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Thread: Breedlove Quartz KO

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    I grabbed this during Ken Cartwright's fire sale last week. The price was too good to resist ($700). It's brand spankin' new. Ken put a strap button on the heel. It came with a TKL gigbag (those are nice gigbags).

    The instrument is well made. It looks nice, the design (although unusual) is, imo, pretty cool. The quality of the "fit and finish" is superb. I can't find any "imperfections" at all. I like the satin finish. It feels good. The wood quality is nice.

    The hardware is very good, too. The tuners are really sweet. Very smooth. I guess they're Schallers, I can't really tell. (The Breedlove website doesn't provide much information at all. That's a big complaint of mine. Their website stinks.) The bridge is a very pleasant surprise; it seems to be a really good quality bridge, and is fitted pretty much perfectly. I can't tell what the nut is made of (again, the website could help, if the company would bother...), but it is well set up. The tailpiece is your standard stamped unit, but entirely functional.

    I thought the odd design would be hard to hold/play/get used to. But it lays nicely on your body, and feels very good to hold and play. I really like the headstock, for this instrument. Might not work on any other design, but they really got it right for this particular kind of design.

    The fretboard has a radius, and seems a little wider than I'm used to. I don't know what the radius is, and have not yet measured the width (too lazy to go out to the shop and get a caliper). (Again, the website could help, if the company would bother to give the information.) It is comfortable. I can't decide whether I like it better than the flat board on my Gibson. I do like the feel of the Gibson neck, but it may be just what I'm used to.

    So, how does it sound? Not bad at all. I realize that may not sound like a ringing endorsement -- hey, I'm not out to endorse anything <g>. This instrument retails for about a grand. For this kind of quality in construction, and fine playability, from a solid American company that presumably backs up their products...you can't expect $10,000 worth of tone out of a $1000 instrument.

    It shines with chords in open position. It has decent bass response. The trebles are a little weak -- not so much on volume, which is reasonable, but on tone, which is a bit "scratchy" sounding. (I've not been able to quite put my finger on how to describe that tone -- that "imperfect" tone that many mid-level mandolins seem to have. It's a lack of tonal clarity.) Overall, I find it quite pleasant to play. I work through all the tunes I'm working on, and enjoy the sound on each one...even though I really expected to limit this instrument to a handful of "slower" "celtic" sounding pieces, like Kelsterne Gardens or Childgrove. It does work best, I guess, for those kinds of tunes, but I enjoy it on anything.

    I think the biggest issue for me with this instrument is actually the fretboard. I know everyone loves a radiused board. But I'm just not sure I love it. Particularly as this one seems a little wider or something. But for most people, I would think the board would be a plus.

    While it isn't an earth-shattering musical instrument, it's a darn good one for the price. Really, this would be a very fine student or intermediate instrument, imho. (In other words, it would be good for a normal person a bit more advanced than me, who was not necessarily afflicted with serious MAS. <G&gt.

    Just thought I'd offer a few words on the thing, fwiw.

    Mark
    J. Mark Lane
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    Everyone knows what these things look like, so I won't post a lot of pics. But hopefully one won't offend anybody.
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    J. Mark Lane
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    Brian Dean #30 Bowlback

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    Y'know, I wonder if in 75 or so years, these things might be like the old Gibson Ajrs of the day. #I doubt if the K's'll get to F4 status(speaking only of the round holed models)

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    Mark,
    I played a KO at Buffalo Brothers two years ago and even sent them an e-mail offer for what I thought was a more reasonable amount after I got back home. They refused my offer and I sometimes feel I made a slight mistake. It had REALLY nice tone with great bass and full ringing highs. I would probably be putting an Allen tailpiece on your Breedlove as that certainly improved the high end on two mandolins I own.
    John

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    Mark, How do you think it would sound for old time blues or jazz? Been looking at a couple, though cash flow is low currently...
    PeacE
    Brian

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    I don't know, Brian. I really don't know the sound the people look for there. I would say it is relatively beefy compared to, for example, an older Gibson A. Probably would work fine. I just don't know how to evaluate the question....
    J. Mark Lane
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    Brian Dean #30 Bowlback

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    I owned a Breedlove Quartz KO Black Gold that I compared with an old Gibson A1. The Gibson blew it away in tone and volume. I bought the A1 and sold the KO to a guy who loves it (better than his Rigel).
    Keep it acoustic.

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    Mark,
    I purchased the Cascade (which is a KF style) from Ken and am quite please with it. The neck is slightly wider at the nut and I think the radius is 12".

    I haven't owned any "high priced" mandolins but mine blows my Webers and an 22 A2 I had in playability. #I agree the radius is taking a little time to get use to but I'm sure this will stay my favorite for months to come.

    I wasn't a big fan of the K style either but in the blonde it looks kind of cool. #Alot better in person than in pics I think.



    Daryl

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    Hi Mark,

    The neck width at the nut is 1 3/16" or a 1/16" over the normal 1 1/8". The radius is 12". They use banjo size fret wire as well. The design was really for guitar players moving to a mandolin.

    I've made two cahnges to my Cascade, GHS medium phospher bronze strings (A270) and a solid maple violin style bridge. The bridge made a big difference in tone.

    Leon

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    Is this an American made Breedlove or have they outsourced their lower end Mandos like they have their guitars? Or am i getting the guitar part wrong too? I thought I read that there were now PacRim Breedloves out there.

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    Registered User RichM's Avatar
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    All of Breedlove's mandolins are made in the US. Breedlove does have a "bargain" line of guitars, called Atlas, that are made overseas.




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    Thanks for all the responses, folks.

    Leon, that's interesting information. It does, in fact, have a "guitar" feel to it. That should probably help me, as a life-long guitar player. But I've now become so accustomed to a traditional mandolin fretboard, it actually feels strange. Interesting about the violin style bridge. I may try that, although when I have tried it in the past I found that I lost a little bass (with improvement in trebles).

    As for the comparison between the Quartz O's and older Gibson A's, I've only played a handful of the latter. So my experience is very limited. I think I'd rather have a nice old Gibson, but these things are easy to get and readily available, ...and arguably more consistent? So for some people they probably make sense.
    J. Mark Lane
    Stanley #10 F5
    Pomeroy #72 F4
    Brian Dean #30 Bowlback

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    I love my KF (also from Ken, but before the fire sale... ). Coming from a guitar background, the neck was perfect. In fact, if I ever am able to swing a custom, I'd probably want the neck dimensions replicated.

    It sure doesn't look "normal" at jams, but it plays well and sounds great to me. Doesn't have the normal Gibson chop, but that's OK with me.

    I also think that the Breedlove website is terrible. More info! And, I just don't like their other finishes. Black looks too boring, and the sunburst looks cheap to me (and charging another $250 doesn't help!).

    And as an intermediate player, it suits me perfectly.
    __
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    I just purchased an OO from a fellow Cafe person... I am in the middle of tweaking it some (swapping tailpieces, adjusting action/setup, etc.) to suit my preferences (clearly different from those of the previous owner's), etc. I was looking for an affordable instrument as a complement to my mostly OM playing. I do believe I've found that. It is very nicely made, solid, and with quality wood that (IMHO) is beautiful in the plain satin finish (I don't care for sunbursts in general and find theirs to be especially cheesy looking).

    I like the neck, and the radius was important to me. While I like the old Gibsons for their sound, I'm so used to a radiused neck that a flat one feels almost concave and uncomfortable to me. The wider neck makes the transition to mando easier for me as a player of mostly OM and guitar.

    I'll send a more detailed report on tone as I get it tweaked and strung up...btw... from what I've read, the KO doesn't differ much in sound from the OO generally speaking.

    KE
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    I've always liked Breedlove's American made products. While the headstock is rather ugly and the K shape quite different I always found them to be a well made & affordable mandolin. They are not for everyone but those who do take the time to explore them are generally well satisfied. If you are of the follow the herd mentality there is always Eastman, a Chinese product that is highly touted here.

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    Deepwood-- personally, I like the aesthetics of the Breedloves... whether O or K shaped, and I like their headstock design too...don't care much for the curliques on most mandos. And I was not impressed by the Eastmans that I had the opportunity to play, despite all the buzz about them. Seems to me that Breedlove produces a more consistent product. The question of what is the right match for any particular player is, of course, an individual decision.
    Karen Escovitz
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    or you can be like me and own an Eastman AND a Breedlove... then you don't have to decide!

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    Yes I must say the eastmans I tried didnt cut it at all.I dont understand the hype,they were not near the quality they are touted to be,of course the little trick of constantly starting and keeping going threads about them, probably is helping the popularity.This is just an observation on my part,so please dont you eastman fans go getting your nickers in a twist.

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    Mark - I've got an OO Quartz and noticed the same thing about a 'tinnyness' in the treble - mostly on the E course. There were two things about the factory set up which seemed odd. The radius of the bridge didn't match the radius of the fretboard. I lowered the arch on the bridge, regrooved the D and A courses and reset the intonation offsets on the bridge (the D is still a bit sharp at the twelfth fret). For the E course - I just noticed that the outside string is virtually resting on the side of the offset. It seems that using a bridge blank from a standard width fretboard can make for a wider perch than really possible. I will be carving the offending protusion after I finish this but I really think that there are a few shortcuts done in production which need to be addressed by the owners. Surprisingly - the nut to first fret clearance was too high by about .002 ... I do wonder if the higher priced production line items have these problems.

    I went to GHS A260's and while I like the sound, it isn't quite as brite as either my Sawchyn or Weber Bridger. It's still a nice instrument and I really get a kick out of the super long looking and feeling neck. I got mine from a private owner and it came with a Colorado Case - I got this one as you beat me to the phone to get to Ken for the KO ... so I guess we both got what we wanted for a good price - enjoy.

    After thought - the tuners are Saga and are the real weak point on the instrument.



    Mandola fever is permanent.

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    Dolamon and Mark- Glad to know I'm in good company!
    Steven... I've had the same thoughts re: the Eastmans... there's a lot of buzz (generating demand) and not that many retailers and a slow influx of actual instruments (low/slow supply) creating what I think may be an artificially inflated sense of their worth. Whatever...only time will tell ...
    Karen Escovitz
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    re: Eastmans

    It's also possible that their popularity stems from them being good instruments at a good price point that have dozens of satisfied customers who don't necessarily agree with the three of you.

    ...naaah, you're right, it's probably some sort of crazy supply/demand thing.


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    Well, it can be kind of hard to tell, can't it, Rich. Unless of course you have some sort of crystal ball.

    It is entirely possible to manipulate the supply-demand curve. Anyone who ever paid any attention to the securities industry knows that all too well. And one well-established way to do that is to go onto discussion boards and talk up your product. Or have others do it for you. Or perhaps just schmooze some gullible types, or give a few sweet deals to particularly vocal people, or whatever, so that others will do your little deeds for you. If you can actually deny that this happens around here, then you're extremely naive. (And I don't think you are.)

    So...as I said, it's kind of hard to tell what's "real" and what's "artificial." Some of us who have played these instruments have found them so utterly uninspiring as to have doubts about the whole thing. Some who have purchased the instruments don't like that. No big surprise there.

    All that said, I do understand that the Eastmans I played are apparently not now being touted as good examples (apparently the entire Mandolin Brothers stock was, well, bad). And some others are now there to replace the...bad ones. OK. Fine. I'll now go and play those, and maybe my experience will be different, in which case I will certainly say so.

    In the meantime, I will continue to have doubts, and continue to recognize that there has been an almost constant "chatter" about these things for months, and that much of that "chatter" has been brought on by representatives of the company (or their dealers), etc. It is what it is.
    J. Mark Lane
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    I don't disagree with you, Mark, but I think you may be missing the point. It's not particularly important to me whether you, or anyone else, likes Eastmans, or pie, or wiener dogs for that matter. I'll go on record as saying I currently own 2 Eastmans-- I was neither coerced, sweet-talked, or offered an endorsement deal to do it either (hah! that'll be the day). Played 'em, liked 'em, bought 'em.

    And it's pretty rare that I'm tearin' up Jerusalem Ridge and I stop and say, "Hmm, I wonder if the other members of the Cafe would approve of me playing this mandolin." I like what I like and you like what you like and we all make music and we're all happy. I also own a Weber, Breedlove, Gibson, Old Wave, Triggs, and one from our friend-in-common, Howard Morris. So I'm not an obsessive Eastman fanboy, but I do like where they fit in my musical aresenal.

    While I don't take issue with your Economics analysis, nor deny it is quite possible to manipulate any group of people,gullible or otherwise, I just found it to be Olympic-level conclusion-jumping to assume that their relative popularity was due purely to manipulation, coercion, buzz, or plain stupidity. Look, I'm old enough to have lived through the Pet Rock, the DeLorean, and Microsoft Windows. I know it's possible to convince people to buy junk by telling them it's cool. I don't think that's the case here.

    And I will acknowledge that the extremismm of some of the hype is annoying. I do not claim my Eastmans are as good as a Loar, Dude, Gilchrist, Nugget, [Insert Grail Instrument Here]. They're just nice instruments that make me grin when I play them and not feel like a dope for taking my checkbook out.

    In the meantime, you are welcome to despise Eastmans as much as I despise spiders and Oprah, and to find the new stock at Mandolin Brothers as pedestrian as the old stock. Just don't assume that those of us who feel differently are too dumb to know any better.

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    I never said I "despise" them, not at all. #Overpriced, yes. #Overhyped, yes. #Despise? #Hardly. #

    And I do not assume that everyone who praises them is dumb or gullible. #I'm sure you're a far better player than me, and perhaps have a better base from which to judge. Gabriel Wiseman is certainly a far better player than me, and has enough history in the bluegrass world to know what he's talking about. #Steve Hall is clearly an intelligent man, and he thinks they're nice. #I could go on. #

    But that doesn't mean that the market hasn't been a tad "manipulated" by all the "talk"...or that the price or salability of the instruments hasn't been effected by that. #And that in itself is also fine, mostly. #That's half the game. #But I have found it a bit much here, and I have been more than a little turned off by way much of it has seemingly been "disguised" as one or another form of "unbiased commentary"...or whatever. #(And I am not referring to you.)

    So I guess what we disagree on whether they provide value. #Despite my skepticism, and perhaps overly disdainful tone, I do accept that it is quite possible that, as Gordon said, the instruments at MandoBros were, in fact, older examples, and that the company has improved. #It's a young company. #One would hope that would happen. #

    So I will make the same offer to you that I've made to everyone else who has taken on this little debate: why don't you meet me at Mandolin Brothers, and we'll try them out together? #Where we can directly compare them to other instruments, in the same room, at the same time? #It's not that far from Philly. #I'll buy lunch. #And I'll even make a bet with you -- if they really do sound better than other instruments in their price range, I'll BUY one, on the spot. #But if they don't, ...what? #You can buy me a MandoBros t-shirt. #How's that?

    Mark
    J. Mark Lane
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    Pomeroy #72 F4
    Brian Dean #30 Bowlback

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    Well, as I'm not trying to convince you to like Eastmans, if you fail to like the new models at Mandolin Brothers, I will buy you, well, nothing. However, I will be happy to buy you a Mandolin Brothers t-shirt as a gesture of mandolin community cameraderie, regardless.

    But I'm up for a trip up the Turnpike. Name the day!

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