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Thread: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

  1. #1

    Exclamation Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Hi everyone, i wasn't sure where to post this...
    I'm looking at getting an upgrade to my entry level mando and I have around $3000-$3500 to spend on it. I'm looking at one with a spruce top, maple back and sides, preferably American made.
    So i was wondering what you guys can suggest for that price. Aesthetics are important to me, so one with some nice flaming on the back and sides would be nice, but it's not essential. i won't be purchasing it for a couple months, so i'm looking at more of a pointing in the direction of brands rather than individual instruments for sale.
    I've been looking at Lafferty, Northfield and Hinde, but i was hoping you could help me refine my search little, or add a couple more options.
    Thanks everyone!

  2. #2
    Registered User Mike Arakelian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    You're fortunate to be in a price range that will yield some very nice mandolins. I'm sure many more will chime in with recommendations, and it would help if you told us whether you prefer an A or F style, and the type of music you play, and whether you plan to buy new or used. With that said, you should certainly look at and try to play the following...Collings, Pava, Ellis, Northfield, The Flatiron, Gibson, Weber, as well as any number of small shop luthiers such as Skip Kelly, Ken Ratcliff (Silver Angel), Steve Sorensen, Marty Jacobson, etc. Good luck on what should be a fun journey.

  3. #3
    Registered User edandjudy3946's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    You are, indeed, blessed to be in that financial arena for an upgrade and I am sure all of the above mentioned names would be a very satisfying decision. I just want to add that for sound bang for investment buck I am extremely amazed at my distressed Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	124607F Silverangel. Ken is a great gentleman and awesome builder. His bio is fascinating (dad builds violins, learned his finishing technique from a violin maker, is a carver and a an artist and uses no CNC on the tops etc). Two weeks ago Shayne Blackwell (his dad Curtis is in the Atlanta Country & Bluegrass Music Hall Of Fame) chased me down on the parking lot to ask "what mandolin were you playing up there". This Sat at a jam a Dobro builder asked to play it and said quote he''d played some of the 6-8K mandos and would have taken mine. I think my redwood top is from1850. Putting my soapbox away now - go for it and be happy. By the way, how many come up for sale used - FEW - guess they're not being let go of !.
    Blessings from the Smoky Mountains

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    50's baritone uke - was mom's

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    You have identified preferences in wood types and country of manufacture. But sure there are other things to nail down, at least before I can be intelligent in recommendations. I don't want to talk you out of anything, but I don't want to talk you into anything either. Despite how it sometimes seems, there really isn't just one iconic type of mandolin which everyone wants and which beats all other choices and to which your acquisition will be compared. While it probably won't be the last mandolin you ever buy, for the price you are willing to pay it need not be "a mandolin on the way to the mandolin". You don't need to settle for "the best you can do", because in that price range you could find "the best you could ever want." Seriously.

    For the price you are willing to pay, at the end of the day you should be extremely happy with what you got, so thrilled you can harldy go to bed at night, happy whether other people know what you have or not, happy whether you ever get another mandolin or never get another mandolin.

    Some things to consider:

    New or vintage or just not new.

    Arch top or flat top.

    F, A or two point style.

    f holes or oval hole.

    Awesome, drool worthy mandolins in your price range for every choice listed.

    It also depends on what kind of music you are going after.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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  5. #5

    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Thanks everyone...
    I'm looking getting an Archtop F-5 Mandolin, and i'd be using it for Bluegrass primarily, with a bit of Celtic music and contemporary stuff on the side, but bluegrass mainly. I like the look of binding on the top, back and peghead as well, but that's kind of a secondary preference, so it's not essential.
    I'd really prefer a new mandolin, but if it comes to it, i won't mind a second hand instrument.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Never mind.
    The above post was not there when I started typing, and no mention had been made of specifically wanting an F-5 when I posted advising toward a top quality A-style mandolin in that price range.
    Post now deleted, carry on...

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    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    If you want straight up, Gibson tone, bluegrass machine. I dont think you could do much better than a used flatiron. A Flatiron Performer sounds like what you want but i just searched and cant find any for sale right now. Heres an Artist (the next step up)

    http://mandoweb.com/Instruments/Flat...olin-1987/3288

    The asking price is a little over your budget but im pretty positive you can talk them down, maybe not down to 3500 though. Worth saving up for imo, its really not that much more
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesW View Post
    I'm looking getting an Archtop F-5 Mandolin, and i'd be using it for Bluegrass primarily,
    Lots of really good choices out there.

    I'd really prefer a new mandolin, but if it comes to it, i won't mind a second hand instrument.
    Great choices either way. But do check out the cafe classifieds - it will make your eyes cross.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    I was in the same boat about two years ago. I had suffered with a sub mediocre instrument for years and had a raging case of MAS. Over the years I had played and salivated over most all of the "Big" names, Gilchrist, old Gibsons, Ellis, etc. I ended up taking a chance on my Northfield F because honestly it was all I could afford. It killed my MAS from the moment I pulled it out of the case and it has never returned. It ended up being all the mandolin I could ever want or need. Lots of other choices out there too so best of luck. Make sure whatever you get you play before buying or buy with an approval window.

    btw... Adrian and the guys at Northfield have been incredible in standing behind my instrument. They have always responded within a few hours to any email inquiry and go out of their way to make sure I'm a happy camper.

  10. #10
    Registered User edandjudy3946's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    here's one of those flatirons longblackveil was talking about

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Flatiron-Fes...item4add8272a9
    Blessings from the Smoky Mountains

    Northfield Big Mon SN B17069
    1998 Martin HD28VR
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  11. #11
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    wait two years and get Dave Cohen to build you an a-model.

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  12. #12
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    I really believe, for most people, above $3000 or thereabouts one can get all the mandolin one could ever want. Sure you will get others, for a variety of reasons, but above $3000 one doesn't have to settle for a "closer to what I want", "best I could do for now" mandolin. One can just get happy happy.

    That number might be in contention, some will say 3K some will say 4K some much more, some much less. But I really think most folks could be made insanely happy for between 3 and 4. You have to take into account all markets, used, new, vintage, and all opportunities, model changes and special deals, auctions, but I think its true.

    Do not misunderstand. I am not saying there is no reason to spend more than $4000. Not at all. There are plenty of reasons. I am only saying that I believe exactly what we want is out there for between 3 and 4. For more than that we can of course get more than we want.
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    Registered User JAK's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    I've got a 1994 F5 Stiver listed in the classifieds that is in your price range. It's a good one for bluegrass.
    John A. Karsemeyer

  14. #14
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Quote Originally Posted by JAK View Post
    I've got a 1994 F5 Stiver listed in the classifieds that is in your price range. It's a good one for bluegrass.
    That's a good deal! I would be really tempted by that if I were looking. Stivers are excellent
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Thats about where my Peter Mix A5 fell in cost.. its on it's second set of frets this year .
    used it still resold for most of its original cost _-600 or so..
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    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Mandroid,

    You ever try the Jescar EVO gold 0.80 frets?

    I am extremely hard on frets, and since I re-fretted both of my mandos, knock on wood!

    My luthier is sold on them, and around these parts they're the fretwire of choice for long life...
    1994 Gibson F5L made by Bruce Weber's team


    "Mandolin brands are a guide, not gospel! I don't drink koolaid and that Emperor is naked!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    If one can be satisfied at all, the Stiver satisfies. I can attest by direct experience.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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  18. #18
    Middle-Aged Old-Timer Tobin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Quote Originally Posted by DataNick View Post
    Mandroid,

    You ever try the Jescar EVO gold 0.80 frets?

    I am extremely hard on frets, and since I re-fretted both of my mandos, knock on wood!

    My luthier is sold on them, and around these parts they're the fretwire of choice for long life...
    Not to get off-track here, but did you notice any tone/volume changes when you switched to EVO frets? I'll be needing a re-fret on my Ellis in a few months, and have been considering going that direction. But I've heard that it does change the voice of the instrument. Did you notice any change?

  19. #19

    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Thanks for the help everyone!
    Does anyone have any input on Lafferty F Mandolins?

  20. #20
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tobin View Post
    Not to get off-track here, but did you notice any tone/volume changes when you switched to EVO frets? I'll be needing a re-fret on my Ellis in a few months, and have been considering going that direction. But I've heard that it does change the voice of the instrument. Did you notice any change?
    Tobin,

    Yes, the tone just seems to be "better" meaning they seem to draw out more of what the instrument already has in tone & volume. Since strings contact with the frets, it seems to make sense from a physics standpoint...I'm sold on them!
    1994 Gibson F5L made by Bruce Weber's team


    "Mandolin brands are a guide, not gospel! I don't drink koolaid and that Emperor is naked!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

  21. #21
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Lafferty F models were I think outsourced to a couple of different luthiers, Paul Schneider (Summit) and Audey Ratliff. That may have changed, but they're supposed to be solid choices in that range.
    1994 Gibson F5L made by Bruce Weber's team


    "Mandolin brands are a guide, not gospel! I don't drink koolaid and that Emperor is naked!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

  22. #22
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    I think Laffertys are good but you can do alot better in this price range, especially used


    Be sure to let us know what you end up with!
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

  23. #23
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Quote Originally Posted by JamesW View Post
    I'm looking getting an Archtop F-5 Mandolin, and i'd be using it for Bluegrass primarily, with a bit of Celtic music and contemporary stuff on the side, but bluegrass mainly. I like the look of binding on the top, back and peghead as well, but that's kind of a secondary preference, so it's not essential. I'd really prefer a new mandolin, but if it comes to it, i won't mind a second hand instrument.
    I'm a little sheepish to suggest it, as your stated preferences are for an instrument that is new and American made, but for an F-style mandolin in the $3000 range, I think you'd be hard pressed to beat the Northfield Master Model that just hit the Classifieds: http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/80037.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Definitely look at a Northfield especially since you would prefer new !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  26. #25
    Registered User LongBlackVeil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin for $3000-$3500?

    Heres a pretty good deal

    http://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/80053

    NFI
    "When you learn an old time fiddle tune, you make a friend for life"

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