A flattop mandolin inspired by budget instruments of the 1930s and ’40s.
by Teja Gerken
August 26, 2019
When Collings Guitars launched the Waterloo brand several years ago, its vintage-inspired guitars were met with immediate enthusiasm and widespread acclaim. Given Collings’s success with its line of mandolins, it wasn’t long until fans were hoping that the company would release a Waterloo mandolin, and at last winter’s NAMM show, the WL-M finally arrived. Like Waterloo guitars, the WL-M mandolin’s design is based on Depression-era budget instruments, built with modern manufacturing methods and high-quality materials. We had a chance to check out a sunburst WL-M provided to us by Gryphon Stringed Instruments, and in this video, Peghead Nation co-founder Dan Gabel demonstrates the instrument.
The WL-M is a pear-shaped instrument with a flat spruce top and a flat mahogany back. It has a round soundhole, a non-adjustable ebony bridge, and a mahogany neck with a deep profile and a pronounced V shape. As with all Collings and Waterloo instruments, the woods are of excellent quality, and the craftsmanship, fit, and finish are top-notch. Appointments are kept to a minimum, but the WL-M does include a simple black-and-white rosette, white binding on the top, and acrylic position markers in the fingerboard. The instrument also has a “cloud”-style one-piece tailpiece, tiger-stripe pickguard, and open-back Golden Age Restoration tuning machines. Like most of the mandolins that served as its inspiration, the WL-M is ladder braced, but it also has more contemporary features such as an adjustable truss rod and a compound-radius fingerboard.
As with the Waterloo guitars we’ve checked out, the WL-M combines the tonality you’d expect from a similar vintage instrument with great playability and enhanced precision. It has a warm overall quality, with great sustain and note definition that would make it work well for old-time or Irish music, where round-soundhole mandolins are often preferred. The instrument is very easy to play and has excellent intonation and tuning stability.
Overall, the WL-M is a great addition to the Waterloo line. Players looking for a high-quality flattop mandolin should definitely check it out, and the instrument will also appeal to those who like a vintage vibe that is different from the more common Gibson-style designs.
SPECS: Flattop, roundhole mandolin. Solid spruce top. Solid mahogany back and sides. Ladder bracing. Mahogany neck. Indian rosewood fingerboard. Ebony bridge. 13⅞-inch scale. 1³/₁₆-inch nut width. Golden Age Restoration tuning machines. One-piece tailpiece. Made in USA. $1,750 list. Waterlooguitars.com
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