If you are looking for a nice low cost mandolin to learn to play on, or maybe want a second mandolin to leave at work, take camping, or loan out, you have probably ran across the Kentucky KM-150 and The Loar LM-170-VS models.
One of the first things we should mention here is that the better comparison would be the KM-150 against The Loar LM-220-VS, or The Loar LM-170-VS against the KM-140. The reason is that the LM-170-VS actually has laminated back and sides with a solid spruce top. This will be the same basic specs as the Kentucky KM-140 Mandolin. The KM-150 uses solid maple back and sides, with a solid spruce top as does The Loar LM-220-VS mandolin. Now that we have that out of the way…
The Kentucky KM-150 has been around for decades in one form or another and has always been a top choice for a lower priced mandolin. In fact, it is still among the best choices out there for a lower priced instrument. One thing that did occur with its recent upgrades is a corresponding price increase. I suppose that was inevitable and despite the new price, it still remains a great value. But now we have a case where a mandolin such as the LM-170-VS costs less. So what did we really lose if we spend less on The Loar LM-170-VS? We already know about the laminated back and sides, but how does this change the tone? There is a difference in tone that you can hear. The Kentucky has a fuller, more pleasing tone, but it isn’t that the LM-170 sounds bad. It actually sounds just fine and is more than enough mandolin for any beginner, or a second mandolin. There are even a few areas where the LM-170-VS wins out Vs the Kentucky KM-150. The Loar has great Grover tuners where the Kentucky tuners are just OK. The Loar LM-170-VS has a lifetime warranty, where the KM-150 has a 1 year warranty. The LM-170-VS has surprisingly clean workmanship for a mandolin in this price range.
In the end, there is no clear cut winner. It comes down to a personal choice.
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