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Thread: Buy without trying

  1. #1
    Resident Hack
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    Default Buy without trying

    Hi all

    Hopefully, there's patience with yet another how-to-buy thread. I am looking at getting my first semi-pro level instrument. I can probably go between 2K and 3K. Given the current situation, how are people dealing with not being able to try stuff out before buying? It seems like a lot to spend, neck untouched.

    As long as I'm in here, what would folks recommend today? If I need to be amplified, should I stick to instruments that already have a pickup, buy without and install or go with an exterior mounted?

    Thanks
    Mitch

  2. #2
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Two of my three mandolins were purchased without having in hand. Each mandolin more than exceeded my expectations. The reputation of the particular instruments, integrity of the sellers, and internet were the key.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

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  4. #3
    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    For what it's worth and I can only speak from my experiences. I have bought several mandolins through the Cafe Classifieds and sold a few this way as well. I always sell or buy with a 48 hr. trial period with the buyer paying postage both ways.
    I make every attempt to not oversell in the description and have found that those mandolins that I have purchased to be as described by the seller. A good group of people use this site and any disreputable seller is quickly identified (I have only heard of 2 or 3 bad apples since participating on this site).

    As per the a pick-up I can again only describe my experience. I have 2 instruments set up with K & K twin pickups. Installation must not be a big deal as the local luthier charges me $30 for installation. I only use the pickups when I need to be quick and clean. Otherwise, I prefer to be on a mic.
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  5. #4

    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Quote Originally Posted by MitchStein View Post
    Given the current situation, how are people dealing with not being able to try stuff out before buying?
    If, by the current situation, you mean pandemic restrictions/precautions, I would say not much has changed if buying by mail. Most stores are open for mail order and can send instruments to you. You may wish to discuss return policy details.

    If you are talking about shopping in person, it depends on the store. Some have opened, some have not, and some are open by appointment. I was in Nashville about a month ago and Carter's had just reopened, but by appointment only. I scheduled an appointment, wore a mask, and had the entire store to myself for one hour. I ended up buying a guitar. It was actually a better shopping experience -- I didn't mind feeling pampered!

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  7. #5
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    You can get a lot of mandolin for that money. As has been posted here before...
    An A style will get you more build quality for the money then an F style.

    Buying used will get you a better deal then new.

    There are a handful of American, small shop makers that offer exceptional instruments in that range, Girouard, Summet, Pava to name a few.

    Here is an Elkhorn F-5 in the classifieds at the moment that is very fairly priced...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157684#157684

    A used Mowery A-5 in the classifieds...

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/157160#157160



    NFI
    Last edited by Charles E.; Jul-27-2020 at 6:06pm.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  8. #6
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Every mandolin I've ever owned has been purchased without getting the chance to try it out first. Knowing what your preferences are (flat vs. radius fretboard, finger rest vs. no finger rest, oval hole vs. f-holes, neck profile preference) can help as far as making educated guesses as to whether an instrument will be a good match or not. I've only ever returned one mandolin, and that was an electric mandolin with poor fit and finish vs. how it was described by the seller. Quite a lot of options in your price range, particularly if you go the used route - have fun shopping!
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    It’s actually no worse than getting yiur favourite luthier to build your dream mandolin for you.

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  11. #8
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Have purchased a couple of mandolins without trying them. However, I had enough experience to know what I was likely getting. Still not my first way of doing things, but these days, it's just the way it is.

    As to instruments in that range, you have a lot of choices. A used Collings MT is a solid choice. Bias alert - I have one, like it and have performed numerous gigs with it. Get one and have a K&K pickup installed and you should still be under the top of your limit.

    FWIW, I also like Flatiron mandolins. Picked up my Performer model A with a bridge pickup for well under your price range. Haven't had it long enough to do many gigs with it. Got it just before all shows and concerts were getting cancelled. Have done band practices with it and the fiddler in that band likes it better than my Collings.
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    I've purchased 3 mandolins without being able to play them first (2 via the MC classifieds) and all 3 exceeded my expectations. This is just my experience, but I think Jill has it right - if you've done enough playing to know what you want, and you buy from builders with a good reputation, the odds are in your favor. My first cafe classifieds buy was a Jade, which was sooo much better than the Washburn I was playing. It was used, and a steal. The second was a Northfield (again, used) and it was real step up from the Jade. Once again, I thought it was a great deal. For the third, I had an A style custom built by David Houchens (Bryce Instruments), and it's my every day player now. I couldn't ask for anything more in a mandolin. And again, a shockingly good deal. So I might just be lucky, but I think buying without playing can be relatively low-risk. Especially since it's so hard to find a store that carries an extensive selection.
    Mitch Russell

  13. #10
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Hmmmm, I can't remember how many mandolins I've had over the years...but I've purchased most of them without being able to play them first.
    Some from dealers here on the cafe, a few thru the classifieds. I've not had any problems with what I've purchased but I tend to ask questions about things that matter to me (neck size/shape, condition of frets, etc.)

    Kirk

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    I've bought 100's of instruments without trying them first-a major majority I knew they'd be fine as I go for quality, If I did get stuff that wasn't great or arrived damaged-it went back or if I got a deal-I kept and flipped! Its all a good bit of fun for nut cases like myself!

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  16. #12
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    If you hang out here for a little while, you'll learn that there many trusted dealers and luthiers. Over the years, I purchased 2 Breedloves from The Mandolin Store and a Gibson from Mandomutt, all sight unseen. All have exceeded my expectations and I still have all three. Both dealers were very easy to work with.

    And, Ray (T) is right. It's like having a luthier birth one for you. A couple of years ago, Ray Blevins custom-made an f-style octave mandolin for me. It's an amazing piece of work. Once again, it exceeded my expectations and I still have it.

    Buying from folks on this web site and buying from, say, eBay, are worlds apart.
    David Hopkins

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    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    My two favourite solid body instruments were bought without really even seeing them. I bought them from a retailer I trust - dietze music in Nebraska - and after much discussion with ted eachlimsn who owned the store. Of course ted is well known in the mandolin community.

    This was 10 years ago. As soon as the excruciating wait was over (I imported them to Australia) so it took 4-6 weeks I think) I ripped open the box and and as soon as I played then I knew that both were right. I have slightly modified them both - mostly better jacks for both and a different bridge for the tele, but the necks and the pickups and the playability were superb.

    If it’s a good brand (my telecaster is a fender and my mandolin is a jbovier) and the seller comes with a good reputation then the risk is worth it.
    Last edited by David Lewis; Jul-27-2020 at 7:00pm. Reason: Typo

  18. #14
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    ... Buying from folks on this web site and buying from, say, eBay, are worlds apart.
    Glad that someone said it!

    In the '90s and '00s, when eBay wasn't quite so dreaded, I had consistent "good luck" by asking questions whether or not I actually had any. If the seller responded like a proud parent looking for a good home, that was a good sign. If not, I passed, regardless of whatever bargain it might have seemed.
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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    I have bought and sold on this site, both from dealers and individuals with no issues regarding the purchases or sales, other than something damaged in transit. If dealing with an individual, I insist on telephone communication prior to a transaction. If shopping for a used A model, you can usually get a Big Bang for your bucks.

  20. #16
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Do your homework. Know the options. Find out about the luthier/brand that you have in mind.

    In your case, since you need to be amplified, the possibilities are too many to discuss. Do you need to be amplified as in "an acoustic mandolin with a transducer" or as in "semiacoustic mandolin like a shrunk jazz guitar" or as in "full monte like electric as in a Strat like sound"?

    - Daniel Gilchrist electric mandolin: 3,750.00 USD new (Carter Vintage)
    - vintage Mandocaster: 4 k ...?
    - Gibson E-150: 1.972,82 EUR on reverb (slightly over 2 k)
    - find an acoustic Mix carbon fiber mandolin (built in transducer) used: $3,850.00 (former price for new instrument)

    Check out what you like.
    Olaf

  21. #17
    Scroll Lock Austin Bob's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    When you go to a store, you get the option of trying several different instruments and doing an AB comparison. But what I don't like about trying an instrument in a store is that it never sounds quite the same as my practice room at home, and I usually don't fee comfortable hanging out all afternoon playing an instrument.

    When I try out an instrument at home, I get 48 hours in my own setting to decide. I can play what I want, and I don't have to worry about anyone listening, or feeling pressured to make a decision.

    I've bought two nice mandolins that way, and if I ever buy another, it will probably be bought mail order as well.
    A quarter tone flat and a half a beat behind.

  22. #18
    Resident Hack
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Thanks everyone!
    These replies have been far more than helpful!

  23. #19
    Registered User Russ Donahue's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    The unfortunate consequence of our obsession with these instruments is that, with few exceptions, they just aren't available locally to experience in person. Unless you are fortunate enough to live in one of those special locations, the getting the "live" experience means travel. Or, as most have pointed out so far, you deal through the mail. Good luck - it is highly likely you'll interact with some very nice people along the way as you search.
    One watch by night, one watch by day...if you get confused, just listen to the music play.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    I live in a mando and guitar deprived area-no vintage shops at all unless I drive many hours to a shop so that's why I've bought they way I do, it is nice to hit a store if one can to sample many but I'm into instruments in a certain niche so if you know what your going for and have knowledge and expectations on a certain model or years, you'll be ok and everyone gives an approval period-you just may be out of some shipping $ if your not happy!

  25. #21
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    I too have purchased many mandolins over the years from dealers and private individuals. I've never had to send one back. My most recent trade ended up being with a fellow Cafe'er from the next state over. We each had less than an hours drive and we were both happy.
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  26. #22
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    I’ve purchased three mandolins, all sight unseen. First was a cheap mass produced model, and I got what I paid for. The two in my signature were both commissioned customs, and worth the $$ and waiting.
    Happy pickin!
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  27. #23
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Otherwise you have to travel to where you can audition them in person..
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Quote Originally Posted by DHopkins View Post
    And, Ray (T) is right. It's like having a luthier birth one for you. A couple of years ago, Ray Blevins custom-made an f-style octave mandolin for me. It's an amazing piece of work. Once again, it exceeded my expectations and I still have it.

    Buying from folks on this web site and buying from, say, eBay, are worlds apart.
    I misspoke (or miswrote, if that's a word) when I called Mr. Blevins "Ray." I must have been having a senior moment. (Those seem to be coming more often.) His name is Eddie Blevins and I apologize profusely.
    David Hopkins

    2001 Gibson F-5L
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  29. #25
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Buy without trying

    Quote Originally Posted by MitchStein View Post
    Thanks everyone!
    These replies have been far more than helpful!
    I am interested in your spin of things.

    What kind of mandolin are you interested in?

    What kind of music would you use it for?

    Anything else you´d like to talk about concerning your search for the right instrument?
    Olaf

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