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Thread: What next to get?

  1. #1

    Default What next to get?

    New to the forum. Like many here, I'm a life long acoustic guitar flat-picker (heavy on bluegrass/newgrass) who took up mando a few years ago. I have a The Loar 520, which I assume is considered a beginner-to-intermediate level instrument. My challenges with it are getting it in tune and keeping it in tune. It also has a "loose" and "thin" tone, which no doubt has much to do with my still developing technique/skills. But I've thought about either A) putting higher quality tuning machines on it, or B) just biting the bullet and moving up to a next level instrument. Thought I'd solicit some opinions on these options.

    If I were to invest maybe $1500-ish in a new mandolin, suggestions for brands/models? I'm open to new or used. With the various Martin dreads I've gone through and still have, I've preferred used because I like them already broken in/opened up. Not sure if same considerations apply to mandolins.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2014
    Norfolk, VA

    Default Re: What next to get?

    Maybe tuner replacement if it won't stay in tune but if it tunes well but won't play in tune it may be the set up as in bridge placement or the strings or possibly your left hand technique. Pressing both strings in a pair down the same way as to not bend one more that than the other takes a bit of practice. The Loar 520 is an adequate instrument (if properly set up) to learn on. It will never be a tone monster but you can make good progress with the Loar mandolins. As for a move up to some better mandolin there is no end to the advice to be given. Kentucky makes several models in the price range you mentioned but if you like used then the choices are vast. I would suggest spending some time with an experienced player who could access your mandolin and your playing style.

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    No. California

    Default Re: What next to get?

    I'd vote for choice B, since your budget is more than double the cost of your current mandolin. I agree that your preference for used will apply in the mandolin world, and it basically lets you look at instruments that go for around $2K new --- which should give you a pretty substantial step up. At your price point, you should be able to get a higher-level Eastman model, and you never know what may come up in the Cafe Classifieds. Happy hunting!
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

  4. #4
    Registered User captwasabi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2020
    Western New York

    Default Re: What next to get?

    Mikerofone- I want to turn your attention to a craftsman from Mathews, Va. in the Chesapeake area. He built my first mandolin, and did a fine job. It cost
    $1850. I am thoroughly pleased with it. I even traveled to visit his shop two times, and was impressed with his knowledge. A fine F style mando
    for a fair price. Check out his website Cheers, Capt Wasabi

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Default Re: What next to get?

    Agree with the advice to check your set up and technique if you havent already. That said, MAS enablers we are! If you can go A-style Id look for a Silverangel Econo or contact Ken and talk through what your options with him might be. I eventually moved on from mine, but it took a lot of years and development of tone preferences before I did so. Howard Morris, Eastman, and Kentucky are also good options that come to mind. FWIW I actually kept my SA over a nice Collings MT I had simultaneously for a few months. They can be that good. Also, it was a major step up from my Kentucky 675-S

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  7. #6
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Rochester NY 14610

    Default Re: What next to get?

    Honestly, it's pretty rare for even cheapo tuners to be responsible for instruments "not staying in tune." Usually there's some binding in the nut slots that means string tension's not equally distributed on both sides of the nut, and the inequalities work out as the strings are strummed, resulting in de-tuning.

    Having said that, putting upgrades into a less expensive instrument only makes sense (IMHO) if you really love the instrument; new tuners, bridges, nuts etc. cost a bit of money, and don't generally add to the acoustic quality or market value of the mandolin. Clearly you don't love your Loar, so what-the-hell, why not get a better one?
    Allen Hopkins
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