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Thread: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

  1. #1
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    I know a lot of folks have been very curious about the Northfield 4.0 F5... so, after purchasing one from Elderly about a month ago, (thanks Elderly!) I thought it might be time to post some thoughts. This review will not include images of the mandolin (sorry) as there are images of this model on the Northfield website that are much nicer than anything I can produce.
    OK... first thing I'd like to say is that I LOVE this mandolin. It has all the craftsmanship and beauty you could ask for in a top-tier builder F5; it does not, however, have the super-flamey woods that are all the rage these days. The woods were chosen for their sonic qualities and in that respect the 4.0 delivers big time. I'm sure if you wanted one of these made with highly-figured woods Northfield would be happy to do it for you.
    Holding this F5 in your hands is a treat... it feels like a million bucks (actually the price is $7,500) and the neck receives their usual violin style treatment which I have actually come to appreciate. It plays like a dream and has none of the tackiness associated with lacquer and fully varnished necks. If I were to make one change it might be to add some color to the neck as they do on their popular F5-S. Just my aesthetic preference. The headstock is given the simple treatment with just a "Northfield" inlaid with MOP and it looks just fine. Again, if bling is your thing you could custom order one and get any inlay you want... of course that will add to the price. It comes fitted with silver-plated, ebony-button Waverly tuners and while these are a nice upgrade from their usual tuners, they do add to the cost and overall weight of the mandolin. I would have been happy with this as a slightly lighter, slightly cheaper mandolin. I imagine most people would want the Waverlys regardless. The beautifully figured 3 piece neck has a radiused board and comes equipped with larger modern frets. James tailpiece comes standard as does the famous Northfield "Airloom" case. The finish on this mandolin is just exceptional! It is a rich, deep Cremona style burst done with varnish and French polish and is as nice a finish as I have ever seen on an instrument. It compares favorably with an Ellis, Nugget or any of the top builders and, once again, the word quality comes to mind.
    Sound-wise this mandolin suits me very well... plenty of volume, wonderful sustain, great balance from string to string and even articulation and response all the way up the neck. This particular mandolin was apparently made with some special, old reserve spruce and, not surpringly, it has a warmth and clarity to the sound that is quite special... I mean really special! Chords sound full and orchestral and single notes pop out with a tone that I could only describe as woody, ancient and warm... damn impressive for a new mandolin with less than 20 hours playing time on it. And here's what I'm really excited about... as good as this mandolin sounds now I am certain that in a year or two it will be absolutely amazing. All the components are in place to make this a modern-day Crusher... and by that I'm referring specifically to David's legendary F5.
    I think Northfield has achieved something really special with their 4th generation F5. It is not hype... this mandolin is as fine as any instrument being built today and Scott T was not kidding when he he said in an earlier thread that he would be more than pleased to have one of these as his lifetime instrument. It is, indeed, an exceptional mandolin. And if the price of $7,500 for a Northfield makes you scratch your head a bit consider this... with a different name on the headstock a mandolin of this quality would cost 2-3 times as much. Just sayin'...
    If you get a chance to play one of these in person it will be well-worth the effort to do so. I know there are plenty of choices in the mandolin world these days (thank god!)... the Northfield 4.0 would be an excellent choice.

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  3. #2
    Registered User lflngpicker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    Glassweb, Thank you. Very thorough and inspiring review. I appreciate the critique and details, both of which added to the veracity of your great info!
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    I really look like that soliver's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    Great review!... if I could afford one, I would be highly influenced by this review!
    aka: Spencer
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    Thanks for the thorough review. Have they refined the neck profile any? I've only played an F5s and a Big Mon and those necks wouldn't work for me.
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  8. #5
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Grieser View Post
    Thanks for the thorough review. Have they refined the neck profile any? I've only played an F5s and a Big Mon and those necks wouldn't work for me.
    Hi Don... I think the profile on this neck may be a bit slimmer and more Loar-like than say, their Big Mon neck which can be a bit chunky. I've found the Northfields to vary a bit like old Gibsons with some having a more pleasing profile than others. Actually an early Northfield A5M that I owned had about the most comfortable neck I've ever played. But that was from about 10 years ago! It had a VERY specific, well tapered and slightly more "vee-d" profile than what they're currently producing. Not as much shoulder mass either. For my left hand it was amazingly playable with zero stress or discomfort. I say go back towards the past...

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    It seems like the neck shape can't really be totally standardized by any makers, because there has to be some final hand shaping. The final neck shape ends up being what feels good to the person working on it that day I guess.
    the billyhawks http://thebillyhawks.bandcamp.com

    Original Melodies for Mandolin, Mandola & Mandocello
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  11. #7

    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    I played the prototype Northfield 4.0 that was heading to Mike Marshal and i was blown away. The clarity and tone color was at my master models level. I was extremely impressed.

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  13. #8

    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    My mate and I both have a 2016 Big Mon. They are different which is a little odd really. Mine has a chunkier neck which I totally love. Mine also has ivoroid colour neck and headstock binding and his doesn't have the same. Cant quite remember what he has but not the same binding but definitely both Big Mon made dated 2016. As I've said before on Cafe before I honestly believe I got the best mandolin ever to come out of their workshop and I've owned hundreds of mandolins over the last 50 years. I love it all although I would have preferred the same 6mm dots all the way up fretboard instead of the 'graduating to very small ones'. The bridge sits on the top absolutely perfectly at 90 degrees so no tilt back or forward and I love that aspect. Gives me the confidence that it will always be like that.


    What a fantastic mandolin terms of volume, tone, balance, intonation, set up and suitable for all types of mandolin music.

    I was lucky. Bought it used from Trevor at Tamco.

  14. #9
    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    Very nice review, thanks! I played a 4th gen at Swannanoa and I really wanted to bring it home. It was kind of an experience where at first I was like yea that's a nice mandolin with a great finish, and the more I asked it to do, the more it performed and impressed. I just bought a flat top octave from them directly and love it as well. Their service and response has been top notch throughout the process.
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  15. #10
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield 4.0 Reviewed

    I'm glad you got to play one of the 4.0s... mine is impressing me more day by day. It's amazing how changing the bridge action by just a fraction can give it a whole different character. I believe I have finally dialed in to "the sweet spot" where both sound and playability are optimal. What a great instrument!

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