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The 'Bird is back; Epiphone has reissued the Mandobird.


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I'm not entirely sure about "back by popular demand," but the 'Bird is definitely back. Maybe Epiphone saw some of the prices for originals on Reverb, and decided to cash in?

 

Mandobird IV

 

I have one of the original Mandobird IV's, and while it's much more than a novelty item, it's not exactly a Pro-quality Instrument, either.

 

The new version looks almost exactly like mine, except for the PU covers on the RI model. They look much more like the Firebird's mini-HB's now.

 

At $400US, pretty much everywhere, it's not exactly an impulse item, but . . . it's definitely eye-catching, and I think it's fun to play.

 

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Cool. Might be just the thing to throw a little extra color into a jam or collaboration... ;) 

How does yours  sound with anything other than straight-up clean tones? Overdive, distortion, fuzz... ? Any good, or strictly a clean machine?

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I saw that.  Trogly is in my YouTube feed and he reviewed one this weekend.  Unfortunately he doesn’t know how to play mando.  He tuned it like a bass guitar and did guitar stuff with it.  It looks fun. 

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1 hour ago, Caevan O’Shite said:

Cool. Might be just the thing to throw a little extra color into a jam or collaboration... ;) 

How does yours  sound with anything other than straight-up clean tones? Overdive, distortion, fuzz... ? Any good, or strictly a clean machine?


Well the tone wasn’t great.  Partly the string gauges may need to be altered for this tuning.  Plus I never like Trogly’s tone that much when playing a real guitar … but that is just me.  Not a knock on Trogly, I love what he does.      He shows all the internals and gives his thoughts.  
 

 

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I have to say, if I'd been shipped a brand-new Instrument with a chip like that out of the fretboard, that would be the entire demo video, period. Of course, I never buy a Guitar, or any Stringed Instrument that I haven't already held in my hands, so . . .

 

He's right, it's not a Tone Machine, by any measure. It takes a bit of tweaking to get quite one right, depending on the feel you're looking for. You'll definitely spend some time adjusting the intonation, and probably the string height. IDK if Epiphone has a pre-packaged string set for these, as yet, but if not, GHS should have a set for the Eastwood Mandocaster, which will give you two sets of strings for a Mandobird IV.

 

I can't see the point of trying to tune it like a Guitar? That's just lazy, sorry. I tune mine G-D-A-D, low to high; it's a common "alternate" tuning for a Mandolin. If you're used to playing in DADGAD, it's not a difficult transition, particularly if you're playing single-note lines. Mandolin chords are challenging for the thick-fingered, to say the least. However, if you've ever been curious about Robert Fripp's New Standard Tuning for Guitar, a book of Mandolin chords will get you started.

 

I'm not sure if they'll reissue the 8-string model without some serious thought, and possibly a re-design. The biggest advantage of the 4-string model over the 8-string is that the 4-string has individual bridge saddles, while the 8-string had a single bar-style saddle, which made it impossible to intonate each course of strings.

 

Mine has a neck plate, no binding, dot inlays, and a PU that resembles a Fender Bass PU. There's no truss rod in the originals, so that may be the only significant upgrade to the newer model. FWIW, the neck on mine is nice and straight, no warping, no bowing. Can't speak to any difference in the PU's without sitting down to A/B mine against a newer model, but I might do that later this month and report back.

 

It's definitely more fun run through effects, no surprise, and a decent MFX with Amp Modeling is your friend, although some players have been very happy running them conventional Guitar Combo Amps. IME, the more tone-shaping options, the better.

 

Would I seriously recommend one? Like I already said, at $400+/-, it's not an impulse item, but it might be different enough, and entertaining enough, to be worth having. I would strongly recommend playing one, before buying it, as much to look for QC issues as for feel. If you were dedicated to finding a Mandolin, I'd say keep looking, see if you can find a decent A/E Mandolin, instead.

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My luthier was unable to fix the basic flaws of this instrument. I lived with its limitations for a while, then gave up and sold it. I also got rid of my Airline Electric Mandola from Eastman around the same time. Ultimately, I concluded that Electric Mandolins are a poor idea, especially if single course, but I think I had the Epi 8-string version. Warren Ellis will of course disagree with my assessment of the relevance of electric members of the mando family.

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On 7/6/2024 at 7:08 PM, Mark Schmieder said:

My luthier was unable to fix the basic flaws of this instrument. I lived with its limitations for a while, then gave up and sold it. I also got rid of my Airline Electric Mandola from Eastman around the same time. Ultimately, I concluded that Electric Mandolins are a poor idea, especially if single course, but I think I had the Epi 8-string version. Warren Ellis will of course disagree with my assessment of the relevance of electric members of the mando family.

 

@Mark Schmieder -- It seems that the players who were most disappointed with the original 'Bird had the 8-string model.

 

I would have to have to say again, if someone were looking for a good Mandolin, the 'Bird isn't that. They'd be much better off with a good quality A/E Mandolin, in every regard. OTOH, I'm not sure that the 'Bird was really made for Mandolin players, so much as to appeal to Guitarists looking for something slightly different, but easily approachable.

 

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https://thewinstonpsmithproject.bandcamp.com

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Interesting observation, and perhaps its role is better fit for that of electric tenor guitar, simply with different string voicing.

 

As the flaws my luthier couldn't fix due to physical limitations of the body and parts (even after swapping some parts), were specifically related to the double-course nature of the 8-string model, I can see that maybe the 4-string Mando didn't suffer such severe flaws and could better be appreciated for what it is.

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FWIW

 

If you want something decent, a lot of us played Mandocasters.  I want to say they started popping up in the 90s.  They may have been around longer.  I think they began getting popular when country bands started covering Copperhead Road and Newgrass music started to cross over into Country.  I know Eastman makes one.  I don't know anything about the Eastman but they make very good acoustic Mandolins for the money.   

 

Gold Tone is another lower cost import I would trust.  I like both companies.  

 

Mandocasters can be found in many 4 and 8 string models.

 

Here is an Eastman.

https://eastwoodguitars.com/products/mandocaster?variant=34599870724

 

PS:  I was curious so I googled Mandocaster.  Fender was building Mandocasters in 1956 thru 1976.  

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"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Oh heck.   Yeah.  Eastman electrics are $1300-1400.   

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"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Yeah I had that Eastwood model for a while. Fairly good company overall but I just couldn't find an application for electric vs. acoustic mandolin in my work.

 

Gold Tone is an excellent company. Sometimes I buy their instruments as placeholders until something better and more high-end comes along, but I have yet to be disappointed in anything they make. Although I recently sold my mandocello, I love their 8-string Hawai'ian lap steel guitar and Irish tenor banjo, as well as their version of the Weissenborn acoustic lap steel. I would have bought their Beard signature resonator had I not lucked out and found a used high-end Paul Beard for half price. Gold Tone makes a lot of one-of-a-kind stuff as well.

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Select Strat, 70th Anniversary Esquire, LP 57, Eastman T486, T64, Ibanez PM2, Hammond XK4, Moog Voyager

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