Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 33

Thread: Modern Oval Holes

  1. #1

    Default Modern Oval Holes

    After having played f-hole mandolins almost exclusively, I’m interested in exploring the world of oval hole, “modern” (sometimes called “hybrid”) mandolins.

    The makers/models that I currently have on my radar are Girouard, Northfield NF2S, and Northfield Calhoun. Obviously, these mandolins hit very different price points, so are hard to compare in many respects. Tone and playability is what I care about comparing. Appointments don’t concern me.

    What other makes should I be considering in the sub $5000 range?

    Additionally, if you have had an opportunity to play multiple modern oval holes, I’d very much be interested to hear why you may have picked one over the other.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User Louise NM's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    New Mexico
    Posts
    781

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Pava! I have one of her A-ovals that is fantastic. Several players far better than me have raved about it. Intonation is spot-on and it plays like butter.

  3. #3
    Registered User mandrian's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    490

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Hi,

    Mike Black specialises in making A4 type mandolins and they’re excellent and good value. Having said that they are pretty close copies of the Gibson A4’s of a hundred years ago, so I don’t know if they meet your criteria for a “modern” mandolin.


    Regards,

  4. #4
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Co. Mayo, Ireland
    Posts
    3,481

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Tone wise the Calhoun is a bit of an outlier in the ones you list since it's a flat top vs. the others being carved top instruments. A Collings MTO or MT2O would be another to consider.
    2018 Girouard Concert oval A
    2015 JP "Whitechapel" tenor banjo
    2018 Frank Tate tenor guitar
    1969 Martin 00-18




    my Youtube channel

  5. The following members say thank you to Jill McAuley for this post:


  6. #5

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    The Girouard is going to be a bit more than $5k and a fairly long wait. I think Max told me he’s out over 2 years.
    Sorry, I am no longer suffering fools

  7. The following members say thank you to Mandobar for this post:


  8. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Bluffton, South Carolina
    Posts
    61

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    I just went through the same search after 15 years of F-hole mandolins. I bought an Eastman MD514 because of reputation and price. It has unbelievable volume and tone. Fit and finish are excellent. I recently had Randy Wood do a fingerboard scoop and even he commented on what a good looking and sounding instrument it was.

  9. #7
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    3,451

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    My first good mandolin was my Sonny Morris hybrid F4 built in 2010. It has an elevated fretboard and the neck joins the body at the 14th fret. Oval sound hole, single transverse brace. Western red cedar soundboard and big leaf maple neck, back and sides. At the time I paid I think $1500. Now it would be more but I'm pretty sure well under $5 k. I still play it frequently and taken it to many jams and festivals. No problems or issues for the past 12 years. Great low end, volume and sustain. I use Curt Mangan Gabriel Wiseman monel medium strings on it.

    Sonny will tell you he builds for tone and playability, not bling. I've played quite a few of his mandolins and fiddles over the years - they are consistently great.

  10. #8
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,609

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Quote Originally Posted by joh View Post
    After having played f-hole mandolins almost exclusively, I’m interested in exploring the world of oval hole, “modern” (sometimes called “hybrid”) mandolins.
    What constitutes “modern” or “hybrid” for you? Is it just the elevated board (as on the Calhoun) or a longer neck join (like on the NGS-2S) as well?
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  11. #9
    ===========
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Connecticut
    Posts
    1,627

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    After 15 years on the standard f-hole bandwagon, I finally joined the Oval Hole Club about 5 or 6 years ago. I'm not enough of a player to substantiate the purchase of a mandolin anywhere in the four-figure price range, so I can't be of any first-hand help - but (as Louise pointed out above) the Pava stuff that I have heard sounds great.

  12. #10
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    6,022

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    This Pomeroy oval in the classifieds fits the bill.....

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/193330#193330

    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  13. #11
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    2,388

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    I can't speak for the current iteration, but Weber made some fantastic ovals.

  14. #12
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    6,022

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  15. #13
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Greer, SC
    Posts
    736

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    I've got a Weber oval hole and a Pomeroy. They are both keepers and have great sound. The Weber is older (Montana build) than the Pomeroy but both have a great sound. I bought the Pomeroy after playing a friend's oval hole A. They both give the Weber a run for its money at a much lower cost. Not all Pomeroys are hybrid but the one based on the Gibson A have a great tone as well, I just like the longer neck.

  16. #14
    Registered User Eric F.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Georgia
    Posts
    2,388

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Looks pretty, Charles, that's for sure. I own a Fern oval that haunted my dreams after I played it in the store, and I've liked every Weber oval I've played. I owned a Pomeroy many years ago and it was a nice oval with a ringing sound, but it was more a modern take on a teens Gibson than a hybrid style, as the OP says they're after. That said, that Pomeroy oval F in the classifieds looks luscious.

  17. #15
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    ithaca new york
    Posts
    356

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Dennis Satterlee View Post
    I just went through the same search after 15 years of F-hole mandolins. I bought an Eastman MD514 because of reputation and price. It has unbelievable volume and tone. Fit and finish are excellent. I recently had Randy Wood do a fingerboard scoop and even he commented on what a good looking and sounding instrument it was.
    In the last few years Eastman has been turning out consistently wonderful mandolins. You made a great choice.
    “Mandolin brands are a guide, not Gospel “
    - Data Nick

  18. #16

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Paris Swing had a line of oval holes that were a modern take on the concept.

    My John Jorgenson signature was their top of the line model. It's an oval hole most closely resembling a Gibson snake-head, with a few twists thrown in.

    Like the snake-head, it's a short-neck design on an f-style body. Unlike a snake-head, which uses ladder-bracing, the PS has sound-bars (like an F) but in a soft V shape. Solid carved spruce top, solid maple back, sides and neck with ebony fretboard. The cut-away is done ala Selmer/Maccaffari gypsy-jazz guitars. The "petite-bouche" oval hole is more a "petite-D," again with a nod to gypsy-jazz.

    The sound is huge, tight and focused while being full with a nice thump and crisp highs.

    Nice as mine is the absolute best "oval hole" I've ever played was an Ovation Adamas. Absolute cannon! Very pricy.

    https://americana-uk.com/the-unsung-...a-the-mandolin

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	iknqh7dcsqh4q46o725phkbiac7fvjqn1388014895945mm80-nwt.jpg 
Views:	11 
Size:	74.9 KB 
ID:	203559 Click image for larger version. 

Name:	MS-120-N_grande.jpg 
Views:	12 
Size:	8.8 KB 
ID:	203560 Click image for larger version. 

Name:	ms-130-n-f.jpg 
Views:	11 
Size:	15.9 KB 
ID:	203557 Click image for larger version. 

Name:	jorgenson_paris.jpg 
Views:	12 
Size:	7.3 KB 
ID:	203558
    VerneAndru.com | oKee.ComX

    - ---==< V >==--- -

  19. #17
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    6,022

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    They tend to get mixed reviews and the OP is looking for a hybrid mandolin in a much higher price bracket.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  20. #18

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    They tend to get mixed reviews and the OP is looking for a hybrid mandolin in a much higher price bracket.
    If you're referring to the Paris Swing, I agree they've had a rocky reception. If you can find one they polish up to be a first-class instrument notwithstanding their price point. IIRC my sig model was north of $1000 new, so they weren't cheapos.

    Their styling was a bit "out there" for the traditionalists and a few of the models had some design issues - tuners were garbage and the Grande Bouche models were prone to having the tops cave in, which are very fixable issues and not worth tossing the baby for the bathwater IMHO.

    I think they deserve a second chance, TBH. They don't infringe anybody's IP rights and they have some very unique design twists that stand them apart.

    The Adamas is right around $5K which is at the higher-end of the OP's price range.
    VerneAndru.com | oKee.ComX

    - ---==< V >==--- -

  21. #19
    Registered User Russ Jordan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Tryon, NC
    Posts
    1,073

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    If an instrument is prone to having the top cave in, that’s a big reason for me not to get it.

  22. The following members say thank you to Russ Jordan for this post:


  23. #20

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Russ Jordan View Post
    If an instrument is prone to having the top cave in, that’s a big reason for me not to get it.
    I quite agree and for that reason would avoid the Grand Bouche model. It is a great concept that can benefit from redesigning the sound hole size and bracing; I look at the first batch as field-test prototypes and only a few have failed from what I've heard, so it's close. A bit of a re-work incorporating lessons learned would easily fix any problems.

    I was originally after the small oval version -

    I missed out on the last one but the seller had a black one he had put aside - he was doing the sell-off after the line was discontinued - which he graciously offered. I'm glad he did because, as I've noted above, it's a stellar mandolin and well deserving of John Jorgeson's endorsement. I love John - he's a killer player.

    Paris Swing were designed by Greg Rich, former Gibson builder and the designer behind The Loar. No doubt lessons learned from Paris Swing went into helping the success of The Loar. With The Loar being direct knock-offs of Gibson and Gibson currently cracking down on IP infringers, Paris Swing may deserve another look.
    VerneAndru.com | oKee.ComX

    - ---==< V >==--- -

  24. #21

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    What constitutes “modern” or “hybrid” for you? Is it just the elevated board (as on the Calhoun) or a longer neck join (like on the NGS-2S) as well?
    Longer neck and a more focused sound. In other words, the opposite spectrum of the old Gibson oval holes.

    It's unclear to me how much an elevated board vs a different neck join location vs a bracing pattern vs whatever contribute to the difference in tone, so I can't really say that any particular feature makes an oval hole "modern" or "hybrid".

    Quote Originally Posted by Louise NM View Post
    Pava! I have one of her A-ovals that is fantastic. Several players far better than me have raved about it. Intonation is spot-on and it plays like butter.
    I'd love to try one of her oval holes some day, but I haven't seen them come up for sale in recent memory.

    Quote Originally Posted by mandrian View Post
    Hi,

    Mike Black specialises in making A4 type mandolins and they’re excellent and good value. Having said that they are pretty close copies of the Gibson A4’s of a hundred years ago, so I don’t know if they meet your criteria for a “modern” mandolin.


    Regards,
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric F. View Post
    Looks pretty, Charles, that's for sure. I own a Fern oval that haunted my dreams after I played it in the store, and I've liked every Weber oval I've played. I owned a Pomeroy many years ago and it was a nice oval with a ringing sound, but it was more a modern take on a teens Gibson than a hybrid style, as the OP says they're after. That said, that Pomeroy oval F in the classifieds looks luscious.
    I do love the sound of many old Gibson oval holes (and, interestingly, I also really dislike the sound of some, too!). I do have one already, so that scratches my itch for a mandolin of this type. If I were to ever sell my Gibson, I'd likely look to replace it with a new instrument that sounds similar but has some of the modern playability affordances (a more comfortable neck, radius fretboard, etc.).

    Pomeroy and Black would be at the top of my list. I'd feel more comfortable purchasing a Pomeroy because he does a really good job of documenting the sound of his instruments on his website, so I'd feel more comfortable purchasing one sight unseen.

    The two pomeroy's in the classifieds are very tempting - they seem like fantastic values. However, it appears that Pomeroy's bread and butter are the A/A2 models. If I were to purchase a Pomeroy, I'd prefer to purchase one of those.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    My first good mandolin was my Sonny Morris hybrid F4 built in 2010. It has an elevated fretboard and the neck joins the body at the 14th fret. Oval sound hole, single transverse brace. Western red cedar soundboard and big leaf maple neck, back and sides. At the time I paid I think $1500. Now it would be more but I'm pretty sure well under $5 k. I still play it frequently and taken it to many jams and festivals. No problems or issues for the past 12 years. Great low end, volume and sustain. I use Curt Mangan Gabriel Wiseman monel medium strings on it.

    Sonny will tell you he builds for tone and playability, not bling. I've played quite a few of his mandolins and fiddles over the years - they are consistently great.
    Sonny Morris mandolin's are another that look like a great bang-for-buck and there are a handful for sale in the classifieds. However, like Mike Black, there are not many quality recordings of his instruments online, so I'm hesitant to buy one sight unseen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jill McAuley View Post
    Tone wise the Calhoun is a bit of an outlier in the ones you list since it's a flat top vs. the others being carved top instruments. A Collings MTO or MT2O would be another to consider.
    Very true - the Calhoun may be a bit of a tonal outlier. That said, I remember being surprised after the brief moment when I got to play a Calhoun. It much more resembled some carved top mandolins I've played than the flat top Red Valley oval hole I own currently.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    The Girouard is going to be a bit more than $5k and a fairly long wait. I think Max told me he’s out over 2 years.
    Yes, the waitlist is long, but I believe his Studio model starts at $4500. Used Girouards also come up for sale from time to time.
    Last edited by joh; Oct-03-2022 at 4:01pm.

  25. #22
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Saint Augustine Beach FL
    Posts
    6,022

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    A couple of weeks ago a stunning, used, Girouard oval A with a sinker-redwood top showed up in the classifieds. I think it was gone in 15 minutes.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  26. #23
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2019
    Location
    Toulouse (France)
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Eastman's oval hole mandolins have X bracing which is different from what Gibson used, hence a different sound but still in the same league.

  27. #24

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    I had an opportunity to handle a Loar-era F4 in a shop earlier in the year.

    Compared to mine it felt like a clunker; the non-elevated fretboard and overall construction made if feel more like a wooden box than an instrument. The tone and volume wasn't horrible but wasn't great either.

    I agree modern ovals benefit from refinements discovered over the years and all builders have their own take. I often wonder what a Collings oval would sound like.
    VerneAndru.com | oKee.ComX

    - ---==< V >==--- -

  28. #25

    Default Re: Modern Oval Holes

    Quote Originally Posted by Verne Andru View Post
    I had an opportunity to handle a Loar-era F4 in a shop earlier in the year.

    Compared to mine it felt like a clunker; the non-elevated fretboard and overall construction made if feel more like a wooden box than an instrument. The tone and volume wasn't horrible but wasn't great either.

    I agree modern ovals benefit from refinements discovered over the years and all builders have their own take. I often wonder what a Collings oval would sound like.
    I’ve yet to encounter an f-hole mandolin who’s upper register A and E strings even come close to the bell like quality of those old Gibsons. They sound so much more sweet up the neck, even the bad ones. I’ve been told it’s the elevated board that’s the main difference maker, but I don’t know for certain.

    I don’t have the same hands on experience with modern, hybrid oval holes, but I bet it’s the same story.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •