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Thread: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

  1. #1

    Default What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    Hey guys. I'm thinking of giving in and getting a OM or Bouzouki (I posted here a while ago thinking about getting one lol. Still haven't been able to try one. Have been playing my brothers acoustic guitar. My heart still wants an assorted 8 stringer lol). From my research the Hora/Thomman ones are actually decent (and significantly cheaper than anything else), with some setup, ideally with a better bridge and tuners (and strings but thats normal to replace lol). I think the electric model has a better bridge, but I could also just get a better bridge.

    I have like 0 knowledge on the subject tho, so I'd rather not accidentally buy the wrong thing.

    For bridges I found mandolin ones like this, but most appear to not be for flat top, which I dont think is right.

    https://www.amazon.com/Musiclily-Ros...dp/B00CE221WM/


    And would I just get normal tuners like this?

    https://www.amazon.com/Metallor-Mach...dp/B07L2G6RJV/

    thanks for any help guys

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    My advice, for what it's worth (<2 or thereabout) is to get the instrument and try it for a while before investing in bridge/tuner upgrades. You may in fact decide that you want to improve the instrument -- or you may find it's satisfactory as is -- or you may decide OM/zouk ain't for you, and don't want to put money into improving it. The Romanian Hora instruments are all solid woods, a plus, but pretty basic in terms of finish, ornamentation, and the finer details. If you went up a few hundred and tried Gold Tone or Trinity College instruments, you'd get a more attractive package, but not necessarily better to learn the ropes on.

    You definitely don't want the bridge you linked, which is an adjustable one for an arched-top instrument. Flat-top mandolin bridges are available: here's one that you'd have to slot yourself, which probably makes sense since it's accommodating heavier-gauge wound strings. Flat-top bridges aren't height-adjustable, other than sanding off material yourself, so installing a new one might be a bit of a project, between slotting and adjusting the height.

    Don't think of getting tuners until you've measured how the holes are spaced on the headstock. Standard mandolin tuners would probably work, assuming correct spacing, but again, recognize you're working with heavier strings.

    Enjoy your "big" mandolin, and realize that down the page there's a forum for OM's, bouzoukis, mandolas, citterns etc.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Flatiron 3K OM

  3. #3
    Registered User Aaron Bohnen's Avatar
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    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    The Horas are certainly inexpensive, one of the cheapest ways to try out a bouzouki/octave mandolin. They're not great though, and if you order one online then depending on the specific one that comes in the mail it could take quite a bit of doing to get into good playing condition. Potentially bridge and tuners as you suggested, strings, setup, etc. Maybe over $300 by the time it's all done, again depending on the one you receive.

    Just above that price range there's also the A. Carvalho instruments which could be worth considering. Kieran Moloney sells those and they are quite a step up in quality from the Horas.

    You're eager to get an octave to start playing and that's awesome. You'll sometimes see this advice here on the forum, but it's worth repeating. There's an advantage to waiting if you can use the time to save up a bit more $ and also cruise the classifieds on this site for a knockout deal. A Carvalho, Gold Tone, Eastman or Trinity College could all be potentially better choices than the Hora. And if you could find a second-hand Pono at a price you were comfortable with those are really great for the $. All of these have been reviewed here on this site so you can get a good idea of some of their strengths and differences. Once you break $1k the choices start to widen up significantly.

    Another option might be to get your hands on a cheap and cheerful baritone ukulele and use a set of classical guitar strings for OM tuning. That would get you playing a 20" scale fifths-tuned instrument quickly and inexpensively (all-in under $100). You could see how you like the experience of that while saving some $ and waiting for a great deal on a keeper OM to come along.

    Best of luck and enjoy!
    Gavin Baird F4 & F5, Weber Octar, Gibson K-1, Guild D50, Martin D35, Yairi DY-84, etc...

  4. #4
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    I second the Carvalho alternative. I don't know what the Horas run, but I got a Carvalho octave from Moloney Music in Galway, nicely set up and with a foam case shipped to the States for a bit under $400. It's a nice instrument.

  5. #5

    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    Thanks for the input guys. Its always tricky when getting into an instrument. You dont want to spend too much but you also dont want to get something that sucks either. I've experience trying cheap instruments first hand and its usually pretty rough haha. I was hoping that the hora with like a new bridge and tuners set up well would be ok because its just so much cheaper than everything else. And ya I could try the hora and then upgrade if I like it but they sound like they come set up really poorly so at that point I was like, Why not just replace the bridge while I'm at it lol.

    I have actually thought of getting a baritone uke. I have a tenor uke and enjoy playing it. but I'm trying to not get too many different instruments because I have this habbit of getting too many things and then not using most of them haha. What I love about ukes is they are so affordable. You can get a good kala baritone for sub $150. And my chinese tenor was $70 and is surprisingly not as garbage as one would expect.

    I looked in the wts section but most things are significantly out of my budget. I would also consider a mandola but normal mandolin is a bit high for the sound I'm going for. And I feel like a OM is more versatile because I can capo it into a mandola. Which might be blasphemy to a mandola player but to me it sounds like a good idea.

    I can look int osome of the things you guys mentioned tomorow, I need to go to bed. I did do a quick google and found moloneymusic which has some pseudo affordable ones, but they are still a noticeable amount over the hora. And I tried to calculate shipping and shipping was 120 euro. Which is just way too much. Idk if something was wrong cuz thats crazy. Thomman shipping is like 66$. Making the purchase like sub $250.

    What bugs me is the USA sellers like hobgoblin and lark in the morning, have so much mark up a hora clone zouk is over $400. Then an Ashbury which seems to always cost more is also a bit over $400. Idk how that compares to hora, but is still a noticeable amount more. But at least the markup isnt crazy.

    If I had infinite money I'd go for a black trinity college one but. Ya a little out of my budget to say the least lol.

  6. #6
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    Well, apparently you can buy a Hora octave mandolin for $170, and I don't know how you could beat a price like that! Who knew?

    There's the old "you get what you pay for" rule of thumb, but sub-$200 for a solid wood instrument is pretty amazing. You can get an at-least-playable OM, give it a try, and not have risked a sizable amount of money. Even the used Trinity College OM's seem to be bringing $750 or so.

    I still would get the instrument, see what the set-up is like, and play it for a while before going for an upgrade. But it's hard to argue that the Hora is probably the least expensive alternative. Cafe member Rob Meldrum offers a free e-book on DIY mandolin set-up, so if you're confident enough, you can at least tweak the factory set-up before going for new bridge and tuners.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  7. #7

    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    I always post one or another DL vid to demonstrate the viability of the "hora/ozark/celtic moon/whatever.." CBOMs. Although Mr Dave obviously has the best mic/pickup/amp arrangement, believe it or not this is essentially how the things sound (sans amp, reverb, et al). Ya he has them re-fretted, or just pulls a few, for his temperaments, but he doesn't bother even to change out the cheapo tailpiece - that's the original piece they come with. Notice they have a "zero fret" so you won't have to fuss with the nut..





    Sure the tuners are crap, the fret work may require a bit of leveling, and are very lightly built so may have some top sinkage - but if you get one with straight-enough neck you can simply drop in a bridge to remedy any action deficiencies, since they don't have adjustable truss rods. Don't know if Mike Dulak is still giving them away, but he sent me a half-dozen of adjustable heights, and that was the only mod i made to my hora zook (acquired for $145).
    Last edited by catmandu2; Jul-11-2020 at 1:29pm.

  8. #8

    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    Ya I'm also a believer in the "You get what you pay for" but I also believe that more expensive products usually have deminishing returns. Meaning that a 400$ will be better than the 200$ one, but not by double. But even the little benefits can be a big deal. Which usually ends with me settling somewhere around the middle. Because its a nicer product than the cheap but spending more usually has minimal gain. Like I really like the Yamaha apx500iii guitar I've been using (is either my dads or my brothers that they dont use). My brother picked it cuz it sounded better than every other acoustic of the same price range at guitar center. I've played my dads $800 ish one and it doesnt feel that much better. Its just set up better because they paid to have it set up. And its pickup is way better, and prob some other little things.

    So this leads me to my current predicament haha. I'm trying to decide. Get the hora because I can get it for like $220 shipped, and then if I like it in a year or so if I stick with it get something better like a trinity college? (and maybe upgrade it a bit while waiting)

    Or, save up a bit more and take the risk of getting a $400 or so range (if these even exist), and hopefully its good enough that I dont need to replace it? I really like that the hora OM has a black version. Are there any black OM's in the $400ish range? Including shipping, which is usually 50-100$. Theres an ashbury one for $400 ish, but how much better is it really than the hora? It doesnt even seem to have a truss rod.

  9. #9
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    I had a Hora-made octave years ago. It was rebranded by a British company I can't remember, but it wasn't Thomman. What I found was:
    • The neck was as thick as a baseball bat sawn in two lengthwise.
    • The tuners were rubbish and their spacing was different than regular slot head mandolin tuners. I had to have a luthier do some "surgery" to replace them.
    • The top sank.
    • Mine had an upgraded bridge the previous owner had fitted. I hadn't heard it with the original, so I don't know if it made any difference. The tone was just OK.

    I am all for entry-level instruments, I've been there, but I found it more trouble than it was worth. If I had it to do over, I would have dug deep and bought the next level up.

  10. #10

    Default Re: What upgrade for Hora/Thomman Octave Mandolin / Bouzouki

    Thanks for the info. I've heard so much mixed bag info on the cheap hora's that it does make it hard to pull the trigger on it.

    Another thing I thought of that I've seen on chiff and fipple forum a lot regarding buying a first instrument (I also flute & whistle). They always say that buying higher end has good resale value, but buying cheap doesnt. So buying like a 50$ flute has no resale, but buying a 300$ you could sell used for only a $50 loss, making it better even for trying out. I'm wondering if OM's are similar? The hard part is shipping will be a lot more, and I prob had to pay a lot of shipping. So I feel like the loss could still be noticeable if I were to sell it down the road if I didnt stick.

    How are ashbury's? They seem to have one thats the closest thing to hora pricing I can find, from hobgoblin Uk it claims I can get a rathlin shipped for like $385 (its weird, it says 300 pounds but when I put it in the cart it drops to 249 + shipping = 307pounds?).

    The A. Carvalho's on www.moloneymusic.com dont cost TOO much (if their quality is better than ashbury. Everything ive heard about them has been good) but the issue is the shipping to USA is insane (its like $136, thomman and hora from ebay are $50-66). But if I could find A.Carvalho from a seller with better shipping it might be doable. I'll look into any other decent options.

    If I wanted to spend extra I'd go black trinity college because I think they just look super cool but thats definitely out of my current price for a while and is prob overkill and I saw a forum post saying he thinks his A Carvalho is better than his TC anyway.

    While looking around I saw that on folkreps it says APC are made to order. I wonder if its possible for me to buy directly from the manufacturer? But I cant find how. I'm especially interested in the cedar version because it looks cooler haha.
    Last edited by Elijah; Jul-14-2020 at 12:45pm.

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