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Thread: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

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    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    I'm curious whether anyone has thoughts on the tonal differences of red spruce versus Engleman on the Collings MT/MT2 line, and more specifically with respect to an MT-O versus an MT2-O. Are the differences between the MT-O and and MT2-O line basically consmetic, does the red spruce alters the character of the mandolin in a fundamental way or, alternatively, is the MT2 "the same only more so."

    I know, the best advice is to go out and play them yourself. More easily said than done.

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    man about town Markus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Dodson View Post
    I'm curious whether anyone has thoughts on the tonal differences of red spruce versus Engleman on the Collings MT/MT2 line, and more specifically with respect to an MT-O versus an MT2-O. Are the differences between the MT-O and and MT2-O line basically consmetic, does the red spruce alters the character of the mandolin in a fundamental way or, alternatively, is the MT2 "the same only more so."

    I know, the best advice is to go out and play them yourself. More easily said than done.
    I shopped for MT's last spring, played a couple different ones including a torrified Red Spruce along with the usual Engleman. I thought there was a small tonal difference between them, mainly when I was really playing hard/loud on it [the Red Spruce seemed to `go to 11' when playing it hard where the other seemed to get more `thwocky'].

    I ended up getting a used MT2 with `Italian Spruce' which does great when I really play the snot out of it like the Red/Adi one did.

    While I am comparing a single MT2 with a year of playing vs 3 new MT's, I find the 2 seems like a step up more than just cosmetically. That's anecdote and not relating to MT-O's ... but I am not second guessing buying the more expensive one as it's everything I want in a mandolin - screaming loud to whisper soft it's got great tone and plays like a dream. Took a little time to adapt to the neck shape but now I find it the most comfortable mandolin of mine to play.

    I hope you find one you adore as much as I do mine.
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Red spruce on an MT2 oval will give you more volume. The tone will be more fundamental sounding, and more direct. Somewhere in between is Italian spruce, which is my personal preference on an MT2 oval. Sweet, more fundamental sounding than Engelmann, but not as loud as red spruce (Adirondack). If you are looking to play old time or Celtic you can't go wrong with any of the choices. You will have to work harder though with the red spruce top, especially on a new mandolin or one that hasn't been played much. It will be a bit tighter sounding until it gets some playing mileage on it.

    So, no, the differences are not merely cosmetic. In fact, adding a gloss top to an MTO does make it just a little bit harder to get the top going when you are playing it. And while it is hard sometimes to do comparisons first hand, it's always the best way to ensure you get an instrument you really want to play, long term.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    You will have to work harder though with the red spruce top, especially on a new mandolin or one that hasn't been played much. It will be a bit tighter sounding until it gets some playing mileage on it.
    Great point. This may be the source of my hesitation. I had a stock MT years ago which I loved and have always regretted selling. More recently I had an MF-O which I never really bonded with. It always felt tight and like I was fighting it for tone. I purchased it brand new and probably didn't put the time in to really open it up. Most of my guitars have adirondack spruce tops, and I never felt that way with any of them. Then again, mandolin has taken up 5% of my playing time compared to guitar, although I plan to commit more of my time to mandolin going forward. So in addition to the thinner top on a guitar which undoubtedly helps, I have put the time in on those instruments.

  7. #5

    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Firstly, I can not remember picking up an MT2 after picking up an MT and not thinking the MT2 had a little something special. Same with the Collings F styles. They get better as they get more expensive. They are never lacking as they start at a high level of performance.

    As for Adirondack spruce, I have only one experience, new to one year of two hour a day playing. It changed very much for the better. I would not however, buy a mandolin based on what it might be.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    I have an MT, but have been able to try a couple of MT2 models with Italian spruce. There is a difference. And I think the MT2 is a better instrument. Although it is much more expensive. Am still very satisfied with my choice.

    Obviously, neither was an MT-0.
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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Great thread...

    I owned and frequently played a lightly used MT (Engleman top) for about two years. It was a great mandolin, very earthy sounding. Very straightforward tone. Loud. Played very easily.

    Eventually, I traded that MT plus some loot for a new MT2 (torrefied red spruce), which I also have been playing quite a bit. Although I didnít have the MT brand new, the MT2 has changed significantly since Iíve gotten it, seemingly daily, but definitely with each (weekly) string change. It is more pristine sounding, but can take over the room if I drive it hard. Definitely more complex than the MT.

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  12. #8

    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    I’ve owned a few MT-O’s, an MT2-O and an MF-O. When I finally realized that I kept coming back to them because I liked the sound I custom ordered an MT2-O with an Engelmann top and Birdseye back and sides. It’s exactly what I wanted. The MT2-O with whatever top it comes with stock was nice, but very forward, always alive, always felt like it was ready to run. Like owning a husky. It was a great mandolin, just wasn’t for me. If your primarily an oval hole player who sometimes needs an F for whatever reason, that would be your mandolin. The MF-O I traded for was stock, no idea what kind of top, but it was ‘tubby’, really really tubby. It and the MT2-O could be played loud, scary loud with no signs of breaking up. The tubbiness of the MF-O at those volumes was something to behold.

    The Engelmann on the MT-O just mellows everything out, darkens it a bit, sounds more laid back. That’s my take on it anyway.
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Stock MT2O's come with Adirondack tops, as do the stock MFO's.

    I had to laugh at the husky comment. I had huskies for 16 years, and they are an acquired taste, and really require an owner of a particular temperament. Lots of folks choose them for the wrong reasons. The same goes for instruments. However, truth be told, training a husky is a lot harder than learning to play the mandolin.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

  14. #10

    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    Stock MT2O's come with Adirondack tops, as do the stock MFO's.

    I had to laugh at the husky comment. I had huskies for 16 years, and they are an acquired taste, and really require an owner of a particular temperament. Lots of folks choose them for the wrong reasons. The same goes for instruments. However, truth be told, training a husky is a lot harder than learning to play the mandolin.
    My best friend ever was around for 16 years also, a husky mix. She was the smartest, kindest, most loyal thing I could ever imagine. But that first year was a rough one. It wasnít the training part that was tough with her, it was making her understand that she was going to be trained and that she wasnít running the show. Once we crossed that hurdle training went really well, but it was a battle to get there. After that she was a rambunctious thing, but very well behaved. Just had to get used to things like her learning to unlock doors and going to all the bars and restaurants near my house, sneaking off to friends houses, building forts in the snow and refusing to come inside for days on end. A lot of work for sure, but worth every minute and not a day goes by where I donít miss her.

    I just noticed your picture there, Iím assuming thatís one of the huskies and theyíre telling you that they want something and theyíre going to get it, like right now.
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Quote Originally Posted by ColdBeerGoCubs View Post
    My best friend ever was around for 16 years also, a husky mix. She was the smartest, kindest, most loyal thing I could ever imagine. But that first year was a rough one. It wasn’t the training part that was tough with her, it was making her understand that she was going to be trained and that she wasn’t running the show. Once we crossed that hurdle training went really well, but it was a battle to get there. After that she was a rambunctious thing, but very well behaved. Just had to get used to things like her learning to unlock doors and going to all the bars and restaurants near my house, sneaking off to friends houses, building forts in the snow and refusing to come inside for days on end. A lot of work for sure, but worth every minute and not a day goes by where I don’t miss her.

    I just noticed your picture there, I’m assuming that’s one of the huskies and they’re telling you that they want something and they’re going to get it, like right now.
    After 16 years we switched to Malamutes. That’s my baby in the pic. She’s a puppy there, but is now four. Her sister is 8. Rambunctious but easier to train. We had a male, but lost him last year at 13. I like their personalities better, although they have a strange sense of humor, and no love for fiddle playing.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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  17. #12
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Mike Marshall has a comparison on Youtube where he compares the 2 woods on Northfield instruments. It might help to have the audio to go with his description.
    Daniel Kaufman

  18. #13

    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Quote Originally Posted by FrDNicholas View Post
    Mike Marshall has a comparison on Youtube where he compares the 2 woods on Northfield instruments. It might help to have the audio to go with his description.
    Only problem with that is that it varies by builder. A Sitka by builder A won’t sound like Sitka from builder B, and with Collings consistency, you can hear the difference in each top, as Mandobar can attest too.
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    If you haven’t bonded with the MFO, would you consider a sale or trade?
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    Registered User Joe Dodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Red spruce versus Engleman (MT/MT2)

    Quote Originally Posted by Rashi63 View Post
    If you haven’t bonded with the MFO, would you consider a sale or trade?
    I would have and did. Sorry, but I moved it along about a year ago. I've been playing a Pava A style since then, which is terrific and a wonderful contrast with the new MT2-O.

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