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The mandolin reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

89 reviews in the archive.

The Loar: LM-520VS

Submitted by Muscle Tone on 7/17/2014

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It has a pretty decent sound. Sounds very good on the treble strings, but is a bit lacking on the middle and bass strings.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

This mandolin was setup very well when my dad purchased it. Nothing really had to be done to it. It was good to go!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's basically a stripped down version of the LM-500 because it doesn't have any peghead inlay or binding. This is Loar's version of the Gibson F-5G. Just a no-frills F-style mandolin. I really like it though.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I have used this mandolin on quite a few gigs the past year and have never really had any problems with it so I could definitely rely on it for that purpose.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Have never dealt with Loar directly, but Guitar Center did a great job helping with the purchase.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I don't think anything should be upgraded on this mandolin. For the price you get very good parts.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I played this mandolin for awhile and really liked it. I have since moved on to other mandos that in my opinion have a stronger sound than this one, but overall I don't think it's a bad instrument in any way. If you're looking to buy a decent solid hand-carved F-style mandolin without breaking the bank, this would be the way to go. I would recommend it.

Overall Rating: 8

Johnson: MA-100

Submitted by Muscle Tone on 7/17/2014

Where Purchased: McKinney Pawn and Jewelry

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: $85 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This mandolin has a lot of volume. As with typical cheap mandolins this one is very much on the bright side, but is strongly lacking on the middle and bass strings.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

A few minor things did have to be done to the mandolin after purchasing it. A tailpiece cover had to be installed and new strings were put on it due to the fact that the strings originally on it were old and dead sounding.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It's just your typical sunburst finish that you see on most student level mandolins. Very plain A-style, but this is probably what really helps keep the cost down in the end.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

I wouldn't nessecarily rely on this for any gigs, but I would rely on it for jam sessions and for places where I would be afraid of bringing my Collings mandolin.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Haven't dealt with the company behind this mandolin, but McKinney Pawn and Jewelry did a fantastic job with the overall transaction.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The only thing I would really upgrade are the tuners. They are really cheap and furthermore are way too loose.

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

I will admit I do think very fondly of this mandolin, due to the fact this is what I started on when I got serious about playing a few years ago. I have since outgrown this instrument, so to speak and have moved on to other great mandolins that offer more capabilities than what this one offered. If you are new to the mandolin and just want to see if you're interested in playing, find a used one or get a Savannah SA-100 (which is basically the exact same mandolin, just different name). If you find you really love playing, then start looking into options for upgrading. This would be a good option for brand new players.

Overall Rating: 7

Collings: MT

Submitted by Muscle Tone on 7/16/2014

Where Purchased: Hill Country Guitars

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This mandolin has a real deep throaty tone that I really love. I don't have to play it too hard to get the tone I want. Overall great sound!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

This mandolin was setup very well. The only change that my dad and I have made is that we loosened the tuners a little bit due to the fact they were very hard to turn. Other than that, we haven't had to do anything else to it.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

It is an A-style mando with a beautiful Sheraton Brown finish. It's a no-frills appearance which I really love.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have used this mandolin for every gig I have ever played since I got it, so I would definitely rely on it. I will be doing some recording later on in the year, so I plan to use it for that purpose as well.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Can't really comment on this due to the fact a really good friend of mine purchased this mandolin for me. From what he told me, he had a very nice transaction with Hill Country Guitars.

Customer Service: 9

Components

My only genuine complaint with this mandolin is the tuners are very tight, which makes them hard to turn when tuning. As I stated earlier, my dad and I have loosened them to a slight degree, but some of them are still difficult to turn.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This is the best mandolin I have ever owned. If you're looking for a deep aggressive sounding mandolin for a little under $2,000 look no further. Bill Collings and his team are building absolutely great instruments and this one is in my humble opinion, one of the finest mandolins to ever come out of their factory. I highly recommend Collings mandolins!

Overall Rating: 10

Kentucky: KM-250

Submitted by Muscle Tone on 7/16/2014

Where Purchased: Murphy's Music

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: $249 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This mandolin suprisingly has a very balanced sound. Mostly on the brighter side, but can really bark on the middle and bass strings as well.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

This mandolin was setup pretty well. I don't think any changes really had to be made.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is an A-style mando. It has the typical sunburst finish seen on cheaper mandolins, but it has absolutely beautiful flame on the back.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I intend to use this mandolin primarily as a backup in case anything happens to my Collings MT. I would rely on it for a gig.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

My dad had a very nice transaction with Murphy Music when purchasing this mandolin.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The only part that may need to be upgraded in the future is the tail piece. It is pretty cheap for the most part.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If you want a really great sounding mando for less than $1,000 this would definitely be worth looking into. Kentucky mandolins have been consistently good and I highly recommend it!

Overall Rating: 10

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