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Thread: Octave Recommendations?

  1. #1

    Question Octave Recommendations?

    I'm a violinist-turned-fiddler, and while I've been teaching myself the mandolin I've recently caught the octave mandolin bug and have been creeping in the classifieds for quite some time.

    Because I don't live anywhere near a store that sells many mandolins, let along octave mandolins, and I'm somewhat restricted in travel right now (*gestures to the world*) I was hoping to get some advice on what to keep an eye out for in the postings.

    While I absolutely LOVE the tone of the weber bridger octave, I see that they are pretty hard to find, let alone at a decent price (I'm hoping to stay around/below $1.5k as this would be my first octave). It seems that I prefer a warmer tone with alot of sustain, so I'm thinking oval hole with rosewood or mahogany?

    Does anyone have any recommendations on what I should keep an eye out for? Does any other Weber line have the same sort of sweet/warm tone as the bridger?
    Thank you!

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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    You may know that octaves are kind of unique in that they come in many different configurations. There are many that are based on guitar shape bodies, and others that follow a more traditional mandolin pattern. They also come in many different scale lengths. This is in addition to carved top, flat top, and even some with 10 strings instead of 8. And many different materials. My preference has always been a traditional mandolin shaped instrument, just cuz I like the look better. Weber octaves are usually 20" or 22" scales, but mostly I see 20" for sale. I had a beautiful sounding Mendel that was 22.75" scale. I paid less than $1500 for it. But there are many others that I'm sure are very nice instruments. Many people seem to like the Eastman octaves, but I have not played one. Good luck in your search.
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  3. #3

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I'm not nearly as concerned about something as superficial as the look as I am about the tone and sustain, which is what I asked above.
    I am aware of the many materials, hence my comment about the different woods and how they may affect the tone.
    Also, the Eastman octave has F-holes and therefore, despite it being something that "many people seem to like" it would most likely not have the sustain I am looking for.

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    Registered User Mandolin Deep Cuts's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I have a Mowry and think the instrument’s tone is gorgeous.

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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by asaloka2010 View Post
    I'm not nearly as concerned about something as superficial as the look as I am about the tone and sustain, which is what I asked above.
    I am aware of the many materials, hence my comment about the different woods and how they may affect the tone.
    Also, the Eastman octave has F-holes and therefore, despite it being something that "many people seem to like" it would most likely not have the sustain I am looking for.
    There are many 'F' hole octaves with great sustain. To me, oval hole/f-hole differences are very minor, at best.
    Northfield F5S
    Weber Bitterroot F20-F Octave
    Home built F5 (1995)

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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Another affordable option is a Trinity College octave mandolin. They are built and finished a shade on the heavy side, but they sound reasonably good.

    I play an old Regal Octofone. They were built circa 1930 and can be found for $500 to perhaps $800. They were lightly built, and most of them will need some work to make them playable. They respond well to light strings. They are rather delicate by modern standards, so they should be treated gently.

    I played an Eastman for the first time last night. The tone was a little dark for my preferences, but it was certainly a passable instrument. They need a medium gauge string and a stronger touch to drive them.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by asaloka2010 View Post
    Does anyone have any recommendations on what I should keep an eye out for? Does any other Weber line have the same sort of sweet/warm tone as the bridger? Thank you!
    Perhaps a Weber flattop Sage could get you there within budget:

    https://reverb.com/item/42698460-web...ctave-mandolin
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I've actually been eyeing this one; but from what I understand maple instruments tend to have very bright tones with little/no sustain.

    Do you by chance know anything about the Bitterroot line? I've read that its tone is comparable to the bridger, but I don't know enough about the different Weber lines to know if this is true.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I was definitely looking at Trinity College octave mandolins because of the low price but I wasn't sure about the tone. The videos I found made them seem very bright. Is this the case?

    What was the sustain like on the Eastman? From what I can hear from the samples I've found online it seems to have more volume but less sustain.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I've never heard of those before! But I took a quick look at the price and that's definitely something that might be hard to find in my price range, unless I get lucky!

    Thanks for the tip!

  11. #11

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    EDIT** Weber Sage was already mentioned

    Keep your open for a used Petersen or Red Valley. Handmade and in your price range. Just missed a nice looking Petersen at Carter Vintage. They're out there though.
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by asaloka2010 View Post
    . I absolutely LOVE the tone of the weber bridger octave) Ö It seems that I prefer a warmer tone with alot of sustain, so I'm thinking oval hole with rosewood or mahogany?
    Quote Originally Posted by asaloka2010 View Post
    Ö from what I understand maple instruments tend to have very bright tones with little/no sustain.

    Do you by chance know anything about the Bitterroot line? I've read that its tone is comparable to the bridger, but I don't know enough about the different Weber lines to know if this is true.
    Letís start with the Bridger. Its tone is coming from a red spruce (aka Adirondack) top and maple back and sides. So, I wouldnít rule out the maple OMís, but you might rule out Sitka spruce, which usually has more punch, but less warmth and sustain. The Bridger also has a carved top, so you might not like a flat-top instrument as much. Its soundhole is a D-hole, which is larger than a standard oval hole, so it probably has a greater tonal difference from f-holes. Its body is a teardrop A model, which probably has more sustain than a guitar-shaped body.

    Iíll second Chuckís recommendation of a Petersen. I have a 2006 Level 3 that I bought used in 2009. Iíve played a few better OMís since then, but they were never less than twice the price and never even close to sounding twice as good. Unfortunately, Bill retired a few years ago, and I only see a few of his instruments come up for sale in the Cafe Classifieds each year.

    Iíd say that the Gallatin and Bitterroot lines are warmer than the higher Weber lines, but they are much more expensive than the Bridgers. Besides, since Weber has stopped production, at least for now, pickings are slim.

    If Eastman made a 304 version of their OM, youíd be set. That said, Iíd guess that their 305 will get you the closest to the Bridger sound of all the currently available options under $1.5K. If you can afford to drop a few hundred bucks in resale, you could buy one now to tide you over until you find a Bridger or Petersen.
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by asaloka2010 View Post
    Also, the Eastman octave has F-holes and therefore, despite it being something that "many people seem to like" it would most likely not have the sustain I am looking for.
    Don't assume oval holes have more sustain than F-holes. There's a LOT more to instrument design and build quality that contribute to sustain than just the sound hole design. My Weber Yellowstone F octave mandolin has F-holes, and it has beautiful long sustain.

    One consideration with sustain is scale length. My Weber is 22" scale, which will usually sustain a bit better than shorter scale OMs with typical string gauges. Of course, how much is "enough" sustain will be personal opinion for everyone, but if you want to ensure the most sustain, I'd look to avoid the shorter-scale OMs in the 19-20" scale range like the 20" scale Trinity College OM. The Eastman OM is a 21" scale length. That's a reasonable compromise for ease of fingering that should still have decent sustain.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    This might be worth a look as well:
    https://reverb.com/item/42946595-pon...ickup-and-case
    Girouard Concert A5
    Trillium Mandola
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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I didn't consider too many special requirements when I took the plunge. I just bought the Eastman MDO-305 (sub $800), replaced the strings to D'Adderio mandola set and tuned it up!

    It's been my COVID challenge and it took about zero hours shopping.

    Very happy and quite a durable instrument. Stays in tune well, favorable scale length, good sound and endless challenges retooling all my mandolin stuff on the long-box!

    Give Bach a try! That'll work you!

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    Registered User urobouros's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I'd second that Pono OM. To my ear, flattop GBOMs have copious warmth & sustain. If I wasn't saving for a new mountain bike I'd have a Northfield on my wall
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I've had long-term good luck with my 1980's Flatiron "bouzouki," a relatively long-necked OM with a flat top. Mine has koa back and sides, a wood that has some of the characteristics of mahogany; the bouzoukis also came with maple bodies. It has quite a bit of sustain; you can get an idea -- as best you can with rather poor quality audio recording -- of what it sounds like strictly doing rhythm chording in this video:



    Flatirons turn up used fairly frequently, usually a bit above $1K.

    I also have a Regal Octofone, and while I love it dearly, it is not that well-constructed an instrument. Remember, it originally sold (1930's, basically) for less than $20. Fairly low-grade hardware -- tuners and tailpiece -- no truss rod or neck reinforcement (I had a carbon fiber bar installed in mine, after I had the fingerboard replaced), super-light construction -- which makes it very responsive and loud for its size, but also makes it fragile. One of these would be in your price range, and they seem to show up regularly, but caveat emptor as to condition.

    Finally, I'd take a look at the Apollo line of instruments made by Nik Apollonio up in Maine. He builds a wide variety of cittern/OM instruments, and his prices are pretty reasonable, usually $1.5K-$2K. I have one of his giant 12-string guitars, and while some of his design features are sorta "non-standard," his instruments all seem to sound pretty good. Here's his "Instruments For Sale" page.
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    Registered User j4music's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    The Pono looks like a really good deal. The new ones seem to list around $1,900.

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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Thought I had replied. There is a Fylde Octave for $1,500 in the classifieds right now. Don't know where you are. It is in Canada.

  21. #20

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    James Jones is a well known highly regarded hammered dulcimer maker. This is an intriguing octave mandolin. Handmade and sounds nice on the sound samples. I've never seen one in the wild but I would certainly consider it.

    https://reverb.com/item/43493927-jam...-irish-bazouki
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  22. #21

    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I converted a Blueridge tenor guitar to GDAE giving me a great sounding chords and sustain. $685 + new strings. 23” scale harder to do lead melody, but great for rhythm and accompaniment.

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    Registered User jmp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Since you are coming from a violin I would recommend a 20" scale OM with Thomastik-Infeld 174M strings. That is how I have my F20 Bitterroot setup and it is very warm sounding and rings like a bell so that you can hear all the overtones like pizzicato on a violin. Otherwise I have found most OM have a twangy treble sound.

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    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by asaloka2010 View Post
    I've actually been eyeing this one; but from what I understand maple instruments tend to have very bright tones with little/no sustain.
    You've heard wrong. I have several mandolin family instruments with maple back, sides (and neck). I have guitar-like sustain on my TJ Jessen (Cricket fiddle) 10 string mandola, F4 octave mandolin and F4 mandocello. Likewise my F4 Morris mandolin and F5 Cricket fiddle mandolins have greater sustain than most any other mandolins I've played at any price.

    You should hit up TJ. He is a one-man shop, hand building wonderful instruments that will match the tone of any Weber you'll find. About 1/2 the price (or less). May be within your budget, or just a little stretch.

  26. #24
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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    I'm a little late to the party but wanted to suggest you check out Herb Taylor's Octaves. He is a great man to work with. Most of his instruments have short audio clips
    He lists Octave Mandolins for sale on this page: http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/bouzouki/
    Other Instruments here: http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/

    He made me an Octave on commission with the same specs as this one: http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/bouzouki/i152/ (mine doesn't have an audioclip)
    and a second when I suffered an acute episode of octave mandolin lust
    http://www.herbtaylor.com/instruments/bouzouki/i190/

    http://www.herbtaylor.com/instrument...front_body.jpg

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    Default Re: Octave Recommendations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Leyda View Post
    James Jones is a well known highly regarded hammered dulcimer maker. This is an intriguing octave mandolin. Handmade and sounds nice on the sound samples. I've never seen one in the wild but I would certainly consider it.

    https://reverb.com/item/43493927-jam...-irish-bazouki
    I played a James Jones Octave mando throughout the time Mando Mafia was in operation, including on all our commercial recordings. You can hear it prominently at the beginning of this track:


    Pete

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