Handmade Guitars United Kingdom

The Carsington

The Mappleton Review

NORTHWORTHY’S latest acoustic guitar follows a small-bodied theme but evokes surprisingly big-bodied tones. Jerry Uwins applauds the British hand-builder...

Model: Northworthy Mappleton a UK made small/medium body acoustic.

Scale length: 834mm (24.98").

Size: Like the top half of a parlour on the bottom half of a classical. 378mm
Maximum width, 238mm at waist, 282mm across upper bouts. Maximum rim depth 99mm. Weight is around 3,75lbs.

Top: Bookmatched close-grained solid cedar with some lateral figuring; very nice rosewood /boxwood purfling, rosette inlaid with ropala lacewood. The reinforced soundhole area gives impression of double thickness top.

Back/sides: Brazilian mahogany. The back is bookmatched without centre line; purfling is similar to top’s. There’s a noticeable off-vertical angle to the rim across the base of the instrument. Northworthy's Alan Marshall explains: "We try to make no two body surfaces parallel in order to avoid standing waves, which can cause wolf notes and unwanted frequency peaks."

Neck: Scarf-jointed Honduras mahogany, no volute, glued to heelblock (at 14th fret position) using a flat heel joint, as on all Northworthy's. 44mm nut width and shallow, flat-backed section (only 20.5mm all way up) gives it a comfortable, sort of classical-on-a-strict-diet feel. Width graduation — just less than 53mm at the octave— is less than the nut width might suggest. headstock is prettily faced in lacewood, also used for truss rod cover and heel capping. The nut is bone.

Fingerboard: Unbound rosewood, 20 well fitted, fairly flat-topped medium frets; board ends in an asymmetric radius in front of soundhole. The 11" camber overcomes any undue feeling of ‘classical-ness’ and the slimmish width further up means that top and bottom strings are fairly close to the edge of the board, risking string slip though no problems were encountered here. Side and top markers are simple pearl dots.

Bridge: Matt rosewood, with compensated bone saddle and a conventional string spacing of 54.5mm. Bridge pins are solid brass. "They provide more mass where it’s wanted and a more substantial mechanical fit between the strings and bridge," says Alan. The result, we find, Is more sustain and brightness.’

Action/set-up: This neck has gradually taken on more forward relief (probably due to the tropical spell of weather), but action still respectable at 1.3mm treble, 2.1mm bass. After adjustment - using the double-action truss rod, which adjusts in reverse - the action drops a couple of tenths of a mm, without any buzzing. Care, though, is needed as to where to set the truss rod as it had a tendency to rattle.

Finish: All-gloss natural twin-pack polyurethane. Standard of finishing, very good, and thickness of lacquer — in the interests of resonance - kept to a feasible minimum: i.e. enough to just about fill grain pores in the mahogany back/sides.
Hardware: Chrome, kidney-buttoned Gotoh tuners; chrome bottom strap button.

Options: Similar solid spruce/rosewood Carsington. Also smaller-bodied spruce/rosewood a Mayfield and cedar/mahogany Alport. Swapping of woods -i.e. spruce/mahogany or cedar/rosewood — is available at standard prices. Left -hander's no extra charge. Electro's on request.

Sounds

The temptation is to compare the Mappleton with its parlour acoustic cousins. After all, despite the relatively large lower bouts, the guitar remains comfortably compact. However, the bigger chamber below the waist lends the instrument a much less parlourish tonality.

For one thing the overall volume and presence are stronger, in the bass end especially, and there is none of the dry mid dominance that tends to mark out parlours. What you’ll hear instead is an excellent mainstream sound, at once warm and open, and freely resonating.

This easy-breathing response might actually be a tad deceptive: in terms of projection, the warmth and immediacy of the cedar and mahogany might count against an incisive long throw, and it would be interesting indeed to hear how one of Northworthy’s standard options - the (harder, brighter rosewood back — would alter its performance in this respect.

As it stands, though, I’m hardly complaining. From a player’s standpoint the Mappleton is an immediately rewarding performer, further proof of how today’s luthiers are managing to coax such strong and rich sounds from relatively small boxes.

Imagine an amalgam of the sweet fluidity of Takamine’s new Santa Fe and the big, immediate dynamics of a Lowden S-Series guitar, especially the cedar/mahogany S10. Physically, too, the Mappleton — in size and profile — could be a blend of the parlour Santa Fe and the classical-derived Lowden.

The verdict

One of the most impressive things about Northworthy guitars Is the way they ignore the standard designs, instead drawing from all corners of the acoustic canon to come up with interesting and great-sounding hybrids. In this respect, it’s an ethos shared by another eminent British maker, Fylde.

What also impresses - something, which deserves to have Northworthy’s phone jumping with enquiries — is the pricing. The Mappleton plays and sounds like a pro, and the cosmetics are far from the austerity you might expect for the price, in fact there’s not the slightest hint that anything has bean spec’d down In order to hit what I believe is an almost ridiculously competitive price.
I’m tempted to advise Northworthy to whack up their prices a bit. But that, dear reader, would hardly be in your Interest. Take advantage before they have a chance to think about it.

Reproduced with the kind permission of The Guitar Magazine

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