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Thread: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

  1. #1
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    Default Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Hi all, I thought I'd ask members viewpoints on Pac Rim instruments vs American made., I mean, I realize labor is cheaper, but what about everything else ?? Are the woods the same quality ??

  2. #2

    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    I’ll give it a try. Nowadays, there are some very good Pac Rim mandolins. I prefer American mandolins, primarily because of tradition/heritage I guess.

    I got out of mandos for awhile. One day I saw an Eastman mandolin at a music store that is known for expensive, great sounding guitars, and some more affordable selected PAC Rim lines. I played a $400 and $650 Eastman that was excellent. I could not believe how well they played and sounded for those prices. Nothing in that range was really worth having 15 years before.

    So I bought one and played the heck out of it daily. It was close to some of the American mandos I had previously at three or four times the price.

    I did run across a used Weber here in a unique color after about 6 months, at a great price. Bought it and sold the Eastman. I like the Weber, but would have been fine with the Eastman forever. My favorite mandolin player used an Eastman early on, in live shows if not albums.

    With that said, I don’t think the woods are quite as nice/good on PR mandos, at least in the range I’m talking about. Probably not as cured and not as nice looking. The finish seems a little thicker too. Tuners were serviceable, at best. But the overall package was quite decent. There are, however, some higher end PR mandos I have not played.

    I did OK selling the Eastman, but probably got a little less percentagewise than selling an American mando.

    If I wanted something in the under $800 range, I’d go PR if buying new. If I could swing twice as much or so, I’d think American. If you can play them, that changes things because I bet there are some much less expensive PR instruments that will equal a comparable American made one.

    If a PR is what one can afford right now, I’d get one. They are good mandolins, that are quite musical. I bet your favorite mandolinist would sound great on the $650 Eastman I had.



    Saw

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    My Eastman 915 is [ or was ] their top of the range mandolin, it really a great sounding and easy playing instrument, some time ago I played the Eastman 815 and this sounded great too. It's definately a ' keeper '

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    If the Pac rim mandolins ( & guitars) were below a certain standard,they simply wouldn't sell. That they have sold in their 1000's over the years, is testament to how good they can be,with the best ones holding their own against almost all but the very top tier mandolins made anywhere else,
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    Registered User G7MOF's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Looking at my map of the world, Won't Gilchrist be Pac Rim?
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Quote Originally Posted by G7MOF View Post
    Looking at my map of the world, Won't Gilchrist be Pac Rim?
    As would anyone building mandolins in the United States.

    Some past threads on the topic can be found here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Depending on your budget, there may not be any American made mandos available. I recently got an Eastman 615 and I think it sounds, looks and plays great. I have not played a Gibson or Collings because I cannot afford them.

    I think an Eastman would work for most folks buying their first mandolin.

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Cute, but for the purpose of mandolin discussion, Pac Rim refers to Asian-made instruments -- specifically those made in China, Korea or Japan. I see the term as an attempt (on this forum) to be somewhat politically-correct, rather than geographically-correct. Or possibly, just as shorthand for those countries.

    It has taken a long time, IMHO, for us to get to this (kinder, gentler) place in our discussion. I say this having grown up in the era when such "imports" were not taken seriously by American buyers. Now, we can talk about the merits of such instruments not only in terms of price, but also in sonic terms and build quality.

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Yup. Jeff says it. And it might be wise to move beyond just the price aspect. yes, that Eastman (and others) make mandolins that are affordable to a wide range of people, you also can look at the upper end of the market. Northfield is an interesting company with shops in both halves of the northern hemisphere, and is knocking out some amazing instruments. Their upper end Master Model is priced at a list of $6000, which many may consider high, but... I had the pleasure of presenting a show last month with Mike Marshall and Darol Anger, and Mike had his signature Northfields MM (which he helps design) and his Loar. While both messing around pre and post show, and during the show, he played both instruments equally, and, sorry Loar guys, you couldn't hear a difference. So, yeah, it's not just a price point that makes Pac-Rim instruments essential to mango-world well being, the quality can rock the house, too.

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    Cute, but for the purpose of mandolin discussion, Pac Rim refers to Asian-made instruments -- specifically those made in China, Korea or Japan....
    That's published where? Shouldn't Malaysia be in that list as well? Again, this is a discussion that has been going on for years and it has evolved. I think we need to concentrate more on how they are being built rather than where they are being built.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    we all, "Know" what Pac-Rim means. The term was not originated at this forum!

    This forum does like to go all pedantic whenever the term is used; however.

    I've owned a few great Japanese mandolins. All sub-$500 models. Most solid wood. All benefited from a setup and they were fine for playing/learning. I know little about the current Chinese models; but played a few. Dude at work owns a very nice Eastman f-model. Some top of their line model. And, I like it!

    f-d
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Why not buy what you like and can afford? We seem to go down this road a lot, and peoples' opinions are all over the place. You can get good instruments and not-so-good instruments from just about anywhere on the planet. If source is importaqnt to you, use it in your decision making. If it is not, don't worry about it. Good instruments can come from anywhere. Just buy the one that does it for you. Nobody else's opinion really matters.
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    I have a cheapest of the cheap pac-rim mandolin. It plays ok, much, much better than no mandolin. Just get what you can afford and play it.

    More practice will make you sound better than an expensive mandolin. It's surprising how much tone really is in the fingers.

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Others have gone through this better than I can. Will add that I would have no problem owning modern PacRim mandolin if it spoke to me. Have played a number of Eastman models that I could easlly have owned. And almost purchased a Sumi, but someone else got it first.
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    I honestly believe that if you want an American-made instrument, it will bother you till you get one. I have a guitar buddy who has been buying and selling cheap guitars for 20+ years trying to convince himself he didn't "need" a USA-made guitar. He finally caved in and got a USA-made PRS.

    My advice to anyone would be: sell some stuff, work a second job in the short term, or work some overtime, or do whatever it takes to make it happen. Then it won't bother you anymore, and you'll be able to move on and just make it about the music and not the equipment.
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    The level of quality of Pac Rim instruments continues to rise. For a student grade instrument the cost / quality ratio is very high. Eastman and Kentucky brand mandolins run the gamut from OK to very good and from inexpensive to quite pricey. Northfield Mandolins go for even more money and the quality is excellent . If you want to spend less than 1500.00$ +/- I recommend an import. Personally I am not a fan of flat top mandolins.
    Insofar as U.S. versus import I have bought both and been a satisfied customer. Fit and finish and materials are different from one mandolin to the next , older instruments often have better materials due to the availability at the time. Bottom line we will all have to continue to play an instrument to know what we think about it. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    My thoughs.... kinda scattered though, sorry.

    Pac Rim mandolins, I've owned a few, have been good to me (right now I only have one, a Loar LM 170-its my beater). They are affordable and can be very nice. But, they lack quality-consistency especially in lower price ranges. This seems to be the biggest difference between the two (we never see "b-stock" American mandolin sales).... but then, there are not a lot of lower priced America mandolins and ones we do see are an even more of a "niche" instrument- flat tops.
    Last edited by Zach Wilson; Dec-24-2017 at 11:50am. Reason: Unfairness

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    That's published where? Shouldn't Malaysia be in that list as well? Again, this is a discussion that has been going on for years and it has evolved. I think we need to concentrate more on how they are being built rather than where they are being built.
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Some of you want to discuss immigration issues, labor laws in other countries and other topics ripe for all out political infighting. This is not the forum for those issues.

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    To us old timers, this topic feels beaten to death, but the OP currently has 6 posts...so, legitimate question...

    My first mandolin was a Kentucky 675-S built the first year they moved production to China. It had plenty of issues, but was a new factory with a new/relatively inexperienced labor force. It's now a wall hanger that I let people I play music with carve their names into...

    I upgraded from that mandolin to a Silverangel Econo, and was amazed in the difference in tone, playability, and quality. Fast forward to about 2 summers ago, when I was in a music store with my wife. They had an Eastman 315 on clearance for less than $500, and I picked it up out of curiosity. I had 2 random people comment on how good it sounded, but I didn't "need" it, so put it down and left the next day for a week at the beach. After fighting the 675 that week, I decided a "Beater upgrade" was in order. Thankfully the Eastman was still there, and still discounted. I snatched it up, and have been extremely happy with it. I wouldn't hesitate to play it in church or out with friends. Its tone is not as complex as that of the SA or a Collings MT I briefly owned, but is pretty darn close. My wife can't really tell which one I'm playing by sound alone. If I could only keep one it would be the SA, but if the Eastman were the only one I could afford, I'd be happy with it as well.

    I've also played some newer Kentuckys that are immensely better than mine. Ten-fifteen years ago I'd have told you to buy an import with caution. Now, I highly recommend them, especially if you're on a tight budget. I've played some 3000+ dollar instruments that I wouldn't trade my 315 for. That said, in general, you get what you pay for, at least up to the $5000 mark or so. Beyond that it tends to be more personal preference than better or worse, in my very humble opinion. Eastman, Kentucky, and J Bovier are making some excellent mandos right now.

    Note that the Loar recently underwent some fairly massive shifts that are likely to negatively impact the quality of their product, so steer clear there unless you buy from a cafe sponsor who'll be sure to pick you out a good one...

    Note that I'm leaving out any personal commentary on supporting American luthiers or not...that's for you to decide for yourself...

    Good luck, and, welcome!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    I own both American made and Asian made mandolins and while they sound different from each other I would not hesitate in playing the Asian mandolin on any of my shows, in fact I did one short show with it when I first got it and when we listened to the recordings no one could hear any difference in them....Kentucky`s are made in at least two different factories in China and the mandolin from the KM-900 series up are good enough to be played by a pro in my opinion and they are all within most peoples mandolin budget...

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Judge a mandolin by how it sounds, how it plays, the quality of the workman(or woman)-ship, and the materials used.

    You could buy a 1974 Gibson F5.... or a Northfield Artist model....

    I know which I'd take, any day of the week...
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  38. #23
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Willie, as so often, has it right: I avoid the "Pac Rim" label, because it technically includes all countries with a Pacific seacoast, which includes Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the US (all nations with at least some mandolin production). Why not just say "Asian-made" if that's what we mean?

    As to the basic question, Asian manufacturers have largely taken over the entry-to-mid-level mandolin market, other than the Eastern European and Portuguese instruments generally sold in Europe, and some more specialized Mexican designs. We needn't go into the reasons for this, especially with the warning above to avoid discussing labor practices. Suffice it to say that production costs are substantially lower in some Asian countries than in the US -- lower enough to have spelled the doom of Harmony, Kay, and other US makers of student grade instruments.

    Within the spectrum of Asian-made mandolins, there are wide variations, from dirt-cheap "mandolin shaped objects" hawked on eBay, to respectable (and more) brands like Eastman, Kentucky, Loar, JBovier, Northfield, Trinity College, Gold Tone et. al. I should also add in Michael Kelly, Epiphone, Washburn, Morgan Monroe, Oscar Schmidt, and other Asian-made (currently) brands that don't seem to be quite up to the same level as the first list.

    Right now, I can ID only three widely-distributed US mandolin firms: Gibson, Weber and Collings. There are smaller builders that have a decent profile, like Big Muddy, and a large number of individual luthiers that make wonderful instruments and have attracted much support on the Cafe; I won't attempt to start a list, since I'd leave out the faves of a host of Cafe members.

    If you're comparing under-$1K instruments, your selection on the "new instrument" market is basically all-Asian. Within that, there are better and worse instruments. You'll find some use of laminates, heat-pressing instead of carving, machine carving instead of hand carving, thicker poly finishes; check the specs, and don't be misled by gaudy ornamentation.

    Above $1K, the top-end Asian instruments by brands like Kentucky, Northfield, and Eastman can hold their own with US makers, in terms of design, materials, work-person-ship, and "fit and finish." Choices between their top models, and US-made mandolins, become largely on the basis of individual preferences for price, looks, sound, playability (neck profile, e.g.) -- and, of course, brand reputation.

    I have a bunch of US-made, and a bunch of Asian-made, mandolins, and have tried to be selective in looking for the better examples of imported instruments -- leading me to purchase a bunch of Eastmans: MDA615 mandola, MDC805 mandocello, and DGM-1 and DGM-2 mandolins. For several reasons: [a] these types of instrument were only available from Eastman, [b] they were excellently made and sounded good; and [c] at their prices, they represented good values.

    Going by others' experience is always risky; "YMMV," as the cliche goes. So, just one person's 2˘.
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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    CES spoke of us old timers. I started playing 50+ years ago at a time when if you really wanted to put down an instrument you said it sounded like it was made in Japan. That mentality is hard to get over but I think I finally have. A few years ago I bought a The Loar, and after reworking the bridge and making a new nut I could tune it and it made a decent back-up mandolin. Several months ago I traded up to a Kentucky 900. Had to do nothing to it but play it ( did have a pick guard put on it so I wouldn't ware a hole in the finish) and play it I do, almost never get out my Dearstone now. Is the Kentucky as good as the 'stone--- no but it is close and constantly amazes me. As has been said if that was all the mandolin I could afford I would not be disappointed, when I started you had to find an old Gibson to even approach the quality of this Kentucky and the ones that surpassed it were few and too expensive. Anything really affordable was junk. People starting out today don't realize how good they have it. PAC Rim vs
    American made? Very close

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    Default Re: Pac Rim instruments vs American made instruments ??

    Imported instruments is how I got started. I remain a fan of the Eastman product. They make a nice looking and sounding instruments perfectly serviceable for beginner, intermediate and even touring musicians. I think a great repository for a long timeline of photos of people with Pac Rim instruments is the Women with Mandolin thread. A) it's been around for a long time B) many of the photos have people who are preforming at gigs with non-US made instruments. They are getting the job done.

    I certainly won't begrudge anyone spending whatever they can afford on an instrument. It's really none of my business. But, you really can find and play a wonderful mandolin that is not manufactured / built in the USA.

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