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Thread: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best?

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best?

    I am looking at purchasing an oval hole A style mandolin. I have read lots of threads regarding the merits of an Old Wave, a Collings MT-0, or a Weber vintage style. I would prefer a mandolin with a slightly wider fretboard (1 3/16"). I have a Liddy A-5 which I am sorry to sell but its fretboard is too narrow for my liking. See classifieds

    There are three factors involved: tone, playability, price.

    I would be interested in mandolin players' opinions on which make is best for my style of music. I play a bit of balkan, jazz, blues, and celtic.

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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    For me, I would go Old Wave and specify your desired board width. I've played a couple of Bill's instruments and they have the sound I like and they have a great aesthetic. Plus you get to work with Bill. He can also help you chose front/back woods to color your tone to what you're looking for as well. One more if you have a tighter budget, is a Breedlove AO from their line (American/Quartz) and up. You can get a used Quartz AO for under $900 fairly often and it may fit neck requirement too. BTW, all of the ones you mention will have different sounds.

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    Registered User Dave Weiss's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    I'm looking in the same direction. I think I'll wait to see what the Lafferty's look like...
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    I've played all the instruments mentioned, and they're all very nice instruments. I played two different Collings MT-0 mandolins, and was surprised at how different they were.
    I have to say that the one I liked the best, tone-wise was the Breedlove A0-it had a very distinctive tone that I really liked.
    A little off-topic, but I like my teens Gibson better than any of them. Have you thought about checking out one of those?
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    Registered User liestman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Old Wave, hands down, for my tastes. Great sound, each one is distinct and less factory-made-looking than the others.
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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Thanks everyone for the posts so far. I have thought of the teens Gibson mandolin as an option but I have heard that they can be really variable in sound quality and how does one find a good one at a reasonable price. I am not that keen on the Breedlove peghead style though. I like an A0 with the snake head style peghead best. The Collings MT-0 mandolin is a fine looking mandolin. I really like to be able play them as this is the best way to judge the sound of one.

    A Collings MT-O mandolin is demonstrated here on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/10075241. I prefer the reddish sunburst to the yellow one being played here.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    I landed this Brentrup A4C finally after selling off a few others. The tone is great for what I want: sweet all the way up the neck with clarity and volume.

    What few folks talk about on these forums when discussing oval hole mandolins is the difference between the more authentic Gibson A copies and what i would term hybrids. The latter would include x-bracing and higher neck joins which puts the tonal quality more towards the f-hole quality rather than the sustain and bassyness of a single transverse brace and the neck joining closer to the 12th fret.

    There are only a few luthiers out there who do make structurally like the old Gibsons: Brentrup is one (he still might build one for you despite his saying he would retire from mandolin making); Lloyd LaPlant and Peter Sawchyn. I prob left out a few others.

    Then again, if you do like the tone of the modern hybrids like the Collings and Old Wave, certainly nothing wrong with them. But, they are different IMHO.
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    Registered User John Rosett's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Quote Originally Posted by NG53 View Post
    I like an A0 with the snake head style peghead best.
    Have you seen this one? http://www.mandolincafe.com/cgi-bin/...uery=retrieval
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Aren't Gail Hester's a-styles in the old Gibson style, ie. short neck, transverse brace, etc. ?
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    Brentrup Evangelist Larry S Sherman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I landed this Brentrup A4C finally after selling off a few others. The tone is great for what I want: sweet all the way up the neck with clarity and volume. There are only a few luthiers out there who do make structurally like the old Gibsons: Brentrup is one (he still might build one for you despite his saying he would retire from mandolin making)
    I absolutely agree than Hans Brentrup made the very best mandolins out there, but I really don't think you will be able to get him to build one for you, especially since he's recovering from surgery.

    Bill Bussman builds wonderful instruments too, including some great A-styles. There was a nice walnut wide nut A-Style oval in the classifieds last time I looked. NFI.

    Mike Black seems like an obvious choice for an oval hole A-Style in the Gibson tradition.

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    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    One of the finest sounding oval hole mandolins I have ever heard was from Kansas builder, Mike Black. I saw a video of one once that blew me away. I can't find that particular video, but I did find this one. What made the other video so good was the player was superb. This one still shows the tone fairly well.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgZqm...eature=related

    Here's a link to the A4 page of his web site.
    http://blackmandolins.com/a4-mandolins.html
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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Old Wave is my vote, I have two of em.
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    I've always been intrigued by the Old Waves, but have only gotten to play one, an A-F that was pretty stellar. Mike Black and his ovals ooze class and purity and I can say that I've been looking at that bare back and top on his website contemplating a call. Keith Newell and his long neck flat top oval is another thats gotten my attention. But for now I own an MT-O and I must say I've been really impressed with it. It's loud, pretty tubby, beautiful tone. Just doesn't have the character of the names above, thats for sure. But I guess we need accountants as much as we needs artists. Maybe. I also owned a Breedlove OO for awhile, that thing had a sound signature that I loved, just couldn't handle the neck at the time. Now I can though. Weird.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry S Sherman View Post
    I absolutely agree than Hans Brentrup made the very best mandolins out there, but I really don't think you will be able to get him to build one for you, especially since he's recovering from surgery.
    I contacted Hans about 9 months ago and he said he would build me an A model if i contacted him last fall. At that point he said was just just not going to build F5s any more but was willing to uild maybe 3 other styles per year in addition to his guitars. Perhaps things have changed since his surgery etc. Maybe after his recooperates, tho, it could not hurt to ask.

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry S Sherman View Post
    Bill Bussman builds wonderful instruments too, including some great A-styles. There was a nice walnut wide nut A-Style oval in the classifieds last time I looked. NFI.
    I like Bill and his mandolins but AFAIK, he builds pretty much x-braced ones -- altho I never asked him whether he would build a transverse braced one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Larry S Sherman View Post

    Mike Black seems like an obvious choice for an oval hole A-Style in the Gibson tradition.
    Agree about Mike Black and Gail Hester, too. I have never played either of theirs but they definitely have that same mojo.
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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Thanks for all the wonderful advice you have given so far. Having listened to the A mandolins on the Mike Black Video, I am tending towards his in the traditional Gibson style. You really knowledgeable about the A series mandolins and the type of bracing used in the tops. Mike Black seems to build his more traditionally.

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    Registered User rnjl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Hi, I have a "hybrid," as Jim calls is, made by Will Parsons- long neck, radius fretboard, oval hole A Model- and it's great, very warm and woody and would work well for any mando style except hard-cutting bluegrass. (But I do take it to jams sometime.)

    Will is a great maker and not as expensive (at least, not a few years ago) as some others. Pictures of my mandolin are on his website.

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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    I make them. Have made around 100 ovals to date, and that is pretty much what I specialise in. Have been doing it for nearly 20 years. Currently have 3 available for immediate delivery on my web site. I notice you are from Victoria. I'm from Bega NSW, not so far away.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Sorry, Peter... I knew that and should have included you in that list. One of these days I will play one of yours but as of now none are too close for me to try.
    Jim

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Gotta chime in to cast a vote for Mike Black as well, biased obviously as I'm the happy owner of one!

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Quote Originally Posted by rnjl View Post
    Hi, I have a "hybrid," as Jim calls it
    My point was to make that distinction between contemporary made oval instruments. I did not realize that there was a difference until I looked around and realize that there are more ovals built on the style 5 platform and specs which is why they don't quite have that same sound as the vintage Gibsons.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Mar-12-2012 at 2:01pm.
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    Capt. E Capt. E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Tom Ellis has made a few ovals, also built on the A5 model. Played one once and it was very very nice indeed. It, of course, did not have that old oval sound, if that is what you are looking for. But it was a wonderful sounding, powerful instrument.
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    xxxxxx
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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Since the last post, I have narrowed the field down to Coombe, Black, and Old Wave mandolins in terms of their sound and aesthetics. The Mike Black A4 mandolin comes out ahead of the other two makes in terms of both sound and aesthetics. The Old Wave and Coombe mandolins are pretty close in terms of sound but not quite there in terms of aesthetics - remember I prefer the look of the old Gibson A- series mandolins and Mike Black's are pretty spot on in resembling the older style mandolins. And thanks to Jim Garber for pointing the subtle differences in terms of the top soundboard bracing and length of the fingerboard. I now understand that the slightly longer fingerboard makes a mandolin sound louder because of the higher string tensions involved. Thus one would expect a tighter less resonant sound on a longer scale-length modern mandolin. If I have got anything basically wrong in my assessment, please let me know.

    And BTW I have found the differences in tone between the above makes and others to be quite subtle if you find a web-site which compares the mandolins using the same melody or harmony. So really it then comes down to aesthetics and the feel and comfort of the fingerboard and the instrument and the style of music you want to play. In the interview with Andy Statman on Mandolin Cafe he loves the sound of his Gibson A2 mandolin but could never feel 100% comfortable with the feel of the fingerboard. With his new F5 mandolin he likes the feel of the fingerboard but has found the F5 sound does not give him an accurate feel of the real sound his instrument is producing. Anyone considering purchasing a new or another one should therefore be very careful about how that instrument will sound and play, especially if he or she tries out another mandolin with a different tone or sound they like.

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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    Old Wave first choice! Second, third, fourth choices? Old Wave!
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    Registered User northfolk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Vintage style newer oval hole A mandolins: which make is best

    I have to vote for my Lawrence K. Brown F2 three-point (my avatar); hands down the best sounding and best playing oval hole I have ever seen or played? Perfect balance, full woody sound and workmanship next to none. Unfortunately he only made four of them; to date anyway?
    Thanks for your support?

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