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Thread: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

  1. #26
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Just saw a Kentucky KM-900 for sale on Ebay at a Buy-It-Now of $699. Big bargin. http://www.ebay.com/itm/291117963855...84.m1423.l2649
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  3. #27
    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).
    I just noticed that it's offered for $650 on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/1994-Flatiro...item4ad399104b.
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  5. #28

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Wow you all are amazing! thank you!

    So flatirons are all of a sudden being highly recommended, is that because they don't sound as twangy and brite? I've never played one so I don't know. I do like a woody sound and want to get into turkish makams and Cretan classical music. But I live in Utah so I will inevitably jam bluegrass around a few campfires--its just not my favorite thing. Folks who have oval holes, why did you choose that style and what type of music do you play?

    I play stuff like this: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/page...?bandID=889172
    and this: http://www.soundclick.com/bands/defa...?bandID=284537

    In the future I want to play like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHanqvcQjOY
    and this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EV8nhDcSCo
    and this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAzrOF8E28w
    Last edited by hikerobby; Apr-15-2014 at 10:22pm.

  6. #29

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Well I play bluegrass. I would describe my Flatiron as a pretty bright sound. It is an F5. The one I mentioned was an A5, that was earlier, so it may or may not sound similarly to mound. Earlier in the thread people mentioned some oval hole flatirons that could be had for around $500 and get great reviews. It does in fact sound like an oval hole may be up your allie -- just to totally confuse matters.

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  8. #30
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    [QUOTE=hikerobby;1279621]Wow you all are amazing! thank you!

    So flatirons are all of a sudden being highly recommended, is that because they don't sound as twangy and brite? I've never played one so I don't know. I do like a woody sound and want to get into turkish makams and Cretan classical music. But I live in Utah so I will inevitably jam bluegrass around a few campfires--its just not my favorite thing. Folks who have oval holes, why did you choose that style and what type of music do you play?"

    I like and try to play pretty much everything. In addition to working out praise music for the youth band at church, I've been working on a ragtime piece, a couple of classical pieces, a Celtic piece, and one from Tone Poems. The only thing the oval hole flat tops don't work well for is bluegrass jams. No reason you can't play BG on one, and with a couple of guitars they'll do fine. But throw in a couple banjos, fiddles, and a dobro, and they just don't cut through as well. Arched top oval holes (thinking vintage Gibson) may cut better than the flat tops.

    It's hard to describe the difference in oval hole vs ff hole tone. Of the ones I have my flatiron 1n has a bit more sustain and is a little bassier/tubbier sounding (but still really sweet and woody). It's really loud, but doesn't project sound out as well. The Silver angel is woody, bassier than most ff mandos, really clean and sparkling up the neck, and it projects sound better, is a little more cutting in the din of a jam.

    Fwiw, I play all of those same pieces on my silver angel and my resonator mandolin depending on my mood. Some just work better than others for some songs/styles. After listening to your sound clips, I'd throw Martin mandolins and even bowl backs out there. Steve Smith's Redline Traveller (a pancake) or a Big Muddy may serve you well also.

    Apologize for the typos and grammatical issues. IPad autocorrect is hurting me tonight!
    Chuck

  9. #31
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    So flatirons are all of a sudden being highly recommended, is that because they don't sound as twangy and brite? I've never played one so I don't know. I do like a woody sound and want to get into turkish makams and Cretan classical music. But I live in Utah so I will inevitably jam bluegrass around a few campfires--its just not my favorite thing. Folks who have oval holes, why did you choose that style and what type of music do you play?
    Flatirons are being highly recommended because they were a top domestic producer for a significant amount of time, with a reputation for producing instruments with a high quality to price ratio on everything from F5's to flattops with oval holes. I own several of the latter, including a Flatiron, and I was initially drawn to that style for a number of reasons. I came to the mandolin from flattop guitars, so there was a certain familiarity, but not from a bluegrass background, so there was no preconception about what a mandolin had to look like. Finally, there is something of a market inefficiency with flattops specifically and oval holes more generally, allowing consumers to buy top notch modern and vintage instruments often for a fraction of what they would cost were they carved and possessing f-holes. I play everything on mine, although the more open, resonant voices might be better suited to fiddle tunes in my living room than chop chords at a bluegrass jam.

    P.S. The linked mandolin on that "Balkan Music for Mandolin" book cover sure looks like a flattop with an oval hole.
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  10. #32

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    You can get a really good deal by buying a slightly-used instrument (not vintage) in near-mint condition. It'll have been properly set up already, if you're lucky, and played in. It may have some nicks or scrapes, at worst, but you have a good chance of getting a good instrument on the cheap. That's how I got my Trinity College Octave mandolin. New it's about $625; I got it for $400 from a guy on Craigslist, and it's nearly indistinguishable from new, and has been properly set-up. He had to quit because of a tendon problem or something like that. That's another thing -- always try to get the story behind why the person is selling it. If it's a personal issue, as in this case, rather than something to do with the instrument, you could get a very good instrument. If it's something to do with the instrument itself, then, be careful and check it out very thoroughly.

  11. #33

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    (dup)
    Last edited by Petrus; Apr-16-2014 at 6:11am.

  12. #34
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by Petrus View Post
    He had to quit because of a tendon problem or something like that. That's another thing -- always try to get the story behind why the person is selling it. If it's a personal issue, as in this case, rather than something to do with the instrument, you could get a very good instrument. If it's something to do with the instrument itself, then, be careful and check it out very thoroughly.
    Whats the off chance that a seller would be on to your line of reasoning and try and cover why he's parting company with an instrument by shining on a nice story of how he has no choice but to let it go, as much as he knows he will regret it, and frets that he will never find another one like it, and forced to no less by unforseen health reasons, and anyways the wife is demanding evermore that he sell it, cause he has one too many and must allow this one, his most favorite ever,
    to go.

    I don't know why but I tend to be leary when the story of why he's selling gets explained better than the instrument is described.

  13. #35

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I wish I could play more of these. I went to four shops yesterday and didn't even find an oval hole to play. I'd really like one. I did however fall head over heels for a Lee F5. Handmade in 2006 in Idaho. It sounded better than the $2500 Collins next to it. It costs $990 but playing it has almost convinced me to up my budget. Just wish I could play more options!

  14. #36

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Today I played a 1992 Flatiron Cadet for $550, a 1917 Martin A for $900, a 1938 Martin 2-15 for $1200 and another Flatiron for $900. So many options! Those older mandolins are amazing sounding, they make newer instruments sound so tin'y and metallic. The more I learn and the more I play the more money I want to spend! I need to go back and play that Lee f5 and then I might make a decision!
    Last edited by hikerobby; Apr-17-2014 at 9:52pm.

  15. #37
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by abuteague View Post
    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.
    I had a similar experience with the Michael Kelly that I bought. I had sold a mandolin that I had used for over 17 years and was actually without one for quite some time. When the time came that I needed a mandolin again, I started looking and for the first time in my musical life considered buying new. Somehow or another I became interested in MK. I bought one that got some decent reviews and had a real nice look to it. When I received it I was immediately disappointed in the sound. Not much volume, thin, compressed tone. I probably should have sent it back, but never having bought a brand new instrument before, I thought it be because it was new and needed some playing time to open up the sound. Nearly a year later it didn't sound any better and I finally sold it and bought a new Breedlove. I have played 3 other MK mandolins since then and didn't like any of them. The one I had was very nice looking, but that was all it had going for it.
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  16. #38

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    Whats the off chance that a seller would be on to your line of reasoning and try and cover why he's parting company with an instrument by shining on a nice story of how he has no choice but to let it go, as much as he knows he will regret it, and frets that he will never find another one like it, and forced to no less by unforseen health reasons, and anyways the wife is demanding evermore that he sell it, cause he has one too many and must allow this one, his most favorite ever,
    to go. I don't know why but I tend to be leary when the story of why he's selling gets explained better than the instrument is described.
    Well yeah that is a distinct possibility. Like the legendary "little old lady from Pasadena" used car pitch. In this case, I met the guy personally and he clearly had something going on (poorly) with his fingers. Granted, a seller could show up with his hand in a cast or whatever just as a big come-on, but that'd be going through a lot of trouble. It is possible though. Still check out the instrument regardless.

    I think the most common selling motivation (in my experience) is simply money. When people are in financial straits, extra instruments may be the first things to get cut loose. (I know that's true with me.)

  17. #39

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Well I bought the Lee F5 for $800, discounted from 1,000. Unfortunately I do not like it, I have a whole other thread about it. It is gorgeous though.

    I have increased my budget. I do have a thing for gorgeous mandolins, that's why I liked the LeeF5 I just bought. I am thinking of taking it back though.

    Then it becomes a question of Eastman 315 vs KM900 vs JBovier F5 vs eastman md504

    Is the Jbovier F5 much better than the A5?

    God I really wish my Lee would work out, I really just don't like the sound though. And it is handmade and I am not sure if it can be made to play better, it doesn't have an adjustable neck. The shop I got it from I don't think will set it up much better and I don't want to pay more money for another shop to set it up.
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  18. #40
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    Well I bought the Lee F5 for $800, discounted from 1,000. Unfortunately I do not like it, I have a whole other thread about it. It is gorgeous though.

    I have increased my budget. I do have a thing for gorgeous mandolins, that's why I liked the LeeF5 I just bought. I am thinking of taking it back though.

    Then it becomes a question of Eastman 315 vs KM900 vs JBovier F5 vs eastman md504

    Is the Jbovier F5 much better than the A5?

    God I really wish my Lee would work out, I really just don't like the sound though. And it is handmade and I am not sure if it can be made to play better, it doesn't have an adjustable neck. The shop I got it from I don't think will set it up much better and I don't want to pay more money for another shop to set it up.

    I think you've discovered why its often best to buy ( or rent , as I tell students ) an inexpensive but well set up 'learner' mandolin . That way you'll develop a knowledge of what you want from a better one . If you can't play the options you're considering it can be a stab in the dark , as you've found with the F5 . I've played 8-10 different Eastman 315s . All were great players but some certainly had better tone than others. I've never played a J. Bovier but I've never read a bad review and , in fact , the folks that have them seem to LOVE them . To avoid any further disappointment I'd strongly suggest getting out to play as many mandolins as you can wrap your fingers around .
    Good luck ....

  19. #41
    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
    Well I bought the Lee F5 for $800, discounted from 1,000. Unfortunately I do not like it, I have a whole other thread about it. It is gorgeous though.

    I have increased my budget. I do have a thing for gorgeous mandolins, that's why I liked the LeeF5 I just bought. I am thinking of taking it back though.

    God I really wish my Lee would work out, I really just don't like the sound though.
    You are not the first to be seduced by a beautiful looking mandolin. But if it isn't a joy to play and hear, it's going to remain something only to look at on a stand or the wall. I'd advise you to return the Lee and reconsider those Flatirons you played or their cheaper cousins at Guitar Center.
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  20. #42

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I did like the tone, it is woody and deep and resonates well. That's why I bought it, I love the tone. I just don't like the action, it doesn't hammer-on at all and I feel like the chuck sound you make when chucking with muffled strings is there loudly when I play a note. Does that make sense? I feel like I can hear the pick bluntly picking the string almost as loud as I can hear the note.

    Unfortunately, Salt Lake City doesn't have enough selection. I have played every instrument for sale in the valley. That leaves the internet.

  21. #43
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    If you like how an instrument looks and sounds, then how it plays can be modified. Change your pick. Change your strings. Change your attack. And play into a highly reflective surface (think the corner of your tiled bathroom) to hear what the instrument sounds like out front rather than behind it.
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  23. #44
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I would really check out the KM 900 A5 mandolin. I have played three or four of them and they have been very good. Even the KM505 mandolins soung great. Ive have a Duff F5 and a Red Diamond Vintage F5 and have been looking for a good A5 mandolin. For the money and sound it will be hard to beat one of them
    Last edited by Brian scott; Apr-25-2014 at 7:37am. Reason: spelling

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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by mandobassman View Post
    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.
    Thanks for the endorsement of JBovier. One correction ... it's The Mando Shop, www.themandoshop.com.

  25. #46
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    Is the Jbovier F5 much better than the A5?
    When comparing an F and A of the same model mandolin, if you turn your back and listen it would not be obvious whether you were listening to an F or an A model. All in the JBovier line offer a good sound and playability for the money. The F5 Tradition comes with a tweed hard-shell case and the A5 Tradition comes with a gig bag. F mandolins are more costly to build. These are some of the factors that cause the price difference. The F5 Tradition is built just like the F5 Special except it features single ply binding and less flame in the Canadian maple. Neither of those specs negatively affect the F5 Tradition's great voicing. They just helped make the price more affordable. I'm very impressed with JBovier's choices in creating a great mandolin for the money whether it's an F or and A.

  26. #47
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    I already weighed in about the J Bovier mandos. After 2 nights of hard playing my new A5T, I can give a more informed opinion. This is a lot of mandolin for the money. I'd put it up against others I've tried at more than twice the cost.
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  27. #48

    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    OK I returned my Lee handmade F5, got my $800 back. I tried to like it, but never did. I took it to a good shop and they were critical of it. Said this was probably this Lee guys first or second mandolin. It was worth the money for the labor he put into it, but this shop pointed out a bunch of things that I didn't know about, they said the fret work wasn't very good etc. They helped me decide to return it, I feel good about that.

    So now, I want a mando STAT!!!
    1) I can walk to this shop and buy a Eastman 315 for $600.

    2) There is a KM-1000 for $800 with a repaired crack near the nut: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Kentucky-KM-...item19ec743f89

    3) this breedlove for $725: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/75120

    4) or a J bovier from Mando Shop, sounds like the A model is cheaper and no sound difference, so I guess I could save a bunch of money.

    What to do?!

  28. #49
    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    It's easy to "what if" with other folk's money, so here goes:

    1) The Eastman - a good choice, provided the shop does a top-notch set-up and has a decent reputation. I think my Eastman is a fine mandolin and rate it high.

    2) The Kentucky - a pig in the poke. It's an unknown with disclosed problems which are fixable, but by whom? If that's not all the problems, then more grief and more costs. EBay is okay only when you really know what to do when problems happen AND can afford to be wrong.

    3) Breedlove - a good choice. The only American-made one of the bunch. It has a slightly wider neck than the others. The maker has a very good reputation and makes quality instruments.

    4) JBovier - a good choice. The vendor has one of the best reputations in the business, does exceptional quality set-up work and the mandolin itself is a darned good instrument.

    Based on the above, my humble picks, in order, are the Breedlove as #1 (if used is okay); the JBovier as #2 (if new is preferred); the Eastman as #3 if the first two are unavailable and it plays well (which it should), and the blemish is very minor; and the Kentucky not at all because I tend to shy away from EBay "specials" when the price is more than I want to risk. How's that?
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  29. #50
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    Default Re: Help with different <$700 mandolin options

    Quote Originally Posted by hikerobby View Post
    So now, I want a mando STAT!!!
    1) I can walk to this shop and buy a Eastman 315 for $600.

    2) There is a KM-1000 for $800 with a repaired crack near the nut: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Kentucky-KM-...item19ec743f89

    3) this breedlove for $725: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/75120

    4) or a J bovier from Mando Shop, sounds like the A model is cheaper and no sound difference, so I guess I could save a bunch of money.

    What to do?!
    Well, as I recommended option 3 back in post #16 of this thread, I'd choose it followed by the Eastman. I continue to be puzzled by your attraction to F-style mandolins or the JBovier voiced for bluegrass when you intend to play Turkish makams and Cretan classical music.
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