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Thread: Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

  1. #1

    Default Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

    Here is the ebay listing:https://www.ebay.com/itm/Feeling-Han...EAAOSwnMRdLecU

    A thread began a while back about these Chinese made mandolins and this model was one that was featured. I had seen these mandolins and my interest was piqued so I bought one. It arrived in early August, and I have had six weeks to get to terms with it.

    Here is the original thread: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...nese-mandolins

    My first impression was that it was well built. Once I had set it up- it arrived with the bridge taken off in a very well packaged container, I was very impressed with both the tone and the volume and ease of play and its intonation. At fret 12 under the G strings I have a gap of 1.5mm and this gives buzz free playing all the way up the neck. The mandolin arrived with a gig bag with an extra set of strings and a strap and truss rod key and picks.

    Before dispatch, I was sent a series of photos of my mandolin and it is worth mentioning that there are detail differences to the one shown in the eBay listing. My mandolin has 24 frets and a distinct volute- neither of which changes is of importance to me. I was told (from memory) that there are two makers and they may do things slightly differently to each other. Obviously, you need to check the photos if you have concerns before the mandolin is sent. I suggested to the marketing person who told me that my mandolin was now typical of those that were being made, that perhaps the listing's photos might be changed. Again, this was not an issue for me- but it is worth considering as for some this may be an issue.

    The bridge is a typical example and it sits well on the top while the hardware is nothing special but works well- as indeed things tend to do, as quality of such items is usually pretty good, these days. The mandolin keeps tune very well subject to temperature change.The bone nut seems to be well cut while the build quality seems very good all round while the inside is very clean and well finished.

    I took the mandolin to my regular bluegrass pick on two occasions and the leader of the session- a very seasoned bluegrass player described it as a "very good instrument". Indeed, I reckon it sounds nearly as good as my 1923 Gibson A2 which being an oval hole mandolin arguably has more voice than an f hole instrument, and is my paragon for mandolin sound. The mandolin cost 290 ($358) with free shipping and for an extra $9 there is another model that is varnished and has "bronzed" hardware. There is a whole range of mandolins and mandolas- some a lot less expensive while $1650 appears to be the top end. This is the most expensive f hole A style mandolin before you go into the F models- some being less expensive while the top model is double this model's price.

    I have also taken the mandolin to my massively experienced maker/repairer and his opinion was extremely positive. He said that having a volute- as on my mandolin was definitely advantageous in terms of greater strength where the neck is weakened by the truss rod adjustment cavity. It was mentioned in the other thread that the truss rod in this instrument was "one way" which he said was not significant in a mandolin- two way would suit a mandola- or any instrument with a longer neck. He observed that the build quality was extremely good as was the overall finish. The nut was well made, the bridge sat really well on the top which was carved- presumably by machine. He was not sure if the back was carved but that is less significant. He liked the hardware and he thought the tone and volume was really great. He had nothing but praise for the mandolin and said that the American makers were really in for serious competition now that Chinese makers were buying really good wood. He said it represented outstanding value at the price quoted.

    To conclude, I am very pleased with this mandolin. I would say to anyone considering buying one, that like anything mail order that you cannot see, hold and play, you need to satisfy yourself with the instrument you are buying. I would hope that the quality control is such that there is a minimum of variability although as pointed out, the mandolin I have received was a little different to the one featured. I have pretty much made this my regular instrument- not least because I want to play it in although it was great from day one after the usual fiddling with the bridge etc. I had no other jobs to do other than siting and adjusting the bridge height. All in all, this has been a very positive experience and to conclude, it does sound a little better than my Loar LM520 VS which is a good instrument- although there is always a bit of subjectivity in such a statement.

    Here are some photos- not great of my mandolin. Obviously, the eBay listing(s) show more but remember that mine had a few detail differences.




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  3. #2

    Default Re: Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

    Glad to hear your mandolin is working well for you!
    That looks very similar in a lot of ways to the Afanti mandolin I bought a while back, with a few distinct differences. They're both made in Weifang, China, which is a city known for instrument manufacture for quite some time. I would imagine that they are drawing from the same pool of labor and likely have copied each others instruments by design or by shared labor pool knowledge. My bet is that the back and sides are also solid wood, as they have other listings for less that specify maple plywood for backs and sides. I also bet that it was hand carved as labor is still quite cheap in China, compared to the costs of a CnC machine. Also looks like probably Santos Rosewood or some other similar wood for the fingerboard and bridge, so that's a cost saving for them (and you) compared to ebony.

    Buying direct from a factory certainly gets you a lot for the money. That instrument from a retailer would likely cost at least double if not 3x the price. Lower end importer companies like Washburn and Morgan Mnoroe and the like, buy in bulk from factories like these and get a much better price than a 1 off. Likely 1/3 to 1/2 less. Then they import them and mark them up to retailers, who then mark them up for sale to the public. Bigger players in those markets like Kentucky and Eastman either own their factories or own a large stake in them and can often make a better instrument at lower cost because they don't have a wholesaler in between them and the retailer.
    Buying direct also comes with greater risk. No real warranty, no way to play one before you buy one. No guarantee that the one you get will be a quality build or not have some issues that wholesaler or retailer would weed out. As long as you're willing to take that risk, it can be a great way to go! And it isn't much of a financial risk. $300-$700 depending on what model you buy.

    Anyhow, I'm quite enjoying the 2 Afanti mandolins that I bought. They are far better than any other mandolins I've ever played in their price range and as good as ones that are 3-4x more costly. They did both need some setup that I mostly did myself, thanks to the great resources here at mandolincafe!

    Send us a sound clip when you get a chance please!
    Enjoy!
    Best, Stevo

  4. #3

    Default Re: Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

    Stevo, I am afraid a sound clip is probably beyond my ken. I will have to ask if one of my friends can help me do one. I can confirm that the Afanti mandolins are made in the same workshop, it seems. I concur with your evaluation of what buying mail order entails. Mind you, once upon a time in the USA, vast numbers of people bought instruments directly from mail order catalogues. Many years on, some of those surviving instruments have been sold on eBay- I have bought a few!

  5. #4

    Default Re: Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

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    I posted one of these photos in the other thread. There is a piece of BluTack on the tailpiece!

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  7. #5

    Default Re: Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    Stevo, I am afraid a sound clip is probably beyond my ken. I will have to ask if one of my friends can help me do one. I can confirm that the Afanti mandolins are made in the same workshop, it seems. I concur with your evaluation of what buying mail order entails. Mind you, once upon a time in the USA, vast numbers of people bought instruments directly from mail order catalogues. Many years on, some of those surviving instruments have been sold on eBay- I have bought a few!
    I've been checking it out and it doesn't appear to be the same shop, but they are very similar. There are dozens of instrument factories in that town and the nearby area that I'm sure employ many of the same workers and are those who've been trained together.
    True about the mail order instruments, mostly from the Chicago factories in the USA.
    Best, Stevo

  8. #6

    Default Re: Review: Feeling Handmade A style mandolin Solid Spruce top"

    The marketing woman at Feeling said that they made Afanti in the same workshop- Feeling was the brand that they used in China but were now selling those instruments worldwide- presumably on eBay but I get the impression that they would welcome agents/distributors in various countries.

    You may be right about the tops being hand carved in the workshop. However, they may be made by a CnC machine elsewhere. My expert told me that one of Britain's archtop makers- and there were never many, had their flagship guitar's tops and backs made- carved in Germany. It was in Germany and over the border in Czechoslovakia where the skills and capacity were greatest.

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