For players seeking authentic acoustic sounds on modest budgets who have come to love the Fender feel and trust the brand name
A few minor blemishes in the neck attachment region
You can trust Guitar Player. Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
Fender introduced its Paramount Series for discriminating acoustic players at Winter NAMM 2016, and the company has been busy updating and augmenting it in 2022.
Fender started off the year with three new steel-strings, and then – just in time for warm-weather back-porch pickin’ – offered up the three instruments that make up the Paramount Bluegrass Collection: the PB-180E banjo and PR-180E Resonator, along with the PM-180E Mandolin on review here.
The whole Paramount concept is about modern takes on vintage designs, and the Bluegrass Series takes it a step further, applying elements such as onboard electronics and modern neck profiles to old-time Americana instruments.
The Fender Paramount PM-180E Mandolin is an acoustic-electric instrument with a classic A-style teardrop shape.
Typical of the Paramount line, it’s not made of solid woods but rather of laminated mahogany back and sides, with a laminated spruce top. It also comes with a gig bag rather than a hard case. A pair of f-holes grace either side of the walnut bridge in the center.
It sports a handsome aged Cognac Burst, finished in satin, and like its resonator cousin has complementary aged-white binding that offers a nice contrast.
I noticed a few blemishes where the binding, the body and the neck all come together.
Chrome hardware includes open-back tuners with pearloid buttons that add an old-time element, and the Paramount staff on the headstock caps it off nicely. It appears that the brand name and Paramount logo, consisting of a staff with a sort of diamond-shaped kite head on top, are silkscreened on the headstock.
The overall aesthetic is down-home handsome, with a modern classic sensibility.
Snowflake inlays grace its walnut fingerboard on a soft V-shaped neck that feels instantly accommodating to hands used to holding an acoustic guitar.
Playability on this review unit was easy enough right out of the box. My friend and I are both guitar players who dabble in mandolin, and we found it easy to transfer our guitar skills to this instrument.
It facilitates everything from running scales to playing primary chords or stabbing out singular notes with good intonation and minimal fret splat, until you get into about the 10th position, where some dead spots start to occur.
Some of the fret edges felt a bit sharp, but the craftsmanship is better than par for its price class.
The PM-180E features parallel tone-bar bracing, which Fender says is designed to deliver a bright, clear tone, and that’s exactly how I’d describe the sound. This mandolin is loud and lively, and it does a bang-up job filling a small room with sound.
It’s equipped with a passive Fishman pickup that delivered a signal faithful to the acoustic tone to my Fender Acoustic Junior GO amp. Importantly, the level was well balanced from string to string.
Fender’s Paramount Series offers options for players seeking authentic acoustic sounds on modest budgets.
This addition to the Paramount Bluegrass Collection will appeal to acoustic and electric guitar players who have come to love the Fender feel, trust the brand name and want to expand their styles in an Americana direction.
- NUT WIDTH: 1.12”, bone
- NECK: Maple
- FRETBOARD: Walnut, 13.9” scale
- FRETS: 21
- TUNERS: Chrome, open-back with pearloid buttons
- BODY: Laminated mahogany back & sides; laminated spruce top
- BRIDGE: Walnut
- ELECTRONICS: Fishman Implant
- CONTROLS: None
- FACTORY STRINGS: Fender Phosphor Bronze Mandolin (gauges .011–.040)
- WEIGHT: 2.2 lbs as tested
- BUILT: China
Visit Fender for more information.