In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the best Kentucky mandolins on the market. Kentucky is a well-known and respected company, and they produce unique instruments with that all-American feel and sound.

I’m a big mandolin enthusiast and a music producer with several years of experience recording all kinds of instruments and musical styles.

Quick Look: Best Kentucky Mandolins

#1 Best Kentucky Mandolin Overall: Kentucky KM-1000 Master F-Model


Join me as we take a look at some of the best Kentucky mandolins currently on the market.

About Kentucky Mandolins

The Kentucky Mandolin Company is based in San Francisco and is currently owned by Saga Music, an American manufacturer and distributor of traditional acoustic instruments.

Kentucky mandolin

With over 40 years of experience creating mandolins, Kentucky offers consistent sound quality and a great value for its price tag.

Kentucky specializes in creating unique and powerful instruments that can fit in folk and bluegrass music. Their classic design and finish are often admired for their simplicity and elegance. If you’re looking for a serious instrument with an all-American flavor, Kentucky is the way to go.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Kentucky Mandolin

Kentucky mandolins are quite constant in the type of wood used and overall quality. But some models can differ in size, shape type, and tonal qualities.


Most Kentucky mandolins have an A-style or F-style shape, with some exceptions like the oval hole A-style KM-270 and KM-120, which are inspired by smaller instruments of the 1920s.

The Overall Tone & Sound

Most Kentucky mandolins have a woody and folky sound, which makes them perfect for bluegrass music. A great definition of low tones and a pleasant warm brightness makes them quite unique compared to other mandolin brands.


You can find some accessible models like the KM-150, as well as some of the most expensive ones like the KM-1500 and KM-1050. Kentucky offers a great selection of mandolins for every level, which makes them so popular nowadays.

Types of Kentucky Mandolins

Kentucky mandolins are quite classic in their design and shape. Here we’ll find A-styles, F-styles, and some variations on those two.


A-style mandolins offers a round-shaped body type and a mellow sound that will fit perfectly in folk music. Kentucky A-style mandolins can cost a little less than their F-style counterparts.

Oval Hole A-Style

Oval hole A-style, as the name indicates, has a big oval hole in the middle, which provides better projection and sustain. This type is commonly used in folk music.


F-style mandolins can sometimes cost more because of their distinctive design with decorative scrolls near the neck and the head of the mandolin. Most F-styles have a brighter sound than A-style mandolins.

5 Best Kentucky Mandolins

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best Kentucky mandolins. From the KM-252 to the high-grade KM-1500, each one has a unique set of features well worth your money.

Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-model Mandolin

  • Size: 26.38 x 10.25 x 3.38 inches
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Material & finish: Spruce top, maple back, sunburst finish
  • Sound: Crisp and bright
  • Best for: Beginners

The Kentucky KM-150 Standard A-model Mandolin is one of the most popular models made by Kentucky. This mandolin is very affordable, which makes it a perfect choice for beginners and even some intermediate players.

✅ Affordable
✅ Easy to play
✅ Great tonality
❌ Requires setup to play

Why I Recommend It

I personally played this model many times and enjoyed every bit of it. This is a great mandolin for that price tag and a perfect initiation into Kentucky mandolins.



Kentucky KM-270 Oval Hole A-Style Mandolin

  • Size: 26.25 x 10.25 x 3.25 inches
  • Weight: 2.75 pounds
  • Material & finish: Spruce top, maple back, traditional sunburst finish
  • Sound: Sweet and mellow
  • Best for: Beginners and intermediate players

The Kentucky KM-270 Oval Hole A-Style Mandolin is a quite unique Kentucky model, as it takes a well-known Kentucky formula and gives it a folk-inspired flavor. With the addition of the oval hole in the middle, this mandolin creates a more intimate and warmer sound palette.

✅ Easy to play
✅ Great projection
✅ Simple but elegant design
❌ Requires some setup

Why I Recommend It

The Kentucky KM-270 is a strange but beautiful cousin of the main Kentucky family. With a loud volume and sweet tonality, this mandolin is a perfect match for folk musicians.



Kentucky KM-252 Artist A-model Mandolin

  • Size: 26.25 x 10.25 x 3.38 inches
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Material & finish: Spruce top, maple back, transparent amber finish
  • Sound: Clean and warm
  • Best for: Intermediate players

The Kentucky KM-252 Artist A-model Mandolin is a great middle step into higher tiers of Kentucky mandolins. This mid-range model offers an outstanding sound, but might require some setup to play.

✅ Versatile sound
✅ Comfortable to play
✅ High-quality build
❌ Requires some setup

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is often compared to some models of the 500 series, as it stands alongside them as the best mid-range Kentucky mandolin.



Kentucky KM-1000 Master F-Model Mandolin

  • Size: 27 x 10 x 2.5 inches
  • Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Material & finish: Adirondack spruce top, highly flamed graduated Northern Michigan maple back, vintage sunburst finish
  • Sound: Clean and bright
  • Best for: Professionals

The Kentucky KM-1000 Master F-Model Mandolin stands as one of the champions of the Kentucky brand. This model is highly inspired by the classic F-5 Gibson, and it takes this classic design and upgrades it to modern requirements.

✅ High-grade wood
✅ Great projection
✅ Reliable construction
✅ Beautiful and classic design
❌ Requires professional setup

Why I Recommend It

The Kentucky KM-1000 is a high-tier instrument that’s highly praised by all mandolin players. If you’re looking for something truly professional, this mandolin is a perfect match for you.



Kentucky KM-1500 F-Style Mandolin

  • Size: 28 x 13 x 3.75 inches
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Material & finish: Adirondack spruce top, solid carved flamed Michigan maple back and sides, vintage sunburst finish
  • Sound: Bright and punchy
  • Best for: Professionals

The Kentucky KM-1500 F-Style Mandolin is the king of the whole Kentucky family. This model has all the best features that can be found in a Kentucky mandolin. This professional model is very comfortable and also has a very lightweight and resonant body.

✅ Hand carved
✅ High-grade hardware
✅ Great projection
✅ Unique design
❌ Requires professional setup to play

Why I Recommend It

The KM-1500 is considered a top-notch mandolin that can easily compete with any Gibson model out there. This model comes with a classic but truly elegant finish that will bring joy to your eyes as well as your ears.



Kentucky Mandolins Aesthetics & Build

Kentucky stays true to its construction formulas, as they made this company so popular among mandolin players. But here and there you can find some variation in wood types and color schemes.

best Kentucky mandolin


Kentucky mandolins are well-known for their mix of spruce for the top and maple for the back and sides. You will see this combination on lower tiers like the KM-150 and KM-272.

For the high-grade models like the KM-1000 and KM-1500, they use Adirondack spruce and flamed Michigan maple for the back and sides.


The most common types of finish used for the Kentucky models are lacquered and polished, although you will find some exceptions.


Most Kentucky mandolins have a very classic and elegant finish. The most common scheme is sunburst with a few variations.

How Much Do Kentucky Mandolins Cost?

The Kentucky brand tries to maintain a certain level of quality for all their models, which is why you’ll never find any instruments below the $400 mark.

The cheapest one, the KM-150, goes for around $400, and the most high-tier models can cost up to several thousands of dollars.

What Are the Best Kentucky Mandolins?

Let’s review some of the best Kentucky mandolins I presented on this list.

Kentucky KM-150: Best for Beginners

The Kentucky KM-150 is the most popular of the whole Kentucky family. This mandolin is a solid ally to any beginning player.

Kentucky KM-252: Best for Intermediate Players

The Kentucky KM-252 is the best option for anyone looking for a decent instrument without spending too much money. This model is a great representative of what a mid-range Kentucky sounds and looks like.

Kentucky KM-1000: Best for Professionals

The Kentucky KM-1000 is a battle-proven model that’s a solid instrument with high-grade wood. If you need a reliable and truly professional mandolin, this model is the way to go.

Where Are Kentucky Mandolins Made?

Originally most Kentucky mandolins were made in the United States, but with the bigger demand, some production went overseas. This includes some budget-friendly and mid-tier models, which are sometimes manufactured in Japan or China.

What Is the Best Sounding Kentucky Mandolin?

The best sounding, for me personally, is the KM-1000, as it has this unique Kentucky sound with a great projection and fast action.

Kentucky mandolins

But I encourage you to try out as many models as you can, as only this way will you start to distinguish the subtle differences in Kentucky models.

Where to Buy Kentucky Mandolins

Nowadays you will find many options when it comes to buying an instrument. This includes some online retailers as well as some local music stores. As you will see, each one has its own pros and cons.


Amazon is a titan of online retail, as they offer the best prices and very fast delivery to almost any part of the world. Amazon has a great selection of mandolins too, which are sometimes sold cheaper than in some specialized music stores.

One of the most useful features is the possibility of viewing customer reviews, as in this section you will find the true and uncensored opinion of people that already bought and tried out the instruments for themselves.

Online Music Retailers

In this age of the internet, you will find an astonishing number of different online retailers that try to compete with Amazon. Some of them offer a unique and exclusive selection of instruments from brands like Gibson, Ibanez, and Kentucky.

Here at Into Strings we highly recommend,, and, as these websites not only offer the best prices, but also a great selection of instruments for you to enjoy.

Your Local Music Store

Your local music store will probably have a limited selection of mandolins. But there you’ll be able to try the instruments for yourself, which will certainly help you to know if you really want them.

Sometimes just a few chords on a mandolin could make you fall in love with a particular model or brand. This is why I highly recommend you go out and try the instruments before buying them if you have the chance.

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In Conclusion

I really hope you enjoyed this read about the best Kentucky mandolins. We explored a bunch of unique models, ranging from the folk-inspired KM-270 to high-tier bluegrass models like the Kentucky KM-1500 and KM-1000.

Kentucky truly understands the necessities of most mandolin players, and they’re able to bring something new to the table with each model without compromising the classic formula.

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Stay safe, and as always, good luck with your sonic adventures!