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Thread: Question about mandolins under $1000

  1. #1

    Default Question about mandolins under $1000

    Iíve had my Kentucky KM-172 for almost a week now, and Iím pretty happy with. I wish the frets were a bit bigger for my inexperienced fingers, but thatís a minor complaint.

    I read a lot of posts on this forum to help me decided which oval hole mandolin I should purchase, and it seemed that the consensus for the best affordable ones were the Kentuckyís (171,172,174), and the Eastman MD 504. The Eastman goes for twice the price of the Kentucky, depending on where you buy it from, yet there were plenty of people who preferred the sound of the Kentucky over the Eastman. In the end more people said the Eastman was better, but it seemed more people chose it not because it sounded considerable better, but because it had a radius fingerboard.

    So this got me wondering. Is there really much difference, sound wise, between mandolins in the 300-$400 range and ones in the 600-$800 range, or is it really just preference in the look and feel of an instrument at that point?


  2. #2

    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    Yes there is a difference, the adage you get what you pay for is pretty spot on. However, there is also a difference between say 10 of any same exact models. 1 may be a hoss, 6 may be good, 2 ok and 1 horrible. There is also the law of diminishing returns at play as well the more you spend.

    All things are subjective as far as radiused/sound/personal preference goes. There is no right or wrong, black or white answer.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    Hi Drewsey,

    There "can be" a major difference between instruments at these price points, but it really depends on the particular instruments. There are "some" $300 mandolins that will sound better than "some" $1200 mandolins. A handful of lower priced mandolins stand out from the pack.
    Robert Fear

    "Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.
    " - Pete Seeger

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Conneaut Lake, PA

    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    It has been my experience that price does not necessarily equal tone in this price range. Take the Kentucky line first. The 150 is almost legendarily good among those in the know and yet it is the bottom of the brand's totem pole. Ditto for the Eastman line. There are plenty of stories here about folks who think their 300 series sounds better than the more expensive 500 series. Really when you get right down to it mandolins are individuals and need to be judged that way. Don't have any preconceived notions based on cost. Play as many as you can. Try before you buy.

    By the way if you like large frets you will probably not like Eastmans because they are even smaller than Kentucky frets. In the other brands under 1000 Breedloves have pretty big frets. The A (they call them O) styles are just in there at 999.

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  5. #5

    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    The Loars have big frets too. I played a 700 at NAMM last weekend that was one hell of a mando at any price FWIW.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    now Los Osos, CA

    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    It is a heart breaking fact that sound to each person is subjective. Add to this no two instruments are the same. And it takes a pretty long time for someone to play before they can discern all these variables. And it's at the worst when you need it the most, when you are starting out. And the hardest thing for me was my technique to come around to pulling what I want out of a mandolin. So it's not easy to say "buy this and you'll be ok" or "this is the best for the $$$". This forum is the most helpful place on the internet bar none. But none of us can tell you exactly what you need. And you are not realistically going to able to fully appreciate all the subtle and not so subtle differences for a while yet.

    Best to keep reading the wonderful posts on the myriad of things that are mandolin and don't let MAS get the best of you. It's easy to get sucked into stuff that's just more of an distraction from what it's really about. Making music with our favorite instrument. Like the old song said, love the one you're with.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    Thanks all.

    I'm happy I chose the Kentucky, and I will probably play it for a couple of years until my playing ability improves enough to deserve a better mandolin. I only asked because the mandolin is the first instrument I have ever tried to learn, so I'm definitely new to all things music related, and as such I was under the impression that the price of an instrument is proportionate to it's quality. But the more I read these forums the more I learn that isn't always the case.

    Thanks again for the help.

  8. #8
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Upstate New York
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    Default Re: Question about mandolins under $1000

    Another advantage of hanging in with what you have is that with a little time you will get a better idea of what you like, what you love, and what you can live with. You bring a lot more experience and informed preferences to the purchase of your next one.

    Shopping and buying is fun - but playing is awesome. Get to it!
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff

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