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Thread: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

  1. #1

    Default High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    I know there's a TONS of threads comparing high end mandos...

    But regarding JUST tone/volume/response and material wise (premium woods, varnish)..... but NOT caring about bling bling/trim, how does the Big Mon (and Artist series) compare to the $8-12k mandos?

    Are they in the same league but a better bang for the buck? Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User Gunnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    From what I've heard yes.
    Mandolin: Kentucky KM150
    Other instruments: way too many, and yet, not nearly enough.

    "Imagine life without mandolin. Now slap yourself! Never do it again!" -Gunnar Salyer

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    Registered User tbown's Avatar
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    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    After acquiring my Artist 5 bar, I am a huge fan of what the folks at Northfield are doing. So much so that I've sold one of my high end F5's and getting a 4th generation F5 and will have $ left over for something else. Not bad-talking other mandolins here. I am just very impressed with the tone, volume, sustain, playability, consistency etc. of the Northfields.
    ========================
    2012 Gibson F5 Master Model
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    2019 4.0 Northfield F5 (being built)
    2019 Northfield Arched Octave Maple

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    Player, luthier, tech Andy Miller's Avatar
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    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    To my ears, the answer is yes. Also: nobody's forcing Mike Marshall, Adam Steffey, or Emory Lester to play Northfields.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Miller View Post
    To my ears, the answer is yes. Also: nobody's forcing Mike Marshall, Adam Steffey, or Emory Lester to play Northfields.
    True, these folks endorse Northfields, and they probably get their instruments for free or at a large discount. And true, the Northfields are genuinely fine-sounding mandolins. However, when I've seen Mike Marshall and Adam Steffey in concert, live (I have not seen Emory Lester), they were playing different mandolins. Marshall usually plays his Gibson Loar, and Steffey plays many different mandolins. He had a Henderson the last time I saw him live.

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    Registered User Walt's Avatar
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    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by lespaul_79 View Post
    Are they in the same league but a better bang for the buck? Thanks.
    If you are trying to choose between those two options, it would be worth a trip to go to a music store and try a few out.

    The only Northfield I've played was one of the more modestly-appointed ones (F-5, satin finish, no back binding). It was a good mandolin. It would suit my needs just fine. I also get to regularly perform with a friend's $12K+ A-5 mandolin. The $12K A-5, in this case, is objectively a better mandolin. It's flawless. Like, put it under a microscope flawless. The wood selection is exquisite. Super fat tone. Waverly tuners. Plays perfectly.

    To your question, "is it better bang for the buck?," it depends on your situation. A lot of the guys who can spend $12k on a mandolin are looking to park their money in a relatively stable place. Thirty years from now, the $12k A-5 is probably going to still be a highly sought-after instrument. The Northfield probably will not (at least not to the same extent).

    I would be more interested in how the Northfields stack up to other mandolins in the same price range. The Big Mon retails for $4,500. I think you could find some killer mandolins in that range. Especially if you're open to used instruments and A models. There's a used F-5 Mowry and used F-5 Lawrence Smart in the classifieds now for ~$5k. And an A-5 Pava for $2500. I know you can find used Collings A models for less than a Northfield F-5. You may could even get a new A-5 from a small-shop luthier for $4500. There are a lot of good options out there.

  8. #7

    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    IMHO, here's the deal. Once you get to three or four grand for an F style, including used, you are as likely as not to prefer cheaper over pricier if you could do a blind test. Then it comes down to fancy, your hero playing one, tradition, marketing, and the rest of subjective impressions.

    Head to head with a Collings F5, there are things I like better about my Silverangel, and visa versa. The only mandolin that rose above the pack was an Ellis. The Northfield Big Mon is every bit as good as a Collings, just different. Half the time I like one over the other, and cost just might be the deciding factor. I've played six thousand dollar mandolins I did not like at all and Northfield F5s I did.
    Silverangel A
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    1913 Gibson A-1

  9. #8

    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    Quote Originally Posted by Br1ck View Post
    ....... I've played six thousand dollar mandolins I did not like at all and Northfield F5s I did.
    Heck, I've played $10K+ mandolins I didn't like as well as $2K mandolins, and I'm very happy with that. Your ears may vary.
    Play it like you mean it.

  10. #9
    music with whales Jim Nollman's Avatar
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    Default Re: High end Northfields versus other $8-12k mandos

    No brand of mandolin is 100% percent consistent in terms of sound production. And can we agree that mandolin players don't all value the same tone? Or is this just another thread promoting the misconception that mandolin playing is firstly about playing bluegrass.

    Consistent builders will always get the higher prices they deserve. That's because players with enough funds to pay up front for a mandolin not yet built, are willing to hand over the consistency surcharge demanded by consistent builders. You're statistically more likely to get what you pay for.

    This website represents a few different consumer communities, especially bluegrass mandolin players and everybody else. Members of the distinctive player vs collector communities base their purchases on different criteria. I'm a player who cares overwhelmingly about tone, not so much bells and whistles. I care about brand as a measure of consistency of tone. I blindly trust the instrument output of some builders over others. We all know their names.

    I consider the Gibson Loar marketplace the perfect example of the collectors world. Prestige and financial upside are at least as critical as tone. It is what it is. One thing I value most about the Cafe, is getting to listen in to both the historical and marketplace conversations of serious collectors.
    Explore some of my published music here

    óJim

    BRW 3-point #65 (2009)
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