Northfield Mandolins NFB-F5A Big Mon, Adirondack Spruce Top New
Northfield's "Big Mon" is of course named after the famous Bill Monroe tune, and like his iconic Lloyd Loar F-5 it has the black-white purfling lines on the sides (instead of on the top and back). But you don't have to play like Monroe to get what this model is about, that becomes clear with just a few chord chops and quick runs with your flat pick. It's hard to believe this is a brand new mandolin, and when those brassy-sounding new strings are broken in a bit the tone will be even more convincing. Northfield pulled out all the stops for this model, even giving it a hybrid varnish finish instead of straight nitrocellulose lacquer.
Thankfully it's also not a slavish copy of Monroe's mandolin, or of any Gibson mandolin for that matter. The list of little differences goes on and on, such as the pearl dots on the fingerboard being graduated in size, and the delicate headstock inlay bears little resemblance to the classic "flower pot" inlay found on all those Gibsons. The finish has a satin sheen, and the back of the neck has the look of a carefully worn fiddle neck. In a nod to function for the contemporary player, the fingerboard extension is shortened and slightly scooped, giving your flatpick better access to that "sweet spot" just past the 20th fret where an F-hole mandolin yields the warmest, most bubbly, tone. You won't be picking in that spot when you try to capture Monroe's tone on "Big Mon," but when backing vocals the singer(s) will appreciate the different tone you get by picking that far away from the bridge.