CD & Book Reviews
Review of John McHugh Mandolin #0017
By Marc Sallows, Luna Pier, Mich.
This mandolin is very nicely made, and I would say that its maker knew what he was doing. I was pretty happy with the tonal range of the pickup. Just using the tone knob and the mini-switch, which I'm guessing is a coil tap, there are quite a lot of tonal options. The pickup looks to be handmade, and the pickup cover and trim ring are solid rosewood. A very nice-looking touch.
The controls are volume and tone. The pickup has good output and seems pretty balanced, and also has adjustable poles for fine-tuning. It has the usual single-coil hum, but no worse than any Fender guitar. With the mini-switch in one position, the tone is thicker and you can get some Strat-type tone with a little gain added. It's even capable of high gain without feedback or squealing. The mini-switch in the other position yields more high end but overall thinner sound, which seems to work well for more of an acoustic mando-type sound.
The build quality is excellent except for slightly underfinished fret ends, and the materials are top grade, except for a couple of minor imperfections in the mahogany. The playability is great: stays in tune excellent, intonation seems good, neck straight, low action with plenty of room either way for adjustment.
I don't believe it is a solid body. Tapping on the top reveals hollow chambers. I would say semi-hollow, like a thinline Tele with no F hole. This gives it enough volume for unplugged living-room strumming. The neck is glued in like a Gibson, but the heel is carved away for a neck-through feel and appearance. Nicely done. The finish is very thin, possibly hand rubbed, and the grain shows through, but personally I prefer it that way. Not as glossy as it looks in the pic. There is some very fine checking in the top, so I would say it wasn't made real recently. The overall fit and finish of the instrument are excellent.