Northfield Mandolins

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Artist Series

Simply put, the Artist Series mandolins are Northfield’s best yet. They feature the most responsive, acoustically tuned tone woods, utilizing our most advanced construction techniques. These mandolins are elegantly carved from the most striking materials pulled from our "stash" to produce the finest aesthetics ever found in a Northfield mandolin. The result is several dynamic variations that exhibit consistently powerful and uniquely expressive voices.

Since 2007 our team has been working on design improvements for our highest- level mandolins. We have evaluated and tested our own instruments after years of use on the road as well as extensively studied some of the most impressive modern day instruments. We have gone on field trips to play and listen to special mandolins, working with some of the finest musicians in the world. Many hours have been spent with some of the very best vintage examples peering inside them with sophisticated tools used for modeling construction and acoustical data. This research has inspired and led us to re-imagine and refine ourselves in the Artist Series.
Not all science
But it hasn't been all science. Ultimately we know that a mandolin's voice is subjective and artistry and musicality, not laboratory hours, matter most in the end. We have not forgotten that the link between builders and players is the soul of the instrument, experienced in the music and feeling it provides. For this we have turned inward to our tastes for sound character. We've done extensive live and recorded listening tests, developing a vocabulary to really define what we're after in the tone of a mandolin. And we've had a lot of help, from very discerning professionals - incredibly, some of the most amazing mandolin players in the world.

meeting mikeMeeting Mike
In August of 2014 we met Mike Marshall at the Swanannoa Gathering and quickly recognized a kindred spirit. Mike’s artistry on the instrument both as a performer and educator is widely known. He’s considered by most as one of the best mandolin players ever. We were thrilled to see how enthusiastic he was about our mandolins. But after about 5 minutes of talking “shop” and details of the mandolins we realized that he has a vast understanding of the instrument with adept interests in mandolin design, construction and sound analysis. For decades, Mike has been experimenting with the mandolin and much like his adventurous approach to music he has never stopped trying out new things - set-up (bridges, strings, nut materials), internal design, neck shapes and other details. He has commissioned many instruments with challenging designs and has amassed quite a collection of unique mandolin and mandolin family instruments. He’s not afraid to wield a rasp or file to shape a neck or make a nut. Even his own iconic Lloyd Loar signed F5 that he’s played for more than 30 years has undergone many alterations to make it more responsive and play better. There was a synergy to our meeting that we knew was too good to let go of and we stayed in close contact for the next month planning a research session.

not all scienceTest Runs
We decided to meet at Mike’s home in California where he performed a recording test that he had used on many mandolins. It’s a way to really listen to the tone, separate from volume, and pick out specific frequencies that contribute to the overall character of the sound. We set up a recording session in Mike’s home studio with 2 prototype Artist Models and his Loar. We then took all of tracks and imported them into our own frequency analysis software. With the various examples we were able to pin-point the strength and balance of the fundamental frequencies as well as the harmonics and compare each mandolin. The session opened our ears to the tonal  character of these mandolins and how they compared. We set some targets for improvement and went on with the next batch. We continued like this for the next 8 months: globetrotting, testing, performing, recording, analyzing… cooking (just seeing if you’re still with us) and finally arrived at two variations to move forward with.

The first examples will become available in September 2015 at the IBMA where we will offer a few mandolins that have been built and tested over the last year. The first production batch of instruments will be completed in December 2015. Please contact us for availability. Initially, instruments will be built with specifications based on the two variations mentioned. Made in limited quantities, design/material or other modifications will be made as we continue to refine the instruments and utilize information we gain as we go along. Some options will be made available when preordering before the start of a batch, however most mandolins will be made based on specifications we know to be the most popular among players.

Prices start at $5800. For details on the mandolin variations please look over the information on the right side of this page. We encourage you to call us to discuss particulars. Our goal has always been to put the right instrument into the hands of the player. We look forward to working together with you.

Northfield and Mike Marshall 9
NF Warranty 200x175

Mike Marshall and Darol Anger play Hoedown

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Mike plays a 5 Bar Engelmann in this clip
Recorded live by Weogo at the Swananoah Gathering Summer 2015

Northfield Artist Series 5 Tonebar illustrationVariation 1

• Wider harmonic array
• More low-end responsiveness
• Omnidirectional projection pattern
Northfield Artist Series 2 Tonebar illustrationVariation 2

• Strong fundamental
• Cutting high-end power
• Focused projection

We find Engelmann to posses a real even responsiveness right out of the gate. It has an airy pop that makes it different from Red Spruce. It takes hardly any time for it to seemingly open up and start producing a mellow, somewhat darker and sweet tone. The balance across all strings is remarkable and people that favor Engelmann typically rave about the smoothness (tonally, not harsh--not brash, typically not as loud either) of this tone wood. It does not posses the headroom of Red Spruce and is typically favored by people playing in smaller ensembles and a variety of musical styles.

Red Spruce has a focused power. Its denser and stiffer structure tends to yield a power and ability to project revered by performers. It can be brighter to begin with then breaks in as it ages and dries. The fundamentals are more present and this helps to create a sonic space that punches through the mix when playing with other instruments that encroach on the same frequencies. After years of playing people associate it with a drier tone, still with lots of complexity but possessing less harmonic overtones.

Northfield Modern Setup
Scale Length: 13 7/8" (front edge of E string)
Nut width: 1 1/8"
String Spacing: 1.5"
Neck Shape: Soft V
Fingerboard Radius: 5.7" at the Nut ,  7.7" at the 20th fret

Tuners: Gotoh (Standard)
Tailpiece: Silver-plated engraved Bill James
Bridge and Fingerboard Material: Premium Ebony
Finish Material: French Polished Spirit Varnish
Finish Color: Sunburst
All materials from North America, seasoned and matched in our Marshall, MI shop. Assembled and varnished in our Qingdao shop. Set up and final inspected in our Marshall, MI shop.

Wide Nut 1 & 3/16" - “Adam Steffey” 1 & 1/4"
Scroll Work Inlay $100 - Torch Inlay $250 - Deluxe Inlay $500
Nugget Tailpiece
Waverly Tuners $500
Deluxe “Airloom” fiberglass case $250

Tone Terms and Vocabulary
Here's a list of terms we've put together with Mike to help describe tone character. It makes "speaking the same language" easier.
Click here.

Find a Store

Find a Northfield near you!
Take a look at our dealer list to find out where you can try out one of our instruments. Click here.

Contact Us

130 W Michigan Ave.
Marshall, MI 49068

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(877) 367-7304


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