Build Quality:4.7 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.6 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.7 out of 5 stars
Value:4.5 out of 5 stars
Average:4.6 out of 5 stars

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Epiphone MM-30S A-Style Mandolin

Pros:

  • Crisp sound
  • Tonewood that ages well
  • Adjustable bridge
  • Good price

Cons:

  • Needs to be set up
  • Strings

While Epiphone prides itself on making some of the most well known acoustic and acoustic-electric guitars they have quite a large selection of other instruments. Mandolin is one of the first instruments Anastasios Stathopoulos, founder of Epiphone started to craft when he moved to New York. So it should not come as a surprise that the company is pretty damn good at creating mandolins. One of the examples of their best work is the MM-30S “A-Style” mandolin that offers quality craftsmanship while not being too pricey for beginners and intermediate players.  

Build

The choice between F-style and A-style mandolins is not an as easy choice. Every player has a very subjective view of which one is better and to be honest, there is not that many differenced, sound-wise. Personally, I have always loved A-style because it is more comfortable to me and also because the first time I got a mandolin I was too broke to afford F-style. The MM-30S is an A-style or  “teardrop” style instrument. It combines solid spruce top with a mahogany body and Okoume neck. This is a nice combination of tonewood that results in warm, punchy sound that mandolins are so beloved. It also ensures that your instrument’s sound will get better with time and age instead of deteriorating. To help bring out the best colors and sound of this instrument Epiphone chose Antique Sunburst finish which was, as expected, very well done.    

Hardware

This mando is quite an affordable one so I expected that either build or hardware would suffer substantially. And while I would not say the hardware on this instrument is top-notch and compares to $1000 model hardware, it still managed to surprise me. The traditional bridge is made of rosewood and is adjustable. The bridge is quite steady if you don’t like the height of strings you can easily change it.  The Tortoise pickguard has Epiphone “E” on top while the gold hardware is durable and great looking. The vintage-style open machine heads are easy to tune. You won’t be getting any trouble with that and they fit the overall aesthetics really well. As expected – but I feel like I have to mention this – you do have to set up the instrument, put the bridge in place, tune and so forth. The process might take a little while but overall there is nothing too complicated about it. While you are in the setup, change the strings as well. I don’t know whether my model was lying around for a while or what but the strings were too dull and just sucked the life out of the sound.

Epiphone MM30S Sound

Let’s talk sound, after all, that’s why we all get into music. It’s not the intricate construction of the instrument or the tonewood or tuners. It is the startle we get when we first hear an instrument that we know we are destined to play. So whether you have been playing for years or heard the sound of mandolin for the first time a couple of days ago and instantly fell in love with it, a sound is the number one priority. The MM-30S offers unique sound with a hell of a resonance and nice tonal range. This model is great for solo performances and it is also loud enough not to get lost in a band.

Conclusion

Epiphone MM-30S “A-Style” mandolin is a solid competitor for the title of best mandolin under $400. It combines quality tonewood with easy to use hardware to deliver crisp sound and great volume. Whether you are looking for your first instrument, transitioning from another instrument or just need a traveling, compact and lightweight model, this A-style mandolin will pretty much fulfill all your needs.

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