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Thread: Mandolin suggestions

  1. #1

    Question Mandolin suggestions

    I'm looking to purchase my third mandolin. I am a guitar player. I bought a Rogue to see if I could learn Mandolin. I enjoyed it enough to invest in a better instrument. At the time, the best one I could find locally was a Fender FM-63S (F-Style). I've added a Fishman M-200 pickup to it because I need to play it amplified.

    Fast forward about 10 years... I don't play mandolin a lot, but recently I am in a band where the band leader wants a folk sound, so I'm playing a lot of Mando and Banjo. The more I play the Fender, the more frustrated I am with the instrument.

    A) Tuners are temperamental. It seems like I'm constantly needing to retune.
    B) The G-strings rattle bad
    C) I need an EQ pedal to make the pickup sound good, and even still, pretty much have to play on the upper strings only.
    D) The M-200 pickup keeps falling off
    E) I've never been thrilled with the sunburst finish

    Some of these I could probably remedy with a good setup and upgrades (tuners, pickup, etc.), but I'm reluctant to sink more money in this mando.

    I've started looking around, but I'm struggling to find good shops near Lexington, KY. Heart of Bluesgrass country, you'd think there'd be a decent shop here somewhere! I found the Eastman dealer in Louisville and like the MD-515 with antique finish, but I'm looking for one with a tailpiece pickup. It looks like this is going to end up in the $1000-1200 range.

    1) What else should I be considering in this price range? It must have a hard shell case and pickup.
    2) I prefer F-style because I seem to think it cuts through the mix of the band better (acoustic/electric/bass guitars, drums, vocals). With a pickup, does it really matter? Is the EQ different between A and F-styles? I know I dislike oval hole vs. f-holes acoustically.
    3) Everyone seems to prefer K&K pickups. I got the Fishman because it was the only option at the time. I'm only interested in tailpiece jacks after the trouble I've had. It seems like there are different K&K models. What should I be considering? The dealer had a MD-415 with a K&K factory installed, and it seemed significantly cheaper than buying one without and adding it on later. It was a great instrument but I HATE the look of painted wood. Any advice on finding an Eastman at a good price with a pickup?
    4) Any suggestions of stores within a reasonable drive? I would prefer to play an instrument before spending this kind of cash. Any Kentucky brand mando dealers in this region?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Mandolin suggestions

    Am I understanding you correctly that you view this as a utilitarian instrument, secondary to your guitar playing? You might want to save a few bucks and get an MD 315. I've played a few and can't tell much if any differencetonally from the 515. K&Ks are fine but you will want to get a good preamp,perhaps even a Tonedexter.

    If you are feeling drawn in more and more by mandolin, I'd bite the bullet and find a used A style like a Ratliff Country Boy, a Silverangel Econo, or Weber Gallatin. All very satisfying instruments.

    Buy the mandolin you want, then buy the pickups.

    You certainly need to play some Kentuckys.
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

  3. #3

    Default Re: Mandolin suggestions

    If you want an F style that's ready to go with pickup from the factory, I'd go with an Eastman MD-615 for $1350. And buy it from somewhere that will set it up properly.

    Personally, I'd save $500 and go with the Eastman MD-605 A style for $880. I doubt that sound-wise you'd hear any difference

    If you want to add a pickup to another instrument, that will open up many more possibilities. I'd go with the JJB Prestige-220 for $40. Same as the K&K for $100 less.
    It'll still cost you $100 to get it installed, but then you could do the Eastman MD-315 (and stay within your $1000 budget)
    or MD-515.

    If you really want to get an education and an excellent mandolin, make the 3 hour drive to Nashville and go to Carters. It'll cost you probably double your budget to get into something there, but you can be sure that you're getting something good.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Default Re: Mandolin suggestions

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ID:	179607Good suggestions above. Two other options to consider since you’re playing amplified are the Godin A8 and Ovation A/E offerings. If you can find an Ovation MM-68 (made in USA), it’ll do what you want, as loudly as you want without feedback, and the things are built like tanks. Not indestructible, but you gotta work at it! They both sound better unplugged than I would have guessed, though they’re not going to sound as good as a good acoustic. In a “blast from the past” reunion with some friends from high school/college last week I saw Hootie and the Blowfish. Darius played a MM-68 on one song (mostly strumming), the guitarist played what looked like an F shaped solid body electric (too far away to see and haven’t researched it), and the actual Nashville pro “utility man” they had played an actual F5 that sounded the best to my ears, but it looked like an upper tier instrument.

    Will try to load the only (really bad) photo I took of the Ovation. If it can work in that loud setting, it can work in yours. NFI, of course, and I haven’t personally played one in a few years, but another consideration for you. Good luck!

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