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Thread: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

  1. #1

    Default Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Michael Kelly Dragonfly Flame-- Gorgeous, I love how it looks. For $550 new
    Eastman MD315 for $575 new factory blemished
    Kentucky KM700 for $600 used

    I want a woody, rich tone, not too brite. The only one I have played is the eastman 315, and I did like it. The other two would be online purchases. Anyone have experience with all these and could make a good judgement call. I wish I could play them but I can't find a Michael Kelly or a KM700 in any shop.

    thanks!

  2. #2
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Assuming that it's well set up, I would go with the Eastman from those choices.
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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Personally I would go with a Kentucky KM-500 or KM-550 in your price range. I prefer Kentucky mandolins over Eastmans, though the Eastman's may be prettier. I know some people really like their Michael Kelly, but I have never thought of them very highly...lots of flash without very good sound or playability. The other brand to consider would be The Loar. Call up the guys at one of the shops advertising here (Mandolin Bros, Elderly, Fiddler's Green...etc), tell them your budget and your preferences and let them guide you.
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    If you're not ABSOLUTELY sold on having to get an F style, check out the J Bovier A5 T from Kyle at the MandoShop http://www.themandoshop.net/pages-jb...11407-469.html
    Lots of folks around here feel the JB's are the best bang-for-the-buck going, quality and sound-wise. Also, Kyle has an excellent rep as a great guy to deal with, and his set-ups are really well done, I'm told.
    I'm considering pulling the trigger on one of these myself. At this price point, it's a great deal!
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    IMHO Ranking:

    1. Eastman - bargain at that price, and you've played it.
    B. Kentucky - may have more of the "woody" sound; make sure it's in good condition and well set up.
    III. Michael Kelly - looks great on your CD cover, bulletproof finish, if you hold it real close to the mic maybe you can hear the "flame…"

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Play, before you pay! Unless you have absolute blind faith!
    I got lucky, someone else might too, you never know.
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I think that you can be safe buying used depending on the source and the deal. If you buy from the Cafe classifieds or a reputable business like Elderly or The Mandolin Store then you will get a couple of days trial period. You also stand a better chance of getting a properly set up instrument. Now if you get it from Guitar Center or Craigslist then you will have to spend extra for a professional set up so factor that in. In my opinion you should go with the Kentucky 700 if you play bluegrass because they really nail that tone. Also if you like that more traditional sunburst finish. Go with the Eastman if you want a more middle of the road all purpose tone and more understated looks. As for MK I never played one I liked. The tone has always underwhealmed me on thise. It might be the best looking of the bunch but tone and playability is the main thing.
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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bridges View Post
    If you're not ABSOLUTELY sold on having to get an F style, check out the J Bovier A5 T from Kyle at the MandoShop http://www.themandoshop.net/pages-jb...11407-469.html
    Another vote for the J Bovier A5T. I have the A5, which is now known as the A5S. The T is exactly the same as the S except it has single ply binding and a little less flame in the maple. The voicing is the same, which is fabulous. The tone and volume of my A5 is unbelievable and I am amazed every time I play it. The A5T can be bought for $469 at The Mandolin Shop. I have never heard any Kentucky or Eastman that sounds that good at that price. I have never heard ANY Michael Kelly that sounds that good at any price.
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    Michael Kelly Dragonfly Flame-- Gorgeous, I love how it looks. For $550 new
    Eastman MD315 for $575 new factory blemished
    Kentucky KM700 for $600 used

    I want a woody, rich tone, not too brite. The only one I have played is the eastman 315, and I did like it. The other two would be online purchases. Anyone have experience with all these and could make a good judgement call. I wish I could play them but I can't find a Michael Kelly or a KM700 in any shop.

    thanks!
    Best advice I've seen or could give is to PLAY these mandolins before you shell out any $$$$ . I've found that the sound and playability varies greatly . Saying that , my vote would go with the Eastman BUT I've played a few very new 315's ( within the past year ) and they didn't seem to have the same warm , deep tone that I found in older ones -by older I mean the new MD315's I played several years back , if that makes sense . They seem thinner in tone right now ...IMHO . If you aren't set on an F there are many options worth considering at VERY reasonable prices ...J Bovier , Kentucky km 150 ( which I recently purchased over the 600 and 700 series Kentuckys I had played ) and probably an Eastman MD 305 ....I have never played a bad one of those. There are some very helpful mandolin demos on the web MANDOLIN STORE web site . Good luck

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    Registered User abuteague's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I like the looks of the Michael Kelly so I ordered one from one of those big warehouse retail outfits that has no pretense of having techs on staff. I was excited when it arrived. I love getting a mando box in the mail. I opened it up and right away I started making excuses for it. I really wanted to like it. It looked good so long as I stayed 10 feet away. Up close and in my hands it felt like the neck caught on my hand and the frets stuck out past the edges of the fret board. I didn't cut myself, but it felt like it could happen. The finish looked like I painted it on myself and I'm not particularly talented. The strings were rusted. It was really heavy compared to any other mandolin I had played and I think that was because the top was super thick and unresponsive. The finish looked like several too many coats of poly. It made me really upset. My wife told me to box it up and get it out of the house ASAP. I felt better as soon as I shipped it off.

    A friend of mine has one he says is good. I believe him.

    I haven't tried the J Bovier. I've had a couple Kentuckys in my hands.

    I liked what you said about sound. At the price point you have, I'd go for sound first. Later on you can go for looks and sound together when a pile of cash lands in the backyard by parachute. The funny thing is, I've gotten quite attached to my a-style and my scroll envy has diminished with time. Also, I haven't seen any of those parachutes. Ah well.

  17. #11

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    wow thanks everyone! I appreciate the input. I know $550 is still entry level but those are all deals on $700 mandos. I wanted to spend a bit more than a KM150 but everyone says they are so awesome. I'm not 100% needing an Fstyle, but my last mando was an A and I wanted to graduate. I had seen the J Bovier but it was less expensive than the others mentioned and I wanted to invest a bit more.

    J bovA5T $469
    Eastman 315 $550
    km 700 $600

    If the J bov really sounds better, thats an obvious choice. Hell in a KM 150 sounds better (as roysboy said) thats an even easier choice! And ps I dont play bluegrass, I play with a toy piano and an accordion, kind of weird minor gypsy stuff. Want to get into Jazz.

  18. #12

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Seeing how A's are not out of the question, you might consider the two slightly used KM 900's which sitting there in the Cafe classifieds in your range, one at $600 and the other at $650, and from my fiddling around with most on your list would blow all of them away soundwise. You'll find plenty of rave comments on 900's and 950's, for good reason. As many say, you should try before final commitment, though both on the classifieds would have trial periods as per usual. Eastmans almost always look better than Kentuckys but IMHO, none can get anywhere close to KM 900, 950, 1000, and up for sound and response.

  19. #13

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Forgot to mention, if you want to shy away from bluegrassy sound, try out an oval hole KM-172, these are a whole other direction. Really nice deeper sound, giving a bit of that classic older Gibson A tonality you can hear and feel, versatile and good volume too. Impressive things and also in your price range with change back.

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    wow thanks everyone! I appreciate the input. I know $550 is still entry level but those are all deals on $700 mandos. I wanted to spend a bit more than a KM150 but everyone says they are so awesome. I'm not 100% needing an Fstyle, but my last mando was an A and I wanted to graduate. I had seen the J Bovier but it was less expensive than the others mentioned and I wanted to invest a bit more.
    See the discussion on "how much for the best" it is not as simple as the "more you pay the better you get", neither is it the case that an F-style is some kind of "upgrade" or "graduation" from an A-style. The your number one priority generally, is to get the best sound and playability for your money. You will typically get this easier from an A-style than from an F-style in that kind of price range. The KM-150's (for example) are (at least those I have played), way better than any gaudy MK F-style I have yet encountered at 5X the price. The KM-900's are serious mandolins (and the KM505's and the Eastman MD-305's are also very, very good instruments that should be considered on that kind of budget).
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  23. #15

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    yeah I know you can't just pay more and get more, thats why I'm asking folks on here. Wow, oval style, I hadn't even been looking at those. Thats a whole new rabbit hole to go down....

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    And ps I dont play bluegrass, I play with a toy piano and an accordion, kind of weird minor gypsy stuff. Want to get into Jazz.
    Well, now the question has changed. If it's no longer a best out of three selection, and the instrument is not going to be used to perform bluegrass, I'll throw out a couple of alternatives from the classifieds. First, there's a Flatiron pancake for $500 plus shipping here: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/75128. Guitar Center also has three similar instruments at that price and lower with more reasonable shipping figures, usually 30 day approval on nonvintage instruments, and often attractive financing options if you want to go that route. An alternative if you want to stay in a carved instrument would be the Breedlove OF: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/75120. It's at the top of your budget but would provide you with a high quality, versatile, modern voiced mandolin.
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I'll second the suggestion of a used Flatiron 1N (Bozeman made, not the current import line). I really like mine, and play pretty much everything on it (including bluegrass at home, though I wouldn't take it to a jam. It's loud as heck, but doesn't project like an ff holed mando). Excellent build quality, and a definite step up in quality from my Kentucky 675, which was an eBay disaster. I mostly play my Silverangel Econo now. (Used for 900 from a cafe member and my best mando to date), but can't see me ever parting with the Flatty...

    The KM 900s in the classifieds would be my choice otherwise if you can afford it, followed by a Bovier or Loar A style (because I like their neck profiles better than Eastman or Kentucky, doesn't mean they're necessarily better mandolins). You could also rule out the MK and try to find a Kentucky locally to play, just to compare the neck profile with the Eastman, and pick the one that feels the best to you. Bovier is making some great stuff as well, but they're a little harder to get your hands on.

    I like the breedloves I've played, but they're getting harder (though not impossible) to find used in the 600-650 range...
    Good luck, lots to choose from!
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    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    First question is what kind of music do you plan to play. Second question is what kind of music it is highly doubtful you'll play. The answer can steer your choices as to A-style versus F-style, oval versus f-hole, arch-top versus flat-top, etc..

    As far as your budget goes, $550 is nothing to sneeze at. It may not be much to some, but it's a fair-sized chunk of change to me. The most expensive mandolin I ever bought was $549 (a The Loar 520) which I bought new and later traded for my Eastman. Almost all the rest are in the $150-$300 range bought used once I started to learn what to really look for and what I actually desired. You can do well with just a smidgeon of patience.

    If you are not into bluegrass as a center theme, an oval may be up your alley. They sound "deeper" and less twangy. The flat-tops there in your price range can really blast and are multi-genre.

    If you buy new, it's really helpful to deal with a knowledgeable vendor who does a complete set-up (VERY important), answers your questions and backs up what he sells. The ones who sell a boxfull-of-mandolin will disappoint you big-time.

    If you decide to give used via the Classifieds a shot, don't hesitate to ask questions directly with the seller - age, fret condition, many others to boot. There are very good deals available there, but you still have to know what you're buying. Odds are the upcoming purchase will not be your last, as most of us get hooked by this neat instrument.

    This forum has been my central source of mandolin knowledge and I doubt I would have ever bought used without what I've learned here.
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    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I just wanted to add to what everyone else has been saying: take the MK Dragonfly off your list. My first mandolin was a Michael Kelly FSE, and while it played nicely (due to a good setup), it just lacked any tone or volume. It's heavy, with way too much wood and finish on it. It sounds like a toy compared to other mandolins, and doesn't hold its own in a jam setting.

    And what looks pretty in the web photos will leave you disappointed when you see it up-close. Their attention to detail isn't that great on the blingy stuff. There just isn't any reason to buy one when there are much better mandolins on the market in that price range.

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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    I'll second the suggestion of a used Flatiron 1N (Bozeman made, not the current import line).
    There's one of those in the classifieds as well which might be priced optimistically given the description of its condition and its non-original case: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/74775.
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Forget the MK Dragonfly and look for a used Kentucky km900.

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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Ostrander View Post
    Forget the MK Dragonfly and look for a used Kentucky km900.
    There are two of interest in the classifieds, one asking $600 http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/75008 and the other for $650 plus shipping http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/74068, both in Brooklyn.
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    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    ....I wanted to spend a bit more than a KM150 but everyone says they are so awesome. I'm not 100% needing an Fstyle, but my last mando was an A and I wanted to graduate..And ps I dont play bluegrass...
    Going from an A-style to an F-style is not "graduating" at all. It's just going to a style which has a look that has bluegrass tradition and a convenient spot to attach a strap. There's a current thread on the Builder and Repairs subforum on As and Fs which is very good reading. If the plan to get a better sound by getting an F-style, you may be disappointed. There are dozens (maybe more) threads which preach that the best sound-wise bang-for-the-buck can be found with A-styles with very practical reasons why.

    F-styles are indeed "sexier" from an aesthetics point of view. That look comes with a price, and IMHO it's akin to adding a lot of chrome to a Jeep - does the added cost for the chrome make it run in the mud/snow better? I had a F-style based on a remark that it "looked nicer" and, while it was a darned good mandolin and I liked it for what it was , it didn't mesh with the music I play (or try to play).

    In the end, as practical as all advice is, the final choice often is made "because I want one" holds trump. That's perfectly fine, as one spends one's money for one's personal reasons which can be as subjective as the dickens.

    Bottom line is there are some great (looking and sounding) mandolins out there in your price range, and it's odds-on that the purchase won't be your last one. Enjoy the ride!
    ...Steve

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  35. #24

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    There is a 1994 Flatiron A in the classifieds for $700. Finish isn't so purty in the picture, but that could be a steal for a US made quality mando (if it is in fact quality).

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by JWalterWeatherman View Post
    There is a 1994 Flatiron A in the classifieds for $700. Finish isn't so purty in the picture, but that could be a steal for a US made quality mando (if it is in fact quality).
    Link: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/74887
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