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Looking for an electric mandolin but aren’t sure what’s out there? Well whether you’re after the highest quality option or a budget friendly mandolin to start out practicing, we’ve found the best options for you.
Read on & find your perfect beginner friendly electric mandolin today.
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Ibanez M510E Electro Acoustic Mandolin – Best Overall
- A-style teardrop shape
- Spruce top
- Mahogany back and sides
- Maple neck
- Purpleheart fretboard and bridge
- 30mm saddle width
- Magnetic pickup
- Volume and tone controls
- Brown Sunburst color
The Ibanez M510E is an electro-acoustic mandolin made of Sapele and spruce materials.
This model features a spruce top, mahogany back and sides, as well as a maple neck. The bridge and fingerboard are made of rosewood, hence its slightly darker brown hue.
It has a magnetic pickup in the mouth position, shaped like an A, but with openings in F in the style of the violin. It has chrome tuners and volume and tone control.
This mandolin is our overall best model as it is inexpensive – an under $300 product, produces great sound, has excellent workmanship, and can be used for recording.
Regarding the sound, the mandolin sounds full and good, unamplified and amplified, when mandolin chords are played.
However, this does not apply to solo play: The a and e strings sound entirely different, and the single-coil is also not as loud as the g and d.
The workmanship is good, but there are a few things that we have to complain about.
The mandolin can be played without a strap, but it is more comfortable with a strap. A second belt pin is missing. However, you can screw this on at the end of the neck on the body (but be careful).
The hole for the screw must be pre-drilled. Otherwise, the thin neck would break. The mandolin may get out of tune even after the strings have been played. The tuning of the strings is very delicate. That means it requires a little more time than with the guitar. The negative here is that the strings suddenly “slip” upwards by half a tone when tuning so that they have to be corrected downwards again.
However, the price-performance ratio of the mandolin is excellent. The workmanship is not the trump card, but a solid spruce top and back and sides made of mahogany wood, plus a single-coil pickup, are simply a good starting point.
A beginner can also use this mandolin. The sound without amplification is good, and the mandolin is also loud enough in smaller rooms.
There is nothing wrong with the quality of the instrument. You have smooth mechanisms, trouble-free rotary knobs, and a stable bridge.
If you want to amplify the mandolin electrically, you should know that a magnetic pickup rarely reproduces the brilliance of an acoustic instrument as one hears it in nature. As compensation, you can and should edit the sound with effects.
There are so many models out there, including much cheaper ones, but the Ibanez mandolin is highly recommended.
Guitarists don't need to be afraid of the violin tuning and the fifth row, as mandolin fingerings are easy to find on the Internet.
What we didn't like
The body’s finish seems like it’s printed and may not be durable. The tuners could also be better. They are a source of many users’ frustration.
The mandolin is suitable for home use, studio recordings as well as the big stage. Anyone who is a guitarist would like to have the mandolin sound for one or the other song.
- Great price
- Ideal for studio recording
- You can connect it to amplification systems
- It can be used with recorders
- Poor body finishing
- Frustrating tuners
Ortega RMFE40SBK – Premium Option
- 8-string F-style mandolin
- Electroacoustic mandolin
- Spruce top; maple neck, back, and sides
- Rosewood fretboard and bridge
- Chrome-plated mechanisms
- Piezo pickup
- Gigbag and strap
Designed in satin black, this beautiful mandolin from Ortega is a premium model. It impresses us with its good quality and easy playability.
The black satin finish rounds off the appearance. A spruce top and maple back and sides give the mandolin an authentic, full sound.
The built-in pickup also cuts a fine figure on stage or in the studio. This model is more than twice expensive than the much inexpensive Ibanez model we first reviewed. However, the price to performance ratio is excellent!
Almost all the downsides of the Ibanez M510E are inexistent here. The mandolin comes with a premium quality gig bag, two years of warranty, and a 30-day return back guarantee, should you find it unsatisfying your needs or not meeting your expectations.
This is an F-Style mandolin with a built-in piezo bridge. Its maple and spruce construction gives it versatility, bright sound, and an immersive sustain.
Also, the sleek satin finish gives it a silky and smooth feel. The black finish also makes it stand out, especially for those who love vintage-styled instruments.
The maple body and spruce top gives the device a beautiful tonal combination. These help it arrive at a bright, dynamic, and articulate sound.
The neck and fingerboard are made of wooden materials. The neck is finished in satin, and the fingerboard is made of rosewood. The nut width measures 28 millimeters, and the inlays have Ortega’s 12th Fret Double Bow
The scale length of the neck and fingerboard measures around 345 millimeters.
The electric mandolin is very compact in size, portable, and transportable. It has dimensions of just 27.5 x 12.5 x 5 inches and a weight of 2.7 pounds.
The instrument features Ortega tuners and is chrome plated. The pickup has an under-saddle piezo. The mandolin uses a set of CR2 batteries, which is included in the package.
The body of the Ortega Mandolin acts as a resonator. Your sound waves will reverberate around the body, projecting them all out via the holes and into the entire room.
This results in a clear, high-volume, but natural sound.
What We Didn't Like
The satin finish gets easily scratched. For its premium price, we expected a better finish.
The Ortega RMFE40SBK is classy and stage-ready. It’s a mandolin that will be most ideal for players who need a mastery of folk. It’s also suitable for big venues, thanks to the clear, natural, and high-volume sound.
- Piezo pickup sounds great
- Great overall tone and playability
- High tuning stability
- Stylish, satin, black finish
- Feels silky and smooth
- Very expensive
- Satin finish easily gets scratched
- Tailpiece cover falls off often
Tanglewood TWM T BKP E – Budget Choice
- Spruce and linden body
- Teardrop design
- Black glossy finish
- Single undersaddle pickup
- 2-year warranty
Tanglewood is a relatively young company in the market compared to other well-known manufacturers of stringed instruments. Founded in 1990 by Dirk Kommer, they manufacture pretty much anything that can make strings sound. Electric guitars, basses, resonator guitars, and even more exotic instruments such as ukuleles, banjos, or mandolins are part of the wide range of products from the company from Biggin Hill, UK.
The best known and most popular are undoubtedly the electric mandolins from Tanglewood, which are available in stores as pure “folk” instruments with vintage and modern finishes.
And despite their English origins (and without any Far Eastern influences), these instruments offer a desirable price-performance ratio.
This typically applies to our budget model, the Tanglewood TWM T BKP E, which has a lot compared to many other options.
The mandolin has a teardrop design with ‘F-holes. It has an undersaddle pickup which delivers extra volume and great tone with an amplifier. The linden body further gives it a brighter and pronounced tone as the sound can reverberate well.
Unlike the TWMF Tanglewood model, which has a sunburst vintage finish, this model is finished in a black glossy design with binding of white. These thus create a stunning aesthetical look.
Part of the Tanglewood Union Series, this electric mandolin is a unique, meticulously crafted, and attractive folk instrument. It is made available at a much more affordable price than the Tanglewood TWMF model, which we will see next.
Any player would be able to increase its volume while retaining the instrument’s natural tone. And this is thanks to its single under-saddle pickup.
Except for the somewhat undifferentiated sound in the bass range, the Tanglewood model leaves a very positive impression. The instrument is very well made and, with its moderate, teardrop neck profile and rather delicate body, offers a good basis for fatigue-free playing.
The mandolin also has a surprisingly high basic volume and loads of sustain, which is, of course, due to the full spruce and linden construction.
What We Didn't Like
There’s a tendency towards undifferentiated sound in the bass range. Also, the marketing of the product is more targeted to the UK market and Europe.
This product is for players who need excellent playability and exceptional tone while they strum their folk tunes or medieval type bard songs.
Strumming some new folk tunes or delving into some medieval-style bard songs, this mandolin will provide you with exceptional tone and smooth playability.
- Ideal for folk players
- Smooth playability
- Exceptional tone
- Inexpensive mandolin
- Elixir strings from the factory
- It comes completely set up on delivery
- Undifferentiated sound in the bass range
Tanglewood TWMF VSE – Best For Performing
- Spruce and linden body
- Vintage Sunburst Finish
- Slim fingerboard
- F-shaped body
- ABS ivory binding
- Chrome tailpiece
- Single coil pickup
The TWMF VSE is a mandolin with an f-shaped body in a nice sunburst color. It’s also made by Tanglewood, the English manufacturer of musical instruments, which specializes in creating affordable instruments with an excellent price-quality ratio.
Like the Tanglewood TWM T BKP E, the sides and back are made of linden wood. However, it is a much more expensive version in the TWM range from Tanglewood, partly due to the much more stylish and premium vintage sunburst finish.
The instrument is constructed to befit an on-the-go performer. It has small, compact, and light dimensions. The nut width measures 30mm, and it has a 38mm Width 12th Fret.
The scale length is 350mm in measurement, and the scale length is 350 mm. The thickness of the neck is 22.5mm, and the body width measures 258mm in maximum. The body depth at the edge and center is 45 mm and 70 mm, respectively.
While the body length is 359 mm, it measures 678 mm in overall length.
With this model, Tanglewood looks to bringing good-quality and affordable mandolin instruments to all types and experience levels of players. It’s well-built, easy to use, and sounds excellent.
The mandolin is robust, executed with beautiful details, and has a built-in microphone. It has high-quality construction, an acoustic tone, and a smooth-feeling finish that looks just so aesthetic.
The body and bridge have a basic scroll cutaway with GDAE tuning. The top is made of spruce, while the back and sides are made of quality linden.
The beige is fully adjustable and made of rosewood, just like the fingerboard.
There are 5-millimeter white dot inlays made of ABS plastic, and the scale length measures 350mm or 13.8inches.
The machine heads are made of chrome and Pearloid buttons, while the tailpiece is also chromed.
Despite the low price, you get an instrument with all the elements that a good mandolin should have.
You get a body and neck in linden wood, a slim fingerboard, and an f-shaped body, which is comfortable and easy to play on.
If you are looking for a good beginner mandolin or an excellent mandolin to compliment your guitar with, then Tanglewood TWMF VSE is a perfect choice.
What We Didn't Like
The major downside is that Tanglewood doesn’t include a bag or case with this purchase, which is a bit disappointing. This means, as a gig performer, you would have to get a bag for it separately.
Tanglewood TWMF is a mandolin for stage performers as it is relatively easy to practice. It’s ideal for beginners and seasoned players who need a reliable instrument.
- Good price
- Vintage sunburst finish
- Built for performers
- Perfect both for beginners and seasoned players
- Doesn’t come with a bag
Luna Moonbird Mandolin – Best For Recording
- Set-neck construction
- Smooth satin black finish
- Made of spruce and mahogany
- A-style mandolin
- Piezo pickup
The Luna Moonbird is a mandolin that is very versatile and designed for recordings. It is manufactured by Luna Guitars, a brand that makes acoustic and electric mandolins.
The manufacturer is American, and the instruments are good value for money. Luna Guitars mandolins are well suited for beginners, and so is the Moonbird.
The brand is the vision of Yvonne de Villiers, an artist with a staunch belief in the uniqueness of the instruments of every musician.
Yvonne’s parent, Hilda Villers, whom she took inspiration, was a bassist for up to 40 years. Luna Guitars aims to create instruments that suit each type of player, regardless of the ever-changing and diverse world of music.
With this instrument, beginners receive a branded model that is well made and has a good sound. The instrument, which is mainly made of spruce, is available in a beautiful, ornate version. The Moonbird is a very inexpensive A-Style mandolin that comes with a piezo.
The instrument produces tones that are rich and incredibly dynamic. The body is made of spruce and mahogany for balanced and versatile sounds.
The neck is F-shaped. The fingerboard is smooth. These, together, offer excellent playing comfort.
It has an arched-top contour, and the bridge is made of black walnut.
The device has a set-neck construction and a black satin finish.
The neck is made of mahogany, and the fingerboard is made of black walnut. It has a flat radius with 20 frets. The nut is an OEM component made of polymer plastic, and the width is 29mm.
There is the piezo bridge pickup and volume and tone controls. The hardware is chromed with black open-gear tuners.
However, the mandolin instrument doesn’t come with a gig bag or case.
The piezo pickup of the device captures natural tones while you’re on the stage or in the studio. The Moonbird seizes the night thanks to its dark finish and aesthetic, illuminated by its sparking tones and chrome hardware.
The body of the mandolin features two materials. It is crafted with mahogany wood and is topped off with the best quality spruce. These give you dynamic and beautifully balanced sound that will blend with any type of musical style and your playing techniques.
The Moonbird has the proper electronic features that will ensure you can perform both on stage and in the studio, with the option of recording your gig.
What We Didn't Like
What we didn’t like with this model is that it doesn’t include a bag or case for storage or transportation purpose.
This mandolin is made for those who want to enjoy the traditional acoustic sound of the instrument, but with the versatility of being able to connect it to amplification systems, recorders, and even effects pedals.
- Designed for use with amps and recorders
- Chrome hardware
- Smooth satin finish
- Electroacoustic design
- No storage bag case
How to Choose an Electric Mandolin
For an easy introduction to the mandolin world, we have summarized the essential data and some tips for you on what to look out for when buying your first electric mandolin.
Materials Used: The Woods
Spruce is often used for the top, and maple is used for the back and sides. But mahogany and linden can also be found on the body from time to time, and maple tops on some instruments.
As is usual in instrument making, there are models with solid wood, and there are also laminated or layered models. In the entry-level price range, mandolins with a solid top are few and far between. But the typical sound can also be achieved with an utterly laminated model.
Sound Of The Mandolin
There is often a dispute about whether the two most prominent mandolins, namely those in the F and A styles, have distinctive sound characteristics.
In general, the simpler A-style mandolin can be assigned a slightly thicker, more sedate sound. Whereas the F-style mandolin develops a bit more punch in the highs and this variant is therefore very popular, especially in solo work.
At this point, however, one must clearly state that the sound of every instrument results from the totality of the woods used, their properties, construction, and processing.
And these basic building blocks are sometimes so close together that a tonal difference can only be detected marginally. The mandolins achieve their typical sound due to their double strings made of steel strings and the basic body shape.
Many models are also available with a built-in pickup system, which are often magnetic. So are you thinking of using the mandolin in the band at an early stage? Then you should keep your eyes peeled for models with built-in pickups when buying. Fortunately, these are also available in the lower price range.
The saddle width of the standard mandolin is 28 mm. Since, as already mentioned, each has two strings per tone, it gets a bit tight for the gripping hand at first. Due to the double stringing, a lot of pressure is required on the fret so that all strings are adequately gripped.
Even if the whole thing sounds difficult and complicated at first, the reality looks a lot simpler. For many basic chords, thanks to the fifths tuning, we only need two fingers, which also have to be placed in the same or adjacent position.
If you generally need a little more space for your fingers, you can choose models with wider fingerboards. Although these are not often found in the entry-level class, there are models with a saddle width of 30 mm or more.
With the mandolin, in addition to the chord, the pairs of strings can also be struck individually, and this is done with a pick. So don't forget to get some picks with your first mandolin. This should preferably be in different strengths and shapes so you can find the shape and texture that suits you best.
A little tip: the thinner the pick, the less resistance it creates on the strings. This ensures that the right hand has to put less pressure on the string, and it feels a little lighter.
On the other hand, the sound is affected if the pick is too weak because the vibrations are not optimally transferred to the top and the instrument. There are special mandolin picks in numerous designs.
Designs Of The Mandolin
There are different designs, as far as mandolins are concerned.
There is the F-Style Mandolin, the A-Style Mandolin, the round mandolin, and the Portuguese mandolin. We’ll only talk about the first two as these are the range from which we picked.
- The F-style mandolin
The F-Style mandolin is characterized by the rolled cut on the body and has a curved headstock shape. Some models come with classic F-holes; others have a completely standard soundhole.
It is trendy in bluegrass and folk bands, but it can also be used in any other genre. Above all, thanks to its appealing appearance, it looks great on both singer/songwriters when performing solo and the soloists in a band.
- The A-style mandolin
This variant is the most widespread mandolin today, along with the F-style variant, which is also known as the “teardrop” mandolin because of its typical design.
It is visually a little less spectacular, and, usually, both the ceiling and the floor are arched. With some manufacturers, you can also find the F-sound holes known from classic string instruments.
The “Teardrop” mandolin is particularly suitable for beginners due to its good price-performance ratio.
There is an almost unmanageable number of variants. These differ in body shape and number of strings and also in tuning. The resonator mandolin is particularly interesting for the budding country star. It has a compelling sound and an authentic exotic look with its metal body. Solid-body mandolins do not have a hollow body and are intended for use on stage. The construction is more reminiscent of an electric guitar and has a magnetic pickup system.
Top Electric Mandolins For Beginners, Conclusion
Mandolins are attractive and cool-stringed instruments that are not only used in classical music. They are ideal in pop and are also indispensable in country and bluegrass. The bluegrass variants in F-style and A-style are suitable for almost all types of music and are the best choice for beginners.
In terms of appearance and sound, they correspond exactly to what we imagine a mandolin to be, and there are instruments even for a small budget.
The models we have selected are recommended for stage performance, studio recording, and practice at home by beginners and seasoned pros.