Northfield Artist Series
Elegantly carved from our most striking materials 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. Designed to work for and rigorously tested by one of the most discerning genre-hopping mandolinists of our time, Mike Marshall. Simply put, the Northfield Artist Series mandolins are our best yet.
Since 2007 our team has been working on design improvements for our highest-level mandolins. We have evaluated and tested our own instruments through years of use on the road. We have extensively studied some of the most impressive modern day instruments. We have taken field trips to play and listen to exceptional mandolins, working with some of the finest musicians and luthiers in the world. We have spent many hours handling some of the very best vintage examples—peering inside them with sophisticated tools used for modeling construction and collecting acoustical data. This research has inspired and led us to reimagine and refine ourselves in the Artist Series.
Ultimately, we know that a mandolin's voice is subjective—artistry and musicality, not laboratory hours, matter most in the end. We have not forgotten that the link between builders and players is where the soul of the instrument is born. We've done extensive live and recorded listening tests, developing a vocabulary to define what we're after in the tone of a mandolin, but we haven’t done this alone. Apparent in the name Artist Series, we’ve had a lot of help from very discerning professionals—incredibly, some of the most amazing mandolin players in the world.
Mike Marshall's adventurous approach to music and his adept interests in mandolin design was a natural fit.
In August of 2014 at the Swanannoa Gathering we met Mike Marshall and quickly recognized a kindred spirit. Mike’s artistry on the mandolin, 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 we recognized his 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 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 and before we knew it we were having a research session at Mike’s California home.
We met at Mike’s home in California where he performed a recording test that he had used on many mandolins. It’s a way to 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 Series Models as well as his Lloyd Loar F5. We scrutinized the tracks in our frequency analysis software. We were able to pin-point the strength and balance of the fundamental frequencies as well as the harmonics of each mandolin. The session opened our ears to the tonal character of these mandolins, we set some targets for improvement and went on with the next batch. We continued like this for eight months—globetrotting, testing, performing, recording, analyzing… cooking (just seeing if you’re still with us) and finally arriving at two variations to move forward with.
We’ve called upon some of the most amazing mandolin builders and players in the world—challenging and inspiring one another to create something truly exceptional.
The Northfield Artist Series
Specifications and Options
- Top: Carved Engelmann or Red Spruce
- Sides / Back / Neck: Carved Sugar maple back
- Tailpiece: Nickel-plated engraved Bill James
- Pick Guard: Bound Ebony
- Bridge / Fingerboard Material: Premium Ebony
- Nut Width: 1 1/8"
- String Spacing: 1.5"
- Neck Shape: Soft V
- Fingerboard Radius: 5.7" at nut, 7.7" at 20th fret
- Tuners: Gotoh (Standard)
- Finish Material: French Polished Spirit Varnish
- Finish Color: Sunburst
- Tone Bar Construction: 5 Bar or 2 Bar
- Scale Length: 13 7/8" (front edge of E string)
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.
Price: From $5,800
- Nut Width: Wide Nut 1 & 3/16" - “Adam Steffey” 1 & 1/4”
- Head Stock Inlay:
Scroll Work Inlay - $100
Torch Inlay - $250
Deluxe Inlay - $500
"Artist Inlay" - $500
- Tailpiece: Nugget Tailpiece
- Tuners: Waverly Tuners - $500
- Case: Deluxe “Airloom” fiberglass case - $250