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Thread: The Loar production issues?

  1. #1
    A bit of an idiot SpencerMando's Avatar
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    Default The Loar production issues?

    Alright so this might be more of a question to distributors and store owners (e.g. Mr. Fear). I just got my second loar 520 in the mail. The last one buzzed like hell all over the place. I understand that you're always supposed to get it set up, however from my days as a guitarist I assume and require the instrument to be quite playable prior to set up. So I open the box today, loar number 2, this one has to be good, right?

    Sadly, no. Whilst the finish and the feel of the instrument is on par with nicer guitars that I've played (I don't have much reference to mandolins) it buzzes like crazy again. I looked down the neck and it looked like a mountain road, with bumps and curves all over the place. Needless to say, I'm sending it back tomorrow and requesting another one to be sent to me. Third time is the charm. I just wanted to ask if others have had such god awful experience with loar? I think I might just have a mandolin grudge, I have had 5 mandolins over the past month, this next one makes it six. I don't consider myself to be picky at all but its incredibly frustrating.

    Thanks

  2. #2

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerMando View Post
    from my days as a guitarist I assume and require the instrument to be quite playable prior to set up.
    I don't think this is a reasonable assumption with most mandolins in that price range. There are literally thousands of posts on this site which emphasise the indispensability and the necessity of a proper set up. There is a very good reason for this. Because it is true. Mandolins are really not like guitars in many ways.

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    Registered User sgrexa's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    If you are not familiar with mandolins, there might some simple reasons you are hearing a buzz. Did you check to make sure it is not coming from a loose tuner screw or the tailpiece cover? What was wrong with the other 5?

  5. #4

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by Franc Homier Lieu View Post
    I don't think this is a reasonable assumption with most mandolins in that price range. There are literally thousands of posts on this site which emphasise the indispensability and the necessity of a proper set up. There is a very good reason for this. Because it is true. Mandolins are really not like guitars in many ways.
    Those mandolins are not like guitars as regards set up. From my first good mando in 1978 to my last purchase on 2009 required nothing save for some small tweaks to accommodate my own idiosyncrasies.

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  7. #5

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    I'm sorry for you SpencerMando, but Franc is right. You may get lucky and the next one could be better, but chances are they won't be. If you're interested in tackling the setup yourself, there are lots of resources on this site and elsewhere that could help you, but it could be a challenge if you haven't done that kind of work before, so I'd recommend taking it to someone with experience if you can.

    And Mike's right too, there probably are other brands that might give you fewer problems, although I wouldn't want to be the one to guarantee it.

    And I'm afraid the need for setup work does not end with brand new low end mandos. I have bought new and second hand mandolins in higher price ranges, and seen many in the hands of other pickers, which, in my opinion, needed a certain amount of work done to fulfill their potential.

  8. #6
    A bit of an idiot SpencerMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    I took the current one to a luthier guy. He took it, looked down the neck and asked me the price. He then told me to "just send it back" as the rectification just wasn't worth the effort. He seemed to think that the neck was pretty much hopeless

  9. #7
    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    I got a 520 a few weeks ago from F.com and my experience is the reverse. It's smooth to play, sounds great and makes me appear better than I am. I've no regrets with my decision to get the 520 from this source except one - should have done it sooner! Granted, mine was properly set up prior to delivery to me. I'm enjoying it.

    In this day and age of mass production and worldwide delivery, more and more stuff (cars, musical instruments, anything complex) requires a local dealer's "hands-on" check and adjustment in order to make sure the product doesn't become a warranty nightmare. Yes, there is a cost factor to consider, but the time and effort involved in performance disappointment, repackaging, shipping, explaining, arguing, and having it happen multiple times makes any additional cost (for me, anyway) minimal.

    One thing most of us will never know is how many instruments are returned by local "hands-on" dealers for exactly the problems you are describing, and that reiterates the value of these hands-on dealers.

    If the sales operation doesn't do anything other than slap a shipping label on a box received from the other side of the globe, especially on an item known to be somewhat sensitive, it's customer-roulette how satsfactory the product will be when the box is opened. Quite often there is no problem, but when they happen they are indeed expensive and utterly frustrating.

    As a side thought, consider recording the serial numbers of the instruments being sent to you. Are they consecutive (or close to it) numbers or from obviously different production runs? Once I had problems woth a camera order, sent the item back twice, and the second time received the one I first got back again. There was no third chance given.
    Last edited by Steve Zawacki; Feb-05-2014 at 4:48pm.
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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Buy from a reputable dealer who does the set-up for you. Instead of inquiring for Robert Fear's opinion, you should call him and purchase from him (or any of the recommended dealers here on the cafe). If they are mando-centric they will typically screen out the bad instruments and send you something that is ready to play. A twisted neck would have never shipped, and if it had they would cheerfully work it out for you.

    One of the hardest things for me to deal with when I started playing mandolin 10 yrs ago was the cost. I have been playing guitar since I was a kid and currently have a Martin HD-28. A mandolin to match the quality of the Martin will cost twice the price. A generalization but pretty close to reality. There are ways to work around this (A vs F, fancy vs stripped down), but I know from my guitar experience it is a joy and inspiration to play a good quality instrument, and total frustration to struggle with a piece of junk.

    I think the good news is that there are many reasonable entry-level instruments out there but bargain basement prices are typically going to buy you something nearly unplayable. You either need to accept that and become your own mando-tech -- or work with someone you can trust, preferably a knowledgeable and caring dealer who knows mandolins, is sensitive to your playing style and needs, and does the set-up for you. In the long run it will be relatively cheaper.
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  11. #9
    A bit of an idiot SpencerMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    I've been trying to find a legitimate retailer near me but there are none. I only mentioned fear because I see his name the most, I am thousands of miles away from him. I'm in Germany and it seems like the only place to get these things is Thomann which is just like musiciansfriend or amazon. I do wish that there was a shop nearby.

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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by Franc Homier Lieu View Post
    I don't think this is a reasonable assumption with most mandolins in that price range. There are literally thousands of posts on this site which emphasise the indispensability and the necessity of a proper set up. There is a very good reason for this. Because it is true. Mandolins are really not like guitars in many ways.
    I have a 520, which was ok out of the box. I immediately had a luthier adjust the nut, dress the frets and (because I wanted to use a Fishman M100 bridge with a built in pickup) change out and properly fit the feet of the bridge to the top of the mando. It is now a really great player. When I let friends try it, it compares favorably to much more expensive mandos. I think it's not realistic to expect any mandolin to be at its best without a proper setup. I also think you need to find a better or more open minded luthier based on the response you got the last time.

  14. #11
    A bit of an idiot SpencerMando's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandorich View Post
    I also think you need to find a better or more open minded luthier based on the response you got the last time.
    I agree, guy seemed like a bit of a <Removed by Moderator. It's a family forum>. I'll have to work on that. They did have quite a nice ortega (I've badgered this forum with questions about it in the past, I hope my conundrum doesn't get on anyone's nerves). It played nice and sounded good to my ears however it seem that laminate is a big no no. If this next loar ####s up I think I'll just go with it.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Feb-05-2014 at 9:18pm.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Buy used from a European seller on the Mandolin Cafe classifieds:

    Bruno & Sons The Vernon for 250 Euros (in Germany): http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/72593
    Levin for 300 Euros (in Germany): http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/73168
    Kentucky KM-505 for 450 Euros (in Spain): http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/72567
    The Loar 600-VS for 500 Euros (in Holland): http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/71605

    Both the Kentucky and the Loar discuss the setup the instrument has had in the listing.
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Buying acoustic instruments online has always been a crap-shoot, IMHO. Especially from the big-box outlets.

    Just like purchasing a car, there's a certain amount of "dealer-prep" factored into the pricing at the builders end. When these come off an assembly-line, workers are concerned about getting the right pieces put on the right instruments with the understanding any fine-tuning is to be done by the dealer before delivery to the customer.

    Big-box resellers like Amazon, Musician's Friend, etc. don't even open the cartons for an inspection - they receive them, stack them then ship them out. That way they off-load setup to the customer and, through a lower price, pass that along as savings. A smaller shop usually charges more because they "usually" do at least a minimal setup before putting instruments on the floor.

    Whenever I purchase from a big-box I always figure a thorough setup at my end as part of the deal. Buzzy frets is one of those issues that a good fret level and dress fixes up real quick.
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    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerMando View Post
    I agree, guy seemed like..... They did have quite a nice ortega ......If this next loar ####s up I think I'll just go with it.
    This may seem a bit mercenary, but it may be interesting to know how long the fellow has had the Ortega for sale and if you are the first/only person to be interested in it for a long time. It would be terrible if his reluctance with the 520 had something to do with a desire to sell the Ortega. Yeah, I am cynical sometimes.

    The earlier comment about availability of used mandolins is an astute one, especially if one can get a trial period with the instrument. Also, putting a Wanted To Buy in the Classifieds for what you want may bring a pleasant surprise. Folk often don't consider selling an instrument until a WTB catches their attention, and then they rationalize why selling a spare/extra instrument makes sense. If the goal is to get what you want rather than settling for what's locally available, and apparently the Ortega doesn't have a line of suitors, a WTB may help.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Have a look at this site :- http://www.streichholz-schachtel.de/ Streichholz-Schactel (Match Box) in Bavaria. They seem to have a few good quality mid-price mandolins in stock. You could also send a PM to our good friend & fellow Cafe member Bertram Henze in Germany.I'm sure he would help out with some info.,
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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    I understand that you're always supposed to get it set up, however from my days as a guitarist I assume and require the instrument to be quite playable prior to set up.
    This is where you went wrong. A mandolin is not a guitar, and it sounds like you had read enough warnings from people that you knew you should have gotten a setup, but you figured they were all just full of it. Now you see why a setup is necessary.

    We see stories like yours all the time here on the Cafe. All the talk about setup is for a reason. It's an absolute necessity, since large-factory-made mandolins are not guaranteed to be "quite playable" without one. They do not come from the factory in playable condition! And it's on purpose. They are simply "assembled" at the factory. The final step is supposed to be done by the dealer. And you, the customer, are supposed to tell the dealer how you want it done (i.e. how you want the action adjusted). He is supposed to tailor the instrument to the user's needs, which is a function of the strings you want to use, the music you like to play, etc. But dealers just skip that step unless you pay them extra. And customers tend to think it's just an extravagance that's unnecessary. Like car dealers trying to sell you the undercoat option. But it is absolutely necessary.

    You get what you pay for. And you don't get what you don't pay for. If you insist on continuing to send back mandolins and getting new ones without a setup, you're going to keep having issues. Spend the extra few bucks for a setup; it's worth every penny. This is not a The Loar issue; it's just the way things are done with all the big-factory-made mandolin brands.

  22. #17

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Hi Spencer,

    It sounds like your experience is turning out to be less than enjoyable, but as others are stating, it does sound perfectly normal.

    This is not just a The Loar thing. With the exception of a few high-end mandolins (and a lot of those as well), mandolins will range from playable with some issues, to non-playable. Uneven frets, bridge issues, loose end pics, messed up nuts, etc.. are all standard until someone has worked on the mandolin. Last week, I had to replace the nut on a $2000 mandolin because three of the string slots were cut too low (from the factory). I just considered it normal, grabbed a piece of bone and went to work. I expect this stuff to happen.

    There is one more important factor in play here. US brands like The Loar, have quality control in place at the US warehouse. They are also doing some setup work (very basic) at the US warehouse before the instrument go to "US" dealers. When companies deal with foreign distributers, warehousing, QC and warranty service are all supposed to be handled by the distributer. This is a standard business practice. The instruments go directly from the factory to the distributor. The Loar quality control is bypassed and the distributor "should" take on this roll. Final setup stills fall on the dealer and would include fret dressing, refitting bridges, etc. Most dealers choose not to do this.

    Odds are, the LM-520 mandolins you received thus far were fine and just needed setup. The setups are difficult, time consuming and even most pro luthiers are not able to do a really good job setting up a mandolin. This is just like the bowed instrument world, where you won't expect to find a talented mandolin guy at a general music store. You end up hunting down a violin shop. My best advice is to first look for a luthier, then worry about what mandolin to buy for said luthier to setup. As you are finding out, setup is more important than the quality of the mandolin. Personally, I would stick with the LM-520 and go luthier shopping. I have yet to see a better F-mandolin at the price point. Keep us posted. We are waiting for the happy ending here soon.
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  24. #18
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Everyones right they need a proper setup and really that should've been done by the dealer! For sure if they say they come with a setup! I bought my Gilchrist F-5 used a few years ago and it came from a real reputable dealer and they say they set up everything? Well when I got it I still had to do bridge work, the action was to high the treble side of the bridge leaning into the body, luckily they did the refret and board setup right. But it is disappointing when your spending any hard earned $$

  25. #19

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    Hi Spencer,

    It sounds like your experience is turning out to be less than enjoyable, but as others are stating, it does sound perfectly normal.

    This is not just a The Loar thing. With the exception of a few high-end mandolins (and a lot of those as well), mandolins will range from playable with some issues, to non-playable. Uneven frets, bridge issues, loose end pics, messed up nuts, etc.. are all standard until someone has worked on the mandolin. Last week, I had to replace the nut on a $2000 mandolin because three of the string slots were cut too low (from the factory). I just considered it normal, grabbed a piece of bone and went to work. I expect this stuff to happen.

    There is one more important factor in play here. US brands like The Loar, have quality control in place at the US warehouse. They are also doing some setup work (very basic) at the US warehouse before the instrument go to "US" dealers. When companies deal with foreign distributers, warehousing, QC and warranty service are all supposed to be handled by the distributer. This is a standard business practice. The instruments go directly from the factory to the distributor. The Loar quality control is bypassed and the distributor "should" take on this roll. Final setup stills fall on the dealer and would include fret dressing, refitting bridges, etc. Most dealers choose not to do this.

    Odds are, the LM-520 mandolins you received thus far were fine and just needed setup. The setups are difficult, time consuming and even most pro luthiers are not able to do a really good job setting up a mandolin. This is just like the bowed instrument world, where you won't expect to find a talented mandolin guy at a general music store. You end up hunting down a violin shop. My best advice is to first look for a luthier, then worry about what mandolin to buy for said luthier to setup. As you are finding out, setup is more important than the quality of the mandolin. Personally, I would stick with the LM-520 and go luthier shopping. I have yet to see a better F-mandolin at the price point. Keep us posted. We are waiting for the happy ending here soon.
    I am starting to look at my The Loar LM-220vs a little differently then. I got it and it sounded strange at the 8th and 9th frets. I sent it for setup and was told that the frets were not level and the bridge was very slightly bowed (I cannot see it). I was somewhat disappointed and had him set the bridge, etc. but instead of fret level he raised the bridge slightly. I was disappointed and I am looking into getting another mando now that I am starting to take lessons and my instructor doesn't really like my Loar.

    Now I am thinking I should just get the rest of the setup done? Am I interpreting this right, that the mando may not be as "defective" as I thought? Thanks for an informative thread.

  26. #20
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    From what I understand Thomann is the Musician's Friend of Europe, and does no dealer set-up on the mid-range instruments it sells. Discount prices instead.

    Where are you in Germany? There must be instrument dealers with mandolin set-up and adjustment experience within hollering distance. Thomann is the only dealer listing on the Loar website. Here's a not-too-aged thread on German mandolin dealers.
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  27. #21

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulaJ View Post
    I am starting to look at my The Loar LM-220vs a little differently then. I got it and it sounded strange at the 8th and 9th frets. I sent it for setup and was told that the frets were not level and the bridge was very slightly bowed (I cannot see it). I was somewhat disappointed and had him set the bridge, etc. but instead of fret level he raised the bridge slightly. I was disappointed and I am looking into getting another mando now that I am starting to take lessons and my instructor doesn't really like my Loar.

    Now I am thinking I should just get the rest of the setup done? Am I interpreting this right, that the mando may not be as "defective" as I thought? Thanks for an informative thread.
    You are correct - all your mando needs is a little TLC from an experienced luthier.

    Mandolins are particularly susceptible to uneven frets because of the short scale. At the factory the frets are either hammered or pressed into the fretboard and as long as the proper number of frets are installed, all is good. To make it really playable you need to bring the strings as close to the fretboard as possible through nut/bridge work. When you lower the strings any frets that are even slightly higher or lower than the rest will cause buzzing, etc.

    While raising the bridge is one way of "fixing" the problem, it really just causes others. Aside from making the instrument harder to play, the higher the strings are from the frets the more prone they are to ring sharp when depressed because of the extra distance they have to travel.

    The best way to resolve this issue - and I have had to do it on every instrument I've ever purchased - is to set the proper amount of neck relief through the truss-rod adjustment [assuming there is one], using something like a ####### file to make all frets the same height, "crown" each fret [make the top rounded, not flat] and then sand them so they are smooth.

    Even after I've had an instrument for a while, I'll often need to come back an do "touch-ups" as it takes a while [sometimes years] for all the pieces to settle from manufacturing and climatic changes.

    Best advice - if you can't do this yourself find someone in your town who can so you can get the most enjoyment you can from your mandolin journey.
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    I can confirm that Thomann-purchased instruments have no setup work (or even checking) done. They come in.. they go out. This is easy to prove as they still have the strings "factory wrapped" with factory "QC" stickers on there.... it is quite obvious they have never been so much as touched since they left the factory. I see a lot of them... guitars too. Unfortunately this is compounded by very shaky QC at "The Loar" factory as well. So, you can be very unlucky and end up with instruments supplied with sometimes major defects. The good news is they are fine with you returning them... some just need frets tidying up, the nut corrected, bridge adjusted (or replaced) and minor truss rod corrections - but others can have far more serious faults. I would only advise buying that brand from supplier who will check them carefully, and ensure they are in good playing condition.
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    Registered User Wolfmanbob's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    You got some good feedback from some of the guys. As they said, mandolins in this price range are going to be hit or miss. You might hit a good one, but there will be lots of clunkers too. Also, best is to buy one from a dealer where you can play it first and make sure you've got a good situation going. From what I hear, The Loar does not have such a good reputation, the best in this range is probably Kentucky.
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    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by SpencerMando View Post
    I've been trying to find a legitimate retailer near me but there are none. I only mentioned fear because I see his name the most, I am thousands of miles away from him. I'm in Germany and it seems like the only place to get these things is Thomann which is just like musiciansfriend or amazon. I do wish that there was a shop nearby.
    Maybe check out Pro Arte Fine Acoustics in Kirchheim? Not a The Loar dealer apparently, but they seem to have Kentucky mandolins, which are better & still not extremely expensive ....

  31. #25

    Default Re: The Loar production issues?

    Quote Originally Posted by Verne Andru View Post
    You are correct - all your mando needs is a little TLC from an experienced luthier.

    Mandolins are particularly susceptible to uneven frets because of the short scale. At the factory the frets are either hammered or pressed into the fretboard and as long as the proper number of frets are installed, all is good. To make it really playable you need to bring the strings as close to the fretboard as possible through nut/bridge work. When you lower the strings any frets that are even slightly higher or lower than the rest will cause buzzing, etc.

    While raising the bridge is one way of "fixing" the problem, it really just causes others. Aside from making the instrument harder to play, the higher the strings are from the frets the more prone they are to ring sharp when depressed because of the extra distance they have to travel.

    The best way to resolve this issue - and I have had to do it on every instrument I've ever purchased - is to set the proper amount of neck relief through the truss-rod adjustment [assuming there is one], using something like a ####### file to make all frets the same height, "crown" each fret [make the top rounded, not flat] and then sand them so they are smooth.

    Even after I've had an instrument for a while, I'll often need to come back an do "touch-ups" as it takes a while [sometimes years] for all the pieces to settle from manufacturing and climatic changes.

    Best advice - if you can't do this yourself find someone in your town who can so you can get the most enjoyment you can from your mandolin journey.
    This is good news, thank you for the reply. I don't want to derail this thread with my specific issues, so I will start a new thread with all of my questions. I just saw what appeared to be my exact issue and thought I might be able to contribute to the discussion.

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