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Thread: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

  1. #1

    Default Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Hi fellow pickers,
    It's been years since I've been on here and searching for axes.
    Over 15 years ago, I remember hearing if you want the best online risk free high quality mandolin just buy a brand new Collings and call 'er done. This would be for a bluegrass mando and in my case, an F hole A shape.

    Would this advice still hold true?
    Thanks in advance.

    Zeke

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Risk free for me would include a trial period so that you could return it if you don't love it.

    Also risk free (to me) would be a minty but used mandolin so that if my tastes changed in 6 months I could get most or all of my money back, preserving my mandolin fund for the next pursuit

    I bought my Collings online for the reasons you state. I did trade it for another mandolin after a few months but I was not disappointed in the Collings. It's just wasn't the final answer for me

    I would include Pava mandolins in with your 'advice' statement for A5s in Collings' price range. Fit, finish, playability all near perfection for both. I could also list many builders of fine A5s in same price range I would rather choose from but if you're looking for well known safe choice those two are a good start

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    The best mandolin will be the one that sounds best to YOUR ears ! Play as many as you can and then decide ! There are too many mandolins priced from ten thousand and down to mention ! So--------I won't !
    Last edited by yankees1; Feb-11-2018 at 9:35am.
    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 !

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    The one you can afford!
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    I could also list many builders of fine A5s in same price range I would rather choose from but if you're looking for well known safe choice those two are a good start
    Mark succinctly hits the crux of the matter here. If you are looking for a "high quality risk free" mandolin, as you suggested in your OP, then it's hard to do better than a Collings. They are just so excellently and consistently built that they are a safe purchase, even at a distance. Now if you're looking for the best mandolin, as you stated in the thread's title, then I think that there are better options out there, particularly from independent luthiers. But in that case, you won't just be able to order and "call 'er done."
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Ok thanks for the responses. I took a look at the Pava page and Collings is still at the top of the list for a few reasons. Gryphon has it and I've bought a lap steel from them before that I could negotiate on the price and they are a very solid company. They also have their techs do a set up before shipping. Also I definitely prefer the matte finish.

    I should also add the reason I'm going mail order is because I live on an island and prefer to get one before I get a chance to go to the mainland, where I could go to Dawg Grisman's neighborhood and test a few vintages.
    Last edited by Zeke Chandler; Feb-11-2018 at 3:10pm.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Island or peninsula, before I lay out four figures for anything, I do a lot of hands-on comparisons. Reputable brands like Collings or Pava probably prevent getting a nasty surprise through the mail, but at that price level you get quite a few choices.

    "Testing a few" vintage, new, whatever mandolins seems to me to be the way to go. Regardless of the brand, each instrument is different, sometimes subtly, sometimes significantly. We're not buying harmonicas or starter ukes here, but making a significant investment, hoping to find a long-term "keeper."

    Just my 2¢.
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Collings mandolins are very consistent and a safe bet. Best neck I’ve ever played (including 2 Loars, a Red Diamond, a few Gils, and a Giacomel) was a Collings MT, but I ultimately turned it into a Weber Mandocello because I preferred the tone of my Silverangel. No knock at all against the Collings, but the SA is Gibsonesque with more bass, the Collings a bit more modern sounding, but very capable of bluegrass.

    Now, I played a MT-2 last week that was spectacular, and has my MAS flaring. And, their F styles are voiced differently than the MTs. Have played 3 that were bluegrass beasts. BUT, there are way more
    Options out there now than there were 15 years ago, and the Chinese imports are eons better than they were back in the day...see Northfield for a point of reference...

    If you don’t mind, give us a budget to work with, ‘twill narrow things down a bit and help us customize our responses...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    This Collings MT2 looks sweet and is a great price at $2500
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120840#120840
    Click image for larger version. 

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    This Collings MT for $1850 also looks good
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120825#120825
    Click image for larger version. 

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  12. #10

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    I played the all-torrified Collings MT2 (it's lacquer, not varnish) from the NAMM show at TME last week. I was absolutely stunned by the sound. The torrified maple back and sides really bring out the bass register, and I have to say, it was the most evenly balanced mandolin I've heard in a long time.

    I have no idea if they have any plans to make any more of these, but I played a lot of mandolins they currently have in the store that day, and this was by far my favorite (and they have some nice stuff right now). The Collings had that dry woody sound coupled with a lot of volume. The sound and the tone were even all up and down the register. Sometimes with woodier sounding mandolins you lose some volume, but not here.

    http://www.collingsguitars.com/custo...seye-sunburst/

    Forget everything you think you know about Collings mandolins, because they are entering a new realm tonally. Bill would be proud of the work they are doing to carry on his legacy.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I played the all-torrified Collings MT2 (it's lacquer, not varnish) from the NAMM show at TME last week. I was absolutely stunned by the sound. The torrified maple back and sides really bring out the bass register, and I have to say, it was the most evenly balanced mandolin I've heard in a long time.
    I contacted Collings to inquire about use of torrified woods. They answered that a torrified top would be $100 more. No mention of all - torrified. Any opinions?

  14. #12
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeke Chandler View Post
    I contacted Collings to inquire about use of torrified woods. They answered that a torrified top would be $100 more. No mention of all - torrified. Any opinions?
    I thought of you when I saw this instrument hit the classifieds:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120863#120863

    Having owned it previously during its peregrinations, I can guarantee you that it will not measure up to a Collings in fit and finish. And I can't promise you that you'll love how it feels, as playability is such a matter of preference. But if I were a grasser looking for an A5 with the tone, I would be seriously interested in a Stanley.
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  15. #13

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    If you don’t mind, give us a budget to work with, ‘twill narrow things down a bit and help us customize our responses...
    New Collings were $2000 15 years ago so I started with that figure. Now they're $2900 and with a torrefied top $3000 so I guess that would be the number.

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    I thought of you when I saw this instrument hit the classifieds:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/120863#120863

    Having owned it previously during its peregrinations, I can guarantee you that it will not measure up to a Collings in fit and finish. And I can't promise you that you'll love how it feels, as playability is such a matter of preference. But if I were a grasser looking for an A5 with the tone, I would be seriously interested in a Stanley.
    For virtually the same amount I would rather get a new Collings with the specs I order. A mando with that much wear I presume you're lookin at an additional $500 for new frets. Thanks though.

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeke Chandler View Post
    For virtually the same amount I would rather get a new Collings with the specs I order. A mando with that much wear I presume you're lookin at an additional $500 for new frets. Thanks though.
    I respect your decision. I can only say that the Stanley didn't need fretwork when I sold it. Granted, that was two years ago. I will also add that, while the Collings is pretty certain to depreciate 30% once you drive it off the lot, that Stanley has retained all of its value and even seemingly appreciated slightly.
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  17. #15

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    The all torrified was a one of a kind, one off made for the show that was at TME. Not sure if they’ve sourced enough wood yet to take orders for these.
    Torrified tops are only available on MT2 and MT2v models, as far as I know. They are not doing F models. The oval hole MF5 at TME is the one and only.

    With the new case, and torrified top an MT2 is about $4k. An MT is around $2800/2900.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeke Chandler View Post
    Hi fellow pickers,
    It's been years since I've been on here and searching for axes.
    Over 15 years ago, I remember hearing if you want the best online risk free high quality mandolin just buy a brand new Collings and call 'er done. This would be for a bluegrass mando and in my case, an F hole A shape.

    Would this advice still hold true?
    Thanks in advance.

    Zeke
    My answer: No!

    But: This might be the answer.
    Olaf

  19. #17

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    He’s looking for an F hole A, not an oval hole.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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    Registered User Michael Neverisky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Without a doubt, you will receive value for your dollar if you buy a Collings. If you buy a used, lower priced, Collings then I doubt you can do better.

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeke Chandler View Post
    New Collings were $2000 15 years ago so I started with that figure. Now they're $2900 and with a torrefied top $3000 so I guess that would be the number.



    For virtually the same amount I would rather get a new Collings with the specs I order. A mando with that much wear I presume you're lookin at an additional $500 for new frets. Thanks though.
    For the same amount I would rather have a Girouard and I have played both.
    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 !

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Zeke Chandler View Post
    Hi fellow pickers,

    <snip>

    I remember hearing if you want the best online risk free high quality mandolin just buy a brand new Collings and call 'er done.

    <snip<

    Would this advice still hold true?

    Thanks in advance.

    Zeke
    Yes, unless you have the time to figure out another option. I did have fun figuring out what I play. But, in all honesty, I'm not in a band and the instrument is really for my amusement.

    You'll spend over $1,000 in time and effort in the used instrument, "Game." You'll win a few and wonder what you did too!

    I think just buying the Collngs and getting it done is perfectly reasonable - maybe even elegant in it's simplicity. Bonus? They're great!

    f-d
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  23. #21

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Not to put a damper on any more potential future comments but thanks to all so far. Question answered in full. Bottom line is if I don't need a sweet sounding Collings soon I can wait and make my Morgan Monroe F make due until I have a chance to sample some vintage ones in person. It needs new frets anyway though so that in itself takes a few hundred off what I could put into a new one. Thanks again.

    By the way, my former luthier who was a roadie gave me some info that some may relate to. Stevie Ray Vaughn had to change his frets every 18 months so SRV and I have something in common. (of course guitar frets last a millennium longer than mandolin but it's a nice analogy for the ego.)

    Zeke

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Well not a 25G mando huh, well get one cheaper with quality and put in your oven on as low as it will go and bake her away be sure to baste occasionally with water-on the inside and you will have the torrified experience well maybe a terrifying experience. No just joking, there are many great mandolins that can be had for 1000 bucks some under it all depends on what ya want, There is a Varnished Kentucky in the classifieds that sounds great to me, way better than any Kentucky I've owned in the past! I've heard that the V-Kentuckys are consistently great, I don't believe they make them anymore? Even some of those A model Kentuckys the 900 etc some sound fantastic. It all depends if ya want an import mass product, small shop, known shop that's been around for awhile? The possibilities are endless!

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    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Well, Collings mandolins all tend to have a rather distinct sound. In fact, they seem to be amazingly reproducible from one to the next, in my experience! If that's the sound that you prefer in a mandolin, then I'd say, by all means go for it! New or used, the Collings is probably for you. And if you prefer a matte finish A-style, then Collings has among the best such mandolins. It's hard to go wrong IF the Collings sound is what you're really after, since they all tend to have it. Furthermore, they have great 'playability,' too.

    However, at the risk of detracting from this paean, some of us prefer a fundamentally different sound in a mandolin. It's hard (to impossible!) describe this sound in words, but it's a bit more 'earthy' or 'woody' or 'throaty' -- whatever. Some, but certainly not all, Gibsons tend to have it. It is also heard in the high-end models from Gilchrist, Nugget, Ellis, Altman, and so on (this list is not all-inclusive). These instruments most definitely do not deliver a Collings sound, but something else that's quite recognizably different to my ear. The Pava mandolins are closer to this camp, for example, and also the Northfields. Not Collings.

    So it all comes down to a matter of personal preference. Writing for myself, I am not a big fan of Collings, and there you are. You may find that your own taste for sound continues to evolve and change in the years ahead. This is perfectly normal. It might explain, at least partly, why some of us are still lusting after other mandolins...

    Listen to as many different mandolins as you can. Play as many as you can. Consider making a trip to the mainland to a reputable store just to get that experience. The added expense of such a trip is a worthwhile investment in-and-of-itself, particularly when you expect to shell out thousands of dollars (maybe many thousands?) in the years ahead. Maybe you can combine it with a trip to a festival, or a business trip, or a vacation? One of the best things I ever did to educate my ears was make the pilgrimage to Nashville and visit Carter's and Gruhn's. I came away with a whole new perspective.

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  27. #24

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    There are so many great yet relatively inexpensive mandolins out there these days that I'd say "no" to the OP's question. Maybe once upon a time, but there's a lot of competition and a ton of great builders these days.
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  28. #25

    Default Re: Best Mandolin (but not a $25,000 one)

    Quote Originally Posted by Verne Andru View Post
    There are so many great yet relatively inexpensive mandolins out there these days that I'd say "no" to the OP's question. Maybe once upon a time, but there's a lot of competition and a ton of great builders these days.
    I would not say that there are a ton. There are a lot of names in the directory, but there aren’t many producing the numbers it takes to have active product lines. Which means, you buy what you can find.
    Good Advice: Play before you pay, and know your product and your market.

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