If you’ve started searching for a new mandolin, you already know there are plenty of options on the market.
And that can be a bit confusing, especially if you’re a beginner.
To make your buying process a little easier, we’ve made a list of the best mandolins. We’ve included mandolins for different styles, budgets, and levels of experience.
Of course, there are many things to consider before making a final choice. So if you’re not sure what to look for in a mandolin, our buyer’s guide will clear things up.
But first, let us guide you through our pick of the 15 best mandolins.
We will show you their main features, strengths, and potential drawbacks.
We’re sure that at least one of these mandolins will spark your interest!
15 Best Mandolins
1. Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-Model Mandolin
Many would agree that the Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-Model Mandolin is the best mandolin on the market.
Although it would be hard to pick the winner, this fantastic mandolin would definitely be one of the serious candidates.
It has a mid-range price so it’s a great option for beginners as well.
It has a smaller neck for comfortable and easy action.
And its German spruce top, Alpine maple back, and tonewood fingerboard help to create a crisp, bright sound.
Moreover, it has a beautiful high-gloss finish so it looks very appealing.
All in all, the Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-Model Mandolin is an excellent choice, whether you’re an experienced player or a novice.
- Bright, crisp tone
- Looks great
- If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably need a little help with a set-up
2. Ibanez M522SBS F-Style Mandolin
The Ibanez M522SBS F-Style is another stunning mandolin suitable for all levels.
It’s also a great choice for Bluegrass lovers.
It features a mahogany neck, flamed maple back and sides, and a solid spruce top.
Therefore, it provides top-notch performance and durability.
Another beginner-friendly feature is that it’s relatively easy to tune.
After all, Ibanez is a brand known for its excellent craftsmanship. It’s a reliable brand that won’t let you down.
Also, compared to many other options, the Ibanez M522SBS F-Style is quite affordable as it costs around $200.
- Easy to tune
- The case is not included
3. Acoustic-Electric Mandolin by Vangoa
If you want to try something different, why not give a chance to an acoustic-electric mandolin?
This eye-catching acoustic-electric mandolin by Vangoa blends traditional style with digital features.
It has volume control and built-in pickup systems so you can plug it into an amplifier and get a powerful, loud sound. This feature makes it an ideal instrument for stage shows.
But its original sound is distinctive and bright thanks to the slightly curved body made of premium mahogany wood.
And its chrome-plated closed gear tuners and tailpiece help to keep the mandolin in tune.
Acoustic-Electric Mandolin by Vangoa comes with guitar picks, Vangoa sticker, a digital clip-on tuner, extra strings, a strap, and a gig bag.
So, if you dream of stepping on a stage with your mandolin, buying this acoustic-electric mandolin would be a good start.
And it’s rather inexpensive so it won’t break your bank.
- Digital features
- Comes with all the accessories
- Beautiful appearance
- It might take some time to set it up
4. Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin
The Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin is probably the best inexpensive mandolin as it costs around $80.
But the price is not its only benefit; it’s easy to play and, therefore, convenient for beginners.
It has a thin neck, adjustable rosewood bridge, and an attractive black finish.
It also has a rosewood fingerboard and chrome tuning machines.
Moreover, the Rogue RM-100A A-Style Mandolin is well-suited for bluegrass as well as any other music style.
It’s a great option for beginners who don’t want to spend a lot of money on their first instrument.
- Looks great
- Adjustable neck
- Easy to play
- It doesn’t provide the same sound quality as some more expensive models
5. Donner A-Style Mandolin
Another budget-friendly option is the Donner A-Style Mandolin.
It has an A-style body made of mahogany wood.
It has a slim neck so it can be convenient for younger players as well.
Considering the price, it produces a very nice, rich sound. And the open tuning peg style helps to keep it in tune.
When it comes to its appearance, the Donner A-Style Mandolin looks really great. It’s available in glossy sunburst and a matt black finish.
All in all, if you’re looking for the best cheap mandolin, you should put the Donner A-Style Mandolin on the shortlist.
- Looks nice
- Rich sound
- A lack of accuracy (this is a disadvantage for experienced players)
6. Loar LM-700 F-Model Mandolin
The Loar LM-700 F-Model Mandolin might require spending some extra cash, but it would definitely be a smart investment.
It’s one of the top rated mandolins and it provides excellent performance and sound quality.
After all, it’s handcrafted by a reliable, famous brand. It features an AAA spruce top and solid flamed maple back and sides.
The abalone/mother-of-pearl headstock inlay is proof of excellent craftsmanship.
With the addition of premium hand-carved tonewoods, the Loar LM-700 F-Model Mandolin is a beautiful homage to a classic design.
And it produces a fantastic sound suitable for performing with a band as well as solo playing.
If you’re an advancing player in search of a top-tier mandolin, you can’t go wrong with the Loar LM-700 F-Model Mandolin.
- Excellent sound
- High-quality materials
- A bit pricey (if you’re a beginner)
7. Gibson F-5G Mandolin
Another premium mandolin we want to show you is the Gibson F-5G Mandolin.
It’s pricey but it provides an outstanding playing experience.
It has a carved spruce top, solid maple back and sides, and an extended ebony fretboard. These top-grade materials make it very durable.
It also features flowerpot headstock inlay, triple top binding, and nickel-plated hardware.
Due to its tuned parallel tone bar, it produces an unsurpassed tone.
And with its top-quality lacquer finish, it looks as amazing as its sounds.
If you’re an experienced musician, you’ll recognize the worth of this stunning Gibson mandolin.
- Top-grade materials
- High-quality sound
- Excellent craftsmanship
8. Gretsch G9310 New Yorker Supreme
The Gretsch G9310 New Yorker Supreme has a unique, rustic design.
It features a solid mahogany top, rosewood bridge and fingerboard, and an antique semi-gloss finish.
It produces a warm tone suitable for folk and blues.
And you can get it at a reasonable price. Therefore, it’s a good choice for people who are just starting out with their mandolin lessons.
So, if you’re looking for a reliable mandolin with a vintage vibe, the Gretsch G9310 New Yorker Supreme won’t disappoint you.
- Nice appearance
- Suitable for beginners
- Warm tone
- Lack of brightness (if you prefer brighter tones)
9. Eastman MD505
When it comes to mandolins under $1000, the Eastman MD505 is definitely worth mentioning.
It’s a handcrafted mandolin that produces beautiful, clear tones.
It has a maple spruce body, solid highly-flamed maple back and sides, and an ebony fingerboard. The adjustable ebony bridge is also one of its benefits.
And a beautiful high-gloss finish makes it look elegant.
Moreover, the Eastman MD505 comes with a hardshell vinyl case so you won’t have to spend any extra money.
Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate player, the Eastman MD505 will meet all your expectations.
- Clear tone
- Adjustable bridge
- The case is included
- A bit pricey for beginners
10. Stagg M20 Left-Handed 8-String Bluegrass Mandolin
If you’re looking for a left-handed 8-string mandolin, you should check out this model by Stagg.
It’s great for bluegrass players.
It has a spruce wood top, baswood neck and back, and rosewood fingerboard.
The tailpiece has a unique engraved design which is a nice touch.
The Stagg M20 is quite affordable as well, so it’s convenient for anyone on a budget.
All in all, it’s a good option for lefties and beginners.
- Good sound
- The strings could be of better quality
11. Gold Tone GM-35 F-Style Mandolin
If you’re a beginner searching for the best mandolins for the money, take a look at the Gold Tone GM-35 F-Style Mandolin.
It has a vintage Tobacco sunburst finish. Ideal for country lovers.
And it has a slim neck so it’s convenient for beginners and players with smaller hands.
It’s also lightweight so you can practice for a long time without feeling fatigued. And the lighter weight makes this model well-suited for traveling.
Therefore, the Gold Tone GM-35 F-Style Mandolin is an ideal starter mandolin or a second travel instrument.
- Slim neck
- Classic look
- Good sound
- Some parts (like frets) could be improved
12. Washburn Americana M1SD Mandolin
Washburn’s Americana Series is a great budget option for beginners and students.
This A-style mandolin with an oval sound hole is ideal for exploring Americana music style.
And with the black finish, it looks amazing as well. You can also get it in red and blue gloss finishes.
Moreover, this charming mandolin features a spruce top, maple back, and steel strings.
Considering the price, the Washburn Americana M1SD Mandolin offers great playability and a solid tone.
- Great appearance
- Good tone
- You can improve the sound if you replace the strings
13. Hola! Music HM-3TS A-Style Mandolin
If you like a classic sunburst finish, this A-style mandolin probably caught your eye.
Besides looking good, it’s well-constructed and durable.
It has a maple top, back, sides, and neck, silver nickel frets, and an adjustable compensated bridge. The fingerboard is made of walnut.
It also features an adjustable truss rod inside the neck. And the ABS pickguard protects it from scratches.
And you can buy it at a reasonable price.
So, it’s fair to say that the Hola! Music HM-3TS A-Style Mandolin offers great value for money.
- Nice finish
- Good value for money
- Rattles a bit during hard strumming
14. Loar LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek F-Style Mandolin
If you’re into country music, you should definitely check out this beautiful F-style mandolin.
The Loar Honey Creek Mandolin is suitable both for beginners and advanced mandolin players.
It’s well-constructed and very comfortable. Its efficient design allows easy strumming.
And the Grover tuning machines allow it to stay in tune.
Moreover, it has a hand-carved solid spruce top and maple neck with thin V profile.
And with a satin brown burst finish, it looks very classy.
All things considered, the Loar Honey Creek Mandolin is a well-designed, versatile instrument that won’t cost you a fortune. And it certainly won’t let you down.
- Looks great
- Good sound
- The case is not included
15. Ammoon 8-String Electric A-Style Mandolin
If you’re not ready to make a big investment in your mandolin yet, you should check out the Ammoon 8-String Electric A-Style Mandolin.
Yes, it’s an electric violin, but it surely doesn’t look like one.
It’s very affordable. It won’t cost you more than $180.
However, it has a spruce top and rosewood fretboard; materials that are usually found in more expensive models.
And it has all the benefits of an electric instrument. It can be plugged into an amplifier, so it’s a useful tool for stage performances.
- Great price
- Good value for money
- Nice appearance
- The hardware could be of better quality (but this is not an issue for beginners)
How To Choose The Best Mandolin For You
As they can be used in all kinds of music genres, mandolins are becoming more and more popular.
Another reason for their increased popularity is the variety of online learning platforms. In fact, it has never been easier to gain music skills. With regular practice, you can do it from the comfort of your home.
However, you’ll have to find the right instrument for you. And even experienced musicians sometimes feel overwhelmed when they have to choose a new instrument.
Advanced players know what to look for in a mandolin though. And if you’re just starting out, you’ll need to do proper research before you make a purchase.
After all, unlike getting a new harmonica, buying a mandolin is usually an investment. And you want to make sure to get good value for money.
But buying a new instrument doesn’t have to be stressful. Luckily, with the help of the Internet, you can gather enough useful information and turn your buying process into an interesting and fun experience.
We hope our mandolin reviews helped you narrow down the choices. We’ve included different brands and types of mandolins so there is something for everyone.
And once you understand what makes a great mandolin, you’ll be able to make a good choice.
So, let us guide you through all the important things to consider when buying a mandolin!
Parts of the Mandolin
When you’re going through mandolin reviews, you’ll be coming across more technical terminology and specs.
To understand what makes a great violin, you should get to know its main parts, at least to some extent.
The body is, as you might assume, a main part of the mandolin. It’s where the sound is produced. It consists of the top, back, and sides.
The mandolin’s body is made of different types of wood such as spruce, maple, mahogany, and birch. A lot of mandolins on our list have a spruce top, for example.
The neck extends from the body and allows the strings to be stretched.
Thinner necks are better for beginners and players with smaller hands.
Finally, the head of the mandolin is positioned at the end of the neck. It’s where the tuning pegs are.
Of course, the frets are also essential, as they affect the sound and the pitch. By pressing down different frets on different strings, you can create notes.
The fretboard (or fingerboard) is a piece that holds the frets. It’s usually made of rosewood, ebony, and walnut, all of which are good materials.
And the strings are often made of different metals. The phosphor bronze alloy is one of the popular ones.
There are also different types of gauges of mandolin strings. Experienced players will require different gauges based on their preference of tone, volume, and force of playability.
But even if your new mandolin doesn’t have the strings you like, you can easily replace them with better ones. New strings can improve the sound of the mandolin significantly.
Last but not least, the mandolin bridge guides the strings across the body. It can alter the length of each pair of strings. The adjustable bridge is often a nice feature.
Some other useful features to look for in a violin are an adjustable truss rod, the quality of the tailpiece (a cast tailpiece is good), and carved points (in an F-style violin.)
We’ve already mentioned the most common (and good-quality) materials in each part of the mandolin.
However, we want to point out that materials are crucial in determining mandolin’s sound, performance, and durability.
Although it might be appealing to find a low-priced mandolin, it is most likely made of cheap materials. One of the most popular cheaper options is laminated wood.
Of course, as the price goes up, the quality of materials is higher.
So, the type of materials you choose depends on your budget. But don’t worry; many affordable mandolins are made of good quality materials.
But the type of wood also impacts the quality of the sound. Spruce produces a nice, bright sound and cedar tends to produce a more direct, warm sound.
Types of Mandolins
Another decision you’ll have to make is what type of mandolin you want to buy.
A-style mandolins are usually considered the best option for beginners. They have this classic mandolin teardrop shape. And they are certainly more affordable.
The A-style mandolin is well-suited for folk, Celtic, and Irish music.
F-style mandolins normally produce a louder and crisper sound. They look really great; at first glance, they’re a bit more guitar-like than the A-style mandolin. However, F-style mandolins tend to be much more expensive.
They are popular among bluegrass players.
However, the difference between the A-style and F-style mandolin is not so significant. Of course, if you’re an experienced player, you’ll appreciate the build quality and the nuances in the sound of an F-style mandolin.
But if you’re a novice, an A-style mandolin will offer you great performance as well. And it will be a more budget-friendly choice.
Both A- and F-style mandolins can come with F or oval sound holes. Oval holes tend to give a sweet tone that easily blends, while the F sound holes produce a clearer tone.
Mandolins have a wide price range. You can get a beginner mandolin for $100 but also for more than $400.
On the other hand, professional mandolin prices range from $600 to $3,000. When it comes to the price of top-tier mandolins, only the sky is the limit.
Unlike some smaller instruments (like harmonicas), mandolins aren’t cheap. That’s why it’s important to find a reliable, durable mandolin.
More expensive mandolins are made of high-quality materials, but you’ll also be paying for outstanding performance, excellent craftsmanship, and durability.
If you’re a newbie, it’s okay to opt for a more affordable model. You just shouldn’t choose the cheapest one.
New Vs Used Mandolin
If you’re thinking about getting a used mandolin, you’ll most probably save some money.
But you need to have some experience in order to recognize a mandolin in a good condition. Buying a second-hand mandolin that wasn’t taken care of by the previous owner won’t do you any good, even if it’s cost-effective.
Buying a new instrument is always an investment, but if you make a good choice, it’s a smart one.
Moreover, many brands will offer you a warranty and a money-back guarantee.
So, both new and used mandolins have their benefits.
Buying a new mandolin is not an easy task, but if you’re well-informed, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming one. After all, you’re getting a new instrument, and that should be exciting!
When it comes to mandolins, it’s important that you take a look at their build quality, materials, and extra features.
If the mandolin’s description fits your budget, music style, and level of experience, you’re good to go!
However, there are many similar models on the market. And all of them promise excellent sound quality and playability.
That’s when you can get help from our mandolin reviews and buyer’s guide. And if you’re visiting a local music shop, you can always seek advice from someone knowledgeable.
Either way, as long as you’re eager to improve your mandolin skills, we’re sure you’ll find what you’re looking for!