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Thread: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

  1. #1

    Default Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    So, as I mentioned in another thread, I'm considering the purchase of an octave mandolin. I've found two great deals on the local used market: a tm 325 for $375 and an OM 800 for $450. Has anyone played either of these? Which would be the better instrument? I'm more familiar with Gold Tone, so I feel that the OM 800 is the safer bet, but for all I know, Trinity College could be a hidden gem of a company.

    I've also considered one of those Hora cheapos on eBay, but I know what a gamble such low-end instruments can be.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    The Gold Tone has laminated mahogany back and sides, while the Trinity College is solid maple back and sides. I would go for solid wood if I had a choice. Also, the TC has a short scale (20”) that makes it easier to play. The God Tone is a long scale, 23 inches I believe. I would go for the TC myself. They are made by the same company that makes the well regarded Kentucky mandolins, Saga. The down side is that the TC has some intonation issues due to their use of an incorrectly compensated bridge, but there is an easy modification that, combined with a slight tilt adjustment, takes care of that. The Gold Tone does have some things going for it though. They come with a cast tailpiece, radius fretboard, bone nut, adjustable bridge, and a built in pickup. These items are all upgrades over the TC with flat board and fixed bridge. Note : my comments about the Gold Tone OM 800+, NOT the older version without the plus. Many of those upgrades came as a result of the model change.

    If you are buying either one as an older model used, I’d try to go for the made in Korea versions. I think they are better than the made in China ones. The Korean TCs have a Celtic knot on the headstock, not the Celtic Cross.

    My octave is a Fender, believe it or not. They contracted to have these made at the Korean factory where the TC was made just after Saga moved TC production to China. 2006-2008. They are virtual copies of the TC except they have correctly compensated bridges, a built in passive pickup that works pretty well, and the Fender logo on the headstock! If you can find one of those used it would probably float your boat, but they are scarce.

    The Horas are not half bad, really. All solid woods with competent factory construction. Their weak spots are the miserable bridge they use and the lousy standard string set. The version that has the built in pickup, which you probably want anyway, uses a much better bridge, and people have reported being satisfied with it. In that case, all you would have to do to get an acceptable instrument is take off the factory strings and put on a set of J80s, then you’d be good to go.
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

  3. #3

    Default Re: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    Since you indicated that both instruments are local, go try them out.

    Either one would probably be a decent starter octave but, as Multidon points out, there are different versions of TCs and Gold Tones.
    If you can handle a 23" scale I think longer scales sound better....might get some pushback on that but my experience is that 22" is a sweet spot for octaves.

    Try em out and see what you think!
    Northfield NF5S
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    Hmm, the TC has the Celtic knot and the gold Tone is not a plus model, I was actually wondering if there was a difference or not. While I prefer a radius fretboard on guitar, the Breedlove taught me that I'm not at all a fan with mandolins. I was also hoping for a shorter scale instrument. I think the TC seems to be the better option, especially since it's owned by a luthier that said they set it up already.

  5. #5
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    Never played a Gold Tone but have heard some (underwhelming) examples of them on YouTube. I have owned a TC octave and would not recommend one. Mine was well made but very quiet and just nothing special. Maybe you can find a good one though.
    ...

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    Default Re: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    One problem with Trinity College octaves is the way they are strung. A lot of people just put on J80s because it’s the “standard” octave set. But the truth is, there is no standard. That set is optimized for a 22 1/2 inch scale. A TC is a much shorter 20 inch scale and it needs thicker gauge strings to get the top going. This may be why some find them too quiet. On my TC clone Fender OM, I switched to J72 light gauge mandola strings. Even though they are light for a mandala, on an OM they are heavier. Switching to those strings made my Fender come alive!
    Don

    2016 Weber Custom Bitterroot F
    2011 Weber Bitterroot A
    1974 Martin Style A
    Fender Octave Mandolin c.2004-2008

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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gold Tone OM-800 vs Trinity College TM 325

    Quote Originally Posted by multidon View Post
    One problem with Trinity College octaves is the way they are strung. A lot of people just put on J80s because it’s the “standard” octave set. But the truth is, there is no standard. That set is optimized for a 22 1/2 inch scale. A TC is a much shorter 20 inch scale and it needs thicker gauge strings to get the top going. This may be why some find them too quiet. On my TC clone Fender OM, I switched to J72 light gauge mandola strings. Even though they are light for a mandala, on an OM they are heavier. Switching to those strings made my Fender come alive!
    That very well might have been the trouble with my TC octave. It just seemed like there was no sound moving through the body of the thing at all. If I really dug in it would growl, and if I could have got that on a more consistent basis, I'd have probably kept it. Especially now that I know if I capo'd it, it would basically become a mandola. Doh! I traded it for an older Breedlove USA-made mandolin a few years ago to a fellow on here.
    ...

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