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Thread: Morgan Monroe Question

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    Default Morgan Monroe Question

    Was in a shop a few years back and checked out the best sounding/feeling mandolin I had picked up in a while- a MM. I didn't get the model number, but have been curious ever since.

    Do they have an outstanding well-known model, or was this the work of a really good luthier making the difference you think?

    I know my MMS-4W couldn't hold a candle to it. Hoping some MM players can chime in.
    Beginner- Morgan Monroe MMS-4W Phantom of the Opry

    Current- Loar LH-600

    Advanced- Not good enough


    Guitar- Cotten C-18 Custom

  2. #2
    Some Ability - No Talent MikeZito's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morgan Monroe Question

    My first decent mandolin was a Morgan Monroe model that I bought back in 1999 or 2000 from the old 'Folk Of The Wood' website. About a year or so I did some significant digging for information on old MM models, but came up with basically nothing.

    Anybody that can point us in the right direction would be appreciated.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morgan Monroe Question

    Doubt that Morgan Monroe has any "really good individual luthiers" involved in producing their instruments. Count me as skeptical/cynical on that score.

    Every individual instrument is, to some extent, unique -- even those "mass produced" in Asian factories. Pieces of wood differ, hand-workers are more or less skilled or painstaking. Different brands and gauges of strings interact differently with individual mandolins. Sometimes it all comes together and this particular Morgan Monroe, or Michael Kelly, or Epiphone jumps out of the pack.

    Other times, not so much. Consistent quality is what we hope for, and, within certain parameters, we find; you expect a Collings to be better than an Eastman, in turn the Eastman better than a Rogue. But the variability of individual instruments can mix us up sometimes.
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    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Morgan Monroe Question

    TL;DR: I'm pretty sure MM mandolins are made mostly in larger facilities mostly by machine.

    My first F style was a Morgan Monroe Tree of Life inlaid fingerboard I also got from Folk of the Wood. It looked really good and was a nice beginner mandolin. It intonated well and the tuners held. The finish was thick. IIRC, mine was made in Korea (2003 is when I bought it new) and it likely didn't have much hand work done on the plates. Morgan Monroe certainly wasn't using hand carved as part of their marketing at the time. It sure sounded like a mandolin to me but wasn't particularly loud or notable for it's voice. I feel my Eastman mandolins 2005 and 2008 for an F oval and two point with f holes respectively sounded much better with the handwork and thinner finish. In general I think unless they are explicit with the specs expect the least amount of handwork on an instrument. If it doesn't say solid wood, assume plywood (which can be fine), if it doesn't say carved, assume pressed to shape, if it doesn't say hand carved, assume all CNC, if it says handcarved assume likely rough work by machine or CNC and then the close up work done by hand.

    I'm not an advanced player nor do I gig. I haven't played with others in a long time. My requirements for a pricey (above $2K) instrument isn't there anymore. If it sounds good and feels good, it is good. If it sounds good from across the room to you it is good. But, I wouldn't assume all the models and individuals across the line to be equal from most of the overseas ones. That's why you have a conversation, play before buying, or have a decent return arrangement (even if you're on the hook for shipping both ways that's fair for the convenience of online shopping-IMO).


    I'm very much with Allen on this re: how they are made and consistency across lines and brands but, I'll add it's been a long time since I was new mandolin shopping. I wouldn't blindly trade my Eastman for a Morgan Monroe. Maybe if I played them side by side and the MM sounded at least as good and in my experience, that would be a surprise. Even though my playing proficiency has not really improved too much, I'm picky enough about how they feel in hand anymore that I would want to at least have some examples in hand before I bought a production mandolin to be sure I liked the fit.

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    Default Re: Morgan Monroe Question

    Quote Originally Posted by JEStanek View Post
    TL;DR: I'm pretty sure MM mandolins are made mostly in larger facilities mostly by machine.

    My first F style was a Morgan Monroe Tree of Life inlaid fingerboard I also got from Folk of the Wood. It looked really good and was a nice beginner mandolin. It intonated well and the tuners held. The finish was thick. IIRC, mine was made in Korea (2003 is when I bought it new) and it likely didn't have much hand work done on the plates. Morgan Monroe certainly wasn't using hand carved as part of their marketing at the time. It sure sounded like a mandolin to me but wasn't particularly loud or notable for it's voice. I feel my Eastman mandolins 2005 and 2008 for an F oval and two point with f holes respectively sounded much better with the handwork and thinner finish. In general I think unless they are explicit with the specs expect the least amount of handwork on an instrument. If it doesn't say solid wood, assume plywood (which can be fine), if it doesn't say carved, assume pressed to shape, if it doesn't say hand carved, assume all CNC, if it says handcarved assume likely rough work by machine or CNC and then the close up work done by hand.

    I'm not an advanced player nor do I gig. I haven't played with others in a long time. My requirements for a pricey (above $2K) instrument isn't there anymore. If it sounds good and feels good, it is good. If it sounds good from across the room to you it is good. But, I wouldn't assume all the models and individuals across the line to be equal from most of the overseas ones. That's why you have a conversation, play before buying, or have a decent return arrangement (even if you're on the hook for shipping both ways that's fair for the convenience of online shopping-IMO).


    I'm very much with Allen on this re: how they are made and consistency across lines and brands but, I'll add it's been a long time since I was new mandolin shopping. I wouldn't blindly trade my Eastman for a Morgan Monroe. Maybe if I played them side by side and the MM sounded at least as good and in my experience, that would be a surprise. Even though my playing proficiency has not really improved too much, I'm picky enough about how they feel in hand anymore that I would want to at least have some examples in hand before I bought a production mandolin to be sure I liked the fit.

    Jamie
    Here's a little real world experience I've had with Morgan Monroe. Around 12 years ago or so, as a rank beginner, I purchased a black Phantom of the Opry. It was made in Korea and at the time had a fair amount of competition from the lesser known manufacturers like some of the Kentucky, Micheal Kelly, etc etc. also made in Korea. They did a fair job and I'd guess there really wasn't a whole lot of difference between them. My Phantom of the Opry had a terrific sound, perhaps the sycamore wood they used ? It had a rather thick finish to it but didn't seem to affect the the projection. A friend of mine bought a Sullivan ( around 5K, out of my price range ) his was made in Japan by master Sumi or one of his workers. Great mandolin, very loud with a nice tone. I had a year or two playing by this time and I decided to upgrade... what I should have done was put on an Allen tailpiece and had a pro setup and I probably would have been fine, but by now the fever had spread in and I had to have another one. I played a few different manufacturers, some out of my price range just for curiosity, non to my satisfaction. LO and behold I'm on the computer and happen across another MM, a model MM8. Looked great with the tiger maple back, satin finish and the advertising was pretty slick as well. Long story short, I bought it. It's a beautiful mandolin, nice scroll work and a decent setup made it work well. A few extras, SS frets and an Allen Tailpiece that really made the chimes on Grandfather's clock come alive. So I have 2 MM's. The first one is a wall hanger, the second one I play. Both of these were made in Korea, probably some of the last that came out of there. A few manufacturers had already started in China, Kentucky comes to mind. My brother bought a Master Model when China first started producing them. The neck started coming off after a year, a real shame for Kentucky. I knew China would get it sooner or later, but that wasn't the time to chance it. So the bottom line is simply, its a well made mandolin, decent sounding, no issues at all with either. Recently I played a couple of 300 to 500 dollar mandolins, none comes close to these. That would have been really disheartening if they had.. All this said, I have no idea what the quality is in todays market..
    Last edited by bluemtgrass; Jan-30-2020 at 7:39pm. Reason: wrong words
    Nathan

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