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The Loar brand specializes in creating simple but effective instruments with minimal decoration. Their mandolins are known for having a quality, hand-carved build and an amazing tone and projection.
I’m a music composer with several years of experience doing soundtracks and folk and rock music using a variety of instruments. The mandolin has a special place in my heart, as its unique and delicate nature can enrich almost any track or song.
The Loar LM520 is a very praised and respected model. But how does this model compare to other mandolins like Eastman, Gibson and Kentucky?
About The Loar LM520
The Loar mandolins are inspired by vintage old-school mandolins like the Gibson F5, which started production in 1923. Most mandolins made by The Loar have a simple design and a unique and powerful tone.
The Loar LM520 has a very good reputation in the mandolin community, and it’s considered one of if not THE best mandolin in this price range. The LM500 series is sometimes compared to the high-end LM600 series. Although the mandolins from the LM500 series are of a slightly lower quality, they maintain a very good value for their price.
This mandolin is all about the sound. In this department, the LM520 strikes all the notes possible. A great chop, impressive projection, and a bright and open tone makes this model irresistible for most mandolin players.
One of the few cons I could find is that the LM520 really needs a proper setup to get most out of it. Some online retailers offer shipping with a professional setup done, which will help those who lack the proper experience with the mandolin.
The Loar LM520 comes with a solid hand-carved fully graduated spruce top and a solid hand-carved maple back and sides. This is quite surprising for a mid-range mandolin, as it’s quite rare to find hand-carved instruments at this price.
As for the design, I’d describe it as a simpler copy of the vintage Gibson F5. It’s sort of a timid version of a typical F-style mandolin. I actually find it very similar to most Kentucky mandolins, as both of them use almost identical color schemes.
The Loar LM520 has a very common sunburst finish, but you can also find another model called The Loar LM520VS, where “VS” stands for “vintage sunburst.” This is a darker version of the typical sunburst color, which was used in old vintage mandolins from the 1920s.
The neck comes with a comfortable “V” shape and a rosewood fretboard. Overall it’s a comfortable neck with a smooth action. I personally find it very responsive and pleasant to play from day one. At first I felt like the neck was too wide, but after getting used to it, I actually started to really enjoy it.
All the features of the LM520 are created around the playability and sound. The neck is no exception here. It’s one of the most comfortable necks I’ve ever played.
The Loar LM520 has a very common adjustable ebony bridge. This is a medium quality bridge that serves its purpose well after some adjustments. I’ve never had any big issues with it, but this can vary depending on the player’s playing style.
The tuners are quite decent but a little bit on a low end. I personally find them good enough for the price. But if you’re struggling with them, there’s always the option to buy a new set.
Pros & Cons
My Experience With The Loar LM520
I’ve played The Loar LM520 for several years now and have used it in several music productions, as it’s quite easy to record because of its clear tone. I’d say it’s quite comfortable for an F-style mandolin and has a robust build.
I’ve rarely had any problems with my LM520, as it’s always able to perform under any circumstances. The Loar LM520 is a reliable instrument that will serve you for a long time.
One of the things that I found lacking with the LM520 is the looks. This mandolin comes with a somewhat bland design compared to other F-style mandolins. But this is my personal opinion, and I’ve met numerous players that find this design appealing.
From my personal experience I can easily say that the Loar LM520 is the best F-style mandolin in this price range. It has a lot of features of high-end mandolins for a very modest price. It’s also a very good instrument for recording sessions, and the sound quality is what this model is known for.
The Loar LM520 Review: The Sound
The idea behind the LM520 is to take the professional sound quality of the LM600 and LM700 series and cut the price, reducing ornaments and decorations. This model is a high performance instrument with minimal aesthetic luxuries.
The Loar LM520 has a very bright and open sound. It has a very unique and recognizable tone. This model also has a decent sustain and great volume, which is quite impressive for a F-style model.
Overall I’d say that the LM520 has a very balanced tone, more on the bright treble side. This is great for playing with other musicians, as LM520 will cut through easily.
As I mentioned before, The Loar LM520 is a great companion for long recording sessions. It has never failed me over the years. The clear and bright tone of the LM520 is quite easy to capture with any type of microphone.
The Loar LM520 Warranty
The Loar offers a 5-year limited warranty for this instrument. But be careful, as this works with more official retailers and can vary depending on the website.
Where to Buy The Loar LM520
The Loar mandolins are quite popular nowadays and can be found in most online retailers and music stores. Let’s check some of the options here.
Amazon is well-known all around the world for its accessible nature and great variety of products. You can also find a decent selection of musical instruments on this website, some of them for a great price.
I personally always check customer reviews, as they can give me a good idea of what to expect when the product arrives at my house. You can find many sincere opinions in there, including its pros and cons.
Although Amazon is known for having almost any product imaginable in stock, some rare instruments like certain mandolins can be a little tricky to find.
Not everything can be found on Amazon. Some online retailers offer exclusive deals with some companies like Gibson, Kentucky, and Eastman. This is why it’s worth your time to look for other websites specializing in musical instruments.
Your Local Store
It’s quite rare to find a big selection of mandolins in any local store. Your best bet is to find a store that specializes in acoustic instruments, such as violins, contrabass and so on.
I personally found a few of The Loar models in my local store, which was quite lucky, I admit.
The best part of buying something in person is that you can spend a good while trying out the instrument for yourself. This is the best way to know if you really like it and if it fits your playing style.
Some advice from a vendor can be very helpful too, as most of them are actual musicians with a lot of experience. Although this may vary, and in my local store the guy knew very little about mandolins.
The Loar LM520 is an excellent mandolin through and through. Elegant looks, a great sound and a high-quality build make this mandolin one of the best mid-range models on the market. This isn’t just my opinion, as you can find mostly positive reviews on any website that sells the LM520.
The sound quality is the most important part of the appeal of the LM520. This mandolin is all about finding the purest acoustic sound possible. It also has a very balanced and versatile tone, and the LM520 could be used for almost any musical style.
Without a doubt, the LM520 is a champion among mid-range mandolins. A combination of minimal decoration, high-quality tonewoods and a hand-carved body make this mandolin very difficult to compete with.
If you’re looking for a versatile and powerful mandolin, look no further, as The Loar LM520 will satisfy all of your musical needs.
Thank you for staying until the end of this The Loar LM520 Mandolin review. If you liked this article, feel free to comment or share it on your favorite social media. I’d like to hear your opinion and experiences with the LM520 and similar models made by The Loar.
Stay safe, and as always, good luck with your sonic adventures!