CD & Book Reviews
Review of Dick Linke Electric Mandolins
I visited Dick Linke in Kirkland, Wash., and tried out several of his 8-string electric mandolins. He uses a variety of woods—lacewood, maple, and walnut—so I played one of each.
I was very impressed with the construction details. Dick has been a woodworker/luthier for 40 years and knows what he's doing. Everything's clean, tightly constructed, nicely finished, and well thought out. Extra touches include a 9-volt battery cartridge that easily swivels out of the back (no cover to lose or screws to remove); control knobs with built-in midpoint stops; a custom-built, heavy-duty case; and an attractive wood overlay that Dick builds for the standard Gibson tailpiece covers he uses. These mandolins have super-extended flat fretboards (29 frets on the lacewood one—that'll keep you busy on a rainy day!) and standard compensated adjustable bridges. The lacewood mandolin has Schallers and a single F-hole, while the maple and walnut ones have individual Gotoh tuners and two F-holes. They look more or less like mini-Les Pauls except for the F-holes.
For the lacewood mandolin Dick used a StewMac pole-style guitar pickup in the neck position and a Fishman bridge piezo. A blender knob allows you to mix the two pickups at various levels, giving you quite a variety of sounds from fully electric to fully acoustic. This one also sports two tone knobs and a volume knob. Dick had it strung with a half-and-half set (half bronze, half stainless) to take advantage of the different characteristics of each pickup.
The maple and walnut mandolins have a StewMac "floating humbucker" pickup, also in the neck position, and a single knob each for tone and volume. No piezo in these. All the StewMac pickups seemed to lack a little volume on the E strings, for which I had to compensate by fiddling with the tone knob. Dick suggested he could angle the pickup a little closer to the E strings, and indeed that would probably help. Personally I'd like to hear how these mandolins sound with a higher-grade blade-style pickup—such as a Bartolini or Bill Lawrence. (It should be pretty easy to swap the pickups out if you want.) But overall the mandolins have plenty of volume and good tone.
In case you were wondering, Dick's mandolins have all-hardwood construction, including the tops, so they don't project very much without the pickups. They're definitely meant to be plugged in. But Dick also showed me a couple of flattop A-style F-hole acoustic mandolins he built (with spruce tops) that sound great! They look a little odd because I'm not used to seeing F-holes in a flattop, but they're nicely built with very high-grade woods.
I'll leave the exact price quotes up to Dick. Let me just say that if you buy one of these you will be getting a heck of a lot of craftsmanship for your money.