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Thread: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

  1. #1
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    I was wondering if any of you have played the NF-F5s next to a Big Mon.
    Is there a significant difference in the quality of the tone?
    I have only played an F5s, but have not played or heard a Big Mon in person.

    I found the NF-F5s to be an excellent mandolin.
    The tone for the few I played seemed to be very dry, tight, punchy, and loud.
    For my ears it seemed a more "modern" sound for a mandolin.
    Seems like an awesome mando for modern bluegrass.

    From the videos the Big Mon seems to sound a bit less dry, but still poppy and loud. It seems to have a bit more air in the sound, so maybe it is a bit more like an older Gibson in tone. Sounds like it would also be excellent for bluegrass, but also might be a bit more versatile in general for other musical styles.
    Is that a fair assumption?

    Anyhoo, I am zeroing in on the perfect mando for me, and Northfield seems like the right direction. The F5s was awesome, but might be a bit too "dry" for my style.
    I am starting to think the Big Mon is the way to go. I also know now that I need the wider nut model, as the 1 3/32 NF5 neck was just too skinny for me to play comfortably.

    Any input is appreciated.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    i had a Big Mon in house a short while back, at the same time with my F5S.

    my F5s I consider to be a nice balanced, edging towards a tighter note quality than some F5s models I have had in hand. Ample projection. Easy and smooth playability(it arrived that way). anyone who has heard or played it gives it an immediate thumbs up.
    so consider it a very good mandolin in all areas.

    The Big Mon was a wide nut version. Immediately I took notice of a deeper G, louder mids, and very nice trebles. It was nice to look at as well.

    Was it worth the extra $ versus my F5s. Yes.

    Did I keep it. No.

    Reason. I'm very attached to the F5s I have. Yep, that Big Mon took things to a higher rung, but I didn't need those things to be happy with what I have. And I like the simplicity of how mine looks-but that Big Mon is very very nice in build and looks.

    that's the only Big Mon I've had hands on with.

    d

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  4. #3

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    I have played both in the same room next to each other, thanks to a buddy that owns the Big Mon and his Father in law owns F5S, both are amazing in sound but I had to compare it to guitar playing,,,,,I have played acoustic for 35+ years and I sort of looked at it lie a Jumbo Taylor VS a 714 Taylor...the Big Mon is full and very crisp and louder than the F5S.. And yes the Big Mon is a little bigger in size,,,,,I am in the process of buying a new Mandolin and after playing both of them I am a fan of the F5S.....in my opinion it sounds tight and has more sustain in the sound....but that's me to my liking...but make no mistake they are both very nice and sound great....

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  6. #4

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    i had a Big Mon in house a short while back, at the same time with my F5S.

    my F5s I consider to be a nice balanced, edging towards a tighter note quality than some F5s models I have had in hand. Ample projection. Easy and smooth playability(it arrived that way). anyone who has heard or played it gives it an immediate thumbs up.
    so consider it a very good mandolin in all areas.

    The Big Mon was a wide nut version. Immediately I took notice of a deeper G, louder mids, and very nice trebles. It was nice to look at as well.

    Was it worth the extra $ versus my F5s. Yes.

    Did I keep it. No.

    Reason. I'm very attached to the F5s I have. Yep, that Big Mon took things to a higher rung, but I didn't need those things to be happy with what I have. And I like the simplicity of how mine looks-but that Big Mon is very very nice in build and looks.

    that's the only Big Mon I've had hands on with.

    d
    Yes,,,,,That was another thing I did notice was a deeper G,,,,good call on that....

  7. #5

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    I played them both in the same session.

    The Big Mon has Deeper G, richer mids, more volume (due to varnish, not body design), less treble standout in double and triple stops. The F5s is more balanced across the spectrum, but has a few more frequencies that can get hot - like the 5th fret of the A string [I'm being super picky].

    I'm getting an Artist series, which in many ways blends the best of both, and reduces overly-resonant frequencies you might otherwise want to EQ out of a recording.

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  9. #6
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    I was initially drawn to the NF-F5s because i liked the simple design.
    It is cool to me, and I don't feel that I need the extra stuff to be happy.
    BUT when I played the F5s I started to feel I might prefer a bound neck.
    Not sure why I feel that way, but I like the way the edges of the bound neck feel on my JB F5 Special.
    On guitar, I prefer a bound Les Paul neck to one that is not bound.
    Maybe they are just a little smoother at the edge.
    I tend to play with my thumb over the top on both guitar and mandolin.

    I did absolutely love the NF-F5s though, other than the narrow nut width.
    The tone was awesome, but I just think I want that little bit of extra "air" in the sound, and the extra bass/mid from the Big Mon.
    Playing my JB F5 next to the NF-F5s, it was clear I wanted a slightly more open tone.
    My JB is not as loud or full as the north field, but there is that bit of space in the tone that I like.
    Sounds more like the tones I hear from Grisman, Thile, Marshall, etc., than the super dry NF-F5s tone.
    (Yes yes, I am not saying the JB sounds like a Loar. I am just talking about the general nature of the tone. (i.e. Dry vs some air)
    Add to it the bound neck, and I think the Big Mon is for me.
    Now I just have to wait a long while before I will be able to afford one… :P
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

  10. #7

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by dschonbrun View Post
    I played them both in the same session.

    The Big Mon has Deeper G, richer mids, more volume (due to varnish, not body design), less treble standout in double and triple stops. The F5s is more balanced across the spectrum, but has a few more frequencies that can get hot - like the 5th fret of the A string [I'm being super picky].

    I'm getting an Artist series, which in many ways blends the best of both, and reduces overly-resonant frequencies you might otherwise want to EQ out of a recording.
    I am looking at saving a little more cash and wait a little longer and get the Artist series...how much more is the Artist and is it worth it?

  11. #8
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by raycan2 View Post
    I am looking at saving a little more cash and wait a little longer and get the Artist series...how much more is the Artist and is it worth it?
    The Big Mon is usually around $4,500, and I think the Artist is around $6,500.
    I could be wrong, but that is what I understood.
    Of course added upgrade features add to the price.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

  12. #9

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    That's about the price of a Collings, it would be a hard choice.

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by raycan2 View Post
    That's about the price of a Collings, it would be a hard choice.
    i have a Collings also, wonderful mandolin. I prefer the satin finish so it is the base MF.
    It would be a hard choice to decide between the two, which is exactly what I'm going thru. I tend to just want one instrument at a time-I have the two and I want to sell one, but I can't decide. I do tend to play the Northfield more, and there's just something about it that makes it a touch more special.

    the Collings is great though, just nothing at all wrong with it, and a whole lot right.

    d

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    I was initially drawn to the NF-F5s because i liked the simple design.
    It is cool to me, and I don't feel that I need the extra stuff to be happy.
    BUT when I played the F5s I started to feel I might prefer a bound neck.
    Not sure why I feel that way, but I like the way the edges of the bound neck feel on my JB F5 Special.
    On guitar, I prefer a bound Les Paul neck to one that is not bound.
    Maybe they are just a little smoother at the edge.
    I tend to play with my thumb over the top on both guitar and mandolin.

    I did absolutely love the NF-F5s though, other than the narrow nut width.
    The tone was awesome, but I just think I want that little bit of extra "air" in the sound, and the extra bass/mid from the Big Mon.
    Playing my JB F5 next to the NF-F5s, it was clear I wanted a slightly more open tone.
    My JB is not as loud or full as the north field, but there is that bit of space in the tone that I like.
    Sounds more like the tones I hear from Grisman, Thile, Marshall, etc., than the super dry NF-F5s tone.
    (Yes yes, I am not saying the JB sounds like a Loar. I am just talking about the general nature of the tone. (i.e. Dry vs some air)
    Add to it the bound neck, and I think the Big Mon is for me.
    Now I just have to wait a long while before I will be able to afford one… :P
    nothing at all wrong with liking the extra things, binding and such. the Big Mons are decked out and look very nice with the bound neck, top and back binding, and the one I had in house had a real simple headstock inlay, it was beautiful.

    d

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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    nothing at all wrong with liking the extra things, binding and such. the Big Mons are decked out and look very nice with the bound neck, top and back binding, and the one I had in house had a real simple headstock inlay, it was beautiful.

    d
    Yup. That is what I want.
    I want a fully bound model with nice wood, but a simple headstock.
    Fancy, but not THAT fancy.

    I was kinda looking forward to playing the NF-F5s style instrument, without binding etc.
    I think the unbound wood look on the back is cool.
    It is just the unbound neck that feels different to me.
    I just prefer the feel of the bound neck.

    I realized that I feel the same way about my guitars.
    The only one that does not have a bound neck is my Gibson L48.
    It just feels a little different to me.
    It is not a big deal, but I notice it.

    Some people like a neck that is a pig to play. I don't.
    I prefer an instrument that is perfectly comfortable and easy to play, so that your attention is on playing music and not on the instrument.
    I think you just go with what is the most comfortable, and play music.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

  16. #13

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by raycan2 View Post
    I am looking at saving a little more cash and wait a little longer and get the Artist series...how much more is the Artist and is it worth it?
    The Artist series start at $5,800 and include an Airloom case ($350$ value).

    Based on your comments, a wide-necked Master Model might be the best option. Masters are bound front and back, plus neck, and varnished, but in the same size as the F5s, with slightly more choice tone woods.

    D

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    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by dschonbrun View Post
    The Artist series start at $5,800 and include an Airloom case ($350$ value).

    Based on your comments, a wide-necked Master Model might be the best option. Masters are bound front and back, plus neck, and varnished, but in the same size as the F5s, with slightly more choice tone woods.

    D
    I thought the Big Mon was the Master Model.
    Is there both a Master model AND a Big Mon Master Model?
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    I thought the Big Mon was the Master Model.
    Is there both a Master model AND a Big Mon Master Model?
    No. The Big Mon is part of the 'Master Model' series.
    Gibson F5 'Harvey' Fern, Gibson F5 'Derrington' Fern
    Distressed Silverangel F 'Esmerelda' aka 'Maxx'
    Northfield Big Mon #127
    Ellis F5 Special #288
    '39 & '45 D-18's, 1950 D-28.

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    So where does the Artist series fit?

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by dschonbrun View Post
    The Artist series start at $5,800 and include an Airloom case ($350$ value).

    Based on your comments, a wide-necked Master Model might be the best option. Masters are bound front and back, plus neck, and varnished, but in the same size as the F5s, with slightly more choice tone woods.

    D
    unless i'm mistaken the Artist Series mandolins do NOT include the Airloom case in the price... add $250 to receive the mandolin in an Airloom Case...

  21. #18
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    OK, so now I understand that there is a Master Model, and also a Big Mon version of the Master Model.
    I have a couple of new questions.

    1) Has anyone played a regular Master Model next to a Big Mon master model?
    Was there a significant difference in tone, etc.? What was your impression?

    2) How does the regular Master Model stack up against the NF-F5s?

    3) Lastly, has anyone played the same Northfield model in both Adirondack & Engelmann tops.
    What was the take away from that comparison?
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    OK, so now I understand that there is a Master Model, and also a Big Mon version of the Master Model.
    I have a couple of new questions.

    1) Has anyone played a regular Master Model next to a Big Mon master model?
    Was there a significant difference in tone, etc.? What was your impression?

    2) How does the regular Master Model stack up against the NF-F5s?

    3) Lastly, has anyone played the same Northfield model in both Adirondack & Engelmann tops.
    What was the take away from that comparison?
    #3) I've played a couple different F5s models in adi top and Englemann. I've always preferred the adi tops myself-but that has only been I'm thinking a group of 5 altogether. Not that either is better, but the tone I like to hear, the adi tops on Northfields deliver.

    to throw used motor oil on the mix, in Collings, I highly prefer englemann tops, and no gloss please.

    keep in mind, you might hear things differently than me. if you dig thru some Northfield video, I think Adam Steffey played a Big Mon with englemann for a while, but then again, Emory Lester had one in adi top and I think his newest Northfield is englemann.

    all the above is useless to you really, each mando will have its own voice. when you get serious to buy, the best would be to visit the shop if possible and have hands on. if that's impossible, have them send soundclips.

    watch this is you haven't, it might help you out


    and another



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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    and one more to mess with your mind

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by CWRoyds View Post
    1) Has anyone played a regular Master Model next to a Big Mon master model?
    Was there a significant difference in tone, etc.? What was your impression?
    A bit more low end on the Big Mon, but otherwise - very similar. Although the Big Mon is larger, it is not by much - to the extent they still fit in most normal sized cases. They're a nice mandolin. One thing I would add... all of the Red-spruce topped Northfield's I have heard have been on the "dry" side... certainly compared to say, an Ellis... and indeed, drier than the Harvey Gibson F5 Fern I have too.

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    Last edited by almeriastrings; Jul-28-2016 at 12:24am.
    Gibson F5 'Harvey' Fern, Gibson F5 'Derrington' Fern
    Distressed Silverangel F 'Esmerelda' aka 'Maxx'
    Northfield Big Mon #127
    Ellis F5 Special #288
    '39 & '45 D-18's, 1950 D-28.

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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    darylcrisp,
    Obviously one cannot judge the true tone of an instrument through an internet video, BUT in the video where Emory Lester plays three different Northfield master models (Two Big Mon, and a regular Master Model), I kinda like the general vibe of the first one he plays. It is the older Big Mon. That powerful slightly more open tone is most desirable to me. That might just be from it being played in more than the others, but that is the thing I am going for. The regular Master Model with the engelmann top he plays third is nice too.


    almeriastrings,
    That is a beautiful mandolin.
    That is pretty much exactly the style I want.
    I love the wood and the burst colors.
    The two Northfield F5s I played were both very dry indeed.
    It was kinda cool, but I really like a little space in the tone.
    Not tons, just a bit.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
    Misc: 8 Course Lute (L.K.Brown)

  26. #23
    Registered User JKA's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    I recently bought a NF5s. There were two NF's for sale, mine and a Big Mon. As I'm no expert I asked the salesman to demonstrate both for me and then he left me alone (to save my embarrassment) to play both. I kept coming back to the NF5s even though I kept thinking I should just be done with it and buy the Big Mon.

    I didn't feel the Big Mon offered $$$$ more. It was a slightly deeper tone on the G and D courses but I still preferred the sound, playability and finish of the NF5s...hence the purchase.

    Having said all that, I was lucky enough to find a Flatiron Festival F5 which cost me less than a third of the NF5s (after the NF purchase) and in all honesty, if I had bought this first I would not have been looking for another mandolin.

    The Northfields are superb instruments and I'm really glad I have mine...it just sleeps a lot at the minute as the Flatiron is irrisitable to play...darn it!

    My friend eventally bought the Big Mon and we jammed a couple of days ago...there's very little in the difference so go with your heart.
    Northfield NF5S
    2001 Flatiron Festival
    Epiphone MM-50
    Guild D55
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    1987 Gibson 335
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  27. #24
    Registered User almeriastrings's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by JKA View Post
    My friend eventally bought the Big Mon and we jammed a couple of days ago...there's very little in the difference so go with your heart.
    I think that sums it up. Also, unless you have played a lot of them (and spent real time with them) it is hard to know if any differences you do hear are a "model to model" difference or an "instrument to instrument" difference.

    Ultimately, just find something you like and play it. All of these under discussion are genuinely high grade instruments, so in that sense, you can't really go wrong. Beyond that, it's splitting hairs.
    Gibson F5 'Harvey' Fern, Gibson F5 'Derrington' Fern
    Distressed Silverangel F 'Esmerelda' aka 'Maxx'
    Northfield Big Mon #127
    Ellis F5 Special #288
    '39 & '45 D-18's, 1950 D-28.

  28. #25

    Default Re: Northfield Tone: NF-F5S vs Big Mon

    Quote Originally Posted by almeriastrings View Post
    I think that sums it up. Also, unless you have played a lot of them (and spent real time with them) it is hard to know if any differences you do hear are a "model to model" difference or an "instrument to instrument" difference.

    Ultimately, just find something you like and play it. All of these under discussion are genuinely high grade instruments, so in that sense, you can't really go wrong. Beyond that, it's splitting hairs.
    I am with you 1000000% on that...I am an Engeneer by trade and am trained to overthink, now that iam buying a new Mandolin this fall I have been reading to hard into it, when honestly if you were to put a 15k Gibson F5 or a 8k Weber or Collings in my hand they would all sound good on the 4-5 chords I know,,,My buddy told me About Northfield and I was like I will try his out and again all 4-5 chords I played on it were amazing.... And I think he paid $3500 for his......
    So I guess unless you have deep pockets and can do it MORE POWER to you.....But like my buddy said By one and Have FUN

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