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Thread: Which mandolin should I buy?

  1. #1
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    Default Which mandolin should I buy?

    So Iíve saved up $6000 for a mandolin.
    Iím between the northfield Big Mon or having Jerry Rosa of Rosa String Works build me one. Iíve played the northfield and was very impressed, but something about The Rosa mandolin keeps calling to me. It seems no one who has one ever post anything about them. Iím just not sure which way to go any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks

    P.S. letís keep it civil. Iím not about putting anyone down. I know both people make excellent mandolins. Iím just trying to see if anyone here owns a Rosa. As I canít find much info anywhere else.
    Last edited by AHoyle; Feb-01-2019 at 3:45pm.
    Hardwick Bluetone banjo, old Washburn b16 with an rb250 tone ring
    Custom Martin D28, and D45
    Tyler White #12, Eastman MD 815cs, Austin AU657 beater mandolin
    Several violins, eletric guitars, piano, Suzuki bluesmaster harmonica set, and my Dads old trombone from high school.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    I'm a huge Jerry Rosa fan. He has taught me a lot, but the reason you don't hear about his mandolins is he has made so few. So that route would be a leap of faith. He is building a couple new ones, uses good wood and has a beautiful headstock inlay.

    Six grand is a chunk of change though. I'd play every used mandolin I could get my hands on in that range. The Northfield Big Mon is a nice mandolin, but I'd spend the whole wad on a used Artist if I went Northfield. You can find used Collings and Gibson for that too, plus any number of one man shop mandolins.

    Perhaps one of the half dozen Rosa owners will chime in.
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Instrument buying and selling is a bit like fishing. It appeals to a basic need and instinct in our psyche. To avoid regret, go forth and play a lot of instruments. Take your time. Be attentive to each one. I bought my last mandolin, an Elkhorn after much deliberation and research. I almost bought a Pava. I bought an A model because the scroll is nice but adds nothing to the sound IMHO and sound and ease of play are of most importance to me. The instrument has to fit you, your hands, be satisfactory to your eyes andears and most importantly, touch your heart. It's like fishing in that the wait is what it is about. Getting the right mandolin is part of the journey.

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  6. #4
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Have you considered a Stiver or a Rattlesnake? You're in the ballpark, and they are both exceptionally well regarded instruments and makers. Good luck with the search and selection?
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Thanks for the advice Iíve played a bunch of mandolins I live in Fayetteville NC and thereís not much bluegrass influence here. I was in pigeon forge Tennessee a few weeks ago and I stopped in the music outlet and played every mandolin they had I spent something like 4 hrs in the store and they were very nice to me, but all there Gibsonís just didnít do anything for me maybe cause they been just hanging on a shelf unplayed for so long the just needed to wake up, best mando they had was a Weber gallatin and a man was buying it as I walked out it was good just not the look I wanted. I know banjo Ben plays a rattlesnake. Iím a massive fan of Adam Steffey and Iíve heard his Big Mon and was just blown away by the sound. my style is something like Doyle Lawsonís Style (not as good as he is) sometimes Iím adventurous and try some crazy Chris Thile riffs. and I can hear those sounds in the big mon and from Jerry playing his, I sense they have that extra bit of character that I like. Iíve also looked into Ratliffís R5 and a few lesser known builders but these 2 I just keep coming back to. Itís a serious case of MAS brothers. And Iíve upgrade my guitar and banjo the last one to upgrade is the mandolin. Boy itís a tough decision so many good builders out there right now.
    Last edited by AHoyle; Feb-01-2019 at 3:44pm.
    Hardwick Bluetone banjo, old Washburn b16 with an rb250 tone ring
    Custom Martin D28, and D45
    Tyler White #12, Eastman MD 815cs, Austin AU657 beater mandolin
    Several violins, eletric guitars, piano, Suzuki bluesmaster harmonica set, and my Dads old trombone from high school.

  8. #6
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    +1 for the following:
    Stiver, Collings, Northfield Artist series
    Would I be correct to say the Big Mon might be a little warmer in tone?
    If this is a tone you are looking to find you might take a look at Tyler White Mandolins. His are consistant in this tone. He is an artist who knows how to make fabulous instrumenets. He prefers one piece backs. Is REALLY picky about how his instruments turn out. He works with them through the process to make sure they are just right. His work can be seen here on the cafe in a few threads, and online through a Google search.
    If you are interested in a little bit brighter tone it might be good to look at Taggart Mandolins. He had an Italian Spruce topped mandolin that was sweet. Kind of a mix between the two. He also had a couple of others I thik with Sitka tops. Each of them are Bluegrass powerhouses. You can track him down through the builders Eye Candy her on the cafe.
    +2 on the idea of doing all you can to put as many really good instrunmets in our hands as possible. I have taken a couple trips to Eldery In Lansing (6hours), and one trip to Nashville (4hours) to vist Carter’s and Gruhn’s guitars. Both places can give you a really good idea of different tones available. Different neck shapes. And setup.
    How ever it works out for you, enjoy the chase! I am still in the running. I have been given the kind opportunnity to visit Tyler’s shop and see and play his instruments. His generous sharing of insight on what he has learned, and is learning, has really helped to guide me in the search.
    I also in the past was able to visit Bruce Taggart’s shop. He is also quite kind in helping ones to walk through the process.
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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    To your question, I'm not familiar with Jerry Rosa's mandolins, but did play a Big Mon at Gryphon for a while yesterday. Very nice mandolin.

    I agree with the suggestion that if you want to spend the full $6k consider the Northfield Artist instead. Otherwise get the Big Mon, and pocket the approximately $1500 difference or use it for a mando camp or two. . .

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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Play as many as you can before buying but that being said I would not hesitate in buying without playing an Ellis or Girouard !

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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    The Big Mon is a very good mandolin, especially for Bluegrass.
    It would be a good choice, as it saves you $1,500 for something else that is fun.

    Having said that, the Northfield Artist models are truly excellent mandolins.
    I have a 5 bar Artist and love it.
    Although I like the Big Mon, and hope to own one at some point just for kicks, I prefer the Artist series.
    The Big Mon is a bit more old school in its tone (It has a "clunk" to the tone).
    The Artist series are a bit more focused and louder. (A touch more modern and bold)

    You mentioned Adam Steffey, and I agree that his tone from the Big Mon is awesome.
    That New Primitive album is great, with great mandolin tone.
    But he now plays a Northfield Artist model.
    I believe it is a 2 bar with an Engelmann top.
    Sounds pretty great too.
    Here is Adam playing his Artist
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hnR3TeDPJA

    Whether it is a Big Mon or an Artist series, the Northfields do rock.
    Maybe get a used Artist series.
    I got mine for just a little over the price of a Big Mon.
    As much as I like the Big Mon, I think the upgrade to Artist is worth it.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    I also wouldn't say no to an Ellis A.
    I have lust for an Ellis...
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    The Big Mon is a very good mandolin, especially for Bluegrass.
    It would be a good choice, as it saves you $1,500 for something else that is fun.

    Having said that, the Northfield Artist models are truly excellent mandolins.
    I have a 5 bar Artist and love it.
    Although I like the Big Mon, and hope to own one at some point just for kicks, I prefer the Artist series.
    The Big Mon is a bit more old school in its tone (It has a "clunk" to the tone).
    The Artist series are a bit more focused and louder. (A touch more modern and bold)

    You mentioned Adam Steffey, and I agree that his tone from the Big Mon is awesome.
    That New Primitive album is great, with great mandolin tone.
    But he now plays a Northfield Artist model.
    I believe it is a 2 bar with an Engelmann top.
    Sounds pretty great too.
    Here is Adam playing his Artist
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hnR3TeDPJA

    Whether it is a Big Mon or an Artist series, the Northfields do rock.
    Maybe get a used Artist series.
    I got mine for just a little over the price of a Big Mon.
    As much as I like the Big Mon, I think the upgrade to Artist is worth it.
    . Steffey would make a cigar box instrument sound great !

  17. #13

    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    You are in a sweet spot, Mr. Hoyle. With that budget, there's a long line of mandos, new and used, to consider. Have fun.

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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Thanks for all the suggestions and for making me feel welcome here.
    I noticed elderly had an artist for sale looks pretty sweet, I’ve never played an artist I wasn’t sure if it was really that much of an upgrade from the big mon. I like the Collings and I also noticed a 2004 Gibson fern that was pretty enticing not sure who was head luthier at that time but still a fern is a fern. Deciding is the hardest part of being in the sweet spot I guess. Thanks for all the recommendations and I guess the tone I’m going for would be that of Doyle Lawson as that is as close to my style as anything I play. Doyle sound also holds a place in my heart he was the very first bluegrass band I ever heard. Funny thing is I grew up in the mountains of NC never heard a banjo until I moved to Fayetteville and my future mother in law was playing an old Alvarez that I ended up learning on it and traveling with it the first few years of playing (I’m a banjo and guitar player mainly) I taught my younger brothers to play bass and mandolin and we started a band to bring bluegrass to Fayetteville ��
    Hardwick Bluetone banjo, old Washburn b16 with an rb250 tone ring
    Custom Martin D28, and D45
    Tyler White #12, Eastman MD 815cs, Austin AU657 beater mandolin
    Several violins, eletric guitars, piano, Suzuki bluesmaster harmonica set, and my Dads old trombone from high school.

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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    You know I keep finding myself going back to the Rosa I may have to just take the leap of faith and get it. At least if I don’t like I think I could get back what I paid for it. It just sounds so powerful over his youtube video not the best audio but you can tell it’s got a good sound and loud as all get out. I’m taking a trip to Lowe vintage instruments next Friday maybe I’ll find something there that suites me. One thing I have learned is to not be in a hurry. I’m happy to wait and see what’s out until then my Eastman will get me by. And changing subject just a little bit. But I find after playing a full set on mandolin my index and middle fingers start to hurt it’s not unbearable and it never used to happen on my Austin I don’t know if a wide nut might help with this or not both of my mandos are
    1 3/32 but neck shape is a bit chunkier on the Eastman maybe that’s it.
    Hardwick Bluetone banjo, old Washburn b16 with an rb250 tone ring
    Custom Martin D28, and D45
    Tyler White #12, Eastman MD 815cs, Austin AU657 beater mandolin
    Several violins, eletric guitars, piano, Suzuki bluesmaster harmonica set, and my Dads old trombone from high school.

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    On your way to Lowe's make an appointment to visit MandoMutt......

    http://www.mandomutt.com/products-page/mandolins

    Kevin is a great guy to deal with and is always getting new instruments in. Looks he has a nice Stanley there now in your range.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

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    Registered Plec Offender Mickey King's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    I'd say take a few hundred bucks off your budget and spend it on a road trip to Nashville. Carter Vintage Guitars has a slew of great mandos in your price range including a Big Mon (I played it a few weeks back and loved it) and you know exactly what you are buying. They also had a nice Elkhorn that I liked a lot. Gruhn's has a less impressive selection but you never know what you might fall in love with. I haven't been to Cotten's in awhile but they usually have one or two good ones. This weekend would have been great for a trip since SPBGMA in in town and there will be great mandos to be found for sale there as well. I plan on driving up tomorrow if the creek don't rise.
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  23. #18
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    So would there be a reason why I should not pursue the Rosa? Just looking for honest answers would I be better off finding something else? I’m not trying to be difficult I just want the best I can get. And if for any reason you think I should move on I would like to hear it. Cause I’m pretty close to pulling the trigger on it. And like I said I think I could get my money back out of it if I am not satisfied. And I guess every guys dream is to have a mando custom made for them. And the most important part is the Wife said I could get what ever I thought was best.
    Hardwick Bluetone banjo, old Washburn b16 with an rb250 tone ring
    Custom Martin D28, and D45
    Tyler White #12, Eastman MD 815cs, Austin AU657 beater mandolin
    Several violins, eletric guitars, piano, Suzuki bluesmaster harmonica set, and my Dads old trombone from high school.

  24. #19
    Registered Plec Offender Mickey King's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by AHoyle View Post
    So would there be a reason why I should not pursue the Rosa? Just looking for honest answers would I be better off finding something else?...………….And I guess every guys dream is to have a mando custom made for them. And the most important part is the Wife said I could get what ever I thought was best.
    I don't think anyone is saying not to go with the Rosa. I personally don't know anything about them. We were just giving our opinions like you ask for and well, you know what they say about opinions! Just saying that there are always options. I find that the more great mandolins I play the more I want!! And I understand wanting a custom build, I had one built but had to sell it last years due to health problems. It was everything I wanted in a mandolin but life happens. At least the new owner is giving me the option to buy it back on down the line. Buy exactly what you want and can afford, that way you won't be saying "I wish I had"! Good luck on your new mando whatever you decide, you're the only one you have to please anyway.....well, and your wife!
    Mickey

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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Thank Mickey I appreciate your advise and everything said on this thread so far. I will post back soon to update on my decision.
    In the meantime if anyone has anything else to add I’m all ears thanks again
    Hardwick Bluetone banjo, old Washburn b16 with an rb250 tone ring
    Custom Martin D28, and D45
    Tyler White #12, Eastman MD 815cs, Austin AU657 beater mandolin
    Several violins, eletric guitars, piano, Suzuki bluesmaster harmonica set, and my Dads old trombone from high school.

  26. #21
    Fatally Flawed Bill Kammerzell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Six grand I'd be looking at a new or used Collings MF, MF Deluxe. There's plenty in that price range new and used.
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  27. #22
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    I am not familiar with Rosa mandolins but there are talented builders in NC.

    Bernebe.....

    https://www.facebook.com/Bernabe-Man...3455916392271/

    Skip Kelly is a member here and sells through MandoMutt. His mandolins are well thought of.
    Charley

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Its fun and frustrating. Like a cat at the screen door. Wanting to decide and wanting to still have the choice.
    Having something to say is highly over rated.

    The entire staff
    funny....

  30. #24
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    As stated above, spend $200 on a RT to Nashville.
    Carter's has 30 F style mandolins at $6000 or below for you to check out.
    Including this Northfield NFA 5V2A 2016 for $5250
    https://cartervintage.com/collection...ield-5v2a-2016

    And they have over 75 if you include A style. I personally would not spend that kind of money on an instrument that I had not played first.

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  32. #25
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Which mandolin should I buy?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    On your way to Lowe's make an appointment to visit MandoMutt......

    http://www.mandomutt.com/products-page/mandolins

    Kevin is a great guy to deal with and is always getting new instruments in. Looks he has a nice Stanley there now in your range.
    +1 for Stanley. I played one some years ago and it was an excellent choice.

    I know the OP is leaning toward one by Rosa but it sounds like he has never played one. $6000 s a big leap of faith. I would at least ask Jerry Rosa if there are any of his instruments within traveling distance from you. You can’t just go by videos. Nothing truly beats playing in person.
    Jim

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