My newest musical toy is a mandolin ToneGard. It's a light, wire frame that fits over the back of a mandolin, letting the back resonate to improve volume and tone. I haven't gotten to experiment with it much yet, but I took it to the Irish session tonight. I could hear myself a bit better than usual, I think, though no one particularly commented on me sounding different. Of course, once you get enough other people playing, it's still hard to hear a mandolin, even with a boost like this. I'm going to spend some more time testing it out, though, and comparing the sound with and without the ToneGard, so I can get a sense of what it's really doing. It seems to change the quality of the sound a little bit, too, so I'll see if it induces any changes in my picking.
Dave mentioned another neat thing for mandolinists with volume inferiority complexes. Apparently there's some guy who makes mandolins with an extra little sound hole on the side, facing the musician. The idea is that it aims a bit more of the sound at the person playing it, so they can hear themselves better in a group. I'd love to try one of those. Sounds like a great idea. Patrick offered to get out his drill, but I passed on that.