Kentucky KM-256 Artist A-Model Mandolin

Kentucky as a brand is generally considered to be synonymous with value in the mandolin world. They’re especially popular among bluegrass players, giving them exactly the sound quality and features they’re looking for without having to pay an arm and a leg to get it—the ideal compromise for an advanced student or budding professional on […]

Last updateJune 29, 2018
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Kentucky KM-256 Artist A-Model Mandolin

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Kentucky as a brand is generally considered to be synonymous with value in the mandolin world. They’re especially popular among bluegrass players, giving them exactly the sound quality and features they’re looking for without having to pay an arm and a leg to get it—the ideal compromise for an advanced student or budding professional on a budget.

The KM-256 occupies the same basic space in the market as the LM-520 from The Loar below. Both are a step above entry-level instruments but not quite at the professional level, both in terms of the features and the price. The KM-256 is a bit cheaper, in large part because it utilizes a more standard A-style body—an easier shape to produce overall, especially when you’re talking about a hand-carved instrument.

In my experience you’ll get a higher quality level for the money from an A-style mandolin than an F-style.

That rule definitely holds true in this case.

The extra money you’ll pay for the LM-520 is pretty much because of the different shape. If that’s not an important factor for you, you’ll get more bang for your buck with the Kentucky—both are solid instruments with a great sound.

This is a relatively new model from Kentucky, and though it seems to live up to previous models in terms of quality, it hasn’t been field tested as extensively as some of the other options on this list.

Having said that, though, Kentucky has a reputation for build quality and durability, and there’s no reason to believe this mandolin would be an exception.

Our experts loved it.

It’s built in the same facility that produces the company’s top-tier instruments and utilizes the same hand carving techniques—one hallmark of a quality instrument.

In terms of the tonewoods, it uses a traditional pairing of a spruce top with maple back and sides. The overall tone is very pleasing to the ear. It’s crisp and bright on the articulations with good projection and an underlying warmth. They use a good combination of materials for the neck and fingerboard, as well, and the action is smooth and consistent throughout the range.

This Kentucky mandolin also offers more finish and accessory options than other mandolins. You’ll get your choice of three attractive finishes, and can add a case for a bit more money—a nice option for the beginner who doesn’t have a case already.

Are you a complete beginner?

This mandolin might cost more than you’re looking to spend—but for the level of quality you get, it’s an incredible value. You’d have to spend twice as much or more to get an instrument that’s noticeably better. If you want an instrument that both looks and sounds stage-worthy without breaking the bank, this mandolin from Kentucky is a winner.

Features:

  • Body: Carved maple
  • Top: Carved Sitka spruce
  • Neck: Slim maple with East Indian rosewood fingerboard
  • Frets: 20, nickel silver
  • Bridge: Rosewood, vintage-style
  • Hardware: Nickel-plated tailpiece, nickel-plated Gotoh tuners with removable buttons
  • Finish options: Transparent amber, transparent brown, sunburst
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