May 13, 2014

Rogue RM-100A Mandolin Review

          For anyone even mildly interested in learning the craft of the mandolin, the RM-100A by Rogue is a great introductory instrument for an outstanding price.

          I purchased mine from Musician's Friend (a great site) on sale for an incredible $50.  Considering the next cheapest mandolins are all $80 at bare minimum, most being in the range of several hundred, this is simply too good a deal to pass up.

          Odds are that if you are looking at this that you are in a situation much like I was: interested, but not dedicated to the mandolin.  I took the plunge because it was on sale and I think that was a good choice.

          By the time I first opened the box I had managed to talk myself out of thinking it was good and figured I would need to fix the probably warped neck and cheap tuners.  So I was pleasantly surprised to find it not just in one piece, but in one rather fine piece.

          Don't get the wrong impression the other way either - it's not a Gibson.  But for $50, well, I'm not sure how they even turn a profit making these.  The body is as good as you could hope for - no defects, sturdy build.  The wood is obviously not the highest grade, but is more than good enough for all but the mandolin connoisseurs.

          The action was surprisingly low and comfortable, with no fret buzz.  Many higher end instruments cannot claim the same for both.  The fretboard is fine, not much to say.  The higher frets are basically useless for anyone with a ring size greater than one, I guess they're really just for show.  The bridge is good, if unremarkable, and the tuners do the job exceptionally well for being so cheap.

            Now onto the not so good.  The cover over the strings falls off sometimes, and there is no place to attach a strap at the top.  The strings are cheap but replaceable and the nut is just plain cheap plastic.  The combination of these makes sustain leave a lot to be desired, but for bluegrass nobody cares anyway right?

          Don't let these dissuade you by any means though.  The cover can be glued, and a strap can be improvised or tied around the headstock.  The strings can be swapped, and though there's nothing to do about the nut, it certainly isn't a dealbreaker.

          I had never heard of Rogue before and expected an adequate but clearly amateur instrument.  Generally, instruments that feel the need to assert themselves with a statement of "fine instruments" on the headstock should be avoided, but the RM-100A lives up to the claims.

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