Best Mandolin For the Money

If you are in the market for a great mandolin, you have come to the right place. This roundup of the best mandolins available can help ensure that you get the most for your investment.

Best Mandolin Buying Guide
Mandolins are stringed instruments in the lute family. These handheld instruments often accompany traditional, bluegrass, or folk music. Understanding the traits of modern mandolins can help you make an informed decision about the best one for your needs.

What Should I Look for in a Mandolin?

Body Style
Most modern mandolins are bowl-backed, A-style, or F-style. Bowl-backed mandolins represent the most traditional style. These often accompany orchestras or classical music. A-style mandolins are pear-shaped with simple holes along the soundboard. They tend to be economical and accompany folk music. F-style mandolins are the most intricate and expensive of mandolins. These instruments are popular among bluegrass and country music artists.

Acoustic vs. Electric
Most players enjoy the earthy and authentic sound of acoustic mandolins. If you need to amplify sound for a large audience, however, you may need to consider an electric option. Keep in mind that a skilled luthier can also electrify an acoustic mandolin for you.

Components and Accessories
You should also consider whether the mandolin has components geared tuners for maintaining melody or an adjustable bridge for easy playing. Accessories like a carrying case or extra pegs can also help you get the most out of your purchase.

1. Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-Model Mandolin
Best Features: Made of rich spruce, Alpine maple, and rosewood, the Kentucky KM-150 mandolin offers fresh articulation and maximum functionality. It has a slim neck for comfortable playing, an adjustable tonewood fingerboard for smooth transitions, and open-geared tuners for beautiful and accurate intonation.

Pros:

  • Mid-range mandolin suitable for players of all skill levels
  • Made of three types of wood that complement both deeper tones and higher registers
  • Arrives shop-adjusted and weighs only 5.0 pounds
  • Traditional A-style perfect for bluegrass tunes

Cons:

  • Does not come with hard case
  • Strap button is plastic instead of metal

2. Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin
Best Features: Hand-crafted from maple, spruce, and purpleheart wood, the Ibanez M522SBS mandolin gives an elegant look to regular playing. Lightweight and highly portable, it has a class bluegrass shape and an adjustable bridge that lets you control the height of the strings.

Pros:

  • Elegant cosmetic mandolin with a high degree of volume and tone
  • Made of three types of wood that each support excellent project
  • Economical F-style bluegrass mandolin
  • Adjustable bridge
  • Weighs 2.5 pounds for easy portability

Cons:

  • Does not include case
  • Initial setup requires tuning

3. Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style Mandolin
Best Features: As the name implies, the Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style mandolin is a favorite among music professionals. Handmade of spruce, maple, and rosewood, it also comes with an adjustable ebony bridge perfect for live performances. The mandolin also comes with Grover tuners to ensure that musical numbers stay on key.

Pros:

  • Hand-carved from maple, spruce, and rosewood for excellent tone
  • Includes adjustable ebony bridge for live performances
  • Comes with Grover tuners for consistent melody
  • Weighs 2.9 pounds for great portability

Cons:

  • N/A

4. Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin
Best Features: Are you searching for an affordable mandolin suitable for beginners? Look no further than the Savannah SA-100-BK mandolin. With its straightforward composition of maple and rosewood, the Savanna SA-100-BK produces both bright and dark musical notes. It also includes an adjustable compensated bridge that gives players more control prior to playing.

Pros:

  • Highly affordable A-style mandolin for students and beginners
  • Includes adjustable compensated bridge for great adaptability
  • Comes with 3-ply pickguard to protect from scratches
  • Weighs 2.9 pounds
  • Produces bright sounds

Cons:

  • Possibly too simplistic for advanced players or professional performers

5. Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin
Best Features: If you are still learning to play and need bright-sounding mandolin with plenty of timbre, the Rogue RM-100A is the choice for you. It features a thin neck and adjustable bridge perfect for students who are new to lute instruments. The mandolin also includes easily identifiable chrome tuners and nickel-plated frets, making it simple to play.
Pros:

  • Affordable bright-sounding mandolin perfect for students
  • Thin neck, flat back, and adjustable bridge makes the mandolin easier to play
  • Weighs 2.85 pounds

Cons:

  • Not suitable for professionals or individuals who require mellow tones

6. Donner A-Style Mandolin
Best Features: The Donner A-Style Mandolin is a “best all around” instrument crafted from 100-percent mahogany and adorned with all the trimmings. This model comes with open-tuning pegs that makes it easy to maintain an accurate key and pitch. The instrument’s compact design produces a vibrant sound that complements both classical and folk music.

Pros:

  • Made of 100-percent mahogany
  • Includes open-tuning pegs for accurate key and pitch
  • Comes with a plethora of accessories, including carrying case, extra strings, DT-2 tuner, polishing cloth, and picks.

Cons:

  • User must protect mahogany wood at all costs from extreme weather (such as excess humidity)

The Bottom Line
Whether you are starting a fun hobby or need a new instrument to keep up with country music’s best, choosing a well-crafted mandolin with the compatible features can help you get the most out of your money.

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