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Thread: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

  1. #1

    Default What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    I am currently using an Eastman MD515 and am in the market for a 3-4k mandolin. Iím testing a Northfield F5s this week.

    Iím curious what you all think is the biggest difference between these instruments and what kind of performance and quality improvements I can expect. I am trying to gauge if this will be worth it for me or if I would need to spend more to get the benefit.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Having been through around 15 Mandolins in the last 5 years I've come to the conclusion that beyond a certain threshold they all sound very similar. I just pick the prettiest ones these days because they make me want to play them. If there is a possibility to play several Mandolins of the same model it's a good idea as they always vary from one to another. Also get someone else to play as they sound different to when you're playing them. My latest one (Pava) sounds restrained to me but sounds great from across the room. Anyway, I personally don't believe a 100K Mandolin would sound much different to a 3K one. Have fun.

  3. #3

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Thanks for the feedback. Do you think there will be a meaningful improvement moving from an ~$800 mandolin to a $3,000 mando?

    My gut tells me 3k is probably where serious diminishing returns factor in, but I have no first hand knowledge of this.

  4. #4

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    I went from an Eastman 505 to a NOrthfield F5S 4 years ago. The Northfield has a lot more going on in the sound - more bass, deeper tone generally, “woofy” chop, more volume, quality workmanship and attention to detail, amazing sustain for cross-picking, etc.

    Eastman make really nice mandolins. One of my sons recently bought a 305 which just a killer. Northfield are a serious step up, though.

    Good luck!

    John

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  6. #5
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    I think the best step up is quality of sound. The more you like the sound the more you want to play.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  8. #6

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Hi Yes, I think you'll get a top end instrument for 3K. Assuming the materials cost about the same for either Instrument, you should get a lot more attention to detail for your money & it should feel a bit more exciting in your hands. Johnny60 seems to have done what you're planning to do and it sounds like a good move.

  9. #7
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Bring your Eastman with you when you test out the Northfield.
    A side by side comparison will show you the difference.
    When you play a better instrument, you can just feel it.
    The Northfields just have some serious tone.
    The NF5s is a great mandolin.
    Check out the Big Mon if you have a chance.
    It is a bit more bassy and old school in tone.
    The NF5s is a bit more tight and modern, which I really like.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
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  11. #8
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    The difference between those two instruments I can't comment on, but i will mention that Eastman generally uses narrower, modern necks/fretboards and I don't believe Northfield does -- so there might be a different feel in your hand that has nothing to do with sound. Just putting that out there.
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  12. #9

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Glad to see this thread. Like you I have a solid under $1000 mandolin. I may not upgrade for years but I'm playing mine against other mandolins owned by friends and in stores to get an idea of how the higher priced instrument differ from mine and from each other. Also, once I know exactly what I prefer among potential upgrades I'll be ready to act should a relative bargain come along.

    For more money I don't get more volume or sustain than my current one but I do get different frequency envelopes and more complex timbre in most. By frequency envelope think of a parlor versus dreadnought versus jumbo guitar. Even though there is little variation in size among mandolins different instruments emphasize different frequency ranges. For timbre I'll borrow this definition:

    "In simple terms, timbre is what makes a particular musical sound have a different sound from another, even when they have the same pitch and loudness. For instance, it is the difference in sound between a guitar and a piano playing the same note at the same volume."

  13. #10
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    I'm interested to see what you think after you play the Northfield. I have an Eastman MD315 and MD505 and have been wondering how much better a Northfield might be for me. General consensus seems to be that the Northfields are significantly better in every way, but I'm always interested in another data point until I get a chance to try a Northfield myself. So far I'm very happy with my MD315, even after trying eight Collings and Weber mandolins from $2k to the $5400 level. I suspect that I, like so many other mando players, will not be satisfied for long at the econo level, even if only for the thought that it is the econo level!
    Doug Brock
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  15. #11
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by jbanchiere View Post
    Thanks for the feedback. Do you think there will be a meaningful improvement moving from an ~$800 mandolin to a $3,000 mando?
    For the most part, yes. Mandolins are finicky little beasts where minor tweaks can yield significant differences. It is possible that you can get them right in a factory setting. Many will point out that the holy grails of mandolins were built in such a setting. I just think that youíre far more likely to get that attention to details in a small shop or from an independent luthier.

    Quote Originally Posted by jbanchiere View Post
    My gut tells me 3k is probably where serious diminishing returns factor in, but I have no first hand knowledge of this.
    In my incomplete experience, I tend to think of the $2500 price point as the spot, particularly if youíre willing to buy used and forgo the scroll.
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  16. #12

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    When I moved from my Eastman 505 to my Silverangel, there was a big difference in the complexity of the tone, and an immediate improvement in the G string, just a warmth there lacking in the Eastman. I found this same quality sound in all the Weber, Northfield, and Collings mandolins I played. At this level they became different flavors of good.

    This tonal refinement can be had for $1200 and up in a used A style. $3000 can buy you a used Pava, Collings, etc. fully bound and gloss finish. That same $3K will get you a new Northfielf F5S, a mandolin I have always liked. The price of scroll is steep. You can get a Big Mon for under $4K used too.

    If you don't hear a big difference, don't spend the money, but most do, and we forlorn souls are destined to chase the dream indfinately. But $1500 used will buy you 90% of all you are ever going to get. 98% will likely cost you $10,000. and what that 98% sounds like is different for everyone.

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  17. #13
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi Gormley View Post
    The difference between those two instruments I can't comment on, but i will mention that Eastman generally uses narrower, modern necks/fretboards and I don't believe Northfield does -- so there might be a different feel in your hand that has nothing to do with sound. Just putting that out there.
    The Northfield NF5s come with a modern setup.
    1 1/8" radius fretboard with bigger frets.
    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: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    "For the most part, yes. Mandolins are finicky little beasts where minor tweaks can yield significant differences." This is rather true. Some of the things that ultimately made a substantial difference in enjoyment come from lots of tweaks piled one on the other in the right order!
    Stephen Perry
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  21. #15

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    You guys are all awesome. Thank you very much for the responses and the feedback. I am definitely going to bring my current mandolin with me and try them side-by-side just so I can really compare the sounds

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  23. #16

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Get someone else to play them to you - very important ! Cheers & let us know what happens.

  24. #17
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    If you want leaps and bounds in tone above the Eastman, just buy this and bank the rest...........


    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/136775#136775


    NFI
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  25. #18
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Is your Eastman set up as well as it can be? If not, and you go try out a few $3k-ish mandolins, what you might notice most is the quality of their setup. You might consider getting a professional setup on that Eastman before you shop. Then you’ll be comparing sound and not just the feel or ease of playing. Besides, you’ll likely get that setup money back when/if you sell it.

  26. #19
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    If you want leaps and bounds in tone above the Eastman, just buy this and bank the rest...........


    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/136775#136775


    NFI

    I will second that advice!

  27. #20
    fishing with my mando darrylicshon's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    For that kind of money you could have one made for you
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  29. #21
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by darrylicshon View Post
    For that kind of money you could have one made for you
    That's what I did. Right after Christmas I took delivery of a blonde A from Cafe regular David Houchens (Bryce Instruments), and it's been an absolute stunner. Unbelievable tone and volume on top of being a gorgeous work of art. Plus the very real satisfaction of knowing that it was made just for me, with wood that I picked out and details that I chose, by someone that I know to be a fabulous craftsman and artist. And all of this for not much more than I paid for my used Northfied F5s a couple of years ago.

    I think that you'll find that the Northfield is a real step up from the Eastman. And that is no knock on Eastman, just a testimony from a very satisfied Northfield owner. It's a different beast. I was delighted with mine as my only mandolin, and would still be playing it if I hadn't had the urge to have one made. $3K opens up a new world of instruments.
    Mitch Russell

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  31. #22
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Make sure to play against a wall or window to hear the reflected sound of instruments your demoing. This will give you a better picture of what the machine is producing.
    For me, custom orders are what to do. The level of personal satisfaction and attachment are worth the money, iMO. Plus you directly support a craftsman, which is a diminishing part of our economy.
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  32. #23

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    If you want leaps and bounds in tone above the Eastman, just buy this and bank the rest...........


    https://www.mandolincafe.com/ads/136775#136775


    NFI
    Buy this and an F5S and you would have the tonal spectrum covered.
    Silverangel A
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    1913 Gibson A-1

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  34. #24

    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    I can't believe that Silverangel is still there! That's a fantastic deal. So tempted.

  35. #25
    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: What can I expect in quality from upgrade?

    Good quality instruments have good sound quality as you play farther up the neck, which not all less expensive instruments do, it's something to check for.
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
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