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Thread: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only goal

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    Default If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only goal

    If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass mandolin tone was the only goal...

    Ok, so money is not no object in this scenario, but the idea is to optimize tone to price point ratio. So, not spend any more than necessary for the absolute finest bluegrass mandolin tone.

    Tone being subjective, let's narrow it down to the highly-prized tone of a '22-'24 Loar signed Master Model as a slightly more objective definition of perfect bluegrass tone. At least that gets us in the ballpark.

    Tone is the only goal, so we leave out anything purely aesthetic in nature. We won't need scrolls & points, inlays & bindings, figured woods (except where figure plays a part in tone, such as spruce grain), fancy hardware, etc. The finish should only serve tone, but does not need to impressive the art critics. The difficult part here is that most builders making fine sounding instruments rarely go fully bare-bones, so I think we have to say minimum viable ornamentation.

    Hypothetically, name recognition is irrelevant, but name recognition comes from reputation which in turn comes from quality instruments. So, let's pretend it can be built by anyone, but not have any identifying marks on it. Yes, a Gilchrist costs what it does for a reason, but a big part of that reason is reputation and scarcity. Would an unmarked Gilchrist fetch $25k (where the builder was specifically unknown, not we know it's a Gilchrist)? You tell me.

    So where does that leave us? A modest A-style, perhaps. Does any builder spring to mind as a capable of producing the finest bluegrass mandolin tone but as yet to fetch stratospheric prices? I say that, once again, knowing that those builders earned their reputation, and that a quality instrument takes time and experience to craft. I'm certainly not suggesting we can achieve our goal for a paltry sum, but what is the price point at which we can get no closer to the holy grail of tone. Barring of course purchasing an actual Loar, which is off limits in this thought experiment.

    Why am I inquiring, you ask? Well, because this is precisely what I seek, and I had a particular builder in mind. I was thinking an Apitius A Studio Loar Spec would get me awfully close at a reasonable $5k (albeit far from spartan in specification), but it seems Oliver has closed his waiting list for the time being. So, I bring this riddle before the hive mind. Who among us can deliver the immortal tone of Loar in the cup of a carpenter?
    Last edited by bradeasley; Oct-04-2020 at 10:55am.

  2. #2
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    https://themandolinstore.com/wp-cont...dlg_givens.jpg

    An older Givens A5 can give you that dry, cutting tone that you seek. I happen to currently own this one - she’s not built for looks...but the tone is there.

    Kirk

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    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    I am with you there Charlie!
    In addition to the Heiden A, there is also a Gilchrist A in the classifides, both instruments with wide nut like I need... MAS attack!!!

    Back to the heart of the OP’s question, I find myself dreaming of a Hester A style, only heard good things but never played one
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    My Ellis A5 maybe could fulfill the expectations.
    Ellis A5 Special Deluxe
    Collings MF 5 (for sale)
    Gibson F 2 (1917)
    Lawrence Smart H 5 Mandola
    Gibson K 4 Mandocello
    Stefan Sobell 10-string Cittern
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    Thijs van der Harst Octave Mandolin

    guitars, banjo, dobro, weissenborn, fretless bass, upright bass

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    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Many people think the player has a big influence on tone. I’ve played several mandolins belonging to pros and I still only sound like me.
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Lloyd LaPlant of Grand Rapids MN. He will make an A model. Not sure what his production schedule is now. At 91 I think he has slowed down a bit. And yes, in my mind, he captures the "Loar tone". Bias alert - don't own one of his mandolins, but a number of my friends do.
    2008 Weber Gallatin F, 2018 Collings MT, 1989 Flatiron Performer A, 1935 Gibson A-50, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 2018 Eastman MDO-305
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    Pittsburgh Bill
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Just an opinion here, but I would not rule out a Stiver. But, that is to say many builders exist building fine instruments available at your cost point and you will ultimately get many fine recommendations.

    I agree with your disregard for name recognition. One popular brand frequently seen with grassers always fails to impress me with their contemporary sub $10K instruments ( I would have one of their master models in a heartbeat were my pockets deep enough). I can only assume in my humble opinion that the name is the attraction.
    Happy Shopping (Sometimes almost as fun as playing)
    Stiver A style (MAS has stopped here)
    Kentucky KM-950
    Keith Edward Coleman A style, oval hole Mandola
    Weber Gallatin A Mandola "D hole"
    Rogue 100A (current campfire tool)
    Harley Benton A style (grandchildren's learner)

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Half of the tone comes with the player. I have played well known professional bluegrass players' mandolins. Some of them were not half of the tone ye see. They were loud instruments nevertheless.
    Nic Gellie

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  18. #10

    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Talk to John Hamlett, aka Sunburst.
    Gunga......Gunga.....Gu-Lunga

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  20. #11

    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    If money was no object and tone the only goal I would practice all day instead of working.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Quote Originally Posted by bradeasley View Post
    So, I bring this riddle before the hive mind. Who among us can deliver the immortal tone of Loar in the cup of a carpenter?
    Chris Stanley
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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Skip Kelly is making some great sounding mandolins...

    http://www.mandomutt.com/products-pa...ip-kelley-a-51

    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Give Randy Wood a call, his mandolins are great.

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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    All of these builders and others are great luthiers. But after years of owning everything from Lloyd Loar F5s to Gils to Stradolins (not in that order) I'd say the hardest part is finding a particular mandolin that does pretty much everything right and nothing wrong. No matter who the builder is it always comes down to finding an individual example that rocks your world... or the one that suits you the best.

    And then (now here comes the tricky part) being satisfied with it.

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  30. #16

    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Thanks for the responses thus far, folks! To those who have mentioned that tone comes from the player, I whole-heartedly agree that the player is largely responsible for the execution of tone, but I also believe that the instrument is the floor and ceiling of possibility. A great player can make the most of a great instrument, but a good player can also get pretty great tone from an exceptional instrument. Also, that comment about practicing is spot on as well. I don't discount these very truthful comments.

    Allow me to elaborate on my particular position, as I think it will help. I do not currently own a mandolin, so practicing more as opposed to buying a better mandolin isn't the dilemma. I have played mandolin for 20 years, and guitar and bass for longer still. I've also been trying to tackle pedal steel for nigh on 10 years. I've owned several decent mandolins in the $2-3k range, and have played a fair share of much nicer instruments. For better or worse, I sold my last mandolin almost a year ago to fund the purchase of a pedal steel that is truly one of a kind. I knew when I was ready to pick up another mando it would need to be "the one" that would satisfy my tone quest for many years to come. I'm in no particular rush and I also don't have a set spending limit. I'm just trying to figure what to keep an eye out for or who to contact to find the one I'm looking for.

  31. #17
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    I've seen instruments from well regarded makers that were pretty much duds, frankly, not terrible, just not great sounding. And there are some instruments out there by relatively unknown makers, or mid-level mass maker builders that sound wonderful.

    Play a bunch of instruments and rely on your hands and your ears. Lots of good advice here on instruments to try if you run across 'em.
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    I’d see what Bill Halsey has in his closet!
    Just sayin’
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Registered User Mark Seale's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Chris Stanley
    Based on what the OP stated as desire, this was the first name that came to mind as well. Very traditional sounding instruments without breaking the bank (comparatively speaking.)

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    There is a beautiful-looking Stanley V-5 that just came on the classifieds. I played one of his a few years back and was very impressed.

    I am not a bluegrass player but my '83 Flatiron A5-2 has the bluegrass tone I like, nice, crisp and sweet.

    In any case, I don't know where you live but if a reasonable drive will get you to a shop with some excellent mandolins, then budget that trip. If it weren't for pandemic, I would say save money for a flight however you can also deal with reputable dealers and try out on approval. I would lean toward existing instruments including both new and used ones rather than commissioning. That way you know exactly what you are getting.
    Jim

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  39. #21

    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    In my experience a good Red Diamond mandolin seems to capture that vintage F5 tone. But lots of great mandolins put out great tone for bluegrass music.

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  41. #22

    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    I've heard Don's Red Diamonds are without equal in terms of Loar-like qualities. I just have to wonder if one can get in the same ballpark for less than $15k.

  42. #23
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Josh has great advice. His catch and release program is well known��
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

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  44. #24
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Girouard and Ellis and pocket the rest !
    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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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: If money was no object, and perfect bluegrass tone was only g

    Quote Originally Posted by Pittsburgh Bill View Post
    Just an opinion here, but I would not rule out a Stiver.
    Yes. More bluegrass than bluegrass
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

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