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Thread: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

  1. #1

    Default Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    While we're waiting for everything to get back to normal, I've been mulling an instrument upgrade: I play a Kentucky KM1000 now (flat fretboard, F-style) and it's just fine for my level. But there's a sweet tone that I'm missing, and from my 'old-timey' music background I tend to lean more toward the simplicity of A-style mandolins (which, coincidentally, would make a great 2nd instrument). This has me looking at Collings MT/MT2, Pava, Ellis as fine examples of the style.

    So for those who have played and compared these three - I'm really curious about differences and 'feel'. The Ellis may be a different price point, but I'm still curious in the comp. I'm normally the "play it and then decide" but that's near impossible right now....

    Heavily leaning toward a collings at the moment- there seems to be a good selection out there, and lots of different options (torrefied, varnish, etc)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    I'm kinda in your position right now, looking to upgrade from a Loar. I'm looking really closely at a Northfield Big Mon.
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    and a few more....

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    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Mando mutt had a very nice MT2 on his site at a great price too. Think it was a 2016. AD tops on the MT2 vs the Engleman on the MT. Cutting sweet MT2 vs warmth of of the MT. I’m partial to the MT2. Can’t really go wrong with any of the mandolins you mentioned. Lp
    J.Lane Pryce

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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Quote Originally Posted by hbeernink View Post
    While we're waiting for everything to get back to normal, I've been mulling an instrument upgrade: I play a Kentucky KM1000 now (flat fretboard, F-style) and it's just fine for my level. But there's a sweet tone that I'm missing, and from my 'old-timey' music background I tend to lean more toward the simplicity of A-style mandolins (which, coincidentally, would make a great 2nd instrument). This has me looking at Collings MT/MT2, Pava, Ellis as fine examples of the style.

    So for those who have played and compared these three - I'm really curious about differences and 'feel'. The Ellis may be a different price point, but I'm still curious in the comp. I'm normally the "play it and then decide" but that's near impossible right now....

    Heavily leaning toward a collings at the moment- there seems to be a good selection out there, and lots of different options (torrefied, varnish, etc)
    From the three my choice would not be difficult , ELLIS ! If you can swing the cost ! I would also throw a Girouard in the mix !! A great mandolin!
    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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  6. #5
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Those are all great choices, Pavas are made in the Ellis shop but cost half as much.
    I would consider Girouard mandolins as well and those new Northfield A specials look pretty sweet too.

    Good hunting!
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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  8. #6

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    thanks everyone - helpful feedback. Now I have five builders to sort through! (what I call a 'high-quality' problem)

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Seen Wheel of Fortune? that may be a method to pick among those competing quality builders ,

    Spin the wheel with those names on it..
    writing about music
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  11. #8
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    I've been doing a lot of research on the same types of A-style mandolins the past few months, and, to my shame, have probably read most of the threads about mandolins in this class from the past few years!

    Where I've landed on this I think is that it is nearly impossible to get a good read on differences between instruments without playing them. So many descriptions of their sound conflicts. High quality sound clips of mandolins by these builders might offer a decent point of comparison, especially if recorded in the same way with the same player, but not every Pava, Ellis, Collings, Girouard, etc. will sound quite the same. I would check out The Music Emporium's youtube channel--lots of sound clips of these builders played by the same player recorded in a similar way. It's the closest I've gotten to being able to get a decent guess of the general tonal profiles of these builders from afar, but it has also illustrated how each individual instrument may vary even by the same builder.

    Another factor that I have rarely seen discussed is that I'm not so sure any of us can very confidently trust our memories of an instrument we only played for less than a day many months, or sometimes years ago, such that we can compare it to another instrument we played at a different time and place. I have played at least one instrument from all these builders, but can't remember how they differ in super specific ways that makes me feel confident in choosing between them. Doesn't help that I've never been able to compare more than two of these back to back at a time. I can say from the Pava/Collings MT comparison I did a year and a half ago that the Collings was louder, with a more focused sound while the Pava was a rounder, warmer sound (but how warm, how round? So subjective!). Played a Girouard and Collings MT back to back a month ago and felt similarly, but the Pava was long enough ago that I can't comment on how it compared to the Girouard. And one time I brought in my Breedlove as another point of comparison, but another time I did not, so my perception could have been colored by that as well. Collings has the very distinctive sharp V-neck profile, so that is worth considering; for the way I play the neck profile makes little difference so long as it isn't oversized, but for some that V makes a big difference in whether they love or hate Collings. There are also more Collings out there than these other builders generally, so out of all these this may be the most of these builders to be able to trust the general description of their tone, as everyone comments that they are very consistent in sound.

    I have kind of settled on having to take a chance on a used instrument by any of the builders in this general class, and then sell it on if it is not quite what I'm looking for, or else waiting quite a long time to go to multiple stores that have many of these in stock to buy the best one I play. I play a very fine sounding Breedlove Quartz OF, but each of these builders would represent an upgrade from yours and my current mandolin, and if not having the exact tone we are looking for, they are all F-hole A style mandolins of extremely high quality with mostly subtle differences in sound.
    "Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man."

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  13. #9

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Thanks Brandon - you raise a great point on memory. I'm in camp of finding the instrument that feels and sounds right (at the time) and then not worrying too much about comparisons, and just spend time playing. At least with guitars, that's what I keep telling myself (and it's mostly true).

  14. #10
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Well, it matters weren't bad enough, have you thought about oval holes vs f-holes? Geez, I already feel sorta bad mentioning this...
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  15. #11

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    now that's funny.

    yes actually - I'll stick with f-holes for anything new or recent. If some old, beat up vintage thing comes along with a big missing part in the middle of the soundboard but still manages to sounds amazing- well that might change my mind.

  16. #12

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Hands down, at TME the Girouard A5 Concert would be my pick. It has to be one of the best sounding A style mandolins I have heard. My choice would be that one or that very fancy MF5v at $16k. Save yourself some $$$$. I cannot fathom why it is still there, other than the fact that a) I have one just like it b) Max and Lauri are currently making me an oval hole mandolin, and c) I just bought a Brock OM.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    I like my Weber

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    There is this used Ellis Deluxe in the classifieds.....

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/153232#153232

    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    The MT2 is a sure thing and will have good resale when it’s time to upgrade. The Ellis is good, if you have more money to spend. The Pavas are super, very similar to the Ellis mandolins, but I’d play one before I bought it. If you’re upgrading from a Kentucky, the MT2 or Pava would be the logical step.
    '09 Gilchrist Model 1, “July 9” Red Diamond F-5, '12 Duff F-5, '19 Collings MT2, ’24 A2-Z, ’24 F-2, '13 Collings mandola, '82 D-35, Gibson Keb Mo.

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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Flynn View Post
    I have kind of settled on having to take a chance on a used instrument by any of the builders in this general class, and then sell it on if it is not quite what I'm looking for
    I’ve never been great at evaluating an instrument in a crowded store during a brief window of time. I get to know their strengths and weaknesses much better over a prolonged audition when purchased used at appropriate depreciation and moved along if they don’t stick.

    I had a Collings MT that played great and was a loud, piercing instrument, cutting through a mix, but a bit strident for solo work.

    I later bought an early Pava and liked its complex voice but noticed that it got lost in a crowd and wasn’t as agreeable to my left hand.

    I haven’t bought an Ellis — yet — but I moved both the Collings and the Pava after I purchased a Passernig that seemed to combine the best elements of each. They don’t turn up often but I’d pounce on one if it did.
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  22. #17

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    I do have some experience with these. All of them over my ability and can be good to great mandolins. I tend to like the traditional dry woody bluegrass type mandolins for sound. So take my opinion for what it is worth.

    Collings MT - Very limited playing but I have heard a lot of them in jams and local performances. I have heard some really good ones but there is something about the tone that does not do it for me. This may be one of the only mandolins I could pick out of a blind tasting. Can be a great value and again there are some killer ones.

    Collings MT2 - There is something about the tone that is much more pleasing to me than the MT's. They can lean towards a more modern tone, but I have heard a few bluegrass monsters. Fit, finish, playability and tone they can have it all and be a lifetime instrument. As mentioned above there are going to be some better than others and a few that stand out.

    Pava - I have played on and hard a couple of others. I bought a new one with a trial period. It was the base satin model. It was light, responsive and really loud. It was brand new and really leaned towards the modern sound. I had a Nashville Flatiron at the time and it was a pretty good one and I liked the sound more. I also prefer a traditional sunburst finish with a binding front and back also. I think about that Pava from time to time and think it probably turned into a great mandolin for someone. The do seem to have a slightly more soft V or U shaped neck that the Collings or the Ellis. Fit finish and playability were top notch as well. Can be a great value.

    Ellis A5- I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and got a great deal on my Ellis. Otherwise I could not have afforded it. It is in a different league that any of the others. It is varnished finished for starters. Collings makes an MT-2 with a varnish finish that can be comparable and I think there may be a few varnish Pava's. Fit and finish is close to flawless. It has a one piece back that almost looks 3D and you feel like you could reach down inside, simply amazing. Sound is really special and tends to lean towards the modern tone. That being said it is very versatile you could play anything on it. and It is balanced but leans towards the bass side. It is plenty loud and you do not have a problem being heard. But the one think that truly makes it stand above anything else is the playability. I really liked a soft V neck and not chunky. I was concerned when I received the Ellis because it has a sharp V neck but after playing it or a while it just feels really natural. The fret board is radiused but it is has compound radius to it and is simply the best feeling fretboard I have played. I was watching a video by Bryan Kimsey who does repairs and set-ups to instruments and mandolins. He talks about being intuitive and this one is for me. Last summer at a mandolin camp we traded instruments in our class on the last day. There were some nice mandolins but nothing that really came close as far as playability. For the most part it was like going from a Corvette to a 3/4 ton pickup. I was surprised how much more difficult some mandolins were to play.
    Here are two sound samples of Ellis A5's - if you compare the sound of these to mine you could tell they are siblings

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np019ssSAT0

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-0I-T0iUXE

    So good luck in the search there are a lot of really good mandolins available to us. So you should be able to find something that speaks to you.

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  24. #18

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    I've owned all of these instruments and my favorite of the bunch was the Ellis, which was an F5. It was a great instrument, It had a big fat rich low end tone to it. But, I sold that when I got my Duff A5. I listen to recordings of that instrument and it is really great. Once you get to the Ellis A price level it opens up other great options, Duff, Kimble, etc. I love my Duff A and think his As that he is currently building are insanely good, but that isn't on your list. Also I have an A built by Matt Ruhland. His instruments are an insane value and, but he has a real long wait list now so that also doesn't help. If I had to buy one blind from your list knowing I wasn't going to sell it and I had the budget I'd grab the Ellis. But, there are a heck of a lot of used Collings out there that you can usually get for a pretty good discount if you are patient. Since you are buying blind if you watch the market and get a good price you could then sell it for pretty close to what you pay if you aren't in love.

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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    If I didn't already a have a killer Elkhorn A, I would be interested in an Ellis A5. Collings usually don't have the sound I want to hear.

  26. #20
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Great topic....

    I haven't owned instruments by each of the three makers you list, but I've played instruments by them and have owned a MT and a MT-2. They're all great. It just depends what you like best, and an in-person session with each is really the best way to go.

    I will add... I played an Ellis F suped up series instrument at The Mandolin Store a few months ago and it was special. Not particularly loud, mind you, but exquisite tone.

  27. #21
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Your right, plenty of Collings up for sale in the classifieds, guess it wasn't their Holy Grail...shop carefully.
    2019 The Loar Supreme LM700 VS

  28. #22
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    I own a Collings MT and a Pava player - I am happy I have both. They have different sounds-the Pava has a more complex sound, and the Collings is "brighter" (the only word I can think of to describe it.) They can both handle being "driven" pretty hard, so no worries there. I enjoy both for their differences. Both are equally comfortable for me to play YMMV. Have you considered buying both? (Never let it be said that I discourage MAS!! LOL!!)

  29. #23

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Ellis, Pava, Collings "A models" mandolins

    I have had many opportunities to play Collings "A model," mandolins and find them all to be rather nice. Yet that extra couple of percent of overtones for depth and body of notes (That deep tone) I have never been able to find in the Collings mandos. They reach a nice place and seem to stay there. I really like every Collings “A” I’ve ever played but it's not what I look for in tone.

    My experience with Ellis and Pava A models is extensive and I have had the chance to use them both in full on Bluegrass bands, Old-time bands, jazz settings and trios and duos and a lot of studio work.

    I believe first of all the Ellis and Pava mandolins have the highest quality build from start to finish of anything on the market and this included those special ones from the ‘ 20’s. All of this is a combination of the Ellis/Pava build team, quality control, and a vision of the end results of workman and womanship for tone and playability. I feel they really know where they are going with the whole thing.

    Like any instrument you play new or vintage it’s always up to you the musician to discover what both you and the instrument are capable together. That journey/discovery is one of the greatest joys I have found in being a musician. Which is why I push for that extra few percent. And so that little extra I can get from tone and playability in Pava and Ellis mandolins is way more meaningful and worth the investment.

    I hope this helps.

    www.ellismandolions.com
    www.pavamandolins.com

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    Steve Smith

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  31. #24

    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Short answer is "yes".
    You won't be disappointed with any of them.
    I own a Collings MT2-O and have owned a Collings MT.
    I play mandolins in every shop that I can and I've never played a Collings that I wasn't happy with. Same goes for every Pava and Ellis I've played too.

  32. #25
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Ellis, Pava, or Collings MT2

    Such a great problem to have. All of these are all what I would consider to be " very fine" instruments, and all are certainly capable of making great music. Ultimately you can't really go wrong with any of them. I also think that you and I would probably pick the Ellis every time if we had a choice.
    The only thing I would add to what others have said is that the same mandolin can sound very different to my ears from one day to the next. Even when played in the same room, with the same pick, etc. I'm not sure if it's humidity, or sinus pressure - who knows. I just know that some days my Gibson really rings, and has that bright, clear & dry sound that I love so much. But sometimes when I go to play it, it just sounds off. Like the tones are muddy, maybe? But the next time I play it, it will be back to normal.

    It kinda adds a new wrinkle into the mix, to me. Which one sounds best on any given day, and would I likely pick the same one if I did it again next week?
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

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