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Thread: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the wait

  1. #1
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the wait

    The first thing I noticed was how light it was when I first picked the model M out of the case. After I adjusted the truss rod and tuned her back up again, I found the touch, playability, and intonation spot on thanks very much to the folks at Northfield - great attention to detail.

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    Fit and finish is great and I like the slight roughness to the touch of the varnish finish. I really like the earthy colours Northfield have come up with. I also like the shape and size of the F holes. All up simple and yet aesthetically pleasing.

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    I was not sure about the pick guard at first glance. It looked a bit flimsy - it will take a bit getting used to. However, it is not a major issue. I would suggest perhaps a simpler shape rather like the abbreviated Cumberland acoustics or Collings MT pick guards.

    The Schaller tuners work really well and have a really nice smooth action- better than most of the tuning machines on other mandolins I have had.

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    The Nugget tailpiece is very functional and appropriate to the design of the body of the Model M.

    Now for some tonal comparisons. I should first say that I have gone through quite a few mandolins in the last few years. Now I am ready to settle down - we all say that don't we but anyway I have felt really solid about the Model M right from the start.

    Let’s see what mandolins I have had that are comparable to the model M:

    2012 Silver Angel, 2013 Mike Black Gibson A4 replica, 2013 Kentucky KM-950, 2009 Arches FT-O, 2013 Mike Black A2Z, and a 2014 Pava Player.

    The Black Gibson A2 and A4 replicas are really loud instruments with strong well developed bell-like tones on the E strings but a bit dry in the lower end department. Just different altogether because of their heritage. I have since gone for a Collings MT2-O - that will be a topic for a new thread.

    The 2012 Silver Angel has heaps of bottom and middle tonal complexity but not really loud and responsive E strings. The Pava Player was similar to the Silverangel in terms of tonal response - both played beautifully under the fingers. The Kentucky KM-950 was a great mandolin and was well balanced and easy to play but only slightly lacking in tonal complexity - great for a jamming instrument to take to festivals though. For its price though it was a very good mandolin perhaps on a par with the Pava although the Kentucky had louder and more bell-like tones coming out of the E strings. I know you might think I harp on this but clarity and projection in the E strings are really important for me. I play other genres such as Balkan as well as bluegrass and OT so you need a really strong upper register to cut through when playing with accordions etc.

    So having played my Northfield Model M I can say that it excels across all the strings - it has an open woody responsive sound right of the box and great clarity and volume just like the Northfield videos suggest. You shouldn't have to beat it into submission to get it to work for you. Then that is partially owing to the Engelmann Spruce top:

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    The bridge is solid and well fitted to the top. The arching, curvature and recurve of the top is really nicely done. I think that is part of the secret in its open responsiveness and cut.

    I have also a wonderful second-hand Collings MT2-O which is very similar to the Northfield in terms of tone and responsiveness except it has more sustain because of the oval hole and X-bracing. Interesting that they are similar despite different woods, bracing, and design.

    I also very much like the rounded V-shape neck. I was quite surprised that it was a tad under 11/8” but still seems very doable. My Collings MT2-O has a slightly wider nut but a very similar neck profile. I prefer the rounded V-shape to a standard V-shaped neck that say the Collings MT has. It also has a nice speed neck finish.

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    So all in all the Northfield Model M meets my expectations hands down. I could tell she was a winner when i first took her out of the case and inspected here thoroughly. Really impressive axe that can be used for a range of genres. I can't wait to take the model M to a jam. It really complements my second-hand Collings MT2-O. I pick up either instrument equally. Each has their own fine qualities - both easy to play and listen to - both really responsive. I will do a review of the Collings MT2-O later. I will also post Soundcloud audio clips to complement the review soon.
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    Last edited by Nick Gellie; Sep-22-2015 at 7:02am. Reason: moving photos around
    Nic Gellie

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  3. #2
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Great review! Very happy for your purchase.

    Can't wait to hear some sound clips.
    Chris Cravens

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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Excellent review Nick and I'm glad you've found the one. Especially appreciate all the comparisons and impressions of the different mandolins you had gone through. It's been great being able to be on the journey with you.

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  7. #4
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    One of the best reviews I've read on the cafe and wouldn't you know it, my interest is piqued in a Northfied M model...LOL!
    1994 Gibson F5L made by Bruce Weber's team


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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Nick
    excellent write up. that M is top shelf eye candy. i love the color combination, and that whole back side, yummm!
    and having had limited experience with a couple NorthFields, i know its a high quality build and everything works smoothly.

    i think Northfield, of any maker i've had hands on with, does an excellent setup and the tuners work so smooth with no loading up when tuning. they are a joy to play.

    d

  10. #6
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Thanks to everyone who gave feedback. I have to say upfront DataNick that the Northfield does not have a traditional Gibson tone so it may not be for you. You have expressed your preference in the past for that. However, the Northfield is on par with a Collings MT - I should have mentioned I had one back in 2013. The tone of the Northfield is overall brighter and a tad drier than a Collings MT - perhaps a clearer overall tone than a Collings MT.

    I will be reviewing another A-5 mando in a few weeks that will rock your socks off Daryl, and it is half the cost of a Collings MT2. I will be keeping it under wraps until I have received it and had a chance to play it.
    Nic Gellie

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Hi Nic - Congrats.on your new mandolin. The Northfield mandolins really have set the fields on fire in their price range - & above !.
    A friend of mine & fellow Cafe member played a few during a recent trip to the US & he raved about them - enjoy it !,
    Ivan
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    I noticed a few days ago that there were model M's available on the Northfield website in the available for sale section.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Thanks Ivan, I was really surprised how I connected with the Northfield Model M straightaway right out of the box. I did not have any issues with its tone and responsiveness from the start. While other mandolins I have tried had beautiful sunburst and finishes my Northfield is an understated instrument with lots of headroom under its bonnet so to speak - I hope I got the metaphor right.

    And maybe it reflects my life at the moment - going for more simplicity and joy. I have had some pretty hard times of late and yet I have had a few breakthroughs to see the bright side of life which has been uplifting.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Hi Nic - Another UK Cafe member contacted me a while ago & mentioned that he'd played the N/Field mandolin for sale up in Leeds. He said how great it sounded right out of the box. Terrific mandolins for sure !,
    Ivan
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Nic-

    Fantastic review, glad you really like you Model M. You explained in much better detail that I could all the reasons I love mine. Sound, looks, feel.

    Cheers.

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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I noticed a few days ago that there were model M's available on the Northfield website in the available for sale section.
    I ordered my Model M a few days ago, thinking they had some in stock, but they do not. The web site is not current. Looks like I will be getting #22 in about 6 weeks.

    Nic - thanks for the review, though it makes the wait a little harder! You touched on several things that concern me too - mostly the profile of the neck, as I love a soft V but can not tolerate a sharp V. A strong (but not harsh) E string is also important to me. Light weight also seems to be a good sign from my experience. I prefer a flat fret board, is the radius fairly mild?
    -Jim

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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I noticed a few days ago that there were model M's available on the Northfield website in the available for sale section.
    Not anymore. I remembered the same but when I checked yesterday none can be found any longer. If you call though I'm sure they can put you on the list for the next batch.

  19. #14
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    JClover, the fretboard has a 12" radius which is pretty flat compared to a compound radius starting at 7.5" at the nut and ending at 12" at the end. The nut is 28mm width. Nice spacing between the strings which makes bluegrass chop chords easy to play. The professional road testing helped a lot to refine the feel of the fretboard I think.
    Nic Gellie

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    I will be reviewing another A-5 mando in a few weeks that will rock your socks off Daryl, and it is half the cost of a Collings MT2. I will be keeping it under wraps until I have received it and had a chance to play it.
    Hey Nic, I for one will be looking forward to your review of this mystery A-5, the one that you're getting after the end of the line Model M!
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post

    I will be reviewing another A-5 mando in a few weeks that will rock your socks off Daryl, and it is half the cost of a Collings MT2. I will be keeping it under wraps until I have received it and had a chance to play it.
    just as the daryl household settles and there is peace, calm, and fulfillment.
    you are a bad bad boy Nick
    d

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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    MAS and the search for "The Grail" is a fearsome thing... but you learn a lot along the way and when you do find it - you know. No mistaking it. Glad you are enjoying the Northfield, Nic - they are great mandolins.
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Does your Model M smell like Play-Doh too?
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  25. #19
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by darylcrisp View Post
    just as the daryl household settles and there is peace, calm, and fulfillment.
    you are a bad bad boy Nick
    d
    This mandolin I will review in 2-3 weeks' time has been two years in the making so it was not the end of the line. I have been involved in a very interesting process which is all good now.

    I don't want to inflame anybody's MAS, especially yours Daryl. I hope you have reached the end of the line. I can't afford to go on swapping mandolins because I am out of work and will be for sometime in the future.


    The review will be for the benefit of others interested in a great mandolin. This one has also been road tested by a very good professional Kentucky mandolin player. And you will only be able to get one via the process that Northfield have put in place for the model M.

    And yes I also love the vanilla smell of my Northfield model M.
    Nic Gellie

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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Gellie View Post
    I can't afford to go on swapping mandolins because I am out of work and will be for sometime in the future.
    A mandolin will get you through times of no work better than work will get you through times of no mandolin. I'm paraphrasing the Furry Freak Brothers like mad, but it fits.

    I've always been grateful, when I find myself in a stretch with no money or job to make some, that I had taken the opportunity while I had them to acquire some nice things. Then there they are, at the ready to enrich my day in particular and life in general, and I can use them at will.

    Now you've got the time to spend with your new treasure, and you've got the mandolin to spend your time with. It's a win-win.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  28. #21
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    You are right Journeybear. Them mandolins are getting a real workout while I have not been working full-time. I have joined the Artistworks Bluegrass Mandolin workshop so there is not much left of a late evening after I have paid attention to Mike Marshall's lessons. I like your home grown philosophy about playing more when working less. It is also nice to have around some nice mandolins that whichever one picks up and enjoys playing fiddle tune or two on.
    Nic Gellie

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    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Well I have uploaded onto Soundcloud a few recordings of the Northfield model M:

    https://soundcloud.com/nic-gellie/frieze-breeches

    https://soundcloud.com/nic-gellie/whisky-before-breakfast-1

    https://soundcloud.com/nic-gellie/southern-flavor

    I hope you like what I have played. It gives you an idea what it sounds like. Recorded with my Iphone 4S.
    Nic Gellie

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  32. #23
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Hey Nic, I for one will be looking forward to your review of this mystery A-5, the one that you're getting after the end of the line Model M!
    It should be coming soon. It will be in the white. I am going to have a competition as to what colours I should use to finish it off.

    Last edited by Nick Gellie; Sep-26-2015 at 9:34pm.
    Nic Gellie

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  33. #24
    Registered User Nick Gellie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    I traded my Pava for my 2015 Northfield Model M. The Pava went to a really nice guy in Sydney. I did a set up similar to my Collings MT. it does sound good after two years away. I am not sure I can remember what it sounded like two years ago.

    The mystery mandolin is no longer in the house.

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    Nic Gellie

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  35. #25
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    Default Re: Northfield Model M Mandolin: the end of the line & worth the

    I have changed the setup quite a bit which makes for a much better sounding mandolin. I owe it to the previous owner who had a new nut put on it. It had a nice string spacing on there. I just altered the depth of the string slots to what I know works. I also reworked the bridge feet to make them fit better to the arch of the top.

    I took it to an open Mike night at our local pub. I played with Pete Denahy an ace fiddle player. I could not have been happier with the way it sounded.
    Nic Gellie

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