Mandolin Buyers Guide

March 25, 2016

Mandolin Buyers guide (brief version)

1. Truss rod 
Look for mandolins with an adjustable truss rod. A truss rod is a metal bar that is inside the neck.

This allows the neck to be adjusted to compensate for major humidity changes, string gauge, and the arching of the neck over time due to string tension.

All good mandolins will have an adjustable truss rod.

2. Solid top 
Lower cost instruments are made out of laminated woods (plywood). This can be acceptable for the back and sides, however, it is a poor choice for the top. A solid top is needed for good tone. Ideally the back and sides would also be solid wood if budget permits.

3. Type of woods 
Most mandolins are made with a spruce top and maple back and sides. There are some alternatives, but spruce and maple are generally what you want. Remember, many mandolins use laminated wood. If it does not say “Solid Spruce”, it is likely laminated.

4. A-model vs. F-Model 
A-model mandolins cost less than comparable F-model mandolins. Most players prefer an F-model. If you can afford a good F-model, go for it. If you have a limited budget, get the A-model, even if you can afford a low grade F-model. You are much better off with an all solid wood A-model rather than a laminated F-model.

5. Setup 
All stringed instruments need a good setup done on them. This is not done when the mandolin is made. The shop that sells the instrument is responsible for the setup work. Not all setup work is equal, and many shops (especially online), do no setup work at all.

We are happy to answer any questions.

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