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Thread: Buying online

  1. #1

    Default Buying online

    What is your view on how you decide to buy a mandolin sight unseen. Especially a new instrument.

    I have a friend who just bought a guitar, 6k+, online. He called me for advice. I told him he would love the instrument, but I couldn't say he'd love it more than the next guitar on the rack. Anyway he seems happy. Are you guys ok with just buying that Ellis or whatever based on reputation?

    Now let me say I bought my first two mandolins online, the Eastman was a second priced right, the Silverangel was bought from the classifieds minutes before I was leaving to go buy a new MT. The thought of saving over a grand appealed to me. Very happily lucked out. And really, I built my F not having a clue what it would sound like. So it is not like I've bought much besides my A1 retail on the spot.

    But I doubt my future purchases , likely double or more than anything to date, will be online, but even in a relatively flush store environment, the comparison shopping is between no more than four or five mainstream brands, and less to none used. In a quandary over this.
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  2. #2

    Default Re: Buying online

    Buying online is the same as commissioning a mandolin, you’re buying on reputation, both craftsmanship and musical ‘virtue’, for lack of a better term. I’ve bought online, in person and commissioned. Each purchase has worked out fine. But if I were to buy another instrument and I probably won’t since I have 5 keepers, it would be in person looking for a specific sound that spoke to me, along with the right playing characteristics including neck and fingerboard parameters.

    Since instruments vary and our ears are different, one person’s ‘too bright’ is another’s ‘well balanced’. Same for other attributes. So for reputation, it only matters what you have heard, not what anyone else thinks.

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  3. #3
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    What is your view on how you decide to buy a mandolin sight unseen. Especially a new instrument.
    I donít buy a new instrument unseen, unless itís a custom order that Iíve commissioned. And I only make that type of purchase if the instrument does not otherwise exist in nature. How else does one find a true blackface A2-z or a modern Alrite tribute?

    Otherwise, buying a mandolin sight unseen is based on a complex analysis of the builderís desirability, availability, and affordability, calculated by a proprietary algorithm in my head.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I've done it. Although I admit to prefer to buy in person, after trying it out. Lucked out on both my Strad-O-Lin and 1910 Gibson. Each instrument exceeded expectations.

    Plus, in the past few years, or at least since I've started playing mandolin, actual mandolins for sale in the area has decreased quite a bit. So, if I want a Silverangel, or Pava, or ??? would have to buy over the internet. There's just no way around it.

    As others have said, one needs to go on faith along with research. Might be easier with new instruments. In general the quality between similar lines seems to be better than in days gone by. Or, rather, maybe I've become more accustomed to a mediocre rather than stunning sound.
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  5. #5
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I have bought several instruments online, ranging from $275 'blem' to, well, let's just say more than typical USA made entry level. I have bought on eBay, from MC ads, from Reverb. For these three, I do all the research I can on the seller and sometimes still feel nervous until the instrument arrives and passes my inspection.

    I have bought online from dealers that seem to have been around for a while and have felt more comfortable with the process. The advantage being that reputable dealers understand that sound quality is pretty much undescribable in words with clearly defined meaning and thus are open to 'no questions asked' returns. Same is true for most MC classified ad listings.

    Some of my ebay purchases have quite frankly been a gamble, even after my research, but I remember only one deal breaker problem that I detected immediately after I received the instrument and eBay got my money back. The buyer pretty much always wins any dispute.

    And here's a funny part of the story. I tend to be a dream customer for a good salesman. I have come home with a mandolin that I bought in person from a reputable dealer which was not the mandolin I went to see and possibly buy. More than once. Buying online I take my time, gauge my emotions, wants, and 'needs' carefully, and tend to make better decisions.

    I guess, in summary, I can imagine multi-k$ deals on eBay or Reverb or here that would tempt me a great deal and if I could research the seller to find reassurance, I would go for it. And if the deal was an MC advertiser / online dealer, so much the better.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Buying online

    If you want selection and don't live in a handful of cities with amazing mandolin stores, then you must either travel or order online. The problem is you kinda have to already know what you want before the purchase, and hope yours is as good as your buddy's or the one so and so played onstage. And, yours might be even better! All that is great. The problem is when it is not great and things must be shipped back and forth, IMHO. Besides the paperwork, packing, and money issues -- it is really hard on an instrument. That is where hairline cracks, etc. can develop and some won't be obvious until later -- and become someone else's problem....

    Not that it applies here, but I will repeat a story I have told before on this forum. When I was working at a vintage guitar shop, it was about the time the internet took hold and became fully functional, roughly 20 years ago. One of our wealthy customers decided it would be fun to order online four vintage Martin D-28's and have them arrive at the same time. (fortunately from other dealers, not us!) He and his buddy were going to "test" them over the weekend, decide which was "best" and then ship the other three back! I believe marijuana was involved, FWIW. Anyway, he came to the shop to share with us this "cute" story. That's the kind of stuff that makes me sick. Besides the obvious sense of privilege, getting the other sellers hopes up for a sale only to face a return after the trial period, standing behind the protection of Paypal, etc. -- the most glaring thing is the physical RISK to the instruments, IMHO! Plus, imagine trusting these boneheads to carefully pack the "rejects" for their return trip home....

    I've said it before, and I love the internet, especially Mandolin Cafe and youtube, but I do think instruments were happier when they stayed in their own hometowns!
    Last edited by Jeff Mando; Mar-22-2019 at 1:35am.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Buying online

    Well, if your in a quandary I guess join the club. I've bought every mando (6 total) all on line every one a winner except a used Gibson F model advertised as "pristine" when I opened the case it looked like it fell off a truck and had crack in the neck joint where it met the body It sounded great though, but I paid top dollar for it so I sent it back, Reverb had to step in to get my money back. Just buy from a known store where you get a trail period or a site where you have buyer protection and you'll be fine. The club part is every time I hit the buy button I'm wondering/quandersizing what the outcome will be. I'm batting about .883 ya know if you don't swing at the pitch.............
    Good Luck if you end up hitting that buy button.
    Lou

  8. #8

    Default Re: Buying online

    My problem is I am picky about strings, and I am tending towards non-mainstream instruments (oval holes and octaves).

    Even at decent stores those options are slim pickens, and often what's in the stores is ruined by bad strings or just different strings than I would put on it.

    So it's like buying online even if I do get to play on it first. :-)

    I once watched a video with Sierra Hull playing a Weber D hole Bridger octave and loved its sound.
    Tried in vain to find one anywhere, turns out to be a remarkably rare beast. They aren't even linked on Weber's site, but Google found it there, special order only, $4.5k and then they will build one for you.
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  9. #9
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I think as we become more experienced we get to better understand what we like in terms or tone etc.. So a beginner having done research can conclude that the “Eastucky 2001” is a good starter instrument and a safe buy online as the quality control produces fairly consistent instruments. However, once they progress to the upgrade stage the next purchase may require more playing to find the “one” perhaps from a choice of examples of the same model.

  10. #10
    Confused... or?
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    Default Re: Buying online

    Evaluating the seller can be as, maybe more, important than evaluating the instrument. Bought a handful of instruments on-line, all used, some up to $2K, 8 to 15 years ago, and mostly eBay (that is, pre-Reverb). My string of "good luck" seems mostly due to asking questions even if I didn't really need an answer. Sellers that were enthusiastic, eager to reveal all including the warts, and maybe sounding a bit like a proud parent, turned out to be trustworthy. (Hey, even got invited to jam sessions!) The annoyed, secretive, or unresponsive ones I passed on.
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  11. #11
    Mando Training Wheels kegcrowe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    My problem is I am picky about strings, and I am tending towards non-mainstream instruments (oval holes and octaves).
    I just bought a morris flattop and I’m curious about your string choice.

  12. #12
    Chu Dat Frawg Eric C.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I've bought sight-unseen from Folkmusian, TMS, and Elderly. Haven't been disappointed in any of them. My latest was a Northfield and couldn't be happier. Of course, I've played many Northfields before purchasing and they are as consistent to me as Collings as far as knowing what it will sound like.
    Kentucky KM950 and loving it.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Buying online

    Interesting, but after having the Collings consistency ingrained into my thought process, I recently played two that put me off. Both were Adi tops, both probably would open up very nicely, but the third sounded good from the get go. I mean, they were just exhibiting a tightness I'd never experienced before, but north of six grand, would not tend to want to pay for potential. Had I gotton one in the mail, probably would have been very happy, and happier as time went by. But like the recent thread by a gentleman whose custom build came alive after a week, it could be a good thing to put your trust in a builder.

    Now Northfields have been very good, but being able to hold one in your hands is invaluable, particularly being able to decide for yourself weather to buy the more expensive Big Mon. But truth be told,having either an F5S or a Big Mon arrive would be a pleasure. It's a quandary, also a first world problem.
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  14. #14
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    All of mine were bought online or after I had had hands on to an example or two from the builder I commissioned with. Granted all of mine have been $3k or less (much less). When buying online (new or used (not really an option on customs)) I always recommend a 48 hour approval period where I'm only out shipping both ways if the instrument doesn't work out.

    I'll also add that my playing skill level shouldn't dictate my pickiness about tone yet. Set up, sure, and that can be adjusted.

    Of course we also have folks here who bounce around in the quest for THE mandolin like steel balls in a Japanese Pinball Machine and never are happy. I'm lucky, I'm very happy with the two mandolins I play.

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    Default Re: Buying online

    I have no problem buying any instrument online from a reputable seller. As long as it comes with a 48hr approval time in writing (or a no questions asked return policy from the big box stores). Thatís always been my make or break aspect in buying online. Just walked away from a Taylor K24ce cause seller wouldnít agree to to give an approval time frame. And Iím not dropping any money not even $500 on an instrument without some kind of protection also thereís a lot of fakes in the guitar world (some very good fakes) always protect yourself.
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  16. #16

    Default Re: Buying online

    I buy instruments online more often than in person because here in central Maine it's hard to find anything but Chinese and Korean instruments.

    I'm not a gear gourmet, so I don't disappoint easily. If it's as-represented, I'm usually happy.

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I've bought 3 instruments long-distance without playing them or seeing them ahead of time. One was probably 20 years ago before the internet as we know it arose -- my strad, which i asked the music store to pick out for me after my bowlback became unplayable -- it is a lovely mandolin that i'd be playing it still if i could (the neck is too wide for my arthritic wrist), for all it was priced a little higher than need be; the other two I got from Musician's Friend on-line, a Rogue two-fer set ($99 for guitar and mandolin) and a Kentucky 480S IIRC that came with its bridge down and the strings loose. I had no problems with either once they had a good setup, although I wasn't a fan of the Kentucky and eventually sold it. The other instruments I picked up in person. I don't know if I'd spend a lot of money on a mandolin untested, but all my experiences online have been good ones.
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    Default Re: Buying online

    everything I buy these days is from online based stores, for mandolin, its either Avenue Guitars(formerly Tejon Street Music) or TheMandolinStore. I've developed a sense of trust in what each of these shops tell me about a particular instrument and I've never been displeased with what I receive. Both shops have a return window that is more than adequate(I would never purchase, from a shop or individual, without a right to return for any reason).

    I think its probably 2-3 hours 1 way for me to find the price range of instrument I tend to purchase, with job/life, its easier to order and have shipped. I think I've returned 1 mandolin out of a couple, because I didn't care for the sound.


    d

  20. #19

    Default Re: Buying online

    Almost all my purchases are online. Some I've loved, some I never bonded with but all were good. You do your research and roll the dice I guess. It's cheaper to buy online and then sell online rather than travel across the country in search of the one perfect instrument.

    I live just outside a metro area with 3.2 million people. Plenty of intro level mandolins but a search for mando I could play today in the 2-5k range turned up one Collings MT and used Phoenix Bluegrass. I used to be able to go to The Podium and play multiple mandos in that price range in one stop. No more.

    The Cafe, Reverb, and individual store websites have all been good for me.

    (I do wish I hadn't seen that Phoenix bluegrass though...how could I free up some funds....hmmm)
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I buy primarily online, through the MC classifieds, or Reverb. Shops near me are good, but they can't afford to stock too many instruments, so there isn't a lot of variety.
    I'm not a fan of returning a perfectly good instrument, that arrives in the condition as described by the seller, just because I don't love the sound, or because the setup isn't to my liking or whatever. If the seller accurately described the instrument and it is not damaged in shipping, it is yours even if you don't like it so much.
    I think you need to be ready to take a bit of a chance on the instrument that you're interested in trying. If you love it, awesome! Keep it. If not, resell it. You might incur a bit of a loss turning over used instruments like that, but I look at it as the price of an education into what I like in instruments.

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  23. #21
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I have bought all of my mandolins on-line. There are NO mandolins in a less than 3 hour drive one-way from where I live. My starter mandolin and all of my bowlbacks came from eBay, and my better mandolins came from TMS and one I don't remember if came from the classifieds or Reverb (as I was looking at several of the same mandolin at the time.) I have not been unhappy with any of them, maybe I've been lucky or just run into honest sellers. But with TMS, I explained what I was looking for, and they stated they thought I would be satisfied with what I was purchasing, and I was.

  24. #22

    Default Re: Buying online

    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_al View Post
    I buy primarily online, through the MC classifieds, or Reverb. Shops near me are good, but they can't afford to stock too many instruments, so there isn't a lot of variety.
    I'm not a fan of returning a perfectly good instrument, that arrives in the condition as described by the seller, just because I don't love the sound, or because the setup isn't to my liking or whatever. If the seller accurately described the instrument and it is not damaged in shipping, it is yours even if you don't like it so much.
    I think you need to be ready to take a bit of a chance on the instrument that you're interested in trying. If you love it, awesome! Keep it. If not, resell it. You might incur a bit of a loss turning over used instruments like that, but I look at it as the price of an education into what I like in instruments.
    I agree 100%. When you buy the instrument and it comes as advertised, it's yours. I've never returned a mando. Some take awhile to grow on you. And if they don't you can just sell it and continue the hunt.
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  26. #23
    Orrig Onion HonketyHank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I have returned one mandolin because the sound was not to my taste. But that was after discussion with the seller (before the sale) that I did not know how to describe the sound I was looking for and he agreed to give me 48 hours after receipt to evaluate the sound and either keep it or send it back for a full refund minus shipping. I have to admit that I hated having to return it but was glad that we had discussed the possibility before agreeing on the sale. The seller was disappointed but not upset. As was I. It was just a good potential deal for both of us that didn't quite work out and was worth trying.

    I have also had a dealer tell me "I know it is a full day drive one way to get to my shop. Why don't you just window shop on our website and I'll box it up and send it to you for you to keep or send back for a refund? Shipping is a lot cheaper than a motel room and several tanks of gas."

    But if it isn't agreed to as a possibility in advance of the sale, I wouldn't try to return it unless there was something undisclosed wrong with the instrument or its description.
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  27. #24
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    I have mixed feelings about this.

    I've browsed a lot at some boutique stores and found that maintenance and setup makes a huge difference between instruments -- how old or dirty are the strings, how well-done was the setup, how dusty is the instrument. So impressions while comparing one instrument with another in a boutique store often are largely based on the impression that the seller wants to make -- the quality of the setup is often either accidentally or intentionally being determined by how much the seller wants to sell one instrument over another.

    On the other hand, buying online, site-unseen, especially from a big-box vendor sort of evens out that kind of influence: nobody does any setup. But then, having the ability to compare one instrument with another with online sales is usually impossible.

    So to me, the question really is, how accurate and valuable are live, in-store instrument comparisons? I'm not saying that it isn't fun -- but what does it really mean?
    -- Don

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  28. #25
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buying online

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    everything I buy these days is from online based stores, for mandolin, its either Avenue Guitars(formerly Tejon Street Music) or TheMandolinStore. I've developed a sense of trust in what each of these shops tell me about a particular instrument and I've never been displeased with what I receive. Both shops have a return window that is more than adequate(I would never purchase, from a shop or individual, without a right to return for any reason).

    I think its probably 2-3 hours 1 way for me to find the price range of instrument I tend to purchase, with job/life, its easier to order and have shipped. I think I've returned 1 mandolin out of a couple, because I didn't care for the sound.


    d
    I am with you Daryl. I have bought also from the Mandolin Store and experienced great instruments. Great service and price into the bargain.
    Nic Gellie

    Gellie #4 2017 A-5 mandolin

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