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Thread: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    So I know this is a MK F-Style Mandolin (or so I've been told) but the model is tripping me up. The soundhole shapes are unlike most. I found a couple that referred to them as Butterfly or Dragonfly but I just dont know.

    Any information would be greatly appreciated
    TIA
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    There's really not much to say about Michael Kelly instruments.
    The company was established in 1999, and despite the lack of information on their website, I believe that they are all Asian made imported instruments.
    They have been making mandolins for quite a few years. All of the ones that I have seen were student grade instruments, often with a fancy design characteristic that sets them apart from other imported instruments. The fancy fingerboard inlays and the unusual soundholes on yours are examples of these design characteristics.
    I don't know of any agreed upon name for the soundhole design.
    Currently, the company offers two mandolins. The acoustic model has a retail price of $699 new, and the one with an added electric pickup retails at $849.
    A used one in good condition might sell for around $300, probably not much more.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-13-2021 at 10:55am.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    Thank you for the information...I appreciate it!!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    After some reflection, please note that I edited my price estimate in my earlier post.
    I wish you good luck with your father-in-law's instruments.

  5. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    Here's a page with various models of Michael Kelly mandolins. What you have looks closest to their "Legacy" series, but I can't find one that's shown with an un-bound headstock like yours.

    The info provided above is spot-on. MK's are mass-produced Chinese instruments, often with very fancy appointments, and also often with thick finishes and somewhat disappointing acoustic projection. Emphasis on "bling" over "ring," one might say.

    The "Dragonfly" is one of their fanciest models, especially the "Dragonfly Flame." Yours is a less ornamented, thus presumably less expensive instrument. The higher-end MK's have solid spruce tops, some machine-carved, but since I couldn't find one that closely resembled yours, I'm not sure if it's solid woods or laminated. I'd tend to concur with rcc56's price estimates -- maybe even a bit lower, since yours lacks some of the characteristic MK bling.

    Later: there's a Cafe social group for Michael Kelly mandolin owners. You might find more MK expertise there.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    The early ones were made in Korea and have pressed, not carved solid tops. The one you have with the different F holes was a single year run I think around around 2006 or so. They used to be distributed out of the Tampa area by founder Tracy Hoeft. I have a Dragonfly11 I bought new in 2004 that I have worn out. All of the others I have ever had or seen were victims of the Asian Hump. If the neck is straight and true, it might be worth something to a collector of these.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    These are actually pretty respectable inexpensive mandolins. I still have and use mine whenever I don't want to expose my F-9 to risky travel, nasty weather or drunken brawls. I've set it up like my F-9 is setup, so I don't have transition fatigue while playing it.

    Mine is from the final run of the MK LFSTB model which were sold off in fire-sales in 2016 for around $200. They are solid wood, mostly machine carved with what may be a few hand-touches. They are built like tanks, sporting bi-directional truss rods, Grover tuners and a unique heavy brass tailpiece, and the poly finish is thick and hard. They produce bright tone with good volume after a proper setup.

    I have handled and setup 4 of these new out of the box, one for myself and 3 for friends who also wanted them as backup mandolins. They were made in a few different factories in China, as such there were noticeable differences between mine and the other 3 mandolins -- nothing horrible but among the 4 that I worked with, some aspects were more refined than others. This seemed clearly the result of being made by different people in different factories, people who were focused differently.

    I wouldn't expect to see these with a high re-sale value anywhere, but they are great for what they can do. Neither myself nor the other 3 owners of the LFSTB models that I setup have had any problems with them. Given how stoutly built they are, these mandolins will probably outlast many more fragile multi-$K mandolins.
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  8. #8

    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    how would you compare one to a Weber Gallatin spruce top mahogany back and sides?

  9. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Dconaway View Post
    how would you compare one to a Weber Gallatin spruce top mahogany back and sides?
    Weber's a much superior instrument, hand-carved, top-notch US manufacture. MK's are passable Asian-made mandolins, emphasizing attractive ornamentation over hand-work. The use of mahogany rather than maple in the Gallatin series does produce a somewhat different sound quality, but if the asking prices are anywhere near comparable, I'd take the Weber every time.

    Just my 2¢.
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  10. #10
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Dconaway View Post
    how would you compare one to a Weber Gallatin spruce top mahogany back and sides?
    I really wouldn't compare the two. They're not in the same league. MK's are in the Rogue/Rover/Ibanez/Saga league. Beginner instruments for those who aren't sure they'll stick with mandolin.

    The next rung on the ladder would be (in my opinion) The Loar or Kentucky.

    Weber is a level or two higher, IMO. For many they are the last mando they'll ever need.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    In short, Michael Kelly instruments are all lower grade entry level instruments.


    Webers vary from intermediate level to upper level professional grade instruments. The Gallatin is an intermediate level instrument. Although Weber has temporarily suspended their mandolin production, they still list their models on-line, and the current retail price for a Gallatin is $2999.

    The only comparison between the Weber line and the Michael Kelly line is that both are mandolins with 8 strings. As far as quality of construction and sound are concerned, there is no comparison. The most modest Weber is a much better instrument than the best Michael Kelly model. A mahogany Gallatin might be considered to be passable round steak, while the Kelly is more like a pre-packaged convenience store hamburger. Upper level Webers are top-notch rib-eyes.

    For Mr. Dconaway, if you are still looking to trade your Gallatin for a similar grade instrument with a wider neck, in a new mandolin you would be limited to one of the plainer carved Northfield models, or one of the plainer A models made by US companies such as Collings and Pava. You might have more choices if you included used instruments in your search, but Kentucky, The Loar, Kelly would all be downgrades. I have played one older upper level Eastman 815 that was pretty close in sound to a good Weber, but that one might have been a fluke. But Eastman's current nut width is 1 3/32", which is probably narrower than your Weber is.
    Last edited by rcc56; Aug-05-2022 at 6:22pm.

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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    I have a MK ‘low’ F mando with an oval sound hole. I would beg to differ with most opinions regarding MK mando comments in this thread. For a $600 something instrument, this has been an excellent mando…and it’s especially so if you’re new to buying your first mandolin. For the money, I feel this particularly exceeds in manufactured quality, as well as in the instruments overall sound, tone and playability to other similarly priced instruments. One key feature, for me, is the fact that my MK was sold with a radius fret board….this seems to aid a lot in playability…versus a flat surfaced fret board. Another thing that impressed me about how well built this mando is….I accidentally dropped this mando out from my hands onto a hardwood floor while standing (I don’t make a habit of doing this!) and absolutly nothing happened, no cracks, no nicks, no dings, no breakage…nothing adverse occured from my mishap! I told the folks around me who witnessed this blunder, “man, this thing’s built like a tank!” My MK has impressed me right from the get-go! That being said, I do have a Weber yellowstone as well, and I certainly wouldn’t trade my Weber for a MK.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by steve in tampa View Post
    They used to be distributed out of the Tampa area by founder Tracy Hoeft.
    His business was called Mail Box Music in Clearwater, FL. I believe that Tracy was a Gibson executive before moving his family to Florida. Nice guy BTW!!

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  14. #14
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Information on Michael Kelly Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by norseman.strings View Post
    I have a MK ‘low’ F mando with an oval sound hole. I would beg to differ with most opinions regarding MK mando comments in this thread. For a $600 something instrument, this has been an excellent mando…and it’s especially so if you’re new to buying your first mandolin.
    I played a used cedar top MK F4 at my local music shop many years ago. They were also asking $600. It was very playable and had a real nice tone. Unlike many others from that brand it was tastefully finished in a low gloss natural clear coat, not very thick at all. I think that added to the nice tone.

    I was tempted....but the store has a zero return policy, so I passed.

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