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Thread: What's the real difference?

  1. #26
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    You can buy an artist's paint brush for the same price as the great artist's pay for one today ! But the results ?
    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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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    ...a mandolin will be priced about double a guitar of comparable quality...
    Once again, this is not true. Compare the price of a carved arched mandolin to a carved arched guitar of similar quality and the guitar will cost quite a bit more. Likewise with flat top guitars and flat top mandolins.

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  5. #28
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Yes, you can begin your mandolin journey with either model mentioned. The more you play the more you will gain in understanding of what you want to play like, what you want to sound like. Enjoy the journey.
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    ... The more you play the more you will gain in understanding of what you want to play like ... sound like...
    Nobody has specifically mentioned "responsiveness" as a quality of instruments. Difficult to quantify, but you'll know it when you feel it, when you're ready to feel it.

    A higher-quality instrument will keep up with your evolution, and most likely even encourage it.
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Nobody has specifically mentioned "responsiveness" as a quality of instruments...
    "Differences in response" doesn't count as a specific mention?

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    Keep in mind a mandolin will be priced about double a guitar of comparable quality. There is a much smaller market and a lot more work in a carved top mandolin. An $800 mandolin is like a $400 guitar.
    Hi Carl, Thanks for writing. Not sure I see the double the price comparison. I think the opposite is true. Most of Blueridge's line, as an example, is $800+ and some of their higher-end guitars are all over $1200. in my own searches for a guitar, I think It'd be impossible to find a decent all solid wood guitar for $400. The eastman I picked up is toward their top-end A-style mandolin for $800 and it really is a beautiful instrument. I have never seen an equivalent guitar for $400 in the last 30years. However, anything less than $1000 for an Eastman guitar and you're talking only about their lowest end, entry-level instruments. I think making a guitar means more wood, sanding, time, packaging, and shipping costs. I think an equivalent acoustic guitar would cost $2000 minimum.
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    After some trial and error years ago I realized it is a "play it and you'll know it" situation. Some very expensive mandolins have been nice but not mind-blowing. I've played a few Asian mandolins that were very low priced but played and sounded great. (Next to other ones that were identical models but were crappy.)

    If you have the time and money try a few out and return them if you don't love them.
    Find one that feels good and rings your bell then forget about the race and play. The mandolin doesn't matter if you can't play it.

    To repeat myself, the mandolin is not the mountain, playing the mandolin is the mountain.
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  14. #33

    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    gilchrist was the 1st one to incorporate tone bars in mandolin bracing ,he worked on most of the loyd loar mando's after working for gruen in nashville, he took x rays
    and put them on oscilloscopes and made his own blueprints. then he found a shortcut with tone bars. not everyone uses them. oliver appitius (from canada) has his own style of bracing as do many other luthier's but most still use tone bars. i dont know what that guy for red diamond is doing but he definately has his finger on it. this style of bracing along with 10 or 15 years experience of building crap mando's and then finally comming into your own style of building mando's is the difference between dudenbostel and the other big names. using hide glue and hand varnishing and mostly taking your time is not a secret but it can mean building a crusher of a mando ......that the difference.

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Interesting stuff, hermdawg!
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Thanks Billy,

    There wasn't a big selection of medium-priced mandos where I live but I did really love the Eastman md 605, which I bought. It's been attached to my hips since I got it.
    Eastman MD605

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  19. #36
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Packard View Post
    After some trial and error years ago I realized it is a "play it and you'll know it" situation. Some very expensive mandolins have been nice but not mind-blowing. I've played a few Asian mandolins that were very low priced but played and sounded great. (Next to other ones that were identical models but were crappy.)
    Yes, this.

    Of course, the problem is that early in the process, you don't have that ear or feel for what is right or what is wrong. I would never advise anyone to get an inferior instrument to start out, but even a relatively inexpensive one, with a good setup, can get you started and help get a feel for what is good and not so good about it. As you gain more experience and improve technique, the limitations of the instrument, and what differences or improvements you want in the instrument, will become more apparent. And then, you can start looking for something that will address those limitations, or provide more of the sound, playability or response, etc., that you want.

    Then there is developing technique, which is a whole different story . . ..
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    I am fortunate enough to own three very fine mandolins. When I first got interested I had a very low end mando from a local music store. Then I started playing different instruments to get a feel for what is what. Your original question was about the difference between lower priced and higher priced mandos. I cannot tell you the structural difference but I can say that the sound and playability of my two arch tops is extraordinary. Comparing them to most mandolins in the below $1500 range is, for me, like comparing a Formula 1 race car to a Ford F-150. I have yet to try a mandolin above the price range of my Phoenix and L&H that would justify the cost. I have tried a small number of the super expensive mandolins (6-20k) and cannot, for myself feel or hear any difference meaningful to me. At that level it seems more like buying a unique piece of art. It is all subjective and I am only sharing my particular experience.

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    A great player will sound better on an $800 mandolin than an OK player on an $8,000 mandolin. On the other hand, if spending $8,000 on a mandolin won't break your budget, go for it. When Wayne Gretzky started playing hockey his father bought him a cheap hockey stick. He told Wayne that when he was good enough that the stick was holding him back, he'd buy Wayne a better hockey stick. I feel the same way about musical instruments. Too many people say they want to learn to play ____ (guitar, mandolin, piano, xylophone, whatever), spend money on a nice instrument and give up after a week. It's better to start with a decent budget instrument and invest in something better when you're good enough to have earned it.

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    I am not much more than a beginner and had not played a good mandolin until today. I was allowed to play a Weber, Yellowstone 20th anniversary edition #2 of 5. The difference in sound is amazing and immediately jumps out at you. If you get a chance to play really good one you need to do it. It will end up costing me $$ because the bar for my next mandolin purchase just way up. I hated to walk away and leave it.
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    When I was 11 and started playing guitar there were probably about 5-7 lads in my school who had also started playing guitar - they ALL had shiny brand new Hondo Les Pauls that looked nice but had action so high you could stick a cat underneath the strings and fretboard. I had an old Epiphone Coronet (made in USA) that played and sounded the business: Low action, lovely tone. Not surprisingly, all the lads with the Hondo Les Pauls gave up guitar after a few months, whereas I kept playing. You don't need to spend a fortune to get a nice instrument - quality tells. Something that is nice to play (well set up, good sound) will facilitate you keeping at it whereas something that is difficult to play or sounds crappy will be less inspiring to pick up.
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Not having money to burn, my rule of thumb, which only applies to me, is: Don't buy a mandolin that is better than I am as a player. That is very subjective, but I've seen $800 players show up at jams with $5,000 mandolins. If they have the money that is absolutely their right, but I am more impressed with someone who makes an $800 mandolin sound like a $5,000 mandolin.

    I like that story of a guy with cheap banjo who got to sit next to Earl Scruggs at a jam. The guy complimented Earl's high end banjo. Earl said, "You want to try it?" and they switched instruments for the next tune. The famous observation was, "Earl still sounded like Earl, and I still sounded like me."

    I also like the story of Brian May's "Red Special" guitar. He and his Dad made it from scratch, from mostly salvaged parts. The body was made from a discarded table top. The pots came out of old radios. The only store bought parts were the fret wires, the tuners and strings. Even when the band Queen was at its zenith, that was still May's main guitar and still is to this day.

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    DevonG, “It's been attached to my hips since I got it.“
    Now that’s what I’m talking about!
    Good job Devon.

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    Not having money to burn, my rule of thumb, which only applies to me, is: Don't buy a mandolin that is better than I am as a player. That is very subjective, but I've seen $800 players show up at jams with $5,000 mandolins. If they have the money that is absolutely their right, but I am more impressed with someone who makes an $800 mandolin sound like a $5,000 mandolin.
    I suppose this was at the heart of my initial question. I've been playing guitars for many years but have never felt the need to get a really expensive guitar in part because the guitars I own all do what they need to do. I wondered if it would be enough to keep the mandolin I just bought ($830) or would I want a really expensive one down the road. For the moment, I think the one I have is a keeper. The Earl Scruggs story is a great one.
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  34. #44
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    I think the "double the price" idea is really broad stroke, from a thousand miles away, don't know what to expect. Its a kind of a guide to avoid sticker shock. If someone is familiar with the quality that can be expected in a $500 guitar, as a general statement, with all caveots and exceptions, I don't think it is unreasonable for that person to expect comparable quality in mandolins to cost in the neighborhood of $1000.

    When someone sees a mandolin for this or that price and, not knowing about mandolins but knowing about guitars, and wants to know how good is it, I don't think it unreasonable as a first pass guess to say it likely is comparable with a guitar costing one half this or that. Again with all exceptions.

    If you can get a mandolin for X dollars, and the quality is comparable to a guitar of X dollars, you have a heck of a bargain IMO.

    There are always bargains and exceptions and deals and ways to go with this budget in mind or that, and we all seek that stuff out for sure.
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    My view, for me, is that one's second mandolin should be the very best that can be afforded (and appreciated), what ever that is. In other words, i do not believe, after the first mandolin where you don't know if you are going to fall in love, I do not believe that their is any necessary correlation with ability or experience. I don't believe in "deserving" a certain quality, or in its opposite, not deserving a certain quality.

    I still don't "deserve" the second mandolin I ever got, and will probably never unlock all its secrets. But its a great mandolin that I have enjoyed owning and playing for many years. I know its idiosyncrasies and how to compensate for them, when to go a little closer to the fret, or when to mute a sustain, or whatever. We are old friends.

    I hope always to be playing a mandolin with much more to it than I can ever get out of it. I want to know that whatever disagreeable sounds are entirely my fault, and not because I have "outgrown" my mandolin.

    After the first one of course.

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  37. #46
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by hermdawg View Post
    gilchrist was the 1st one to incorporate tone bars in mandolin bracing ,he worked on most of the loyd loar mando's after working for gruen in nashville, he took x rays
    and put them on oscilloscopes and made his own blueprints. then he found a shortcut with tone bars. not everyone uses them. oliver appitius (from canada) has his own style of bracing as do many other luthier's but most still use tone bars. i dont know what that guy for red diamond is doing but he definately has his finger on it. this style of bracing along with 10 or 15 years experience of building crap mando's and then finally comming into your own style of building mando's is the difference between dudenbostel and the other big names. using hide glue and hand varnishing and mostly taking your time is not a secret but it can mean building a crusher of a mando ......that the difference.
    OK, what about the tone bars in the Gibson F5's from the 20's?

    You're kind of painting with some broad brushes here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Quote Originally Posted by DevinG View Post
    I wondered if it would be enough to keep the mandolin I just bought ($830) or would I want a really expensive one down the road. For the moment, I think the one I have is a keeper.
    Hi Devin: don't second guess yourself. If you feel you have a keeper, then that's your answer. However, once you gain more experience and your playing has reached a higher level, then go out and try some higher end models, and then ask yourself the same question. It would be interesting to find out what your answer will be.

    By the way, do you attend the bluegrass jams at the Long Beach Dog Park, or the Fountain Valley jam on Saturday mornings?

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  40. #48
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    Mostly due to all the discussions on Mandolin Cafe, I spent a year trying LOTS of mandolins and comparing to my Eastman MD315. At least in showrooms, the differences brought by $3k to $10k instruments weren’t as significant as I would have expected. Tone in D and A strings was generally a little richer up the neck on the higher priced instruments. Some of the higher priced instruments actually had more fit-and-finish issues when compared to my Eastmans, so fit and finish isn’t a guaranteed improvement with higher price. Volume difference was subtle perhaps. The oft-quote “G string” tended to be a bit deeper and richer on the higher-priced instruments.

    Once actually playing music (instead of microscoping each note), any differences were harder to detect. People you play with will likely not know the difference between your playing a $700 mandolin and a $10k mandolin. SO, I think it’s really up to you and what you’re wanting and willing to spend for those highest few percentage points of goodness. Like any possession, there IS some real satisfaction from owning and playing better quality and higher cost instruments.

    (I saw a bluegrass band last fall. I had seen them before and thoroughly enjoyed the hot mandolin and banjo playing. I talked to the mandolin player after the first set and he was playing an MD315! He said he wouldn’t mind using a Gibson, but that the MD315 did all that he called on it to do.)
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    I would also add that if you can't hear the difference yourself, then don't worry about it. Those are both excellent mandos. I've heard a number of sub-$1k Eastmans that sounded great. It took me a few years of playing to really start hearing major differences in mandos, and they don't always correlate with price. That said, the best mandos I've ever played have, in general, not been cheap. I played a Monteleone last year that was just jaw dropping, and I played another Monteleone that was good, but not really jaw-dropping. Were they $20k good? Ehh...it probably depends how much $20k means to you. If you pull in a solid six-figure salary and don't have any major debts or other things you spend much money on, then, yeah...it might be worth it to you. Or so I imagine that's how it would be when I fantasize about a solid six-figure salary and a house that isn't in constant need of repairs Was it $19k better than an MD315? Again, it's subjective, but sound-wise, that first Monty was simply in another league altogether. Similar story with a Stiver I played a couple of years back. The guy had just bought it, brand-new and custom-built. It was beautiful, played like butter, but even more than that, the thing just frickin' SUNG! The volume was killer, the balance on the strings was amazing, the sustain, even on the E, was tremendous, and it just rang out like a symphony. I think he paid $10k for it. Was it $9k better than an MD315? That's really subjective, but, again, sound-wise it was simply in another league altogether.

    Speaking personally, I have a Brentrup M23V as well as the Kentucky 380 I started on. The plain truth is that the Brentrup crushes the A model Kentucky in every way. Is it $5k worth of crushing? I guess that's subjective, but it's one of, if not THE loudest mandos I've ever played. It has the the strongest D and A strings I've ever played - just a huge, full tone. Admittedly, the neck dive on it is atrocious, the neck is also a bit thicker than I'd prefer, and Hans cut the scroll too narrow to easily accomodate most straps, but the sound is just killer and at this point, THAT tone and volume is how I judge all other mandos. That said, I actually offered that Stiver owner my Brentrup on the spot, but my offer was, unsurprisingly, declined Weirdly enough...even on my limited salary...that mandolin sounded and played like it was something I could justify spending $10k on at some point.

  42. #50
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    Default Re: What's the real difference?

    It's risky to judge a mandolin by its name or model number.

    A few years back, my local store had an older Gibson F-5G, a better grade Eastman [either a 515 or a 615], and an older better grade Weber [I don't remember the exact model]. The Eastman and the Weber were both good instruments, the F-5G was not. Just for grins, I asked the store owner to stand where he couldn't see the instruments, and then I played all three of them for him. A blind taste test. The Weber came in on top, the Eastman was a fairly close second, and the Gibson came in firmly at the bottom.

    Of the handmade mandolins I have played by small independent builders of repute, some were great instruments, some were very good, and some were mediocre.

    You have to judge each instrument by its own individual merits. You can't guarantee the sound of an instrument solely by the name on the peghead.

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