Ron Oates (Rono Strings)
Based in Colorado, Ron has produced quite a number of highly esteemed instruments. He first rose to fame by building electric mandolins for members of two of Boulder's best-known "jam bands": Leftover Salmon's Drew Emmitt and the String Cheese Incident's Michael Kang (who has owned seven Ronos). Other Rono players include Lewin Barringer, formerly of Standing Wave, Shawn Chase of Barefoot Manner, and Carter Gravatt of Carbon Leaf. Ron refined and popularized the "baritone" mandolin concept: a 5-string instrument tuned like an octave mandolin with a high B string.
On the left are three of Ron's standard-sized mandolins: two 8-strings and a 5-string designed for Kang. On the right is a baritone-sized resolectric "Mandonator." Despite rumors to the contrary, Ron is still building—mostly "to spec" rather than taking orders, but you can reach him at to learn what's coming up on his bench.