The ultimate guide to the best mandolins on the market in 2022

In this article, I want to explore and share the best mandolins and mandolin brands for 2021. I’ve been playing the mandolin for decades and from my time in bands and in music stores I’ve had the opportunity to play, listen to, and research many of the best mandolins on the market.

Quick Look: Best Mandolins & Mandolin Brands


I love this instrument. It might be a little difficult to tune and get used to, but once you learn some basics, you’ll certainly find huge value in its unique harmonics and tones.

I’ve played the mandolin for many years and have been producing folk music and soundtracks for video games and films for more than six years now. I personally used the mandolin in several productions with amazing results.

The mandolin gives a more naturalistic feeling to your music, and it’s quite popular right now because of the tendency to use “indie styled” soundtracks with string instruments like the guitar, banjo, and the aforementioned mandolin.

Join me as I explore the best mandolins and the best mandolin brands currently on the market.

What Is a Mandolin?

The name “mandolin” comes from the Italian “mandola,” a medieval instrument from the lute family. Mandolin means “small mandola,” and it’s similar to the viola and violin. The tuning of the mandolin is actually the same as the violin: G, D, A, E.

A mandolin musical instrument

Created in the 18th century, the mandolin came about as a direct evolution of the lute. With the decline of virtuoso-styled music in later years, this instrument was mostly forgotten but had several waves of resurgence during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Nowadays, the mandolin is quite popular and is used in many musical styles such as bluegrass, Celtic music, folk, and blues.

Types of Mandolins

There are several mandolin types. Each one of them evolved from the medieval lute, but took a different approach for the fabrication method.

Here I will introduce you to the four main types of mandolin, excluding other instruments in this family like tenor mandola, bouzouki, mandolinetto, and mandolin-banjo.


Bowlback, also known as roundback, is the most common type of mandolin. The rounded shape of the backside of this instrument is similar to the form of the bowl, where it gets its name.

The bowl form is constructed by several curved strips of wood glued together. There are several variations on the bowlback model such as Neapolitan, Lombardic, Milanese, and Genoese.


Archtop is a relatively new style of mandolin popularized and manufactured in the USA by the Gibson Company. With a carved back and top, this design is inspired by violin aesthetics and brings some elegance to this instrument.

There are two variations on this type: F-style, or Florentine, which has some sophisticated ornamentation in the form of curved scrolls near the neck and on the headstock, and A-style, with a simpler pear-shaped form and a more traditional design.

This type normally has double f-shaped sound holes, similar to the violin, or a single oval one under the strings.


Developed in Europe in 1850, flatback mandolins have a flat backside and are created in a similar way as the guitar. This type of mandolin normally has a rounded almond-shaped body and an overall simpler design.

Double Top

The double top mandolins are a new form that have been experimented with beginning in the 21st century. With a wider body, this type has a louder volume with a more audible wood structure and a less metallic-flavored sound.

I haven’t included any purchase links for double top mandolins in this article because these are extremely rare and hard to find. Usually, they are custom-built by luthiers, so you won’t likely be ordering them on Amazon anyway!

Things to Consider When Choosing a Mandolin

As with any instrument, there are some things to consider when choosing the best mandolin for you. Here’s my list of things you’ll want to think about.

Level of Experience

When starting out with a mandolin, it’s difficult to hear or see any difference between the low range and more expensive models of this instrument.

But the more you play and learn about the mandolin, the more will you notice the subtle differences between the beginner types of mandolins and the more professional ones.

Beginner Mandolins

For a beginner, look for solid construction and well-joined parts. There must be no cracks in the wood or a curved neck. Also, look for a decent tone with no unnecessary harmonics or vibrations, or check for reviews online that state as much.

The best beginner mandolin overall is a decent instrument with relatively good wood. Don’t forget to choose something comfortable to play, as you’ll want to spend hours playing your new instrument.

A close-up mandolin musical instrument

You might have to make some adjustments to the bridge, as the lower-priced mandolins might have the bridge too high or too low, and that could create some difficulties to play at first.

Don’t get too obsessed either with all the characteristics, because you will learn the small differences as you get familiar with the instrument.

Intermediate Mandolins

Like beginner mandolins, look for solid wood construction and well-done connections between the parts.

Intermediate mandolins have more defined tones and less unwanted resonances in the higher tone ranges.

With medium-priced mandolins, you’ll find a better-adjusted bridge and a more comfortable neck, as well as a more focused and clearer sound.

Professional Mandolins

The most expensive and professional mandolin types will bring a more defined sound and better harmonics.

With a louder and richer sound, professional mandolins are certainly worth the price for those who can appreciate the subtle undertones of this instrument.

You might find the tuning more stable and better sustained on the double strings.


The different types of mandolin, like archtop, blowback, and double top, are quite similar as far as size goes.

  • A regular mandolin has a scale length of 14 inches, with a body width of 10 1/8th inches and a length of 27 1/4th inches.
  • A mandola has a 17-inch scale length, a body width of 11 1/8th inches, and a length of 31 3/4th inches.
  • Octave mandolins have a 20-inch scale length, a body width of 12 1/4th inches, and a length of 31 1/2 inches.
  • The mandocello has a scale length of 24 1/4th inches, a body width of 14 1/4, and an overall length of 41 1/8th inches.

The Overall Tone & Sound

Depending on the price tag, mandolins can vary significantly in sound quality. Low-quality instruments will have more high-frequency tones and a raw and dirty sound.

As for more professional and expensive instruments, these will have a more defined and clearer sound and tones with more emphasis on the low frequencies, giving the sound more power and warmth.


As with many musical instruments, the mandolin has a huge price range: from cheaper ones to the most expensive and professional. A typical mandolin will cost you much more than a guitar of the same level of quality, as this instrument is more complex in its design.

You might not have enough funds to buy what you really want and thus may need to choose the best option based on your price range. But you can certainly find a decent mandolin for a reasonable price.

Budget Mandolins

The cheapest mandolins can be decently made and not as bad sounding as you might expect. The lowest price range for the mandolin goes for around $60 and up to $500 on the higher end of the spectrum.

Midrange Mandolins

The medium price range for the mandolin include better-sounding instruments with a high-quality finish. The price range goes from $500 to the highest at around $1,000.

Top-End Mandolins

The most professional mandolins are made of the best materials out there, with special care provided by the luthier. The price range for these mandolins is around $1,000 and higher, sometimes up to several thousand dollars, depending on the instrument and the fabrication method.

The Best Mandolins

Here I have selected the best overall mandolins in relation to the overall quality, price, and accessibility. Some of the instruments here are quite popular and well-regarded by many of the most famous mandolin musicians.

3 Best Mandolins Overall

Below I’ll list the top 3 best mandolins on the market in 2022 based on a variety of factors including build quality, materials, overall sound, personal preference and value for money.

1. Rogue RM-100A

  • Size: 27.3 x 13.3 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight: 2.85 pounds
  • What’s included: Chrome tuning machine, 2 picks
  • Material & finish: Rosewood fingerboard, maple neck, vintage red sunburst
  • Best for: Beginners, low budget, good price-quality

This mandolin is great for beginners and someone who doesn’t want to spend much on good quality instruments.

The Rogue RM-100A is the best overall mandolin because it is one of the most commonly used by musicians who are just starting to learn to play the mandolin. It’s well-known around the world.

Rogue brands focus on low-budget instruments with a decent quality of materials and the best quality-price ratio out there.

✅ Bright and clear tones
✅ Easy to play
✅ Looks professional
✅ Adjustable neck and bridge
❌ Inconsistent string quality
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

I recommend it because I personally used it many times and it won’t disappoint, as the sound quality and overall materials are quite good for the low price of this instrument.


2. Ibanez M510

  • Size: 27 x 3 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • What’s included: Ivory body binding, set of chrome tuners
  • Material & finish: Spruce top, sapele back and sides, mahogany neck
  • Best for: Folk music, natural-sounding

This instrument created by Ibanez is a high-quality tool for any aspiring musician. With its great attention to detail with eye-catching design, the Ibanez M510 is a traditionally-designed mandolin with a beautifully natural sound and clear tonality.

This mandolin provides a great balance between quality and affordability.

✅ Beautiful design and finish
✅ Solid spruce top
✅ Great overall quality materials
✅ Clear and natural tones
❌ Atypical dimensions
❌ Require some setup adjustments

Why I Recommend It

This particular instrument is a step up in a low-budget mandolins. With great material quality and overall high-end fabrication methods, Ibanez M510 is an excellent addition for folk, blues, or bluegrass musicians looking to add a mandolin to their repertoire.


3. Gretsch G9350

  • Size: 30 x 6.02 x 15 inches
  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Material & finish: Solid maple wood body, solid spruce neck and top, vintage semi-gloss
  • Best for: Intermediate mandolin players

The Gretsch G9350 has smooth and sweet tones all across the spectrum. With a natural and quite loud sound, this mandolin is a great choice for intermediate/amateur mandolin players.

Gretsch makes great-sounding instruments with more than a decent quality of material and fabrication.

✅ Clear mid-range tones
✅ Professional design
✅ Smooth and sweet tone
❌ Neck heavy
❌ Require more precise finger technique

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is an amazing instrument, as always with the Gretsch brand. The mid-range price will give you enough quality and tonal versatility without much setup or adjustments. It’s a quite useful instrument for folk, blues and bluegrass, and it has a solid and natural sound, ideal for those musical styles.



Best Beginner Mandolins

If you’re looking for a mandolin and you’re just starting out, you can always find something decent for a good price out there.

Nowadays with new fabrication methods and quite competitive low-end demand for starter instruments, there are plenty of great options with reasonable prices on the market.

4. Gretsch G9310 New Yorker Supreme

  • Size: 30.9 x 12.1 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • What’s included: Truss rod wrench
  • Material & finish: Solid mahogany, rosewood bridge and fingerboard, vintage semi gloss

With a warm tone and decent quality materials, the Gretsch G9310 is a perfect instrument for folk and blues music.

Comfortable to play and with solid wood construction all around, this mandolin is a fair product for any beginner mandolin player.

✅ Warm tone
✅ Solid mahogany body
✅ Classical and elegant design
✅ High-quality construction
❌ Lack of tonal brightness
❌ Old style bare-bones design

Why I Recommend It

This instrument is a great product for a good price. I personally love the simpler and rustic design of this mandolin. Its warm tones create a smooth and beautiful sound.


5. Kentucky KM-150

  • Size: 29 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • What’s included: Soft padded gig bag
  • Material & finish: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top, high gloss sunburst finish

The Kentucky KM-150 is a popular mandolin with great sound and a very basic-looking design.

Inspired by Southern American music styles, the Kentucky KM-150 is a great instrument for beginners and anyone who is looking for a good instrument with a decent price tag.

Quite easy to set up and play, this mandolin is a well-proven instrument for blues, bluegrass and folk.

✅ Handcrafted parts
✅ Good tonality
✅ High-quality materials
✅ Solid body
❌ Dull tone on the lower register
❌ Simple visual design

Why I Recommend It

Kentucky KM-150 is a mandolin I personally played several times, and it’s an amazing instrument for this price tag. The high quality of the construction and the materials used in it makes this instrument a great tool for performing blues and bluegrass.


6. Rogue RM-100A

  • Size: 27.3 x 13.3 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight: 2.85 pounds
  • What’s included: Chrome tuning machine, two picks
  • Material & finish: Rosewood fingerboard, maple neck, vintage red sunburst

Once again this popular mandolin made this list. This instrument is maybe the most competitive mandolin on the market in relation to the quality and price. The Rogue RM-100A is a well-built, traditional mandolin with a more than decent sound and an elegant design and finish.

It’s perfect for anyone starting to play the mandolin.

✅ Bright and clear tones
✅ Easy to play
✅ Looks professional
✅ Adjustable neck and bridge
❌ Inconsistent string quality
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

This instrument is well-known and popular for a reason. It’s difficult to find a really decent one for a good price, and the Rogue RM-100A certainly fits this description.

An elegant design, solid body, high-quality construction, and great intonation make this mandolin a must-try for any musician.

I’ve played it for many years, and it will always be one of my favorite mandolins on the market.


☛ Don’t miss Our Guide To The Best Beginner Mandolins

Best Intermediate Mandolins

If you’re looking to level up in your mandolin playing, you might need to look for higher-priced instruments. Here you can find better quality materials and handcrafted instruments with good tonality.

Some of them might take time to set up and get up to professional levels, but they are certainly a decent addition to your musical endeavors.

7. Eastman MD505

  • Size: 26 11/16 x 10 x 1 7/8 inches
  • Weight: 2.50 pounds
  • What’s included: Hardshell vinyl case
  • Material & finish: Solid spruce top, solid maple back and sides, high-gloss nitrocellulose lacquer

Handcrafted using traditional materials, this popular mandolin creates a warm and beautiful sound for a mid-range price. Visually beautiful and with high-quality materials, the Eastman MD505 is one of the best in the mid-range price.

✅ Handcrafted
✅ Solid spruce body
✅ Hardshell case included
✅ Clear tones
❌ Lack of richness on the G string

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is widely used by many musicians around the world. You can find countless testimonies of how great sounding this instrument is. Easy to set up and play, and with great tonality and beautiful design, this instrument became a pinnacle of mid-ranged mandolins.



8. J Bovier F5-T

  • Size: 27 x 12.5 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3.25 pounds
  • Material & finish: Solid carved spruce top, maple back and sides, antique vintage satin

This J Bovier F5-T instrument is made with high-grade materials and provides solid spruce and maple body construction. The beautiful finish and extraordinary sound make this mandolin one of the best intermediate mandolins you can find on the market.

✅ Solid body
✅ Elegant finish
✅ High-grade materials
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

The J Bovier F5-T probably surpasses many of the higher-priced instruments on this list. With high-grade materials and amazing sound, this mandolin is one of the best intermediate mandolins on the market.


9. The Loar LM-520-VS

  • Size: 27 1/4 x 12 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches
  • Weight: 3.25 pounds
  • Material & finish: Solid spruce top, solid maple back and sides, gloss and vintage sunburst

It’s a simple but highly effective mandolin with a solid body and great tonality. The LM-520 is probably the best F-style mandolin available at this price range. This model, created by Loar, is their best-selling instrument, which created a new benchmark for the company and all mandolins at this price point.

✅ Hand-carved
✅ Solid spruce body
✅ High-quality Grover tuning machine
✅ Adjustable ebony bridge
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

The Loar LM-520 is a simplified version of the famous LM-400 and 700. But this mandolin is certainly one of the best out there and around this price range. I highly recommend this instrument, as it is one of the best-valued models created by Loar.



Best Mandolins for Professionals

Here I will be discussing the most expensive and professional instruments. Most of the instruments in this price range are hand-carved and made with the best materials out there.

Professional mandolins have an amazing attention to detail, and their sound is one of the clearest you can find, with no unnecessary harmonics and undertones.

10. Kentucky KM-855

  • Size: 28.5 x 12.88 x 4.38 inches
  • Weight: 3.69 pounds
  • What’s included: Case and pro set up
  • Material & finish: Spruce top, alpine maple back and sides, sunburst high gloss

This Kentucky KM-855 Florentine F-style mandolin is probably the best mandolin on the market today. High-grade and hand-selected wood with a beautiful finish make this instrument a true work of art.

✅ The clear and bright tone
✅ Solid carved body
✅ High-quality ebony fingerboard
❌ The price

Why I Recommend It

This instrument is just plain beautiful and has a unique sound. Well-respected and frequently used by many professional artists, KM-855 is a high-grade mandolin that never disappoints.


11. Eastman MD815

  • Size: 27 x 10 x 1-23/33 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • What’s included: Hard case and pro setup
  • Material & finish: Hand-carved maple back and sides, solid spruce top, high gloss nitrocellulose lacquer

The Eastman MD815 is a top-notch instrument created by the Eastman company for professional use. This instrument will give you the best sound you can find. Even higher-priced mandolins can’t compete with this mandolin.

High-quality materials and the beautiful finish of this instrument make it a stellar choice.

✅ Lifetime warranty
✅ Solid body
✅ High-quality materials
✅ Warm and deep tone
❌ Mediocre strings quality (although an easy fix)

Why I Recommend It

I recommend this instrument because I only hear great things about it. It’s quite easy to play and set up and has a very smooth sound with noticeable warmth in the tone. It’s a great instrument and one of the best professional mandolins on the market.


12. Gretsch G9350 Park Avenue

  • Size: 30 x 6.02 x 15 inches
  • Weight: 4.95 pounds
  • What’s included: Hardshell case
  • Material & finish: Solid spruce top, solid maple sides and back, vintage sunburst

The beautiful Gretsch G9350 Park Avenue is a world-class instrument created by Gretsch with the best materials on the market.

With a balanced and warm sound, this instrument will never stop surprising mandolin players with its unique tones and beautiful design.

✅ Top-notch materials
✅ Vintage design
✅ Solid body
❌ Narrow nut width

Why I Recommend It

It’s a brilliant instrument with high-grade wood and warm tones, highly recommended for folk and blues.



Best Cheap Mandolins

In this section, I want to explore the cheapest options for mandolin players. There are some instruments on the market that can offer decent sound for the lowest price possible.

13. The Loar LM520

  • Size: 27 x 10.50 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • What’s included: Grover tuners
  • Material & finish: Solid maple sides and back, solid spruce top, gloss Vintage Sunburst
  • Best for: Beginners and low-budget

The Loar LM520 is a high-quality and great sounding instrument (especially for the price). With hand-carved spruce and a decent material quality, this mandolin is an excellent purchase for any beginner mandolin player.

✅ Great quality-price value
✅ Great tone and projection
✅ Hand-carved
❌ The high end of the “cheap” price range

Why I Recommend It

This might be the best instrument for this price range. There is nothing “cheap” about its design and materials. Hand-carved and with the best wood for this price, this mandolin is a great instrument throughout.


14. Ibanez M510

  • Size: 27 x 3 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • What’s included: Set of chrome tuners
  • Material & finish: Spruce top, sapele back and sides, sunburst high gloss
  • Best for: Beginners and new mandolin players

The Ibanez M510 is a simple but very nice sounding instrument with a natural design and vintage finish. Inspired by Appalachian folk, this mandolin has an old-school feel to it.

✅ Adjustable truss rod
✅ Natural and vintage design
✅ Decent tone
❌ Laminate construction

Why I Recommend It

The Ibanez M510 mandolin is a perfect choice for any folk lovers out there. The great affordability of this instrument makes it quite accessible for any musician who wants to try the authentic folk sound for a good price.



15. Kentucky KM-150

  • Size: 29 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • What’s included: Soft padded gig bag
  • Material & finish: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top, high gloss sunburst finish
  • Best for: Best low-budget option

This Kentucky KM-150 mandolin is a great example of the golden balance between price and the overall quality. If you’re looking for a more than decent instrument without spending much, look no further, as the Kentucky brand always provides the highest quality for a reasonable price tag.

✅ Solid top
✅ Great tone
✅ Easy to play
❌ A plain and simple look

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is the best cheap option on the market. With incredibly good quality materials for this price tag, the Kentucky KM-150 is a must-have for anyone starting to play the mandolin.


☛ Don’t miss our guide to The Best Cheap Mandolins

Best Mandolins for Kids

When looking for a great mandolin for your kids, you should look for simple design and easy-to-play instruments. Don’t choose heavy mandolins or ones that are too big, as your kids might have problems using it.

The best mandolin for kids is a decent sounding and easy-to-use instrument that will give them hours of entertainment.

16. Loar LM 220

  • Size: 27 x 12 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • What’s included: Chrome tuner
  • Material & finish: Solid spruce top, solid maple back and sides, polyurethane lacquer

The Loar LM 220 is probably the cheapest option for beginner instruments. But it’s certainly decent sounding and with overall good quality.

✅ Clear tone
✅ Ebony adjustable bridge
✅ Classic vintage sound
❌ Might have some fabrication defects

Why I Recommend It

Even though it is a quite cheap option, this mandolin is very popular and has a really good review. Anyone who used this instrument would be surprised by the great quality to price ratio and more than decent sound.


17. Kentucky KM-150

  • Size: 29 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • What’s included: Soft padded gig bag
  • Material & finish: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top, high gloss sunburst finish

Once again I’m commenting on this brilliant instrument. The Kentucky KM-150 mandolin is highly recommended, as it is not only used by beginners, but by some professionals. With great attention to detail and the best materials you can get for this price, Kentucky KM-150 is a perfect instrument for your kids.

✅ Solid top
✅ Great tone
✅ Easy to play
❌ A plain and simple look

Why I Recommend It

This is a well-trusted and well-proven mandolin for any player, young or old. This option will give your kid something really high quality to learn on.



18. Rover RM50

  • Size: 27 x 10 x 2.50 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • What’s included: Tuner, strings, polish and polishing cloth
  • Material & finish: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top, high-gloss sunburst

The Rover RM50 is a decent beginner mandolin made with good quality wood. With a simple but beautiful design, this mandolin is a great choice for any beginner or younger players.

✅ Solid body
✅ Easy to use
✅ Smooth tone
❌ Might need some setup adjustments

Why I Recommend It

I recommend the Rover RM50 instrument because it’s one of the best options for a lower price. The smooth and mellow tone is a unique feature at this price point. It’s highly recommended for young mandolin students or beginners.



Best Bowlback Mandolin

The bowlback construction method is not quite widely used today. But it certainly brings some unique features.

With louder and smoother sound, bowlback mandolins are very useful for recording sessions and live shows in blues and folk musical styles.

The bowlback design is reminiscent of the old classic Italian designs that evolved from the Middle Ages.

19. Washburn Bowl Back Mandolin – 1910

  • Size: 24 x 10 x 8 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Material & finish: Solid spruce top, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, natural vintage finish
  • Best for: Classical and folk music

The Washburn is a unique and elegant instrument inspired by old school Italian designs that evolved directly from the mandola and lute. Hand-crafted and with amazing attention to details, this vintage mandolin is a modern revival of old ideas with some interesting new features and high-grade materials.

✅ Beautiful vintage design
✅ The clear and loud tone
✅ High-grade materials
✅ Unique undertones
❌ Bowlback design might be uncomfortable to play

Why I Recommend It

The Washburn Bowl Back is a high-end instrument that will never disappoint professional or amateur players. If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind instrument, this mandolin is perfect for you.



Best Archtop Mandolin

The Archtop design is probably the most elegant and good-looking style for the mandolin. Here I’m looking at the best archtop mandolins, which offer the best features and sound quality.

20. Kentucky KM-150

  • Size: 29 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • What’s included: Soft padded gig bag
  • Material & finish: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top, high gloss sunburst finish
  • Best for: Traditional bluegrass, blues and folk.

And yet again I have the glorious Kentucky KM-150 on this list. The Kentucky KM-150 instrument is a versatile and great-sounding mandolin that gained the respect of many professional musicians around the world. If you are looking for the best archtop mandolin, Kentucky KM-150 is the best option you can get.

✅ Solid top
✅ Great tone
✅ Easy to play
❌ A plain and simple look

Why I Recommend It

What more can I say about this instrument? Just try it out or look up the thousands of five-star reviews and overall positive reception of this mandolin.



Best Flattop Mandolin

Flattop mandolins are maybe not the most popular ones, but they certainly have their use in some musical styles. Here I have selected the best flattop mandolin in this category.

21. Big Muddy M-11

  • Size: 31 x 13 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Material & finish: Mahogany back, sides and top, natural finish
  • Best for: Celtic and folk music

This mandolin is a unique and beautiful instrument that combines old designs with new modern ideas. With a smooth natural sound and simple but effective visuals, the Big Muddy M-11 is a perfect choice for Celtic music and folk musicians all around the world.

✅ Natural vintage design
✅ Clear and warm sound
✅ Hand-crafted
❌ Quite rare to find

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is very comfortable to play and gives a smooth and clear sound. Big Muddy M-11 has an incredibly loud and sweet tone for its lightweight structure. This instrument is perfect for Old-time and Celtic music, as it brings a uniquely focused sound with a natural and elegant finish.



Best Mandolin Brands

Right now you can find many different brands of mandolins on the market. Here I selected the most popular and widely praised brands in relation to the overall quality, design, and price ranges.

a stunning mandolin musical instrument

As you can guess, the most expensive ones aren’t the most used, since not everyone has enough funds to spend on custom-built instruments.


Kentucky brand is one of the best-regarded among entry-level mandolins. This brand brings us a unique Southern bluegrass flavor with its unique and recognizable design features.

Produced in California by Saga Music, Kentucky mandolins are quite comfortable to play. With a solid top, back and sides, these instruments give us a great tone and overall decent sound quality for this price range.

Saga music has more than 40 years of experience producing all kinds of string instruments with great success. The price range of Kentucky mandolins is from $100 to around $4000, depending on the model.

Read More: Best Kentucky Mandolins.


Ibanez is a world-renowned leader in musical instruments. Founded in 1957 in Nagoya, Japan, this company creates instruments that are widely used by many artists around the world.

With the good price to quality relation, along with unique designs and a wide stock of different instruments, Ibanez is a trusted ally to any musician.

Read More:Best Ibanez Mandolins


This brand fabricates low-budget instrument versions of other brands like Gibson and Fender with a great price-to-quality ratio. The best mandolins made by Rogue are some of the best beginner mandolins out there.

Founded in the 1990s near the Oregon Rogue Valley, where it gets its name, this brand started producing affordable folk and rock instruments with great success. If you are looking for a good quality instrument for a good price, look no further.


Created in 1883, this brand is a world leader in acoustic instruments. From drums to guitars, basses, ukuleles, and mandolins, Gretsch never disappoints. They create high-end instruments for anyone to use.

Using brilliant but simple designs with high-quality finishes and electronics, Gretsch is a good choice for any professional musicians.

Oscar Schmidt

Established in 1971 in New Jersey by a German immigrant, Oscar Schmidt is an elite luthier transformed into a modern brand.

The high quality and great attention to detail of this brand make it one of the best in the world and widely popular to this day.

Oscar Schmidt fabricates all kinds of instruments: Celtic harps, banjos, ukuleles, acoustic and classical guitars, and mandolins, all of them with great success.

Mandolin Brands to Avoid

It is quite difficult to narrow down the worst mandolin brands. I would recommend avoiding the cheapest and least-known brands. Otherwise, you could end up with a terrible-sounding instrument.

Some guitar brands have their own mandolin models, but I would stick with brands that specialize in mandolin production specifically.

Mandolin Craftsmanship

A few things to think about regarding how your mandolin looks and feels.


There are two main ways to produce the mandolin’s body: laminate and solid. The laminate is cheaper with worse quality, as the solid is more expensive and typically has better vibrations, sustain, and an overall better sound.

When the mandolin has a solid body, it’s surely advertised in the description, but if there is only “maple” written down, it probably means that it’s laminated.

The most important part of the mandolin, as far as sound is concerned, is the soundboard, as it accounts for around 80% of the overall sound quality, with the side and back wood accounting for around 20%.

When choosing the soundboard wood, there are two main options: spruce and cedar. As far as quality goes, these two are quite similar. Spruce is brighter sounding, and cedar will give you warmer and cleaner tones.

Traditionally, the mandolin was made of rosewood, and although nowadays it’s more difficult to find, some luthiers still use this material. Mahogany is also used for the side and the back of the mandolin in some designs.

The other thing to have in mind is that the sound of solid-body mandolins will improve with time, while the laminate ones won’t get that significant improvement over the years.


There are mainly two types of varnishes used in the mandolin: oil varnish and spirit varnish. The oil varnish is made by applying resins and drying oils in a thin layer over the body.

Those resins can be natural or synthetic and can be quite varied depending on the mixture.

The spirit varnish is created using shellac dissolved in alcohol.

A beautiful mandolin musical instrument

The main difference between the two is that the oil gives a more natural sound, without meddling with the wood, and the spirit varnish gives better protection but could dampen the tone and sound clarity.

There is no best varnish type, as you can find thousands of different mixtures and formulas, all of them with different qualities.


There are many different colors to choose from: classic natural, red, shiny, brown or toast sunburst, black, green, or blue. There are as many variants as with the guitar.

The most common is natural and sunburst for most types of this instrument. The colors don’t matter much as far as sound is concerned, but if the color finish is applied in a thicker layer than normal, it certainly could influence the sound quality of your instrument.

I wouldn’t worry much about it, as most fabricants know the right proportions for the finish layers.

What’s in a Mandolin Box?

The set of accessories for mandolins is normally quite limited, but might depend on the brand and on different bundles.


Most of the packages come with either a single basic tuner or a set of tuners. Normally it is a chromatic tuner that is quite easy to use, and it will help you with tuning the double strings. The best mandolin tuners will produce high-quality sound and will be easy to use.

Set of Strings

Some mandolins will come with a set of basic strings. They are normally not the best quality, but again, it might depend on the brand and the bundle.

You can always shop for the best mandolin strings separately and upgrade the sound of your mandolin for a very low price.

Polish and Polishing Cloth

In some boxes, you can find a polishing substance and a polishing cloth. Those two are quite useful if you want to shine your mandolin’s beautiful spruce or maple finish.


Some mandolins might come with a set of picks for you to use. The best mandolin picks will feel right to you and you alone. Picks are always a very personal aspect of playing an instrument.


You might need to buy new strings, as the default ones in the pack might not be the best quality. Also, some mandolins might need some adjustments to be playable professionally. That might include nut width and bridge adjustments.

Mandolin Parts & Accessories

Some parts and accessories can be bought separately, in case you need to change some of the broken parts or add some new accessories to improve the performance.

Parts of a Mandolin - Mandolin Parts Diagram


A beautiful wood finish can be damaged by constant hits by the pick. Some mandolins might come without a pickguard, or you might need to buy a new one that will protect the delicate wood of your instrument. They come in many different colors to choose from.


The bridge is an essential part of any instrument. An extensive use of the mandolin might stress this part of the instrument and it might break. But fear not, as there is always an available stock for your necessities. Don’t forget to look up the correct model.


The armrest will give you more comfort during any long picking session. This accessory can adapt to many different body types and is used by beginners and professionals.

Tuning Machine

The tuning machine will surely get a lot of use, as you will spend countless hours tuning your double-string mandolin. Some mandolins come with a low-quality tuning machine and you might need to buy a new sturdy one.


The tailpiece is the part where the mandolin strings are fixed. This part can be quite complex and will require some time to get used to and learn how to maintain. It comes in different colors and designs.

Buying a Mandolin: New vs Used

Most mandolins evolve. That means that older and used instruments will achieve a smoother and more interesting sound as time passes by.

But let’s not forget that the mandolin is a delicate instrument that requires a good amount of maintenance.

Some used instruments might have a warped neck or other defects, so don’t forget to ask about the overall time it was used, as well as other characteristics and flaws.

Newer instruments will certainly give you some additional accessories and warranties, depending on the model. And you can always be sure that the overall finish and quality will be top-notch.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are a few FAQs that are common for people shopping for mandolins both online, with luthiers, and in other instrument shops.

What Is Nut Width?

The nut width is the overall width of the neck of the mandolin. The bigger the nut width, the wider the neck. Some players might find the wider ones easier to play, as you will get more precision when pressing those double strings.

What Strings Are Best for the Mandolin?

  • D’Addario: High quality and available in every shop
  • Newtone: Handmade with natural sound
  • Thomastik: Long span and easy to play
  • Elixir: Easy to tune and comfortable to play

Check out our guide to the Best Mandolin Strings for more info.

Do Sound Holes Influence the Sound?

There are two types of sound holes on the mandolin: the double f-holes, similar to the violin, and the big oval one in the middle. The double f-holes will give a clearer and brighter sound, and the oval ones will give more warmth and sustain.

Grason mandolin musical instrument

There is no best one as it is a question of preference. Bluegrass players might prefer the bright f-holes, and Celtic and classical players will certainly like the warmer sound of the oval soundholes.

Where Is the Best Place to Learn to Play the Mandolin?

There are plenty of tutorials and online lessons you can find on the internet.

I recommend taking some in-person lessons to start with basic finger positions and your first chords as it will be easier for you to grasp if someone is there showing you.

How Much Do Mandolins Cost?

The mandolin has a great value as an instrument, and it always costs less than other instruments of the same quality, like a guitar, for example.

  • The low price range for the mandolin goes from $60 to near $500
  • The mid-range costs from $500 to around $1000
  • The most expensive and professional ones go from $1000 and higher, with practically no limit there, as you can find old and vintage instruments for thousands of dollars.

What Are the Best Mandolins?

Here I want to revisit some of the best instruments I explored in this guide.

Rogue RM-100A: Best for Beginners, Best Overall

Rogue RM-100A is the best option for beginners and experienced players. Its beautiful design, high-quality materials and overall great tones will leave you more than satisfied with this instrument.

Eastman MD-505: Best Intermediate

Eastman MD-505 is a handmade and very popular mandolin made of the best materials you can find. Highly recommended for experienced players.

Kentucky KM-850: Best for Professionals

The Kentucky KM-850, an F-style mandolin, is one of the best on the market. With clear and bright tones, these instruments will never stop surprising you with their unique sound.

The Loar LM-520: Best Cheap Mandolin

The Loar LM-520 is a specialized brand that creates low-budget mandolins for anyone to use. This instrument is the best cheap option with a more than decent sound and finish.

Kentucky KM-150: Best Mandolin for Kids

What could be better for your kid than a high-grade instrument to learn to play? Well, Kentucky KM-150 will last long in the hands of children, and it will give hundreds of hours of entertainment with its high-quality sound.

Who Makes the Best Mandolins?

The best brands that produce the highest quality mandolins are normally the ones who specialize in them. Some of them are:

Where Are the Best Mandolins Made?

Most of the instruments are made in third-party countries like China, but you can still find some brands that produce mandolins in the USA and Europe.

I recommend looking for American-made mandolins for bluegrass and blues, and the Celtic music fans might look for European brands.

What Is the Best Sounding Mandolin?

Sound is a subjective concept. Some might want a smoother or brighter sound for their instrument. I personally prefer the Washburn vintage sound and the clear undertones of the Kentucky brand.

Don’t forget that the older ones might have a more interesting sound and harmonics, as the wood of the instrument gains “character” with the passage of time.

Where to Buy Mandolins

Nowadays there are many options to choose from when buying a new mandolin. The in-store option will give you the possibility of trying the instrument, but online stores might have a better selection of instruments.

There is also the possibility of buying a custom one from a specialized luthier, which will give you a hand-made and unique mandolin (although with a much higher price tag than any listed in this post).


Amazon is used worldwide for any type of online purchase. You can read some user reviews, find the best prices, and be able to return the mandolin in most cases if you are not satisfied with it.

Easy to navigate and with best offers, Amazon has great options for any online purchase.

Online Music Retailers

There are plenty of online retailers that provide decent service with your purchase. Some of the stores specialize in mandolins or in string instruments in general.

I recommend SweetWater, FiddlerShop, and I’ll also mention a great community of mandolin lovers that will help you with any doubts you might have.

Your Local Music Store

The local store option will give you the possibility of trying out the instrument to see if it’s really for you. There you can try different instruments with different amplifiers and accessories to choose from.

And let’s not forget the in-person customer service that will help you out with any doubts.

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In Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this exploration of the best mandolins and best mandolin brands. There’s still plenty to learn about this enigmatic and unique instrument, and it will continue to evolve throughout the years.

Born in the Middle Ages, this instrument still evokes fascination in many musicians to this day with its brilliant design and sonic features. The double string system of the mandolin creates a beautiful and distinctive sound that resonates in our imagination, reminding us of simpler old times on the prairie.

Help us expand knowledge about the mandolin by sharing and commenting on this article, and I will gladly respond to any doubts or suggestions.

Stay safe and best of luck with your sonic ventures!