Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 28

Thread: Best Mandolin Under $500

  1. #1
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    11,864
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Best Mandolin Under $500

    The piano player in my band has a birthday coming up at the end of this month and his wife wants to buy him a mandolin. Bless her heart! She has asked me for a recommendation, with a $500 budget. My experience has been almost exclusively with Gibsons, so though I know a little bit about playing mandolins, I am not as much help in shopping for them, not at this price range. I just did a quick search of the classifieds, and at the $500 point I found these four:

    Eastman MD 315
    Eastman MD 505
    J Bovier A5
    Kentucky KM-675

    I am unfamiliar with all of these, though I have seen many people praise them, and other mandolins by these and other makers. I would appreciate learning what people think about these options or others, perhaps even less expensive ones that are still good players. Also, what constitutes a good price for particular models. I plead ignorance and throw myself at the mercy of the court.

    Any thoughts, anybody?

    Also, if anyone has tips for how to search the classifieds with this purpose in mind, I'd like to know. What I did was put $500 in the search engine, and I came up with these plus several others that didn't fit - a couple going for $5000, for instance. Is there a way to put in a price range, or do I have to conduct searches for each price point - ie, $300, $400, $450, $475, etc.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    The big blowhard in his conch shell blowing championship form

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Conneaut Lake, PA
    Posts
    4,067

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    All of those are solid choices I think. Given excellent condition and proper set up any of them would do the job nicely. If it were me buying for myself I would do the Eastman 505. Nicer woods and finish. Some do say the 300 series Eastmans sound better than the higher models because of the thin finish. I am not a big fan of the look of the 300 series and it's finish. But the 315 is extremely popular for an entry level F. My second choice would be the Kentucky 675. I own the similar km 600 and I love it. This would be the choice if your friend likes the traditional look. It has everything people expect from a traditional F style- gloss lacquer, sunburst, etc. my 600 has ebony fingerboard and bridge while the 675 has rosewood. I think the Kentuckys with rosewood bridges benefit sound wise from swapping that out for a properly fitted ebony one. Also do not be surprised if the scroll binding and finish are sloppy. Comes with the territory at this price point. I cleaned mine up with a little sandpaper and lacquer touch up. Not difficult if you are careful.i
    Don

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

  3. #3
    Registered User Ron Cox's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Fredericksburg Virginia
    Posts
    287

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    My vote would be for either of the Eastmans. I've been more than pleased with mine and everyone one that I have picked up. A new 305 (one of my faves) can be had for under $500 anywhere, satin finish, excellent tone and nice clean lines without too many distractions. The tuners are more than serviceable but not high end. A used 315 (from the classifieds) in that price range is also quite a find. Do you think your friend would prefer the scroll? As nice as the classifieds are, for a gift I'd really consider one of our sponsors as well. Nothing wrong with pre-owned, but if your friend needed to exchange it for something else....

    Just my .02, wish my wife would buy me any of those for father's day, birthday etc.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Any thoughts, anybody?
    I was given a KM-150 as a gift from my wife several years ago. It is a great sounding and playing little 'A' model for the money.
    It costs less than the $500 budget you mentioned, but add a case, a small variety of picks, a tuner and a couple sets of strings and you're there!

    (I've responded to questions like this before, but this is the first time I've had the honor of answering someone with 7 years and almost 9000 posts! on this forum.)

  5. The following members say thank you to FLATROCK HILL for this post:


  6. #5
    Bark first, Bite later Steve Zawacki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    Sumter County, FL
    Posts
    498

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    There are so many unknowns, Is the recipient already mandolin-proficient? If not, is a band member or other person availble for instruction? Is this "for personal fun" or for eventual band use?

    If this is a "first" mandolin and no one is around to help instruct, I'd bypass all the above and go for a new Kentucky 150 fully set-up by one of the Cafe's participating vendors with a case and digital tuner, and a lesson or two. The extras will be appreciated and still within/under budget. There may even be enough left in the budget to install a half-decent pickup.

    If this is an experienced mandolinist who just hasn't touched one for a while, any of the Eastmans in the classufieds would show great taste.
    ...Steve

    Current Stable: Two Tenor Guitars (Martin 515, Blueridge BR-40T), a Tenor Banjo (Deering GoodTime 17-Fret), a Mandolin (Burgess #7). two Banjo-Ukes and five Ukuleles..

    The inventory is always in some flux, but that's part of the fun.

  7. The following members say thank you to Steve Zawacki for this post:


  8. #6
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    4,774

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    There is an Eastman 315 in the classifieds for $500.00 with upgraded tuners. It has been there for quite awhile, can't understand why no one has snatched this up.

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/70359
    Last edited by Charles E.; Jun-08-2014 at 1:18pm. Reason: add link
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  9. #7
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    4,774

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    There is also this......

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/76623
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  10. #8
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    11,864
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by FLATROCK HILL View Post
    (I've responded to questions like this before, but this is the first time I've had the honor of answering someone with 7 years and almost 9000 posts! on this forum.)
    You assume too much, sir! Just 'cause I've posted a lot doesn't necessarily mean I know all that much. See my sig line ... Besides, this is a level playing field, and anyone who kicks the ball around well enough can get it into the goal. I think that's how I meant to extend that metaphor ...

    But as I said, I am vastly unfamiliar with makers other than Gibson. So I appreciate the help about this. Thanks!

    Charles - Any idea what model that is? I guess I could always call ...
    Ron - Yes, it would be nice to have a wife who would be this nice. And Father's Day IS coming up. Yeah, sometimes I wish *I* had a wife, for this and other reasons. But I suppose I could make the argument that I am almost surely saving money on the deal. I do have to remind myself of this from time to time. But then, money ain't everything. Oh well!

    (Note to self: Don't derail the train of thought of my own thread ... )
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    The big blowhard in his conch shell blowing championship form

  11. The following members say thank you to journeybear for this post:


  12. #9
    Constantly In Search Of.. Michael Bridges's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Canton, Ga
    Posts
    939
    Blog Entries
    7

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    I'd give a serious look at the J Bovier A5T at The Mandoshop. I've been nothing but impressed with mine, tone and palyability, fit and finish, all seem a notch above the price point. Kyle does an excellent set-up, and the price is right at what you're looking for. Quite a few folks who've bought them tend to agree. I don't think you'd be disappointed at all.
    Music speaks to us all. And to each of us, she speaks with a different voice.

    J Bovier A5 Tradition

  13. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Michael Bridges For This Useful Post:


  14. #10
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,076

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Any thoughts, anybody?
    Assuming that your piano player isn't planning to frequent any bluegrass jams, I'd recommend an American flattop. There was a Big Muddy M11 in the classifieds a day or two ago for only $400, but it seems to have disappeared. It must have been swept up, but there will be others.

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    Also, if anyone has tips for how to search the classifieds with this purpose in mind, I'd like to know.
    I've wished for similar search capabilities, especially by region.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2011 Passernig F5
    2018 Vessel TM5

  15. #11
    Registered User Ron Cox's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Fredericksburg Virginia
    Posts
    287

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Assuming all mentioned are equivalently giftable, get pics of each and show them to the gift giver and see if any of them spark with her. In my years of retail I have learned to never discount a woman's emotional response or intuition.

    Couldn't hurt.

  16. #12
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    4,774

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  17. #13
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Delran, NJ
    Posts
    2,905

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bridges View Post
    I'd give a serious look at the J Bovier A5T at The Mandoshop. I've been nothing but impressed with mine, tone and palyability, fit and finish, all seem a notch above the price point. Kyle does an excellent set-up, and the price is right at what you're looking for. Quite a few folks who've bought them tend to agree. I don't think you'd be disappointed at all.
    I would certainly agree with this. Although, if properly set up, all of the mentioned mandolins have the potential to be very good. However, I haven't heard a Eastman that I have liked yet, the Kentucky's can be good but are inconsistent. You can get a good one, you can also get a lousy one. But since the recent line of J Bovier mandolins came out at the beginning of 2013, I haven't heard a bad comment yet. A good friend of mine is a local J Bovier dealer and I have had the chance to play several of them and haven't played a dud yet. I have a A5 Special that plays and sounds several times its' price. The newer A5 Tradition is $469 at The Mando Shop and I don't think you can get a better mandolin at that price.
    Larry Hunsberger

    2013 J Bovier A5 Special w/ToneGard
    D'Addario FW-74 flatwound strings
    1909 Weymann&Sons bowlback
    1919 Weymann&Sons mandolute
    Ibanez PF5
    1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
    3/4 guitar converted to octave mandolin

  18. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to mandobassman For This Useful Post:


  19. #14
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Posts
    971

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    I've owned Eastman and it would be a fine choice . I ve played the km675 and km 630 and didn't think much of either tone wise ....but it may have just been those particular mandos. I've heard nothing but good about the J Bovier and some impressive youtubes and CDs where the J Bovier was used ... Great tone and appointments for a ridiculously low price . Saying all of this , I now play a Kentucky km150 which is also an amazing value . Tuning is great , fit is beautiful and the tone rivals the j Bovier in my estimation . The km150 is available with a pro setup for under 300.00....I think your buddy would be happy with any of the instruments you've mentioned once they've been properly set up .

  20. The following members say thank you to roysboy for this post:


  21. #15
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Key West
    Posts
    11,864
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by roysboy View Post
    I've heard nothing but good about the J Bovier.
    Quote Originally Posted by mandobassman View Post
    But since the recent line of J Bovier mandolins came out at the beginning of 2013, I haven't heard a bad comment yet. .
    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bridges View Post
    I'd give a serious look at the J Bovier A5T at The Mandoshop. I've been nothing but impressed with mine.
    Yes. These do get a lot of praise and very little disapproval..

    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Cox View Post
    Assuming all mentioned are equivalently giftable, get pics of each and show them to the gift giver and see if any of them spark with her. In my years of retail I have learned to never discount a woman's emotional response or intuition.

    Couldn't hurt.
    Quite right!
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

    Blues Mando Social Group
    Gibson Mandolins Social Group
    North Florida Mandolin Players Social Group

    The big blowhard in his conch shell blowing championship form

  22. The following members say thank you to journeybear for this post:


  23. #16
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,076

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by roysboy View Post
    Saying all of this , I now play a Kentucky km150 which is also an amazing value . Tuning is great , fit is beautiful and the tone rivals the j Bovier in my estimation . The km150 is available with a pro setup for under 300.00.
    Only $225 set up and shipped from Elderly: http://elderly.com/new_instruments/n...in--KM150S.htm.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2011 Passernig F5
    2018 Vessel TM5

  24. The following members say thank you to pheffernan for this post:


  25. #17
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    2,255
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    As posted above ...... any of the models you listed will be of sufficient quality for a "student ". If her husband gets the bug he can spend multiples of 1,000 at a later date. It is very important that any instrument in that category be properly setup. So buying one from a "Big Box Store" may save a few dollars up front but will be spent down the line. Selecting a good quality used one may involve your friend with the same problem, or may not. That is a gamble often worth taking. Purchasing one from a " Café " recommended vendor will get your friend's Hubby started with an instrument he can play w/o any investment other than time. Dennis Vance at The Mandolin Store and Robert Feat at Folk Musician are both highly recommended herein as vendors and as businesses that have good customer service. Personally I like the Kentucky mandolins tone and look over the Eastman but I have not played a J. Bovier so I can offer no opinion there. A thought ..... a copy of Mandolin for Dummies would be a good addition to the Mando Gift Pack .... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  26. #18
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,076

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    There was a Big Muddy M11 in the classifieds a day or two ago for only $400, but it seems to have disappeared.
    This one: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/76753.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2011 Passernig F5
    2018 Vessel TM5

  27. The following members say thank you to pheffernan for this post:


  28. #19

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    journeybear -
    Does your piano player also play mandolin or will he be a beginner? If a newby, I agree with FLATROCK HILL,Steve Zawacki. roysboy and phefferman, go with the KM150 from a 'cafe sponsor.
    He can afford a replacement if one of the many things happen that beginners often do: lay it on a vinyl chair and ruin the finish, leave in the car in the heat of the day or overnight, not have the strap secured and drop it, allow other non-players to handle it and drop it or scratch it, leave it set out where the dog, kids or Mom's vacuum sweeper gets it, all this is sort of like basic training to become a mandolinist.
    Enjoy,
    Lee

  29. The following members say thank you to mandolinlee for this post:


  30. #20
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    2,865

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    I just recently played a Kentucky KM-250 that I was very impressed with. Priced at $449 at Fiddlers Green here in Austin. I am sure prices are much the same at Elderly, Mandolin Bros, etc. Solid handcarved spruce top, solid hand carved flamed back and sides, radiused rosewood fingerboard, bound neck, pearl inlay on peghead. Very nice tone and playability. Of course, if you want to step up just a bit, the Kentucky KM-505 has been one of the most highly reviewed mandolins in the $500-$600 range for quite a while.
    Jammin' south of the river
    '20 Gibson A-2
    Stromberg-Voisinet Tenor Guitar
    Penny Whistle
    My albums: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/album.php?u=7616

  31. #21

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    If her husband gets the bug he can spend multiples of 1,000 at a later date.
    That statement is fact. I am proof.

  32. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to FLATROCK HILL For This Useful Post:


  33. #22

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    FLATROCK HILL is proof.

    You should see what he pulls out of that candy apple red case!

  34. The following members say thank you to mandolinlee for this post:


  35. #23
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    nashville, tn, usa
    Posts
    110

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    There is also this......

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/76623
    Ok, let's break this one down. These mandolins' MSRP is 875.00. Stock. New. W/a 20% discount brings it to 700.00 give or take a dollar. That's a pretty standard rate from music stores and online sources. Some online sources offer free shipping. So, stock out the door essentially 700.00. Including whatever warranty that's given. So, for 700.00 one has the same mandolin completely stock. If one purchases from a music store state sales tax must be considered. Say 6%. This brings the price up to 740.00+. The advantage of purchasing from a brick and morter is most likely a free set up. None of the sources I found stated whether or not a HSC was included. If not tack on another 50-75.00.

    Now the one in the ad is from a private individual for 500.00+shipping. Shipping should include insurance. So say 30.00 using UPS ground as they charge sales tax, too. This includes upgraded tuners available from Stew-Mac for 80.00. So, for this deal one is receiving a 750-825.00 STOCK mando depending on whether a HSC is included. 530-550 buys the same mando w/80.00 tuners and a gig bag. The GB quality is significant. Make sure it's a good one. Now the tuners wont have any effect on overall tone, but will help alot w/holding pitch. And MC ads include a 48 hr refusal time line, yes? No brainer. Suggest w/all due respect that your friend exceed her budget 30-50 dollars and get this mandolin. Her husband will be very happy with it.
    Last edited by mandogoshen; Jun-09-2014 at 1:47pm.

  36. #24
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    nashville, tn, usa
    Posts
    110

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    There is an Eastman 315 in the classifieds for $500.00 with upgraded tuners. It has been there for quite awhile, can't understand why no one has snatched this up.

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/70359
    Oops!! THIS is the post I meant to address. All the above applies to THIS post. Duh!!

  37. The following members say thank you to mandogoshen for this post:


  38. #25
    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    2,865

    Default Re: Best Mandolin Under $500

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    There is an Eastman 315 in the classifieds for $500.00 with upgraded tuners. It has been there for quite awhile, can't understand why no one has snatched this up.

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/70359
    Because there is no Photo...got to have at least one photo...same thing with e-bid
    Jammin' south of the river
    '20 Gibson A-2
    Stromberg-Voisinet Tenor Guitar
    Penny Whistle
    My albums: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/album.php?u=7616

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •