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Thread: Upgrade Benefits?

  1. #1

    Question Upgrade Benefits?

    Hi,

    Beginning mandolin player and cafe reader...

    I have a used Loar LM-220 and based on my limited experience, it seems fine - I don't have much to compare it to. My local music store doesn't carry any higher end mandolins just to try out for fun (or even my state...Utah).

    I've read the forums and seen questions comparing X to Y mandolins. But I've not seen a clear discussion of what one gets with a jump in price/quality to a Kentucky KM-950 or a Loar LM-400 or an Eastman MD-805 (which are all in the $1000 range).

    Any thoughts? Thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    You feel better.
    The instrument is prettier.
    It sounds better.
    Your buddies are envious.
    You practice more.
    You sound better.
    You become taller and thinner.
    The opposite sex is more attracted to you.

    I could be all wrong, as I only have 7 mandolins. The members with many mandolins will probably chime in.

    Changing picks and strings is more cost effective in the early stages of playing, not to mention taking lessons.
    Play it like you mean it.

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  4. #3
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    I'd make sure that the mandolin you have now is setup as best as it can be, and then play it as much as you can. The Loar LM220 is a respectable mandolin and a fine beginner instrument. It has hand carved solid woods and though it isn't flashy they are well made.
    As with most things, the higher the quality, the more costly. Pricier instruments will be more carefully made with more hands on time at the builder's bench. They'll also have higher quality wood and components.
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    When I started fooling with photography and 35mm cameras I read in a just starting book that you would know when to buy accessories by developing the need for them. If you apply that logic here I think it can be said that if you don’t see the advantage of an up grade then you don’t need one. As has been said you have a fine starter instrument, much better than I had 50 years ago when I started. Play what you got until you just have to have something else, and believe me that will come. At that point you will know better what you need and the sound you want. Keep practicing the MAS will come.

  6. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    MAS is a disease. Don't fight it.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  8. #6
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    resistance is futile
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

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  10. #7
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Are you near Salt Lake City? Intermountain Banjo usually has a bunch of vintage Gibsons. Or, you know, just go ahead and buy an Ellis.

  11. #8

    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    I would counsel anyone to start on the best they can afford, then save for a very significant upgrade. Take a pass on small improvements. An instrument like a Kentucky KM 150 will do fine, then jump right to the small shop builder, witch in an A style used is north of $1000, more like $2000 for an F.

    For me the only in between I'd consider is a 900 or better Kentucky. Those are quite good, but I personally would wait for a Weber Galatin or some such. And don't feel sorry if they look plain. It's the tone that will have you smiling.
    Silverangel Econo
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  12. #9
    Registered User MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Be careful, MAS is a tough monkey to have on your back
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
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  14. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    My other thought on the subject is that if you're fine with what you have and can't hear the difference between your mandolin and one that is much more expensive then you should consider yourself lucky. In the long run you'll save yourself a bundle of money.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  15. #11
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    And jumping off what both Mike and Mandoplumb said, an upgrade is only worth it if you find that what you have isn't either good for what you want it for or begins to sound kind of thin on the ground. I have a stable of perfectly good $500 (or less) instruments that worked for more than a decade. Then i began thinking that I wanted something with a little more bass. Something with a slightly narrower neck. Something with more beef in the upper ranges ....something slightly louder, something that carried a little more oomph. So I started looking. That wasn't to knock what I had which was perfectly adequate, just ... well, not exactly what I wanted. And when I found an instrument that gave me what I wanted, I made the upgrade. That was my experience. YMMV
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  16. #12
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    I started with a Loar LM220 that I bought used. I still have it, but after I had played for 6 months or so (and I have been a musician for 53 years) I was unhappy with the sound, so I purchased a Pava and a Weber, and more recently a Collings, plus several bowlbacks. My stable is complete (said with tongue in cheek, but I am not planning any more purchases.) You will know when to upgrade, and I agree with the above posters, make it a significant one. Keep the Loar until you are sure what you want - it is a good instrument, and doesn't get the respect it should at times.

  17. #13
    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    My thinking has been to avoid trading one for another until I have worn out the frets. That gives both you and the mandolin a chance to mature a bit. Also may give you time to get out to festivals and acoustic shops to play as many mandolins as possible. There is no other way to develop a taste for what you want to hear when you play. Avoid at all cost having someone telling you what you want to hear from your own mandolin.
    Mike Snyder

  18. #14
    Registered User MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Snyder View Post
    My thinking has been to avoid trading one for another until I have worn out the frets. That gives both you and the mandolin a chance to mature a bit. Also may give you time to get out to festivals and acoustic shops to play as many mandolins as possible. There is no other way to develop a taste for what you want to hear when you play. Avoid at all cost having someone telling you what you want to hear from your own mandolin.
    What happens when you have EVO or stainless frets? Stuck for life?
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
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    Too many microphones

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Well, my first mandolin was an LM-220. Still have it. They are good mandolins. What do you get when you pay more? Depends on what you might be looking for. From the couple of Eastman MD-805 models I've played, you get thinner finish, better looking woods, a better tailpiece. The sound will also be more full - as in more bass, more mids, more treble. Maybe more volume.

    In my opinion, the good lower priced instruments, like the LM-220 and the Kentucky KM-150, give you a lot more instrument both in sound and build quality than in the past that it will take a player as far as they want to go. Am not saying you shouldn't save your money and look for an upgrade sometime in the future. But you don't need to rush it. Play what you have, enjoy it, become a better player and then start thinking about what you want different in your next mandolin.
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  22. #16

    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    No rush. Higher end instruments, as noted, have better lows and highs, more volume, better choice tonewoods, better finish and detail work, better hardware which makes a substantial difference to the sound and easy tunability. Dont stress yourself trying to figure out what model should interest you because in the end, what you like is subjective. The only thing I can assure you is that after you have been seriously studying for a year or two, when you try some higher-end instruments, you will feel and hear the difference. So if theres nothing much in Utah, plan to visit a serious dealer of mandos when you happen to be roadtripping around the west....maybe Greg Boyd's in Missoula, Denver Folklore Center (?), The Mandolin Store in Arizona (I havent visited or dealt with any of these places, I just see that they stock what you want to try out). Have fun.

  23. #17
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandokismet View Post
    Any thoughts? Thanks.
    I was going to start a thread titled "Upgrade Detriments?" but feared that no one would post to it.
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  24. #18
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    the best way to handle MAS is to order a custom instrument. I mean during the 2-year wait, what are you going to do? More shopping? Nah, you'll be practicing!

    Then again. . .

    f-d

    p.s., go buy a paddle head mandolin - you know a teens Gibson.
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '84 1N, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

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  26. #19
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    the best way to handle MAS is to order a custom instrument.
    I concur. My custom build experience with Mike Black dulled the white-hot intensity of MAS to a controlled burn. Do you by any chance have a prescription for scroll envy?
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
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  27. #20

    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    the best way to handle MAS is to order a custom instrument. I mean during the 2-year wait, what are you going to do? More shopping? Nah, you'll be practicing!

    Then again. . .

    f-d
    p.s., go buy a paddle head mandolin - you know a teens Gibson.
    I'll point out a pitfall of this notion. For decades,yes decades, I was happy with one good acoustic guitar. I did buy an old Guild dread, but it had so many issues it was in a closet for ten years. I retired and thought it was about time to get it fixed,which was everything,
    The moment I dropped that guitar off, and it was going to be at least six months, I salivated at the thought of owning two guitars.

    Before I got that Guild back, I had bought three other guitars, so beware when you turn on the tap.
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  28. #21
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Or, you can have custom work professionally done on your existing mandolin. The pros can fit a square peg into a round hole. At least in my experience, this hasn't taken a long time to do.
    -- Don

    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."

    2002
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    2016 "$199.00 solid F style" MKLFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug
    (plus an assortment of banjos, dobros, guitars and other noisemakers)

  29. #22

    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Thanks for everyone's thoughts.

  30. #23
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    There is some big magic juju that happens when you get your first pro grade instrument. I can't explain it, but I find myself practicing even when I don't have to because it just sounds so damn good! Not my playing, the instrument. It just whispers "look what I can do. Don't you want to try to make these wonderful sounds?". When that relationship begins it opens up amazing vistas.

    Here's my progression:
    Intro Mando ($75) Don't even remember the brand. Rogue? About 3 Months. It was painful.

    Mid Intro ($400) Kentucky 250. About a year. I could tell there were things it just didn't want to do. Now Office beater.

    First Real Mandolin: Eastman 515 ($800 got a deal) 5 years. Should have been 2-3 years. I held on to this longer than I should have because I thought it was "fine" and couldn't swing moving up to the $2000 (A's) and $3000 (F's) level where things started to happen. By now it was clear what I wanted, and that I was going to stick with it. Now my festival Mandolin.

    First Pro Grade Pava Player ($2000, again, got a deal) Had it for about a year and it's jumped my playing exponentially as described above.

    Next (a year or two, saving money now) is Mandolin for Life (although I could go my grave with the Pava -- it's that good) Probably Ellis A or Pava F ($5000).

    After that who knows...
    Not specifically suggesting these brands, and not deliberately avoiding the upper level imports, but the price points do seem to be where more options open up. Depends on what you want, and where you are trying to go.

  31. #24
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    You didn't mention your background. Is this your first rodeo playing a stringed instrument?

    Can you take time off?

    Go on a mandolin quest, Nashville is a great place to visit and play countless wonderful mandolins at numerous places.

    Short of that, if you have some disposable $$$ buy a few to try. Ether in succession or all at once if you can.


    Billy


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  32. #25

    Default Re: Upgrade Benefits?

    Yep, that big magic juju is what you should be going for. Very good description of what happens.
    Silverangel Econo
    Michael Kelly LSFTB

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