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Thread: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    I have been a touring violinist/fiddler for many years, and have loved playing mandolin as well. I am starting to bring my mando out on more and more gigs lately, and though I like the playability of my Eastman MD315 (McIntyre Feather), the tone is just not good enough.

    Just as in the world of violin, I know there must be so many builders out there who I would never know of unless I reached out in a forum like this. I want to know which builders I should look at to get my new mandolin. I anticipate being able to spend ballpark of 2k; I know that isn't enough to get a stellar instrument but I'm hoping it can get me a workhorse with a tone and playability that can stand side by side with the best. At least I hope!

    Any recommendations you have are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Southern Maine

    Default Re: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    Mandolin voicings vary. What styles do you play, and what is the sound you seek?
    Girouard A
    Silverangel A
    Eastman 615

  3. #3
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Westchester, NY

    Default Re: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    Stick to A models in that price range. Depending on your taste in tone and neck requirements, one thing might be a good simple teens oval Gibson A (if you would prefer a vintage mandolin). If you are looking for a more modern sound maybe a used Collings, Girouard or Northfield A at the lower end though you might have to stretch your budget up a bit. If you have your heart set on a F then you will have to go down in tone and quality in that price range IMHO. In any case look in the classifieds.

    I haven't played one of these Zeta mandolins but they look nice and the maker has a long history making fine mandolins and other instruments and this one is in your price range.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Aug-12-2021 at 10:56am.

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  4. #4

    Default Re: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    There's a thread of mandolins under ~1500 in the forums now that you might check out. A Silverangel, RAG, or Big Muddy might fit your bill, but those are all different mandolins with different tones. I also note you did not say if you plug-in at all, so that is another factor.

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    No. California

    Default Re: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    Since you like the playability of your Eastman 315, an 815 should give you a significant increase in tonal quality while feeling the same. Others here can tell you whether the 815V —- which has a different finish and higher price tag —- would be worth the added expense.
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Vermont, USA

    Default Re: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    Here is a thread I started a few days ago:

    Its mostly compiled of US builders within that price point in the list there if that is what is important to you. If you Youtube the names, most will have some content up online...though the audio quality of their recordings certainly differs quite a bit.

    I also own a Muleskinner Instruments guitar bodied octave mandolin and D style acoustic guitar, and Andy (the builder) is a good friend of mine. I have NFI, just an interest in watching a friend succeed with his craft and have players get the joy of playing his instruments like I have. Another mutual friend of ours is selling his first Muleskinner because he bought another one...guess that's a selling point in and of itself. Its a nice blacktop A style. Great tone. Neck is slightly thicker than traditional, but it would fall in that sub 2k range.

    Check out Andy's website (photos and info on that blacktop are on the available instruments page):

    He has quite a few Youtube videos that give you a good idea of the tone of his well as talking points to show just how dang enthusiastic about mandolins he is!
    Last edited by redlineroots; Aug-14-2021 at 7:56am. Reason: spelling mistake

  7. #7

    Default Re: Mandolin Builder Recommendations

    This one might be a good fit:
    Girouard Concert A5
    Trillium Mandola
    Dunwell B-1 Bouzouki
    Girouard Custom A4 (on order)

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