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Thread: Describe your MAS progression

  1. #1

    Default Describe your MAS progression

    OK so my eyes have been opened how big a difference a good mandolin makes in terms of the enjoyment of this hobby.

    A couple years back I played an entry Eastman (315- which I realize has a good overall reputation) but no amount of pro set up or mods could get me to fall in love.

    Restarted with a second hand american KF breedlove and it has been like night and day. Love it love it love it. Guessing a serious upgrade would not be until the range of a used car...

    As a way for me to understand what the far off, but wisest next step up would be, could you guys describe the progression of mandolins that you've bought/played on your way to the 'one'? This is really just for fun.

  2. #2
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    It’s never a bad topic to explore:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...AS-Progression
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
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  3. #3
    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    My MAS progression can be scary as I've had 100's of quality mnadolins-some I sure wish I could've kept "like my old Paganoni F-5, a 2004 V-Fern- a few others" but its allowed me to get some killer old Gibson's such as a very nice virtually unplayed 24 Loar, a 26 and 34 Ferns, some F-7's and some rare ones like a 35 F-12, some old elevated board A-50's, and one that's still getting a makeover to make it a great player the 1934 Joe Wilson F-5 "perhaps the first known Gibson type copy" David Harvey is still in the process of fixing that up but I have no doubt it will be one heck of a player and it looks great also! I'm just surprised it survived with no top bracing at all! So he's installing Loar style tone bar bracing, a dovetail deep neck set, a riser block, a new fret board, new nut, tuners, bridge and tailpiece assembly! It was made by a violin builder and the neck and block were one piece so it was virtually unplayable so that's more than likely why it survived?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Started with an Eastman A5, then an Eastman F5 915 with an extremely poor setup and fret replacement from a dealer in Florida, then a very good Oldwave oval, then a Northfield with finish problems that were never resolved , two higher end mandolins that were returned as sound wasn't there, and finally now have an Ellis A5 , Ellis F5, Girouard A oval and a Girouard F oval . MAS is over with the Ellis and Girouard mandolins ! Love them !
    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 !

  5. #5
    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Be very careful. Once the flame of MAS is started, it is very, very difficult to extinguish.

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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    In chronological order.........Auria, 1916 Gibson A2, Kentucky 1000, Randy Wood F5, 1916 Gibson A4, 1920 Gibson F4, 1920 Gibson A3. Still have the last four and now I'm done................

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Started with a the Loar LM 220, and leaped right up to a Pava player, Weber oval, and Collings MT (plus a few bowlbacks) MAS is now satisfied.
    Forgot a Kentucky KM 805 (my only F-style) that I traded a guitar that didn't fit me for. It's nice, I am keeping it because it's my only F-style, but I don't like it as well as the Pava, Weber, and Collings.
    Last edited by LadysSolo; May-25-2020 at 9:40am. Reason: forgot one

  9. #8
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    search the forum for, "My Collections Complete." You can can read all about it! Here are the cliff notes:

    ‘50s Kay
    Aria PM-780 (marked “hand made,” f-style)
    Gibson A-3
    Alvarez A-100 (12-fret, a-model, f-holes, wood binding)
    Framus Guitar-shape
    Joe Hayes Unique with f-holes (folk art)
    Ibanez A-5 (15-fret, snakehead)
    Kingston Electric (hollow body)
    '84 Flatiron 1N
    Montana A Oval (Romanian-made)
    Kentucky A-180 f-hole (MIJ)
    Kentucky A-160S (MIJ)
    Vega VM-10 (MIJ, laminate)
    Ibanez A-model
    Framus A-model
    Flatiron A5-1 (Carlson)
    Hondo A oval hole
    Alvarez A-400 (Martin cant-top clone)
    Fender FM-61SE
    gibson “opryland” (tourist souvenir)
    Aria M-300 (2-point)
    Yasuma YM-130 (solid wood, MIJ)
    Kentucky KM-180B
    Aria Pro II A-style (very disappointing, laminate)
    Alvarez 2-point
    '30s Kalamazoo KM-11
    Ibanez A-style (interesting distressed finish)
    Ibanez D-hole
    Kentucky KM-250S (MIJ)
    Aria M-180
    Stiver A5 (great!)
    Washburn M-2
    Muth F-5
    Breedlove KO
    A5 IV kit (donated away)
    Cohen A5 (redwood/walnut)
    Muth A5
    ’24 Gibson A2Z
    Phoenix Bluegrass
    Ellis A5 Deluxe
    '25 Gibson A (or A1)
    Eastman MDO-305
    '83 Flatiron 1N

    f-d
    ¡papá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  10. #9

    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Infield View Post
    ... describe the progression of mandolins that you've bought/played on your way to the 'one'? This is really just for fun.
    1. Cheap one. Because "it was there" and already had strings on it, so I picked it up to play it. It was the only mandolin in the house at the time. Horrible, horrible instrument. Awful. Awful! Old plywood Kay. Could not keep it in tune at all, neck was not stable. Stopped playing mandolin altogether because of that dreadful Kay. Somehow or another, my dad was able to make that mandolin produce actual music, but it must have taken special patience and talent which I did not have.

    2. Next, a nice one. Old 1910's Gibson mandola, which of course is the next bigger size up from mandolin. A joy to play. I had that for some time. But, I really needed a high E string which it lacked, as my primary interest was simply flatpicking fiddle tunes, so I didn't actually play it a whole bunch, just now and then. Hear a quick lo-fi clip of the Gibson here, recorded in 1981, I'm playing the Gibson mandola as backing for my dad on banjo.

    3. Then, my best-ever mandolin - an early Steve Grimes mandolin. (His stuff goes for a fortune nowadays, but he wasn't all that famous yet, back then.) I sure liked the sound of that thing, and it played like a dream. Unfortunately, it was sadly lost in a natural disaster. No recordings are still in existence.

    4. No mandolin at all, again, for many years. Didn't play mandolin, didn't play much music at all, in fact. Too busy working.

    5. A loaner Soviet mandolin from a friend, one of those budget mandolins that originally cost $25 brand new. He thought it was time for me to start playing mandolin again. I disagreed with that philosophy at first, but I reluctantly agreed to take the mandolin home with me, figuring I would ignore it in the corner. But, since it was sitting there in my living room, I'd pick it up and play it, that was what got me back into mandolin. It had tuners that required a pair of pliers (padded so as to not leave marks, since it wasn't my instrument) to turn the knobs. I didn't much care for the sound of the thing, but it got me back into playing mandolin after all those years of not playing.

    6. Family attic-find bent-top Favilla with serious structural deficiencies. Hear it in action here. Shortly thereafter though, I had to 'retire' that mandolin due to increasing likelihood that the string tension (light gauge) would pull the instrument apart. Still don't have the money to sink it proper repairs for it, and I don't want to ruin it by allowing incompetent attempts at repairs. So it's sidelined.

    7. $50 Rogue. What a downgrade but a Rogue can be made to be marginally tolerable with a cheap stick-on pickup and a little reverb on a Roland Micro Cube amp with the knob set at "Acoustic", like this.

    8. No playable mandolin at all again. Way downsized. Probably temporary but we'll see.

    Morals of the story? (a) Better is better but it might not last so don't get too emotionally attached to it. (b) Cheap can be made to work, if your expectations are reduced accordingly. (c) Doing without, kinda sucks. (d) It's very difficult as a beginner to try to learn on a total piece of junk, because you blame yourself for all the deficiencies of the instrument. (e) After you already have some proficiency in playing, and your comfort level is higher, you can sometimes make even a derelict piece of junk produce some quasi-musical sounds by adapting your playing style to the wretched thing's many shortcomings (like this YouTube guy playing blues on an almost-toy guitar) ... but you probably won't wish to do that for an extended period of time... it's a cool challenge and all but after a while it gets tiresome and you just want something that sounds ok and plays halfway decent.
    That's all I know.

    Addenda 1: Evidently at one point I owned at least one other mandolin that's not listed above, because I recently found a batch of old pictures spanning a year or so where I was playing the thing. I don't remember it, must not have made much of an impression on me, although it looked nice in the pics. Appeared to be possibly some sort of early Asian import.

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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Ryder 5-string electric
    Weber Special Edition
    Buchanan 10-string
    Sold Weber
    Almuse 10-string electric
    Another Buchanan 10
    Another Buchanan 10
    Converted Ryder to 10-string
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    The viola is proof that man is not rational

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    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Here’s my list..

    Budget Gretsch (Forget the model)
    Kentucky KM900
    Eastman MD404
    Crystal Forest jazz five string
    Draleon Royale (current mando)


    And now lusting over this...

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Pyramid - flatwounds


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  14. #12

    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Quote Originally Posted by JL277z View Post

    Morals of the story? (a) Better is better but it might not last so don't get too emotionally attached to it. (b) Cheap can be made to work, if your expectations are reduced accordingly. (c) Doing without, kinda sucks. (d) It's very difficult as a beginner to try to learn on a total piece of junk, because you blame yourself for all the deficiencies of the instrument. (e) After you already have some proficiency in playing, and your comfort level is higher, you can sometimes make even a derelict piece of junk produce some quasi-musical sounds by adapting your playing style to the wretched thing's many shortcomings (like this YouTube guy playing blues on an almost-toy guitar) ... but you probably won't wish to do that for an extended period of time... it's a cool challenge and all but after a while it gets tiresome and you just want something that sounds ok and plays halfway decent.
    That's all I know.

    Addenda 1: Evidently at one point I owned at least one other mandolin that's not listed above, because I recently found a batch of old pictures spanning a year or so where I was playing the thing. I don't remember it, must not have made much of an impression on me, although it looked nice in the pics. Appeared to be possibly some sort of early Asian import.
    Wise words!!! Thanks to you guys who have kicked in their experience- bringing a smile to my face

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  16. #13
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    I'm probably breaking some unwritten MAS rule here, but I'm still playing the first mandolin I bought, uh (counting on fingers and toes)... 13 years ago. A Lebeda Premium Plus F-style with a redwood top.

    I had played guitar for 30-odd years, and went through a progression of guitars ending with several custom, high-dollar luthier orders. So I had an idea of what I'd have to pay for a really fine mandolin. On the other hand, I didn't have an unlimited budget. At that time, there were several Czech builders like Lebeda, Pruscha (sp?) and others, making great instruments at prices a little lower than equivalent models made in the USA due to the exchange rate at the time, and selling through USA retailers. I did a LOT of online research, mostly here on the Cafe, and the Lebeda name kept popping up the the time.

    I found one for sale at a store in the Midwest with an usual redwood top and chocolate brown semi-transparent finish. I was intrigued at the idea of a redwood top where the wood had traveled from the US West coast over to Eastern Europe, then back to the USA, where it could have a home where I live in the Pacific Northwest. Bringing that wood back home, as it were.

    IIRC, it was around $4,500 plus tax and shipping, similar to some of the custom acoustic guitars I had ordered. A bargain when considering carved archtop mandolins are usually more expensive than flattop guitars.

    So I bought it, and it turned out to be a wonderful instrument. It has a very clear tone, with strong notes up the neck. Maybe not an ideal Bluegrass machine in terms of "warmth" or woody tone -- I've heard other mandolins with more of that tone. But I don't play Bluegrass. I've settled into the world of Irish/Scottish trad, and the tone is great for cutting through a mix of fiddles and the occasional piper.

    I've never wanted another mandolin. I did buy a nice Weber OM a few years later, more of a sideways move. I suppose if someone dropped 10 or 20 grand in my lap and said I had to spend that on a mandolin, I might try a Heiden or Nugget or something, but I'm happy with this Lebeda. If you find a good'un the first time, it can be a keeper.

    Now I just have to duck the lightning bolt about to arrive from the MAS gods, for not jumping on the constant upgrade wagon...

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  18. #14
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    The first mandolin I played was a Martin A that a college friend owned. That get me wanting one and I ended up buying an American Conservatory bowlback from a store in New York City. Had that one for a while then started playing fiddle and I realized that bowlbacks were not cool and ended up trading for a Vega Cylinder back. Joined a string band and couldn't hear myself so I bought a 1919 Gibson A-3. Traded that a few years later for a 23 A2 that I still own. I have never been without at east one Gibson mandolin in my life but I also own a closetful of bowlbacks, some of high quality, plus the frontline being the ones I have accumulated over the years which are in my signature.
    Jim

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  19. #15
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    My list and my story:

    1) Briefly had a Jimmy Moon AE flat top mandolin back in Ireland, but sold it a few months later as I was moving to the States.

    2) A couple of months after my arrival in the States I bought a cheap Harmony Monterey as a birthday present for a friend, had so much fun playing it before I gave it to them that I decided a needed a mandolin of my own - I'm a tenor banjo player and I went from living in an isolated farmhouse in the Irish countryside to a tiny studio apartment in Oakland, CA where it was extremely difficult to play tenor banjo quietly! I figured a mandolin would be more "neighbor friendly".

    3) Bought a '60's Gibson A50 off of eBay - the classic "guitar player buying a Gibson because of name brand recognition" and I had a history of being happy with Gibson acoustic and electric guitars I'd owned in the past. The A50 didn't sound great, and I started reading about Flatiron pancakes here, so I sold the A50 and started to look for one of those.

    4) Got a nice Flatiron 2M off of eBay, in lovely shape, much nicer to play than the A50 was and nicer sounding too. Then MAS set in....

    5) Saw a blue Weber Aspen II on Elderly's website, read good things about them here and pulled the trigger on it - nicely set up and more tonal range than the Flatiron.

    6) Got a custom order Redline Traveler, with a Gold top finish as I've always loved that look on Les Pauls.

    7) Got a Pomeroy A4 - my first carved top mandolin (not counting the A50 which was only with me briefly) - sold the Flatiron and the Redline.

    8) Saw a lovely Weber Custom Gallatin oval F on the Mandolin Store's website - traded the Weber Aspen II towards it, and sold the Pomeroy.

    9) Got a J.Bouvier electric mandolin so I could play late into the night unplugged as by this time I was completely obsessed with mandolin playing.

    10) Got a Weber Vintage A from Greg Boyd's website. Had to sell the Gallatin though, something I always regretted as I really had a bond with that mandolin.

    11) Lost my job and had to sell the Vintage A a few months later. A Cafe member purchased it and I got an Eastman 905 in part exchange. Sold the J.Bouvier too. A month before losing my job I had commissioned a build with Jim Hilburn and was determined to not have to cancel it.

    12) Managed to cobble together 4 jobs to tide me over, offered a Mike Black A2Z and couldn't pass it up, was great to have a nice oval hole mandolin again, sold the Eastman.

    13) Hilburn A5 arrived at the end of the year. By this stage I was back to working one stable job, which was a relief.

    14) Had to sell the Mike Black to pay the taxman, sold the Hilburn to help finance a move. Didn't play mandolin or own one for a few of years.

    15) Was playing a lot of tenor banjo again and found myself wanting a mandolin too, so got a nice 1927 Gibson Ajr.

    16) Loved the Ajr but the flat fretboard just wasn't working for me, saw a lovely Black face gloss top Collings MT-O on the Music Emporium's website and bought it.

    17) Was perfectly happy with the MT-O until I attended Marla Fibish's first Irish Mandolin Winter Intensive workshop and played a lovely Girouard oval A that one of the other attendees had - went straight home after that first day and emailed Max about commissioning a build.

    18) My gorgeous Girouard Concert A arrived in Dec 2018 and didn't disappoint - I still can't believe it's mine. My MAS has been completely cured, and in addition to the fact that everything about this mandolin is perfect for me, it also has my Beagle, Janey Mack, inlayed on the headstock, so this one is going nowhere!

    (This list represents 7.5 years of playing, as shortly after the Hilburn arrived I stopped playing, so didn't touch a mandolin from January 2012 to December 2015 when I bought the Ajr).
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    1969 Martin 00-18




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  21. #16
    Registered User LastMohican's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Washburn M1SDLTBL
    Breedlove American FF
    Loar 590
    Northfield F5S
    TKD Falcon

    The "plan" (and we all know how that goes!) is to, at some point, put the TKD up for sale and buy another Northfield. We'll see.
    "I actually wanted to be a drummer, but I didn't have any drums." - Stevie Ray Vaughn

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  22. #17

    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Quote Originally Posted by LastMohican View Post
    Washburn M1SDLTBL
    Breedlove American FF
    Loar 590
    Northfield F5S
    TKD Falcon

    The "plan" (and we all know how that goes!) is to, at some point, put the TKD up for sale and buy another Northfield. We'll see.
    LastMohican,

    What are you getting sound wise from the F5S that is over and above the sound of the FF? Could you compare them for me?

  23. #18
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    1. no-name flat topped model with wood parquetry of a clown playing to the moon
    2. Harmony/Monterey A model with f-holes
    3. Washburn A model with oval hole
    4. Gerald Anderson F-5 style (#24)
    5. Ratliff R5 (F-5 style)
    6. Weber Yellowstone
    7. KM-1000 Kentucky, black
    8. Gibson F5G
    9. Gibson A 1917 pumpkin top
    10. Flatiron A Performer
    11. Trinity octave mandolin
    12. Fullerton Gloucester F5
    13. Gibson A3 project
    14. Gibson A 1915 project
    15. Harmony Shutt style 2 point
    16. Glenn F5 style
    17. Gibson A9
    18. Fender 5 string electric mandolin
    19. Epiphone Firebird 8 string electric mandolin
    20. couple of Kentucky A models (can't remember model #s)
    21. Stradolin
    22. Chris Warner Gibson F5 copy
    23. National Steel 30's period faux wood grain mandolin
    24. Nagoya F5 style retopped to F4 style
    25. Collings black top MT
    26. Daley F5 std.
    27. Gibson A Sheraton Brown
    28. Flatiron mandola
    29. Kentucky KM-805
    30. Martin A – 20’s
    31. Collings MF5
    32. Poe F4
    33. Sovereign flat top mandolin
    34. Carlo Catalfamo F5
    35. Kentucky KM-1000
    36. Gibson Army Navy
    37. Stradolin
    38. Gold Tone 4 string electric
    39. Gibson Army Navy
    40. Collings MF blonde
    41. Rigel A
    42. Flatiron pancake
    43. Gibson ’81 F5L
    44. Gibson Fern’03
    45. Gibson snakehead ‘23
    46. Gibson F4 ‘12
    47. Gibson F9 ‘02

    Only the last five Gibson mandolins remain
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

  24. #19
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    1974 I bought a $150 used Gibson A40 that's how it began..
    writing about music
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  25. #20

    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    foldedpath-

    sounds like you made a great call on the mando you do have! Would love to hear a redwood topped mando at some point.

  26. #21
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Infield View Post
    foldedpath-

    sounds like you made a great call on the mando you do have! Would love to hear a redwood topped mando at some point.
    My Cohen A5 is redwood and walnut. Play it all the time. Love it too!

    f-d
    ¡papá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

  27. #22
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Gold Tone, discovered I loved playing mando
    Custom Weber, cuz I had friends working there and they convinced me to shoot for the moon, and it’s a NICE one
    Custom Ratliff, cuz I needed a bluegrass beast.
    That is all, and it covers a 20 yr span.
    Avoiding cheap ones reduced my numbers, but it didn’t limit my $$.
    Happy pickin
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
    Deering Classic Open Back
    Too many microphones

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  28. #23
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    $200 new Kentucky Oval via Amazon. Arrived in cardboard box with strings and bridge in baggie
    $400 used Flatiron via ebay. Nice mandolin but high un-adjustable action
    $2200 new satin Pava A via Elderly. Could not have been a better sounding/playing mandolin
    $2000 new satin blonde Pava A via Mando Mutt. Beautiful but brighter than any Collings I've played
    $2000 almost new Collings A via Ebay. Was lucky to get a nice sounding Collings online but still too bright for my taste
    $2400 Kelley (local builder Skip Kelley) A from Mando Mutt. Traded the Collings. Still have it. Great mandolin
    $3500 used Ellis A located local via MC classifieds. Worthy of it's reputation.
    Commissioned a James Bernabe 3 point. Local builder. The only issue I have with a new instrument is it's so pristine I treat it like fine china and wouldn't dare take it camping. Go figure
    I'm done. Blessed with 3 nice mandolins and cursed with skills not worthy of the $200 one.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  30. #24

    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    Mark- if you see this, two Q's for you

    1. I noticed that you and some others have made the first real jump to a Pava. Can you describe the decision process.... they seem like a good value???
    2. Along the same lines, the second pava that was really bright (presumably more so than the first). Was this expected from different specs or just a one-off difference?

  31. #25
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    Default Re: Describe your MAS progression

    At the time Pava mandolins were smokin hot on MC and I leaned on other's advice and opinion for some assurance of a 'good' mandolin bought online w/o trial. I bought it on rep and was not disappointed in any way. A very sweet sounding, nicely balanced, mandolin that still sounds great in the hands of it's new owner

    The second Pava was a learning experience on how two mandolins made by same hands - maybe a year apart with same specs could be so different in sound quality. Along with that I understand how one picker can love brand X and another not care for it at all.

    That said, Pava would be on my short list every time for a satin A (up model Pava's have some very worthy competitors - imo). And after playing other Pava mandolins I believe the first one I had was the rule and the second one the exception

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