Results 1 to 18 of 18

Thread: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

  1. #1

    Question Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    I am a longtime guitar player and I've always found the mandolin to be a beautiful instrument - in both sound and craftsmanship (especially the F style bodies!).

    So I recently bought myself my first mandolin - a Washburn M118SWK.

    Now, I've bought, owned, and sold enough guitars to know that it is always a good idea to play and inspect any instrument in person before laying down any cash. However, I had a 15% off coupon expiring the next day for an internet-only musical instrument vendor who shall remain nameless and figured why not.

    After some cursory Googling for a 'mid-range' F style mandolin, I landed on the Washburn. Price range under ~$750 (keeping in mind I was getting 15% off - so ~$850 list). Nothing too fancy, but something that would last me through a good portion of my learning. The finishes on the bursts and solid colors in my price range looked like they might be a little thin and cheap, difficult to tell from the photos (correct me if I'm wrong!). Plus, I really digged the distressed 'heirloom' look of the Washburn and I wanted something finished more like a violin.

    Anyway, the mandolin comes in and I'm really excited. I unbox it - very nice HSC with soft green padding, even has a lock and key. Very cool.

    The I pull out the Washburn - at first glance it looks wonderful. Then looked the whole thing over. When I inspected the purfling around the edge I saw that the 'distressed' sanding that was added to the horn had torn into the purfling pulling it up and scraping it off in spots. So I was pretty bummed, my otherwise perfect mandolin has this ugly cosmetic flaw.


    TLDR:
    I called customer support for the site and they were sort of accommodating, offered me two options:

    1. another Washburn M118SWK - hope it turns out better this time. also, annoyingly back-ordered until sometime in February

    2. exchange for a mandolin of equal value and keep coupon discount - they have the usual stock (The Loar, Kentucky, Fender, Michael Kelly, to name a few in my price range)


    Any recommendations for which make/model I should exchange for? (kind of married to F style body) Or is Washburn usually fine and I just got a lemon?

    After playing with the Washburn a tiny bit (don't want to void my return) I think I might prefer a fretboard with a radius. It definitely seems like it would make fretting some of those 4th finger stretches easier when playing adjacent strings. Are there any in my price range?

    Thanks for any help/guidance!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Posts
    956

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Every Eastman has a radiused fretboard I believe . They start at around 425.00 . I've yet to play a bad one.

  3. The following members say thank you to roysboy for this post:

    mshock 

  4. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,572

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    As a matter of personal preference I would have looked at the Kentucky and The Loar models and walked away from the rest.

  5. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to MikeEdgerton For This Useful Post:

    hankmshock 

  6. #4
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC
    Posts
    2,278

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by mshock View Post
    ... I had a 15% off coupon ... kind of married to F style body
    Yeah but (this'll crank up THE longest-running debate around here!)... How much is 15% worth, in sound & quality, when you're paying probably 35% to 40% for the fancy straphanger?

    In other words, a $750 / $850 F-style is probably the sound & quality equivalent of a $500 A-style. At price levels much below $1K, there's just way too much effort that has to go into putting an F-style together, leaving not much room to make it sound good.

    Personally, good experience w/ Eastman, Kentucky, & The Loar; not so much w/ Fender, Michael Kelly, or Washburn. Keep in mind that today's Washburn is not the premier American maker of 100 years ago; it's simply a brand name for Asian imports.
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

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

    mshock 

  8. #5
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    15,807

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Loar, Kentucky, Eastman all have better Cafe reps than Washburn.

    Two major errors: time pressure -- gotta buy it now and use that discount coupon! -- and over-emphasis on appearance/cosmetics. Nothing wrong inherently with wanting an F-model, as long as you realize that you're paying a premium for basically acoustically-irrelevant ornamentation. Washburn has some really nice-looking instruments, but a couple hours of research here on the Cafe might have warned you.

    Then, again, your quarrel with the Washburn you received -- isn't that cosmetic as well? An "ugly-looking flaw"? Agree that it may be evidence of substandard workmanship in its build, but how does the mandolin sound? Do you like playing it? Would you buy another that hadn't had the binding sanded through?

    Anyway: the M118 mandolin is all solid wood (good), has a carved rather than pressed top (good), but since it's not spec-ed as "hand carved," the top's most likely machine-carved. For less than $700 the Loar LM-500 is all-solid-wood, hand-carved. Same for the Eastman MD315, and the Kentucky KM-650 is right around $700 with the same features. These are all F-model mandolins that have received good reviews here on the Cafe.

    The other issue that you'll need to consider, is whether your mandolin, whichever one you choose, gets a good dealer set-up before it's sent to you. High-volume on-line sellers generally don't do this, which is one reason why they may offer the highest discounts. There's a lot of tweaking that goes into making a mandolin optimally playable and good-sounding, and those sellers who do "shop set-ups" will advertise that they do, as this is a selling point for many buyers. If the mandolin's not well-set-up, you're going to spend that 15% and more getting a local shop to do it -- or, you'll spend a good bit of time learning how to do it yourself.

    The adage "time is money" works here: saved your 15%, but spent a bunch of time returning an unsatisfactory product, doing research after the fact, etc. Probably more than you saved. Laying out $150 for a bottom-end Rogue A-model's one thing, but dropping $700 on a mid-range F-model may call for a bit more "prep."

    Enough of the stupid lecturing. Welcome to the Cafe, hope you get a really nice mandolin the second time! There are a lot of really good instruments out there in that price range now, and with a little research, you'll get a good'un.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  9. The following members say thank you to allenhopkins for this post:

    mshock 

  10. #6

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Thank all of you for your wonderful replies and the warm welcome! I especially appreciate the lecturing =D

    After extensive time on hold with the site that I ordered from I managed to get someone sufficiently high up the chain of command to issue me a full refund rather than just credit or exchange. So now I am a free man when it comes to my choice of mando and to some extent (explained later) vendor!

    I have spent the intermediate time doing quite a bit more research and determined that in order to get the instrument that I want I'll have to spend a little bit more money. Not a big deal, I just don't usually spend quite so much on an instrument that I'm new to - but it is much more important to me that I have a mandolin that I won't want to replace in the near future. I wish I had done a bit more initial research like you guys pointed out. Guitars and mandolins have a very different price/quality ratio (or maybe I just know what to look for in a guitar).

    I was aware of the A vs F style discrepancy in quality/price ratio. The reason that I am truly dedicated to getting an F style - other than the fact that they're a work of art - is that my grandfather owned and played an F style (I really wish I could recall the make/model) and I've always associated that look and feel with the mandolin as an instrument. It sounds a little silly, but I am sentimental like that.

    I know from my experience with guitars how important a good setup is. I wasn't so worried about this since I'm accustomed to setting up everything on my guitars, but mandos may require a finer touch being a more fragile and sensitive instrument. This is something that I will not skimp on if that's the case. I have found a couple websites that include professional setup, but I'm not sure if the forum rules allow me to ask about your collective experience with them.

    At this point you're probably wondering why I'm not heading to my local shop and playing everything I can get my hands on, buying locally, and getting a local pro setup. Unfortunately, I don't live in an area where the... 2? music shops stock mandolins. Middle of nowhere. So I am more or less stuck with picking one up online sight unseen/heard - which is why I really value the advice you guys are giving me.

    To answer allenhopkin's question - yes, I have been playing the Washburn some more. I love playing the instrument - mandolin is fascinating and really, really eyeopening from a guitarist's perspective - but I can tell that the Washburn is lacking in quality and setup. The binding is very wide, plastic-y and not well meshed in corners. It is obvious that the instrument was not set up at all, the action is way too high. I don't want to mess with it and risk voiding my return. I probably don't know enough to comment on the sound, but it doesn't sound bad to my ear. Maybe a little too... bright. Single notes stand out great but chords sound very high and cutting to me where I'd prefer a slightly deeper, sonorous bark.

    Taking into account your recommendations and notes as to what I should be looking for, I've compiled a short list of potential candidates from the three brands that get the most praise up here - Kentucky, Eastman, and The Loar. My price range has been increased to the ~$1k range which seems to be where the F styles are reasonably well-built. I do nitpick inconsequential cosmetic factors so bear with me.

    What I want:
    F style body preferably with a nice violin finish rather than a cheap-looking burst or solid (however, since violin style finishes aren't as common - a more subtle burst would be good too). Quality binding where there is binding, but I don't need everything bound. A radiused fretboard seems ideal after playing around with my flat Washburn. I'd like fancier fretboard inlays, but dots are fine too - just don't want the vine-style inlays that go up the entire board because it throws off my navigation.


    TLDR:
    All things reconsidered, my new options:
    • Kentucky KM-805 - radiused, finish could be hit or miss
    • Eastman MD515 - radiused, closer to the finish I'm looking for
    • The Loar LM-[600|700]-VS - highly recommended by many, but flat board, also hit or miss finish


    I have found glowing reviews of each of these and tried to discern what I can from youtube videos.
    Specs all look about equal, have any of you owned or compared these makes/models?
    I'd welcome any insight you guys can provide as to the major/minor differences between them.


    Thanks again for all the help. This is a truly great little community!

  11. #7
    Confused... or?
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Over the Hudson & thru the woods from NYC
    Posts
    2,278

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    CONGRATS on a fresh start!

    It's too bad that you don't have access to a major dealer, because actually feeling is most educational. Any relatives near a big city that you could visit? You don't HAVE to tell them that you're really making a pilgrimage to, say, Elderly, Gruhn, or Mandolin Brothers.

    Direct discussion with the Cafe sponsors has been the salvation of many. Personally, I've had e-mail discussions w/ The Mandolin Store, phone discussions w/ Elderly & Mandolin Bros., and bought on-line (mostly incidentals) from Elderly, Janet Davis, and Mandolin Bros. All of them have great service and informative websites. Robert Fear at Folkmusician posts here often and also gets rave reviews. All of them will do a good setup and make sure you're happy with the results.

    Remember that "finish" is a transient thing, and good instruments are subject to honest wear... just like we are. (My '17 Gibson A-1 is far from pristine, but it sure has beauty!) Don't be sucked into a thick, glowing, jewel-like poly finish that will never fade, crack, vibrate, breath, or be easily repairable... something like the skin of a Sherman tank.

    And, oh yeah: Welcome!!
    - Ed

    "What our group lacks in musicianship is offset by our willingness to humiliate ourselves." - David Hochman

  12. #8

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Sad to hear that your washburn didn't live up to expectations. True that they dont have the same track record of some of the other brands that you mentioned. A couple years ago i picked one up (same model as yours) on ebay. I am actually very pleased with the sound..It obviously doesnt compare to my 21 gibson, but i dont expect it to. As far as volume is concerned, it easily blows the 21 out of the water.

    Every time i go to the music store i try out the other mandos in the same price range and i am typically hard pressed to find one for the same price that beats it..

  13. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Vancouver BC Canada
    Posts
    956

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Hi . I played several Kentucky mandolins most of the Eastman models and only one Loar as well as several Epiphones and Fenders when I was looking for a GOOD mandolin to learn on . I ended up purchasing the Eastman A Style MD 305 . Not only did I feel it was terrific value for dollar but in all honesty it seemed to have the most open sound ( projection , nice warm bottom end etc..) of all of the mandolins I tried. I've heard this from several other Eastman owners here on the site also.

    You mentioned the Eastman MD515. I also tried several of these . Beautiful easy to play with a nice radiused fretboard. However , the MD315 ( also an F style with radiused fretboard) is a step down and the same wood ( although slightly different tuners and bridge ) but actually sounded much more open and warmer than the more expensive 515 . Consensus seems to be that it's the heavier finish on the 515 which seems to deaden it slightly . The 315 has an oil finish , I believe but is unvarnished . Shop owners also mentioned that the 515 would mark more quickly because of that finish but I can't comment first hand on that.

    In any case , if you are serious about the F style and are looking for something you won't be anxious to upgrade too soon ( and won't break the bank ) the MD 315 is the better sounding of the two and playing is identical ( 515/315) and is about 400 bucks less as I recall . The MD315 is available here in Canada for 700 with a hardshell case I believe. I've seen it advertised for slightly less at the Mandolin Store . I've had my MD305 ( the a-style brother to the Md315) for 7 months now and I have yet to find ANY issues ...sounds better all the time ....or maybe I'm just getting a bit smoother . Hope this is helpful.......Roysboy

    [*]Kentucky KM-805 - radiused, finish could be hit or miss[*]Eastman MD515 - radiused, closer to the finish I'm looking for[*]The Loar LM-[600|700]-VS - highly recommended by many, but flat board, also hit or miss finish[/LIST]
    Last edited by roysboy; Jan-13-2013 at 2:56am. Reason: spelling

  14. The following members say thank you to roysboy for this post:

    mshock 

  15. #10
    Registered User bluenote23's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Posts
    30

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    I have a The Loar LM700. I used to have a Rover RM75.

    The Loar has larger frets and a little wider fretboard. I found it was more comfortable (for me) than the Rover (I was coming over from the electric guitar). Both have flat boards and even though, as a guitar player, I was very used to a 7.5 inch radius, I don't find the flatness of the board a big deal at all.

    The LM700 cost me 3.5 times as much as the Rover and sounds a lot nicer.

    If you are finicky about the finish though, at least based on my instrument, forget about it. The inside scroll work is pretty rough and tumble. This seems to be about standard for the LM700. I am sure an A model will have better finishing.

  16. #11

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Quote Originally Posted by bluenote23 View Post
    If you are finicky about the finish though, at least based on my instrument, forget about it. The inside scroll work is pretty rough and tumble. This seems to be about standard for the LM700. I am sure an A model will have better finishing.
    Inside the scroll of Gibson F style mandolins is nothing to write home about either. That's a rough area to work in with sanding sticks and really difficult to spray a finish into for even the "big boys".

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  17. #12
    Registered User bluenote23's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    Posts
    30

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    My very inexpensive Rover RM75 had much better finishing inside the scroll but did not sound nearly as good as the LM700. To me, the finishing is not a big deal and I would take a better sounding mandolin over a better looking one every time.

  18. #13

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Wow! Even more great replies. I'm excited to be a part of this forum once I get my mando all settled.

    After doing some more research and actually getting my hands on an Eastman MD515 owned by a friend-of-a-friend, I'm leaning towards that. It played beautifully (sold on radiused fretboards now) but did seem have that thick finish that roysboy noted. But the more I play the less I really care about the finish. I guess coming from guitar I was always a stickler for just the right aesthetics, but for mando there honestly aren't that many options in my price range. So anyway, I do agree that the most important aspect is the sound and playability.

    I'll be ordering from what appears to be a reputable online folk instrument vendor who will be setting the instrument up end to end. Am I allowed to post a link here and get your opinions or experiences? Some forums are touchy about that sort of thing. I wish I had the time to go on a road trip to pick one up in person, but we've all got to pay our bills and keep the boss happy. You know how it is.

    So now the question is - MD315 or ante up for the MD515. I like the higher quality hardware on the 515, but if it's true that the 315 sounds that much better I would welcome the savings. Anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

  19. #14
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,572

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    It's perfectly fine to ask about a dealer.

  20. #15

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    The two vendors I'm considering are:

    The Mandolin Store

    and

    FolkMusician.com


    Anyone had any experience with either of these? Good/bad setups? The prices are the same.

  21. #16
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    97374
    Posts
    340

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Both well respected on the cafe ..... give them a call and chat with them. I would go the 315. Price is right and it seems to be just what you want. Just my opinion.
    Jean

    Pair of 96 Flatiron Fs

  22. #17

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    Glad to hear you had a chance to play one that spoke to you and that you are narrowing down you selection. Hope you end up with a really nice one. Recently I visited two music stores to compare some mandolins. Played some really great Phoenix, Weber and Collings instuments at Accoustic Vibes on one day. Next day stopped into Guitar Center so my brother in law could get some 'lectric stuff and played Kentucky, The Loar and Washburn mandolins (first time I've seen that large of a mando selection in that GC). Difficult to compare the latter after playing the former? Actually it was pretty easy. I play an inexpensive A-style so the bar is not that high. The used Kentucky KM-630 I played sounded a bit thin to me. A The Loar 520 left me wanting a better feel and better sound. Of two F-style Washburns I tried, one was rather mediocre at best, but the Washburn M118SWK was the best in the bunch in that room on that day to my ears. Go Figure. It was in no way comparable to the high end mandolins at the other dealer, but it was head and shoulders above mine. And like other Cafe posters I have generally steered newer players towards Kentucky, The Loar, and Eastman. Enjoy the hunt!

    Scott

  23. #18

    Default Re: Washburn M118SWK - exchange predicament, need some advice

    My new mandolin came in today, at long last!
    I finally landed on an Eastman MD615 off the classifieds on this very forum for about the same price as the MD515 and I couldn't be happier.

    Now I'm wrapping my head around all of those fun new chord shapes and having a blast working my way up and down the board, this is going to be a great weekend!

    And of course, here's the obligatory pic of my baby:

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	mine.jpg 
Views:	654 
Size:	213.6 KB 
ID:	97444

    Thanks everyone for your advice, I'd never have been this happy with my choice if it weren't for all of your wise words.

    Now back to pickin' and grinnin'

Posting Permissions

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