The process of buying a mandolin is pretty much half the time researching and another half thinking whether a certain model is worth that money. And that is quite understandable after all, most mandolins do not come at a low price. Nevertheless, you can find some models that are pretty darn cheap. If you decide to buy a cheaper model you have to keep in mind the quality will probably suffer. I cannot really give you a clear-cut answer of what is the best price for a mandolin, especially at a low price range but I can at least recommend a model that does not pride itself on just being affordable – Rover RM-75 Deluxe Student F-model Mandolin. This Rover model offers a lot more than a lower price range. Let’s see what it is:
Sometimes people label a mandolin as beginner-friendly just because it is affordable. And that’s probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make. A lot of the cheaper mandolins are so uncomfortable and unplayable that they are anything but beginner-friendly. In the case of this F-model what you will be getting is a comfortable instrument that sounds and feels just right. With a hand-carved solid spruce top that adds to articulate along with maple back and sides that kick in a punch, this model offers durable construction and tonewood that ages pretty well. Hand-carved tops are a pretty rare thing in this price range so I was pretty surprised about it.
But that is definitely not the only feature that will make you think that this model belongs to a higher price range. The maple neck that beds the Indian rosewood fingerboard with M-O-P dot inlays adds a lot to playability (actually making is a beginner-friendly instrument). One thing I would say is not as amazing about this mandolin is the finish. While the actual finish is pretty standard nitrocellulose sunburst finish I don’t think it was applied that well causing some inconsistencies. Of course, this issue arises on a case-by-case matter so your mandolin might not even have that issue.
Okay, let’s talk a bit about the hardware. The RM-75 is a beginner instrument and that shows because the hardware is pretty easy to use and set up. The adjustable truss rod will allow you to control the height of the strings, thus playability and intonation. The bridge is made of compensated stained rosewood while the Deluxe tuning machines bring ease of use and tuning. Now, as a beginner, you might not expect it (if you have not done a lot of research) but you will have to do a certain amount of setup.
While this scares a lot of people there is really nothing too complicated about it. This model comes with pretty easy to follow instructions that will guide you through the process. And in case you still do not want to do it yourself you can always take it to shop for professional adjustment and setup. To be honest, I would actually recommend doing that with the more affordable instrument. Also, while my instrument did not come with a hardshell case I have actually heard some people’s models were shipped with a really nice, sturdy case.
Rover RM 75 Sound
When it comes to the sound of this mandolin you can really see how the build affects the sound and tone. With a quality carved top you get a clear cut tone and articulation while the back and side add a bit of bark. This is a great model for bluegrass and a lot more. While the sound is pretty woody and tone well balanced I would not say it is that loud. For solo performance, you will not have a lot of issues but with other instruments, the sound might get a bit lost.
Rover RM-75 Deluxe Student F-model mandolin might not be a high-end instrument and no one really expects that (I mean… if you do at such a price you will be disappointed with every instrument under $1000). BUT if you are looking for a beginner looking for your first mandolin or if you want to travel with your instrument and not worry about breaking a $2000 model the RM-75 is an option you should definitely consider. While it might not be the cheaper beginner model I think it is probably one of the best mandolins to learn to play. The 20s vintage style, nice tonewood that ages well and is functional, the easy-to-use hardware really prove that this baby is worth the money.