6 Best Mandolins for Any Occasion – The Complete Guide

Our in-detail comparison of the best mandolins out there – from acoustic to electric. Analysis of the key features to consider when choosing your perfect mandolin.
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Last updatedLast updated: June 14, 2024
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Have you attended a bluegrass show, and you felt inspired to learn how to play the mandolin? Or maybe you’re a guitarist looking to add some new piece to your repertoire? From Jack White to Bill Monroe, the mandolin has always been an excellent way to add that traditional flavor to your song. While dozens of brands claim to offer you the best mandolins, it is pretty easy to find yourself in a maze. We’re here to help.

Maybe you’re looking for the best affordable mandolin you can find. Or a top-quality, handmade instrument. There’s a limitless number of mandolin variations. This comprehensive guide gives an account of 6 best-rated mandolins in stock and a handy buying guide that makes your shopping hassle-free. You can narrow your selection by considering a few major factors. These factors include type, back material, top material, number of strings, and weight. Let’s get started.

Top 6 Mandolins Review 2024

  • Style: A style
  • Number of strings: 8
  • Top material: Mahogany
  • Back material: Mahogany
  • Weight: 3 lbs.

More features: traditional style; right-handed; comes with accessories; has a one-year warranty

Mandolin Acoustic-Electric Mandolin by Vangoa is an A-style eight-stringed instrument with a glossy red sunburst finish suitable for all styles of music. It is made up of premium quality mahogany wood both on top and at the back. The chrome-plated closed gear tuners and tailpiece is a great feature that keeps the mandolin in tune. It also makes adjustment of the strings easier. Besides, it has an adjustable truss rod inside its neck, which makes the adjustment of its strings easier.

The Mandolin is lightweight, as it weighs about 3 pounds. This means that you can hold it comfortably without tiring your shoulder muscles. While this model is nowhere near the quality of the more expensive mandolins, for the price, it delivers an excellent experience. The mandolin comes with lots of accessories like guitar picks, a Vangoa sticker, digital clip-on tuner, extra strings, strap, and padded gig bag. This makes it easy to play and maintain. You can buy your mandolin with confidence thanks to a full one-year warranty that protects against any damage or defects.

What stands out? The glossy finish combined with the chrome knobs looks ridiculously good for this entry-level product. You also have the option of playing the Vangoa either plugged in or acoustically, allowing you to experiment with a variety of sounds.

What cons did we manage to find? Just like any instrument, it will take some work to get it correctly set up, but it is well worth the work.

RELATED: 5 Best Electric and Acoustic-Electric Mandolins for a Stronger Sound!

Eastman MD305Premium Pick

  • Style: A style with F-holes
  • Number of strings: 8
  • Top material: Spruce
  • Back material: Maple
  • Weight: 4 lbs.

More features: hand-built; rosewood fingerboard; traditional style ebony bridge

Another great choice in mandolins is the eight-stringed Eastman MD305. This mandolin has an A-style body with F-holes for liquid tones and excellent projection. It is individually hand-built using traditional materials with a solid spruce top, maple back and sides, and an adjustable ebony bridge. The dimensions of the instrument are 31 x 20 x 6.5 inches and weigh 4 pounds.

The gear tuning machine of the mandolin is chrome plated and offers excellent intonation with effortless tuning. With the pearl dot inlay on the fingerboard, you can be sure of an ultimate player experience and great precision for fingering. This mandolin comes with a superior gig bag that will keep your mandolin safe. You can transport your mandolin without worrying about damage. You can keep it protected from all the elements.

What are its best features? The Eastman MD305 A-Style Mandolin is an elegant option for both beginner and veteran mandolin players. Pairing its classic A-style body shape with a vintage tinged satin finish, the MD305 looks almost as appealing as it sounds.

What could be improved? This mandolin is a little heavy to carry on the shoulders if you’re standing for long periods. You can choose to sit to ease the weight when playing your instrument.

RELATED: 6 Best Mandolins Under $1000 – Great Looks and Sound Combined
  • Type: acoustic
  • Construction: Mahogany, Rosewood
  • Number of Frets: 20
  • Scale Length: 14″
  • Nut Width: 1.06″
  • Weight: 2 pounds

Other features: 8-string “A-style” Mandolin with Mahogany Body, Spruce Top, Mahogany Neck, and Rosewood Fingerboard

The Epiphone MM-30S A-style Mandolin is a meticulously crafted musical instrument that blends traditional aesthetics with modern build quality. With a gleaming sunburst finish, this A-style mandolin boasts a spruce top, mahogany body, and neck. Characterized by its sharp Florentine cutaway, the MM-30S brings elegance and utility to the hands of a musician, making it apt for rhythm and lead playing.

In terms of performance, the MM-30S delivers a sound that is both rich and vibrant. Thanks to its spruce top, it projects a crisp and clear tone, making it perfect for a wide range of music styles. The mahogany construction adds depth to the sound, resulting in warm mids and deep lows. Furthermore, the rosewood fingerboard is smooth and responsive, making playability a breeze for beginners and seasoned players.

The Epiphone MM-30S is versatile, making it suitable for various musical genres, from bluegrass to classical and beyond. Its clear tonal qualities make it perfect for ensemble playing, allowing it to cut through and be heard even in a group setting. Furthermore, for those just starting out on their mandolin journey, the MM-30S is an excellent introduction, thanks to its affordability and user-friendly design.

What sets the Epiphone MM-30S apart from its competitors is Epiphone’s reputation for consistency and quality at an affordable price point. While many other mandolins in its price range compromise on materials and craftsmanship, Epiphone maintains a standard that is often seen in higher-end instruments. Moreover, its timeless design ensures that it doesn’t just sound great but also looks the part.

While the MM-30S is an exceptional instrument for its price, there’s always room for enhancement. Some players might find the factory setup a bit high, requiring professional adjustment for optimum playability. Additionally, seasoned players might seek more nuanced tonal qualities that come with higher-end mandolins.

What stands out?

  • Rich and vibrant sound quality.
  • Smooth rosewood fingerboard enhances playability.
  • Affordable without compromising on build and sound quality.

What cons did we manage to find?

  • Factory setup might require adjustments.
  • May not meet the nuanced tonal needs of professional players.
RELATED: 7 Best Beginner Mandolins for Easy and Fun Learning

Ibanez M510DVS MandolinPortable

  • Style: A style
  • Number of strings: 8
  • Top material: Spruce
  • Back material: Mahogany
  • Weight: 2.5 lbs.

More features: pearl dot inlay; chrome hardware; adjustable bridge

This eight-stringed instrument is built on the teardrop with A style and measures 27 x 3 x 10.5 inches. It has an amazing lightweight of 2.5 pounds, which makes it easy to handle and carry. It is made from mahogany and spruce- the spruce being on top and the mahogany on the back and sides.  These materials make the Ibanez mandolin strong and sturdy. The dark violin sunburst finish and chrome hardware give this instrument a beautiful, elegant look.

The tuners are great, and they hold the strings and produce excellent sound. The Ibanez mandolin is easy to tune and offers excellent tones. The neck for this mandolin is made from mahogany, while the bridge and finger are made from Rosewood. This mandolin features an adjustable compensated bridge, which provides exceptional intonation for your instrument. If you are looking for the best starter mandolin, this is the perfect item for you.

Why is it special? Great for a beginner or a traveling musician who wants something easy to carry. The tuning heads are pretty good, and it tunes up beautifully. This is a very reasonably-priced instrument.

What are the flaws? The main gripe is the quality of the strings. You can, however, get a new set at a little cost, and you’ll be good.

RELATED: 10 Best Mandolins under $500 – Fantastic Sounding at Reasonable Price!
  • Style: F style
  • Number of strings: 8
  • Top material: Spruce
  • Back material: Maple
  • Weight: 4 lbs.

More features: hand-carved; satin brown burst finish

The Loar LM-310F-BRB Honey Creek Mandolin features a solid handcrafted Spruce top with handcrafted Maple sides and back, with a satin brown burst finish. The neck of the mandolin is made from maple with a rounded ‘V’ profile. This thin ‘V’ profile will fit comfortably fit in your hand and offers a range of different tones. This model measures 27.5 x 10 x 2 inches and weighs 4 Pounds. Combined with the graceful curves of an authentic F-style body, Grover tuners, and D’Addario strings, you’ve got an instrument that sounds and looks great. The Grover tuning machines make sure it stays in tune no matter how hard you play. If you’re a starter who doesn’t want to start at the bottom of quality, you can step up into this price point.

What stands out? What impressed us most is the ease of handling. The rounded ‘V’ profile thin ensures the neck fits comfortably in your hand so as you can play with ease and comfort.

What cons did we manage to find? This model is relatively heavy for those standing for long periods. This is not a big issue since you can opt to sit or lean on a bench to ease the weight from your shoulders.

RELATED: 10 Best Mandolins under $500 – Fantastic Sounding at Reasonable Price!

Washburn Package Program M3EK F Mandolin PackBest Electric Mandolin

  • Style: F style
  • Number of strings: 6
  • Top material: Spruce
  • Back material: Maple
  • Weight: 5.14 lbs.

More features: comes with a gig bag; PickUp with volume control; pitch pipe; Rosewood fretboard

The next option in mandolins is the Washburn Package Program M3EK F Mandolin Pack. These six-stringed mandolins have a slim neck and measure 41 x 16 x 5 inches, and weighs 5 lbs. It has a bridge-mounted transducer pickup with volume controls. This offers a longer scale that will let you have flexibility. You can have higher and lower tones with great clarity. The fretboard is made from Rosewood, while the soundboard is of spruce.

The back and sides are manufactured using the Maple wood, while the bridge is made from Ebony. The sound that this mandolin produces is warm, crisp, and bright. The headstock inlay features an elegant tobacco sunburst finish that adds a touch of elegance and class to the mandolin. As a bonus, this mandolin comes with a gig bag. This is useful in storing your mandolin safely from dust and water. You can carry it with you without the fear of damaging it.

What are our favorite features? It features a nice matte finish and plays reasonably well. Plus, the bridge height is adjustable, so it is easy to clear up fretting issues. We liked that it also comes with useful accessories like a strap, gig bag, some picks, a little chord book, and a pitch pipe tuner.

What could be better? The Washburn M3EK is the bulkiest mandolin on our list. This doesn’t, however, affect the playability in any way.

Things to Consider

For starters, the mandolin’s small size and simple, basic chord structures make an impressive introduction into the world of making music. This buying guide contains useful tips for experienced guitar or violin players who might want to venture into something new and exciting. Here we discuss a brief history of the mandolin, plus some crucial features to consider when buying one. We wrap it up by answering some of the commonly asked questions people have when shopping for the best beginner mandolin.

History behind mandolins

Mandolin also spelled mandolin, is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family. You play it by plucking with a plectrum. The mandolin evolved in the 18th century in Italy and Germany from the 16th-century mandora as a small, short-necked lute with eight strings.

  • Evolution of the mandolin

Typically, the evolution of today’s mandolin went something like Lyre – Lute – Mandola – Mandolina – Mandolin. Much of mandolin development revolved around the so the top(soundboard). Earlier instruments were quiet, were strung with gut strings, and plucked with the fingers. On the other hand, modern instruments are louder, use metal strings, which exert more pressure than the gut strings.

The modern soundboard can withstand the pressure of metal strings that would break earlier than their predecessors. The top comes in many shapes—but generally round or teardrop-shaped, sometimes with scrolls. There are typically one or more sound holes in the soundboard, either round, oval, or shaped like a calligraphic f (f-hole).
  • Types of mandolin

The three basic types are the Neapolitan or round-backed mandolin, the archtop mandolin, and the flat-backed mandolin. The round-back has a deep bottom, made of strips of wood, and glued together into a bowl. Neapolitan mandolins feature prominently in European classical and traditional music.

The archtop, also called the carved-top mandolin has an arched top and a shallower, arched back carved out of wood. Archtop instruments are most common in American folk music and bluegrass music. The flat-backed mandolin is made of thin sheets of wood for the body, braced on the inside for strength as in a guitar. Flat-backed instruments are most commonly used in Irish, British, and Brazilian folk music. Each style of instrument has its own sound quality and is associated with particular forms of music.

Features to consider before you buy a mandolin

6 Best Mandolins for Any Occasion – The Complete Guide

Mandolins come in many varieties- bowl-backs, flat-backs, A-style, F-style, flat-tops, electrics, 8-string, 4-string, 5-string, resonator, etc. It’s a jungle out there. Your choice will be dictated by how you intend to use your instrument, among other factors. Whether you need to choose the best acoustic-electric mandolin or any other model, we can help you cut through the noise. You must consider the style, back material, top material, number of strings, accessories, and weight. Here are the details.


Most commercially available acoustic mandolins are either A-style or F-style. The A-style features a symmetrical teardrop-shaped body like in the Epiphone MM-30S and the Ibanez, among others on the list. F-style, however, features a decorative scroll on the upper bass side and multiple points sticking out from the body. A-styles are typically the best beginner mandolins in the market. F styles cost about twice as much as a similar quality A style from the same builder. So, choosing between the two is a matter of aesthetics and price.

Number of strings

Most mandolins have four pairs of string, making eight strings in total. Most of the reviews on our list fall in this category except the Washburn Package Program M3EK F Mandolin Pack with six. It doesn’t really matter how many strings your mandolin has; you can still make beautiful music with it.

At the end of the day, the ideal string number really comes down to personal preference.

Top material

Mandolins almost always use different woods for each part. The top (or soundboard) commonly uses spruce or maple material. Most of the products on our review use these two materials for the soundboard. As for the construction, the process uses two techniques- solid, meaning the part was carved out of a single piece of wood. Or laminate, which means various sheets of cheap wood are placed on top of each other.

Skilled players agree that solid construction is the best because a single piece of wood vibrates much more than various layers of wood glued together, thus delivering an overall better sound.

Back material

The backs and sides material of the mandolin are most often made from maple, which is prized for its clarity. Sometimes the sides can also be made with maple or mahogany like in Vangoa and Ibanez models in our review. Trying out as many tonewood combinations as you can get your hands on to find one that fits your style.


You also need to check out the weight of your instrument. It is a factor that you cannot overlook as it indicates the size and volume of the mandolin. Heavier models might tire your shoulders and be a little difficult to carry around. Lighter models, however, are easier to handle and carry, especially if you want to travel with your mandolin. A lightweight model likes the Epiphone MM-30S is ideal if you wish to move or travel often.

6 Best Mandolins for Any Occasion – The Complete Guide


Well-selected accessories for the mandolin will enhance your experience and help to protect your instrument. For instance, the built-in strap pin in the Epiphone MM-30S, which allows you to attach a standard strap, is necessary. It reduces the chances of dropping and damaging the instrument as you play. You can look out for other extra features like picks and tuners, cases and gig bags, extra strings, and a capo.



If you’re not an experienced musician, you’ll find it far easier to tune your mandolin using a tuner. Ensure you get the tuners corresponding to each string. Typically, tuners for the G and D strings are on the upper side of the head, and you will find the tuners for the A and E strings on the lower side of the head. You can start from the lowest pitch and move to the highest. In this case, you’ll be tuning in a clockwise direction around the mandolin’s head. Tune in pairs. Start by tuning each string individually to get the correct pitch easily. You’ll need to use a pick to be sure you can tell precisely which string you’re playing. Then, play the two strings consecutively and listen to see if they sound the same as one another. If one sounds higher or lower, adjust it accordingly until both strings sound together.

Need more information on that? Read an in-detail guide to learn How to Tune a Mandolin.

With a minimal investment, you can get started playing right away with the best cheap mandolin available. To find out what works best, consider your style of play, skill, and your budget. It’s apparent that the F-style has attractive features and pretty designs though at a higher price tag. While many skillful players love it, the average beginner can also try it and learn to use it. The best beginner mandolins with style are simple and also have a relatively affordable price. The simplicity and the design make it the best for anyone who wants to practice the art of playing the mandolin. Ultimately, you want to get the very best mandolin at the lowest price possible.

Don’t know with which mandolin to start? Check out our compilation of the Best Beginner Mandolins.

Our Verdict

If you’re considering any of the mandolins on our review, we have three that we’d love to recommend. Our Editor’s Choice is Mandolin Acoustic-Electric Mandolin by Vangoa. This mandolin is well-built and has a compact appearance. It has an adjustable truss rod inside its neck, which maintains the mandolin in tune. It comes with lots of accessories too. Our Premium Choice is Eastman MD305. The gear tuning machine is chrome plated and offers amazing intonation with effortless tuning. With a pearl dot inlay, you get great precision for fingering. The Best Value goes to Epiphone MM-30S is the most budget-friendly yet effective option on our list. It’s light and portable and a perfect piece for beginners. You may also want to try the other brands and versions of mandolins reviewed under this list. Whatever your choice, ensure it meets your musical goals and taste. Hoping this guide helps you make an informed buying decision by hunting for the best mandolin out there. Happy plucking!

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