Best Mandolins Reviewed & Rated for Quality
Are you searching for the reasons why you should get a mandolin?
Known as the “ugly duckling", these instruments belong to the family of those early lute-like musical devices called “mandores." They were most common with classical musicians.
There are a variety of models with different shapes, sizes, and a number of strings. These instruments are great options for beginners as they are the easiest musical instruments to learn and play. They have fewer strings than any other musical instrument such as the violin and guitar; therefore makes leaning them a lot easier.
Other than their usability, they are also famous for their design. This makes them easier to play. They are portable due to their light size, and you can carry one along wherever you go!
Let's go through some of the best, lightest, and easy to use models.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 8 hrs of research
Comes with assembled strings
Ideal for learners
10 Best Mandolins
1. Ibanez M510EDVS
Comes with assembled strings
Ideal for learners
Good for right-hand players only
The Ibanez is ideal for newbies and learners due to this model being both lightweight and affordable.
The first thing which makes this instrument stand out is its color. It comes in an outstandingly eye-catching and appealing antique color. You will not find many models in this dark violin-like shade!
It is easy and comfortable to hold, which belongs to A-style family. This style makes it ideal for classical and folk players. With a weight of only 29.2 pounds, this model can be your next best purchase.
Construction of Strings
Strings are the most important part of any musical instrument. This musical model by Ibanez has a fantastic structure which is specifically targeted for beginner musicians and players.
It has already assembled strings, so you don't have to go through the trouble of learning how to join them. However, it requires tuning so you might need to learn how to do this from the product manual.
Moreover, extreme temperatures might also affect the tuning, and may detune them as well. Thus, this model must be kept in a consistent environment.
For Right-Hand Players
It’s good news for all the right-handed players out there that this instrument is specially designed for you!
You need to play it while sitting down and placing it on your lap. However, if you want to play it while standing, then you need to use the strap which comes with it. Thus, this device provides you tons of options to play it as you desire.
If you are a left-handed player, you can restring it. However, it will also require you to change the pickguard as well.
Cost and Value
The best thing about this musical model is its affordability. Since these devices are especially ideal for beginners and players, this is why they need to be light on the pockets. This is true for this particular instrument as it comes with a highly affordable price tag.
It is the best value for your money not only in terms of cost but also in terms of ease of use and comfortability.
2. The Loar
Ideal for professionals
Robust and sturdy
Comes with warranty
Not a perfect fit for beginners
The Loar is famous for producing larger instruments which allow musicians to play even the more complex pieces of sounds out there. Moreover, the larger fret size also means less force and less fatigue.
This F-style musical instrument by The Loar is no exception. It is made with quality spruce wood which is hand carved and consists of maple at the sides and the back. It’s thin and sleek “V” neck makes it eye-appealing, less bulky, and comfortable to hold. Thus, you can also play it while standing, unlike most of the similar products on the market.
Due to its weight and price, we can call it the best fit for the experienced musicians out there.
Sturdy, Smart Construction
The build and power of any musical instrument are of immense importance. You need to hold it so it does not feel too heavy. You need to play it so the strings should be sturdy. Moreover, you need to take it with you on your musical travels so it should be sturdy and robust.
We find all of these features in this fantastic gadget. The high-quality spruce wood makes it so durable that you can even pass it on to the next generation.
Larger Fret Size
The larger fret size of this model is perfect for players since it requires less force. This makes it an easy-to-use instrument even for long hours on the stage. It allows for easier tuning, and the “V” neck fits comfortably in your hands. Moreover, the 1/8-inch nut width feels secure and allows faster and cleaner playing.
Thus, it is the best quality model for professional users.
Cost and Value
You will be glad to know that it comes with a lifetime warranty! Moreover, it also comes at a higher price, which isn't too much for professional quality and loaded features.
Providing long hours on stage, ease of use, and high-quality sound, the Loar will give you the best return for your money. It’s rich and crispy tone will make you fall in love with it!
Thus, this musical instrument is the best value for your cost, and it is sturdy enough so that you can keep it for a lifetime.
3. Stagg M50E
Durable and long-lasting
Strings might become loose
Another excellent option for musicians is the electric bluegrass mandolin by Stagg.
This chordophone comes with Rosewood construction and an eye-catching design with high gloss finishing. The addition of pearl dots on the neck makes this instrument more appealing.
It has an adjustable maple bridge for secure intonation. The nickel tuners allow for easy and accurate tuning, which is a crucial usability component. Moreover, this electric piece of amazing instrument is also an excellent option for easy playability, which will make you a fan of this great musical instrument.
All you need from any instruments is a high-quality, crisp sound. Thanks to this model for providing the same quality and high-end tones we prefer! It promises to bring life and spring to your music. You can also use it for a wide variety of musical categories.
It comes with two knobs each for volume and tone. It will give you the warmest and brightest sound due to the inclusion of the single pickup coil.
This model by Stagg is famous for its fantastic design. The engraved design and authentic look are the masterpiece design which you will rarely find in many mandolins out there.
The slim design with a red burst on the sides and a Nato back gives a hint of a vintage look to this device. Moreover, the F-hole design of this product will provide you a brilliant sound projection.
It counts among the best models of 2019 and the years to come.
Cost and Value
This Stagg M50E is an excellent choice for every occasion. From newbies to professionals, it is an excellent pick for every music fanatic. It is highly affordable regardless of the unique and unusual features it comes with. The lightweight, small size and the striking tool is the best return for your money.
No matter if you are just stepping into your music career or you have been in it for a while; this great model is essential for you.
4. Rogue RM-100A
Lightweight and portable
Hall quality performance
Tricky to set up
Here comes another top-rated A-style model with a maple neck and rosewood. The adjustable bridge provides excellent intonation as well.
This instrument comprises of laminated wood, which is of the highest quality and durable. This construction makes it highly resilient and versatile. Moreover, such craftsmanship allows it to produce the finest and brightest sound.
Weighing only around 2.9 pounds, this great musical instrument is comfortable to use and easy to play. It also comes with a protective case so you can keep it away from dust and humidity.
The blend of compactness and the finest-quality materials define this excellent fingerboard. It is going to be your long-term investment, so you must choose it wisely.
We can assure you that chrome is an excellent option for tuners and it offers remarkable resonance. Consequently, you get a brighter sound and the most beautiful quality tune. Thus, these features make this model the best and the highest quality instrument for professionals and learners.
This instrument only weighs around 2.9 pounds, which is proof that it is highly usable. This feature makes it highly comfortable, and you can hold it for extended periods.
The lightweight feature of this gadget also makes it highly portable, and you can easily carry it around wherever you want. This makes it perfect for experts and newbies alike. Therefore, it is the ideal device for your musical needs.
Cost and Value
Want to know about the cost of this great instrument? It comes at a reasonable price, which won't be too heavy on your pocket.
However, this low cost doesn't imply low quality. It has got all the qualities of an excellent musical instrument from the construction. It has an exceptional finish to exceptional quality and a fantastic sound.
The price, value, and performance of this model makes it idyllic for the beginner as well.
5. Seagull S8
Strong and sturdy build
Trendy look and finish
Not the best material for the nut
Requires longer learning time
Seagull is the top-selling brand for musical instruments, especially in terms of guitars and mandolins. They are well-known for their crafting and design. This model is pretty durable and versatile and comes with the most exceptional construction.
Other than the design and look, the interior of this instrument is also robust and hard-wearing. You will see the most exquisite details and perfect placing of every feature on this model. It is an S8-style model and it is lightweight, weighing a merely 1.1 pounds.
Let's dive into one of the most critical elements of this model - the sound. Once you pick up this well-built instrument in your hands and play it, you will be certain about the quality of sound it produces.
The remarkable intonation, loud and clear sound, and the crispy tune will make you fall in love with this beautiful musical instrument. Although it is not the loudest instrument out there, it is packed with functionalities. Moreover, you won’t hear any buzzes while playing it.
This model comprise of extra sturdy and high-quality construction. Although it is not expensive or luxurious, it comes with delicate details.
One thing that is noticed is that the manufacturer has put their energy into designing this model by using the highest-quality materials when compared to its performance, which is excellent, but not extraordinary.
Cost and Value
This beautiful instrument with bright, deep sounds and excellent quality construction comes with a price that matches its amazing features and functionalities.
If you are fond of traveling, then this sturdy, yet lightweight piece is perfect for you. It will fulfill all of your desired requirements, which includes the size, weight, performance, and a smart price tag! This instrument will be an excellent investment for you.
6. Savannah SA-100
Well-built and sturdy construction
Deep and clear tone
Excellent for beginners
Hard to tune
Next one on our list is the SA-model by Savannah. This fantastic piece consists of a maple material which is carved on the neck. Moreover, it comes with a Rosewood fretboard and an adjustable bridge. It also has a fantastic frequency which offers smooth and clean playability and a deep sound.
Furthermore, it is lightweight and more comfortable to move around, which further adds to its functionality. It is a complete package of a great sound and incredible look. It is also known as the best model for beginners.
The portability feature of this great piece cannot be neglected. The medium size of this instrument makes it easy to carry. You get the options of using it while sitting or even standing. You won’t find this feature in many of these instruments out there.
Another feature of portability is the weight. It comes in a 2.9-pound package, which is pretty nice and allows secure handling and movement.
This model has an adjustable bridge due to which it offers a remarkable intonation and fantastic response. The fretted neck further provides a smooth and clean player experience.
Furthermore, the tuning of this instrument is smooth and seamless. These tuners also give a vintage look to the fingerboard. The accurate and highly precise tuning, in turn, offers highly supreme performance and produces a delicate sound.
Furthermore, it has excellent construction, which is all we wish for from a musical instrument.
Cost and Value
This model might seem low-priced to you but don’t be fooled by the price tag. It is much more than that. The tone and sound are great, the wood quality is excellent, and the strings are pretty nice.
Its low price, and other playability features make it an ideal model for beginners. Furthermore, if you are keen to learning music and have a moderate budget, then you must try out this great Savannah model!
Robust and sturdy
More like a guitar, this electric mandolin by Musoo is becoming an excellent alternative for the expensive guitars out there. This electronic piece of equipment is made up of fingerboard and high-quality basswood. However, the basswood has also contributed to the heavier weight of this instrument.
With the dimensions of 39.4 x 13.8 x 7.9 inches, it comes at a highly affordable price. You can use it for learning. However, it is not recommended for professional use.
The inclusion of high-quality basswood makes this piece of equipment highly durable and versatile in terms of development. You can use it for years and it will not deteriorate! It can be a life-long instrument, and you can invest in it without any fear.
Take note that the hard-wearing and sturdy construction also makes it difficult to move and can become a hurdle in the playability of it. If you can compensate on these factors, then this instrument can become the perfect piece for your learning and investment.
Easy to Use
The body, which is accessible to tune strings and lots of smooth playability options, makes this instrument an easy-to-use piece for beginners. It is also an excellent device for learning and practicing on the go.
Moreover, it is an electric instrument which offers playability options. Other than the portability feature, this instrument fits well for all other requirements you look for in a musical instrument.
Cost and Value
This instrument is highly affordable; and as a beginner, you can buy it with your pocket money. The price is unlikely in many other similar models out there.
If we consider the features with this low-price, this model will be an excellent reward for the money. It provides you with all the sound options needed in a musical tool. If there is anything lacking, it will be the light weight; but comparing this with the affordable price makes the Musoo justifiable.
8. Kentucky KM-272
Easy to play and tune
Best value for money
Easy to set up
Beginners might find it pricey
Doesn’t come with a strap
Kentucky is known for its most beautiful quality musical instruments. The KM-272 is another excellent addition. We love its bright sound and fantastic craftsmanship. Moreover, the unique and sleek design with a sunburst finish makes it the ideal mandolin.
This fingerboard is a combination of perfection and compactness. From incredible intonation to a variety of tunes, this gadget can take your musical journey to a whole new level.
Let's throw some light on the construction and build of this beautiful piece of equipment!
Starting with the material, this instrument comes with a carved spruce top. Spruce is responsible for that amazingly clear and bright sound. The inclusion of maple on the neck makes it further easy to use and comfortable to hold. It also ensures a smooth sound high level of playability.
Moreover, the rosewood fretboard further enhances your experience, and you get a wide range of sounds and brighter tones.
Easy to Use
Comfort and ease of use cannot be neglected when looking for a musical instrument. The weight, size, dimensions, and construction material all counts well in the usability of this instrument.
The slim design of the fingerboard makes it easy for you to hold it. Moreover, with a weight of only 2.55 pounds, it becomes the ideal instrument for experts and beginners alike. Furthermore, it comes with dimensions 27 x 10 x 2.5 inches, which is the perfect size for a musical instrument.
You can easily hold it, use it, and carry it around with you.
Cost and Value
Due to the inclusion of the finest quality spruce wood and maple, the price of this mandolin isn't low. However, if we compare the features with the price, then it looks quite reasonable and justifiable.
We cannot place this gadget on the list of overpriced instruments due to its high-quality features and fantastic performance. You won't regret having it in your instrument collection as it offers the best return for any money invested.
9. Gold Tone
Comes with a foam bag
Here is a luxurious and high-quality instrument that comes with 12-strings and a unique shape. It is designed with high-quality materials and a spruce top.
What contributes the most to the price tag is the lightweight and slim design of this musical gadget. Other than the physical aspects, this instrument is also excellent in terms of performance. Its bright and loud sounds will make you wonder why you didn’t invest in such a useful model before.
This fingerboard guitar comes with high-quality construction materials such as spruce wood, ebony, maple, and gold-plated exterior. On top of it, it has a glossy and elegant finish.
This blend of various materials makes this model unique and contributes to its higher quality. Another proof of its fine construction is the scale length, which is around 15-inches, and the slim neck adds a fancy touch to its overall look.
What's better than an instrument which comes with a weight as light as 1 pound. It adds to the portability feature of it.
Moreover, it is constructed with a foam and padded case for extra protection and safety of your gadget. Above all, the slim design and other portability features allow you to carry it around wherever you want.
Cost and Value
The high price of this instrument is highly justified with its features and functionalities. It is one of the highest quality mandolins in terms of both hardware and performance.
Thus, the high price is highly justified for the range of functionalities and sounds it offers. Moreover, it also comes with a warranty which justifies the amount you invest in it.
10. Oscar Schmidt OM10EWH
Excellent white finish
Inspected by a technician
Resonant sound quality
This A-style electric mandolin comes in spruce wood and Mahogany sides and back. The high-quality craftsmanship will make it long-lasting and durable. It comes with a white and glossy finish, which makes this model look fancy and luxurious.
It fulfills all three features required - that is sound and feel. That is why we can call it an excellent choice for those who are serious about learning music and are willing to pay a reasonable price for it.
This model offers the same projection and resonance your performance. It produces a loud and high-end tone, which makes it a professional musical instrument.
The sound and feel of this fingerboard will stay with you for a long time. Therefore, it will keep on producing better sound as you become more comfortable with playing it.
Let’s talk about the hardware and build of this A-style model which comes with a bullet bridge design and an Ovangkol fingerboard. Both of these features contribute to the overall setup of this model.
The overall package makes the Oscar Schmidt highly portable and long-lasting.
Cost and Value
Although it is a great deal in terms of price, the features make this model highly justifiable.
Its construction and price makes it a great combination. No matter if you are a beginner or someone who is into the music business for ages, this attractive instrument will be the best fit for your needs. Its unique design offers a vintage look and a slim appearance. Therefore, it will look great in your hands!
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Mandolins are known for their unique sound which is different than that of a guitar or any other such instrument. That is why when looking for a brand; the priority should be about the quality of the sound.
There are various kinds of these fingerboards present out there with different price ranges. Even if you are looking for one at a lesser price, the sound that comes from it should take priority over the hardware, construction, and the design of the instrument.
The importance of sound can never be overlooked. Sound adds atmosphere to any setting. Cheaper sound quality can ruin the entire experience not only for the player but also for the audience. To avoid diminishing that experience, do a test run before purchasing.
The sound of an instrument also matters when you are recording your tunes. A lower quality can mean poor recording results. Professionals are aware that the sound of a musical instrument is the determining factor of success or failure.
Ease of Use
These instruments are mainly for students who are keen to learn about music. It is, therefore, important that they are easy to use and doesn't detract the student away from learning music.
The first question you must ask yourself before stepping into a music career is: “Why should I learn it?” In most cases, individuals want to learn how to play one because of their interest in music. The same interest should remain with them and increase with time. If the musical instrument isn't easy to use, the person might stop learning it entirely.
Moreover, the easier an instrument is to operate, the more confident the person will feel. Confidence can directly affect the outcome of the entire learning process. Thus, ease of use can have direct effects on the final results.
Why these particular instruments are recommended for beginners is because of their easiness and simplicity. The fingerboard has a fewer number of strings as compared to the guitar, which is simple to learn. Moreover, they are also easier to tune. That is why they are always the first musical gadget that is placed in the hands of a person who has a desire to learn music.
Durability is directly related to the longevity of an instrument. Keeping it away from environmental factors is not always possible, mainly when you use it frequently. The same is true for mandolins. These instruments are used for learning, and that is why they are used most often. Moreover, you will find them mostly in the hands of inexperienced musicians who are in their early stages of learning.
Since they are mostly in rough hands, the hardware and construction should be versatile and durable as it relates to the lifespan. Consequently, you will end up spending money on one after every year or two. So, it’s better to invest in a good instrument beforehand rather than waiting for it to deteriorate and then spending money on another one.
That is why when looking for a fingerboard, the hardware should be given as much attention in addition to the sound quality and usage. If it isn’t reliable or long-lasting, you are wasting your money. You don’t want to spend money on one every other year.
Being a musician means you are always moving around with your instruments. Music tours and classes which you take every day will keep you moving around with them.
Here is the point where the portability of your instrument kicks in. You need to look for one that you can move quickly. There are many factors which affect an instrument's portability: such as the weight and the size of the fingerboard. If it isn't lightweight, then it won't be portable! Therefore, you need to look for one that isn’t only lightweight, but also come in a regular size. Only then, you will be able to carry it with you.
When we talk about portability, the ease of use also kicks in. If the instrument isn’t portable, that means it isn’t easy to carry as well. This shows us that all the elements which affect playability are interconnected with one another. Taking care of one element also means taking care of the other. Moreover, neglecting any one of these will negatively impact the other. Therefore, it is highly essential to take care of each one of them to achieve better results.
Weight is another important aspect of a fingerboard. All instruments are directly related to weight and size. You need to comfortably hold your device while playing or placing it on your lap. This is why the importance of weight plays a vital role in determining the comfort and ease of use.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
These instruments are all about practice. Do you want to learn music? Start practicing on one. You are an expert and want to go on stage? Take one with you. This simple yet amazing musical instrument teaches us the importance of practice and shows you how imperfection can affect the outcome. Therefore, before you plan to invest in a fancy musical instrument, make sure that you have practiced enough on a mandolin.
Taking care of your device and tuning it the right way contributes to its long life. If you are still a beginner and you are using an electric model, make sure that you know the meaning of each light your instrument displays.
For example, the green light shows you that the pitch is perfect. Moreover, touching the wrong string while playing can also affect the tuning, which in turn can affect the tone.
Therefore, it's essential to understand your instrument before taking the next step.
Learning to tune your device is crucial. You must know how to tune it properly. Generally, the rule of thumb is to always tune from low to high. You should always move the strings down and then tune up. If you do it vice-versa, that is, from high to low, your instrument will go out of tune in the middle of playing.
Other Factors to Consider
The comfort of any product can directly impact the outcome. If you aren't comfortable holding and operating your equipment, your performance will suffer greatly. Getting used to your equipment and spending enough time with it will enable you to play one more comfortably.
When we talk about comfort, you need to consider the design of your instrument as well. Massive devices are less comfortable, so it will affect the final outcome. These instruments are no exception! They need to be comfortable in your hands, must be lightweight, and easy to handle. That is why the comfort factor should not be neglected.
There are various brands available out there. You can use them while sitting by placing them on your lap. But if you are looking for a comfortable brand, then you must look for one that can be used when sitting or standing up. For long hours on the stage, the comfort of the fingerboard matters a lot. It can either flourish or ruin your entire music performance.
The aim should be to look for one that can provide maximum comfort. Only then, you can have the most immersive musical experience.
Many fingerboards come with protective cases, while many of them go without one. Protecting your tool is very important since you need to use it often. When looking for a fingerboard, it is essential to consider the brands which come with padded or protective casing to keep your instrument safe from environmental factors.
If your model comes without the casing, then you must buy it separately. Neglecting the importance of protection is not a good idea. The protection factor must not be denied while shopping around.
The size of your instrument relates to the portability and ease of use. Even if you are a professional, you might need to hold your instrument for long hours on stage. That is why a medium size and comfortable design are essential to get the best possible results out of your music gadget. Furthermore, the larger the size, the more significant the weight is – which, in turn, comprises your performance.
Moreover, size also affects the portability of your instrument. That is why considering this criterion before buying one counts a lot when looking at the end results.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Which model is suitable for beginners?
When looking for good model to begin with, the rule is: the simpler, the better. Keeping this in mind, the best brands for beginners are:
q: Is it possible to play them like a guitar?
Yes, there are many models out there that are designed just like guitars. The rule of thumb in both the instruments is the right brand of strings and the positioning of your fingers. Keep in mind that the position is somewhat different in both instruments.
q: Are they easy to learn?
Yes, they are much easier to learn than other musical tools. Because of the small neck and less strings, one can quickly start with it. That is why they are known as "learners' first steps."
q: How can you differentiate them from a guitar?
Mandolins have small bodies and necks. Their frets and strings are very close to each other. Moreover, the number of strings is less than that of a guitar. On the contrary, guitars have a higher number of strings, a larger body, and a neck. The placement of strings is also different in both.
q: How to tune them?
Tuning this instrument starts with G-D-A-E, that is, from lower to higher. All the strings must have the same tone.
q: How many strings does a fingerboard have?
A fingerboard generally comes with four pairs of strings which make up a total of 8 strings. Due to the lesser number of strings, these instruments have a unique crispy sound which is different from that of a guitar and a banjo.