February 25, 2011

Designed to advance the concept of the threepickup guitar with a vibrato tailpiece, the NF3 features a maple-on-maple bolt neck (the same type used on the DC3) and a body made of korina—a coveted wood used most famously by Gibson in the late ’50s for the Flying V and Explorer. (The black finish on our review guitar obscures the beauty of this wood, but it’s good to know you can order the NF3 with a natural finish.) The next pieces of the puzzle here are the Narrowfield pickups, which are slimmer versions of the 57/08 humbuckers found on the McCarty 58 and SC 58 guitars. The Narrowfields have no covers, which, combined with their narrower aperture, further contributes to how they shape the sound.

The NF3 features the same vibrato bridge used on the DC3, along with the same control layout, which pairs Volume and Tone controls with a 5-way pickup selector. The natural-finished neck with its rolled over edges offers similarly excellent playability, and the intonation is solid and tuneful throughout the span of the fretboard.

In practice, the NF3 is less radical than its woods and pickups might suggest. This is definitely a humbucker guitar for singlecoil players. You get much of the fatness and all of the output the standard 57/08 humbuckers deliver, but the NF3’s sounds are naturally slimmer and snottier. Its voice has a nice openness that’s cool for fingerpicking excursions and chiming rhythm textures, while the punch of full humbucker output lies in waiting for crushing chords and soaring solos. The pickups are dead quiet, but when you strike the pickguard with your fingers, the noise is heard through the amp. Perhaps there could be a way to better isolate the pickups from this kind of vibration transfer.

The NF3 definitely has a voice of its own, and players who dig Strats with a bridge humbucker will appreciate where it’s coming from. With that in mind, it might have also been cool to provide the option of splitting the middle and neck pickups, so as to get closer to the classic hum/sing/sing configuration. At any rate, the NF3 is an intriguing guitar and it will be interesting to see what types of players pick up on what it has to offer.

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