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Thread: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

  1. #1
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    Default My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I've been trying to upgrade from my 2004 Michael Kelly A solid and 1940ish Stradolin to something a little nicer and easier to play. The Michael Kelly isn't too bad but very over sprayed. My Strad sounds KILLER but has small frets and a short neck. It is loud and the low end is so woody that is has a really nice bark. I just received a used Kentucky KM 1050 from the classifieds (I said I wouldn't buy online without trying but I find it really hard to find places to try out a variety of mandos). I like it but it is not the substantial improvement over the Michael Kelly I thought it would be. Mostly on the G course. It definitely doesn't sound as nice as the Strad but that is 70 years old so a bit unfair. It is strung up with GH270 Pure Nickel strings. They are pretty heavy, with a 41 for the G.

    I guess I'm mainly asking if those strings will make a big difference. Will changing to phosphor bronze open up that G course? Should I go lighter? Should I just play it for a while? The chop seems to suffer because of this. It is older, from about 2013 so not sure how much more it will open up. I listen to these models online and they sound much more lively than this one does, although maybe I'm being hyper sensitive since I keep getting burned with online purchases. It does have very nice tone overall, just compared to that Strad's bass...

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    If your using Nickle heavy's on the MK-I'd try a different string like PB or Monels etc..that will more than likely make your MK sound better as I know those Nickle strings can be way overly bright and your MK has a way thick lacquer it'll sound tinny with not much output. No disrespect but your KM should sound a way bit better than the MK if its set up great. KM's are a really nice mandolin-sure like anything some sound better than others or should I say stand out. I've had "high end dogs!"
    I'd try some different strings/combinations and see what that does for ya, If not how's set-up by the way? If after all that your not happy with any of them, do like I did, sell or trade up. It is too bad the Stradolins, well even the majority of old Gibson and anything built back 70+ years ago didn't have a longer scale neck! I like those Stradolins, very full of tone.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    The MK has phosphor bronze, it's the KM1050 with the nickel. It definitely is a step up but just not the distance I expected, mostly in volume. It is definitely a fuller sound. Just still a little more muted than I expected it to be.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Oh yeah, I really want to pull all the chop that I can out of this mandolin.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I would try straight medium strings, like D'Addario J74
    Sometimes heavier strings can dampen the tone.
    Some mandos get louder with heavier strings, but some get choked up a bit.

    Also make sure your string height isn't too low.
    A little hight can add volume.

    A good setup might be in order.
    The Kentucky should be a good bit better than the MK.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    When I played my way up the import ladder at The Mandolin Store, coming from my Eastman 505, I did not notice much difference until I got to the KM 900. The master series Kentuckys are noticeably better. And yes, it is the fuller G string that stands out. Then there was a big jump to the Northfield, Weber, Collings group. $1200-1500 will buy a very nice used A style. But I played a Northfield F5S and walked away thinking I'd spend the extra for that. Above that things get very subjective and very incremental. The high end Collings and the Ellis I played were superior instruments for a whole boatload more money, but I remember the Gibson F9 and thought, if I were a hard core bluegrasser, that's the tone.

    But since you have the Kentucky, get it set up and try different strings. I ended up building myself a F style and it is forward and bright, but also have a Silverangel A that covers the warm and resonant tones. I have a MK, and the 1050 should blow it away.
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    If you guys don't mind here is a sample of each to critique. They are just recorded on my cell phone mic. I really don't hear a huge difference between the MK and 1050. Maybe my ear just isn't too critical.

    https://soundcloud.com/jason-peyser/sets/mando-trials

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I had a 1050 and it was very good. When I got it the prior owner told me that it had not been played for a few months and would take some playing to wake up again. I was very underwhelmed at first, it took me almost a year of playing before it fully opened up. Mine came with a Cumberland bridge but not sure it made any difference? I was taking lessons from a really good player at the time and he was impressed with the sound. If it has not been played much for a while it might need some good honest playing. I played one other and it was very good as well so not a huge sample size. A270's did nothing for mine. It really sang with Gibson Bill Monroe strings, it also sounded good with EXP74cm's. I recently put on some Curt Magdan Monel medium strings. They are pretty loud and lean towards the traditional dry sound. So I would suggest trying a set of the Monel's and a set of EXP74cm's and see how they do.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by jaybp30 View Post
    If you guys don't mind here is a sample of each to critique. They are just recorded on my cell phone mic. I really don't hear a huge difference between the MK and 1050. Maybe my ear just isn't too critical.

    https://soundcloud.com/jason-peyser/sets/mando-trials
    Even with a phone recording I hear quite a difference in the thickness of the tone. With a good mic setup I suspect I'd hear more. But the fact of the matter is good mandolins aren't cheap. I hesitate to suggest trying more expensive mandolins. When I did, I came away thinking, I have to pay THAT much more for a itty bit better? Now I've played an Ellis, an extra four or five grand seems sort of reasonable.
    Silverangel A
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I hear a huge difference also between the MK and the Kentucky - The Kentucky is much fuller. And, on the chop the Kentucky kills the Strad.
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I hear a more refined ,overall nicer tone with the 1st mando. I would definitely try different strings, and possibly consider a high quality replacement bridge, such as a Cumberland or brekke.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I do also-darrylcrisp? And agree! That first mando does have a very nice tone, I think the KM has more power but maybe after a few tweaks it'll change?

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Yes, the Kentucky has a much fuller tone than the other two. It's a significant change to my ears and I believe the Kentucky is worth keeping. Remember, your ears are used to your mandolins. Once you get used to the KM, you'll enjoy the sound. Really do think it's that good.
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  21. #14

    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    The Kentucky has a sweeter tone to my ears. The E string is a little shrill on the Kentucky but that can usually be remedied with either new strings or a more rounded pick.
    The MK wasn't bad though, I was surprised by how good it sounded.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by jaybp30 View Post
    If you guys don't mind here is a sample of each to critique. They are just recorded on my cell phone mic. I really don't hear a huge difference between the MK and 1050. Maybe my ear just isn't too critical.

    https://soundcloud.com/jason-peyser/sets/mando-trials

    first off ....not bad sound at all from a phone .
    the strad really surprised me ....wow ....volume and bottom end to spare ....at least to my ear .
    I hear your dilemma loud and clear . the Km1050 doesn't really stand out , although it does sound very even .
    I've experienced these head-scratching moments myself many times demo-ing instruments at festivals and such . Invariably there will be a high end ( over several thousand $$ ) instrument that for the life of me I can't ' hear' the way you might think you would for the dollars and the name . Certainly they have lovely tone ...but often lack low end , warmth and volume .
    I can only conclude that , as someone else indicated , if you were to play 4 or 5 KM 1050s you would hear a few that really stood out . Persoally speaking , from the demos posted I hear little difference in the MK and the Kentucky . I'e played MK's and was not impressed whatsoever . A friend has one that I watched literally fall apart over several years and she was a beginner .....it certainly wasn't ' rode hard and put up wet ' ...it was hardly ' rode' at all in that time .
    In any case , you seem to have three very nice-sounding mandos. There are worse fates , my friend .

  23. #16

    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Let us also not forget the adage that if you can't hear a difference, don't pay for it. Enough have liked the MK to illustrate the subjective nature of tone.

    For me, a beautiful tone is not enough to to overcome a quiet mandolin.

    My MK is perfectly fine for when nothing else is available. I play it for a week while camping, but I'm happy to get home every time. But do what you have to so you can get to playing without all the issues cluttering up your thought processes. I do think at some point you should look to sell what you've got and make the jump to a quality used A style in the $1500 range. I'm quite certain you'd hear and enjoy the difference.
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I appreciate all the advice. I put new strings on the KM1050. Not sure Its a huge difference but I like it a bit more. I'm gonna stick it out with it for a bit and see if it opens up. The action is a little high down at the 12th so I'll probably bring it for a setup at some point soon. Im not so sure it's worth selling the MK, probably wouldn't get more than $100 for it. The Strad is a keeper. I'll never sell it. Has a couple of big cracks in it that aren't worth repairing the right way and for the $325 I paid it's worth having it for camping. Maybe one day when I find that one mando in person I just can't do without I'll buy it and sell the Kentucky. For the record, I wasn't blown away by a Northfield Big Mon I played at Grey Fox this year so I think maybe I'm looking for something that is just WAAAAAAAY out of my budget.

    For those playing at home I posted the KM1050 with the new strings. Seems like it opened up the G a bit, at least to me, but maybe my ear isn't as developed as I thought.

    https://soundcloud.com/jason-peyser/km-new-ej74s

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    One thing about the Northfield at Gray Fox.... Festivals are a tough place to taste mandolins. It’s loud, hot, humid, and conditions are not prime for really hearing.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    A proper setup will make it louder, if it is richer you will notice it more too. Have you checked the relief? Mandolins are finicky and need a good setup to sound their best.
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    A proper setup will make it louder, if it is richer you will notice it more too. Have you checked the relief? Mandolins are finicky and need a good setup to sound their best.
    this.

    another thing is to try different picks(thicknesses and composition). sometimes I've had a mando that is very pick/string particular.

  29. #21

    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I bought a used KM-1050 a while back and was underwhelmed. I think that I was expecting a Gibson sound to come out of it, and it didn't. I took it in to my preferred shop and had a setup done. It definitely got better, though not better enough to keep it. I bought a JBovier which sounded way better to me played side by side to it. So I sold the KM-1050. I wasn't out much money since I had bought it used. A bit later I came across another used KM-1050 in a shop while I was traveling and I had my JBovier with me. I played them side by side and the KM-1050 sounded far better than the one I'd had before. I think there is a variation in specific instruments of the same model and some of the used ones get bought and sold over and again because they just aren't quite as good as others.

    Were I you, I'd play it for a few months and see if it speaks more to you as time goes on. If not, sell it. You'll only be out $100-$150 for the cost of shipping, Paypal & donation to the Cafe. Consider it a $50/month rental fee for an education on what you like and don't like about it. And then keep looking for one that suits your ear better.

    Or who knows, it might grow on you and end up being a keeper!
    Best, Stevo

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    That's my game plan. Honestly, the sound is growing on my as I play it but I think the thing I'm have the most trouble with now is the radiused finger board. Never really played one and I'm having trouble cleanly fretting the D and A strings. Maybe I'll get used to that in time as well.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    I agree keeping it and playing the heck out of it for a while is the answer. It will reveal itself to you when you put time into it. If you can log a few hour or two hour sessions on it that will also show you something.

    I’ll add, I didn’t notice a difference in mandolins until I got a Breedlove OF, after previously having a Morgan Monroe and an Alvarez. That Breedlove was awesome compared to those others. It was in a whole different class. Those come up used from time to time for about $1k these days. If the 1050 does t work out, that’d be my move.

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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by jaybp30 View Post
    I appreciate all the advice. I put new strings on the KM1050. Not sure Its a huge difference but I like it a bit more. I'm gonna stick it out with it for a bit and see if it opens up. The action is a little high down at the 12th so I'll probably bring it for a setup at some point soon. Im not so sure it's worth selling the MK, probably wouldn't get more than $100 for it. The Strad is a keeper. I'll never sell it. Has a couple of big cracks in it that aren't worth repairing the right way and for the $325 I paid it's worth having it for camping. Maybe one day when I find that one mando in person I just can't do without I'll buy it and sell the Kentucky. For the record, I wasn't blown away by a Northfield Big Mon I played at Grey Fox this year so I think maybe I'm looking for something that is just WAAAAAAAY out of my budget.

    For those playing at home I posted the KM1050 with the new strings. Seems like it opened up the G a bit, at least to me, but maybe my ear isn't as developed as I thought.

    https://soundcloud.com/jason-peyser/km-new-ej74s
    for what my 2 cents is worth , jason ....this mandolin does indeed sound thin to my ear . nice sound...clean ...clear tone ...but thin . I played several Km 600 and 700 series at a shop ( granted ...they were new but with excellent set-ups ) and this sound reminds me of those mandolins .....underwhelming for the costs . I ended up buying a Km 150 around that time and was quite stunned at how much fuller a sound and projection it had than the Km 650 ( I believe ) . FWIW....

  35. #25
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: My KM 1050 vs other Mandos

    One other thing to remember - what you hear as a player isn't the same as what a listener hears. So maybe when you take it in for setup, have your person play the Kentucky and then your MK to you. Then again, you may have already done this. But it should help you decide whether to keep it for the long haul.

    Oh, and I do think it sounds even better than before with new strings. Like others have said, maybe it's time to experiment with picks for that instrument.
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