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Thread: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

  1. #1

    Default Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Dear all,
    it's about time to upgrade. I've been playing a surprisingly good Rover RM-75 (refretted, cumberland bridge and stuff) but i feel, after playing other good instruments around that it really limits me a bit.
    Since i'm based in Germany, the options to test instruments is relatively small and i have to rely a lot on Ebay. Soooo, since my budget is not really high at the moment, i'm looking at three Kentuckys that are going for around 500Ä (US$570, so, quite cheap i guess) and i need your feedback and recommendations. the models are KM-630 and KM 606, KM-855, in order of price varying from 500 up to 650.
    I've heard that Kentuckys, as well as Eastmans are a good upgrade for a medium instrument. Is that so? Any feedback is super welcome!

    PS: i also have the chance to get a 1946 A00 Gibson for about 1000Ä. Seems to be in a good shape. Is that a good deal or just forget about it?

    Cheers!

    TP

  2. #2
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Save for a Krishot

  3. #3

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    I'd love to but they're 3000€, just talked to Eda Krishot a few weeks ago...
    Being primarily a bassist, i can't spend (nor can find the way of making those extra) 3000 for a mandolin. That's why i'm asking for feedback on cheaper instruments that, even though way lower quality than any fully hand made european or american instrument, will fulfil my upgrade needs. Thanks anyways BrianWilliam!

  4. #4
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomate Palta View Post
    Dear all,
    it's about time to upgrade. I've been playing a surprisingly good Rover RM-75 (refretted, cumberland bridge and stuff) but i feel, after playing other good instruments around that it really limits me a bit.
    What kind of "other good instruments" did you play?
    Doug Brock
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    When i said good i meant better than mine hahaha. I played an Eastman 315, a custom made by an american violin maker F mando (beautiful instrument!) and a discontinued Kentucky which i can recall the model.

  6. #6
    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    If you are playing a surprisingly good rover, are the Kentucky mandolins you listed really going to be the upgrade you ďneedĒ? In my experience, side stepping is a great way to waste money.

    A used Krishot would still be pricey but a better investment. Good luck!

  7. #7
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomate Palta View Post
    When i said good i meant better than mine hahaha. I played an Eastman 315, a custom made by an american violin maker F mando (beautiful instrument!) and a discontinued Kentucky which i can recall the model.
    That's why I was asking. It helps to know which instruments you played that made you feel the need to upgrade. A "surprisingly good Rover RM-75" might not be easily improved on in the range of instruments you're talking about.

    I've been playing an MD315 since December and will likely upgrade when I can afford it (maybe this summer). The thing is that I really don't feel that I need to upgrade based on this instrument's sound, volume or playability, but on the many recommendations on this site that I'll really appreciate one of the better mandolins once I had one!

    I've played lots of mandolins in the last six months and to my ears and hands, the MD315 isn't that much different. I've played $2k and $3k mandolins that didn't even seem as good to me, lol. I do think that it is difficult to really judge the merits of any mandolin in the store since you can change the sound and performance of any mandolin depending on the strings, the pick you use, and how you play the instrument. A few minutes at the store can only hint at a mandolin's potential. I went through several kinds of strings and picks till I found my favorite combination for my mandolin.

    After a road trip last weekend to play some nice mandolins (from $2k to $9k) I reluctantly admitted that I COULD be perfectly fine with my MD315 and just focus on the playing. (I'm sort of hoping that she wasn't paying too much attention, since buying mandolins is fun in its own right).

    So, I'd suggest that you keep playing other instruments for a while till you find one that you definitely feel is worth the upgrade. Don't underestimate your Rover. Many of us are caught up in that never-ending search for a better instrument. A fun search, but one that absorbs lots of time and money! Good luck!
    Doug Brock
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Of those 3 I would go with the 855, but what you may want to do is save until you can get a used KM 1000 or 1050. The 855 would probably be better than the Rover, but odds are very good that a 1000 would be a substantial upgrade.

    Also, consider the years the ones you’re looking at were built. I had a 675-S built right after their move to China (in 2003 or so) that had some issues. The older Korean and Japanese made instruments and newer Chinese made ones are much better that their 2003-2006 or so mandolins...
    Chuck

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  10. #9
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianWilliam View Post
    Save for a Krishot
    Played an older and well used Krishot and was quite impressed.
    Sounds like you are ready for an upgrade now and 650 Euros is a long ways from a Krishot.
    I don't know what part of Germany you are from and your travel time to Amsterdam. If Amsterdam is in your range of travel an instrument shop located in the university district carries a varied line of Eastmans where you would have an opportunity to play a few prior to purchase.
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
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  11. #10

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    We in the US do not fully grasp how much more expensive mandolins are in Europe. This was brought home recently when I saw a UK dealer add on Reverb for a Northfield F5S for $4500.

    I've been impressed with the Eastman 315 and then the very much more money 900 and up Kentuckys.
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    Struggle Monkey B381's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    After a road trip last weekend to play some nice mandolins (from $2k to $9k) I reluctantly admitted that I COULD be perfectly fine with my MD315 and just focus on the playing.
    My tag line fits this perfectly....it's a constant struggle to avoid the "buy and try" mind set. Until we invest in ability, investing in instruments really doesn't matter.
    "It doesn't matter how much you invest in your instrument until you invest in you and your ability..."

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  14. #12

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Quote Originally Posted by B381 View Post
    My tag line fits this perfectly....it's a constant struggle to avoid the "buy and try" mind set. Until we invest in ability, investing in instruments really doesn't matter.
    Certainly if you don't hear a difference, you shouldn't pay the price. However, owning something that is exciting for you WILL promote playing, and if you practice in a disciplined manner, you will progress faster. So investing in an instrument is investing in ability. Do not fall into the I'm not worthy trap. Always play the best you can possibly afford. Don't shortchange yourself.

    A 315 is an amirable bang for buck mandolin, but you should be able to find something that will part you from your money.
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  15. #13

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Some of this depends on the year of your mandolin and the Kentuckys.

    The KM-630 is a downgrade. KM-606 may or may not be as nice as your Rover. Thge KM-855 is a much higher model, but again, you need to play it to be sure. I wouldn't assume it will be an upgrade.
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  16. #14

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    The “Deluxe” (200-Series) and “Artist” (500-Series) A-style Kentucky’s seem to usually sound better IMHO than the Eastmans, the latter often look better. The 900 and 950 are a good step up from there but may quickly be out of your budget. You will find that at this level, you will get a much better instrument sticking with A rather than F style models. Later, if you are thinking of upgrading once again, you have a large field to choose from. Regarding a Krishot, seemed like random suggestion in this context - would there be that many used Krishot’s in Germany simply because they’re made in the adjacent Czech Republic? Anyway, I once tried a used (2003) A style in a store where they had all kinds of stuff - lots of new and used Collings, Gibsons, Webbers, etc., some of it pretty high end. That $2K Krishot blew the doors and windows off of everything in the shop - and yet its strings were old, like they should have been changed about 5 years back, you could feel and see the corrosion. Lord what that thing must have sounded like with newer strings! Didn’t buy it because I had just recently bought a really nice mandolin not too long before that. But I often think about it. The shop sold it and some lucky person has a “lifetime” instrument to enjoy. So, yes, if you see one over there, it is worthy of consideration. From what I’ve read on the Cafe, others have found them to be pretty special as well.

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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    How about the A styles, the ones i've owned were great for the money, definitely keepers tho I'd prefer a KM950 to my 900. The KM 505 I regret selling.

    There have been threads about dealers in Germany, Belgium etc, you can look thru those. Always best to play before you buy, especially w/Kentucky's decades of past models, there's been some duds and some very nice instruments.
    The Keepers: Kentucky km900, JBovier A5
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    I know where you are. Years ago I had a very good Aria mandolin that I payed $400 for and was in a position to spend about $1000 to upgrade. Only problem everything I played in that range was no better than what I had. Took me a year until I found a used Flatiron that I considered an upgrade, my point is keep playing what you got it ain't holding you back, nothing you can do on a Loar that you can't do on your Rover you will just sound better on a better instrument. Keep looking for the best mandolin you can afford but as has been stated buying an instrument that is different but not really an upgrade is just a waste of money. As I stated I don't think an instrument can hold you back, that's in your mind neither do I think you can own an instrument that is
    " better than you deserve" any more than you can have a wife better than you deserve. I have both and ain't getting rid of either.

  19. #17

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Thank you all guys for the feedback, highly valuable.
    As i am a profesional musician for the past 20 years i know what i can and canít do with my fingers and practice and in this particular situation itís tricky, cause the mando i own now does do the job but as said, compared to all these not-much-better mandos it gets smashed by all of them, specially on the playability. Soundís still thiner as well but i can get real close to the mic (one mic situation). But as i grabbed any of these slightly better models i realized instantly that i could perform faster and more accurately (mostly because of the neck, which in all of them seemed to be a bit wider and chunkier in general), and since i do tour quite a bit playing mando as a side instruments, itís great to know that no matter what environment iím in, iíll be able to play my chops and solos (cause thatís the thing, when i play mando i do the solos and they have to sound great, and yeah, it is super weird to go from upright straight into play a tiny lil neck for a couple of songs hahaha).
    Thatís the only reason why iím considering on an urgent upgrade and because iíve found these mandos iíve mentioned in the OP.
    I certainly would save and wait until i can find MY mando, but yeah, since the playability differences were so big, iím trying to find out whatís the best for now.
    I am definitely buying a Krishot when the time comes, plus Eda (the maker) is real nice and very helpful. I would recommend him to any mandolin player in Europe!
    Cheers to everybody!

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    I've heard some recent Kentucky A models-I believe they were the 900's with varnish and other with lacquer and they were actually outstanding! Way better than a KM-1000 I had years ago but mine I think was Korean. Mine had a very thick, finish! If I was to ever have another it would be a Varnish finished KM!

  21. #19

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Just found an A model made in Japan in the Ď80s on Ebay. I believe itís a KM200s, for about 400. Is that something to have in consideration?

  22. #20
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomate Palta View Post
    Just found an A model made in Japan in the ‘80s on Ebay. I believe it’s a KM200s, for about 400. Is that something to have in consideration?
    I wouldn’t think so. That should be on the low end of the Kentucky line. (The "s" used to be used to indicate that a Kentucky model had a solid-wood top. Now even the KM140 has a solid wood top.)
    Last edited by Doug Brock; Jun-24-2019 at 8:10am.
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    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Quote Originally Posted by Tomate Palta View Post
    But as i grabbed any of these slightly better models i realized instantly that i could perform faster and more accurately (mostly because of the neck, which in all of them seemed to be a bit wider and chunkier in general
    Aha! Now we get to the key issue for you. Maybe your Rover has a thinner than average neck. If so, then most any of the recommended mandos should make you happier, but maybe you should be looking specifically for wider necks. The Eastmans have a 1-3/32" nut which is slightly narrower than the 1-1/8" that seems pretty common these days, but an Eastman is one of the models you liked. Some "wide" models are 1-3/16" or even wider.
    Doug Brock
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  24. #22

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Mandolins are EXPENSIVE overseas (I know!)! The USA is blessed with relatively inexpensive instruments and a plethora of makers and sellers. On the other hand, mandolins are not common in most places in the world. When you do find them, you find Rover, Roque, Ammoon, etc. basswood instruments, and some that will have a solid top but plywood back and sides. Just being practical, I think (I am still a newb, but I am learning) that if the OP can find a good Kentucky, he would be very happy. I have seen some KY's on sale at times that were well within his price range from some of the major US sellers. They will set it up and ship it to him (shipping is extra, though). Even Walmart sells the 256 for under $390 or so. When you are on a budget, and not buying in USD, you have to make allowances. That 256 has solid maple back and sides and a solid spruce top and is playable. Also, there are used instruments that can be found.
    Loar LM-370

  25. #23

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    I have played a Rover RM-75 that was set-up by Brian at the Mandolin Store and was truly magnificent as to playability. Buttery smooth and very fun to play. It was however a rather quiet mandolin. Look in to having yours checked over for adjustments that make it more comfortable for your specific nneds like string height via nut/bridge adjustment, neck relief via truss rod adjustment, fret end filing or polishing, maybe even neck profile. I suggest you wait to upgrade until you can pop for one of the Kentucky 900-1000 or 950-1050 models, or better still a used Prucha, Krishot, Flatiron, Silverangel, Pava, Collings among other fine makers. Wish I could play bass!

  26. #24

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    Thanks again guys for all the new feedback!

    Thoughts about this?:

    TP[/QUOTE]

    PS: i also have the chance to get a 1946 A00 Gibson for about 1000Ä. Seems to be in a good shape. Is that a good deal or just forget about it?

    Cheers!

    TP[/QUOTE]

  27. #25

    Default Re: Help comparing Kentuckys for upgrade!

    I have a Kentucky KM-756 I got for $800 and it's quite good. I DID upgrade to a Cumberland Acoustic bridge which upped the final tally, but I'm sure stock would still be pretty nice. So I would say anything in that series is probably comparable. I definitely liked it better than the Eastman 505 (or was it a 605?) I had.

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