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We started carrying Kentucky mandolins in the early 1970s, not long after we opened the retail store. The KM-150S was our recommendation for anyone who wanted a good start on learning the instrument. Back then, the lower priced Kentucky mandolins were built with laminated backs and sides and the solid tops were pressed into an arch shape rather than carved. Still, they were well crafted so they held up, they were very playable, they were inexpensive and they sounded pretty good. We sold hundreds of them over the years.
Fast forward a few decades and there are now other affordable mandolin brands out there, but Kentucky has stepped up and more than met the challenge. Kentucky mandolins come in four tiers, with the Standard Series being the least expensive. The Standard models we stock, such as the KM-150 and the KM-606, have carved, solid German spruce tops and solid, carved solid Alpine maple backs. and they sound better than ever. Mandolins of this quality would have been close to the top of the Kentucky line back in the 1970s, but now this is where the Kentucky models start.
The next tier is the Deluxe Series. Like the Standards, these mandolins have carved German spruce tops and carved Alpine maple backs, but the builders take more care in graduating and voicing them. Also mandolins have a wider range of finish colors and radiused fretboards, making them easier to play. Deluxe mandolin come in both A and F style bodies and a choice of oval soundholes or F-soundholes.
The third tier is the Artist Series. These are professional grade instruments and use the fanciest Alpine maple. They have radiused ebony fretboards and the top, backs, necks and headstocks are all fully bound. The hardware is gold-plated and these mandolins sound as good as they look.
The top tier are the Master Model instruments which offer hand-carved Adirondack spruce tops and beautifully figured carved Michigan maple backs & sides. Playability is enhanced with a radiused fingerboard, and the subtle Cremona sunburst with thin lacquer finish. In appearance, tone, and playability these latest Kentucky models are strong competitors to any mandolins available today. Master Models have always been scarce and we only get a handful every year.