I'm looking to buy an open back banjo for old time music. I want the most warm and woody sound I can get, it doesn't have to be the loudest. I was wondering what your opinions are between the H&D Singletree, Deering Old Tyme Wonder or one of the Bart Reiter models. I was leaning toward the H&D for the wider nut width and shorter scale. I'm hoping to keep it under $1000 used. Any opinions are appreciated.
Well I play a Deering Vega little wonder for gigs and its just great if you are not looking for masses of volume, ( I mic up ) and I believe that the Old Tyme Wonder is a very similar banjo in a lot of ways, in fact I think very highly of all Deering products , having played several ! the Bart Reiter banjos get rave reviews here from owners and I hear they are well priced too, I am sure I will not be the only one to advise you to get "hands on" if you can, try to play all the banjos you can before spending money because they are some serious instruments and you will wish to get it right, good luck.
You may want to check out White Mountain's Sholo model - Ron and Mark make these with walnut as well as maple, and they have internal resonators - sound great and the workmanship is first class. And they are only around 850-900 as I recall. Check out the White Mountain website and give them a call. Great guys with good products and good pricing. Made here in AZ.
Warm with pop, I would consider a wood tone-ring banjo, wide at the nut, at least 1-1/4", for versatility I would stick with regular length scale, those some builders are slightly shorter, but not A-scale. For a 1000.00 budget you will find a number of nice used banjos. And as has been stated BHO Classifieds great place to look. many names come to mind and some already mentioned: Ramsey, Reiter, Enoch, Cedar Mountain, Fielding. Pick some in the classifieds and ask us about them. Many of these will have brass tone ring, which is still a fine tone.
Check out Zepp's youtube videos, lots of different banjos. Also many of the builders have sound clips on their websites - check the BHO builders list. I have a 12" Chuck Lee cherry woodie and it has a gorgeous tone. There are LOTS of great choices these days!
You cant beat Bart Reiter banjos...I havent ever played one but he is a very reputable builder...I own two Deering Goodtimes, they have a great woody natural sound to me...no tone-rings so I would assume the Deering OT wonder would be the same. I think the OT wonder comes with a Fiberskyn head so it should have a nice plunky sound...
My two cents: most of Reiter's banjos have a thick rim which gives a brighter, more "ringing" sound than you will hear from banjos that are built with thinner rims. Thinner rims like you'll find on Ramseys or the Enoch Tradesman give the deep "plunky" sound that is associated with Round Peak style playing, and is so popular today.
I agree with all of the above and I would own any of the above except maybe the the Old Tyme Wonder, only because they, in my opinion are over-priced compared to the other banjos mentioned.....I do like Deering banjos and this is only a price issue for me. Another banjo that I think has a great tone and comes in at a good price is the Gold Tone Bob Carlin 350. I own one and I have been very happy with it and Goldtone service has been excellent. I talked to Bob Carlin at banjo camp last year and he told me he designed it specifically with the "old time sound" in mind. There are quite a few sound clips available for it and the other banjos you are thinking of. P.S. my next banjo will be a Bart Reiter because I think his builds are very consistent high quality and everyone says he is great to deal with. Good luck, Rick
The Deerings use a metal coordinator rod rather than an integral dowel stick. I know this makes sense in a lot of ways, but imho it makes a banjo much less beauteous and generally undeserving of the Vega name.