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Thread: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Hey all,

    I currently own a Kentucky KM-150 which has served me well for the last month. However I can't help but eye the f-style mandos and am currently on the fence about buying an Eastman MD315, primarily just for the style (y'all know what I'm talking about).

    I'm trying to rationalize owning two mandolins... and am wondering: will there be a significant difference in the sound between these two mandolins? Or will they basically sound the same?

  2. #2
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    They’ll sound like mandolins, even like archtop mandolins with f-holes, but they’ll sound different. However, if I was spending another $700, I’d want the next one to sound better.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    They’ll sound like mandolins, even like archtop mandolins with f-holes, but they’ll sound different. However, if I was spending another $700, I’d want the next one to sound better.
    Fair enough. If I'm willing to spend $750 for an f-style mandolin, is there a better option than the MD315?

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by bokchoy_ninja View Post
    Fair enough. If I'm willing to spend $750 for an f-style mandolin, is there a better option than the MD315?
    No, but a considerable part of your budget is going to aesthetics rather than sound.
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    No, but a considerable part of your budget is going to aesthetics rather than sound.
    Yea, I'm aware of that. I've heard the MD315 sounds pretty nice, though.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by bokchoy_ninja View Post
    Yea, I'm aware of that. I've heard the MD315 sounds pretty nice, though.
    It does. It’s the best new F-style that you can buy for the money. But when shopping on a budget, a new F-style is rarely the best value proposition.
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    It does. It’s the best new F-style that you can buy for the money. But when shopping on a budget, a new F-style is rarely the best value proposition.
    Just curious... Do you have a suggestion that isn't just "Spend more money" or "Buy another A style"?

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    I have owned an Eastman 315 and 314 in the past and thought they sounded very good for the money.

    Here is Kentucky's version of a no frills F style...

    https://www.bfstrings.com/store/p211..._mandolin.html

    Never played one but they are supposed to be all about tone.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hkpiAQUwu0
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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Try to get a chance to play a couple mandolins in the next category up, whatever you can find locally, but makers like weber, collings, gibson, etc (not to slight the many other good choices, these may just be the easiest to find). Anyway, before you buy anything, play whatever you can find in this category, and see how you feel about them. In the $1000-$1500 range used, you can find basic A mandolins that at least start to get you into this area of sound.

    See if that sound matters to you before you spend your money. Different things matter to different people, I like plain instruments and I don't care if they are scuffed up a bit, but sound and reliability are important to me. You have to make your own call on what matters to you, playing some more expensive instruments may give you more of a sense of how you want to balance all this. And playing some good instruments is kinda a fun experience.
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Sheets View Post
    Try to get a chance to play a couple mandolins in the next category up, whatever you can find locally, but makers like weber, collings, gibson, etc (not to slight the many other good choices, these may just be the easiest to find). Anyway, before you buy anything, play whatever you can find in this category, and see how you feel about them. In the $1000-$1500 range used, you can find basic A mandolins that at least start to get you into this area of sound.

    See if that sound matters to you before you spend your money. Different things matter to different people, I like plain instruments and I don't care if they are scuffed up a bit, but sound and reliability are important to me. You have to make your own call on what matters to you, playing some more expensive instruments may give you more of a sense of how you want to balance all this. And playing some good instruments is kinda a fun experience.
    Ok so basically "Spend more money and get an A style".

    I'm tying to find an F style mandolin in my price range that will sound sufficiently different from my KM150 to justify owning two. I know the MD315 isn't a world class instrument but does it fit the bill?

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by bokchoy_ninja View Post
    Just curious... Do you have a suggestion that isn't just "Spend more money" or "Buy another A style"?
    Yes. I have three:

    1) play what you have until you can afford something better, not something different. A lot of us spun our wheels buying a number of equivalent mandolins, perhaps losing depreciation in the process, before seeing the value in making the jump to a better instrument.

    2) play what makes you happy. If you’ve got $750 to spend, and the scroll is going to bring you joy, then on some level, that’s all that matters.

    3) if that’s the case, then don’t ask questions to which you might not like the answers on an internet message board. I didn’t make the rules of mandolin economics. I’m just attempting to share them in good faith.
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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    It will sound different because it is a different mandolin. Will it sound different because it is significantly "better"? Hard to say, but there's a good chance it won't. The harsh reality is that "spend more money and get an A style" is the most sensible advice you are going to get. It does not, however, satisfy your scroll lust. Another harsh reality is that until and unless you can get to a shop with a bunch of mandolins to try, you'll be stuck buying mandolins you've never played. There can be a lot of variability, especially in the sub-$1,000 neighborhood.

    Mandolins are expensive and your price range can get you a nice flattop, which will have a very different sound but no scroll, or a very serviceable student instrument such as some of the Eastmans or Kentucky 150 and 2xx series. But to get that next step up in noticeable tone, a used A style in the $1,000 to $1,400 range is the way to go. Again, though, if you want a scroll, you want a scroll. Many people who've compared them say the 315 is as good as the more expensive Eastman models, so there's that.

    I have an Eastman 615 that my wife insisted I buy one day while I was noodling on it in a shop because she loved the sound. (And probably the looks.) It's a good mandolin. So is my Kentucky 272. If they were all I had, I would play them and be happy. But there is a hugely noticeable difference in tone between them and my Arches A-5 and other small-shop mandolins I've played. If you want that big upgrade in sound, you're probably going to have to pay for it, that's all. Otherwise, you might just be spending a bunch of money to move sideways.

    Lots of people on this board will give you this advice because we learned it through the sort of trial and error you seem to be about to embark on, not because we're being persnickety or dogmatic. But in the end, it's up to you. Consider the money tuition on your mandolin education and go for it, if that's what floats your boat. Good luck and happy playing.

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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric F. View Post
    It will sound different because it is a different mandolin. Will it sound different because it is significantly "better"? Hard to say, but there's a good chance it won't. The harsh reality is that "spend more money and get an A style" is the most sensible advice you are going to get. It does not, however, satisfy your scroll lust. Another harsh reality is that until and unless you can get to a shop with a bunch of mandolins to try, you'll be stuck buying mandolins you've never played. There can be a lot of variability, especially in the sub-$1,000 neighborhood.

    Mandolins are expensive and your price range can get you a nice flattop, which will have a very different sound but no scroll, or a very serviceable student instrument such as some of the Eastmans or Kentucky 150 and 2xx series. But to get that next step up in noticeable tone, a used A style in the $1,000 to $1,400 range is the way to go. Again, though, if you want a scroll, you want a scroll. Many people who've compared them say the 315 is as good as the more expensive Eastman models, so there's that.

    I have an Eastman 615 that my wife insisted I buy one day while I was noodling on it in a shop because she loved the sound. (And probably the looks.) It's a good mandolin. So is my Kentucky 272. If they were all I had, I would play them and be happy. But there is a hugely noticeable difference in tone between them and my Arches A-5 and other small-shop mandolins I've played. If you want that big upgrade in sound, you're probably going to have to pay for it, that's all. Otherwise, you might just be spending a bunch of money to move sideways.

    Lots of people on this board will give you this advice because we learned it through the sort of trial and error you seem to be about to embark on, not because we're being persnickety or dogmatic. But in the end, it's up to you. Consider the money tuition on your mandolin education and go for it, if that's what floats your boat. Good luck and happy playing.
    That's fair. At what price range can you get an F style mandolin that punches its weight?

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

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    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    OK, so another harsh reality is that the scroll requires a great deal of labor, and therefore increases the cost.

    I used to get out and play the wall at stores in Nashville and elsewhere, but it's been years since I did that. My advice, then, may be out of date. However, if I were looking for a good-sounding F, I'd expect to pay around $2,000 used. Sometimes you will see a used Summit F-100 or Weber Gallatin for $1,750 or $1,800. I'd jump on a deal like that if i could.

    Lots of people like the Kentucky KM-1000 and 1050, which are somewhat north of $2,000 new these days. I used to own one made in 1984, which was a beast, but I don't have any experience with the current model.

    Another option is Howard Morris, who regularly posts his mandolins in the classifieds. I think his F style is significantly less than the ones I've listed above, although it does lack some of the bling. He has a very good reputation here for producing a quality instrument at a good price.

    Again, though, there is nothing wrong with getting an Eastman 315 and calling it a day. You're the only one you need to please.

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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by bokchoy_ninja View Post
    Ok so basically "Spend more money and get an A style".

    I'm tying to find an F style mandolin in my price range that will sound sufficiently different from my KM150 to justify owning two. I know the MD315 isn't a world class instrument but does it fit the bill?
    Well, no, my advice was really to make up your own mind about what you want, playing more instruments may, or may not , help you clarify what it is that you do want. That's the key part of my advice before spending your money, try a bunch of instruments. And it's fun anyway.

    But, if I really wanted an F-body, and had no more $750 to spend, yeah, it would definitely be the MD 315. Used, if I could find one. I would not expect it to sound much better than a KM-150.
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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    To get an F-body that punches it's weight against a good used $1000-$1500 A body? Well, typically add another $1000.

    But some really good deals do pop up in the classifieds, my son got an Old Wave F-body for $1500 at one point, used Weber Gallatins and Flatiron Festivals appear in the $1500-$2000 dollar range at times, not sure where Silverangels or basic Northfields are lately, but watch for them. I passed on a $1500 Stiver in a small shop at one point, it just wasn't my cup of tea, but somebody got a deal. If you find something that really suits you in this range, you may never want to upgrade again.
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Buy the 315, used if possible, then start a savings account for the $2,000 F style you'd like to have which will be a step up in tone (and looks, too, probably). When you've saved up enough, sell the 150 and the 315 and buy the one you want.

    By the time you've got the money together your taste may have changed, but you'll have the money to explore whatever's next on the journey. You may decide that the scroll is expendable, or a requirement, or that you're indifferent on that issue, freeing you to get the best sounding/playing/looking mandolin available for the cash you can spend.
    Last edited by rfloyd; Apr-12-2020 at 3:50pm. Reason: clarity
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by rfloyd View Post
    Buy the 315, used if possible, then start a savings account for the $2,000 F style you'd like to have which will be a step up in tone (and looks, too, probably). When you've saved up enough, sell the 150 and the 315 and buy the one you want.

    By the time you've got the money together your taste may have changed, but you'll have the money to explore whatever's next on the journey. You may decide that the scroll is expendable, or a requirement, or that you're indifferent on that issue, freeing you to get the best sounding/playing/looking mandolin available for the cash you can spend.
    This ^^^^^
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    It’s ok to want an F-style. We’re just saying that it’s going to cost twice as much to get the same level of build quality and tone as a an A-style. Also, when you get one, you’re not going to play your kn150 anymore, so you might as well sell it or trade it in for the as yet unnamed F-style. Just saying, from experience, that I always reach for my favorite when I play. I have two F-styles and one A-style right now. Guess which one is my favorite? If I had a cigar-box mandolin and it had THE tone and THE volume, that’s the one I’d play. ‘Course, I’m not a bluegrass purist.

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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    The 315 is the f style version of the 305, which is the most common non KM-150 beginner rec you’ll find on here. I’ve owned a 315, and it was a good mandolin. Tone of mine was more in the “modern” or Collings camp. My Kentucky 675-S many moons ago was more in the traditional (Gibson) camp wrt tone. So, the 315 will sound different, but not necessarily better. The Eastman’s fit and finish were much better. Neither were in the league of a Collings MT I owned, or the Silverangel Econo, or my Kelly A5, hence the advice you’ve gotten so far. But, if you’ve got scroll fever, the 315 is the best sub-1000 dollar model out there, IMO.
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Virtually everything in this thread is subjective. What sounds good to me might be akin to fingernails on a chalkboard to you. While I'm somewhat concerned about looks, the way I THINK a mandolin plays or sounds is more important. ((Sound notwithstanding, however, I don't believe I could own a green (or yellow or blue, etc.) mandolin.))

    With your budget in mind, get what YOU think looks good and/or sounds good and/or plays like you like. Opinions are like as******, everyone has 'em and you can listen to 'em but you're the one buying it and playing it. Get what YOU want, not someone else thinks you should have.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    Virtually everything in this thread is subjective....
    Agree wholeheartedly. How many here have played 50 each KM-150's and MD315's, so that we have credentials to discuss them in general? Some may have owned one of each -- and every mandolin is different, even from others of the same make and model, subtly or significantly.

    If you can do it, go to an Eastman dealer with your KM-150, take an MD315 off the wall, and play both of them alternately for 30 minutes or so (if the dealer doesn't throw you out first). Better? Different? Worth $750 of your hard-earned? You be the judge -- 'cause it's your money, and your choice.

    I'd go to the biggest-inventory instrument dealer I could get to, and play everything he/she had in my price range, regardless of make or model. Heck, I might find an Ibanez or a Strad-O-Lin that "spoke to me," who knows...?
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    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    ..
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    Default Re: Thinking of buying a second mandolin

    A mandolin with a scroll on it, that's what I'm talking about. If you want one with a scroll, and points too, go for it. I've got one with a scroll, all the bluegrass players I see one YouTube have scrolls and mandolins with scrolls are what Lloyd Loar and Bill Monroe liked and played. Start out with one you can afford and then you'll own one. Eastman makes great mandolins so you're not going to be disappointed.

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