A mandolin is perhaps one of the most unique yet iconic stringed instruments out there. Whereas we don’t tend to see them as commonly as we would a guitar or bass guitar, you’ll know when you hear one and the sound is simply out of this world.
Learning to play mandolin takes discipline and patience, just like any other instrument; but you’re going to need the right tools for the job. This means getting a mandolin that’s best for you. Of course, if you’re starting out, you’re probably not going to want to jump straight in with a mandolin that costs thousands of dollars.
Instead, you’ll want an affordable one where you can start learning to play and practicing some of the techniques all without breaking the bank. Of course, an entry level mandolin costing $250 would be seen as quick expensive, whereas a professional level one at that price would seem like an amazing deal.
All in all, you’re going to want the best mandolin you can afford that suits your budget and can see you all the way through your beginner stage and into the upper ends of the intermediate levels, which is how we’re going to help you today.
We’ve searched the market far and wide on the lookout for the best and most affordable mandolins and narrowed down our selection to just four of the best. We’ve taken everything you’ll be thinking about in account, giving you all the information you need to make the right purchasing decision for you.
Savannah SA-100-BK A-Model Mandolin
Starting off our list, we’ve chosen this beautiful and incredibly affordable mandolin from Savannah. This is a beautiful instrument that sounds as good as it looks, making it ideal for musicians of any skill level to enjoy and play.
The body of this mandolin is crafted using hard maple which is both durable and minimizes the risk of unwanted vibrations and feedback. It also helps to produce a beautiful resonation that creates a captivating sound you and your audience are going to love.
This level of quality continues with a premium-quality rosewood fretboard which is joined on the 12th fret. This means the join is out of the way for the majority of traditional music you’ll be playing, but you won’t even notice where the two parts met once it had been connected together.
We also love the fact that you can adjust the compensated bridge. This means you can further tweak and customize the sound you’re producing which makes this the ideal mandolin for experimenting. While there is a join, it’s worth noting that this mandolin was delivered as one piece and fully strung.
However, it’s worth noting that you’re probably going to want to tune it before you start playing because you’ll probably find yours pretty much as far out of tune as it could get. Once you get it right, the sound is absolutely beautiful, especially when you consider this is such a low price tag, making it one of the best mandolins available today!
- Beautiful rosewood fret; joined at the 12th fret
- Durable and reliable hard maple neck and body that’s built to last
- Comes all connected and strung ready to play
- The incredibly affordable price tag
- Needs to be tuned as soon as it arrives
Kentucky KM-140 Standard A-Model Mandolin – Sunburst
Kentucky is one of the best and most well-known manufacturers in the mandolin industry, coveted for the quality of their instruments and the stunning sound they produce. This Sunburst A-Model mandolin is no exception to this rule.
In terms of build quality, this mandolin is crafted from a spruce top with maple back and sides. This is an industry standard combination of wood which provides a reliable and durable build that can stand the test of time.
Even holding the instrument in your hands, you’ll be able to feel just how well made it is, and how the connections and joints feel sturdy and secure. In fact, every part of this mandolin is designed to the highest quality. For example, take the tuning mechanisms. They’re easy to use, reliable, and made from nickel-plated hardware that doesn’t corrode over time and comes with a nitrocellulose high-gloss finish that ensures they look and feel great!
However, when you get to playing the instrument, that’s when it really comes to life. The sound is incredibly captivating, and although this may be the most expensive mandolin on this list, you can really tell the difference in the sound.
The volume’s good, the tone is good, and there’s no noticeable rattling or vibration while you’re playing. The only real downside is the fact that you’ll need to tune and tighten everything up when it arrives, so it’s set up properly and ready to go! All in all, it’s easy to see why this is considered one of the best mandolins out there!
- Spruce and maple wood combination for a high-quality build
- Produces a beautiful sound with a clear tone
- No rattling, humming or unwanted vibrations
- Great volume while maintaining its clarity
- The premium price tag
- Requires setting up when it first arrives with you
Washburn M1SDLB A-Style Mandolin (Black)
This next incredibly affordable mandolin that we’ve chosen next comes with everything you could possibly want from a mandolin and falls right in the middle on low-budget and a professional-quality instrument. This, of course, means it’s suitable for musicians of any skill level.
The mandolin is designed with the traditional and iconic A-style shape which helps it look great, as well as producing the legendary mandolin sound we’ve all grown to love over the years. This particular model then goes on to include the classic spruce top with maple back and sides.
This means you can play safely in the knowledge that you’re producing the best sound possible (since this is what this wood combination is used for), all while minimizing the risk of unwanted noise, feedback, or vibration.
However, what really stands out about this mandolin is the attention to detail that’s been taken during the production process, even though it’s been manufactured in China. For example, the bridge has been positioned perfectly, ensuring that the binding is dead straight and finished to a professional level.
As you can see on the body of this mandolin, you’ll also receive oval holes, rather than the uber-classic ‘f’ shaped holes. This creates a whole new dynamic when it comes to the tone of your sound, ultimately emulating some of the more traditional Italian mandolin sounds.
Nevertheless, to achieve this high-quality sound, you’re going to want to replace the strings as soon as you get your mandolin, but these can be found affordably online or through your local music store. Then you’ll see this mandolin tunes so smoothly and accurately and seems to hold its tune for a long period of time, even through excessive amounts of play.
- Traditional oval-shaped holes in the body for a unique tonal dynamic when playing
- Uses the classic spruce and wooden maple combination of materials
- A really high-quality build that’s designed to last
- Captivating sound with no vibration or unwanted noises
- Poor-quality strings (replace as the first thing you do)
Kentucky KM-252 Artist A-Model Mandolin – Transparent Amber
To conclude our list, we’ve opted for another Kentucky mandolin, simply because they’re so good for the price that they’re selling for. There really is everything you could possibly want or need in a mandolin, regardless of your personal skill level.
As we’ve already established, this mandolin uses the best kind of materials which include a Sitka spruce top with maple back and sides. This particular model also uses maple wood for the neck, which tends to be far more durable and long-lasting compared to rosewood.
However, this does mean that this mandolin is slightly heavier than the rest. The fingerboard has remained rosewood though, which feels great under our fingers and you can easily slide up and down to get the chords and notes you’re looking for.
What you’ll ultimately adore about this mandolin more than anything is the aesthetic. As the title suggests, this is known as Transparent Amber, which has been completed with a beautiful finish. If you’re anything like us, you’ll instantly fall in love with this mandolin the moment you hold it for the first time.
You’ll also really like that the mandolin also comes ready pieced together and strung, although you’re probably going to need to tune it as the first thing you do before you start playing in order to achieve the best sound.
Since you’re paying a bit more, you really are paying for quality where the little details have been taken care of because there really is nothing bad to say about this mandolin! If you’re looking to get things right the first time, this is the mandolin for you!
- A stunning transparent amber finish you’ll fall in love with
- Sitka spruce top with maple back and sides
- Produces a truly amazing sound
- Durable build with maple neck and sleek rosewood fingerboard
- Will need to be tuned when you first get your mandolin
Whether you’re trying mandolin for the first time, or you’re simply replacing or upgrading your existing instrument, there are plenty of affordable options out there for you where you won’t need to break the bank.
Any of the four mandolins we’ve listed above will make idea choices, so simply select the one that best suits you, and get ready to enjoy your new favorite instrument.