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Thread: First Major Upgrade Question

  1. #1
    Mandoguitarpicker
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    Default First Major Upgrade Question

    Hey Ladies and Gents
    I am a first time poster yet long time follower. I thoroughly enjoy following this forum and picking my mandolin and my guitars.

    I currently have a Kentucky KM-252 which not only is Beautiful but sounds Awesome as well. I am getting ready to pull the trigger on a upgrade mandolin and I am strongly considering the Kentucky KM-1050.

    I have followed this thread for many months now and see a tremendous amount of great feedback for the KM-1050 as well as the KM-1500 mandolins, Northfield F5S which look and sound awesome have popped up, in this price point as well but I haven't found any less than $2700 at the point of thread starting.

    I openly admit I am a true fan of the Kentucky Mandolins, I love their apparent quality, fantastic sound, as well as beautiful appointments, plus i don't live far from Bill Monroe's Hometown so I guess Kentucky runs in my blood but, i'm very open minded as well as willing to look at others, when it comes to spending $1500 to $2000 for a new to me ( don't mind buying mint or near mint used) instruments.

    My question as you might guess in any of your opinions is there a overall, no question ask, no doubt in your mind, better mandolin out there, in this price point than the Kentucky KM-1050 worthy of looking at before i pull the trigger on this fine instrument ?

  2. #2

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Instrument Alley has a new one for $1519 !!

  3. #3
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Eastman b-stock 915's historically fall in that range. They usually maintain their lifetime warranty as well. Kentucky doesn't offer that. Otherwise it is a fair value for a fine instrument.
    Axes: Rigel A Natural #1774 w/mods, Andrew Jerman Irwin-style 5 string electric "Stealie", Paul Newson custom blonde SCW "Feivel", Eastman 515, Epi Mandobird IV, Crafter M85E, Grandmom's solid-mahogany teens bent-top, Baglamas 002
    Rigs: Rigel Stealie Amps: Fishman Loudbox 100; Laney Cub 10

  4. #4
    Registered User colorado_al's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Depends on what you're looking for. I like the radiused fretboard of the KM-1050. Personally, I like the JBovier better than the KM-1050 I had.

    Check this out
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/121051#121051
    Stonebridge F5 $1500
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Checkout JBovier F5
    https://mandolins.ecrater.com/p/1642...t-or-black-top
    $1600
    Click image for larger version. 

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    I'd consider this Lebeda
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120525#120525
    $2000 OBO
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by colorado_al; Feb-18-2018 at 8:09pm.

  5. #5
    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_al View Post
    Check this out
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/121051#121051
    Stonebridge F5 $1500
    Click image for larger version. 

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    It has a flat fretboard, he is looking for one with a radius fretboard.
    2010 Weber Yellowstone

    I maybe wrong, but it is highly doubtful.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Thanks colorado_al...I played a JBovier F5 the other day didn't really blow me away... Have seen but not played a Stonebridge...but the Lebeda is a new one for me looks very nice in pictures. I will have to further investigate those options.

    I took Daves advice and played around today listening to video's of the Eastman 915....which is a very nice instrument as well and like the lifetime warranty thing also..but my brain keeps coming back to the Northfield F5S they give a 5 year warranty i believe and, the Kentucky KM-1050 which they only give a 1 year warranty, both very nice and fitting the sound and quality builds that i'm looking for...but I definitely will have to get my hands on the Eastman 915 and play it...and keep it in the mix Dave...sound and quality build is there as well, and the lifetime warranty is gonna be hard to overlook. Darn I guess I'll have to play them all some more before I pull the trigger.

    Jim...Instrument Alley is where I saw the new Kentucky KM-1050...$300 + less than any other new one found...has anyone ever purchased from them...I have not. All other shops are running $1899.

  7. #7

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    If you can live without the scrolls, I believe that a Northfield Model M punches above its weight. Then again, I own one so I am automatically biased....
    "Well, I don't know much about bands but I do know you can't make a living selling big trombones, no sir. Mandolin picks, perhaps..."

  8. #8
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    I have no financial interest here but there's a Pava in the classifieds at that price point, and I'm not seeing in your original post that you are set on radius fretboard of F style. I just bought a new to me Weber, otherwise I'd buy it myself. Both the Weber and the Pavas I have played impressed me more than the Kentucky mandolins I've tried.

  9. #9
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    From Michael - " I currently have a Kentucky KM-252 which not only is Beautiful but sounds Awesome as well.". While fully understanding your desire to 'upgrade' - give the description above of your current mandolin - do you really need an up-grade ???.

    I own an Ellis "A" style & my dream mandolin would be an Ellis F5 - but why ?. Simply the 'style'. There's very little evidence on here that a good "F" style is in any way superior (generally speaking )to a good "A" style. In my case,it would be ''change for changes sake'',so i've chosen to stay with my "A" style. If you're keeping your current mandolin (you don't mention that),then i hope that your up-grade will sound as good as IT does,
    Ivan

    PS - The last time i was in Kentucky was back in '92,at the IBMA Festival at the now defunct Executive Inn,in Owensboro. I also spent a couple of days in Lexington,visiting the Horse Park there & meeting a boat load of fantastic folks.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Ivan...thanks for the response and you are absolutely correct it simply a style thing mainly and the radius fretboard is playing in there as well due to liking my guitars as well and having large hands. The Kentucky KM-252 is going no where...I may need to take Michael, and trabb's approach and stick with the A style and concentrate on different sounding A style and get even more bang for my buck. Potentially stupid and loaded question (only stupid questions are the ones you don't ask)#2 are there any really good ( blow F styles away) A styles with radius fret boards in this range ($1500 to $2000) for us large hand fella's?
    Last edited by Michael Shaver; Feb-19-2018 at 11:34am. Reason: Misspelled wording

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  12. #11

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    I have a Kentucky KM-505 that has a radiused fretboard. Love it.Click image for larger version. 

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  13. #12
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Would recommend looking for a used wide nut Collings MT; they're going 1700-2000 used, and are exceptional mandolins. I believe Weber offers a wide nut option as well, so look for a used Gallatin with that feature (apologies if I'm mistaken on the Weber option). I have an Eastman 315, and their nuts tend to be 1 and 1/8 or slightly narrower, so that's something to consider. I have large hands but relatively slender fingers, and I notice the difference between my Silverangel and the Eastman, and particularly the difference between it and my wider nut National RM-1. It only takes a second to adjust to the narrower Eastman, but would definitely recommend playing before you buy, or at least insure there's a good return policy. They make fine instruments far better than their prices suggest.

    Nothing wrong with the KM 1050, they're very good mandolins! Extending the budget into the 2000 range opens up a plethora of options from independent luthiers and smaller shops as well. Happy hunting!
    Chuck

  14. #13
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Very nice...i really like the Kentucky's as well.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Thanks Chuck...im learning from this thread that F style doesnt mean better sound, quality, or now playability for large hands.
    It mainly means pretty !!! Which is not a grave concern of mine...but the other reasons mentioned are and i want to get all that i can get of those in that price range in a great mandolin. Looks are nice but not priority in this upgrade search.

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  17. #15

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    I had a Kentucky 1050 mandolin that I bought used here. It was a great mandolin. Sounded terrific. I took lessons from a guy that has several terrific mandolins including a Gilchrist F5. The first time I took it over there towards the end of the lesson he reached over and took it from me and played it. He then looked at the label and could not believe that Kentucky made a mandolin that sounded like that. It was loud, you could just keep playing harder and it just would get better but it had a sweetness when playing softer that I really liked. I played one other and it was right there with it. So if you like Kentucky mandolins you should definitely take a look. I would see if you could find a good used one or a 1500 (I think the earlier 1500's had a flat fretboard and smaller frets?). The one thing that would give me pause is the prices have increased on new ones that you are now into the price range some nice used F5's like Weber, Flatiron if lucky, Northfield and some small builders.

    I replace my 1050 with a Flatiron Festival F5 that is exceptional and a step up from the 1050.

  18. #16
    Mandoguitarpicker
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    I really like everything about the Kentucky KM-1050...but am as side open minded to a great A style with radiused fret-boards as well. Honestly looking for the best overall bang for the buck...A style or F doesn't really matter the 1050 just blows me away in all areas in that price range but if i can get more from a "A" style in that range i'm all ears !!! Thanks to everyone at this point for your comments and suggestions. This forum is awesome !!!

  19. #17

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    When I was at TMS, and playing up the ladder, there was a very audible difference when you got to the 1000 and above Kentuckys, but ultimately the Northfield was a cut above at an admittedly dear cost. I decided if I bought a Kentucky, I'd all ways wish I'd paid that cost.

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  20. #18
    Registered User Jesse Kinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    My experience with Kentucky vs Eastman might not be normal, but I have had a Kentucky KM630s since 2003 as my only mandolin (its an F style, but probably not as good of a build as your KM252). I wanted an upgrade so I tried out several Eastman’s at a local shop, including two 815’s and two 915’s. All of which sounded decent, but then I would pick up my KM630s and it would sound louder, but not really much worse as far as tone, definitely not worth the $1600 upgrade for the 815 or the $2500 for the 915. I assume that they would sound better with time, but none of them blew my Kentucky away by any means, just marginally better.
    I researched and researched on here and settled on a Kentucky KM900 A style from The Mandolin Store, and after playing it for a week I picked up my old KM630S and it sounded like trash in comparison to the KM900.
    I can’t imagine the KM1050 not being better than my KM900. mine is a lot of mandolin for the price! So my vote would be for one of the better Kentucky’s, or save up a little more and go for the Northfield.
    Jesse Kinman

    2017 Kentucky KM900
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    https://www.youtube.com/user/kinmanknives

  21. #19
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    I doubt that the 1050 is any better than the 900. The 1050 has bigger frets and a radius fingerboard if you prefer that, I don't. I bought a 900 about 6 month ago and it is one heck of a mandolin, not for it's price but just a heck of a mandolin bar none. I have 2 Flatirons and the Kentucky beats both in my opinion, it rivals my Dearstone, may be just as good just different. Well balanced where ever you put your fingers, which is the way I judge mandolins. So many have a strong bass or a great treble, or great below 7 th fret but the good overrides the weaker area. No weaker area on the Kentucky. I bought it for a beater but it is becoming my go to mandolin

  22. #20
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    There's a Collings MT in the classifieds for $1799. I would jump on that.

  23. #21
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    When I was looking to upgrade from my The Loar 520 in 2016 I was in the area of the Mandolin Store. Demoed the Kentucky 1050 and loved it for its sound and the neck size was what I was use to. Also demoed the Eastman 815 and 515. I liked the Eastmans also. I said to myself it they still had the 1050 by Christmas I’d buy it, but it sold in November. So I ordered an Eastman 515 as I didn’t think the 815 was worth the extra $700.

    Turns out the shape and size of the Eastman neck is much better for MY left hand. Very happy I didn’t get the 1050. As a side note, the 1050 has wider neck/nut than your typical Kentucky. Demoing is really a good idea.
    Eastman MD 515
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  24. #22

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    $2000 is upper limit? I'd go with a Collings MT. I'd also look at Webers and Gibsons in that range. If I you get a Gibson or Weber, I'd recommend playing it first. If you go with Collings, you can't go wrong as I've never played a bad one. Good luck on your search.

  25. #23
    Registered User samlyman's Avatar
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    I too am a fan of Kentucky mandolins. I own a KM 140 that is a great mando for the $160 I have into it. I bought a used KM 950 from The Mandolin Store last year for $750 shipped (almost exactly what I paid for the Calton case for my Collings). I later spent $130 on setup work. I play this mandolin about the same amount of time as my 2005 Collings MT2V. I am going off to Wintergrass later this week and taking my KM 950. It is a strong mandolin!. It does not have the super-sweet tone of the Collings but that is fine with me. The Kentucky is loud and has a dry, woody tone that works great for fast bluegrass and fiddle tunes. I am guessing most of my friends will assume I am playing my Collings!

    It does not look too shabby either!
    Click image for larger version. 

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  26. #24

    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Quote Originally Posted by lukmanohnz View Post
    If you can live without the scrolls, I believe that a Northfield Model M punches above its weight. Then again, I own one so I am automatically biased....
    I have an early Northfield A5S and it punches WAY above it's weight.
    Breedlove Crossover OO
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  27. #25
    Mandoguitarpicker
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    Default Re: First Major Upgrade Question

    Sam...thanks for your response..i watched your video's and all I can say is WOW that Collings rocks. The KM-950 is terrific don't get me wrong but f your friends cant tell between the two ??? That Collings really has more than the 950 no doubt in my mind at all. That is probably the best I've heard in my price range at this point !!! I'm headed to the classifieds to take a look at the Collings that Eric recommended to look at. Thanks to both of you.

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