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Thread: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

  1. #1

    Post Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    Longtime listener- first time caller.

    I desperately want to like the Northfield Model M and thought it would be my next instrument. I like the way it looks, the price, and the company. ButÖ I have an internal refrain about the tone that I just canít get over.

    Listening to videos of the Model M, when the player hits the A and E strings, well the best way I can describe it is an electric guitar with the tone knob rolled down. Itís a strong and solid note, but I donít hear any sparkle, brilliance or complexity on those strings. I canít recall hearing other ďdryĒ voiced instruments and thinking the same thing.

    Iíve noticed the same thing to a lesser degree on videos of NF-F5S mandolins. Is this simply a function of how strong and warm the fundamental tones are on Northfields that overtones are less present? Have I finally melted my brain with too many mandolin videos and late-night perusals of Cafe threads (likely)?

    Perhaps trying to describe tone is like ďhorse dancing about cookingĒ or whatever that quote is, but Iím really fascinated by this and would love to hear from others (even if itís a recommendation to clean the wax out or buy better headphones).

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  3. #2
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    The only real way to evaluate tone is to play the instrument personally or at worst ask someone you really trust in his tone assesment/judgement and who has similar taste as you. YT videos or other internet files are highly processed and often don't show real tone even with best headphones, sometimes the instrument sounds better in person and sometimes worse and no two instruments will sound the same even from the same producer and line.
    Adrian

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  5. #3
    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by Euonymus View Post
    Longtime listener- first time caller.

    I desperately want to like the Northfield Model M and thought it would be my next instrument. I like the way it looks, the price, and the company. ButÖ I have an internal refrain about the tone that I just canít get over.

    Listening to videos of the Model M, when the player hits the A and E strings, well the best way I can describe it is an electric guitar with the tone knob rolled down. Itís a strong and solid note, but I donít hear any sparkle, brilliance or complexity on those strings. I canít recall hearing other ďdryĒ voiced instruments and thinking the same thing.

    Iíve noticed the same thing to a lesser degree on videos of NF-F5S mandolins. Is this simply a function of how strong and warm the fundamental tones are on Northfields that overtones are less present? Have I finally melted my brain with too many mandolin videos and late-night perusals of Cafe threads (likely)?

    Perhaps trying to describe tone is like ďhorse dancing about cookingĒ or whatever that quote is, but Iím really fascinated by this and would love to hear from others (even if itís a recommendation to clean the wax out or buy better headphones).
    Northfield, like all other builders and makers, is going after a certain sound. I have owned and played a number of Northfield mandolins and I would say that each model has its own "signature sound". In other words there's not going to be a whole lot of variation between the instruments of a particular model... and that is exactly why Northfield has done so incredibly well for themselves... quality and consistency in tone, build quality and aesthetics.

    What will affect the sound of a particular Northfield model will be the type of woods that are used... some giving a brighter, more penetrating tone and other wood producing a warmer, woofier and more rounded sound. I have played a couple of their model M's recently and thought they sounded and played superbly. A lot of bang for your mandolin buck. In the end you just have to find a particular instrument that really rocks your world... for a while anyway!

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  7. #4
    Administrator Mandolin Cafe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    This first video is labelled wrong. It's actually an M model and identified as such at The Mandolin Store






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  13. #7
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    Default Re: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    I've owned a model M myself and was underwhelmed. Let me start off by saying that I was hoping for a bluegrass machine and I felt that it didn't have much bark or brightness to it. Being in a location where there isn't many mandolins to try out I took a chance by ordering it. Don't get me wrong, it sounded good and was made very well, just didn't fit for what I was looking for. I attributed it's tone to the engelmann top and that scared me away from anything other than red or sitka spruce. Fast-forward to now... I play an engelmann spruce topped RAG and it's a bluegrasser for sure. Same wood for the top, same for the back and sides but a COMPLETELY different voice. It's all in the hands of the maker and how they voice it. So it really boils down to you playing one and seeing for yourself. Fortunately, it's a quality mandolin and I'm sure it can be passed on with not much loss to someone who will appreciate it even if it wasn't what you need at this moment.
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  15. #8

    Default Re: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    Thanks to all for the replies and to Scott for all the video links. Hopefully having all those videos in one place can be a useful tool for anyone else considering a Model M. If there's anyone who has watched more Model M videos than I have, I'd like to meet them and encourage them to seek help.

    I happen to be within a day's drive of The Music Emporium, so I'll follow the eternal mandolin truth that there's nothing like playing it for yourself. Will report back if I get the chance.

  16. #9

    Default Re: Question About Northfield Model M Tone

    Quote Originally Posted by mandoleeland View Post
    I've owned a model M myself and was underwhelmed. Let me start off by saying that I was hoping for a bluegrass machine and I felt that it didn't have much bark or brightness to it. Being in a location where there isn't many mandolins to try out I took a chance by ordering it. Don't get me wrong, it sounded good and was made very well, just didn't fit for what I was looking for. I attributed it's tone to the engelmann top and that scared me away from anything other than red or sitka spruce. Fast-forward to now... I play an engelmann spruce topped RAG and it's a bluegrasser for sure. Same wood for the top, same for the back and sides but a COMPLETELY different voice. It's all in the hands of the maker and how they voice it. So it really boils down to you playing one and seeing for yourself. Fortunately, it's a quality mandolin and I'm sure it can be passed on with not much loss to someone who will appreciate it even if it wasn't what you need at this moment.
    Congrats on finding a great instrument in your RAG. While a "bluegrass machine" isn't how I'd describe my ideal mandolin, I live not too far from Roy Gordon. I should drop him a line and see if I can't swing by his shop and check out a few instruments.

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