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July 21, 2011 | Classifieds find: Japanese Orpheum M-30

Jazzmando research lab specialist and Jazzmando contributor, Levi Littvay, just posted a mandolin for sale on the Mandolin Cafe Classifieds. Of course, we're on record being attracted to mandolins that are not F or teardrop shaped, and the 2-point mandolin has been a jazz mandolin classic since Jethro Burns picked his 1960's Gibson A. This one features an unusual rosewood back and F-holes.

Orpehum.jpgLevi reports, "This mandolin was made somewhere in a Japanese shop around the late 1970's and early 1980's. The Japanese instruments of this era are highly sought after. Around this time, very few people produced quality instruments. Even Gibsons were hit and miss, at best. This allowed these Japanese shops to shine. In fact, many believe that it was these quality Japanese instruments that pushed Gibson to get its act together and produce the F5L, the first post-war Gibson mandolin that was consistently good (not counting the A5s of the 60's that we have a soft spot for). Some of these Japanese instruments like the Ibanez 524 (promoted by Bill Monroe) and the Kentucky KM-1500 or KM-DAWG sell for as much as recent American small shop mandolins. Of course, this is only true about the top of the line for each shop."

Japanese mandolin brands like Kentucky, Ibanez and Aria are better known. These were later made in Korea and China where quality went down quite a bit. Others names like Orpheum, Morris and Penco are less familiar, though we know that many old Japanese shops produced instruments under several brand names. Note, that some turn of the (20th) century instruments also carried the Orpheum brand.

Describing its tonal qualities, he weighs in "This is a strong and aggressive sounding instrument. Strong in mids and highs, it definitely cuts through the mix even if you do not play very loud. In guitars a rosewood back is associated with boomy lows. Apparently, this is not the case in mandolins. While I only ever played two of such instruments (the other being a Capek A style made by a talented Czech Luthier) neither had much low end."

This would also make an excellent travel mandolin that you don't mind taking camping, to the beach and to play by the campfire posted at $399 including shipping.

View Classifieds: Orpheum M-30


Posted by Ted at July 21, 2011 5:15 AM

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