I play in a band that sounds like Neil Young meets Bill Monroe meets old Rolling Stones. I run the Mando-Bird through a Marshall TSL 100 watt head (always good for a few laughs with musicians in the crowd). More often then not, I play it through a mid-seventies Fender Princeton Reverb (12 Watt, ten inch speaker). Its pickup is honestly so much better than I would have guessed. Very little signal noise. Virtually none. My guitarist friends are blown away by the warm tone of my Epiphone MandoBird through that Fender amp. I had NO expectations of a good sound from this instrument. I bought it as a novelty item, and now I intend to gig with it. It sounds like a high end Fender guitar. Airy, but punchy. That expected, I didnt expect it to be so warm sounding. Even without touching the tone knob, the is a pleasent sounding instrument. Its not nearly as brittle as I expected it to be. My dislike is a major one, but as youll see its more of a decision issue than a technical one. Sometimes I wish that the MandoBird had the full course of 8 strings. Yes, four stings give clarity, but a true mandolin should have 8 in my mind. Frankly, if your reading this review and are considering buying one of these, I just want you to know that you will be surprised only in a good way with the sound you will have. You know before you order, that it is not an 8 string mandolin.
I have owned a lot of instruments in my time. I admit that I have only gigged with this instrument twice so far, but I can guess that it will hold up fine. Its well put together. Feels solid. The hardware is probably equivalent to Mexican strats. The tuners are amazing. Real Grovers. Finish is thick, and will not be easy to wear off. The strap buttons are nicer than the ones on my $1600 Gibson J-45, or my Les Paul Standard. I feel I can depend on this instrument to perform reliably live without a backup. I have a very serious complaint about one feature being missing from this instrument. I do not believe that it has an adjustable truss rod. Given, I havent taken the neck off, and maybe its like a Fender in that it is adjusted in the neck pocket. This is an unforgivable problem in my mind in that, in terms of durablity, this instrument cannot be adjusted for neck bow. It is amazing to me that they would spend the time they did assembling the top-grade pieces and finish and playiblity that this instrument has, and leave out this feature. I would have given this instrument a 9, b/c it is a well put together instrument. Sadly it wont get that because of the truss rod issue.
I have been playing ten years. Marshall Stack, Martin 00-16c, Les Paul,64 and 65 Melody Maker, J-45, Fender Mandolin, 77 Fender Princeton reverb, Kramer Stagemaster Custom. I wish I had asked about the truss rod issue. I would buy this instrument again in an instant if it were stolen. I love the sound the feel, the tuning gears, the look, the double takes people do, strap buttons. I wish it had a truss rod. Thats my only complaint really. I think that you will be pleasently surprised at the quality and sound of this instrument. It has vastly exceeded my expectations. That is why I give it such a high score. And no, I dont work for Epiphone