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Thread: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

  1. #1

    Default Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    I have two mandolins, one Eastman which is nice for for the price, and one mid level American luthier built, Which is a better mando as you would expect
    I have never played a Northfield, but everyone I know who has played one raves about them!
    My problem is I just can't wrap my head around 4 to 6k for a Chinese instrument!
    On one hand, a great mando is a great mando
    And country of origin vs. price is a non issue.
    As narrow minded as I might be on this issue⁹
    It's weird.
    Anyone share this sentimemt?

  2. #2
    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    No.
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    The NF5S is around $3.2K. Also, Northfields are not just a 'Chinese' company. Some models are built in the US, and my understanding is that all of the instruments are designed in the US, and that manufacturing is divided between their shop in China and the US. I have no financial interest in Northfield. Just a happy owner.
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  4. #4
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    Quote Originally Posted by rgregg48 View Post
    Anyone share this sentimemt?
    No

    Beware stereotypes
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  6. #5
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    If you have questions about the company and their business model you might be well to search the forums here. I do remember there has been some discussion of this in the past, with the owner even giving comment on how they are structured.
    Northfield works extensively with professional mandolin players to research and develop some very high quality instruments.
    I have no financial interest in this, nor Northfield Instruments.
    But, FWIW, I have a Chinese made mandolin that is likely to have been made by the Pango shop/brand. It has all the quality of a MUCH higher level build. I bought it thinking I could have a mandolin I could take out of the house more comfortably.
    I had a skilled Luthier replace the bridge and nut, and set it up. He is of the opinion that this is not just a good mandolin for what it is, but a VERY good mandolin.
    Sadly, this mandolin has no badging nor name brand attached to it anywhere. We even looked inside under the top. Nothing.
    I likely could not get anywhere near what it is worth in sound quality and ease of playing.
    Cheap? Yep. For me it was very cheap. Not likely thought to sell it. Very few would give me what it is worth.
    If Northfield has a mandolin that sells for $5K-$6K, and sounds amazing. And you have the funds for it and it speaks to you. Buy it. Play it. Love it a long, long, time
    Eric Hanson
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  7. #6
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    I have a mandolin made in Texas, an acoustic guitar made in China and both are dear friends

  8. #7
    Registered User J Mangio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    +1
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  9. #8

    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    How many of us play American-made Kay mandolins?
    Supply chains are global these days, get used to it!

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  11. #9
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    There is a very wide range of prices and quality in Chinese made instruments, just as there was in American until late in the 20th century. Almost every week someone posts a question about an inexpensive and somewhat cruddy made American bowl back on this forum. We tend to forget them and remember the higher end instruments, in part because they are so good but also because having been well made they have a better survival rate.

    I am primarily a bass player. My main upright bass is a bottom of the Line Shen SB80, made in China. It is a well designed and crafted instrument that ha served me well for ten years. I find it vastly superior to the American made Englhard basses made at the same time. There also are Chinese made bass shaped objects that are close to unplayable and tend to self destruct. The key is doing your research to find a good maker, not a country of origin.

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  13. #10
    Registered User mtucker's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    Go do some homework first and stop trolling.

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  15. #11
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    One of the instructors at a camp last year (when there were still camps) was a high end violin broker. He said that some of the very best, most expensive, violins are coming out of the small luthier shops in China.

  16. #12

    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    I could use more homework, but im certainly not "trolling"

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  18. #13

    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    thanks for the replys many of which made good sense!

  19. #14
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    Yes, I would suggest doing much more research on Northfield mandolins. They have definitely proved themselves over the years. They build consistently high quality instruments in several price ranges and you can always buy used and save some money. Northfield is doing pioneering work in modern mandolin builds and working with world class mandolinists to produce world class mandolins. I have played many and I currently own a Big Mon and I plan on buying another Northfield instrument. I am fortunate enough to live close to both Gruhn's and Carter's Vintage in Nashville, so almost any day I can go and play an Ellis, Gilchrist, Dudenbostel, Daley, Gibson and more, and for the price, even at $4k to $6k for a Northfield, in my humble opinion, it's a great value. Just ask Mike Marshall or Emory Lester.

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  21. #15
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    I have only played one Northfield. It was one of their early F-5 models. It sounded good and appeared to be well made.
    The best modern F-5 mandolins for under $10,000 I have played were made by Paul Newsom. They cost more than Northfields, but considerably less than those made by many better known builders.
    I have never played a Gilchrist that was not a good instrument. They are not being made in the US.
    In a more modest price range, I had an Eastman 505 come through here in trade that was a better instrument than just about any Gibson A-50 I have played, and was good enough to gig with. I wish I had kept it.
    A few years ago, a now retired professional cello player that I know bought a really good Chinese cello. She said it was the best instrument she had ever owned, and she wishes that she had gotten it before she retired.
    I've been using a high end Recording King guitar on most of my recent gigs. It's not quite as good as an equivalent Martin, but almost as good. It cost about a 1/3 of the price of the Martin. Unfortunately, the high end Recording Kings were introduced when the economy was very low. They didn't sell well, and were discontinued several years ago.

  22. #16
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    https://www.northfieldinstruments.co...ield-workshops

    ^^^ Start here. Definitely not the typical “Made in China” product, and a pretty cool concept IMO. I don’t own one but have played some in shops and they are excellent instruments. Seems like back when they were getting started there was some great video footage from the shop in China and the shop in Michigan explaining the whole thing. I can’t locate that now.
    ...

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  24. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    Many of us grew up (well, got older, anyway) in an era when "Made in Japan" meant cheap, disposable low-end stuff. I think that perspective shifted significantly when solid, affordable, competitive automobiles started crossing the Pacific and taking a large share of the market. Now we have luxury cars made in Asia, with all the quality features that used to be found only on American and European products.

    Honestly, most of the cheap, disposable low-end stuff -- including mandolin-shaped objects that fool many beginners into thinking they're playable instruments -- is still made in Asia, the main area where companies can find low-wage hand labor. But the development of an interdependent global marketplace has resulted in the world-wide dispersal of high-quality manufacturing. That includes products once thought to be only made well in Europe and America. There is a long tradition of high-quality crafts-person-ship in Asian countries, that has only recently been applied to making products for export to countries where those products were once exclusively made.

    Rest assured, if Northfield mandolins weren't competitive with other instruments in their price ranges, they wouldn't be as successful as they apparently are. We have to forego stereotyping "Chinese products" as being inferior in materials, design, or manufacture. Some still are; the lower ranges of the musical instrument market are pretty much exclusively Asian products, with some Eastern European examples as well. But the upper ranges now have a significant component of Asian-made instruments as well. And well-known American firms now have Asian affiliations, import low-to-mid-range instruments to support their higher-end domestic products.

    It's hard to competitively rate mandolins -- or any product -- without looking at the label, listing "country of origin." But that shouldn't be determinative, IMHO.
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  26. #18
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    Judge an instrument by its tone, playability, and quality of construction, not by its maker, model, color, or country of origin.

  27. #19
    Registered User MB-Octo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    rgregg48,

    You're as narrow-minded as I used to be. Even run-of-the-mill instruments coming out of Asia can be astounding values compared to decades past. Three of the Chinese instruments I have (concert uke, tenor guitar, & electric mandolin) ranged from $45 to $150 and required nothing more than better strings and a proper setup to be good, everyday players. They're better than most of the low-end US-made instruments available when I was growing up. Higher up the price/quality scale, I have instruments from Mexico, Korea, China, and the USA, none of which I would keep if they weren't good and useful instruments. Higher still, the Northfield NF-F2S is worth every penny I paid, and has become my #1 mandolin, necessitating the departure of an old friend from Logan, Montana.

    If today's equivalent of Antonio Stradivari lived in China, would you ignore his instruments and choose a lesser violin from from a well-respected American maker?
    Monte

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  28. #20
    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    As I understand it, the Northfield model is a collaboration between two excellent facilities, both staffed with highly skilled luthiers. One just happens to be in Michigan and one in China. It is not the stereotypical arrangement between two disparate organizations, where one takes advantage of cheap labor and resources in a way to cut costs.

    I would put my F5S up against anything in its price range (and, actually, price ranges well above) for quality of build and fidelity of tone. And those are the two things that matter to me in buying any instrument.

    As has been stated (and not just talking about mandolins), it is no longer a simple matter of looking at the "Made in ____" label to determine quality.
    "Keep your hat on, we may end up miles from here..." - Kurt Vonnegut

  29. #21

    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    If you get a chance to play a Northfield, try it, you'll like it. They are outstanding.

  30. #22
    Mandolin Player trodgers's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    I think we need to focus our attention not so much on 'country of origin' as 'quality of shop origin.' Northfield's shop in China employs skilled luthiers and craftsmen to build instruments. It is not a mass-production factory focused on making a product to meet lower price points. The quality of materials is top notch, as is the skill of the workers building them. I've had an opportunity to play Northfields side by side with Collings and Gibsons. From my limited experience, the Northfield instruments compare favorably to the two big US makers.
    “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free.” -- Aldo Leopold

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  32. #23

    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    I said in my post, I might be narrow minded.
    Eastman is a good mando for the money
    But from everything I've heard the Northfield
    Is in A totally differently class!

  33. #24

    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    From my understanding, Northfield was born out of a desire to buck the trend of exploitative labor practices both in the US and abroad. These are master luthiers from China and the US who decided to create their own company, and the fruits of that labor are some of, not just the best mandolins for the money, but arguably some of the best mandolins on the market.

  34. #25
    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Chinese made mandolins (Northfield?)

    My, how things have changed here over the years. When I joined this site, most people here would vilify any mandolin made in Asia as a matter of principle. There used to be terms like "POS PACRIMJOB" thrown around all the time. Now everyone is so enlightened and fairly self-righteous about it.

    Don't get your panties in a knot. I am not judging or complaining, just noticing, and reminiscing.

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