i play mostly blues/jazz/rock, in a loud amplified band. i really wanted an electric mandolin, but also wanted to play some acoustic gigs. i didn't want to get two mandolins, so i got this one primarily to play plugged in. it sounds okay for the style, i like to be able to play fast licks, so i guess the f-holes help with this. i usually run it through compression/sustain, sometimes through overdrive, then into a peavey ecoustic 112 with reverb. the single coil gives off an annoying hum, i want to switch it out with a stacked humbucker. unplugged, the mandolin is pretty quiet. it's pretty mellow, sounds kind of muted, i don't think it sounds that much worse than a gibson. plugged in, it sounds pretty good- the laminated top helps with feedback control. tone is bright and responsive, since it's a magnetic pickup, it doesn't sound very acoustic (which is a good thing because it's not that great acoustically). that's pretty much the tone i'm going for, the acoustic rock tone, not the faithful acoustic folk/bluegrass tone. for most traditional players who want good acoustic tone, this mando probably rates a 4. but for electric, it rates an 8. (not quite the sustain of a solid body, but more acoustic sounding)
i like how this mando is laminated. really helps with humidity changes, feedback, and durability. i don't expect to be passing this mando down to my son or anything, this thing is a tool and i will treat it as such. hardware/finish seems on par with other korean stuff... overbuilt. i'm worried about the electronics giving out on me during a gig. maybe there was a cheap soldering job, or poor quality components... i won't know until it happens. the mando itself however is pretty sturdy.
i've been playing violin for almost 15 years, mando for almost 1 year. i have a mid-missouri m1, which i learned on, superbly set-up, but i needed an electric for stage use. a couple violins, a washburn guitar, etc... if this mando were stolen, i'd consider getting a real solid body mando, and maybe also getting a good acoustic mando and installing a pickup. but this one does the job of both decently well, for really cheap. love the robustness, hate the bad reputation =) i also looked at solid bodys, and putting pickups on acoustics. i didn't get an acoustic because they seem to suffer from feedback problems, and the solid bodys were a little impractical for me at the time. i wish the fender had a slimmer neck, that would improve the experience a lot.