6 mandolins for under $400 in 2024

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Mandolin for under $400
Mandolin for under $400

In this article, we will explore seven mandolins that not only deliver exceptional sound and craftsmanship but also come with a price tag under $400 in the year 2024. These affordable choices will, hopefully, give you what you’re looking for without compromising too much on quality. So, if you’re interested in buying a mandolin but don’t want to spend a fortune, keep reading and discover the top options available within your budget.

Is a $400 mandolin good?

​The quality and sound of a mandolin can vary significantly based on its price range. A $400 mandolin can be considered as a mid-range instrument, offering decent craftsmanship and sound quality. While it may not compare to the high-end, professional-grade mandolins that can cost several thousand dollars, a $400 mandolin can still offer a good playing experience for intermediate or beginner musicians.

When buying a mandolin, it’s crucial to consider your skill level, playing goals, and budget. For beginners, a $400 mandolin would be an amazing starting point and an instrument that was a lot cheaper may well be a better choice. It’s worth noting that as your playing skills develop, you may want to upgrade to a higher-quality mandolin to enhance your sound and technique.

Pay attention to factors such as the instrument’s construction, materials, and playability. Consider seeking advice from experienced mandolin players or consulting with knowledgeable music store staff who can guide you in selecting the best instrument within your price range.

In conclusion, a mandolin that costs up to $400 can be a good investment, especially for beginners or intermediate players seeking a quality instrument without breaking the bank.

Difference between A-style and F-style mandolins

​If you’re in the market for a mandolin, you’ve probably come across the terms “A-style” and “F-style.” But what exactly do these terms mean, and how do these two types of mandolins differ? Let’s take a closer look at the differences between A-style and F-style mandolins.

First up, the A-style mandolin is the more traditional and simpler of the two. It has a tear-drop or pear-shaped body, resembling the letter “A,” hence the name. Due to its straightforward design, A-style mandolins are generally more affordable and beginner-friendly. They produce a warm and mellow tone, making them ideal for folk, bluegrass, and classical music. If you’re just starting out or on a budget, buying an A-style mandolin may be a good choice.

On the other hand, the F-style mandolin is known for its exquisite craftsmanship and ornate appearance. It features an asymmetrical body shape with a scrolled top, hence resembling the letter “F.” F-style mandolins are often considered the epitome of elegance and sophistication. They are more expensive than their A-style counterparts, as they require more intricate detailing during the manufacturing process. In terms of sound, F-style mandolins offer a brighter tonal quality, making them suitable for genres like jazz, rock, and country.

Ultimately, the decision between an A-style and F-style mandolin comes down to personal preference and musical style. If you’re drawn to simplicity and a mellower sound, an A-style mandolin may be the right choice for you. However, if you value craftsmanship, aesthetics, and a brighter sound, investing in an F-style mandolin may be worth considering.

Mandolin body woods

The most common woods used for mandolin bodies are spruce, cedar, maple, and mahogany. Spruce is favored for its bright and punchy sound, making it ideal for bluegrass and country music. Cedar, on the other hand, produces a warmer and more mellow tone, making it suitable for folk and classical genres.

Maple is another popular choice, known for its excellent projection and balanced tonal response. It provides a clear and bright sound, making it versatile for various musical styles. Mahogany, meanwhile, offers a warm and rich sound with enhanced sustain, making it suitable for blues and jazz.

What are the best mandolin string materials?

One of the most common string materials for mandolins is phosphor bronze. These strings provide a warm and resonant tone, making them perfect for players who prefer a rich and full sound. Phosphor bronze strings also offer excellent sustain and longevity, making them a popular choice for professional musicians.

Another popular option is nickel-plated steel strings. These strings have a bright and crisp tone, which is well-suited for genres like bluegrass and country. Nickel-plated steel strings are known for their durability and ability to stay in tune, making them a reliable choice for both beginners and experienced players.

For those seeking a more traditional sound, gut or synthetic gut strings may be the way to go. Gut strings offer a warm and mellow tone that is reminiscent of classic mandolin music. While gut strings require regular maintenance and can be more expensive, they offer a unique and authentic playing experience that many enthusiasts appreciate.

How should I tune my mandolin?

​If you’re new to playing the mandolin, one of the first things you’ll need to do is tune it. Tuning your instrument correctly is essential for producing clear, harmonious sounds. So, how should you tune your mandolin?

Firstly, it’s important to note that there are different tuning methods for the mandolin, depending on your preferred playing style and the type of music you want to play. The most common tuning for mandolins is GDAE, similar to the tuning of a violin. However, there are also alternate tunings like CGDA or GDAD that can give your mandolin a unique sound.

To tune your mandolin, you can use a variety of tools, including a tuning fork, a piano, a digital tuner, or even an app on your smartphone. Whichever tool you choose, make sure it is capable of producing accurate pitch references.

If you’re a beginner and not yet confident in your ability to tune by ear, using a digital tuner or tuning app can be very helpful. These tools will indicate whether each string is too sharp, too flat, or perfectly in tune. Simply adjust the tension of the strings until they match the desired pitch.

Before you start tuning, ensure that you have a good quality set of strings. If you’re buying a new mandolin, it’s important to check the stock strings that come with it. Investing in a higher-quality set of strings can greatly improve the sound and playability of your instrument.

What is an adjustable truss rod?

​If you’re considering buying a mandolin, you might have come across the term “adjustable truss rod” during your research. But what exactly does it mean? In simple terms, a truss rod is a metal rod that runs through the neck of the instrument, providing stability and adjusting the neck’s curvature. An adjustable truss rod, as the name suggests, allows for customization of the neck’s bow, offering more versatility to the player.

Why is this important? Well, the curvature of the mandolin neck can greatly affect its playability. Too much bow can cause high action, making it harder to press down on the strings. On the other hand, too little bow can result in buzzing or “fretting out” on certain notes. With an adjustable truss rod, you have the ability to fine-tune the neck’s curvature, ensuring optimal playability and sound quality.

When buying a mandolin, it’s essential to consider whether it comes with an adjustable truss rod. While some lower-end or vintage models may not have this feature, it is generally recommended to invest in an instrument that allows for truss rod adjustments. This will give you the flexibility to adapt to different playing styles, string gauges, and environmental conditions.

Are there left-handed mandolins?

​If you’re a left-handed, you may be wondering if there are left-handed mandolins available. The good news is, yes, there are left-handed mandolins out there! While left-handed mandolins may not be as common as their right-handed counterparts, they are certainly not impossible to find.

When it comes to buying a left-handed mandolin, there are a few important factors to consider. Firstly, it’s vital to ensure that the mandolin is specifically designed for left-handed players. This means the placement of the strings, the bridge, and the nut should all be adjusted for left-handed playing. It’s also important to find a reputable music store or luthier who can guide you in finding the right instrument for your needs.

Another thing to keep in mind when buying a mandolin is the availability of left-handed models. While you may have to do some additional searching, there are many manufacturers and brands that offer left-handed options. Some popular mandolin brands, such as Eastman, Gibson, and Weber, produce left-handed models. Online retailers and specialized music stores may also have a selection of left-handed mandolins available for purchase.

Mandolin care and maintenance

Once you have your mandolin, the next step is to keep it clean. Regularly wipe the body and strings with a soft cloth to remove any dirt or oils that may accumulate during playing.

String maintenance is another crucial aspect of mandolin care. Make sure to tune your strings regularly and replace them when they start to sound dull or worn out. It’s also vital to maintain proper humidity levels for your mandolin. Extreme humidity or dryness can cause damage to the wood, leading to cracks and warping. Use a humidifier or keep your mandolin in a case with a humidity control system to maintain the ideal moisture level.

Additionally, protecting your mandolin from physical damage is essential. Always store it in a case when not in use and be cautious while handling it. Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures and direct sunlight, as these can affect the instrument’s integrity. Lastly, consider getting your mandolin professionally set up and serviced regularly. A professional technician can make adjustments to the instrument’s bridge, action, and intonation to optimize its playability and sound quality.

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Vangoa A Style Mandolin

The Vangoa A Style Mandolin is a fantastic musical instrument for any aspiring mandolin player. With its sunburst finish and sleek design, it is not only aesthetically pleasing but also delivers exceptional sound quality. The package includes all the necessary accessories such as a tuner, strings, bag, and picks, making it a perfect choice for beginners and professionals alike. The instrument is easy to tune and holds its tune well, allowing for a pleasant playing experience. The bag is sturdy and provides excellent protection for the mandolin during transportation. Overall, the Vangoa A Style Mandolin is an excellent value for the money and is highly recommended for anyone looking to add a mandolin to their collection.

Comprehensive starter bundle
Comes with a strap, picks, strings, bag and a tuner

Not the best choice for a professional
Low-quality tuners

Operation Mode: Acoustic
Size: 26 inch
Design: Great Craftsmanship
Proficiency Level: Student
String Gauge: Custom
Number of Strings: 8

LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek F-Style Mandolin

The Loar Mandolin LM-310F-BRB

The LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek F-Style Mandolin by The Loar is a remarkable instrument that combines impressive craftsmanship with beautiful tones. This mandolin has a stunning vintage design, with an F-style body that adds elegance to its appearance. The solid spruce top produces a rich, warm sound, while the maple back and sides offer clarity and projection. The attention to detail on this instrument is outstanding, from the hand-carved scroll to the perfectly set bridge and nut. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned mandolin player, the LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek F-Style Mandolin is a fantastic choice that delivers exceptional sound and aesthetics.

Excellent tone and sound quality for the price
Great value for an F-style mandolin
Burst finish gives a vintage touch

Lack of aesthetic flair
Has to be amplified to reach its full potential

Weight: 4 pounds
Size: 27.5 x 10 x 2 inches
Strings: 4
Top: Hand-carved solid Spruce
Brand: The Loar
Profile: Thin “V”
Material: Maple and Spruce
Mode: Manual

Oscar Schmidt Mandolin

The Oscar Schmidt 8-String Mandolin in White (OM10EWH-A-U) is a top-notch instrument that any mandolin enthusiast would be proud to own. With its sleek design and beautiful white finish, it certainly stands out from the rest. The sound quality of this mandolin is exceptional, producing clear and crisp tones that are perfect for any style of music.

One of the standout features of this mandolin is its 8-string configuration, which provides added depth and richness to the overall sound. The strings are easy to press down and hold their tune exceptionally well, ensuring a pleasurable playing experience. The craftsmanship of the Oscar Schmidt 8-String Mandolin is truly remarkable, with attention to detail evident in every aspect of the instrument.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, the Oscar Schmidt 8-String Mandolin in White is a fantastic choice. Its superior sound quality, stunning design, and affordable price make it a great investment for any musician.

Inspected and adjusted for good playability out of the box
Built-in passive electronics
The price is definitely right for the beginner or casual player

Setup could be better
Low-quality strings

Size: 28.25 x 13.5 x 4.5 inches
Control: passive electronics
Weight: 3.65 pounds
Color: White
Type: A-style mandolin
Brand: Oscar Schmidt

Jinqu Mandolin Starter Kit

The Model A mandolin by Jinqu is the perfect instrument for beginners, children, and adults alike looking to explore the world of mandolin. This 8-string acoustic mandolin offers a selection of spruce and Sabili, producing a rich and resonant sound. The starter kit includes everything one needs to get started, including a tuner, strings, straps, pick, and wipe cloth. The glossy black finish adds a touch of elegance to this already impressive instrument. From the moment you start playing, you’ll be amazed by the quality and craftsmanship of the Model A mandolin. It’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to learn, practice, or perform on this beautiful string instrument.

Lower-end doesn’t mean low quality
Starter kit included
Good sound quality
Comes with everything beginners need to get started
Great addition to a regular band or orchestra

Some setup issues
Not the best for strumming

Weight: 4.24 pounds
Size: 28.35 x 14.17 x 4.13 inches
Color: Glossy Black
Strings: 8
Material: High Quality basswood Top and Sapele wood backboards
Usage: for beginners, children, adults

Kmise A-style Mandolin

The Kmise A style Mandolin is a great musical instrument for beginners and adults alike. With its 8 string design and spruce body, it produces a rich and vibrant sound that is perfect for traditional bluegrass and folk music. The mandolin also comes with a built-in tuner, ensuring that you’re always in tune and ready to play. Additionally, it includes a set of strings, a gig bag for easy transportation, and a strap for comfortable playing. The Kmise A style Mandolin is not only a beautiful instrument to look at, but also one that delivers exceptional playability and quality. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, this mandolin will not disappoint.

Lots of extras included
Adjustable action, bridge and truss rod
Includes tuner and gig bag

Lack of balance in tone
May require a set-up out of the box

Number of batteries: 1 CR2
Weight: 4.29 pounds
Manual: Yes
Style: A
String Material: Phosphor bronze steel
Finish: Polished
Package size (W x H x D): 28.8 x 15.25 x 5.7 inches

Jinqu Mandolin A

The Jinqu Model A mandolin is a perfect choice for beginners, children, and adults who are looking to start their musical journey on a high note. This 8-string acoustic mandolin selection is crafted with top-quality spruce and Sabili wood, ensuring a rich and resonant sound.

The starter kit that comes with the Jinqu Model A includes everything you need to get started right away. It comes with a tuner, strings, straps, pick, wipe cloth, and even a Sunburst finish for added style. Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced player, this mandolin offers excellent playability and a beautiful tone that will inspire you to keep practicing and improving your skills. The Jinqu Model A mandolin is a fantastic investment for anyone interested in learning to play this versatile and captivating instrument.

Reasonable sound and quality for the price
Includes all necessary accessories
Beginner-friendly design

Lackluster build quality
Sunburst finish only

Design: Humanized
Sound: Clear
Strings: Nylon
Number of strings: 8
Weight: 4.29 pounds
Size (LxWxH): 28 x 14 x 4 inches
Style: Sunburst

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, Guitar & Music Institute may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.