How much does a mandolin cost?
There is no clear answer to this question. As many first-time players find out, a mandolin can be shockingly expensive.! With instruments literally running from $50 to as much as $20,000 (yes 20k!), how is a beginner supposed to know how much to spend?
One of the first things to do is rule out the cheapest and most expensive instruments. This will leave us with a more realistic price range. Many players will need to further reduce the price range, to meet a budget. There is nothing wrong with this and good quality mandolins can be found at almost every budget level. So what is a realistic budget? How much does a mandolin cost? One should expect pay at least $300 for a good quality mandolin. Now this doesn't mean that every $300 instrument is good quality. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, at the $300 mark, you do need to be very careful when shopping for a mandolin. Many instruments at this price point should be avoided. So how is a beginner to know which instrument to choose? We will get to that shortly, but first let’s give a little more detail regarding the price ranges of mandolins. Mandolins are one of the most pricey forms of instruments. This is due to the car construction. Where an instrument such as a acoustic guitar can be ran through machines to automate the process. A good mandolin is often hand carved with a chisel. The additional labor required to make a mandolin, can easily double or even triple the price over a comparable guitar. If we look at average instruments, a $600 mandolin, will be about the same quality range as a $300 acoustic guitar. There will always be some exceptions, in particular mandolins that stand out as exceptional values.
What kind of mandolin what should I expect at a given price point?
Without exception, you should be looking at A style Mandolins at this price point. F style mandolins are more expensive than A styles and a $300 F-Style will never be acceptable quality. It is important that we emphasize this, do not buy a $300 F-style Mandolin.
On the other hand, a $300 A-style mandolin may be quite acceptable. Again, it is important that you choose the right model A. Many $300 level instruments lack quality. In this price range, look for an all solid wood top, that has preferably been hand carved. Also look for good name brand tuners. While not common, you may also buy instruments with a lifetime warranty at this price point.
Choosing a nice $300 A-style, will get you an instrument that will grow with you for many years to come. The $300 mandolin may well be one of the best mandolin values. In this price range, some corners will need to be cut. The important thing is that the things left off the less expensive mandolin are not critical to the tone or playability of the instrument. The perfect example would be the inlays. These serve no function other than making the instrument look nice. You're much better off with a plain looking quality instrument, than a very fancy poor quality instrument.
As you move up toward the $500 mark, you begin to find instruments with much better features. All solid woods are common, the tuners are generally better quality and you start to see nicer woods, inlays, ebony finger boards, etc… At this price point you are also starting to see the option for F style mandolins. Ebony fingerboard and inlays are also options at this price point.
At the $700 plus price point, you normally get better words, improved workmanship and more aesthetic touches. You start to see elaborate inlays, flamed maple wood and maybe even some gold hardware. mandolins in this price range, can be quite good. Many professionals actually use instruments in these price ranges.
Around $1000, you have access to some very high-quality instruments. These are mandolins that can be at home on stages, used on recordings, and instrument you will generally be proud of.
Over $1000 Mandolins
After the $1000 mark, most of what you’re paying for is the detail work. In these cases you are getting instruments with much higher grade woods, perfect fit and finish and big names on the headstock. And yes you do pay more for the popular name brand. Some of the detail work and the quality of the woods does translate into better tone. We are starting to run into the point of diminishing returns. In this case you are often paying twice as much for 10% improvement in the instrument. Most mandolins in this price range will be F-style versions.
On Mandolin Sale Prices
Like most things, sale prices can be all over the place. Much of this is determined by the brand itself. Many brands build artificial retail pricing into the product to allow significant discounts offered to the consumer. This is all a big game and with a little bit of research you can quickly see that. Manufactures artificially jack up the retail price to double what it will actually sell for so these can be sold at 50% off, giving the illusion of a great deal. Unfortunately a lot of shoppers do fall for this. Hopefully you will not be one.
Big Name Mandolins
Most players in the public eye (such as doing large tours or recording music videos), will play a big brand mandolin. Of course you want to play the famous mandolin your hero plays. The problem with this is the fact that the instrument your hero plays is probably not the same one available for you to buy. If you go this route and buy the expensive name brand mandolin, odds are you will be getting a pretty good instrument. The question is, will you get a good value? The answer is, probably not. These big brands have huge marketing expenses. Ultimately it is the consumer who pay for this. So if you buy brand X, you are helping to support the tours, the videos, the magazine ads and the huge salary the CEO takes. Don’t make this mistake, without being sure this is the route you want to take.
In closing, you can be assured that all the mandolins we offer are excellent values. We only sell instruments that we feel offer the player the utmost quality for the dollar. You can buy from us with confidence.
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