2008 Kentucky KM-505 Archtop A-Style Mandolin

At $500 new with a gigbag, the Chinese-made KM-505 is a tremendously good buy in the world of modern, new mandolins. As you might expect, new and out-of-the-box -- just like any other import instrument -- these will need a good setup to get them playing their best. After that's done, though? You have a carved-top, carved-back, solid-woods instrument with plenty of volume and punch and all the modern "A-5" trappings -- radiused board, lots of fret access, nitro finish, and good looks. The craftsmanship on these is clean, crisp, and to the point and it certainly doesn't feel, look, and act like its price-point.

The story on this one is that it's lightly-used with only a bit of tarnish on the tailpiece cover, basically, to tell you that it's not something that's just been hanging on a shop's wall. A customer of mine sent this in for sale and my work was simply to give it a good cleaning and setup. It plays on-the-dot at 1/16" bass and hair-under 1/16" treble action at the 12th fret, has a straight neck (with plenty of adjustment via the truss rod), and frets with only the most minor of kisses as far as wear goes. In short: it's ready to roll.

Tonally this instrument features that choppy, somewhat woody, chunky bluegrass sound. It has plenty of cut, too, considering the fact that I had to back it off another foot or so than usual from my mic for the soundclip which is something I usually expect to do only for resonator banjos.

Binding all over steps-up the feel of this instrument.

Ebony board, pearl dots, and vintage-ish smaller frets. This adds up to a "Gibson" feel.

The ebony, adjustable bridge is nicely-fitted as well.

The f-holes aren't as laser-clean as something like a Collings or Weber, but they're just as good as any old Gibson f-hole A-models I've handled.

The back, sides, and neck are all hugely-flamed maple with a sunburst finish. Pretty eye-catching, no?

The tuners work just fine.

It comes with its original gigbag.

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