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Thread: Favorite A style mandolin?

  1. #1

    Default Favorite A style mandolin?

    Hey guys, Iím a newer mandolinist, originally a fiddler and violinist. I have some general music and performance knowledge and am making the conversion to becoming primarily a mandolin player. I would like to start saving for a professional mandolin, my favorite style being the A frame mandolins. Iíve been taking a peak at some Gibsonís, and I like their sound/build quality. What would you recommend for me? (Folk, Jazz, and classical mandolin will be my primary styles) ☺️Thanks for your input!

  2. #2

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I forgot to put here: my ideal price range is between $1.5 and 2k.

  3. #3
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    You will receive a lot of recommendations. From my personal experience, a vintage Gibson A model(oval hole) or a Kentucky KM950 or 956(f hole) are a very good instruments and should be available within or close to your price range. If you can afford to pay as much as 2500 you should consider a Collings A model (oval hole or f hole).

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  5. #4

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I have a mandola and an octave mandolin, both are Gallatin A styles and I'm utterly smitten. The most common complaint about Webers is their beefy necks but they're perfect for my hands. I haven't played a Collings but their guitars are worth every penny so I have no doubt their mandolins are comparably superb. Happy hunting!

  6. #5
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    A used Collings MT would be my recommendation. Good luck and best wishes in the search (the fun part!).
    ...

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    There is a lot of discussion as to what constitutes "professional mandolin". But in your price range you can get a pretty darn good mandolin, which may, in fact, be what you mean.

    Besides the fact that a mandolin can do everything, I might be tempted, at that price range, to get something specifically for one of the genres you like. So for example: classical I might take a look at the decent bowlbacks and mandolins where the balance between brilliance and warmth is biased towards the high notes.

    Because you are going to love the mandolin, and eventually you are going to get two more mandolins; one for folk, and one for jazz.

    A swiss army multi tool knife is a great thing to own, but one would rarely put in the tool box.
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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Just for the record, the difference between A and F styles is cosmetic only as per Steve Gilchrist and couples others in the know.
    From the start I too have loved the A style for its simple, understated beauty.
    My only advise is buy the one that bowls you over, you know--love at first strum! Then you won't look back. You most likely WILL look ON as your appreciation for mandolins grows and matures.

    Billy
    Billy Packard
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  10. #8

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    In the price range you mentioned, I'm on board with Caleb(Collings MT, used) or come to think of it can you buy a used Northfield A style at that price point?? Either would be wonderful imo.

  11. #9
    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    There are plenty of vintage Gibson A models out there, so sifting your way through them to find one that really speaks to you could be fun (or exhausting) depending on how long it takes to find one you're smitten by. They do vary considerably with vintage and model - neck size and shape, trussrod or no, paddle head or snake head, etc. A good one can be really great but there are plenty of quite middling ones too. I went down that road and eventually found one that I really liked. It had quite a lot of work done to it (neck, frets, bridge, nut, etc.)

    Alternately I'd agree with Caleb's recommendation of a used Collings MT. I've found the Collings MT to be one of the most reliably consistent mandolins out there - with few exceptions, they have excellent tone and projection, they're built to a high standard of quality with excellent woods and craftsmanship, and they're very easy to play. A professional-level instrument without a lot of bling. If you like them you'll like pretty well all of them.

    Enjoy the search!
    Gavin Baird F4 & F5, Weber Octar, Gibson K-1, Guild D50, Martin D35, Yairi DY-84, etc...

  12. #10
    Front Porch & Sweet Tea NursingDaBlues's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    We have several fine builders of exceptional mandolins at our disposal these days. And we should consider ourselves very fortunate for having such unprecedented choices.

    That said, I think we should exercise some awareness.

    I realize that the OP did not state that he/she prefers the Gibson voice. Further, I also realize the OP is asking for suggestions of favorite A styles. However, it should be stated that if someone has the Gibson sound in mind, then the choice needs to be Gibson. The other builders mentioned thus far in this thread all make some fine instruments. But they donít sound like a Gibson. Some builders may come close to a Gibson sound (which may be satisfactory for some), but it still wonít have that Gibson flavor.

    We all have our auditory preferences. Iím probably among the worldís worst in describing a mandolinís voice. But I do know what I like. And I know who makes what I like. That particular builder is not Gibson.

    So, I have no Gibson-brand bias. Iím just trying to let the OP be aware that mandolins from different builders do not sound alike -- there are modern voices, brighter voices, voices that emphasize low-end or high-end, and on and on. Just like ice cream, there are a lot of flavors out there; just know that vanilla bean and French vanilla are not the same.

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  14. #11

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    +1 for the Collings MT mandolins. I own an MT and an MTO. I went through a couple of Kentucky's and Loar's, and two very nice Eastmans. In my opinion the Collings A model mandolins are head and shoulders above these others in tone, playability, and workmanship. Resale is also good on the Collings mandolins, so if you buy one used you should be able to re-sell it in the future at or near your original purchase price.

  15. #12
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Reesemartin View Post
    What would you recommend for me? (Folk, Jazz, and classical mandolin will be my primary styles) ☺️Thanks for your input!
    While a number of people seem to be recommending A5ís, your musical applications would lend themselves just as well and perhaps better to an oval hole. You donít say from your fiddle background if youíre interested in vintage instruments with a bit of mojo, but Iíd be looking for a Loar era snakehead like this one:

    https://bernunzio.com/product/gibson-snakehead-26726/
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
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    2010 Black GBOM
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    2018 Vessel TM5

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    Registered User Joey Anchors's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Another good choice is the Waterloo WL-M. They seriously are so good they hang with the big boys!

    (Aka.. the Waterloo flattop mando sounds so good it competes with high end carved tops.)
    2020 Waterloo WL-M ďSOLĒ
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  17. #14

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I've got a 2011 Weber Bitteroot A5 and it's one of the finest mandolins I've ever played, it sounds better than the Fern A5 and my Bitteroot F5

    I think I really struck luck with this one,

    Dave H
    Last edited by Dave Hanson; Jun-06-2020 at 1:50am. Reason: a small mistake
    Eastman 615 mandola
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    2001 Paul Shippey oval hole

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  19. #15

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    If you like the Gibson A's...you can get a Montana-built Flatiron A-style from the 80's or early 90's. Gibson couldn't compete with Flatiron, so they bought the company in 1987 or so, and ultimately moved production to Nashville. Plenty of good Flatiron information on these forums if you look around. Lots of people love 'em.

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  21. #16
    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Well, there's a nice-looking '23 Gibson A snakehead that just showed up in the classifieds today. I'm glad to stick with my Collings MT recommendation (or MT-O if you're also interested in an oval hole model) but having said that, the snakeheads are often considered among the best of the Gibson A models. Might be worth checking out.

    Enjoy!
    Gavin Baird F4 & F5, Weber Octar, Gibson K-1, Guild D50, Martin D35, Yairi DY-84, etc...

  22. #17
    Registered User Lane Pryce's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I like Collings MT or MT2. Lp
    J.Lane Pryce

  23. #18
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Save yourself a heap of cash, take a listen to The Loar LM-400.
    If it's for you, head on over to The Banjo Warehouse for big savings. NFI.
    2019 The Loar Supreme LM700 VS

  24. #19
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I like my Ratliff CountryBoy and my old Weber Absaroka.
    Play it like you mean it

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    Registered User Chris W.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I just got a Sachwyn Beaver Tail flat top. Great little mando.
    Northfield NF-5S
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  27. #21

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I have one of the original (pre-Koch Brothers acquisition) Shmergel Radiators - got that Radiata soundboard that radiates a lotta sound. Would post a pic but it crashes the whole forum if I try to post it. Got my hearing checked the other day, needed hearing aids. Brought the Shmergel in to have the new hearing aids adjusted so it'd sound nice. Went into the booth to play some samples for the audiologist, now he's deaf, too.

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  29. #22
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Keep your eyes open for a Gibson A5L. 88 through 93 are a fine group of mandolins. The Flatiron Artist model A's from that period are excellent as well. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  30. #23
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Marty Jacobson View Post
    I have one of the original (pre-Koch Brothers acquisition) Shmergel Radiators - got that Radiata soundboard that radiates a lotta sound. Would post a pic but it crashes the whole forum if I try to post it. Got my hearing checked the other day, needed hearing aids. Brought the Shmergel in to have the new hearing aids adjusted so it'd sound nice. Went into the booth to play some samples for the audiologist, now he's deaf, too.
    Didn’t the originals use some radium paint? Or is there actual fissile material that accounts for the radiation signature?
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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  32. #24

    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    I've owned two really great A model mandolins, each of which I paid $1,000 for. One was a 1991 Flatiron with F holes. It had a magical tone trending toward bluegrass. I'd still have it save for the tiny neck. The other was a simple 1921 Gibson A model. It had a wonderful loud, full, and round sound. The neck was perfect for me; wide, full perfectly straight. The Gibby was great for old time, celtic and classic. Not so much for bluegrass, which I don't play anyway. I still own it.

    Used American made Breedlove A models sound good and are well made.

  33. #25
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    Default Re: Favorite A style mandolin?

    Save your money and try to find a used Girouard A5 or oval. For not much more and you can have a new Girouard. Fantastic instruments !
    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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