Before we get into the top 10 best mandolins under $1000, let’s look at what defines a mandolin, shall we? Well, according to the dictionary, it’s an instrument resembling a lute or guitar, played with a plectrum; has 8 pairs of strings tuned in 5ths and played with plectrum or fingers. OK, so that might be how you pronounce it but it’s not how I would define it! So what is a mandolin?
Things to consider when buying mandolins:
Before heading out to buy a mandolin, you’ll want to consider a few things. First, know that while nearly all mandolins are acoustic instruments, they vary widely in size and sound. The differences come down to three factors: wood type, body shape and strings. Here’s a breakdown of each category Are you going to use it? If so, what for? Will it be an instrument that sits on your coffee table or will it get regular use? Does your budget allow for something really nice or do you need something more affordable? Is there an area where it would be impractical (or even impossible) to play an instrument with a round back like a mandolin? These questions will help narrow down your options and help determine what kind of instrument best suits your needs. The most common woods used in mandolin construction include maple, spruce and rosewood. Maple is considered by many to produce a bright tone; rosewood produces a warmer tone; spruce is somewhere between those two tones. The style of instrument also has an impact on how it sounds; generally speaking, F-style mandolins have deeper tones than A-style models.
A quick guide to buying a mandolin:
Want to play your favorite songs on a mandolin but don’t want to shell out thousands of dollars for one? Well, you may be able to find exactly what you need right in your own home. Yes, that old mandolin might be just what you’re looking for! It all depends on how much you want to spend, however.
For those who want quality with style:
The Gibson A10 is a high-quality, highly durable mandolin with a graceful cherry-burst finish. Its solid carved spruce top and mahogany body create a bright tone that is perfect for both bluegrass and classical music lovers. It comes with steel strings installed, but is compatible with bronze strings as well. Overall, it’s an excellent mandolin at an affordable price point.
- Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin (KM-950)
The best mandolin on our list is made by a small manufacturer called Kentucky. The KM-950 has a wider fretboard than most 8-string models, giving it an edge for comfort. It also comes with a solid cedar top and Honduran mahogany sides and neck to give your sound that extra bit of quality. The tonewoods also come pre-aged to avoid any unwanted cracking or twisting over time. In addition, you get a great set of electronics (designed in partnership with Fishman) that includes volume and tone controls as well as a built-in tuner. If you’re looking for an instrument that plays like a dream but doesn’t cost too much, then look no further than the KM-950.
Pros of Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin (KM-950)
The KM-950 is a beautiful instrument; it’s handcrafted in Kentucky with careful attention to detail. The 8-string mandolin is extremely versatile, but many musicians find it particularly useful for bluegrass or country. It also comes with an instructional DVD and gig bag, so you can get started right away. This item retails for around $800.00, but buying online allows you to save quite a bit of money on shipping and insurance.
- Those who want traditional look, quality and style- Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin
Top on our list is Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin. This classic model gives you excellent acoustic tone and amazing playability. Constructed with solid spruce top, maple back and sides, it produces great volume and crisp sound. The comfortable neck allows easy playing. It features beautiful inlays and bound neck for outstanding look. Solid Spruce Top: Solid spruce top is used to increase durability, tone, and playability of mandolin with superior resonance and sustain which give best results while playing.
Cons of Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin (KM-950)
The Kentucky KM-950 mandolin has a solid, laminated spruce top and beautiful looking tiger stripe finish. It has a black cherry burst finish on back and sides. The fingerboard is made of rosewood and decorated with white dot inlays, as well as mother-of-pearl block inlays down each side of headstock. It comes with a standard KMS-350 case (pictured below) but you can upgrade to an arched top case at extra cost.
3. Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin, Sunburst (KM-850)
Best mandolin under $1000: You might be asking yourself, Why would I need an 8-string? The answer is simple—you wouldn’t. That being said, if you were to ask Don Rich why he needed an 8-string mandolin in 1973, or Earl Scruggs why he wanted an 8-string Gibson F2 in 1952, they probably wouldn’t have given you a good answer either. But we all know how that turned out. So while you might not need an 8-string today, maybe someone will invent something tomorrow that makes them absolutely necessary…or at least that’s what we tell ourselves when we buy one of these things.
Pros of Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin, Sunburst (KM-850
A+): The KM-850 from Kentucky gives you everything that makes mandolin strings so popular: a low-cost instrument with beautiful sound and playability. It is tuned to standard GDAE and has a solid carved spruce top, hand-carved arched back and sides, inlaid purfling on an ovangkol neck, and a rosewood fingerboard.
Cons of Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin, Sunburst (KM-850
While there is no single best mandolin on the market, we chose to highlight a specific one that is currently high on our list. This instrument is produced by Kentucky Instruments (makers of fine musical instruments since 1947) and is their best-selling 8-string mandolin model. The instrument features select spruce top and cherry sides, scroll, neck and back. The design allows for a full bottom range in chord work but also great clarity for both melodies and solos.
- Ortega Guitars, 8-String F-Style Series All Solid Acoustic-Electric Mandolin w/Bag, Right (RMFE100AVO)
This Ortega Guitars mandolin is a pleasure to play, with quality construction and an excellent attention to detail. The top, back, and sides are made of solid East Indian rosewood for a rich, earthy tone. Featuring an antique-style sunburst finish over select woods and a traditional f-hole shape for added resonance, it’s well-rounded in terms of tone.
Pros of Ortega Guitars, 8-String F-Style Series
With an 8-string mandolin, you’ll have a lot more control over tone and your music will sound richer. The Ortega Guitars, 8-String F-Style Series has a number of features that make it stand out among other mandolins in its price range. It comes with solid wood top, back and sides for a warm sound quality, but it isn’t terribly heavy thanks to its laminated construction. This model also has beautiful mother of pearl fret markers for easy navigation.
Cons of Ortega Guitars, 8-String F-Style Series
These guitars have a very specific niche. They aren’t suited for all styles of music, and they are not as comfortable to play. A player who is looking for an acoustic mandolin may be better off with a different model. Ortega Guitars makes some great products, but these mandolins just didn’t live up to their expectations.
5.Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin
Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, Eastman offers a great selection of mandolins at excellent prices. It’s no wonder they’ve made such a strong name for themselves since their conception in 1926. If you need to spend less than $600 but don’t want to sacrifice quality, go with an Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin. The sound that comes out of it is very crisp and bright, making it great for performing in any situation.
Pros of Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin
The Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid maple back, sides, and neck. It also comes with an adjustable Rosewood bridge with a compensated saddle that ensures clear intonation along with an abalone soundhole rosette. The mandolin’s cutaway allows you to play up in higher frets. This model has one of the best necks available today on any mandolin in its price range—not to mention it looks stunning.
Cons of Eastman MD315 F-Style Mandolin
The MD315 mandolin has a beautiful tone, but it is extremely soft. It has a weak bass and strong treble tone. The guitar has a bright sound that matches its looks perfectly. However, you should not be surprised if you find your music lacking in tone quality when played through it. Its appearance matches its price, too; Eastman is more expensive than average for mandolins but charges less than most of its competitors for similarly featured instruments.
6.The Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style Mandolin:
This mandolin might be older, but it’s still one of our favorites! It’s made of all-solid wood, which makes it durable and sturdy, and comes with an adjustable truss rod for an exceptional sound. As a nice added bonus, it comes with a hard shell case! The Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-Style Mandolin is available on Amazon for about $800.00, making it perfect for players just getting started.
7.Seagull S8 Mandolin SG
Among entry-level mandolins, Seagull’s S8 SG is quite possibly one of their best. It features a laminated solid spruce top, mahogany neck and body. The S8 also offers a maple bridge with rosewood inserts, 20 frets and mother-of-pearl dot inlays on an ebony fretboard. Standard appointments include nickel hardware, vintage gold tuners and silver tailpiece. As you might expect from a mandolin that costs just over $500, it comes with a hardshell case. The Seagull S8 is offered in Sunburst finish only.
8.Gold-Tone OM-800+ Octave Mandolin
The Gold-Tone OM-800+ Octave Mandolin is a smaller-body, 14.7 instrument that sounds fantastic in any genre of music. This mandolin features Fishman Sonitone electronics, nickel hardware, and Grover tuners for amazing sound quality and ease of use. It comes with both maple and rosewood fretboards, so you can choose between a smooth or textured playing experience depending on your personal preference. And at just over $500, it’s an excellent value!
9.Left Hand Oscar Schmidt OM40LH Mandolin
With its Bluegrass-inspired body style, carved spruce top and solid maple back, sides and neck, the Oscar Schmidt OM40LH is designed to capture that tone and spirit. Also features die-cast tuning machines for superior tuning stability. Rosewood fingerboard with simulated mother-of-pearl dot inlays; nickel open-geared tuners; tortoise pickguard with gold hardware. Made in China. The Oscar Schmidt OM40LH Left Handed Acoustic/Electric Mandolin has a deep rich sound and an elegant look. The handcrafted design features a select solid spruce top, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fingerboard with pearloid dots, adjustable truss rod and chrome hardware.
10.Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin, Brown Sunburst High Gloss
Ibanez’s M522SBS is a high-quality mandolin with a solid spruce top and mahogany back, sides, and neck. You can find it at most guitar shops for around $900. It comes with an onboard pick-up system to capture its sound live or in studio. On Amazon, there are plenty of positive reviews claiming that it sounds warm and bright, even in a loud ensemble setting. If you like bluegrass music and want to play along with your favorite songs, then you should definitely consider purchasing an Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin. There’s no doubt that it will be worth every penny!
11.Kentucky KM-656 (Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin, Transparent Brown (KM-656)
The KM-656 model is for those who are interested in a uniquely designed instrument with a small, manageable body. This model’s smooth wood back brings out an audible resonance for an overall soothing sound. There are multiple tuners on each side of the strings which allows for precise tuning and maintains its fine pitch when placed in front of high volumes. Its sharp fretwork and precise lacquer finish adds to its stylish personality that matches your own . Kentucky KM-700 (Kentucky, 8-String Mandolin, Transparent Brown (KM-700): The Kentucky KM 700 features a spruce top paired with Indian rosewood sides and neck. This combination offers warm tones while still maintaining clarity and definition.
12.Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-model Mandolin:
The Kentucky KM-150 mandolin gives players a lot of bang for their buck and offers a quality tone you can appreciate. It has an A-style body that is narrower than other models, and it features an arched back with maple wood laminate. There are three sound holes on each side of its top and it has 20 frets to help you master your technique. The KM-150 comes in blonde, black or tobacco sunburst finishes with a neck made from maple wood and a rosewood fingerboard.
One for professionals only?
The first thing that you need to take into consideration is whether or not your mandolin will only be used for cooking or if it will also be used for stage purposes. If you are a solo performer, then an instrument with all of the bells and whistles is most likely going to be overkill. If you are part of a band, then it will probably make sense to pay more for additional functionality as well as superior quality.
If you’re just getting started and need an entry-level mandolin for a few hundred dollars, check out one of these picks. If you’re feeling a little more flush and want to get something nicer, check out one of our higher-end recommendations. And if you have a bigger budget, feel free to dip into our top 5 list!