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Thread: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

  1. #1

    Smile Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    I've been playing mandolin for a little over year and I'm at a bit of a crossroads with my instrument.

    I have an Epiphone MM-30. If you're unfamiliar with the model, it has a solid spruce top, costs $199 new, and the general consensus seems to be it's a decent starter instrument.

    Recently, due to poor workmanship by my local instrument store, I fitted a new bridge to my mandolin and was blown away by the difference in sound. This experience has lead me to become interested in the other shortcomings my instrument has.

    One shortcoming in particular is a hill on the neck where it attaches to the body. It's more pronounced on the G-D side than the A-E side. This hill creates a significant buzz on frets 7-8-9 on the G. I used to have the action set to the max height of the saddle to overcome this. However, as I stay primarily in first position, I recently decided to bring the action down to a "medium" setting. This is alright, but there is a slight buzz everywhere on the G when it's played with more force than a light pluck.

    I'm at a crossroads. I'm debating whether I should take this Epiphone to a luthier to have the fretboard levelled, or if it's time to upgrade.

    If I were to upgrade, I'd be looking for an A-body in the $800-$1000 range. (I'd need to hear an oval hole in person before being able to choose between F hole and oval hole. I play Irish music, but I also like crisp attack.)

    What makes the most sense to you? Your $0.02 would be much appreciated.

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  2. #2
    Resident Hack
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    I had a guitar with a similar issue. It was a model I had been playing since '81 and replacing it would have been more expensive than fixing the one I had. 100% worth it, as I looked at a ton of other guitars and the one I had was the only one I wanted.

    I am guessing this would be an expensive repair and doubting you have particular sentimental attachment. Keep this as your beater and upgrade as far as you can. Buy more mandolins and be one of us!
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    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Oh wow. That's a great story about the bridge fitting making such a big difference. Conventional wisdom says a good setup helps mandolins sound their best and it looks like you have a good example of that.

    If I had $800-$1000 to spend on a mandolin I would buy this:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/176797#176797

    However, I'd also probably either reach a bit or save up to buy this:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/176778#176778

    For my money, the Eastman is by far the best deal in your price range. I've played a bunch, owned one years ago, and currently own one. You could buy the one in the link above and be well under budget. On the other hand, The Bulldog in the second link is an American made instrument from an independent, artisan luthier. It will likely be a significant step up from the Eastman.

    Both will be night and day from your Epiphone. You're in a good spot. :-)
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    I have the exact same MM-30 but mine is all black. Bought it 15 years ago as my travel mando in my salesman days and it served me well as I was able leave my better instruments safe at home. Still have it and now its my campfire mando.
    But it has very limited tonal quality and probably always will. IMHO no repair work will GREATLY improve that fact. That being said I agree with comments above. Keep it for that no worries beater and save for something at that next level. Lots of great stuff at the A style price point you mentioned.
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    I picked up a used MM-30 acoustic/electric a couple of years ago because I needed a pickup equipped mandolin. It was pretty nice, and the pickup sounded really good. A couple of months ago, I traded into an Eastman MD-505cc. It's definitely a couple of steps up from the Epiphone, so I sold it for enough to buy a good pickup and have it installed.
    "it's not in bad taste, if it's funny" - john waters

  7. #6

    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Thanks everyone, I know what I need to do

  8. #7
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Go for an Eastman, you will not regret it.

    This....

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/176554#176554

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    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by MandolinSnow View Post
    If I were to upgrade, I'd be looking for an A-body in the $800-$1000 range. (I'd need to hear an oval hole in person before being able to choose between F hole and oval hole. I play Irish music, but I also like crisp attack.)
    If I had a budget of $800-$1000 to play Irish, I would be thinking that I could find a lifetime instrument in a flattop:

    https://reverb.com/item/45000393-nor...ndolin-natural
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  11. #9
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    It sounds like it is time to move up. As suggested, the Eastman is a nice instrument.
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  12. #10
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    The Epiphone could be repaired, but the cost would exceed the price of the instrument new. I advise against it.

    I had an older Eastman 505 come through here in a trade. I sometimes wish that I had kept it. While I wouldn't have called it a high grade professional mandolin, it was good enough to gig with, certainly much better than your Epiphone, and better than most of the old Gibson A-50's I've played. A good value at $769 new, and even better if you can find one used for $500 or so. If you go with Eastman, I recommend a 505 rather than a 305.

    Some of the old oval hole Gibsons might give you what your ear is looking for. Play a few of them any time an opportunity presents itself. They can vary quite a bit in tone-- some are brighter, some are thumpy and darker, some are really good, and some not much good at all. Expect to pay $1200 and up for a plain one in good condition, and budget another $300 - $400 for modern frets and a good set up unless you like tiny frets.

    Whatever you do, don't let the guy at the local store work your mandolin again.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Thanks everyone! After doing some research and absorbing your advice, I'm pretty set on getting either an Eastman 505 or 504. I'm still not sure whether to go for an oval or F hole, but I think I'm leaning towards oval.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Whatever you do, don't let the guy at the local store work your mandolin again.
    Haha I'm definitely not going back there for any repairs! I've done some research and found three reputable luthiers that advertise having expertise in mandolins within ~100 miles.

  14. #12
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    I'll keep my op short.

    Get another Mandolin.
    Find one you can put in your hands and play that makes you go, "WOW" ! !
    Then all your music will be from your heart.

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  15. #13
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Should be a finite limited amount of "upgrade" money put into an instrument with a heat-pressed top and laminated back and sides. The fact that OP did some of the work him/herself reduces the bill, but decision to get a better instrument gets my +1 every time.
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  16. #14

    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    From the pic all that seems to need is a fret level and dress, part of a routine setup procedure.

    If you can spring for a better instrument, by all means, but you'll always need a beater and this is a perfect candidate so getting it sorted out should happen regardless.
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    Default Re: Epiphone MM-30: Should I Improve It, Or Upgrade?

    Get the best instrument you can afford. One with the wow factor if you can. If it were an all solid wood mandolin there would be some room for improvement. Since it is not, keep it, sell it, trade it or whatever you think is best and go for a mandolin that speaks to you and expresses what you feel when you play. It need not be new it just needs to speak to you.

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