In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: March 26, 2021
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A mandolin is one of the oldest fretted instruments and is a perfect way of adding an old touch to your music. There are a few different options with electric mandolins including acoustic/electric mandolins, a solid-body electric mandolin, and acoustic/electric mandolins made for amplified use. On top of these options are numerous brands and models of electric mandolins that make choosing the best for yourself pretty complex.
We rounded up a list of the best rated electric mandolins on the market. Some of the key aspects we considered in our detailed product reviews include construction materials, style, type, dimensions, and weight. They all determine the mandolin’s overall performance, ease of use, and durability. Like the construction materials directly affect the mandolin’s sturdiness, while its type, dimensions, and weight affect its ease of use and portability. As for style, it is a matter of personal preference but the mandolin’s style has to match your style of music. You can choose either of the 3 mandolin styles: A-style, F-style, or bowl-back mandolins.
When the tune has to be right, you have to go for the right instrument. This Oscar Schmidt is the cream of the crop when it comes to top-performing mandolins out there. It is a favorite among seasoned mandolin players because of the unrivaled convenience it offers in its build.
The A-style acoustic-electric mandolin boasts rugged mahogany and ovangkol build. Its neck, sides, and back are made of mahogany while its fretboard is made with ovangkol.
The mandolin owes its unique and attractive look to its spruce top that has a high-gloss finish. Plus, its hardware is chrome plated giving it a vintage look and making it resistant to corrosion. Even more, there is a 3-ply pickguard that not only enhances the tonal quality of the mandolin but also protects it from scratches.
Essentially, you will be able to play the Mandolin without any difficulty thanks to the dot inlays on the fretboard. The passive pickup system that has tone and volume controls will make your work much easier and you will be able to make adjustments according to your preference.
The best thing about this mandolin is that it gives sweet, warm, and rich sound quality. Its strings are made with robust steel to withstand frequent use and they give off articulate tones with high response frequency.
What we liked: The mandolin is not only efficient musically but also stylish and durable in its build. It also won’t weigh you down thanks to its incredible 2 pounds build. What could be better: It will take you a minute to get the mandolin in tune.
This is the cat’s pajamas of all the solid-body electric mandolins out there. It packs a punch with a myriad of convenient and superior features that make it’s sound unique. It also super-easy to use.
The Gold-tone mandolin is built to stand the test of time and look the part. Its cream gloss finish gives it an attractive appeal and since its hardware is chrome plated you can trust it to maintain its shine after several uses. Also featured is a multi-layer pickguard that protects the mandolin’s body from scratches as well as improves its tonal quality.
The mandolin’s solid body consists of a maple and alder construction that can withstand regular abuse. Its neck and fingerboard are made of maple while its top, back, and slides are made of Alder. The slim maple neck features a fretboard that has standard black dot fret markers that make playing a tad easier for you.
As if that’s enough, the Mandolin’s bridge is made of cast metal and it has individual string adjustment for height and compensation as well as volume and tone controls.
What we liked: The unique double-cutaway mandolin has an outstanding set of features that make it perfect for different sounds from hillbilly jazz and Texas swing to rock’n roll. If you are on the market for something between a guitar and a Mandolin this is a solid bet. It is sturdy, portable, and well-made. What could be better: The gig bag that comes with the mandolin is not padded thus not fit for traveling.
We bet you haven’t heard of Vangoa before and you are not alone because the company is still very fresh in the game. It only started in 2017 and it is focused on making low-budget instruments. This mandolin is one of their gems that prove you don’t have to decimate your bank balance to get a musical instrument with magical sounds.
This Vangoa mandolin holds a premium position among the best acoustic-electric mandolins on the market with its striking red-stained wood effect. The deep hues and glossy finish make it even more attractive.
It has a durable mahogany build and its closed gear tuners are chrome plated to keep it in tune always as well as make string adjustment a breeze.
You can play the Mandolin acoustically or when plugged in. Its stainless steel strings are strong enough to withstand frequent use and they produce beautiful clear tones with a high response frequency.
What we liked: It is hard to not recommend this mandolin to anyone looking for their maiden mandolin. It is incredibly durable, portable, and stylish for its price point, plus it comes with lots of extras like a digital clip-on tuner, padded gig bag, and extra strings. It is also super-easy to use. Quite simply, this is hands down the best acoustic-electric mandolin under 300 bucks out there. What could be better: Some users have complained of uneven frets and the mandolin going out of tune quickly.
This is another fantastic beginner choice. It will not blow your socks off with bleeding-edge features but it can do the job pretty well especially if you’re still new to playing Mandolins.
The mandolin has an outstanding solid construction of rosewood, maple, and Nato. Its top, back, and sides are made of Nato while its fingerboard is made with rosewood. It features an adjustable black-stained bridge that is made of maple. The f-shaped sound holes elevate it aesthetically and its engraved tailpiece gives it an authentic vintage look.
The mandolin is not the lightest in the industry, but it won’t break your back. Using it is a breeze, thanks to its 8 geared nickel tuners that offer precise and defined tuning. Its maple bridge also contributes to its ease of use by allowing you to control intonation.
You can use the mandolin for a variety of music genres as it offers superb playability and fantastic crisp, deep and sweet tones that are enjoyable. Its single coil pickup produces a bright warm tone that is projected excellently through the f-shaped sound holes.
What we liked: The mandolin’s simplicity and ease of use is a pure delight for any beginner. Its subtly elegant style and ultra-durable build also place it high among the best performing mandolins on the market. What could be better: There are a few complaints about the string guard fitting poorly making setup a hassle. Some users also complained that their units arrived with faulty wiring.
This is the ultimate mandolin for small shows and indoor practicing. It offers excellent value for money with its gorgeous build and multiple convenient features.
The electroacoustic mandolin is quite the spectacle with its striking color and polished surface. It only takes a single glance to realize it took fine and exquisite workmanship to create such an eye-catching piece.
The Mandolin is painstakingly handmade with maple and rosewood and despite its 4 pounds build, it actually feels great when held and played either by a child or an adult. Its spruce panel adds to its astounding durability.
Its 8 strings are made with robust material to withstand rough use and they produce sweet and clear sounds that are beautifully projected through the f-shaped sound holes. You can entertain a crown indoors as the mandolin has a pretty strong penetrability.
What we liked: The mandolin has a beautiful eye-catching design that can stand the test of time as well. It is easy to handle and play thus perfect for both beginners and seasoned players. Even a child can handle the mandolin pretty well. Its strong penetrability also makes it highly suitable for indoor use and small shows. What could be better: For its price point, it is hard to imagine this mandolin could be any better.
Things to Consider
There’s a lot to consider when buying an electric mandolin and without the right information you will end up regretting your purchase. This segment has all the hint and pointers you need to have the buyer’s confidence when you go shopping for the best electric mandolin. You will get to know the benefits of owning one and the features found on a good one.
Benefits of electric mandolins
Electric mandolins share a lot in common with their regular acoustic counterparts but they are more beneficial in many ways including:
They are louder
Electric mandolins can be heard alongside other louder instruments in a band setting like a piano, guitar, saxophone, and drums among others. This is why they are highly preferred by onstage performers.
They are flexible
Some electric acoustic mandolins can be played both when plugged in or unplugged. This offers maximum flexibility to onstage performers as they can be able to move around with the instrument easily. In fact, most performers prefer using an electric acoustic mandolin in place of a mic because a mic plants them in one spot on stage and causes feedback.
Features to consider when choosing an electric mandolin
These are the crucial aspects that you must give top consideration for you to make the best buy.
There are 2 main types of mandolins: electric and acoustic. Your choice will mainly depend on the kind of music you intend to play. For instance, if you want to play in a mandolin orchestra, an acoustic mandolin would fit the bill. But if you intend to play bluegrass and some other folk genres then an electric mandolin would come in handy.
Acoustic mandolins can also be electric so you can strike two birds with one stone if you’d love an electric mandolin later. Though it is argued that acoustic-electric mandolins don’t have great sounds like purely electric ones.
Mandolins come in different styles including F-style, A-style, flat-back, flat-top, and bowl back. Your preference plays a huge role in choosing a mandolin style but you have to ensure it matches your style of music.
Bluegrass players prefer the F-style mandolins while the A-style is highly favored by mandolin orchestra musicians. Another thing you should keep in mind is that the shape of the mandolin determines its timbre or tone color. F-style mandolins usually have a more striking timbre than their A-style counterparts.
This is another crucial aspect to consider as it determines the durability and sound quality of the mandolin. Be sure to buy a mandolin made of materials of superior quality.
The most common materials used to make mandolins include: rosewood, maple, mahogany, and spruce. A mandolin with a solid top, back, and sides like the Oscar Schmidt OM10EWH-O-U Electric Mandolin is likely to give you a long-lasting performance.
For added durability and great sound quality, go for a mandolin with chrome-plated hardware like tuning gear and a multi-layer pickguard that protects it from scratches and enhances its tonal quality.
The material used to make the strings will determine if it can hold up well to regular rough use or not. There are different types of string construction materials and they include; nickel-plated steel, stainless steel, chrome steel, phosphor bronze, and coated strings. For a perfect balance of tonal richness and brilliance go for phosphor bronze strings. They are highly preferred by seasoned players because they last longer before losing their brilliance.
For brighter tones, especially if you own an electric mandolin, you should choose nickel-plated steel strings. Stainless steel strings are highly favored by players for their longevity and bright timbre. Chrome steel strings produce great clear sounds without a metallic twang. Coated strings, just like the stainless steel strings are highly preferred for their longevity as they resist oxidation.
Accessories will enhance your playing experience as well as give your mandolin maximum protection. If you can choose a model that comes with multiple accessories like the Vangoa Acoustic-Electric Mandolin you will not only enjoy using your mandolin but also get to save some pocket change.
Some of the must-have accessories include straps, padded gig bags or cases, capos, strings, picks, and tuners. Mandolin straps are a necessity especially if you intend to play while standing and they come in various styles to suit your personal tastes. Padded gig bags or cases come in handy if you are an on-the-go player as they keep your investment safe regardless of the nature of your travel. You will need capos to play songs in higher keys than those they were written in. They clamp on the fretboard and allow you to raise the mandolin’s overall pitch.
Go for a mandolin that has a high-quality tuner as it will make tuning up your mandolin much easier.
Mandolins have varying price tags and because they don’t share the luxury of economies of scale with other popular instruments like guitars and basses, they can be a bit costly. However, you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for a good quality electric mandolin. You can get affordable electric mandolins like the Vangoa Acoustic-Electric Mandolin.
Alternatively, you can get a cheap mandolin and get it set up at a luthier’s especially if you’re a beginner. It will still play well and you will be able to learn just as good as on other high-end costly models.
This is a matter of personal preference and financial capability. Some high-end mandolins cost up to 1500 dollars while other low-budget models that function quite well go for as low as 200 or 100 dollars. It all depends on the brand and the build quality of the mandolin. If you’re a beginner, go for the mid-range mandolins that cost between 200 and 300 dollars because they offer excellent value for money.
You can easily add that old vibe to your music with the best electric mandolin. Choosing one shouldn’t be a daunting experience for you if you are extra-keen on the hints and pointers above. You can as well choose any of the 5 best rated electric mandolins on our list if you find the numerous brands and models on the market too overwhelming. Our call for the best overall choice was the Oscar Schmidt OM10EWH-O-U Electric Mandolin. Its lightweight but durable build and easy to use features like passive electronics for tone and volume control went unmatched.
Our premium option, the Gold Tone GME-4 Mandolin is the best solid body electric mandolin that money can buy. It is a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a mandolin with guitar-like looks and functionality. Its creamy gloss finish and multiple superior features position it high among other premium quality electric mandolins.
Out third choice, the Vangoa Acoustic-Electric Mandolin offers the best bang for your bucks. It is one of the best electric mandolins for beginners because of its fair price point, durable build, and strikingly beautiful appearance. It also offers great sound quality and is extremely easy to use.