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Does my new mandolin sound better?

March 25th, 2013
music, experiment, mandolin  [html]

I just bought a Collings MT to replace my Morgan Monroe MAM-200. I love playing it and I think it sounds much better, but I'm curious: how does it compare out in the hall when I play it for dances? I made recordings [1] of the 3/22 Brooklyn dance where I played my old mandolin and the 3/24 Powder Mill Barn dance where I played my new one, which means we can compare them.


Of the ~14 sets we played each night we played six both nights. I listened through each of the six paired tracks and picked segments where I was playing similarly. They are below, in random order, for blind comparison:

Shenandoah Falls chords A B
Brenda Stubbert's chords A B
Far From Home melody A B
Speed the Plow chords A B
Rainy Night in Montague chords A B
Julia's Waltz melody A B
Seanamac Tube Station chords A B
Thomas Shrug's March chords A B
Thomas Shrug's March melody A B
Devil in the Strawstack chords A B
Toothfairy Jig chords A B
The key is here, but listen and form your opinions before unblinding yourself!

What this test doesn't capture is I think the biggest advantage of the new mandolin: it's much louder. With the old one I could barely hear myself acoustically and I could almost never have enough of it in the monitor without feedback, and while the new one isn't as loud as a fiddle it's still loud enough that I can hear it acoustically and I have the flexibility to put it as loud as I want it in the monitor.

(Other reasons I like the new mandolin more: it's easier to play and keeps it's tuning better.)

Shenandoah Falls chords old new
Brenda Stubbert's chords old new
Far From Home melody old new
Speed the Plow chords old new
Rainy Night in Montague chords old new
Julia's Waltz melody old new
Seanamac Tube Station chords old new
Thomas Shrug's March chords old new
Thomas Shrug's March melody old new
Devil in the Strawstack chords old new
Toothfairy Jig chords old new


[1] All recordings were with an sm57 into a vsl1818 audio interface, and are just the mandolin track. Both mandolins had D'Addario J74 Phosphor Bronze strings, though the ones on my older mandolin are getting old. The low thumps on the new mandolin are because there's no eq (low-cut) on any of the recordings and the mic stand was much closer to my feet the night with the new mandolin. The recordings all the raw .wav files at the original sample rate, and I adjusted their volume levels with sox --norm=-6 foo.wav foo-normalized.wav

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