Whether you are just now interested in learning the mandolin, or you have been playing for years, you know that it is important to have the right instrument. The mandolin can be fun and challenging to play, although learning the basics tends to be quite simple. Those who are interested in playing the mandolin will want to make sure that they find a quality instrument.
With all of the options for mandolins on the market, though, this can be somewhat difficult. To help make the matter easier for you, we’ve collected the nine best mandolins available. This should make your search for a quality mandolin faster, and you can be sure you are choosing one of the best.
Below, we’ve collected information on a range of mandolins, including electric mandolins, that could work well for your needs. In addition to the reviews and product comparisons, you will also find information on playing and caring for the mandolin, and much more.
Best Mandolin in 2020
|Donner A Style Mandolin DML-100B|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|Ibanez M510BS|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|Stagg M50E || ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|The Loar LM-110-BRB Honey Creek|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|The Loar LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|Savannah SA-100|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|Kentucky KM-140|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|The Loar LM-520-VS Performer|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
|Ibanez M522SBS|| ||CHECK LATEST PRICE|
Donner A Style Mandolin DML-100B
The DML-100B is one of the best mandolins on the list for many different reasons. The A-style mandolin features eight strings like other traditional mandolins, and this one comes in a glossy sunburst finish. The mandolin will work well for many different types of music. The A-style mandolin from Donner is made for right-handers.
The back and the sides of this mandolin are made from the best AAA African mahogany, as are the neck and the top. The mandolin has a C-shape neck and includes 20 frets. The lightweight acoustic instrument has chrome-plated open-gear tuners and a chrome-plated tailpiece. The instrument also comes with a 30-day unconditional money-back guarantee.
Another one of the reasons this is one of the best mandolin options on the market today is the fact that it comes with so many accessories. Those who choose the DML-100B will get not just the mandolin, but also a gig bag to help keep it protected, extra strings, a polishing cloth, picks, and a digital clip-on tuner. These accessories ensure you have everything you need to get started with the instrument.
For those who are just starting with the mandolin, this could be a good option to consider. It is easy to use, it plays in tune, and the string height is somewhat adjustable. The mandolin makes it easy to learn and the added accessories are icing on the cake.
Ibanez is a very popular instrument maker that is often associated with guitars. However, they also make quality mandolins, as seen with the M510BS. In fact, Ibanez started making their first mandolins back in the 70s, and they have been going strong ever since.
The instrument, available in brown sunburst, features an A-style body and is made from quality materials. You will find a mahogany neck, back, and sides, as well as a solid spruce top. The tuners are chrome diecast.
The mandolin has an adjustable bridge, and it features the eight standard strings like other mandolins. It is ready to play right out of the box. However, as with most stringed instruments, you will need to tune it first. It will take several tunings in the early stages before it starts to hold the tuning properly.
Users enjoy the instrument because it features quality action and sound. It is easy to play and could be a good option for those who are just learning to play, as well as those who have some experience under their belts.
You will notice right away that this instrument is a bit different from the previous two on the list. Rather than only being playable as an acoustic mandolin, you will find that this is also an electric mandolin. Those who want to plug into an amp to get some additional sound will love this option, along with the quality of the instrument.
The beautiful instrument features a redburst aesthetic, along with a nickel tailpiece, which helps to provide it with a unique look. The mandolin features an adjustable bridge, which will allow you to make changes that can help improve the sound quality. Those who are not familiar with bridge adjustment may want to have a professional take care of it for them.
The M50E features a single pickup, along with a volume knob and a tone knob. While the instrument can be used for playing a wide range of different types of music, it is billed as being a bluegrass instrument. Those who play this type of music might want to check out the M50E, as it is one of the best entry-level options.
The Loar LM-110-BRB Honey Creek
The LM-110-BRB Honey Creek from The Loar is a high-quality mandolin and one of the best options available for those who may want an upgrade from an entry-level option. The A-style mandolin is available in vintage brown with a satin brown burst finish. The mandolin looks as good as it plays and features a truss rod and features a 1 1/8” nut width.
The instrument features a hand-carved spruce top, which is ideal for getting a truly great, traditional sound out of the mandolin. It also has a maple neck with a thin “V” profile. This helps to make it nice and easy to play. You will find that the sound the instrument produces is similar to that of 1920s mandolins, but there is still enough vibration and sound from the sound holes to work well in an ensemble.
The mandolin comes with a factory setup, but you will want to examine everything and make sure it is set for your style once you receive it. Whether you are a beginner or if you are looking for an upgrade to a cheaper mandolin that you have, this could be a good fit.
The Loar LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek
The Loar is on the list again with another remarkable mandolin in the LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek. Thus far, we’ve looked at A body styles on the list, but you will note that this body style looks quite different. This is an F-style mandolin that features the same care and attention to detail as other products from The Loar.
The mandolin has a hand-carved solid spruce top along with a maple neck with a thin “V” profile. This makes it easier for the player’s hands to play the instrument. It features a maple back and sides, along with a 1 1/8” nut width. The mandolin is available in a beautiful satin brown burst finish.
Players will appreciate the curves of this style mandolin, along with the ease of play and the sound. It features grove tuners and comes with D’Addario strings. There is a lot for players to love about this instrument, including the overall quality of the design. It’s a good mandolin for those who are looking for an upgrade that is going to last.
The SA-100 from Savannah is an entry-level mandolin that could be a good option for those who are seeking their first affordable mandolin. The instrument features a bound rosewood fingerboard and a hard maple neck. It also has an adjustable compensated bridge, and the neck joint is located at the 12th fret.
The sound of the instrument is decent out of the box, but to get the best sound, users will often shift the bridge and work with the tuning nuts to ensure it tunes properly and stays in tune. While it comes with nickel coated strings, many players opt to change them out for better strings once they get the mandolin.
Something else to note about the mandolin is that it does not have an adjustable truss rod. While this might not be a problem for some, many who have more experience will want to have a moveable truss rod.
Overall, this could be a good option for someone who is beginning to learn the mandolin. It’s easy to use, and it can produce a decent sound for instruments in this price range.
The KM-140 from Kentucky is another of the best mandolins you will find today. This mandolin has a solid spruce top and maple back and sides with a one-piece maple neck with a dovetail neck and body joint at the 12th fret. The mandolin also has an adjustable truss rod. Overall, the design is fantastic thanks to the A body style and sunburst finish.
Players will also appreciate the sound of this instrument. The solid spruce top helps to provide a bright and crisp tone with clean articulation. Since the back and sides are made from maple, you will find a warm resonance with the sound. It also has deluxe tuning machines, along with nickel-plated hardware.
The neck is slim on the standard A-model mandolin, as well, which helps to make it easier to play. The smooth fingerboard also helps with the playability of the mandolin. It could be a good option for those who are looking for a midrange mandolin. As with many stringed instruments, you might want to change out the strings it comes with for a set of higher-quality strings.
The Loar LM-520-VS Performer
The Loar is on the list with another mandolin, and this is certainly going to impress. This is an F-style mandolin that features a solid hand-carved, fully graduated spruce top along with a solid hand-carved, fully graduated maple back and solid maple sides. The construction quality for the mandolin is very impressive, and so is the sound and playability.
The instrument has a compensated adjustable ebony bridge, along with a bound rosewood fretboard. It is a pleasure to play and to listen to. The Grover tuning machines used on the instrument help to ensure that the mandolin not only has excellent intonation but that it stays in tune.
The instrument is high-quality and features some of the best hardware you will find on the list. However, this is still a relatively simple instrument. It could be a great option for those who want a beautiful and functional mandolin with a great sound and who do not need all of the bells and whistles of other options. You do get the great tone, the chop, and the projection from the sound holes that are needed for a fantastic mandolin.
Ibanez is on the list of best mandolins again, this time with the M522SBS. This is a fantastic instrument that’s available in both brown sunburst and dark violin sunburst. The mandolin has a solid spruce top, along with flamed maple back and sides. You will also appreciate the gold diecast tuners and the Pearloid knobs.
The instrument has a pearl block inlay on the rosewood fretboard, along with a rosewood bridge. The mandolin comes with standard mandolin strings. The acoustic mandolin features an F-style body, which looks great and produces an excellent sound.
Like the other mandolins on the list, this is one of the best mandolins for those who are new to the hobby and learning to play. The instrument could be a very good option for a hobbyist and those who want something that’s a step up from some of the options on the lower end of the price range.
F-Style vs. A-Style
The list above contains several options for F-style, as well as A-style mandolins, and you might be wondering what the difference is between the body styles.
The A-style mandolin is considered a traditional body style. These have a pear-shaped body, and they may have either f-shaped sound holes or a hole in the center shaped like a circle, which is similar to what you will find with many guitars. Mandolins with this shape are very common, and they tend to have a lower price range than the F-style mandolins.
An F-style mandolin has a body that features more intricate carvings. Instead of having a circular hole for the sound, it instead tends to feature the f-holes. Although both mandolins tend to have a similar tone, you will find that the F-style mandolins tend to be more popular with those who are playing roots, bluegrass, and country music.
What about the bowl-backed body style? This is the third option, but you won’t find any of these mandolins on the list above. These instruments are typically more difficult to play for those who are beginning. The options on the list above are for those who are looking for a mandolin for beginners or those who are upgrading from a beginner mandolin.
Below, you will find some of the most frequently asked questions about playing the mandolin, as well as answers.
Should you choose an electric or acoustic mandolin?
You will notice that one of the options on our list above is an acoustic-electric mandolin. This means that you can plug it into an amp to amplify the sound if needed. Typically, they will only need to be used when playing with a large number of other instruments and when there is a danger of the sound of the mandolin being drowned out.
Many of the mandolins on the list above are high-quality and plenty loud even without being electric. Ultimately, the choice will be up to you. For mere beginners, though, there is no real reason to choose an electric mandolin. Finding one that does both – acoustic and electric – can work for those who feel like they need the added versatility.
Can You Play the Mandolin the Same as a Guitar or Ukulele?
While there are some similarities between the stringed instruments, you will find that the chords are different. They are not going to play identical to these other stringed instruments, which means that you will need to learn how to play it properly.
Knowing how to strum and pick can help, so there are certainly useful skills that you can bring over from other stringed instruments. However, you will want to make sure that you take the time to learn how to play the mandolin and not simply try to play it like a guitar. Learn the proper chords and methods from the start, so you can develop quality technique and sound.
When Should You Change the Mandolin Strings?
Like other stringed instruments, you will need to change out the strings on your mandolin occasionally. When should you change them, though? As you have seen with some of the instruments above, the strings that come with the instruments are often passable, but they might not be the best strings that will provide the sound you want. Sometimes, you will want to change out the strings as soon as you get the mandolin.
Once you have your strings on for a while, you will want to change the strings out again. There is no hard and fast rule as to when you need to change the strings, but ideally, you will be changing them out after every 60 to 70 hours of use. If you are practicing for an hour a day, that’s once every two months, for example.
However, you will also want to pay attention to the overall quality of the strings as you are playing. If you notice that they are looking a little worn or they aren’t sounding as bright as you would like, it might be time to change them, even if the calendar doesn’t say so.
Is Playing the Mandolin Easy?
This is a difficult question to answer because it will depend on the amount of time and effort that you are putting into learning. For most people, it will be relatively easy to pick up a mandolin and to start learning some chords to put together and make music. This is especially true for those who have some experience with other, similar stringed instruments.
However, like other instruments, the mandolin will certainly take time to master. You should consider this a good thing. It means that you will be able to start playing quickly, but you will have a lot of fun and challenge ahead of you as you continue to improve at the instrument.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Mandolin
We’ve collected the best options on the market for those who want to play the mandolin. Choosing one of the options on the list above can be a great way to get an instrument to start learning. However, you should still be aware of the most important factors and elements to consider when you are buying your instrument.
- Consider the wood used, as better wood makes for a better sound
- Consider the body style – A-style tends to be more affordable and easier for beginners to learn
- Consider the accessories that come with the mandolin
- Consider the price range and what you can afford
- Consider whether you want an electric mandolin
Take the time to think about the options that are available and find the one that will work best for your needs.
Other Mandolin Accessories to Consider
When you buy a mandolin, you will also want to think about getting some additional accessories. Some of the options on our list come with accessories, but that’s not always the case. In addition, the brand of accessories or the quality of the accessories might not always be what you would like.
Check out some of the different types of accessories that could be a good option for new and experienced mandolin players alike.
- Gig bag/hard case
- Grommet dampers
- Chord chart
- String winder
- Polishing cloth
- Additional strings
- Humidifier (to prevent cracks in the body)
Tips for Taking Better Care of a Mandolin
After you buy a mandolin, you want to make sure that you are keeping it in great condition. This way, it will last for much longer while sounding great and looking fantastic. Fortunately, you will find that mandolin care and maintenance tend to be quite easy. Let’s look at some of the most important elements.
You will want to maintain your strings to ensure that they last as long as possible. Wipe the strings down with a microfiber cloth and add a small amount of oil to them, which can make it easier for your fingers to slide along them.
Clean the strings after each use to remove sweat and grim that is transferred from your fingers. Remember to change the strings regularly, as mentioned above.
In addition, when you are tuning the mandolin, you should make sure that you do not tighten the strings too much. Overtightening can damage the strings and cause them to snap.
Storage and Travel
If you are going to travel with the mandolin, whether you are playing on stage or you are just going to a friend’s house, you will need to be careful. It is important that you have a padded gig bag. If you are going to be traveling by plane or if the mandolin will be out of your sight, choose a hard case instead.
Store the mandolin at normal room temperature. If it has been exposed to temperatures that are too hot or too cold, make sure that you let the instrument sit in the case to come up to proper room temperature before opening it and playing.
Keep the mandolin out of direct sunlight and consider using a humidifier if you are in a dry area. Those who are in a humid area may need to use silica gel to remove excess moisture in the mandolin case.
Keeping the Wood in Good Shape
Clean the wood after each use using a soft microfiber cloth. This helps to remove the dust and dirt, and it will shine up the instrument. When you are using a polish, make sure that you use a wax-free polish that will not smear and be sure it is made for wood instruments. Remember to clean the metal hardware when caring for your mandolin, as well.
Which is the Best Mandolin on the List?
Whether you are looking for a quality mandolin for beginners, or you are looking for an upgrade for your next mandolin, these options are some of the best mandolin options you will find. However, you might be wondering which of these we believe to be the best. Undoubtedly, one of the top companies making these instruments today is The Loar, and their LM-520-VS Performer takes the top spot for us.
While other options can work very well for those who are looking for a mandolin for beginners, the features, quality, and sound of the LM-520-VS Performer are top-notch. The price range for the instrument might be higher than some who are just staring the hobby might want to pay, but the mandolin is well worth it.
As you can see, there are plenty of options available when you are looking for a mandolin. If you want to play the mandolin, whether you want an acoustic or an acoustic-electric mandolin, there are options available that can work for you. Consider what you need and how these options stack up against one another when you are making your decision. It’s time to find the perfect mandolin with a great sound, quality construction, and a beautiful design.