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This article was originally published in issue #33
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Fitting a pickup to an arch-top acoustic mandolin with f-holes is always a pain, especially if you want to have easy control over tone and volume. Dean makes things really easy by fitting a piezo pickup with onboard passive tone and volume controls to its established Tennessee VS A-style mandolin to produce the Tennessee AE VS.
Featuring neck, back and sides in maple, a rosewood fingerboard and an adjustable, floating bridge - plus a select spruce top under its vintage sunburst finish - the Tennessee AE is a very well-built mandolin. Playability out of the box, as you’d expect from a company that has parlayed its experience in building electric guitars into its acoustic instrument output, was very good for its price, although a bit more fine adjustment wouldn’t go amiss. You’d want to invest in a gig-bag or a lightweight case to keep it safe out there.
Acoustically the Tennessee AE is well-balanced across the strings and delivers a reasonably percussive chop if you’re into the bluegrass side of mandolin. Plugged in - as with all passive piezo systems - it is a bit on the bright side, but rolling back the tone control gives you a very usable sound for both Bluegrass and Celtic styles.