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Thread: Shocking to me

  1. #1

    Default Shocking to me

    I've been playing my Silverangel econo A now for several months. Yesterday I was in a music store that had a few mandolins of the low to mid level import ilk. I picked up a few $300-700 mandolins and was surprised how thin and tinny sounding they were. I guess there is no going back for me. Save your money boys and girls and buy the low end of mando makers like Weber and Collings. You will be very happy you made the jump. $1500 in the used market will get you into the really good range. Cheap for a lifetime of happiness.

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Brick, I have found that most music stores are not all that interested in carrying big name mandolins, they sure do have a lot of guitars though...when you do find a mandolin in a music store most of them are not set up properly and that kills them, I have been in quite a few and they don`t even take time to make sure they are close to being in tune....If possible do a little research of music stores in your area that do carry high end mandolins....In my time I have owned quite a few mandolins and only two were bought from a music store, all of others were custom made or bought directly from the builders....

    Willie

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    It's much the same in the UK. Many stores selling the cheap end of the mandolin range & many of them not even selling strings to go with them as spares.
    Stores such as Hobgoblin & a few others are selling higher quality instruments,but you have to seek 'em out. A few of the most 'serious' stores are selling only the high end mandolins ie. Kentucky / Northfield / Eastman.

    Unfortunately for many people,a cheap instrument is all they can afford & as such is better than none. Others such as myself buy a cheap instrument to see if they have a talent to play = not much lost if they don't make the grade. If they do,then trade the 'El Cheapo' in for a higher end instrument just like i did.My first mandolin,a Michael Kelly 'Legacy' was a bit thin sounding,but it was well set up by TAMCO in the UK & played well.It served to prove that i had a talent to play & i part-ex'd up to my first good mandolin,a Lebeda 'F5 Premium Plus' & what a joy that was !.

    Good / bad or indifferent,there's a need for cheaper instruments. But i do agree,if you're really serious about the mandolin (or any other instrument for that matter),buy the best that you can afford & trade / part-ex upwards to the top end instruments.
    You can spend a fair bit of cash changing up,buy most times you'll end up with a really good instrument - it just takes time (& cash !),
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    Celtic Strummer Matt DeBlass's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    While I certainly won't argue that a nicer instrument will sound better in every way, I think a decent setup can have a noticeable impact on even a cheap mandolin.
    I've had a number of used mandolins, and the first thing I've always done when I got one is take a few minutes to set the bridge so the intonation is on at the 12th fret. In a couple cases I had to move the bridge a LOT (and judging by the "sun tan" it had been in that position for years) and the difference in strumming a G chord before and after was huge. Bad intonation can cause an instrument to sound harsh and tinny pretty easily.
    I suspect in a lot of cases music stores, particularly big chains, don't really take floating bridges into consideration. Again, not to say a $300 mandolin will ever sound as good as a $3,000 instrument (or even a $900 instrument) but with a little work it could be at least playable and enough to get someone started.
    If I call my guitar my "axe," does that mean my mandolin is my hatchet?

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Someone I am presently teaching got a Kentucky KM-150 in (from the US) this week. OK... pretty plain looking materials... and needed a bit of setup, but even tuning it up for the very first time I was impressed by the fact that all the basics were really there. Sounded good from the get-go. Nicely playable and certainly plenty good enough to go quiet a long way with. Can you get better for $1K or $1.5K or more (much more) - certainly. That said, the overall playability and tone/volume of that KM-150 was outstanding for what it cost. Much better than many have learned on.
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    There is another side of the story too....A friend that I worked with asked me what kind of guitar should his daughter buy when she was starting to take lessons, I told him that if she buys a cheap guitar it may not stay in tune, may not have a sound that she likes and maybe she will find that those things will make her give up on learning, I suggested that she buy a nice Martin or Gibson which will cost a lot more but if she finds that she isn`t a musician she will be able to sell it for what she paid for it or even more in some cases....He didn`t listen to me and bought an Asian import that had problems and just as suggested she gave up on trying to learn and after about five years she still had the "el-cheapo" guitar because no one wanted to buy such a bad instrument....

    I also know some people cannot afford a high priced instrument but even if you have to make a payment every month get a good instrument and most of the time they will re sell for what ever you paid for it...I also suggested to her that maybe she could rent a nice instrument to see if she had the ability to ever be a musician...Like they do in public schools...

    I guess there pros and cons to doing this but what ever you buy play it first to see if it has a tone that you like and see how it plays, most beginners don`t really know what they want so they are depending on a person that knows instruments and should go along with what ever they are told...NOT BY A SALESMAN....

    Willie

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    One thing that always strikes me is that, whilst people are often eager to ask for advice, they never seem as eager to follow it.

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    It is certainly true the instruments I played were right out of the box. I have half a mind to go buy the Kentucky KM 150 just to see for myself what a setup would do for it. And in no way do I intend to slight those who buy such instruments. I started with an Eastman. It is just that my Silverangel, modestly priced in the grand scheme of things, and the Weber Galatins and Collings MTs I've played are a significant improvement, and should be the goal of anyone serious about playing, at least those wishing to derive maximum enjoyment.

    Those on this forum indulging in the MM Gibson and other top end instruments could well play my Silverangel and think so what. I have yet to play such mandolins, but my experience with guitars is that the law of diminishing returns kicks in, not that those returns aren't worth the money, because they most certainly are.

    My intent was to comment on the very real significant difference I've experienced after making the move to a better, but still relatively affordable mandolin, bought used.

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    Registered User Steve Sorensen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Drink home-brewed coffee, eat in, skip a few movies, mow your own lawn, keep the flip-phone a year longer, and save up for a good instrument (and a great set-up).

    Seems like the sensible approach to me.

    Steve

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  15. #10

    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenS View Post
    Drink home-brewed coffee, eat in, skip a few movies, mow your own lawn, keep the flip-phone a year longer, and save up for a good instrument (and a great set-up).

    Seems like the sensible approach to me.

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    My wife would hate making such a sacrifice.............

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt DeBlass View Post
    While I certainly won't argue that a nicer instrument will sound better in every way, I think a decent setup can have a noticeable impact on even a cheap mandolin.
    I've had a number of used mandolins, and the first thing I've always done when I got one is take a few minutes to set the bridge so the intonation is on at the 12th fret. In a couple cases I had to move the bridge a LOT (and judging by the "sun tan" it had been in that position for years) and the difference in strumming a G chord before and after was huge. Bad intonation can cause an instrument to sound harsh and tinny pretty easily.
    I suspect in a lot of cases music stores, particularly big chains, don't really take floating bridges into consideration. Again, not to say a $300 mandolin will ever sound as good as a $3,000 instrument (or even a $900 instrument) but with a little work it could be at least playable and enough to get someone started.
    After I learned about intonation, even my first mando (Alvarez A100) sounds pretty darn good. Such things like finding the right strings for the instrument (and then a decent pick) also can take those cheapos to the next level. To keep my MAS in check, I have to learn 50 more songs before upgrading again

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    I've just added a $300-$700 mando to my collection because I wanted a relatively nice instrument for travel/backup, one that if mortally damaged or stolen I wouldn't feel so terrible about loosing, compared to the same circumstances happening to my Gibson. There are two other threads here in the Café about (1) "Thinking about getting a traveling/backup mandolin..." and (2) "$199.00 solid F style mandolin".

    You're right, the tone is different out of the box, and up front I want to say I'm extremely pleased with this mandolin. The differences in the tone that you've cited do currently exist in this instrument, but even aside from the motivation I had for buying it, there are also some other very positive tone differences that to me make this mando very worth having.

    Like most instruments, mandos are very complex related to what makes one sound different from another. Tone is very hard to define, as are the reasons that make that tone. I believe that my new mando's voice is at least partially because the new strings are so bright, but also because it's a different build of an instrument...

    The particular mando that I've gotten is a Michael Kelly MKLFSTB, an actually rather nicely built imported (from China) F-style mandolin with solid spruce top, solid maple back and sides, with a rosewood fingerboard with a scooped florida and with a rosewood adjustable compensated bridge, with Grover tuners and a dual action truss rod, with at least some carving (whether by hand or by machine, I can't tell), with a dovetail neck joint and tone bars, and with a number of very nice traditional touches combined with some modern ones. The list price for this is $875US, but Michael Kelly advertises it (mandolin only) for $569US. Mine is a restock that I paid $199US for, new and with warranty.

    Probably the most obvious modern difference with this mando is the relatively heavy and firm cast tailpiece. From my experience with other instruments I can say this does make a big difference in tone and volume, actually focusing some extra string tension down on the bridge and on the top.

    I haven't confirmed this with the Michael Kelly company yet, but from the look and feel of the finish I'm guessing that it is a cyanoacrylate of some sort. It has the hard feel of acrylic, and also the matte finish makes no effort to gloss up with a normal polishing effort; having worked with cyanoacrylate finishes on wood before, these are both characteristics which are typical of this kind of hard finish. If it is a cyanoacrylate finish, that also is a part of the tone difference, in that cyanoacrylate seeps into the grain of wood, especially deeply with softer woods, and it hardens the wood as the finish itself hardens. So if my guess is correct, at least at the outermost levels, the top has been converted into a very strong, hard hybrid top, perhaps most easily compared to a graphite top. The maple back and sides also have this finish, so if in fact it is cyanoacrylate, to some extent they also have been converted into this hybrid.

    This would explain some of the "thin and tinny" tone you cited, but it also explains the cannon-like "cutting" volume that this instrument produces. The MKLFSTB is an instrument that I wouldn't hesitate to use in a jam among a number of banjos and other loud instruments, and would still expect to be heard. While I do prefer the more nuanced woody tone of my Gibson, it isn't "cutting" enough to actually compete in a loud jam like the MKLFSTB is.

    The other observation I'd make in general is that learning to pull tone from an instrument is not something that happens while you are browsing in a store. It takes real time. I've had my MKLFSTB since Friday and have been playing it a lot; I am just now beginning to get the touch that I want on it. But having gotten to this stage, I expect that it will probably take a month of so for me to get to the point where I can pull the tone out of it that I really want. In the mean time, the strings are going to loose some of that new brightness (which I am really looking forward to) and at least at some levels, the wood is going to open up from playing.

    I guess what I'm saying is there is a place for this kind of instrument. Maybe this price range really requires more playing-time, more experience and a more exact setup to pull tone from it, but it can be done.

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I've been playing my Silverangel econo A now for several months. Yesterday I was in a music store that had a few mandolins of the low to mid level import ilk. I picked up a few $300-700 mandolins and was surprised how thin and tinny sounding they were. I guess there is no going back for me. Save your money boys and girls and buy the low end of mando makers like Weber and Collings. You will be very happy you made the jump. $1500 in the used market will get you into the really good range. Cheap for a lifetime of happiness.
    Last edited by dhergert; Sep-25-2016 at 1:48pm.
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    Registered User Mike Arakelian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    It's hard to argue with the logic of skipping the inexpensive starter mandos and going directly to something like a SA, Collings, Weber, etc. i've played the guitar since I was a teen, and after all these years my two guitars are a Martin and a Gibson. I don't want or need annother guitar. When I decided to learn the mandolin about three years ago, I knew that an entry level mando would not last long, but I was reluctant to spend a "lot" of money in case I didn't take to it. My first was a The Loar 220, my second an Eastman 315, my third and fourth are a Jacobson and a Flatiron. I'm dreaming about a Pava, Girouard, or who know what else 😜. If I were doing all this again, I'd probably skip the Loar and go first to the Eastman, but would not jump to the Jacobson or Flatiron, or whatever, simply because I would have had no way of knowing what I wanted in terms of tone, etc. The mandoln is definitely a unique instrument, and MAS is part of its allure and fun...I sure wish it wasn't, but it's undeniable.
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    I started with a Loar LM 220, then a couple of bowlbacks, and then bought both a Pava and a Weber. I don't honestly think I will ever outgrow the Pava and Weber, and I agree about the "diminishing returns" as things get significantly more expensive. I think a parallel is cars, you can buy a used (or new) essentially "throw away" car, a serviceable car (mid-range, either new or used) that will last for years, or a high-end car with all the "bells and whistles" that won't help it be any more serviceable but add significantly to the price. Maybe do 0 to 60 a bit faster, but is it really necessary? Maybe to an enthusiast, but to the average person the increase in price is not worth the small improvement in performance. Similarly in mandolins, I can hear the difference in the hands of a superior player, but doubt I would notice if I was playing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    I have half a mind to go buy the Kentucky KM 150 just to see for myself what a setup would do for it.
    If nothing else, you'll end up with a nice beater mando. I bought a KM-150 used for $165 with HSC. It was setup as it came out of the box (probably why she sold it), but after lowering the action, filing the nut, and setting intonation, it's far nicer than the money I spent. And for $165, it can get stolen or if it rides in the airplane cargo hold I won't shedtoo many tears. It's no Gibson, but better than I would have guessed.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    ALL mandolins need a good set up cheap or not. Take John Reischman's Lloyd Loar as an example,possibly the finest sounding Loar out there & tweak the set up away from what it is now,& you'd ruin it's tone & playability. My Michael Kelly did sound a bit 'thin',but as i'd never owned a mandolin before, & i did receive it via mail, i'd never had chance to play any other mandolins, so i didn't know what a good one sounded like. However,for me,the main thing was that it was perfectly set up by TAMCO & it was very playable,enabling me to at least get the best from it. Within 3 months,i'd satisfied myself that i could play a mandolin,so i traded it in for the Lebeda F5.
    The bottom line (for me) is set up,regardless of the price,in order to be able to get the best from it,
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Arakelian View Post
    It's hard to argue with the logic of skipping the inexpensive starter mandos and going directly to something like a SA, Collings, Weber, etc.
    It does make sense, and is logical, if you know or expect you are going to stick with it and take it seriously. A lot of total beginner's don't know that, however, and I can tell you from frequent experience that convincing them to spend around $1500 on their first mandolin is not easy. In fact, in some cases, better have medical assistance standing by as they experience the 'shock' for themselves....

    Often, they don't want to commit that much, or it could just be they don't have the $$. Reasons vary. I'm just happy if they do at least get themselves something that is possible to set up well and sounds decent enough. I have lost count of the number of times people turn up with absolutely dire things they found on Ebay as a 'bargain' price...mando aversion therapy machines.
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenS View Post
    Drink home-brewed coffee, eat in, skip a few movies, mow your own lawn, keep the flip-phone a year longer
    Concept improvement alert:
    - drink home-brewed tea
    - replace the lawn with trees and bushes
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Arakelian View Post
    It's hard to argue with the logic of skipping the inexpensive starter mandos and going directly to something like a SA, Collings, Weber, etc. i've played the guitar since I was a teen, and after all these years my two guitars are a Martin and a Gibson. I don't want or need annother guitar. When I decided to learn the mandolin about three years ago, I knew that an entry level mando would not last long, but I was reluctant to spend a "lot" of money in case I didn't take to it. My first was a The Loar 220, my second an Eastman 315, my third and fourth are a Jacobson and a Flatiron. I'm dreaming about a Pava, Girouard, or who know what else ��. If I were doing all this again, I'd probably skip the Loar and go first to the Eastman, but would not jump to the Jacobson or Flatiron, or whatever, simply because I would have had no way of knowing what I wanted in terms of tone, etc. The mandoln is definitely a unique instrument, and MAS is part of its allure and fun...I sure wish it wasn't, but it's undeniable.
    I dunno, I have a Loar220 and am really happy with it. It's really opened up over time, sounds loud and clear and is easy to play (and I'm realizing over time how important that is). It did receive a good setup.

    I've tried an Eastman 305 in comparison and was altogether unimpressed with the sound. Might be a matter of gettign used to an instrument, though.

    I don't think getting a cheap but decent mando is a bad decision, as long as it's a decent instrument and playable. It's a good point to start without spending too much before knowing what matters to you in an instrument, plus you'll need a "beater mando" for travel/busking/bar fights more likely than not.
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Unfortunately for many people,a cheap instrument is all they can afford & as such is better than none.
    I would say that it is not always affordability but inability to understand how a better quality instrument is easier to play and produces far better quality of sound Personally I made same mistake initially because I ordered from internet and visually poor model does appear any worse in picture. I realized the difference only when I tried multiple mandolins in a shop. In future I decided NEVER to buy a musical instrument over internet.

    The poor quality instrument is also a reason why many beginners get frustrated after some time (because even after practice those chepo mandolins never match to produce good tones as seen by even intermediate players' good quality mandolins in YouTube)

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    Quote Originally Posted by almeriastrings View Post
    It does make sense, and is logical, if you know or expect you are going to stick with it and take it seriously. A lot of total beginner's don't know that, however, and I can tell you from frequent experience that convincing them to spend around $1500 on their first mandolin is not easy. In fact, in some cases, better have medical assistance standing by as they experience the 'shock' for themselves....
    Often, they don't want to commit that much, or it could just be they don't have the $$. Reasons vary. I'm just happy if they do at
    least get themselves something that is possible to set up well and sounds decent enough. I have lost count of the number of times people turn up with absolutely dire things they found on Ebay as a 'bargain' price...mando aversion therapy machines.
    I try to encourage them to buy used and buy a name or have someone go with them to check it out. Spend $1000 to $1500 on a decent used mandolin you can probably get your money back if you decide not to learn it. Spend $200 on a new POS and you can't give it away

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    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandoplumb View Post
    I try to encourage them to buy used and buy a name or have someone go with them to check it out. Spend $1000 to $1500 on a decent used mandolin you can probably get your money back if you decide not to learn it. Spend $200 on a new POS and you can't give it away
    Some just will not spend that amount because they don't have it....other don't want to commit that heavily at first.

    Also, if they do buy something like a KM-150 or LM-220 those are very easy to sell to another beginner at not too much loss at all. Seen it happen many times. Obviously, if they buy complete junk - yes. Landfill or wall-hanger.

    It would be great if every beginner did start out out with a high grade mandolin, but the reality is, a lot either will not or cannot, and so the fact that there are some low cost, but serviceable, instruments out there is a good thing.

    You can set up KM-150's to play pretty well. Takes a bit of work, but they are perfectly playable once set up correctly. The basics are all there.
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    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Having read the comment about learners guitar above I can't agree that buying Gibson or Martin for a beginner was a good idea. Buying no-name "El-Cheapo" wasn't a good idea either. But there is always Yamaha there, no matter if learning classical or acoustic. Even the cheapest models like C-40 are well made and well setup instruments, playable straight from the box and perfect to learn on. And it takes at least 2-3 years for a student to grow out of them. Also there is a second-hand market for all Yamahas for those on tight budget. I guess in terms of mandolin basic Kentucky is the closest equivalent.

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    From mobi - " I would say that it is not always affordability but inability to understand how a better quality instrument is easier to play and produces far better quality of sound.". I fully understand that point - the best instrument to learn on is the best !.
    My own point was that, although understanding that a top quality mandolin might have been an easier / better one to learn on,a well set up 'cheaper', mandolin did just as well in proving if i had the talent to play at all.
    I played inexpensive banjos for close to 25 years before i bought my Stelling. No way would i have forked out $2000 US if i'd been a beginner. The guy who bought my 3 year old Gold Star 're-issue' banjo thought that having a high quality banjo would ''make him good''. I delivered it to him in London UK personally. Listening to him play, i instantly regretted the sale,he could hardly change chords. Several months later,not having become Bela Fleck II,he sold it.
    'Test the waters' before you spend a lot of cash on what might be a dead end,
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    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

  33. The following members say thank you to Ivan Kelsall for this post:


  34. #25
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    High Peak - UK
    Posts
    2,632

    Default Re: Shocking to me

    Do the same principles apply to buying/selling banjos as they do to other instruments?

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