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Author Topic:   Kentucky Mandolins
Tom Olson

From: Spokane, WA

posted 19 February 2004 12:38 PM     profile     
Since this doesn't have anything to do with Janet Jackson, it probably won't get many responses, but:

has anyone had any experience with this brand of mandolin? I've heard they were of decent quality, but I'd like to get some more detailed personal opinions, if possible. Feel free to e-mail me if you'd rather do that. Thanks ahead of time for any input you can provide.

Ben Slaughter

From: Madera, California

posted 19 February 2004 01:05 PM     profile     
I've had one for about 10 years. Don't like it, hardly ever play it. Plays terribly, the intonation is awful. I think it was one of the cheaper models, I don't know if they do better stuff or not.

Zum D10, NV400, POD, G&L Guitars, etc, etc.

D Schubert

From: Columbia, MO, USA

posted 19 February 2004 01:29 PM     profile     
Kentucky makes a broad range of models, and the high end ones (solid wood instead of laminate, F-style) are pretty decent. Others are laminated junk with a thick, shiny finish. The older ones were made in Japan instead of Taiwan or Korea, and some of those older ones are reputed to be better as well. If you have specific model information, go over to and ask for comments.
Larry Robbins

From: Fort Edward, New York, USA

posted 19 February 2004 03:02 PM     profile     
The newer ones are made in mainland China
and are of "questionable" quality or a least the first ones were.The top of the line ones arent too bad.Though you can probubly do better for your money IMHO.
Mandolin cafe is a great place to check out
mandos but be advised,many at that site
POO-Poo any thing thats not a High end
Gibson or custom made mando costing many thousands of hard earned dollars.(in my experience)And hey,if your gonna spend that kind of money,might as well buy the steel of your dreams!Good luck with your mando purchase,a truly fun inst.
Jesse Pearson

From: San Diego , CA

posted 19 February 2004 04:47 PM     profile     
Hey Schubert, Great Madoline site. The Led Zepplin tab is perfect, thanks!
Stephen Gambrell

From: Ware Shoals, South Carolina, USA

posted 19 February 2004 06:44 PM     profile     
The Kentuckys are Oriental made, with the M-675 being real popular, although the more expensive 1000 Model is a better mandolin.
But if you really want a bargain, find an old Gibson "A" model. They cost several hundred dollars less than ANYBODY'S F-model, which everybody wants because of the shape. If you don't have a couple grand to put into a Webber, or several of the other custom builders, then try the old Gibson "A's". Tony Williamson, at Mandolin Central, is a good source (sorry I don't have an address), as are the usual suspects---Gruhn, Elderly, Mandolin Bros. AND, if resale means anything to you, you'll always be able to get what you paid out of the old Gibson---Not so with the Kentucky.
Dave O'Brien

From: Okeechobee, FL USA

posted 19 February 2004 06:56 PM     profile     
Forget that foreign crap. Get a Flatiron or Weber or Gibson. Trust me on this one -I've played mandolin for 40 years. The Flatiron Festival or Performer A is the best bang for the buck and you'll pay about $ 900 for a good one. If thats too much $$ try an old Gibson A-40 or 50. If you still want an import Morgan Monroe is pretty good.Get the long neck.
David L. Donald

From: Koh Samui Island, Thailand

posted 20 February 2004 04:14 AM     profile     
I've played 2 Kentucky F models and they were OK, but don't hold a candle to my old A-jr Gibson.

We have been recording irish mandolin duets with whistle or fiddle, and the other mando is a Fender F model. The one around $600.

Also guitar and mandolin with fiddle/flute/whistle with both mandolins and 2 different guitars.

It sounds nice and is well intonated, but no where near as warm as the 1912 A-jr.
Still the two together blend well.
My buddy still prefers mine, but doesn't dislike his Fender.

The Kentucky's I played just wouldn't have cut it. Maybe live with a Fishman bridge, but not for serious acoustic recording.

[This message was edited by David L. Donald on 20 February 2004 at 04:15 AM.]

Jerry Hayes

From: Virginia Beach, Va.

posted 20 February 2004 05:27 AM     profile     
Fender makes an F-Style for around $500 which doesn't sound too bad. I have an early 30's Gibson F-style and an Epiphone A-Style made in Japan which I bought about 25 years ago. Funny thing, the damn Epiphone sounds better than the old Gibson but it ain't near as pretty. I also have a Fender Electric/Acoustic which is the one which looks like a hollow body Strat with F-holes. It sounds great plugged in but is quite a bit on the trebly side when played acoustic. If it wasn't so ugly I'd play the Epiphone on acoustic gigs but I always take the Gibson to make people jealous....JH

Livin' in the Past and the Future with a 12 string Mooney Universal tuning.

[This message was edited by Jerry Hayes on 20 February 2004 at 05:29 AM.]

Stephen Gambrell

From: Ware Shoals, South Carolina, USA

posted 20 February 2004 08:04 AM     profile     
"If you want a good yo-yo, get a Duncan."
Brian Davis

From: San Francisco, USA

posted 20 February 2004 09:33 AM     profile     
Donald's got it right...get yourself a teens-era Gibson A model. Make sure the top isn't sunken around the bridge. They've got that sound for around $1K. Sadly, there really isn't a market for modern mid-grade mandolins. Your best bang for your buck with a new mandolin might be mid-missouri. Go with the old Gibson, IMO.


David L. Donald

From: Koh Samui Island, Thailand

posted 20 February 2004 11:43 AM     profile     
Jerry, I was jealous the moment I read that...

The only thing I have ever heard that came close to the old 30's F's I have played was this luthier from Spain's blond F-5 copy.
It had all the things I look/listen for when comparing something to the Lloyd Loar signed F5 I have played several times.

balanced and strong low end, chrisp highs, big sound and great feel.
I couldn't belive it was newly made.

I saw him again last July. He said he could build me one in 6 months for 2,250, 10% down.

But I am building a 6 string, 25/27 fret, electric Mandocaster now, but maybe next year.

He is now doing some really fine banjos too.
And his lutes and guitars are supurb.

There are basically two kinds of pre 1920's A-models, fat neck no truss rod and thin neck with truss rods.
Either can be quite good, but some of the earlier ones were not quite as accurate with the fret instalations as far as intonation.

Mine is fat neck and never goes out, and I am happy with it's size.
Also some had a split back and some a one piece carved back, the one piece is better.

But they will sound great and play well through the typically usable range.
But as he said above if tone is the issue the bang for the buck is these old babies vs the new ones.

[This message was edited by David L. Donald on 20 February 2004 at 11:50 AM.]

Scott Houston
posted 20 February 2004 12:28 PM           
Tom, I played a solid top A-style kentucky for about a year. The cosmetics were only good from a distance and soundwise, it was good and loud but did not ring out-a very thuddy tone. I agree you should save your pennies a little longer and go for a Weber.
Orville Johnson

From: Seattle, Washington, USA

posted 20 February 2004 12:50 PM     profile     
i have a kentucky that i've used for years on sessions and it sounds great on tape and live. it is, however, from the first couple of years they started up and i think they were aiming at a higher end market back then. mine is made of good spruce and maple with a nicely carved top. after a few years i think they shifted their pricepoint and lowered the quality so you might do alright by finding an older kentucky. i've owned some gibson A models too and if you find the right one they're nice but i've played lots of them that were far too bass-heavy and unbalanced in sound for my taste. it's definately hard to find a good mid-price mando. there seems to be a big gap between cheap junk and high quality with not much in between.
John McGann

From: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

posted 20 February 2004 01:45 PM     profile     
Back in the 80's they made a Dawg model to David Grisman's specs. I had the good fortune to hook up with David and he whipped one out for me to play (outside of a restaurant in Brookline MA, on a street corner) and it was silky smooth to play, and sounded fat and warm.

I've played other Kentuckys that were a bit more like Dog Meat, though

Lincoln Goertzen

From: Rose Prairie, British Columbia, Canada

posted 20 February 2004 04:14 PM     profile     
Dave, you mean that Morgan Monroe are IMPORTS??? I'm shocked, to say the least. I thought I'd finally found a North American-made instrument builder that didn't charge thousands for a decent instrument.

Where are they made, then? Are they any good?

BTW, to maintain the topic, I have played a Kentucky. M-675, I think, but would have to check on their site.

I didn't think very much of it. It was all right for a middle range unit, but no more than that.


Brian Wetzstein

From: Seattle, WA, USA

posted 22 February 2004 01:41 PM     profile     
Hi Tom how are you?
I have the cheap brown A style kentucky mando. I bought it to learn on and I like it fine. i had to crank the truss rod a bit not long ago. I can tell a big difference when I pick up a really good mandolin in the store, but I only spent $150 bucks. I think mine projects well and it stays in tune. Someday I will buy a nice one, but this one is good until then.
If you ever come out this way stop by and play it!!!
Kevin Hatton

From: Amherst, N.Y.

posted 22 February 2004 02:25 PM     profile     
I found every Kentucky mandolin I tried to be garbage quality compared to mandolins costing just a couple of hundred dollars more. I wouldn't own one.
Tom Olson

From: Spokane, WA

posted 26 February 2004 01:11 PM     profile     
Hi Brian, I'm doing fine, thanks. How about you? How's that red Tele behavin' for ya?

Thanks for all the input. Based on the consensus of opinions, I'm guessing that I probably wouldn't be happy w/ a Kentucky which is kinda what I figured anyhow. I guess I'll save my pennies like some have suggested. I noticed that Rigel has just released a nice-looking low end mando for right around a grand. I remember just a few years ago, you could buy a brand new Flatiron A for about that -- I wish I'd done it.


From: Grayson, Ga.

posted 01 March 2004 09:32 AM     profile     
I bought one of these for my wife. It is one of the F models. Pretty to look at but the sound does not hold a candle to her 1920's A model gibson, or her Ovation.
I paid $175.00 for it, and I don't know if that was a good deal. It sounds OK, and would be good for playing out when she does not want to carry the Gibson I guess.
I really expected better though. I thought they had a fairly good reputation, but I think they are another "Epiphone" (not to knock the early ones, but to compare to what has happened to quality).
Drew Howard

From: Mason, MI, U.S.A.

posted 05 March 2004 07:07 AM     profile     
I bought a Kentucky F-style, one of the cheaper ones. No big deal, I knew what I was getting into. FIne for jams.


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