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Thread: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

  1. #1

    Default New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    I am looking to buy my first (and hopefully final) mandolin. I have been a guitar bluegrass player for a long time but I have got the mandolin bug. I also play a little banjo. So I do not consider myself a beginning player. I am retired and on a fixed income, so money is definitely a consideration, but I do want to get a quality mandolin that will stay with me for some time to come.

    Locally, I have found a Kentucky KM-855 at a shop that seems to know what they are doing and will set up the KM for me. They want $799 for it.

    I have listened to a lot of demo videos of the MD-315 and I like the sound. The 315 goes for $699 new with a lifetime warranty.

    I know this is a personal decision and it depends a lot on the individual instrument, but since I can't put the instruments through their paces like I want to, I would like some input from the community.

    All opinions are appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Dana

  2. #2
    Registered User Mando Mort's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Both are good instruments in that price range, so you can't go wrong. If it ends up being your final mandolin, you may be the only person on this site who buys just one during their mando playing lifetime. Good luck and enjoy.
    "All of us contain Music & Truth, but most of us can't get it out." - Mark Twain

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    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    No matter which you choose, let me recommend getting one from The Mandolin Store. They do excellent set-up's on all of their instruments - and for me, that is the key to getting one that you will be very satisfied with 'for some time to come'.

    Good luck, keep us posted, and be sure to post pictures when the mandolin arrives!

  4. #4
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    If I had limited income and was trying to only buy one mandolin, for me it would definitely be my Eastman MD315. A surprisingly dark woody tone that I love. Good fit and finish, very playable fretboard. The look of the matte finish has grown on me. The finish is more dentable than the glossy finish on my MD505, though, but I prefer the sound of the MD315. (I'll probably try bigger frets when the time comes to replace the frets, but that is only based on comments on this forum.)

    I bought my MD315 from the Mandolin Store and they did the setup. The MD315 has a rather poor reputation with its tuners, and mine had a couple of extra stiff tuners and one tuner was too loose. I tried different things to loosen up the stiff tuners, but I finally spent about $70 and put on a set of Grover 309's myself (very easy changeout). Oh, I did lots of experimenting with picks and strings to maximize the sound. I think I'm settling in with the D'Addario EXP74CM with the heavier E and A strings.

    I think I really could be happy with this mandolin alone, but reading all the steady flow of Mandolin Cafe raves about higher priced mandolins has me planning to buy at least two more mandolins - a $1500 Silver Angel Econo A that is in work, and potentially something around the $5000 range later. Economically, I'm hoping that the Silver Angel and the MD315 dampen the need to spend on the higher priced end!

    Again, the drive for the higher-priced mandolins hasn't been driven by any dissatisfaction with the MD315 (I don't have any) or by trying other instruments. I've played lots of mandolins up to the $7k range - Collings, Gibson, Northfield, Weber, and many others, and though some were obviously better in one way or another (nicer finishes, more bling, a bit louder, a bit sweeter, etc), none of them took away my joy of playing my MD315. It's a fine instrument that gets lots of positive comments from fellow musicians.
    Last edited by Doug Brock; Jul-26-2019 at 8:55am.
    Doug Brock
    Eastman MD315, Silverangel Econo A #446
    Pisgah Wonder, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

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  6. #5

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Quote Originally Posted by Mando Mort View Post
    Both are good instruments in that price range, so you can't go wrong. If it ends up being your final mandolin, you may be the only person on this site who buys just one during their mando playing lifetime. Good luck and enjoy.
    That would be me 20 years ago. At my age and income I just don't see that happening.

  7. #6

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    If I had limited income and was trying to only buy one mandolin, for me it would definitely be my Eastman MD315. A surprisingly dark woody tone that I love. Good fit and finish, very playable fretboard. The look of the matte finish has grown on me. The finish is more dentable than the glossy finish on my MD505, though, but I prefer the sound of the MD315. (I'll probably try bigger frets when the time comes to replace the frets, but that is only based on comments on this forum.)

    I bought my MD315 from the Mandolin Store and they did the setup. The MD315 has a rather poor reputation with its tuners, and mine had a couple of extra stiff tuners and one tuner was too loose. I tried different things to loosen up the stiff tuners, but I finally spent about $70 and put on a set of Grover 309's myself (very easy changeout). Oh, I did lots of experimenting with picks and strings to maximize the sound. I think I'm settling in with the D'Addario EXP74CM with the heavier E and A strings.

    I think I really could be happy with this mandolin alone, but reading all the steady flow of Mandolin Cafe raves about higher priced mandolins has me planning to buy at least two more mandolins - a $1500 Silver Angel Econo A that is in work, and potentially something around the $5000 range later. Economically, I'm hoping that the Silver Angel and the MD315 dampen the need to spend on the higher priced end!

    Again, the drive for the higher-priced mandolins hasn't been driven by any dissatisfaction with the MD315 (I don't have any) or by trying other instruments. I've played lots of mandolins up to the $7k range - Collings, Gibson, Northfield, Weber, and many others, and though some were obviously better in one way or another (nicer finishes, more bling, a bit louder, a bit sweeter, etc), none of them took away my joy of playing my MD315. It's a fine instrument that gets lots of positive comments from fellow musicians.
    Thanks for your input. I really appreciate it.

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  9. #7
    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    If I were in your situation, I would give the Kentucky very serious consideration. Just looking at the specs, you would be getting a 'finer' instrument. Plus, being at a local store, you can actually test drive the instrument. Good luck and have fun!
    “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.” -- Aldo Leopold

  10. #8

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Quote Originally Posted by trodgers View Post
    If I were in your situation, I would give the Kentucky very serious consideration. Just looking at the specs, you would be getting a 'finer' instrument. Plus, being at a local store, you can actually test drive the instrument. Good luck and have fun!
    It also comes with a hard case and the MD315 doesn't.

  11. #9
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Quote Originally Posted by BG_Dana View Post
    It also comes with a hard case and the MD315 doesn't.
    The Mandolin Store sells their MD315's with a hard TKL case.
    Doug Brock
    Eastman MD315, Silverangel Econo A #446
    Pisgah Wonder, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  12. #10

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Look, just ditch the silly last mandolin notion. Right now.

    The 315 is my favorite of all the afordable imports. I just don't hear much difference until you get to the 900 and above Kentuckys.

    Of mandolins I've played, it would be the KM 150 for the cheapest good sounding instrument, the 315 if I had to have a scroll, a Silverangel A as the gateway drug to the good stuff, and a Northfielf F5s as the gateway F. After that it's the Wild West of how much gold you can mine before you go into town.
    Silverangel A
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  13. #11

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    Look, just ditch the silly last mandolin notion. Right now.

    The 315 is my favorite of all the afordable imports. I just don't hear much difference until you get to the 900 and above Kentuckys.

    Of mandolins I've played, it would be the KM 150 for the cheapest good sounding instrument, the 315 if I had to have a scroll, a Silverangel A as the gateway drug to the good stuff, and a Northfielf F5s as the gateway F. After that it's the Wild West of how much gold you can mine before you go into town.
    You might be right. In the '90s I upgraded my guitar to a Taylor 240 and I have never wanted another one. Time will tell. Thanks for the info.

  14. #12

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    I tried the KM-855. It is at a small shop and it is on consignment. It may be just the setup, but I found it lacking considerably in tone and sound. The action was very high, the sound was tinny and not a all loud. I would not buy any mandolin if I had to settle for this one. They won't set it up unless I buy it, and I certainly would not consider it the way it played. I am not a mando player, but this one sounded bad to me.

    Onward and upward.

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  16. #13
    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    The ears don't lie. Best to walk away from that one. Keep looking!
    “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.” -- Aldo Leopold

  17. #14
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Go with a new 315 set up by a Cafe sponsor. While my Skip Kelly A5is my “baby,” I’m impressed every time I pull out my 315. Yes, the tuners are a cost saving measure, but they’re functional enough that I haven’t changed them out yet. The build quality, playability, and tone are exceptional, particularly considering the price point. It’s tone isn’t as complex as my Kelly, and it does lose a little bit of tone up the neck in comparison (which I’ve found to be true of most lesser expensive mandos), but I get just as many compliments from others when I play it as I do one of my more expensive mandolins. Plus you get the warranty, and you can add a decent hard case or Travelite style case for < 150 dollars later (75 or less if you go Travelite and catch a Musician’s Friend sale).

    If you have the ability financially, consider jumping to the 900-1500 dollar range. KM 900, Silverangel, Ratliff, Kratzer, Morris, etc, can be found used there and they are better mandolins. My Silverangel staved off MAS for quite a while before I bought the Kelly, and, as I downsize, the SA and Kelly will stay, the 315 will probably go, though I’ve not fully decided yet...
    Chuck

  18. #15

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    some stores are just down right stupid. who in Gods name would take a chance that a used mandolin is going to sound good after they got your money. than they are willing to set it up. boy do I got a bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to sell to you. do yourself a favor & get an Eastman 305 or a 315 with a hard case from the mandolin store, every mandolin they sell comes with a set up. plus if you don't like it they will take it back no questions asked.

  19. #16
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Setup is everything to a mandolin. Both in play-ability and sound. I guess store doesn't want to sell that mandolin. Instruments should be setup in the store, and if possible in tune, or at least close. Maybe I am old school, but my opinion i would avoid a store that refuses to setup an instrument to see if you like it. Maybe they don't know how to setup a mandolin, a lot of stores don't.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  20. #17

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    They are a small guitar shop. I wouldn't be surprised if they don't know how to set it up properly. I doubt if anyone there can play it.

    I am pretty much financing this by selling stuff I haven't used in years. I just sold my Fender Strat (Mexico) and amp, some old stereo equipment. If it is not bolted down it is a candidate. lol.

    There is a shop that sells Eastman's about 2 hours from here so I will be heading up there soon. If I like one, I just might order one from the Mandolin shop.

  21. #18

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Brock View Post
    The Mandolin Store sells their MD315's with a hard TKL case.
    I checked their website and you are right. The store north of me only sells with a gig bag.

  22. #19
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Keep in mind Eastman and Kentucky mandolins have very different tonal properties. They are both good instruments … just different sounding. For me I would go with the Kentucky but I prefer a more Gibson like tone. Either way I think you will be OK. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  23. #20

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    Heading out Thursday to check out a few Eastman's. Based on the feedback you guys have given, if I find a mandolin I like I will probably order it from The Mandolin Store. I am just not confident the stores here will set it up as good.

  24. #21
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    So, you’re going to play the instruments at your local brick and mortar store, and then if you like it, you’ll order it from The Mandolin Store? There’s just something wrong with that to my way of thinking. After all, your local store went to the trouble to at least stock mandolins, and quality mandolins at that. Something that a lot of brick and mortar stores aren’t willing to do because it’s such a niche market. What you’re doing isn’t illegal of course, and it’s your money, but I would try to buy from the store if I were in your shoes. Which I’m not, I know. I’m sure the folks who run that store are aware of online pricing. Why not be upfront with him, and show him what you can get at TMS? And give him a chance to meet it? He might even be able to give you a great deal on a hard case. As far as set up, ask Rob Meldrum’s free set up e-book, and check the measurements for yourself. Invest in a set of feeler gauges and a precision steel rule, $15 worth of measuring tools at any reasonably stocked auto parts chain store, and you’ll have everything you need to check string height at the nut , relief, and action. These are two tools every string instrument player should own, IMHO. If the nut or relief numbers are wrong, take it back to the store and make them adjust it for you. If the action is wrong for you, easy enough to adjust your own bridge. By the way, why are you so sure they won’t set it up right? Every dealer has a set of “factory specs” for the instruments they carry from the manufacturer. They should have those from Eastman and know what to do with them. After all, it’s their business. If for some reason they don’t have them, it would be very easy for them to get them from their rep. And those factory specs suit most folks, at least at first.

    I always try to encourage folks to patronize their local store when possible. Another thing to consider is that instruments are individuals, all different from one another. What if you go to that store, play it, decide you really like it, then order it from The Mandolin Store, then the one you receive isn’t as nice for one reason or another. Maybe the one at the store has nice flame, but the one you get from TMS has a plain back? Or maybe it just doesn’t sound as good. Note that on TMS website, the photo you see is not necessarily the instrument you receive. That is a file photo. You might get lots of flame, not much, or none at all. It’s a crap shoot. Even if you do have to pay a little more at the local store, isn’t it worth it if you’re getting an instrument you’re sure you like?

    Mind you, I’m not trying to take business away from TMS. They’re great folks. I’ve done business with them. For on line instrument ordering, you absolutely could not do any better. Dennis, owner of the business, is one of the good guys. As is Robert Fear of Folkmusician.com, and Elderly instruments, and Gryphon Strings, and several others. Let’s just say that I think it will be a sad day, and it may be inevitable, when you won’t be able to play an instrument before laying down your money anymore.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
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    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  25. #22

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    While I support the sentiments stated in the above comment, I would be wary of buying at any mom and pop that didn't have at least a full time repair person. Most likely any store knowledgeable regarding mandolins that has a tech will have already set the mandolin up. So I'd try the mandolin at the shop and see. If they don't have a repair person, who knows. Then they probably don't have an inventory of mandolin cases either. But if you go there just to try, make sure you drop $50 or so on accessories and strings.

    If the mandolin is miraculously well set up, but is $50 more, pay the $50. Only you know if you have a desire or confidence to do a setup. Some people can do heart surgery but are intimidated by the simplest mechanical task.

    I do believe you can't go wrong with a cafe sponsor.
    Silverangel A
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  27. #23
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    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    I support Br1ck’s statements as well. Especially that you can’t go wrong with a Cafe’ sponsor. Very true indeed. Great folks, all of them. All I’m saying is, why dismiss the local store out of hand? A lot of assumptions are being made about them. Just give them a chance to do right by you, that’s all. If they disappoint, for any reason whatsoever, take your business elsewhere.

    I am just generally opposed to going to a store to “kick the tires” while, at the same time, you know you’re not going to buy. Seems to me, if you’re going to put playing wear on an instrument, there should at least be the possibility in your mind, however slight, that you just might buy it. If you have already decided to buy elsewhere, and you play the one in the store, you’re just wasting their time. If they are any kind of merchants they will at least try to sell it to you, right? Additionally, you will be putting unnecessary wear and tear on an instrument that somebody else will eventually buy. I mean, they’re not in business to provide free test drives, are they? Of course not. They have to sell instruments or they go out of business.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  28. #24

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    You seem to forget that I am a first time mandolin buyer. I wouldn't know an okay setup from a great one. All I can do is go by the reputations of the store I buy it from. You guys have given a recommendation of TMS. I will have to judge the guitar store I am going to myself. In general, I value your opinions over mine at this point.

    About buying local - if there is an equivalent competence AND similar pricing, I buy local. I bought my banjo and guitar locally. However, unless I learn differently Thurs, I don't believe I can get the same service locally with mandolin sales. They are just not in demand here. My first question to the local store will be "Can you play a couple of your mandolins for me?" If they cannot, then my confidence in them will not be high. If they convince me they really know mandolins, then I may buy one from them if I like the mandolins they have.

    If I do not buy from them, I am not going to spend $50 in the store just because they let me try a couple of instruments. That is the same as them charging a $5 cover charge for letting me try one. No retail store would expect that anyway.

  29. #25

    Default Re: New Eastman MD-315 or used Kentucky KM-855

    First, I said I will "probably" order it from TMS. I am not expecting much from local stores, but I am willing to be surprised.

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    If they disappoint, for any reason whatsoever, take your business elsewhere.
    As I mentioned in my other post, they will have to convince me they know what they are doing. However, I have to go with the odds. I cannot afford to find out they disappoint AFTER THE SALE.

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