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Thread: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

  1. #1
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    Default Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    I've heard good things about both of these mandolins and I'm really tempted to get one of them. Not that I need another one, but you know how MAS is!

    I have a Kentucky KM-254 and a Big-Mo 11. I like them both, but sometimes I think about selling my Kentucky and getting the KM-900, the 950 or a Morris mandolin.

    I play mostly Old Time and folk music, not much Bluegrass, although I like it.

    Which one would you choose?

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Cant speak too much on the direct comparison, buti give a definite thumbs up for morris mandolins.

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    I recently played a 900 and the sound is still haunting me! Gorgeous tone - loud, punchy, authoritative, deep, rich, lush, resonant, etc. just a fantastic mandolin. If it wasn't for the fact that it had a narrow nut and flat board I'd have bought it on the spot!

    Never played a Morris, so can't help there.

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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    The Morris mandolins do not have an adjustable truss rod if that makes any difference. They are made in a very similar fashion to you Mid Mo, with a steel bar epoxied in to stiffen the neck.

    Personally, I like having the option to be able to tweak the truss rod and dial in my preferred amount of relief. Not possible with Morris or Mid Mo. Therefore I would go with the Kentucky. In that price range Eastman is also worthy of consideration.
    Don

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  9. #5
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoPlayer View Post
    Which one would you choose?
    A nice looking KM-950 just hit the classifieds for ~75% of the street price: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/85247.
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  11. #6

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoPlayer View Post
    I've heard good things about both of these mandolins and I'm really tempted to get one of them. Not that I need another one, but you know how MAS is!

    I have a Kentucky KM-254 and a Big-Mo 11. I like them both, but sometimes I think about selling my Kentucky and getting the KM-900, the 950 or a Morris mandolin.

    I play mostly Old Time and folk music, not much Bluegrass, although I like it.

    Which one would you choose?

    The Morris's have very short, thick necks (body meets at 12th fret). The tone is good but I honestly think the more modern design where you have ~14 clear is so much better.

  12. #7
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by BadLiver View Post
    . . . I honestly think the more modern design where you have ~14 clear is so much better.
    Hello MandoPlayer,

    I think this, like so many mandolin characteristics, is a matter of personal preference. I have both types and like both, but I actually prefer the feel of the traditional shorter neck. Have you decided for yourself which type neck you prefer? It is, after all, your preference that matters.

    These are both great choices, but of these two instruments, I would opt for the Morris.

    Good luck. Please let us know what you decide.

    Bob

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    Registered User Frank Russell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Having owned many Kentucky mandolins, good and bad, and having recently received a Morris flattop, I'd throw my money towards Howard Morris. The entire process was a pleasure, and Howard was great, making all modifications I asked for. He kept me involved in the process from start to finish, and the mandolin is excellent, in tone, playability, and appearance. Frank.
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  16. #9

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    I have an old 80's KM-800 which I have recently fallen in love with again and would put it up against a lot of higher valued mandos.
    Once I started using the Sam Bush Monals for the D and G with an old Brekee bridge, the volume and tone just jumps out of the thing now. Which brings up and other question; Does anyone sell the Monal Steel strings in single packs? It gets expensive to buy a
    whole set of the Gibsons and have to throw the E and A away.
    Another thing I like about the Kentucky is the good angle to the neck. This I believe gives more down pressure to the bridge for tone and just feels better to my fingers on the neck.

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  18. #10
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    It is more a matter of preference, since they are both excellent for the money. I have owned a KM-1000 and now a Morris A4. There is no comparison for tone and sustain. The US made Morris has very good, low action and full tone. Plenty of volume and loads of sustain! The Kentucky has a brighter tone (almost a bit too much bite for me) and is a better blue grass instrument. I have a thing about made in USA and Howard Morris will build your instrument to specs, allowing you to choose your woods and headstock style, along with several other attributes including nut width. I have a radiused fretboard and the nut is 1-3/16", which isn't for everyone but fits my very large hands. The lack of truss rod is a non-issue... when a neck is as right has Howard gets them you won't need to change it since there is nothing better than straight. The nut and bridge will allow all the adjustment I will ever need, although I would never say that another musician wouldn't want a bit of relief. It is needed with some applications, so I am not saying my way is the right way-- I am just one person. I respect all and learn from the many great posts in the cafe. I love Kentucky's and I don't think a comparison is always possible. If you want US made and custom features the Morris is unbeatable for the price and the artisan. The Kentucky's (I have had three) are excellent and have good resale. I prefer J Bovier to Kentucky, dollar for dollar, but I am just one voice.
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  19. #11
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    I've owned a KM950 and a Morris A5. Although both are long gone from my possession I don't need them side by side to tell you they were very different tonally. The KM950 was a good loud cutting bluegrass mando, but lacked much in the way of tone especially in the low/mid. The Morris had an excellent tone, nice and balanced, but lacked projection and volume especially when chopping. For your expressed musical tendencies of old time and folk I'm pretty sure you'd be much happier with a Morris. Mine was an A5 with spruce top and maple back/sides, had a modern 15th fret body joint and a radiused board.

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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Well, so far I haven't bought either mandolin. I'm thinking of using the money for home improvements instead.

  22. #13
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Keep playing that MidMo M11!
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    The Morris mandolins do not have an adjustable truss rod if that makes any difference. They are made in a very similar fashion to you Mid Mo, with a steel bar epoxied in to stiffen the neck.

    Personally, I like having the option to be able to tweak the truss rod and dial in my preferred amount of relief. Not possible with Morris or Mid Mo. Therefore I would go with the Kentucky. In that price range Eastman is also worthy of consideration.
    Thanks for accurate information, Don. I also like adjustable truss. Altho I was surprised that Martin for ages, did not have a truss - however, I have played few marti's that I liked. Interesting how there's a loyal sub-culture around some instruments. I've always been a gibson fan, even tho they have done some extremely stupid things over the years - one of which was the discontinuation of 'firebird fever', of which I am incurable. On another note, I was pleased to see that the mando I bought was a match-copy to a gibson, and I didn't know that when I bought. I doubt it will ever sound like the real thing however - but I'm working on that.

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  24. #15

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Go for a Morris. I'm yet to play anything near as good as my Morris F4. And the prices Sonny sells them for are a steal. These things should sell for 5 times as much. Once you start playing one you won't care less about truss rods!

  25. #16

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by Arutha View Post
    Go for a Morris. I'm yet to play anything near as good as my Morris F4. And the prices Sonny sells them for are a steal. These things should sell for 5 times as much. Once you start playing one you won't care less about truss rods!


    Funny that wasn't my experience. Maybe I just got a dud. Really did not like the subdued done and couldn't play well on the very very deep neck shape he uses.

  26. #17
    Registered User atbuckner21's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    I just purchased a Morris A5 from Sonny, and I love it. It's a great mandolin and buying from Sonny is a huge pleasure. For what it's worth, I sold a Kentucky KM-900 to finance buying the Morris and don't have any regrets.
    TKD Falcon F5

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Another satisfied Morris player. We live about an hours drive from each other and have often played at the same jams. Lots of his mandos in my area, and I've probably played nearly 10 of Sonny's mandos. They are consistently great. He will build you a custom made mando, your choice of tone woods, radiused or not, neck joint at 12 or 15 frets, etc. You can't get that personal attention/customization from Kentucky, which are still good instruments. I've had my F4 for 5 years now, where we have temperature and humidity extremes. Never had a need for an adjustable truss rod.

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  30. #19
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    I've played a Morris A5 for the past two years and really, really like it. I also owned a KM900, Breedlove OF, Rigel A Natural, and currently have an Eastman. The Morris is head and shoulders above all of them.

    Ironically, I am selling it to satiate MAS. It's currently in the classifieds. PM me for any info:
    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/89228

    Sorry for the plug, everyone. Seemed natural enough!

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  32. #20
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by atbuckner21 View Post
    I just purchased a Morris A5 from Sonny, and I love it. It's a great mandolin and buying from Sonny is a huge pleasure. For what it's worth, I sold a Kentucky KM-900 to finance buying the Morris and don't have any regrets.
    I sold a KM-1000 to buy mine and the singularly unique version I was able to ask Howard to build for me makes the difference palpable. The KM-1000 is a tremendous instrument. The Morris A4 that I have (K and K twin onboard) has the shape and 12th fret design of the great Gibson A's of the Teens era, which admittedly one has to have a taste for, and I do!!! To each his own. Interesting, Atbuckner21, how you gave up a great Kentucky (the KM-900 is so highly regarded in the 1000 price range) to get your specially designed instrument from Sonny! Great choice. It would be so helpful if there were more stores where we could actually play some of the these before choosing. The second best method is discussing your considerations with your fellow MC members.
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  33. #21

    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by BadLiver View Post
    The Morris's have very short, thick necks (body meets at 12th fret). The tone is good but I honestly think the more modern design where you have ~14 clear is so much better.

    I agree with that. I find the Morrises to have a very heavy, stubby feel in one's hand with a very deep V neck, and the tone is good but not GOOD.

    For what it's worth, a friend has a mid-range Kentucky A model (I think #505 or 550, I forget) that he had dialed up by one of the premiere US mandolin guys in the Pacific NW, I forget who. Good heavens does it ever sound and play great. A so-so mandolin that has been gone over by a true master is probably your best bet overall in terms of bang for buck.

    Or, you can probably find a used base-level Collings A for not much more dosh, and if you like that pulpy, midrangey, round tone you really can't beat them with a stick. I don't have one but I do think that tone is just exactly on the money.

  34. #22
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Did you mean the Collings MR has that tone? Not quite dure what to make of your comparison. I thought that the Gibson 1920s Loars had that mid- rangy tone you talk about.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by FingersTooBig View Post

    For what it's worth, a friend has a mid-range Kentucky A model (I think #505 or 550, I forget) that he had dialed up by one of the premiere US mandolin guys in the Pacific NW, I forget who. Good heavens does it ever sound and play great.

    This is a very interesting observation to me, FTB . I recently played a KM 505 for the first time (a new one - the deep burgundy model ) and was VERY impressed by the superb setup and play- ability ( radius neck ). BUT I was knocked out by the tone and projection of this very moderately - priced instrument . I have been enormously happy with my KM-150 in terms of tone and integrity but the radiused neck on the 505 is just that much easier to get around on . The fact that it sounds so amazing was a very pleasant surprise . I expected it NOT to sound significantly better than the new KM-150's , going by the praise the 150 has gotten and my own experience with it . The Km 505 deserves more love than it seems to get of late .

  36. #24
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Well it took me a couple of years, but I finally decided that the time was right to get a Kentucky 950. I bought it here off the Cafe classifieds and I should be getting it in a day or two. Maybe on down the road I'll buy a Morris A-5 as it sounds like a great mandolin too. The Kentucky is on its way from Georgia to my home in Arizona. Would it be a good idea for me to let it get used to the temperature change before I open the package?
    Thanks to all of you

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  38. #25
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    Default Re: Morris A5 or Kentucky KM-950

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoPlayer View Post
    Well it took me a couple of years, but I finally decided that the time was right to get a Kentucky 950. I bought it here off the Cafe classifieds and I should be getting it in a day or two. Maybe on down the road I'll buy a Morris A-5 as it sounds like a great mandolin too. The Kentucky is on its way from Georgia to my home in Arizona. Would it be a good idea for me to let it get used to the temperature change before I open the package?
    Thanks to all of you
    Yes, let it acclimate to your environment for several hours or over night if the package feels really cold. Enjoy!!!

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