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: January 18, 2021
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Are you looking for a high-quality mandolin that won’t break the bank? Do you feel like you have to choose between strikingly rich instrumental tone or solid hand-carved spruce because your budget won’t allow for both? Well, you’re in luck! We have researched, reviewed, and compiled a list of the Best Mandolin(s) Under $1000 that delivers both excellent tone and remarkable craftsmanship, all without denting your wallet!
Not all mandolins are created equal, and some unexpected features are more important than others in crafting a well-rounded quality instrument. We have done the heavy lifting for you by compiling a list of six of the best mandolins under $1000 the market has to offer. In addition to price, we took into account style, addressing both modern and traditional 18th century-inspired designs, body material that produced the best tone, fretboard material for feel and playability, number of strings for tone depth variety, and size diversity for players of all ages. No matter which features sit atop your list for the right mandolin, we feel confident we have narrowed down the market to the best of the best under $1000 to make a choice enjoyable for you!
The Eastman MD305 easily takes the top nomination as Editor’s Choice with high-quality materials like the solid maple back and rosewood fretboard at an affordable price. Most importantly, each MD305 is individually handcrafted, which is a rare occurrence for craftsmanship in similar price ranges. The adjustable ebony bridge is a highly sought-after feature, allowing for customization of string spacing to suit a player’s comfort and intonation preferences. Not only is sound production excellent, but the traditional satin finish makes this mandolin aesthetically stunning as well. Beauty is in the eye (and ear) of the beholder with this top choice!
What we liked: F-style, delivering a loud, bright, and punchy sound; Individually handcrafted, producing superb tone; Expensive quality for an affordable price; adjustable bridge for customizing intonation and string spacing.
What could be better: Included with a standard soft-shell case. Musicians may want to consider purchasing a hard-shell case if they intend to travel frequently with their instrument.
The Washburn 8-string mandolin is an astounding piece of musical artistry. As the only all-solid mandolin on our list, it’s incredible design and features are easy to rave about. The Washburn is carved with a Sitka spruce top, figured maple back, and figured maple sides, each being carefully distressed to have a vintage cosmetic look and feel. The Washburn company has been crafting mandolins since the late 1800s and whether you’re a bluegrass or rock player, this mandolin will introduce you to a new dimension of tone previously unreached. Nominated as our premium pick, there is no need to wait years for that broken-in and well-played feel, the Washburn is crafted specifically with aged hardware, ebonite tuner buttons, and a thinner satin finish than other traditional-style mandolins. The F-style body design is also deeper than other traditional instruments, producing more volume and projection for players without the additional exertion on the instrument. Also worth noting are the Mother-of-Pearl (MOP) inlays in the fretboard, giving exquisite feel and playability with premier style. This mandolin is a top choice investment for any mandolin player, regardless of skill level.
What we liked: All-solid craftsmanship, contributing to the vast tonal dimension and projection; vintage thin-satin finish for warm, broken-in feel; deeper body design for more volume with less strain; elegance and playability of MOP dot inlay; comes standard with a hard-shell case.
What could be better: Affordability; As the most expensive instrument on our list, the Washburn 8-string mandolin is truly a work of art but a worthy investment to any serious musician.
The Eastman MD415-BK is certainly a head turner! As with the first Eastman on our list, this mandolin is individually handcrafted using traditional materials and “Old World” craftsmanship. With a solid spruce top, solid mahogany back, ebony fingerboard, and an adjustable ebony bridge, the esthetic quality of this instrument is matched with its ability to produce liquid, warm mahogany tones with excellent projection. It is well priced within our list and the artistry of its kind. The F-style body provides bright and vibrant tones, added with the adjustability of the ebony bridge for musician customization. This mandolin is crafted with a nitrocellulose lacquer with a high gloss finish, making it a stunning, eye-catching yet classic instrument. Fitted with chrome tuners and a chrome cast tailpiece, this mandolin easily wins the nomination for Best Style.
What we liked: Handcrafted, warm tone projecting mahogany body; blacktop finish with chrome tuners and details for stand-out style; adjustable bridge for string spacing and player customization; comes standard with a hard-shell case.
What could be better: Lacking in traditional visual style for those who desire the appearance of a more “wood” bodied instrument.
The first A-style oval hole mandolin on our list, the Eastman MD504, is a highly sought-after mandolin due to its versatile sound. As with the other Eastman models, the MD504 is handcrafted but sports a beautiful oval sound hole design. If you’re contemplating investing in the world of better-quality instruments than its hard to find a better economic option than this very traditional-looking and intricately crafted model. Using “Old World” craftsmanship, the MD504 projects clear and full musical range through its solid spruce top, reverberating through its solid maple back. Playability rates highly along the ebony fretboard, taking into account the adjustable ebony bridge for spacing and intonation customizations. What really sets this model apart are the warmer, more woody tones that are produced compared to an F-style mandolin, making it an excellent option for Folk or Celtic style musicians.
What we liked: A-style Oval hole design for producing warm, woody tones; intricate designs around the sound hole, being handcrafted individually with traditional style craftsmanship; adjustable bridge for player string spacing and intonation customizations; lifetime warranty; comes standard with a hard-shell case.
What could be better: For the oval-hole preferring musician, we don’t have any suggestions and think this is an all-around excellent choice. Oval hole instruments have less energy in the high overtones and more in the fundamental and lower overtones, so if you’re looking to play a melody or cut through other instruments, this may not be the best choice for you.
The Seagull S8 is a unique addition to this list due to its “double cutaway” shape. Similar in appearance to an A-style mandolin, the S8 is slimmer in the soundboard than traditional craftsmanship. Due to its slimmer design, the neck is designed to extend all the way through the maple body and down through the tail block, forming one solid piece of wood. The solid spruce top is also slightly curved, which helps both in tone and the S8’s overall strength. The most unique feature is the triangle-shaped sound hole, producing high volume and bright tones, making it a perfect option for the melodic playing of a reel or solo. The slimmer body does cause less sound production on the low end of the fretboard, sacrificing a bit of the deep woody tones seen in some of the other options, but overall, the intonation is still fairly well-balanced. If you’re looking for a travel instrument, this may be an excellent and slimmer travel companion than a traditional model.
What we liked: Durability due to the neck connecting all the way through the instrument, creating one solid piece; Size, because while much of the Seagull mandolin is slimmer and smaller than normal, the fretboard is actually a little wider, making it easily adaptable for players of other wide-fret instruments; Unique style and sound hole shape.
What could be better: The slimmer design gives you a little less room on the soundboard overall if you’re used to resting your strumming hand there in place of a mandolin strap; due to slimmer sides and cut-out shape, deeper tones project less than higher ranges. Come standard with padded case.
The Gold Tone GME-4 mandolin earns the Best Value rating on our list for its tone, playability, and very reasonable price. The GME-4 is distinctively stylish with its double-cutaway and miniature guitar-like essence. This mandolin offers the musician more playability with tone control capabilities and an adjustable bridge, allowing for a wide variety of tone production through the alder body of the instrument. Also featured on the GME-4 is the stacked humbucking pickup, providing this four-stringed instrument with a low hum and no feedback. In addition to a cast metal bridge with individual string adjustment for height and compensation, volume and tone controls sit nicely placed on the vintage cream gloss finish. You will find that while the body of this mandolin is wider than other more traditional models, the slim maple neck and fretboard have traditional black dot fret markers making this an excellent choice for the beginner mandolin player. To top the adaptability of this sleek model, it is also available as a left-handed instrument!
What we liked: Adaptable and playable by beginners of all ages; sleek design with a wider set body for handling; tone controls and adjustable bridge; affordability.
What could be better: Alder body produces a great tone but would be missing the depth and warmth of an all-solid wood comparable. No case included.
Things to Consider
Choosing a mandolin to purchase is not an easy decision for most as the initial investment is quite high. Whether you are buying for yourself or a loved one, understanding what aspects of a mandolin are important for quality and what features may not be necessary for the price can save you hundreds of dollars when you make your final decision. Mandolins come in all shapes and styles and we have put together this guide to help you find the one that fits your musical personality, musician goals, and wallet, best.
What do you get with a mandolin under $1000?
Good news! A budget of $1000 is more than sufficient in affording a top-quality mandolin made from premier materials that will deliver superb sound, and possibly even carry the sought-after elite “handcrafted” label and serial number. In most of the reviews, we conducted we found that a protective case, even though the quality varied slightly, was included with the purchase of a new instrument! In one of our rated best mandolins under $1000, the Eastman MD504, a lifetime warranty was built-in! With add-on’s and warranties up for grabs with your purchase, it’s important to understand the market and features you are looking for to ultimately end up at the best deal possible.
Features to consider before you buy a mandolin under $1000
As we mentioned before, not all mandolins are created equal. If you are new to the musical world of all things mandolin, you might not be aware of the variety that exists with some features, and whether or not they ultimately matter. Some features, like the style and body material, are more important than others when crafting a well-rounded quality instrument. Below you will find a more detailed explanation of the features we looked for in our top six recommendations. We comb through the various styles, addressing both modern and traditional 18th century-inspired designs, body materials that produced the best tones for certain music genres, fretboard material for feel and playability, number of strings for tone depth variety, and size diversity for players of all ages. We hope by the end of this guide you will confident in the mandolin that will fit your needs best and a price that works for you!
There is a very wide range of Mandolin styles on the market today, ranging from the well-known F-hole models of arched mandolins to the bowl-back models known for their lustrous deep, rounded tone. Our first suggestion is to decide what type of music you want to play. As a general rule of thumb, F-style models, like the Washburn 8-string we reviewed above, tend to be more common among country and bluegrass artists, while A-style models like the EastmanMD504 review well with classical, folk, and Celtic musicians. While they are similar in tone, playability, and design between the A-style and the F-style are quite different.
Some A-style models have guitar-like profiles, differing from the F-styles due to their lack of elaborate scrolls and points. This makes them easier to build, and are therefore often less costly.
The overall consensus among mandolin musicians is that spruce is the wood of choice in crafting the best mandolin tops, also called soundboards. While spruce is unrivalled in conveying every aspect of the musician’s technique onto the strings, the high cost of quality spruce doesn’t always make it the best option for the everyday hobbyist or beginner. Most mandolin makers today use cedar or mahogany in place of spruce for their other quality work, as we see in the Eastman MD415-BK, which still reviews exceptionally well with intonation. Many mandolin bodies have arched tops to produce a more rounded sound, but there are models with flat tops that are preferred by some players as well. Musician preference plays a big role here, as both types have beautifully figured wood, rich sound, and quality models available on today’s market.
Lower-cost mandolins often have laminate tops and that laminate may have a thin veneer of attractively grained wood on top. It’s important to distinguish the difference so you don’t find yourself paying for a laminate mandolin at an all-wood price. Laminate tops are pressed into shape rather than being carved which makes them a much less costly option. While solid spruce-topped mandolins are preferred by professional, laminate-top mandolins in today’s market are capable of producing very acceptable sound.
The fretboards of mandolins are typically made with rosewood or ebony as both very hardwoods with a smooth surface that enables fast-fingered fretting and durability. The material of the fretboard doesn’t affect the tone of the instrument as much as the comfort of the musician playing it. Necks are usually made with maple or mahogany for maximum rigidity, and in some models like the Seagull S8 acoustic mandolin, the neck is built all the way through the body of the instrument, add extra durability. A key feature to keep your eye out for fret markers along the fretboard. These markers also vary in quality, but overall come down to aesthetics and texture compared to the fretboard.
Number of strings
Mandolin strings are very important as they play a big part in the overall sound of your instrument. For starters, a beginner mandolin may only have four strings, while other models go up to as many as twelve strings, having multiples of each string in the standard mandolin tuning of ‘G, D, A, E.’ There is much musician preference to consider when deciding the number of strings for your mandolin, but to abridge the opinions of how many you should have any why, the rule to remember is the more strings you have, the deeper and louder your tone will be. Two ‘A’ strings played together ring out with much more fullness than one, and the same can be said with four ‘D’ strings instead of two. Take into consideration where you will be playing or if you are playing in a group and will need to be heard over other musically powerful instruments when deciding how many strings you might like.
Keep in mind the more strings you have, the more you have to maintain and eventually replace.
The mandolin family technically consists of four different instruments, all varying in size but with individual names. The mandolin is the most well-know, with a scale length of fourteen inches, and a usual body width of 10 and ¼ inches. Of course, we see a deviation in that standard with the Seagull S8 model, which was specifically designed to be slimmer than the traditional mandolin and a good fit for the traveling musician. The actual scale length is what determines the instrument, with the mandolin’s viola-like cousin, the mandola having a larger scale length of seventeen inches. The longer the scale length, the deeper in tone the instrument can go. There is the lesser-known octave mandolin, which is tuned a full octave below the standard mandolin with a twenty-inch scale length. Continuing our comparison to the violin family, the octave mandolin would be a step between the viola and the cello. The last and largest in the mandolin family is the mandocello, which is pretty self-described. Having a baritone-bass tone, the mandocello has a scale length of 24 and ¾ inches and a beautifully rich, deep sound.
Well thought out accessories can drastically enhance your playing experience, adding to comfort, ease of playability, tuning, and fretboard manipulation. Some of the most common accessories for beginners and professionals alike are:
Mandolin Strap – Necessary for playing while standing
Mandolin Capo – A small clip that is placed on the fretboard against the strings to easily play higher up the instrument’s neck without sacrificing tone.
Mandolin Case – A necessary accessory to protect your musical instrument.
Tuner – Tuning capabilities of stringed instruments have come a long way with the invention of electronic tuners. Simply play a string and the tuner will evaluate your pitch to complete accuracy. Tuning made easy for any beginner!
Proper care of such an instrument would include keeping it in its protective case when not in use, away from water at all costs to avoid warping the wood, and mindful of the temperature of its environment. The heat will cause the instrument to expand, throwing the tuning exponentially.
If you notice your strings will not hold their tuning, it may be time to replace them. If you are a beginner, I suggest taking your mandolin to a professional to be re-strung properly. If you are an avid DIY’er and feel comfortable re-stringing your mandolin yourself, you will need a wire cutter, a peg winder, and a tuner. Simply remove the tailpiece of your mandolin, remove the tension from your current strings by un-tuning them until they are loose enough to remove, and replace with your new strings carefully following the way they were removed.
All of the mandolins on our list are excellent instruments, each unique in their styles and craftsmanship. However, after a careful review of the most important qualities that a mandolin the best under $1000, we have chosen three as our top recommendations.
For Editor’s Choice: The Eastman MD305 for its overall individually handcrafted design, adjustable bridge, and beautiful traditional satin finish at an unbelievably reasonable price. No other instrument matched its affordability while maintaining solid-wood materials and individual craftsmanship.
For Premium Pick: The Washburn 8-String Mandolin, a vintage yet traditionally astounding instrument. The detail in the craftsmanship truly sets this mandolin apart as the only all-solid instrument on our list. For the professional musician or the devout player, this mandolin sound is just as breathtaking as its beauty.
For Best Value: Gold Tone GME-4 Mandolin, the perfect gift for beginners. At an unbeatable price with the most customizable playing experience, the GME-4 is a great choice for an instrument with quality sound, a sleek look, and diverse playability.