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Thread: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

  1. #1
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    Default Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    I am considering buying a new mandolin after selling the inexpensive one I purchased a few months ago. I have a choice to make. I can buy a nice all solid mahogany F style or one with a solid spruce top/solid maple back and sides F style. Is the sound really that noticeable or is it really just personal preference or is it like what some say, "just following the crowd" to buy the spruce top/maple back and sides? I do know that on a guitar since it is a larger instrument there is a noticeable sound difference but on a mandolin is there really that much of a difference? I would appreciate anyone giving me some advice on this? Thank you in advance.

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    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    I've heard that there is a big difference, but not from personal experience, I've only played spruce/maple mandolins.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
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  4. #3

    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    The finest instruments have spruce tops. What does that suggest?
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    I have a cedar top and an adi topped, one with red maple one with big leaf maple(I think)...they are different. That being said, they are from two different master builders, so what is causing the sound difference?
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Yes..

  7. #6

    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    I would not recommend getting a solid mahogany f-style mandolin. If it were a celtic or flat-top style instrument, it would be fine, but there are a number of reasons why it would not be ideal on an f-style archtop.

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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Good question, julyboy:

    The answer is a resounding yes. There is a difference, and no less so than on a guitar. A mandolin is an acoustic instrument all the same, frequently hand-carved to have a very particular tone. The woods are chosen for specific reasons.

    I've played mandolins made with mahogany and they sound warm. They can be good instruments, but its not the usual tone for bluegrass or many other popular styles that use mandolin. It's pretty interesting you are asking about it, because there just aren't that many mahogany mandolins around, compared to spruce/maple. The classic has been spruce top, maple back and sides. This tends to produce a harder, more cutting sound, but with a wonderful quality of reverberation and hum on a well-built instrument.

    You'll get all kinds of opinions about mandolins on here, but what you end up with has more to do with the type of music you intend to play and what instrument sounds good to your ears. Bluegrass, jazz, classical, and rock music types have often included spruce/maple mandolins with f holes, which help with more cutting projection. An oval hole mandolin will give you a warmer sound, even with spruce/maple construction, and an oval is often good for duos or formats where the mandolin should maybe sound warmer.

    If you want another opinion... you can do very well getting an a-style Eastman mandolin for about $500. If you find a used one, I've seen them as low as $300. My opinion is - at that price - they are the best value on the market. They are made with spruce/maple. Now, if you have more money to spend, there are lots of options, but the spruce/maple combination is very versatile and what you will typically find.

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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Yes the sound is very noticeable at leastnto us mandolin nerds but if the sound is whist you like go for it. Don't worry about what kind of music it is suited for, any mandolin can play any style. Go with what you enjoy.

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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Yes, there’s a (potentially big) difference. If I had to choose between what you’re describing without seeing or playing, the only way I’d choose the mahogany one would be if it were made by a respected luthier and the S/M was made by a company known for lesser quality. If you were looking at flat tops maybe that changes, and if you can play both and prefer the tone/feel of the mahogany then go with what you like, but the standard is the standard for good reasons. Good luck with your purchase!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    In general if the same experienced builder were to build f style mandolins one all mahogany and one spruce over maple the sounds would be different. The mahog would be darker and warmer and the spruce maple would be brighter. Frankly, the kind of music you intend to play on it should push your decision making. If you want to play bluegrass, I would go with the spruce maple. Same maybe for classical. If you want to do folk or celtic or non-bluegrassy kinds of things I might consider the all mahogany. I prefer a darker warmer sound (you can get some of that using flatwound strings instead of normal roundwound ones).

    They will both still sound mandolin like. Think of it like burgers. You can get one that has spicier toppings or you could get one that has more savory toppings. Both are burgers but each has a different palate.

    Jamie
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    More difference by who builds it !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Might consider Port Orford ! All I have heard from PO tops were fantastic !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Quote Originally Posted by JEStanek View Post
    In general if the same experienced builder were to build f style mandolins one all mahogany and one spruce over maple the sounds would be different. The mahog would be darker and warmer and the spruce maple would be brighter. Frankly, the kind of music you intend to play on it should push your decision making. If you want to play bluegrass, I would go with the spruce maple. Same maybe for classical. If you want to do folk or celtic or non-bluegrassy kinds of things I might consider the all mahogany. I prefer a darker warmer sound (you can get some of that using flatwound strings instead of normal roundwound ones).

    They will both still sound mandolin like. Think of it like burgers. You can get one that has spicier toppings or you could get one that has more savory toppings. Both are burgers but each has a different palate.

    Jamie
    Thank you Jamie. That was exactly what I was thinking. Appreciate your info.
    Frank

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    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    Might consider Port Orford ! All I have heard from PO tops were fantastic !
    My Weber is POCedar, it is rich and bell like, not woody, not a woofy chop.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
    Deering Classic Open Back
    Too many microphones

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Decision Time for wood type - Is the difference big?

    Don't sweat it too much - just go with what you like now. Just as your technique develops, so will your ear. In a few years years, you'll hear differencecs that "just aren't there" right now. And then again a few years later, and a decade after that. What sound WILL you like in 2, 5, 10, 20 years? Or even better, what MUSIC will you like along the journey? As with all of us, you'll just have to wait and... hear!

    And people wonder why MAS develops!
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