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Thread: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    It's my daughter's 40th birthday in April (aargh!) and I'd like to give her a mandolin. She's a good musician (plays violin, piano, flute) but has never played mandolin. Do any of you have recommendations for a good mandolin that won't break the bank? I was hoping to find something decent for $200 or under. Is that possible?

  2. #2
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Honestly, it's unlikely. Mandolins are pretty expensive. One standard Cafe recommendation for a starter mandolin is the Kentucky KM-150, which will run closer to $350 from a shop that performs a set-up. You can probably get one from Amazon or Musicians Friend for a little less, but it most likely would arrive needing some work. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!

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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    As Eric said, I'd recommend upping your budget to $350 and buying the Kentucky KM-150 from a good shop.
    https://www.elderly.com/kentucky-km-150-mandolin.htm
    Most anything you buy for less than that will be disappointing. If you really need to keep the price down, you could go with The Loar Honey Creek for $250, but it isn't nearly as good as the Kentucky.
    https://www.elderly.com/the-loar-hon...e-mandolin.htm

    Here's a good case for $35
    http://www.musiciansfriend.com/acces...-mandolin-case

  4. #4

    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Thanks for the recommendation - I'll check out the Kentucky. I know I'm asking a lot to get a good instrument for around a couple of hundred. I'll probably stretch to a bit more. Thanks again!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    I found one on ebay - do you think it's ok buying from there rather than somewhere like Elderly? https://www.ebay.com/itm/Kentucky-KM...QAAOSwe6ZaVQ5J

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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by annetteangela View Post
    I found one on ebay - do you think it's ok buying from there rather than somewhere like Elderly? https://www.ebay.com/itm/Kentucky-KM...QAAOSwe6ZaVQ5J
    I don't recommend buying from eBay or from a big box retailer because the instrument will not be properly setup. If you save $40 by buying from eBay, the instrument will not play well and she'll either never play it, or you're going to have to shell out $75 to get it setup by a local shop. So worth it to buy from a shop that will do a proper setup before shipping the instrument to you.

    The one you linked to is being sold by woodwindbrasswind, a division of Musicians Friend. They do not do setups and the instrument will come just as it came to them from the factory. The bridge will need to be fit, the nut will need to be cut to proper depth, the truss rod will need adjusting, and possibly more. If you buy from Elderly, or The Mandolin Store, or Folkmusician, it will come properly setup with so if those things taken care of.

    Looks like The Mandolin Store is including a gig bag at the $350 price
    https://themandolinstore.com/product...-with-gig-bag/
    So that'll save you from having to buy a case

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  8. #7

    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    What is the difference between the 150 and the 140? I found a 140 local to me on Craigslist that I could hold and play before I buy, but is it worth paying the extra for the 150 anyway? https://greensboro.craigslist.org/ms...428917300.html

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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by annetteangela View Post
    What is the difference between the 150 and the 140? I found a 140 local to me on Craigslist that I could hold and play before I buy, but is it worth paying the extra for the 150 anyway? https://greensboro.craigslist.org/ms...428917300.html
    If you can buy a local instrument within your price range that you can check out first, that might be a good way to go.
    The KM-140 has a solid spruce top, just like the KM-150, but the KM-140 has laminated (plywood) back and sides, while the KM-150 has solid maple back and sides. However, the KM-140 can be good and at less than $200 that could work. The main variable is if it is setup well.

    I don't know how far this is from you, but this is an all solid wood mandolin that could be good also:
    https://raleigh.craigslist.org/msg/d...454516903.html

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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Short answer-No !
    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 !

  12. #10

    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Here is the comparison for the 140 and 150. I seem to remember a friend (who has a 140) saying the older 140's did not have an adjustable truss rod for the neck but the Saga site says the current models do. so if you are looking a used 140 I would want one with the adjustable truss rod and one that works.
    http://www.sagamusic.com/products/pr...rand=mandolins

    If you could get by with a used one I would put a ad in the classified section under 'wanted' and give your price range and see what come up. Someone might have something sitting in the closet they are not using. Otherwise if you search there are MANY threads similar to yours. For a good playable mandolin close to your price range Kentucky and Eastman are the two most popular choices. It is commonly thought that the newer (last 3-4 years) that mandolins from these companies have improved a lot to the point that the entry models may be better than more expensive models from 10+ years ago. The Eastman 305 would be great as well (has a slimmer neck than the Kentucky 150) but more than your budget. If you could find a used one you might get close. I know that $349 for a new Kentucky 150 is almost double your budget. But if you buy one from a Mandolin Café Sponsor it will be set up well, come with a warranty, would be returnable or she could exchange it and would have the warranty of a new mandolin. At least one of the Sponsors sells it with a gig bag included. So if there is any way you could swing it (combine BD and Xmas?) it would be worth the extra money to know that you have something nice, will sound good and is easy to play.
    Good luck and if you have some time be patient and something should show up in the classifieds.

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  14. #11
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    I know the idea of a gift is to get something new, but your daughter is already a musician and may not mind a higher-quality instrument that's used. That would open up your selection a bit. Not to mention a bowlback. You can get a playable instrument for less money. Just some more suggestions.
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

  15. #12

    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    For someone with no knowledge or experience with mandolins, used is a poor way to go, with the exception of buying from a known respected dealer.
    Silverangel A
    Michael Kelly LSFTB
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    I completely agree with the advice above... sometimes it's hard to find a good quality "starter" instrument that will inspire creativity, sound beautiful, look great, and be playable in a lower budget (especially a mandolin it seems).

    However, I would take a chance on this one (No financial interest)...

    https://reverb.com/item/5865108-mich...bacco-sunburst

    I like that it is "all solid wood".
    The instrument looks fantastic!
    It's (around) your budget.
    It's not a factory 2nd or "b-stock".

    I can only see what I can from the pictures and description but this little guys looks good to me.

    You could always contact the seller and inquire about setup (how it plays).

    I hope this helps.

  17. #14
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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    A good set up on a mandolin by a decent repairman will cost close to $100 or more so you won`t get much for $200 that would stay in tune and function properly with nice wood etc. so if you could spend a little more she would be likely to keep playing the mandolin if she didn`t have to tune it after every song...Believe me good set ups are the most important things in mandolins and not all dealers do set ups so tread lightly...

    Good luck with what ever you decide...

    Willie

  18. #15

    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    I got an e-mail from The Mandolin Store saying they had some blemished (barely to almost not noticeable) Eastman mandolins on sale. You might want to check with them. They are a reputable store and provide a good setup on all the instruments they sell. They are a sponsor of the Cafe and have a link here.

  19. #16
    mando-evangelist August Watters's Avatar
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    Default Re: Looking for recommendations for mandolin

    Looks like Lark in the Morning has a Romanian-made mandolin in your price range. Probably also has the advantage of a shorter scale, more like the violin your daughter is accustomed to!

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