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Thread: Best brand for upgrade

  1. #1

    Default Best brand for upgrade

    After receiving a Rogue starter pack as a Christmas gift in 2018, I am looking to upgrade. At this time, I am not looking at a major purchase, but hoping to stay around $550 or less. Options in the range at Elderly Instruments (I live in Lansing so I would prefer to shop here) and Guitar Center, it looks like the brands with a good selection in this price range are Loar, Kentucky, Eastman, Seagull and Gold Tone. It is not easy for me to get away and spend a lot of time sampling instruments, so when I do go to play some different ones, I would like a game plan. Any recommendations on these brands and their quality? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Don't rule out an antique Strad-O-Lin!

    (Okay, I'm obsessed with mine, I admit)

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    If I was presented with those options I'd be looking at the Eastman, Kentucky, and Loar and I'd be looking at the A style models.

    Or, you could have a ham sandwich.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    This:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/158746#158746

    Better hurry though

    Good Luck!
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Yeah, I saw that MD-305 on Elderly's mandolin page. Looked like a real bargain at that price. Elderly's got a bunch of A-style Kentucky instruments in your price range, also quite a few of the Loar "Honey Creek" series.

    If you can get there and spend an hour doing some comparison testing, doubtless you can find one that suits you best.
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Yeah, I saw that MD-305 on Elderly's mandolin page. Looked like a real bargain at that price. Elderly's got a bunch of A-style Kentucky instruments in your price range, also quite a few of the Loar "Honey Creek" series.

    If you can get there and spend an hour doing some comparison testing, doubtless you can find one that suits you best.

    True, but I bet that Eastman 305 goes fast!
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  10. #7

    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Ok. I donít think Iíll be able to get that MD305, but I will see what else they offer from Eastman. They also have a MD304 coming soon. Iíll try out some from Eastman as well as Kentucky and Loar when I get a break from work and domestic life. Thanks all!

  11. #8
    Registered User doc holiday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Tim, I'd stick with Elderly over GC. Any upgraded mandolin you buy needs a set-up. You won't get that from GC, where it might be included or negotiable from Elderly.

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  13. #9

    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Hi Tim (assuming your screen name is your real name):

    I was in a similar situation a few months ago. I wound up getting an Eastman MD504 from The Mandolin Store and could not be happier. You are fortunate to live near one of the best instrument shops in the country, so if I were you, Elderly would be at the top of my list too. I would not consider Guitar Center, though. At Elderly, you will get a nice setup, a case or bag and, most importantly, salespeople who care about you and folk instruments.

    I have never played any of the Kentuckys you're looking at, but would recommend the Eastmans because they all have a radiused fretboard. My first mandolin, like yours, had a flat fretboard and it wasn't until I started playing a radiused one that I felt how much easier it was to hit clean individual notes. Now, after playing the Eastman for a month or so, I have a hard time going back to my old Amazon special (Hoya) because a flat board makes it harder to make clean notes (at least for me).

    While I like the Eastmans a lot, Elderly doesn't seem to have any (in your price range) in stock. They do have some Kentuckys in the $550 range and some of them DO have a radiused fretboard. So if I were you I'd make the trip to Elderly, maybe calling in advance to tell them what you're interested in. You just may find a KM256 or something that sends you.

    If not, sit tight and wait until their Eastman 304s and 305s arrive. I think you'll love them. My 504 just wins me over every day with sustain I thought was unavailable in a mandolin, so sweet sounding.

    Jim

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    Registered User doc holiday's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by doc holiday View Post
    Tim, I'd stick with Elderly over GC. Any upgraded mandolin you buy needs a set-up. You won't get that from GC, where it might be included or negotiable from Elderly.
    I failed to mention..... buying in person is always preferable & I say that as an Elderly customer north of the 49th. They get some nice vintage Martins from time to time....

  15. #11

    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Thanks for this thorough and thought out advice. I wasnít familiar with the radiused fretboard vs. flat fretboard. I also play guitar and in the past I have mostly made decisions on feel and sound without paying much attention as to why an instrument felt or sounded good. I do agree with the service at Eldery vs. GC too. I can honestly say Iíve never really felt like anyone at Guitar Center have a crap or knew what they were talking about. I was mostly just checking out brands in the price range I am looking at.

    At this point I will wait for some Eastman options and play some when they become available.

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    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Good plan Tim, Eastmans are great, but so are Kentucky's ... I'm not a big fan of The Loar though. I would recommend Eastman or Kentucky over Loar. I was in a similar boat as you many years back and upgraded from a Craigslist Rover to an Eastman MD305 and loved it for many years. If you can, do try to play both though because they do have a different sound. Some say Kentucky has a more classic Gibson tone, while Eastman is more of a sweet and contemporary tone... all in the ear of the beholder!
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    My thoughts are opposite of Organ Jim. I much prefer a flat fingerboard for the same reason, it's easier for me to note cleaner. What I'm saying is we are all different. I would recommend playing both enough to see which I preferred.

  21. #15

    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Actually, I pretty much agree with mandoplumb. Except for the part about disagreeing with myself. I hope Tim will go to Elderly and try out a few, after making a phone call out of courtesy.

    If you let them know you are coming and what you are looking for, I suspect they can tell you what's in stock and available. You could play a couple of Kentucky mandolins, one radiused and one flat. You would know and "feel " a lot more than today.

    Jim

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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Quote Originally Posted by TimB989 View Post
    After receiving a Rogue starter pack as a Christmas gift in 2018, I am looking to upgrade.
    I do not know your reasons for not looking at a major purchase. Only you can judge. My point of view is that this is the perfect time for the major purchase. Get the very best mandolin you can possibly afford. Get one much better than your experience and (perceived) level of competence. Get something wonderful that motivates you to "deserve" it, and play the potatoes out of it, grow old with it. If you think that in 50 years you want to have a mandolin that is a companion with which you have climbed many mountains, well if you do the math, now is the time to get it.
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    Default Re: Best brand for upgrade

    Oregon Jim I wasn't disagreeing with you, just stating that we are all different. That's probably why they make both
    Last edited by Mandoplumb; Aug-18-2020 at 8:13am. Reason: Add name

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