The Top 5 Mandolins For Beginners Reviewed
Mandolins are a kind of lute with a short, stubby neck and eight strings. They create an interesting sound and are used all over the world to play all sorts of musical styles.
Choosing the mandolin that’s right for you, however, can be a challenge. Not only do mandolins come in a variety of styles and constructions, but their quality varies considerably.
If you’re in the market for a beginner mandolin, you’ve come to the right place.
We’re going to take a look at some of the best beginner mandolins on the market today, enabling you to make the right choice.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Best Beginner Mandolins
When Donner was developing their A Style Mandolin, it’s clear that they had simplicity in mind. That’s not to say that the product itself is simple – far from it. It’s that the company decided to include all of the gear and accessories that you need to go with your mandolin alongside the instrument itself. You get chrome tuner keys, PVC pickguard, and case without having to buy these as extra.
Donner is keen to highlight the meticulous process it uses to create its mandolin. The company claims that it carefully screens all the wood that it uses, makes use of exclusive drying processes, and uses expert artisans to sculpt its products. Of course, this is all rather hard to believe, given the low cost of the unit, but there’s no denying that the hand-feel is good. The distance between the frets and the strings is comfortable, and you get the sense that whoever put the mandolin together knew what they were doing.
The sound quality of the A Style lacks compared to premium mandolins – this is an unmistakably entry-level product. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider it if you’re a beginner. After all, you’re probably still working out whether playing the mandolin is something that you want to do long term.
The Donner A Style is a surprisingly approachable mandolin. The small neck makes it easy to fit your hand around (if you have little hands), and in many ways, it’s easier to operate than a traditional guitar. The frets feel firm, and if you ignore the sound quality, you rarely get the impression that you’re strumming on a budget instrument. The tactile feedback is good, in our opinion.
If you’re considering buying the Donner A Style, try to look past the company’s marketing blurb about careful material selection and craftsmanship. It’s not appropriate for what the product is. Instead, look at the price-to-value ratio. You’re paying for a product that will produce a passable sound while allowing you to test out mandolin-playing for yourself. If you enjoy it then great: save your pennies and splurge on something better in the future.
- 1.8-string traditional a style Mandolin in glossy Sunburst finish, suited for all styles of music.
- 2.Right-hand design, smooth and accurate, Mahogany body bring you richer and brighter sound.
- 3.Chrome plated open gear tuners and tailpiece, and adjustable Truss Rod inside the neck.
- 4.Extra Accessories: Comes with gig bag, strings, digital clip-on tuner , polishing cloth and guitar picks.
- 5.30 Days Unconditional Money Back Guarantee Backed Up By Our Awesome Customer Support, you can rest assured to buy our products.
If you’ve not heard of Vangoa before, then you’re not alone. The company only began in 2017 and is committed to creating low-cost instruments in – you guessed it – China.
Not surprisingly, Vangoa is doing everything that it can to grab attention and steal market share from some of the better-known brands. The most obvious of these is the striking red-stained wood effect on the front of its A Style. The deep hues and glossy finish make this mandolin look like a distinctly premium product even though it’s not.
Is it any good for beginners? First thing’s first: if looks appeal to and make you want to play, then the Vangoa A Style has you covered. The glossy finish combined with the chrome knobs looks ridiculously good for an entry-level product.
The engravings are surprisingly beautiful too, and the jack pins and tone knobs completing the look. The Vangoa comes with a similar assortment of accessories as the Donner A Style, making it something you can pick up and play out of the box.
You also have the option of playing the Vangoa either plugged in or acoustically, allowing you to experiment with a variety of sounds. The plug-in options make this a budget-friendly mandolin you may be able to play at a full-scale venue in the future – assuming you practice enough.
What Vangoa has achieved with the A Style is nothing short of miraculous. The company has managed to enter a market in which it has little experience and develop a product of high quality at a low price point. It feels disruptive, but it had to be: Vangoa had a task on its hands dislodging the incumbents.
It’s hard not to recommend this mandolin to beginners.
- ✔ 8 strings traditional a style mandolin in glossy red sunburst finish can be suitable for all styles of music.
- ✔ Right handed mandolin with mahogany Body and solid wood bridge brings a warmer and brighter sound to you.
- ✔ Chrome plated closed gear tuners and tailpiece is to keep the mandolin always in tune and adjusting the strings easier.
- ✔ The mandolin comes with guitar picks, Vangoa sticker, digital clip-on tuner, extra strings, strap and padded gig bag, which is perfect for beginner.
- ✔ Warranty: Our acoustic electric mandolin also automatically comes with a full one-year warranty that protects against any damage or defects. Buy it with confidence.
If you spend some time acquainting yourself with Rogue’s marketing material for the RM-100A, you soon get a sense of what the company wanted to achieve with the product. The aim was to build a product that made use of a variety of premium materials to reassure buyers that the product they were buying would survive the test of time.
The neck is made of maple and the fingerboard of rosewood. All of the metallic components are chrome, adding durability and reassuring you that you haven’t wasted your money on something cheap and nasty.
That’s not to say that that there aren’t issues: you could still experience problems with your Rogue. For instance, there’s a tendency for the bridge to be a little too close to the neck, making playing for beginners awkward. You can loosen the strings and slide the bridge back a little to get around this, but it’s all extra hassle. Another issue is the onboard sound dampening after strumming loudly – it’s practically non-existent. If you want to cut down feedback, you’ll have to make a DIY mute from fabric.
The Rogue RM-100A is excellent for people who have played a lot of guitar in the past and want to see whether the mandolin is an instrument for them. It’s much less expensive than buying a Gibson or equivalent to find out whether it’s something that you want to take up long term.
- Maple neck
- Rosewood fingerboard
- Adjustable compensated rosewood bridge
- 12th-fret neck joint
- Chrome tuning machines
The Ibanez M510DVS is an interesting purchase. The good thing about this mandolin is build quality. Ibanez wanted to assuage customers’ concern that they were just buying a cheap wooden box with a few strings attached, and it achieves that.
The instrument doesn’t produce the sound quality of some of the more prestigious brands in the industry, but you’re never in any doubt that the construction is top-notch.
The main gripe is the quality of the strings. Most experienced players will find that they lack responsiveness and produce an inferior sound quality to more mainstream products. For beginners that might not be a problem, but it’s certainly something to consider if you plan on keeping your Ibanez for a long time.
Many people in the Ibanez community know about the string problem and have come up with a simple solution: buy Ibanez for the quality of the unit itself and then replace the strings. The result is a much better sound and something that the company should consider doing straight out of the box.
The Ibanez is still very much a safe investment. You wouldn’t buy this product if you were sure that you’d still be playing the Mandolin in ten years. But it’s a great way to scratch that itch and try a mandolin for yourself before dropping the big bucks.
- A-style mandolin
- Select spruce top
- Mahogany back & sides
- Chrome hardware
- Pearl Dot Inlay
When Hola was deigning their A-Style mandolin, it’s clear that they had portability in mind. They wanted to create something that would provide a stepping stone to a Gibson or Fender while allowing the player to travel with it.
The Hola comes with a helpful built-in strap pin to which you can attach a standard strap for strumming while standing up. There’s also a stylish black ABS pickguard to protect the woodwork from errant and overzealous strumming. And there’s an adjustment walnut bridge you can move up and down to get the sound you want.
The good news is that the mandolin performs well in practically every area, given the price. It feels like a real instrument capable of going the distance, no matter how good your playing gets.
The bad news is the tendency for it to sometimes go out of tune, thanks to the lack of adjustability of the turning heads. The other issue is the slight rattle you experience when strumming hard. If you’re a beginner, you might assume that this is just part and parcel of playing the mandolin, but experienced players know that it’s not. The loudness of the instrument drowns out the rattling, but only slightly.
Should you buy the Hola A Style? If you’re not all that bothered about sound quality and just want to learn the basics on playing the mandolin, then go ahead. The Hola is the perfect stop-gap product that lets you test out whether the mandolin is for you before you splash out on something more elaborate. If you’re more interested in quality or you want to have an electric option, then consider other mandolins in this review.
- 8-string traditional A style Mandolin in glossy Sunburst finish
- Maple top, back, sides and neck. Adjustable compensated Rosewood bridge
- Adjustable Truss Rod inside the neck - wrench included
- 20 silver nickel frets. Chrome plated open gear tuners and tailpiece
- Black ABS pickguard. White ABS binding around body, neck and head
This video gives a great introduction to the mandolin, and gives some background information about the instrument: