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Thread: Octave sound diffence?

  1. #1

    Default Octave sound diffence?

    Is there a real difference between the sounds of arch tops and flat tops octave mandolins?
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  2. #2
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Yes.
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  4. #3
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Yes absolutely. I played both versions from Northfield at Swannanoa last month.
    They were both great, but there was certainly a noticeable difference.

    I would describe the arch top as more "growl" and more of a mandolin-like punch to it.
    The flat top was more smooth and buttery, tons of sustain.

    I chose to go with the flat top and it will arrive tomorrow!!!
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Yes.
    From what I've figured out there are a number of factors that move an octave more towards a mandolin or a guitar.

    Arch top, floating bridge, Teardrop (or F) style body tend to lean towards a mandolin sound.
    Flat top, pin bridge, guitar body pushes it more towards a guitar.

    Of course those factors can be mixed and matched to find what you're looking for.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    From the few I've heard in person, and several years now of experience with my Weber archtop, I can sure hear a difference. One type sounds like a big mandolin, the other sounds more like a 4-course GDAE tuned guitar. As you might expect.

    An archtop OM to my ears usually sounds a little "darker" with a punchy mid-range focus. Flattop OMs like a Big Muddy that a friend plays, usually have a brighter sound, more upper harmonics. A little more in the bouzouki direction for timbre.

    I haven't heard any noticeable difference in amount of sustain between the two types, as long as they're both the same scale length. Longer scale is what helps sustain. My 22" Weber has sustain for days. The timbre is different though, and more a question of whether you're hearing the sustain up in the higher frequency harmonics with a flat top, or in the mid-range for a carved top, which may be part of that "growl" description for archtop OMs.

    My personal preference is for the archtop sound, but I will say that the flattop might have an advantage in a jam when played along with multiple guitars. The brighter, more harmonically rich tone might have a better chance of being heard. My archtop Weber has plenty of volume, but that "dark" tone tends to get buried when played along with guitars.

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    Registered User EvanElk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    I agree with previous responses that arch tops have a darker more mandolin like tone, transposed down an octave. Flat tops, to me, sound like 12-string guitars...can be very tinny and jangly
    Last edited by EvanElk; Jul-30-2019 at 6:39pm.
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    I see affordable octaves from Eastman, Trinity, and Gold Tone. The only one that I know anything vaguely about is the Eastman.
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    There is a difference, but you have to bear in mind there is no accepted standard for octave mandolins. Size of body, depth of body, and scale length can be anything you like and all affect the sound so it is difficult to actually be able to compare apples with apples. There is quite a wide variety of bodies and scale lengths.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Also, most arch/carved-top OM's have f-holes, most flat-tops have oval holes. You hear distinctive timbre differences in carved-top f-hole mandolins vs. carved-top oval-hole mandolins, and there's no reason the same shouldn't apply to OM's -- the difference caused by sound hole size and shape may be more significant than that caused by different top construction. Or not.

    E.g., I have a carved-top oval-hole K1 mandocello, and it sounds more like my flat-top oval-hole Flatiron OM, than it sounds like my carved-top, f-hole Eastman mandocello. (Given the differences in pitch, etc. -- talking about sound quality.) Different voices associated with construction variables, hard to separate out what's related to what. If I had a carved-top, oval-hole OM I could compare it to the Flatiron, but don't know who makes one.
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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    I've had my flat top Northfield for a couple of days now and I just love it! Not sure what exactly I am going to do with it, but it's just cool!

    Here's Facebook link if it will work:

    https://www.facebook.com/drew.egerto...1878366365982/
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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Well, whatever that was that you were playing sounds great! If I were to get an octave, I'd want an a style, flat or carved (probably one of each?) Probably to use for Irish music or attempting Sierra Hull covers....
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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar View Post
    Well, whatever that was that you were playing sounds great! If I were to get an octave, I'd want an a style, flat or carved (probably one of each?) Probably to use for Irish music or attempting Sierra Hull covers....
    Thanks Gunnar, it's the melody from a song that Josh Goforth recorded called Pretty Peggy-O, mostly anyway lol. I thought the droning sound reminded me of his clawhammer banjo style a bit.
    Drew
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  20. #13
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Quote Originally Posted by peter.coombe View Post
    There is a difference, but you have to bear in mind there is no accepted standard for octave mandolins. Size of body, depth of body, and scale length can be anything you like and all affect the sound so it is difficult to actually be able to compare apples with apples. There is quite a wide variety of bodies and scale lengths.
    I think Peter is nailing it on the head here. This may be one reason why some will say that an OM with a scale shorter than X doesn't work, yet another will say they do. I think plate size, body depth and scale length have to be balanced with each other to get the desired sound. It's not as simple as just scale length, or flat vs arched, or oval ve f holes. And due to the wide range, more complicated than our more-standardized mandolins.

    FWIW, I have a short-scale (18.5"), arched-top, X-braced, oval hole OM that I really like. Its plates (top and back) are smaller than most OMs, but the depth is more conventional. It is loud enough, resonant and has good sustain. Works for me. Might not for others, but that's OK too.
    Purr more, hiss less.

  21. #14

    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Pls tell where I can get an 18.5" scale OM. :-)
    I started a thread on this yesterday.
    Although I would prefer flat-top, they are so rare I may not have a choice.
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  22. #15
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Sorry, Kurth, but I don't know where you can get one. This one was a custom build by Weber back in 2004. Give Bruce Weber a call if you are interested in a custom build. Also, feel free to PM me if you'd like more details about this one. I really enjoy it.
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  23. #16

    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    Pls tell where I can get an 18.5" scale OM. :-)
    I started a thread on this yesterday.
    Although I would prefer flat-top, they are so rare I may not have a choice.
    One option would be to give Nick Apollonio a call. I'm pretty sure he'd be glad to build one cor you.

  24. #17

    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    After listening to Mike Marshall test drive this Northfield archtop octave, I was blown away by the depth of the sound and the remarkable sustain. Of course, it WAS Marshall. But what a sound. I want one...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dmKVSRAEbQ

  25. #18

    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Hey Bob, I proposed the same build idea as yours to Davy Stuart (he has an 18" mandola), meaning deeper sides (OM depth) and all other parameters the same. He is thinking about it, and is able to ship to the US, and he does beautiful work from what I can tell.

    I'm looking for a flat-top fortunately so that opens a lot of options cheaper than a Weber, although I admit I would really love one of those. :-)

    James Wilson from Red Valley also responded, and said that changing a neck length is a major thing and he doesn't have any 18" necks in any of his current models.

    So I may be buying something from New Zealand, that will be a first for me. :-)

    They all responded within hours, these guys seem to work round-the clock, I thought that was only us here in Silicon Valley. :-)
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
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  26. #19
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    Default Re: Octave sound diffence?

    Allen, I used to have a Weber Hyalite OM that was carved/arched with an oval sound hole, but it was an A style. I really loved the tone but struggled with the 22.5 inch scale length for melody playing. It was a rhythm machine, though! My wife thought it sounded like a guitar, but I think that had more to do with the pitch than tone. It definitely had that arch top crispness to its tone...
    Chuck

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