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Thread: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

  1. #26

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    IMO there are quite a few really nice mandos coming out of people like Eastman, The Loar, Michael Kelley, Kentucky, etc. in addition to the independents. I've even gotten raves about my Paris Swing from experienced luthiers.

    There is no magic to this anymore. The designs, building processes, etc. which were once the secret sauce, are now so well known and universally used that all it takes is a bit of hunting to find one that works within one's budget. I personally don't see the necessity to spend more than $1 to 2k for a great mandolin unless resale or bragging rights are driving factors.
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  2. #27
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Being one who lived through the “mandolin drought” of the ‘70’s when Harmony kind of ruled the roost for “introductory mandolins”, the scope of infinitely superior instruments available today is mind boggling.
    Back then it was vintage or pretty much Harmony. Then in 74, Alvarez and a few others came on the scene. I was lucky, I had talented luthiers around when I got mine and had a very careful set up done by my friends. I didn’t know a blue eyed thing and they all helped.
    There have been a few other mandolins that have passed through my hands (Gibson A-50, Stiver A-5, and so on) but, I’ve never been let down by the Alvarez. Bought new in 75, replaced the stock single footed rosewood bridge with a two footed ebony after about a year, (fitted by the store owner), two nuts, custom engraved TR cover, a couple of fret jobs, second case (still have the original) it’s still serving me solidly. So, there I’ve thrown a serious wrench in the works! I’ve played it professionally for a long time and it does the job as well as I can play! Sorry, that got a little rambling but,
    Timothy F. Lewis
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  3. #28
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    i'd like to comment on the Stanley. i had a chance to buy it from Don Julie some 5 years ago, but mine was already on order. Later, Don Grieser had that same A5 and recorded a number of tunes with it on his YouTube account...have a listen to "Farewell to Long Hollow". Like my Stanley, it took the Red Spruce top a few years to break in and for all the strings to come into balance, and it has matured nicely, opened up, and is pretty much oozing Monroe now. There are many good mandolins out there, and while a good '24 snakehead, CE Ward A5 with huge volume and amazing treble strings, very good Smart A5 and '80's KM1000, the Stanley saw them all come and go and withstands the test of time. Bill would say "It notes good." for sure.

  4. #29
    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    I played the Stanley(F-5) that was on tour with Ron Spears during his tenure with Special Concensus, it was HOT! I didn’t, don’t, and, doubt I, will amass the coin to order one but, it was sure a screamer in Ron’s hands. And, it was mighty pretty. Excellent workmanship, fabulous feel! Upper shelf goods to say the least.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    OP, I would say Collings, Pava, and Weber would be "safe" choices, but as I don't play Bluegrass in a band I don't know exactly the sound you are looking for, I mostly play for myself at home. But those are what I consider mid-range in price, and good quality.

  6. #31

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by sblock View Post
    Well, Collings mandolins all tend to have a rather distinct sound. In fact, they seem to be amazingly reproducible from one to the next, in my experience! If that's the sound that you prefer in a mandolin, then I'd say, by all means go for it! New or used, the Collings is probably for you. And if you prefer a matte finish A-style, then Collings has among the best such mandolins. It's hard to go wrong IF the Collings sound is what you're really after, since they all tend to have it. Furthermore, they have great 'playability,' too.

    However, at the risk of detracting from this paean, some of us prefer a fundamentally different sound in a mandolin. It's hard (to impossible!) describe this sound in words, but it's a bit more 'earthy' or 'woody' or 'throaty' -- whatever. Some, but certainly not all, Gibsons tend to have it. It is also heard in the high-end models from Gilchrist, Nugget, Ellis, Altman, and so on (this list is not all-inclusive). These instruments most definitely do not deliver a Collings sound, but something else that's quite recognizably different to my ear. The Pava mandolins are closer to this camp, for example, and also the Northfields. Not Collings.

    So it all comes down to a matter of personal preference. Writing for myself, I am not a big fan of Collings, and there you are. You may find that your own taste for sound continues to evolve and change in the years ahead. This is perfectly normal. It might explain, at least partly, why some of us are still lusting after other mandolins...

    Listen to as many different mandolins as you can. Play as many as you can. Consider making a trip to the mainland to a reputable store just to get that experience. The added expense of such a trip is a worthwhile investment in-and-of-itself, particularly when you expect to shell out thousands of dollars (maybe many thousands?) in the years ahead. Maybe you can combine it with a trip to a festival, or a business trip, or a vacation? One of the best things I ever did to educate my ears was make the pilgrimage to Nashville and visit Carter's and Gruhn's. I came away with a whole new perspective.
    Good post. Yeah I'd get a Gilchrist if I had it. In fact for the price, I'm due for another trip down under and would put in my order personally.

    Taking a second look at Pava and Northfield now.
    Last edited by Zeke Chandler; Feb-17-2018 at 2:23am.

  7. #32
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    For the same amount I would rather have a Girouard and I have played both.
    This one just showed up in the classifieds..........

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/121130#121130

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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  8. #33
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    There's a good looking Pava in the classifieds today NFI.

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    This one just showed up in the classifieds..........

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/121130#121130

    NFI
    Beautiful !! If I didn't have an oval hole ordered I would be tempted to buy it !
    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

  10. #35
    Registered User mee's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    The best mandolin will be the one that sounds best to YOUR ears ! Play as many as you can and then decide ! There are too many mandolins priced from ten thousand and down to mention ! So--------I won't !
    This is so true, I fell in love with Eastmans when I played a couple and started thinking I should have one for a back up. Then I went to another music store and played a couple more and didn't like them. One would not stay in tune. Probably had to do with set up. Anyhow this has me looking and thinking. And looking. Watching classifieds. I don't know if I want used or new but something good in the $500-$1000 range. Probably an A style this time, to take camping. I thought of starting a new thread for discussion on what to get since the good folk here seem to love giving advice.

  11. #36
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    There are two Brentrup's in the classifieds now. Every time I get MAS (almost daily when on here) I play my Brentrup and am happy. This is the only V21 I have seen for sale in nearly 10 years.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/121822#121822

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  13. #37
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    The one I just bought!

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_al View Post
    The one I just bought!
    Well Al, congratulations, mine has been my gigging instrument for some time now. I still like it best at home alone or with one or two people so I can really hear the quality of the sound. Don't get me wrong, I like it in a jam or band situation, but not as much as when I can really hear it. Mine is a similar vintage to this V21, I think a year off. These are great mandolins enjoy. I also met Hans a few times and call him on the phone now and again to see how he is doing. Great guy, and Maureen is a wonderful lady too, I enjoy talking to them both. Hope this is a lifetime mandolin for you.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  16. #39
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Thanks Pops1! I was actually intending the Collings MT2-O that I just bought! It arrived yesterday and needed a good cleaning! It is a 2008 and it looked like it had never had the fretboard cleaned once. I took it all apart and cleaned everything. Turns out, there are MOP markers in the fretboard! I also buffed the finish with 09 Meguiar's, oiled the fretboard, polished the frets and tailpiece, lowered the action and adjusted the bridge position. It's seen its share of bumps and bruises, but it sure sounds sweet!

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  18. #40
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    This is a great question, in 1983 I bought a new Kentucky KM1500, certainly all I could afford, but I soon determined that I would have to spend 5 or 6 thousand dollars to get to get a BETTER sounding/playing mandolin. Please do not misunderstand, I am not saying that my KM1500 is/was worth that much now or then, I think you see my point. So my advice would be to look at used mandos that you can play a bit before buying, and if spending a lot of money is not something you can, or NEED to do (surprising but there some who NEED to spend a lot), but you can get a lot without doing so. IMHO

  19. #41
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_al View Post
    Thanks Pops1! I was actually intending the Collings MT2-O that I just bought! It arrived yesterday and needed a good cleaning! It is a 2008 and it looked like it had never had the fretboard cleaned once. I took it all apart and cleaned everything. Turns out, there are MOP markers in the fretboard! I also buffed the finish with 09 Meguiar's, oiled the fretboard, polished the frets and tailpiece, lowered the action and adjusted the bridge position. It's seen its share of bumps and bruises, but it sure sounds sweet!
    Al, That is one of the mandolins that I keep coming back to looking at. It would be way different than the V21. Whoever buys the Brentrups will be happy also. My '22 A2 would solve MAS for an oval sound wise, nothing can beat it, but these days I like being able to use the upper parts of the neck and it is much harder on the short neck mando's.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  20. #42
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Hi Zeke,

    I have no idea where you are located, but yesterday at the Fret Mill in Roanoke, I played a great Flatiroin A5-jr (Bruce Weber - '94) that was great and at $1,400. Yeah, some finish issues and such.

    f-d
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  21. #43
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    I would take an Ellis, Wienman or Girouard!
    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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