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Thread: Northfield F5S Review

  1. #1
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Northfield F5S Review

    Hi, Everyone:

    I received my new Northfield F5S (Engleman) mandolin two days ago and am happy to provide a review here for our collective knowledge-base. It's a wonderful mandolin unlike any other I have owned.

    First, to give some context, I should say I'm a hardcore mandolin hobbyist who has had the pleasure of owning one mandolin at a time for most of the past 20 years. I've owned everything from a "No Name" I purchased on eBay on which the "tailpiece" was four wood nails (yes, four) hammered into the body to a highly customized Weber Fern made during Weber's heyday in the late 2000s. Along the way, I have had significant playing time on maybe a dozen other mandolins, each with its own character. So, although I've played but haven't owned a Gilchrist, Nugget, or Loar, I've sampled a bunch of high quality instruments that are more affordable and am happy to have those experiences as points of comparison.

    I will say, this Northfield F5S is the best sounding mandolin I've owned since that 2008 Weber Fern - the one that got away. It's fundamentally different, perhaps more of a classic Gibson sound, but the quality of the tone is outstanding. It has plenty of volume, is very balanced across the strings and up the neck, and has that echo-y, chamber sound when strumming, chopping, tremoloing, and picking single notes. There's a rich, deep fundamental character I like a whole lot. It's also maybe the easiest-playing mandolin I've owned, with a respectful nod to Pomeroy, Morris, Rigel, Breedlove, and Collings. That was the drawback with the custom Weber Fern I had. It was a tank and took a heavy hand to draw out the super tone. Not this Northfield F5S. It takes a light touch to get it's fundamental sweetness. With that said, it also chops very well, but I don't need to whip it to get that throaty, percussive chop we all love. It's a great sounding and playing instrument.

    As far as the way it looks, the fit and finish is very impressive, just like the Weber and Collings I have owned. It's a satin finish, which I quite like, and the little cutaway at the end of the fretboard is cool, although I assumed it actually had frets there but has lines that I suppose are painted. I'm also happy to have a pickguard, something I don't require but that I think looks really cool. Since it's the stripped down Northfield F5, it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the Weber Fern or the Collings MT2, but I'm not missing those things either, whereas even a year ago I would have longed for them. I'm so happy with the tone and to be back in the F-style club the visual bling isn't so important right now.

    Here are some pics of it on The Mandolin Store's web site:
    http://https://themandolinstore.com/...olin-engleman/

    That's where things are with it two days in. It will, of course, be interesting to play it with others to hear how it holds up. My assumption is it is going to do great. In the meantime, here's me jamming on it this morning to a video of my friend Jeff Shiffman singing one of his original songs. He's the singer for Box Canyon, an Americana-ish band based in Poland:

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Congratulations, Kevin! I played one of those at The Music Emporium last August alongside a Pava, a couple Collings, some older Gibson As, and a couple of Eastmans. I was very impressed with the Northfield, which was the one Iíd have taken home had I been actually shopping (Iím very happy with my Skip Kelley A5 and my Rigel CT110, and was there mostly to check out GBOMs).

    If I ever get scroll fever again, Iíll definitely include Northfields in my list of possibilities. Enjoy!

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    Registered User Drew Egerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Sounds great Kevin, congrats! The dog seems to approve
    Drew
    2016 Skip Kelley Vintage F-5 (#54)
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    "Thank you for making it through a truly unreasonable amount of mandolin playing" - CT

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    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    well that was just too cool!
    thanks to you and your friend on guitar, coolest thing I've seen/heard in days-maybe weeks.

    the Northfield sounds very nice. I've owned 3 of them and all 3 were fine instruments. at times I've wondered why in the world I ever sold either of them(MAS is a powerful thing), but I wanted to try this or that and enjoyed whatever was the trade and I live for the most part with the "one in, one out" rule. Would love to keep them all, but....

    will be looking forward to what you do with this,
    i'll say it-this sounds better with your style-thicker, richer, more woody to my ears(and I've owned a few Collings and have one now for the past year+ and its wonderful, but this Northfield has your number bro!)
    d

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    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Congrats on the Northfield - I love mine. Sounds great in your hands! Enjoy!

  7. #6
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Thanks so much, everyone. :-)

    I'm glad to have a sympathetic ear from ya', Daryl. It's a journey for sure. I'd like to say this is the last mandolin I'll ever own, but hopefully I've gained some wisdom over the years. Ideally, I'd never have to part with any of the mandolins I've had. My beloved custom Weber Fern, both Breedlove OFs, both Collings, the Morris A, a great Eastman 305, the Red Line, and more. But, I'm a one in, one out player too due to finances.

    It's sounding better and better each time I pick it up. It's very responsive, and does not take a heavy hand, so that's taking some getting used to. But, it has great volume and the notes just sing. Wonderful instrument.

    More later!

  8. #7

    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Thanks for the review.

    Like you, I've been through a lot of mandolins. Like you, I stick to one in, one out. Like you, I ended up with a Northfield NF5S.

    I've had it for a couple years and I see no reason to upgrade. I mean...sometimes I want to..but there is really no guarantee that I can do better. It's just a really good sounding, versatile, handsome mandolin. When my daughter heard the video she thought it was me playing. Northfields have a signature sound and I like it.

    MAS is always real. I might do a tailpiece swap (would love a James). Maybe even some inlay to personalize it. But there's no reason to move on.
    Northfield NF5S
    Tracy Cox Nordic Mandola
    Gernandt Octave mandolin
    Crump B1 Bouzouki
    Davy Stuart Mandola
    www.singletonstreet.com

  9. #8
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Leyda View Post
    Thanks for the review.

    Like you, I've been through a lot of mandolins. Like you, I stick to one in, one out. Like you, I ended up with a Northfield NF5S.

    I've had it for a couple years and I see no reason to upgrade. I mean...sometimes I want to..but there is really no guarantee that I can do better. It's just a really good sounding, versatile, handsome mandolin. When my daughter heard the video she thought it was me playing. Northfields have a signature sound and I like it.

    MAS is always real. I might do a tailpiece swap (would love a James). Maybe even some inlay to personalize it. But there's no reason to move on.
    I appreciate you adding your thoughts, Troy. I know what you mean. There's something really great about this mandolin. Today, it was more alive and well than yesterday, and I am sure that will continue, as it's only been three days. :-)

    I would also consider a few upgrades, such as a wooden truss rod cover, possibly a wooden pick guard, and maybe a flowerpot inlay or something more unique on the headstock... maybe. Otherwise, I don't think it "needs" anything else, and likely doesn't need those things either, haha. We'll see what happens, but right now I feel darn good about this F5G.

    I'd love to hear some sound clips if you have them. I'll likely post some more in a day or two.

  10. #9

    Default Re: Northfield F5S Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Briggs View Post

    I'd love to hear some sound clips if you have them. I'll likely post some more in a day or two.
    I did this one for the Facebook Mando group. Our favorite John Prine song (RIP):
    https://www.facebook.com/chuck.leyda...user_video_tab
    Northfield NF5S
    Tracy Cox Nordic Mandola
    Gernandt Octave mandolin
    Crump B1 Bouzouki
    Davy Stuart Mandola
    www.singletonstreet.com

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