Results 1 to 20 of 20

Thread: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

  1. #1

    Default Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Hey guys,

    I am looking for a new (to me) mandolin, but I would like to get some input on what is going to be best for me. I know that this is a highly subjective topic, but any input would be appreciated.

    I've been playing mandolin for a few years now, and I am to the point that I want to upgrade to a higher quality mandolin that will sound good for Bluegrass and southern gospel music. Something with a nice solid chop, and good volume.

    My last mandolin was a Weber Bitterroot, and although that was a great mandolin, it didn't have the bluegrass sound that I was looking for. It was a bit too modern sounding for my taste.

    That being said I have narrowed down my search to Collings (probably a satin model, definitely something on their lower end), a Northfield, or a Skip Kelley. (or possibly a Gibson F9 if I could find one in my budget)

    Looking at F styles, and only used instruments. I've actually found a Kelley in my price range that I am leaning toward buying, but I've never played a Kelley so I'm not sure how it would compare, or what to expect. Unfortunately it's about 6 hours away from me, so I can't try it before I buy it.

    The sound is what is most important to me, so the real question is which mandolin is going to give me the most bang for my buck in terms of sound quality, and play-ability.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Resident Hack
    Join Date
    Jul 2020
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    74

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Most reputable sellers will let you do a 48 hour trial. If the instrument is not what you love, you would be out only the shipping costs.
    Might be worth an ask
    What I play
    Eastwood 'Ricky'
    Morgan Monroe RT-1E
    Epiphone Genesis guitars
    Various Basses

  3. The following members say thank you to Mitch Stein for this post:


  4. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    4,103

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    My Kelley A5 is more traditional sounding than a Collings MT I used to own and other MTs Iíve played through the years. The Collingsí fit/finish was spectacular and it had great playability and volume, but definitely fell more in the ďmodernĒ tone camp. The Kelley is very well built/finished, easy/comfortable to play, has great dynamics, even across and up the neck, and is more in the traditional tone camp. I think a MT-2 compares more favorably to my Kelley than a MT (which makes since given the wood choices). I was introduced to Skipís work 14 or 15 years ago by an old timer BG bass player who learned I played mandolin and told me, ďThereís this fella up in Thomasvilleíll build you one thatíll thump as good or betterín any Gibson youíll find.Ē It took me a while to get to the point I felt like I could play well enough to take the plunge, but Iím obviously a fan of Skipís work. Despite that bass playerís endorsement the Kelley works equally well for BG/old time, gospel, IT, some alt rock, and classical, at least in my living room and church.

    My Northfield experience is limited to a couple at TME about 2 years ago that I played alongside a Pava, a Collings, and a Rigel A style. I didnít feel compelled to trade my Kelley for either Northfield or Pava, but I was very impressed with their quality and tone, probably even more so that the Northfields held up as well as they did. (I also have a more traditionally voiced CT-110, so I didnít give that Rigel much attention).

    So, my vote would be for Kelley or NF compared to the MTs Iíve played, but, MT-2s would definitely be in my short list if you can stretch your budget there. Based on my experience, though, the Kelley is a pretty safe bet...

  5. The following members say thank you to CES for this post:


  6. #4
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    St. Paul, MN
    Posts
    1,294

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Haven't played a Kelly, so can't help there. A Collings will also have a more modern tone, although it's different than the Weber tone. The Northfield NF-5S is going to be closer to what you want. Definitely falls into the traditional tone. Although it is still different from a Gibson. It's not as dry sounding as a Gibson. It does have a good punch.

    BTW, this is based on the instruments I own. And I don't play bluegrass, so what I look for in an instrument may well be different than what you want.
    2017 Northfield F5SA, 2008 Weber Gallatin F, 2018 Collings MT, 1929 Gibson A Jr., 2018 Eastman MDO-305
    http://ericplatt.weebly.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/LauluAika/
    https://www.lauluaika.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/Longtine-Pl...4404553312723/

  7. The following members say thank you to Eric Platt for this post:


  8. #5

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    The NF5S has a mighty chop, volume, and a fundamental tone that cuts through well in ensemble playing. I think they shine in bluegrass settings but have the versatility to take on other styles as well.

    That said, they are not pins and needles dry so if that's what you're looking for you might want to try something else. They aren't overly "wet" either. Somewhere in the middle I guess. I think it's a good tone.
    Girouard Concert A5
    Trillium Mandola
    Dunwell B-1 Bouzouki
    Collings MT2-0
    www.singletonstreet.com

  9. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Chuck Leyda For This Useful Post:


  10. #6
    Registered User samlyman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Post Falls, Idaho
    Posts
    281

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    A couple of cardinal rules to consider here:

    1) People generally advocate on behalf of the mandolins they own or want to own when responding to such requests for feedback.
    2) No two mandolins sound alike so you really need to play the instrument in order to know if it has the sound you want
    3) "Modern" tone is in the ears of the beholder and player. For example, if you listen to Chris Thile and David Grisman play their Loar-signed Gibson mandolins you will hear everything from "modern" to "traditional" tone. The tone is in the hands of the player and impacted by the instrument, the strings, the pick, the pick attack and even the temperature and humidity.

    Please note that I am not an acoustic engineer and I do not advocate for any particular instrument. I am expressing personal opinions here based on decades of playing, performing and using mandolins from Gibson, Givens, Collings, Heiden, Flatiron, Andersen and many others.

  11. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to samlyman For This Useful Post:


  12. #7
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Shutesbury, MA
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Quote Originally Posted by samlyman View Post
    A couple of cardinal rules to consider here:

    1) People generally advocate on behalf of the mandolins they own or want to own when responding to such requests for feedback.
    2) No two mandolins sound alike so you really need to play the instrument in order to know if it has the sound you want
    3) "Modern" tone is in the ears of the beholder and player. For example, if you listen to Chris Thile and David Grisman play their Loar-signed Gibson mandolins you will hear everything from "modern" to "traditional" tone. The tone is in the hands of the player and impacted by the instrument, the strings, the pick, the pick attack and even the temperature and humidity.

    Please note that I am not an acoustic engineer and I do not advocate for any particular instrument. I am expressing personal opinions here based on decades of playing, performing and using mandolins from Gibson, Givens, Collings, Heiden, Flatiron, Andersen and many others.
    Exactly. Very well said!

    ďThere are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.Ē ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin

  13. #8

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Thanks for all of the input so far!

    Samlyman, and Tim, I agree with what you are saying, but that's why I said in my OP that "I know this topic is subjective". All instruments are different, and ultimately the player is the top influencer of the sound that a particular instrument produces, however certain instruments are more well suited to certain styles of music than others.

    For example, I come from the guitar world, and I've had a lot of guitars. Yes you can play Bluegrass on any guitar, but generally a Martin D28/D18 style guitar works better for Bluegrass than a more modern braced guitar like say a Taylor. Taylor builds a great guitar, but in general they are not well suited for Bluegrass. Of course there are exceptions in the Taylor line, but I am speaking in generalities here.

    It sounds like people love their Northfields, and I have been impressed with those myself. The great thing about a Northfield is I could buy a new mandolin from them for about the same as a used model from the other 2 builders. However my primary reason for this post was that I have found a used Kelley, for sale by an individual 6 hours away, but I don't know a lot about Kelley mandolins (aside from their good reputation), and I was torn between a Collings and a Northfield before I found the Kelley...

    So to rephrase my original question: if the price was equal between the 3 brands, which mandolin would you buy? (In general) Thanks!!

  14. #9
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Bozeman, MT
    Posts
    1,074

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    In my personal opinion, under your criteria of equal pricing, I’d get the one from the solo builder. Then you have a unique piece of acoustic art
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
    Deering Classic Open Back
    Too many microphones

    BridgerCreekBoys.com

  15. The following members say thank you to MontanaMatt for this post:


  16. #10
    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Location
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Posts
    3,297

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Quote Originally Posted by JFMando View Post
    So to rephrase my original question: if the price was equal between the 3 brands, which mandolin would you buy? (In general) Thanks!!
    Iíd buy the Kelley. Besides the fact that Iím drawn to the work of independent builders, and Skip is a heckuva nice guy here on the Cafe, a used instrument should already have the depreciation taken out of it. If it doesnít stick, and I decide to sell it, I should be able to recoup most if not all of my investment. Conversely, a new mandolin is generally going to be worth less once it is purchased. I guess thereís some value in a warranty as the original owner, but Iíve never made a warranty claim in over thirty years of buying instruments.
    1924 Gibson A Snakehead
    2005 National RM-1
    2007 Hester A5
    2009 Passernig A5
    2015 Black A2-z
    2010 Black GBOM
    2017 Poe Scout
    2014 Smart F-Style Mandola
    2018 Vessel TM5
    2019 Hogan F5

  17. The following members say thank you to pheffernan for this post:


  18. #11
    Old Guy
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    704

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    I had a Kelley that I sold to buy a concertina (long story). I have played a few Collings, but have never even seen a Northfield. I have played some Bitterroots too. The Kelley was head and shoulders above the Collings and Bitterroot. As you said-very subjective. I'd love to have the Kelley back. I know who has it and if he ever puts it up for sale, I'll be all over it! YMMV as always.
    Thanks

    Silverangel F5
    Big Muddy M-2

  19. The following members say thank you to Mike Scott for this post:


  20. #12
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Crockett, TX
    Posts
    974

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Quote Originally Posted by samlyman View Post
    "Modern" tone is in the ears of the beholder and player. For example, if you listen to Chris Thile and David Grisman play their Loar-signed Gibson mandolins you will hear everything from "modern" to "traditional" tone. The tone is in the hands of the player and impacted by the instrument, the strings, the pick, the pick attack and even the temperature and humidity.
    Of course the subject of tone is always subjective, but I disagree that the categories of "modern" and "traditional" tone have no meaning whatsoever. Regardless of the other variables and how many different mandolins one has played. The OP clearly thinks those categories have meaning, so I'll attempt to help and answer accordingly.

    Given your preferences, and having played all 3 brands, I would echo the sentiment and go for the Kelley.
    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5
    Montana Flatiron A-Jr.
    Passernig Mandola
    Leo Posch D-18

  21. The following members say thank you to ccravens for this post:


  22. #13
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Forest Grove, Oregon
    Posts
    1,792

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Having played none of those instruments, I’d go with the prettiest. Many folks judge by appearance or brand anyway, so why not?

    Ymmv
    Play it like you mean it

    Not all the clams are at the beach

    Arrow G
    Clark 2 point
    Ratliff CountryBoy A
    00-21 (voiced by Eldon Stutzman)

  23. #14

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    After reading all of the comments here, and a few older articles on the Cafe, I have decided to get the used Kelley.

    Like some here have mentioned, I like the idea of supporting smaller builders, and from the feedback in this thread, it sounds like the Kelley will be a great fit for me. People seem to love Skip's mandolins, and that is really the reassurance that I needed before I made the purchase. I talked to the seller earlier, and I believe we have struck a deal. Now I just have to patient and wait for my new mandolin to arrive.

    Thanks for all of the feedback! I can't wait to get my new mandolin, so that I can get back to pickin!

  24. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to JFMando For This Useful Post:


  25. #15
    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Crockett, TX
    Posts
    974

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    You'll love it.

    And reach out to Skip to let him know. He's a great guy.
    Chris Cravens

    Girouard A5
    Montana Flatiron A-Jr.
    Passernig Mandola
    Leo Posch D-18

  26. The following members say thank you to ccravens for this post:


  27. #16
    Mando-Afflicted lflngpicker's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    So Cal
    Posts
    1,954
    Blog Entries
    6

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Well, you made a great choice. Congratulations! They are all tremendous and it depends on your own taste and music style. Sight unseen, I would have said Collings, but I haven’t owned the other two. I would like to have one of each!
    Last edited by lflngpicker; Apr-10-2021 at 10:42pm.
    2020 Pava Pro A5 Torrefied Varnish
    2007 Weber Diamondback F5 Prototype
    1930's Stradolin A5
    1912 Gibson A Oval

  28. The following members say thank you to lflngpicker for this post:


  29. #17
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    No. California
    Posts
    967

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Quote Originally Posted by JFMando View Post
    My last mandolin was a Weber Bitterroot, and although that was a great mandolin, it didn't have the bluegrass sound that I was looking for. It was a bit too modern sounding for my taste.
    I love this comment! I had a Bitterroot for a while, but it had too much of a bluegrass sound for my taste, so I sold it and bought a Yellowstone. There's something for everyone!

    I think that you made a great call in going for the Kelley. Skip has a few demo videos on YouTube --- his channel is Thomas Kelley --- and he sure knows how to get great tone out of the instruments he builds. However, that tone is way too bluegrassy for the sound I want when I play, so you should love it. I agree with the commenters who are saying that the Collings MT has a more modern sound, and I'm not a fan of the Northfield NF5S, although I haven't played one from the last two generations. I like their Big Mon model, but that's at a significantly higher price point.

    So, enjoy!!!
    still trying to turn dreams into memories

  30. The following members say thank you to Marcus CA for this post:


  31. #18
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Outer Spiral Arm, of Galaxy, NW Oregon.
    Posts
    16,446

    Question Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    So You can't wait until you can get together, someplace, and try out each others mandolins .. I gather ..

    writing about music
    is like dancing,
    about architecture

  32. #19
    Registered User samlyman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Post Falls, Idaho
    Posts
    281

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    I hope you love the Kelley and that it is everything you want and need from an instrument!

  33. The following members say thank you to samlyman for this post:


  34. #20

    Default Re: Collings Vs. Northfield Vs. Kelley

    Quote Originally Posted by JFMando View Post
    After reading all of the comments here, and a few older articles on the Cafe, I have decided to get the used Kelley.

    Like some here have mentioned, I like the idea of supporting smaller builders, and from the feedback in this thread, it sounds like the Kelley will be a great fit for me. People seem to love Skip's mandolins, and that is really the reassurance that I needed before I made the purchase. I talked to the seller earlier, and I believe we have struck a deal. Now I just have to patient and wait for my new mandolin to arrive.

    Thanks for all of the feedback! I can't wait to get my new mandolin, so that I can get back to pickin!
    How's the new mando? Enquiring minds!

  35. The following members say thank you to mondoslug for this post:


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •