would have changed about that mando is the dark color of the finish, I prefer the lighter colors. Not that that'd have stopped me if I had the money to get her. I also played a Gallatin, the look of which I love, but I was surprised that I didn't really love the way it played. I played a couple different Kentuckys, and some Michael Kellys. A $350 Kentucky F was a dog; but a $150 Kentucky A was a pretty good beginner kinda instrument - it was easy to play, but not with alot of that indefineable feature called tone. It'd be a good one to take to the camping trip and not worry about it being in the car/tent all day. The MKs were all nice, but one in particular was just wonderful - it had a loud, ringing, wide sound - it had a price on it of $850. Wish they made A's...
Now, nobody had a Breedlove mandolin in stock. I've talked to the local Breedlove dealer, who only has their guitars right now, and he has offered to order me a mandolin which, if I don't like, he'll just sell in the shop. I also tried to check out some mid-missouris, but the local dealer of the MMs was sold out. I *do* prefer the idea of buying an American made instrument, especially when the MK I liked was in the price range of the used Breedloves out there.
So - that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Please take all instrument judgements with the grain of salt necessary considering I'm a mandolin newbie, but I do know a bit about guitars. I have also found that the price of an instrument does not always mean it's a good or bad playing instrument - for me. My little Seagull guitar is awesome, especially with the pickup in it (installed by the previous owner), but I've played its bigger brother models and not been impressed. And I paid under $400 for it with case.