Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1974 Ibanez 512 Mandolin Review


I am just learning to play mandolin, and after trying out one of the new Ibanez F-style instruments, I was disappointed as its quality did not meet my expectations from this venerable Japanese manufacturer. So, my search led me to a 1970s vintage A-model 512 that certainly hit a lot closer to the mark.

The Ibanez 512 mandolin was made in Japan from 1974 to 1980, and this one appears to be from around 1975, or so. It is a knock-off of a Gibson A-50 (I think) and it has the traditional pear-shaped body with a solid carved spruce top and laminated rosewood back and sides. The body is bound front and rear, and it has pretty black and cream purfling.

The unbound neck appears to be made of maple (it is painted black on the back), and it has a 20-fret rosewood fretboard. The headstock has a pleasant paddle shape with an Ibanez script logo.

The hardware is good, with sharp looking open-geared tuners and an adjustable and compensated rosewood bridge. The tailpiece is a bit chintzy, but it gets the job done. The pickguard is a classy two-ply piece (black over white), that I seem to be unable to get tightened down properly. This might be as good as it gets…

These instruments were very cheap when they came out (well under $100), but this one has held up well nonetheless. The natural finish is still shiny and the frets are in great shape. There is a stable crack at the bass side F-hole, but it looks like it has not grown in years. And in case you are wondering, it only weighs two pounds, one ounce.

These Ibanez mandolins are still dirt cheap (under $200) and they are a great bargain. This one sounds great and plays well, and it appears to be awfully darned durable. This would be a fine instrument for beginners and experienced players alike, and it would be a nice piece that you good take to a gig and not have to worry about.

If you see one up for sale at a decent price, I say grab it. You will be hard pressed to do better for short money.


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