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Thread: Intermediate Upgrade

  1. #1

    Default Intermediate Upgrade

    I currently have a John on A model with a plywood top and it's quite disappointing to listen to. I'm looking to upgrade to an intermediate instrument with a budget around $550-$600. I found on the classifieds a Michael Kelly Dragonfly and an Eastman MD 305. I love the look of the dragonfly, and I've heard good things about that particular instrument. But I also see a lot of people really love the Eastman 305s. Are there any models in my price range that I should also consider? I wish I could get my hands on some and try them out, but I am stationed in Germany with the military, amd there aren't very many A/F style mandolins around here. I've been to some festivals and seen some amazing luthiers from Czech Republic and the Netherlands (Mustache Guitars makes some really beautiful stuff). But these are out of my price range. I'malso worried about potential damage by shipping a mandolin to an APO. Any leads, suggestions, jokes, or advice are welcome!

  2. #2
    Registered User Roger Moss's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    This is only my own opinion here, and we know what they're like. I just couldn't bring myself to buy a Mk mandolin. They are liked by some, but many say they are too heavy with thick tops and do not project well. On the other hand, I have a 305 and I love it. The sound is virtually magnificent and it plays like butter. If I lost it I would replace it no question.

    That said, many people we ould advise you not to buy an intermediate instrument if you might become dissatisfied eventually and want to upgrade again. Just save up and get your dream mandolin right off. However that would mean waiting and trying to tolerate your bottom end starter for what might be some considerable time. You have to decide that for yourself.
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I've heard that same testimonial about the 305s over and over. I've seen some say their 305 was better than their 605. You may have swayed me. I know TMS had a bunch of them and I hear the setup they do in them is top notch. Thank you got your quick reply. (To any MK fans, I welcome any rebuttal. I've got a few weeks before I can buy it.)

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I recently saw a Kentucky 900 in classified for $600. If you hold out for a used one like this you would skip about 4steps in upgrading. This mandolin approaches a good professional grade.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I highly recommend TMS as a place to purchase, super nice and professional and great set-up (NFI.) I also agree with mandoplumb about upper level Kentucky mandolins (I got an 805 a couple years ago in a trade) - not as good as a Pava or Collings but pretty darn good.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    No question, get the Eastman. If you can get a used higher-end model than the 305, do so. 505 is megatons better (my experience). People who think a 305 can be better than a 605 are entitled to their personal preferences, but they also don’t understand the concrete difference in value of the much better hardware on the 500s up (and the built-in pickup on the 605). You sure see a lot of folks who buy a 305 and then spend lots more money to upgrade it...ending up with an upgraded 305 which they want too much $$ for. That said, the 305 is a much better pick than an MK.

  8. #7
    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I've been playing an Eastman 305 for 3 years now and have loved it. In the process of upgrading, I went to Gruhn's and Carters in Nashville and after playing everything I could get my hands on, I realized that I very much liked the tone of the Eastman over a lot of other much more expensive instruments!

    I recently custom ordered a Silverangel and am very very pleased with it. The result it that I'm not sure if I should sell the Eastman or keep it?!?!?!
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  9. #8
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Your profile does not indicate where you reside but you do mention the Netherlands. There is a music store in Amsterdam very close to the University that carries an almost complete line of Eastmans (a least they did on my last visit). They also had a few used instruments. This may provide you an opportunity to try several instruments. I find the lower end Eastmans to be of great value. As per their higher end mandos I think buying used from the Cafe clssifieds would yeild a better mandolin.
    I would recommend avoiding the Michael Kelly. The Michael Kelly would also be more difficult to resell when you decide to upgrade again.
    Good luck
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  10. #9

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I live in Southern Germany, about 5 hours from Amsterdam. I didnt have plans to travel up there again, but now....

  11. #10

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I'll check and see if it's still available. I've been combing the classifieds but haven't paid much attention to the Kentucky's. That doesn't sound like one that would stick around long though.

  12. #11
    Registered User MandoMN18's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I have an Eastman 305 and I have gotten a lot of positive compliments from good players that have said for the price that my Eastman is great. Usually it seems like the advice is either an Eastman or a Kentucky.
    Hinde MF #40

  13. #12
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I'd recommend that you search the classifieds here for used mandolins available in Germany specifically or Europe more generally. This offering from The Loar would most likely be an upgrade:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/129444#129444

    And this old Gibson oval from Italy, while above budget, could be a lifetime instrument:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/128582#128582

    Good luck!
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  15. #13

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    What are the thoughts on a The Loar LM 600 VS? I found a blem for a reasonable price. Tempted to pull the trigger before someone else gets it. How does the 600 compare to different Eastman models?

  16. #14

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Eastman mandolins tend to be a more refined build.

    Eastman have a thinner neck, smaller frets and more desireable thinner finish.

    The loar are styled on classic bluegrass a5 and f5 instruments. They also have a bulkier neck, bigger frets and a heavy thick finish. I used to own an LM700 which I enjoyed playing.

    The 600 gets good reviews here. I think quality is way more variable on the loar as opposed to Eastman.

    The lower end Eastman are nice instruments.300 and 500 range are very nice more agree there is not much more to be gained by moving up the line from the 300 and 500s.

    Finally, try and play them. Sound and feel are very personal and there is nothing worse that struggling with an instrument you dont feel comfortable playing.

    IMHO an instrument you have played and is comfortable for you is superior to an instrument you have read about but did not to handle and get a feel for.

    Whatever instrument you buy, get it set up by someone who knows what they are doing.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I own a MK I bought just to hone my setup skills on, and I can say you would be very disapointed if you got one in a factory box. Unless they have changed a lot, get an Eastman. You get it shipped cheap right? While the 505 would be my choice, plenty like the 305.
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  18. #16

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Based on feedback, I'm looking at the Eastman 305, 315, and 505. TMS has some good deals and then I know it'll be set up right. I wish I could play them, but it's tough when I'm halfway around the world. I looked at some local shops and the price is about 200 more, and in Euros. I appreciate all the responses and the experience y'all have shared. Now the final question, which one?

  19. #17
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    I teach in a store that sells Eastman mandolins. The 305 is fine instrument for the money. The weaknesses were the tuning machines and used to be the stamped tailpiece, but lately they have a cast tailpiece on them. I prefer larger frets for more mids and ease of playing but for the money it is hard to beat a 305. There is a used Loar A model in the shop that is pretty darn good but could really use new strings.

  20. #18

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by RobBob View Post
    I teach in a store that sells Eastman mandolins. The 305 is fine instrument for the money. The weaknesses were the tuning machines and used to be the stamped tailpiece, but lately they have a cast tailpiece on them. I prefer larger frets for more mids and ease of playing but for the money it is hard to beat a 305. There is a used Loar A model in the shop that is pretty darn good but could really use new strings.
    What has been your experience with the 305 vs 505? And the 315, for that matter.

  21. #19

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    The plot thickens. I just saw some TKD F5 mandolins on the mandolin shop's webpage. He had two foxes for $595. I've never heard of TKD. What are they like?

  22. #20

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Have you tried www.moloneymusic.com. In Galway Ireland. Posts all over Europe. Stocks Eastman and The Loar.

    NFI.

    TKD mandolins - https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/s...stman-vs-other

  23. #21
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    And this old Gibson oval from Italy, while above budget, could be a lifetime instrument
    Good luck!
    Every mandolin I've owned except the first one was above budget

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  25. #22
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    Every mandolin I've owned except the first one was above budget
    That's generally the cost of an upgrade.
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  27. #23

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    RE: MK Dragonfly.

    There are several versions of these. Not just the I, II and III, but also different factories. They changed with each factory move. In general, an Eastman MD305 would be better mandolin.
    Robert Fear
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  28. #24
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Army of Sheep View Post
    The plot thickens. I just saw some TKD F5 mandolins on the mandolin shop's webpage. He had two foxes for $595. I've never heard of TKD. What are they like?
    They are made in Asia to the owner's specs and he supposedly tweaks them in his shop, I believe is the story. I think he's been banned from the Cafe. Some people report excellent experiences with him, others not so much.

  29. #25

    Default Re: Intermediate Upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by Folkmusician.com View Post
    "Education is when you read the fine print; experience is what you get when you don't.
    " - Pete Seeger
    I just read Eric F.'s post and then read your signature and I got a funny feeling about the TKDs.... I may be heading pretty to close to Tallahassee for work in a few weeks, so if I have time, maybe I'll swing by his place and at least get hands on one and play it next to an Eastman and make a decision then.

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