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Thread: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

  1. #1
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    Default rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Thanks to all for tolerating the rookie questions. I am trying to buy a decent "A" style mandolin, and am finding what could/should be easy to be a challenge. I want to buy used, but finding any instruments that interest me to test drive in the Houston area is a challenge...Fiddlers Green is 200+ miles away and the only place that has a variety.

    Not to open a can of worms or the Chevy/Ford debate, but How do the Weber models improve as the price goes up? ( ie: Gallatin -vs- Bitteroot -vs- Yellowstone, etc...) Is it just cosmetics, wood selection, and does the tone/sound/playability improve dramatically as you go up the line? I don't have the option of actually comparing them in person...

    Just talking "A" models...which Weber model is most comparable to say a plain jane Collings MT? I've read about others like base model Gibsons, Summit, Flatiron, etc...but can't hold and play any locally.

    And if anyone is still reading, just to muddy things up...how would these base models compare to a good Pac-rim "A" model like Kentucky 900, etc...

    It's looking like used and online is probably the way I'm leaning...

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    You could buy/order and try the mandolin out with a prearranged trial approval period. All you would be out would be the shipping !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Weber and Collings both make excellent mandolins and IMHO either would be superior to most pac rims with the exception of the Northfields. To muddy things up even further I highly recommend Pava mandolins. They are made in the shop of Tom Ellis in Austin TX. Tom is a world class builder and Pava has been learning and building with him for years. I have one of her lower end satin models and it is a fantastic mandolin in every way.
    If you can get to fiddlers green there is no substitute for trying as many mandolins as you can and see what speaks to you.

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I would also recommend the Gibson A-9. They come up used from time to time and are in my opinion very hard to beat in terms of tone and playability and value.
    It doesn't matter . . . I'm going to WINFIELD!!!!!

  5. #5

    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I'm new to all of this myself but here is a suggestion for you. You didn't say if you have had some experience with mandolin before or are just starting out new. Rookie can mean different things. If just starting out maybe get a Kentucky KM150, put good strings on it and have a really good set-up done on it. This way you have a well built, easy to play, good sounding mandolin without a huge outlay of money. You can always trade up after you really know what you like, want, and need. Just my 2-cents worth.

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    In my experience the Collings MT may look plain but it is a powerful mandolin with excellent tone. Flame and binding don't significantly alter tone. Well carved plates and a great set up are key. Collings (and Weber) consistently deliver. They don't necessarily sound the same so, that flavor difference is key to your decision. Same can be said for the Gibson A-9.

    The good news about buying used, is if you don't love the mandolin you get, your loss on your subsequent sale is minimized or negligible (assuming the instrument arrived in good condition as advertised).

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    You might want to look at a Wienman A model also, even a Northfield !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain

  8. #8

    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Well long story short is you can’t go wrong with any of the mandos you mentioned so buy one and play the heck out of it. Other side of the coin IMO is make the 200 mile drive and buy the one you like best. I’ve played a few Weber’s and they don’t all play or sound the same but they all sounded really good. I’ve played a Pava and it played so beautifully hard to describe it just felt like it was made for me, played a few Collings also very nice. I’ve been playing a Weber 2006 Bitterroot for a few years now and love it got it used from Mandolin Store in AZ. came well set up with a trial period. I bought it to upgrade from a pac rim mando at the time the $2.2k price was a lot for me looking back it was the best 2 grand I ever spent.
    Lou

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    Registered User Denman John's Avatar
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Make the 200 mile drive to Fiddler's Green and play every mandolin there, then make a decision. It will be well worth it and at the end you will have first hand experience with all these different brands and can make an informed choice, rather than just shooting in the dark and hoping you get something that you will like. I would choose Collings over Weber in a heartbeat, but others would pick the Weber. Let your own ears, hands and eyes do the deciding ...

    Good luck and let us know what you end up doing.
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I've had a few Webers (Aspen II, Gallatin F, Vintage A) in the past and currently have a Collings MT-O. I love the Collings so I'd definitely say I'm biased in that direction but with either brand you will be getting a great mandolin. In addition to Pava, you might also keep your eye peeled for a used Northfield M or a new/used Girourard too.
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I have a Bitteroot-A and love it. This is my second Weber (had a Bitteroot-F earlier), and I really love the necks. They are definitely better playing/sounding than the Pac-Rim offerings. I had an Eastman 815 for quite a while. It was nice looking, but not nearly the instrument a Weber is. I also had a Gibson A5L for a while that was nice, but the neck was too narrow for me, and I didn't get along with the "V" shape. The Weber neck is wider, with a rounded back and a radius fret-board. It also has wider frets. For me, this arrangement makes for easier playing, better accuracy, and less hand cramping. Regarding the levels of Webers, I have played Gallatins and Absarokas, and they all have that "Weber sound" and great playability. The difference seems to be in visual appointments. Personally, I like the understated look of the Bitteroot, with the satin finish. But you can often find good deals on used Absarokas, if you like more binding.

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    If I were looking to buy a used A style, I'd pick up this Mike Black built Hawthorn from Bradford & Franzke for $1450. It is superb! Even includes a James tailpiece. A new Mike Black A style normally starts at $3200.
    http://bfstrings.com/store/p130/HAWT..._MANDOLIN.html
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I agree with Lou. If you can find a way go to Fiddlers Green do it. I am lucky enough to live close to a couple of good stores. I went to one with Weber on my mind. I got to play at least half a dozen and there was a lot of variability. They ranged from okay to great. The great one was easily the best but out of my price range. I then tried a Pava and was sold. It was as good as the best Weber and still in my range. Good luck and have fun!
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    There are so many variables that have more to do with personal taste (tone, neck shape, nut width) than "how good it is."

    Investing a weekend to go to Fiddler's Green to find something you might play every day for the next ten years sounds like a smart investment to me.
    Bobby Bill

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I’d invest a day to play a variety of instruments. Playability is more important than sound, because if you can’t or don’t want to play the instrument, it doesn’t matter how good it could sound.

    And you may find an instrument with a unique voice that’s different from what you were expecting in the sound. You’ll only see that in a-b playing.

    Good luck, it’s a fun trip.
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    About a year ago, I drove 3300 miles (round trip) to try out a mandolin in Colorado Springs **. Four hundred is nothing. Get a day off from work, get up early, drive the 200, have an agonizingly great time sampling the wares, drive home. Hopefully with a new mandolin, but even if not, you have pruned the decision tree and it will have been a fun experience.

    ** Embarassing lesson learned on that trip: always call and lay down a deposit before starting on a trip like that.

    ps: I have Weber and Collings mandolins. They are different. I like them. The Collingses have a brighter sound. The Webers are smoother, richer. You could probably achieve the same range of sound quality through careful pick and string selection, so don't agonize over which. You can't go wrong with either.
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    In general, I've found that once you have a certain level of quality of materials and build, you have a lot of what you truly need. Now what you will get as you move up, is nicer, and this is somewhat subjective, finish, and prettier wood and fancier binding and inlay. Now when picking out wood, I can't help but think that along with looks, the wood with perceived potential gets picked for the high end mandolins. After All, they do need all the reasons they can to have you choose the premium instrument, but once you jump to an MT, as an example, you get most of what you are going to get, and different brands are just different flavors.

    I would venture you could live with any of them, but two hours is nothing, but keep in mind it might take you four to get home as you will stop on the side of the road to play your new ax. Try them out. I was in Pheonix for spring training and visited the Mandolin Store. It was an education.

    In a vacum , I could live with a high end Kentucky, but the Northfield F5S was better, but at a healthy price. The Gibson F9 was another jump, but had that Gibson sound, so if that is what you want to hear, you'll have to fork out the dough. The Northfield is a terrific value. It is all good at this level, you just need the best fit for you
    The Pava I played was wonderful, so is my Silverangel, as was the Weber Galatin and Collings MTs I've played. All flavors of very good.
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Catndahat, I'd say the Bitterroot is about the same as an MT, similar features and appointments. The big difference in my opinion is the neck profiles. They are similar enough between my Collings MT and Bitterroot F that it doesn't cause any problems switching. Either neck has a tendency to bring out my bad habits if I don't focus on correct hand position, so I can't say one is better than the other.

    As to improving on the way up the line, I'd say it is plainly cosmetics with the Weber on the Gallatin and Bitterroot models.
    MT2, and higher Weber models (Yellowstone, etc) will have select materials, more binding, more inlay, and possibly different finish.

    Regarding Weber vs Collings, I'd select the one that feels the most comfortable, and sounds the best. Either would beat any good pac rim A in my opinion. I'd take that drive to Austin and try everything out if I was you! You would have the benefit of a knowledgeable staff to help you select and answer your questions. If that is a no-go, do your homework and search the forums, there are literally dozens of threads on the Weber vs Collings subject.

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Bits of advice:- buy used if you can, good used instruments hold their value, -try the instrument before you buy if at all possible -if you don't know mandolins well, buying from a reputable dealer gives you same margin of safety - check out used Flatirons if you see one!

    Enjoy it! You really won't regret buying a good instrument, particularly used.
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Well, as a person who owns many of the mandolins you are asking about, I own a Weber Bitterroot A, a Pava Player, a Collings MT, and a Kentucky 805 (granted that is an "F" model, but still...) I would personally class the Weber, Pava, and Collings as all about equal. If you are going just for volume, I can get more volume out of the Collings than the others, but that is a small thing. They all for me play easily, and are quality built instruments. The Kentucky is a notch lower, but also significantly cheaper. I would agree that you should try them, you may end up wanting more than one!

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    I really appreciate all the thoughtful replies. I was just up in the Austin area, but was involved in family holiday events, but will make the drive to Fiddlers Green very soon----and will keep watching the classifieds here and elsewhere. And if this is anything like guitars it is scary (in a good way) because I could end up with multiple mandolins.

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    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    No kidding? More than one, you say?
    Mike Snyder

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Can we legally own more than one?

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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Quote Originally Posted by catndahats View Post
    Fiddlers Green is 200+ miles away and the only place that has a variety.
    Hey man, we're in Texas! Every-freaking-thing is 200+ miles away. I've driven an hour and a half across Dallas in heavy traffic just to go to lunch! You live in Houston, Texas, you know exactly what I mean.

    Quote Originally Posted by catndahats View Post
    but will make the drive to Fiddlers Green very soon
    Now you're talkin'
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    Default Re: rookie question: Weber -vs- Collings -vs- others

    Mike Snyder---- rephrased---well, let's just start with one. If history repeats itself there could most likely be more than one eventually or sooner.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    Hey man, we're in Texas! Every-freaking-thing is 200+ miles away. I've driven an hour and a half across Dallas in heavy traffic just to go to lunch! You live in Houston, Texas, you know exactly what I mean.



    Now you're talkin'
    Mark Gunter...yep, that is so true. I try to stay out of downtown Houston (Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio too) as much as possible. Wife and I were just laughing that 1/2 our trip to the Hill Country was spent traversing Houston .... back to the topic of mandolin shopping / talking.

    I just wish there was a Weber dealer or shop with a few used Webers within a day's drive from here....either I am missing something, or the Houston area is woefully lacking mandolin shops. Fullers has a (very) few...the other options are craigslist, and the big box store that has 2 or less in stock and nothing I would buy....I feel a road trip coming on.

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