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Best Mandolin Of 2019 – Top 10 Beginner Mandolin Reviews

The mandolin is in the same family of instruments as the lute and comes in many different shapes and styles. Each of these has its own peculiarities and unique sound.

Mandolins are much less common and quite different from guitars, even though there’s a small physical resemblance. So, it is quite understandable, that due to the fact that fewer people truly understand the instrument, that deciding on which one is best for you can be difficult.

But no need to worry, we’re here to help. We’ve got detailed reviews, and list the pros and cons, of the Top 10 best beginner mandolins currently on the market. Plus, we’ve got tips on choosing the best mandolin for you.

So, sit back and relax; all the hard work has been done for you. So, that’s all that’s left for you to do is read a little and decide on your perfect mandolin!

Top 10 Best Mandolin On The Market Reviews

Top 10 Best Mandolin On The Market 2019 Reviews

NameTopBack/sidesFingerboardWeightColorType
Top
Stika spruce
Back/sides
Maple
Fingerboard
Indian rosewood
Weight
3 pounds
Color
Sunburst
Type
Acoustic

A-model
Top
Solid spruce
Back/sides
Flamed maple
Fingerboard
Rosewood
Weight
2.5 pounds
Color
Brown sunburst
Type
A-Style
Top
Stika spruce
Back/sides
Maple
Fingerboard
Indian rosewood
Weight
2.75 pounds
Color
Traditional Sunburst
Type
A-Style
Top
Fully graduated Spruce
Back/sides
Fully graduated maple/solid maple
Fingerboard
Bound rosewood
Weight
2.9 pounds
Color
Sunburst
Type
F-Style
Top
Select spruce
Back/sides
Mahogany
Fingerboard
Not specified
Weight
2.5 pounds
Color
Dark violin sunburst
Type
A-Style
Top
Not Specified
Back/sides
Not specified
Fingerboard
Bound rosewood
Weight
2.8 pounds
Color
Not specified
Type
A-Style
Top
Solid Spruce
Back/sides
Maple
Fingerboard
Bound rosewood
Weight
2.2 pounds
Color
Black
Type
A-Style
Top
Laminated spruce
Back/sides
Not specified
Fingerboard
Not specified
Weight
3 pounds
Color
Wineburst
Type
A-Style
Top
Not specified
Back/sides
Not specified
Fingerboard
Rosewood
Weight
2.85 pounds
Color
Sunburst
Type
A-Style
Top
African Mahogany
Back/sides
African Mahogany
Fingerboard
Not specified
Weight
3.53 pounds
Color
Sunburst
Type
A-Style

1 Kentucky KM-140 Standard A-Model Mandolin – Great Entry-Level Mandolin For Beginners

The Kentucky KM-140 is a fantastic mandolin if you’re considering getting a mandolin as a beginner. It’s great and comes with a beautiful sound that you’d love. And it’s also very affordable which means that you don’t have to spend much getting one that you’ll mostly use for practice.

It’s made of spruce and maple which is a solid combination when talking about mandolins. Thanks to the quality of wood used to build this instrument, the sound is really warm, crisp, clear, and loud.

The sustain is also incredible and it’s quite a versatile mandolin. Whether you’d like to strum it or you prefer picking, this mandolin makes a nice choice.

It also has a nice build and a quality finish. So, it looks good. The case that’s included is also pretty solid.

So, all in all, this is a great instrument and we recommend this to anyone who wants to begin playing the mandolin.

Kentucky KM-140 Standard A-Model Mandolin
Our rating:4.3 out of 5 stars (4.3 / 5)

Pros
  • Spruce and maple body for excellent tone.
  • Great for beginners.
  • Excellent build quality.
Cons
  • It doesn’t come set up, so you will need to take it to a luthier or music shop to get it playing and sounding as good as it can.

2 Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin – Fantastic Tone Great For Beginners And Advanced Beginners

This is a really beautiful mandolin from Ibanez. If you’ve tried a banjo from Ibanez, then you probably know what to expect from this mandolin by way of quality. It’s solidly built, and it looks superb.

The sound is out of this world too, and it is really loud as well.

For those with a background in guitars, you will absolutely love this Ibanez mandolin.

The action is a little high, so that might need to be sorted by a luthier or your local music shop.

The tuning pegs are okay, although some people might prefer to replace them with some better quality ones. To us, though, they aren’t a deal breaker.

Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin
Our rating:3.8 out of 5 stars (3.8 / 5)

Pros
  • Looks great.
  • Beautiful tone.
  • Loud volume.
Cons
  • Needs a good set-up by a professional.

3 Kentucky KM-270 Artist Oval Hole A-Style Mandolin – Vintage Oval Hole Mandolin

In the good ol’ days, mandolins came as A-style with an oval hole. However, over time, that has changed and these mandolins are getting rarer. However, Kentucky maintains that you can still have this classic instrument at a very affordable price!

With the oval hole, you get a fuller, richer, and even more “mandoliny” sound.

Thanks to the quality of wood with which this mandolin is built, the mandolin comes with such a beautiful, rich tone that is totally out of this world.

And since we are talking about the build, isn’t it just great to know that this instrument is handcrafted? This means that you can be sure of the quality and durability of this mandolin.

The strings are decent, and it holds its tuning well.

So, generally, this is a great mandolin worth the money.

Kentucky KM-270 Artist Oval Hole A-Style Mandolin
Our rating:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Pros
  • Oval hole for a richer, fuller sound.
  • Quality wood and excellent tone.
  • Decent strings.
  • No fret buzz.
Cons
  • Needs a good set-up.

4 The Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style Mandolin – Great Mandolin, Already Setup With Great Playability

One thing that really stands out with the Loar, is its playability, it’s just so so easy to play.

The Loar LM-520-VS is pretty well set up, to a very large extent. But then, one or two things need to be fixed. One of them is the most common problem you’d find on mandolins – the bridge.

You’d just need to bring down the bridge a little. But aside that, every other thing is A-okay. The mandolin is ready to play right out of the box which is more than we can say for most mandolins.

The strings are great, and they hold their tune. The build of the mandolin is also of good quality which you can tell when you look at it.

Aside from that, the tone is beautiful or why else will it make it to our reviews? If you’re looking for a fantastic mandolin, then you shouldn’t miss out on this one.

The Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style Mandolin
Our rating:4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)

Pros
  • Great playability.
  • Pretty much set up – ready to play right out of the box.
  • Great strings.
  • Quality materials.
Cons
  • The bridge needs to be lowered a bit.

5 Ibanez M510DVS Mandolin – Beautiful And Affordable Mandolin

This is one beautiful mandolin. Be careful, though, it’s not as satiny looking as it is in real life. It actually comes with a glossy finish. But here’s one thing we will agree on, the Ibanez M510DVS is very beautiful.

It’s an A-style mandolin, with a select spruce top, and Mahogany back and sides. It features chrome hardware and has Pearl Dot inlays on its neck.

As with quite a few lower cost instruments, the manufacturers often cut corners on the strings they install. They are fine for beginners, but when they wear out or break, change them for a higher quality set and this, as well as all less expensive mandolins, will sound better.

And, of course, let’s not forget the fact that this mandolin is oh so affordable. It’s a great deal for such an affordable mandolin, in our opinion.

Ibanez M510DVS Mandolin
Our rating:3.9 out of 5 stars (3.9 / 5)

Pros
  • Beautiful mandolin.
  • It is made with quality materials.
  • Affordable.
Cons
  • Not the best strings, but they are easily changed when they wear out or break.
  • Will need a set-up to get it playing and sounding at it’s best.

6 Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin – Well-Built And Ready To Play Right Out of The Box

Alright, this is perhaps the mandolin closest to the “mandolin-as-it-should-be” in our reviews. It is so well built, and you’ll have very little to adjust once you get it.

It looks lovely and is made of quality materials. You can, therefore, trust that it will last a very long time.

Aside from that, we found something really remarkable about this mandolin that was rare among the other mandolins that we reviewed.

It actually comes with a moderate action. It is neither too high nor too low. This means that your mandolin will be very easy to play even if you’re a beginner. What are we saying? Even professionals do not appreciate playing with a mandolin that has a too high action. It makes playing unnecessarily difficult.

As to the sound, this mandolin might be really affordable, but then, it sounds really good for the low price. The tone is great too, thanks to the quality of the wood used to build the mandolin.

And the volume? This mandolin is very loud and still maintains a very clean tone.

Yeah, the strings… the strings are pretty good too, and they hold their tune well.

Altogether, we totally love the Savannah mandolin and we think you should definitely try it out.

Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin
Our rating:4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

Pros
  • Very well built instrument.
  • Moderate action – neither too high nor too low.
  • Beautiful tone.
  • Very affordable.
Cons
  • None for the low price.

7 Washburn M1SDLB A-Style Mandolin – Loud Volume, Beautiful Italian Sound

This is another beautiful mandolin and this time it’s from Washburn. It is really loud and it produces such a beautiful sound. The tone of the wood is great too.

It’s an A-style mandolin with an oval hole. As we previously mentioned, the oval hole has a certain quality it adds to the sound and tone of a mandolin. For one, it makes the mandolin louder. And two, it makes the mandolin produce a more rounded sound.

So, if you love Italian style music, then this is the perfect mandolin for you.

And, as mentioned, it is really loud. It is actually much louder than an A-style mandolin with an F-hole. You play it, and the sound will fill the entire room.

It’s a beautiful looking mandolin as well, and it looks well made.

The strings could be better, though. But that’s normal and very easy to change.

Another adjustment you’d have to make is to adjust the position of the bridge so the action is just right. But by now, you’re probably already used to coming across mandolins that require the bridge to be re-set.

Washburn M1SDLB A-Style Mandolin
Our rating:4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)

Pros
  • Beautiful mandolin.
  • Oval hole gives the mandolin a rich Italian sound.
  • Loud in volume.
Cons
  • Bridge could do with minor adjustment.

8 Guitar Works Inc. A-Style Mandolin – Already Set Up From The Manufacturer, Great For Lefties

If you’re a leftie and you’ve been finding it difficult getting a mandolin you can play, then here is the perfect mandolin for you, it’s absolutely fantastic for lefties.

We also found out that if you need your mandolin set up for a leftie, Guitar Works Inc will do that for you. But that’s not even the best part. And, they will do it at no cost to you. They’ll do it for free!

We really commend how the manufacturers did a lot to ensure that this mandolin is playable by almost anybody.

For one, it’s ready to play right out of the box. Yep. We know you may not believe it because it’s contrary to all other mandolins you’ve seen and everything you’ve heard. But the truth is that this mandolin actually comes set up by the manufacturers.

Granted, you’d have to tune this up, but it’s just a normal part of owning any fretted instrument.

This mandolin comes with a carrying case as well which is nice and sturdy.

The sound, of course, is heavenly and rich. And the strings sound great and hold their tuning very well. Those strings are D’Addario light phosphor bronze. Quality strings for sure.

You just gotta love this adaptable, well built, great sounding mandolin.

Guitar Works Inc. A-Style Mandolin
Our rating:3.9 out of 5 stars (3.9 / 5)

Pros
  • Great sound and tone.
  • Comes with a study carrying case.
  • Ready to play right out of the box.
  • The strings are high quality.
  • Beautiful finish.
  • Great for lefties.
Cons
  • None.

9 Rogue RM-110 A-Style Mandolin – Probably The Most Affordable Mandolin Ever!

Now, we cannot get over how affordable the RM-110 from Rogue is. It’s like so affordable!

Of course, that already tells you that this is an entry level mandolin but don’t mistake that for cheap. No, it wasn’t built to compete with other mandolins in the $1000+ echelons, but, this mandolin is quite exceptional for the low price.

If you recently developed an interest in mandolins, or you’re looking to make an unsure transition from guitars to mandolins, this is a perfect choice for you. At least, until you’re sure about your new found love for mandolins, the Rogue will be by your side. Helping you to build your skill level, ready for the higher end model you end up with.

And the manufacturers even threw in an electric tuner. How nice! The tuner makes the work of tuning a lot easier and always comes in handy.

Now, as for the build, well, it is just okay. It doesn’t feel amazing, but then again, you’ll be getting this mandolin at a ridiculously low price.

As for looks, it scores well there; that’s for sure.

And it’s ready to play right out of the box too with a really good sound. No, we are not exaggerating. The sound from this mandolin is really good, especially since it’s coming from such an affordable mandolin.

Rogue RM-110 A-Style Mandolin
Our rating:4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)

Pros
  • Affordable.
  • Ready to play out of the box.
  • Electric tuner included.
  • Beautiful sound.
Cons
  • Not the best build quality, but that is to be expected considering the low price.

10 Donner DML-1 A Style Mandolin – Best Value

And we finish with another very affordable mandolin, but, here’s where you get amazing value for your money. The Donner DML-1 is affordable but it doesn’t end there. It comes with most of the accessories you will ever need included. Talk about value!

The package comes with:

  • A solid gig bag.
  • Some nice picks.
  • A good working tuner.
  • Extra strings.
  • And even a polishing cloth to keep your mandolin all shiny!

It’s a great buy if you want to gift this to a beginner mandolin player since all the accessories are included. But even more importantly, it comes very easy to play.

The electric tuner is actually pretty good, so it removes the stress from tuning.

It’s already adequately set up, so you don’t have much to do before you begin playing. Just take it out of the box, tune it up, and start playing.

The stings are great too. For new strings, they do hold their tune well. It’s so amazing; it kind of feels like they’ve already been broken in a bit before now.

In all, we love this instrument and if you’re still doubting, stop questioning and start ordering. We guarantee you won’t regret this purchase if your on a budget or just starting out.

Donner DML-1 A Style Mandolin
Our rating:4.2 out of 5 stars (4.2 / 5)

Pros
  • Comes with a lot of useful accessories.
  • Quite easy to play.
  • Nice strings that hold their tuning well.
  • Electric turner that makes tuning stress-free.
Cons
  • The quality of the machine heads could be better.

Best Mandolin Buying Guide

Mandolins are classified into two main families. They are:

  1. The Bowlback Mandolins.
  2. The Flatback Mandolins.

Let’s discuss each of these families very briefly.

Best Mandolin Buying Guide

The Bowlback Mandolins

Bowlback Mandolins are mostly used to play classical, Greek and Italian music. Examples of the mandolins in the bowlback family include the following:

  • Sorpano mandolin.
  • Bass mandolin.
  • The mandola (tenor mandolin).
  • The tenor mandola (octave mandolin).
  • Mandolone (a bass mandolin shaped like a guitar).

The Flatback Mandolins

Flatback mandolins are more American. They are used in the USA to play genres of music such as bluegrass, jazz, etc.

  • F-style/Bluegrass Mandolin: This gives a less bright, jazzier feel to its sound.
  • A-style Mandolin: Just like the F-style mandolin, the A-style mandolin comes with an arch top.
  • Flatback Mandolin: Comes with a flat back just like the name suggests. It’s the most affordable type of mandolin as it is the easiest to build.

Now to the parts of a mandolin and how they affect the quality of your mandolin.

Parts Of A Mandolin

best beginner mandolin

Body

The quality of sound a mandolin produces depends on the kind of wood used to build the body of the mandolin. It also affects the price.

Back And Sides

The back and sides of a mandolin are usually made of rosewood, birch, mahogany, or maple.

Sound Holes

As the name suggests, the sound of the mandolin comes out through the sound holes. Sound holes are of two types: the F- hole that is identical to that of a violin. And then there is the round hole which you’d find more often in bowlback and A-type mandolins.

Scroll

Scrolls are more decorative than functional when it comes to the mandolins. However, a scroll can also have an impact on the quality of sound in a mandolin.

Bridge

There are two primary functions of a bridge in a mandolin. The first is to dictate the positioning of the strings. Additionally, it helps to transfer the vibrations produced by the strings to the top of the mandolin.

best mandolin for the money

Tailpiece

The tailpiece, just like the scroll, is both decorative and functional. The tailpiece is the part of the mandolin where the strings get attached to the instrument. It either comes as a cast piece of metal or as a stamped one.

Fretboard/Frets

This is a piece of wood added to the neck of the mandolin. And the frets are just like you have on a guitar. Thin metal strips that run across the fingerboard.

Tuners

This one is quite obvious; they are used to tune the mandolin.

There are no firm rules about choosing a mandolin. You’d have to learn to trust your hands and ears. If you love the sound and feel, then, by all means, get it. No matter what anyone tells you, feeling great about your instrument will help you practice better and get the best out of it.

Another thing to consider is that mandolins come in the traditional acoustic style, electric mandolins, and acoustic-electric mandolins. Of course, each of these styles have their peculiarities and perform better in specific tasks. Again, trust your hands and ears to make the choice of the best mandolin for you.

Conclusion

We love all the mandolins on review today, but if we absolutely must go for one, it would easily be the…

Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin

It’s such a super mandolin; it was so hard to fault it.

We love the tone of the instrument, and it’s also quite loud. But even more importantly, we were able to find one mandolin out of many that came set up from the shop… with a moderate action! And then the looks and the strings too are superb.

We just couldn’t help it; we fell hard for the Savannah Mandolin. Who wouldn’t after seeing how good it is.

PS: Lefties would love the Guitar Works Inc. A-Style Mandolin. It’s our second favorite mandolin for this singular reason.

Best Mandolin Of 2019 – Top 10 Beginner Mandolin Reviews
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