There are a lot of different companies that manufacture, distribute and/or sell mandolins, so it can be confusing for musicians to pick an instrument that is best for their needs. That is why MandolinBrands.com was created – to help both beginners and long-time musicians figure out which brand and model of mandolin is right for them.
Ultimately, your skill level as a player and your budget will drastically affect which “mando” you’ll want to buy. Ask yourself which is more important to you – a quality sound or a stylish look. Some mandolins will offer both great sound and design, but the more lavishly designed it is, the more expensive it will be. With that said, you can actually buy one that sounds amazing for a very affordable price.
Take a look at our recommendations for the best brands of mandolins for various skill levels and budgets to help find the right one for you. We’ve picked out our favorites for different price levels below. View all mandolin brands »
Every musician needs essential gear to play their best and keep their instruments in top shape. Take a look at our recommended accessories here to make sure you have everything necessary to improve your skills. View all mandolin accessories »
A-Style vs F-Style Mandolins
There are two main kinds of these instruments available – the F-Style and the A-Style. There are a lot of people that claim that F-Styles sound better, but this is really not true unless it is simply made with better craftsmanship and design. Ultimately, the main difference between the two styles is how they look.
A-Style is typically a very plain and basic mandolin. The body, neck and tailpiece will not have intricate carvings, designs, materials or inlays. On the other end of that spectrum is the F-Style, which is often very ornately designed. The lower end F-Styles will typically feature intricate carving details on the body, neck and/or tailpiece. As you approach higher end F-Style mandolins, you’ll see more ornate embellishments like abalone pearl inlays, ivoroid bindings and more premium materials used in the construction and hardware.
Acoustic or Electric?
After you figure out what style of mandolin you want, the last main choice that you need to make is whether to play acoustic or electric. There are a few pros and cons for each type, so which one you choose will really depend on your personal preference and needs.
If you can find an electric and acoustic version of the same mandolin, the acoustic model will always be cheaper by roughly 25%. Electric mandolins cost more because they have additional hardware and electronics. They will also be slightly heavier. With acoustics, the shape and overall design are important because they will affect how loud the instrument will be able to play. Also consider whether you’ll be playing alone in a quiet setting or whether there will be other noise such as people or other instruments in a band. When there is a lot of other noise, acoustics can struggle to be heard, so electrics are often the better choice for those situations.