Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome

There is an illness among musicians known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or GAS. That’s where you go through a sudden jag of buying gear in search of the elusive instrument, pedal, speaker or whatever that will make you Special. It is an expensive and painful malady.

I’ve managed to avoid GAS through most of my playing time — in fact, I’ve openly mocked it and search for gear based on specs and appearance rather than brand name — but it looks like the mando finally has gotten me. I have the derivative of GAS known as MAS — Mandolin Acquisition Syndrome. Given what some mandos cost, that can be a very expensive thing indeed, but I think I’m done with acquiring for now and I’ve gotten some good value.

I’ve got three mandos now — a plywood Washburn that I bought cheap and already is caving in a little on top, a Michael Kelly A-Solid I bought used, and my most recent acquisition, a Loar LM-520.

Loar LM-520The last one is a blem — it has two tiny finish flaws that I probably never would have noticed if I hadn’t extensively looked for them — and I got it at more than $200 off the price of a new, perfect one. This particular mandolin is extremely well-reviewed — it’s basically a working guy’s F-style mando, patterned after old Gibson designs but largely free of bling that adds to the cost (and admittedly, the prettiness). I am really happy with it.

The Loar is louder and has a more balanced tone than the A-solid, which is a notch bright and sounds a little “small” to me, and of course the F-style design has all the little scrimshaws and scrolls that add nothing to the sound but just look cool. The Loar also has an internal pickup and an endpin jack for stage work, but I’ll have to get a little active DI box before I can take advantage of that.

My plan is to donate the Washburn and keep the Kelly and the Loar. That should be all the mandolin I need for many years to come unless I get really good or just have to have an oval hole model, which is something that definitely can wait. But I think my days of MAS are over for now.


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