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Thread: Ozark mandolins

  1. #1
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    I recently saw a picture of Fairport Convention, with Chris Leslie holding an Ozark mandolin.

    I must admit I've never thought of them as particularly good mandolins, but maybe they're OK. Chris must use a pick-up on his, so perhaps he's more interested in the amplified sound than the acoustic, but he must like playing it.

    Anyone got any Ozark experience?
    David A. Gordon

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    Dagger, I spoke to Chris about his Ozark(s) a couple of years ago when Fairport Acoustic were passing through the Philadelphia area. The are imported by Dave Carroll of Touchstone Tonewoods in Reigate Surrey (I used to live in Reigate and knew Dave). I believe they are Chinese, Dave's company have been importing "learner" fiddles for schools for along time. Chris's primary requirement is a good playing mandolin that we almost always be amplified. I never did get to hear it in straight acoustic mode. Call Dave Carroll at Touchstone, I'm sure he'll give you the details, he's a good guy.

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    I've played quite a few Ozarks. Some had acceptable tone/playability for the price, some did not, though not all would have been set up well. They seem very variable, so I wouldn't really want to buy one without playing it first.

    I briefly played an Ozark F-style (maybe the same model that Chris Leslie has) at a session not long ago and it sounded pretty good - quite responsive with good volume.

    Patrick

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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Ozark is simply the house brand of Touchstone Tonewoods (i.e. Stentor Music, the UK's largest music wholesaler) in the same way that Ashbury is Hobgoblin's house brand. You get a wide variety of imported instruments under that brand name and it's fairly meaningless to generalise. For example, there are Ozark-branded Romanian mandolins, which are really Hora, and Ozark-branded guitar-shaped ones which are really Crafter. I think the F-style that Chris Leslie plays is essentially a Washburn M3-SW -- the fret and headstock inlays and the untypical fretboard termination are identical. In my experience, the tone of the Washburns is variable, but they are all very playable indeed. Whatever it is, Chris does get a fabulous stage tone out of his, and with the way Fairport are set up these days, he plays it on the large majority of their tunes, only changing to fiddle or OM/zouk for a few numbers.

    Martin

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    I picked up an Ozark 2240 yesterday from a local shop. #Quite cheap, just a basic A model but with a solid spruce top.

    I actually bought it for a local high school where I now have about 5 students. #There are a lot of Scottish fiddlers at the school who might be interested in trying the mandolin, so this instrument will basically live in a music room at the school for pupils to try it and perhaps decide to take it up.

    Seems to me to be a decent instrument. #Good action and playability, good tone - particularly on the bass strings, very nice ring to it, pretty loud, and seems to be quite sturdy. #It think it will be an ideal instrument for the purpose. Made in China.
    There was another Ozark on the shop which I didn't like nearly so much. #Not sure what model, but it's sunburst.
    #
    In my experience, you can find some fairly good instruments at a low price, but you can't generalise and recommend any one brand because some instruments are much better than others.
    One of my students bought an Eastman without me trying it. #I recommended it largely on them always getting good press here on the Cafe, but I'm afraid I didn't like it at all. The neck was not straight, and it sounded rubbish. I told her to take it back. The shop man attempted to improve things with the truss rod, but eventually gave up and gave her another one. #That was better, but I don't really like it much either. #Better with the Ozark, which was a lot cheaper.
    David A. Gordon

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    Incidentally, Fairport are playing locally tonight. I might go, and check out Chris' mandolin.
    David A. Gordon

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