Saga SS-10 Open Back Banjo Reviews

Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 6/8/2014

Submitter

holamaynards (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Internet

Year Purchased

2014

Price Paid

314 dollars historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


I am very pleased with the sound. I think the tone sounds amazing. I know it's not the best out there, but I have no complaints about the quality of music that this instrument can make. It's not plunky or twangy, nor does it sound like cheap metal resonating.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


It did not come set up. I set it up myself becuase the guy at my local music store wanted $35 for doing it. There are plenty of youtube videos that show you how to do it if you are nervous about messing it up. I had to tighten a few of the tensioning bolts on the head(it doesn't need to be rocket science) I adjusted the neck angle by tightening the rod in the back of the banjo to my liking. The bridge is super easy to get right, just make sure you get a D note at the 12th fret on the D string, so on an so forth. I had to tighten the tuning pegs because they were slipping. I had to make them as tight as possible, until the plastic started cracking to be able to get the banjo to stay in tune. (Don't worry, it's worked fine. You wanted the best quality for the cheapest price right, so you have to compromise a little, that's why this instrument is made in China and some cheaper parts used). I also had to sand/smooth the edges of some of the frets, they were a little sharp still. All in all, it only took maybe 20 minutes to set up it to how I have it now. Very easy, minor adjustments.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


The inlay work is fine, not perfect. I personally don't care as much about the appearance as how well it plays and sounds, but it does look better than that gumby head deering goodtime beginner banjo(and sounds better too). The moon crescent and star look cool on the head stock.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


The planetary tuners would last, but I plan to replace them with geared tuners. If I could, I'd ever put geared tuners on my violin, friction tuners are just a poorer design. The metal may not stay shiny forever, but it won't affect the sound, it will become a well used and well loved instrument.

Reliability Rating

10

Customer Service


I haven't had any need to contact the company

Customer Service

10

Components


The 4 planetary tuners are cheap. But don't bother paying another $400 for a banjo that comes with better gear, just buy a set of geared tuners for $10-20 off of ebay and replace them yourself.

Components Rating

9

Overall Comments


I've played $3,000+ banjos. The difference is that they are heavier. Yes they have nicer hardware and look fancier, but unless you are a professional musician(meaning you actually play banjo to put bread on the table and not just as a hobby) don't bother buying that expensive of an instrument.

I have no intention of upgrading. This instrument is above the level of those super cheap rover(junk) models, but is still cheap enough to be a common man's instrument. I read countless reviews, tried to find a used banjo first, but I feel that this was the best deal out there for price/quality.

I have no regrets about buying this instrument, I would buy it again and again.

Overall Rating

10


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 3/19/2010

Submitter

xixiant (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Tejon Street Music (in CO Spgs)

Year Purchased

2009

Price Paid

280 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound


For a beginning player, the SS-10 has been a fantastic banjo. I've been playing for two years, and have had the opportunity to play with about six other players, some of whom have $1K + instruments.

I like the Saga because it's got a clear, bright sound (but not tinny). I especially like that it has the fifth-string pegs (at the time I got it, I had no idea that they weren't at all standard). I tend to play with a mute under the head, and it still gives out a nice full sound. Now that I've heard some pricier banjos, I could wish for a bit mellower sound--ding away one for that.

Sound Rating

9

Setup


I read that it was easier to start playing with lighter-gauge strings and a lower bridge, and it was setup with both. The folks at Tejon Street were great help with all my questions. They recommended I get the guitar strap, which saved a buck or two, and is still my preferred solution.

The fifth string tuning peg came to me a bit busted up. I did eventually replace it--for a whole dollar and 90 seconds of work. Nothing else has given me any trouble, though.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


It's got a nice, old-timey look. The mother-of-pearl inlays are very nice.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


The finish has worn a bit where the neck rests on my thumb, and where the capo sits. Who knows how long it was used before it came to me, though. I am a bit worried by the finish, though--there's a small split I'll have to fix eventually.

Reliability Rating

9

Customer Service


Never gone to the company.

Customer Service

not rated

Components


The only thing I've had to do with those tuners is tighten them a couple of times. They're cheap but they work. I would want different ones, long-term, but they're good value for a starter banjo.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


I still love it. I just got a fancy new banjo, but honestly still play this banjo half the time. It's been a great banjo for me to learn on. Having heard the entry-to-mid level Deering and Goldtones, I'd still choose my Saga. It was a great value for that price.

I've come to love and care for this banjo. It'd be a great banjo for anyone learning, tinkering, or traveling.

*edit: since writing this review, I've discovered that this SS-10 was made in Korea, but they're now made in China. You can tell which is which by turning it over and looking at the underside of the rim--if you can see the plywood edge, it was made in China. So this review is for one of the Korean-made models, which seem to have found better favor on BHO than the Chinese models. I've never played one of the Chinese models.

Overall Rating

10


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 10/15/2007

Submitter

jamie_t123 (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Elderly

Year Purchased

2007

Price Paid

325 ($US)

Sound


A fiberskin head and a Grover bridge make it just what I was looking for...did not even try out the original equipment

Sound Rating

9

Setup


tore it apart when I got it, but it was easy to set up on the rebuild

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


The other reason, besides changing the head, that I tore it apart. I polished out the rather life less finish with McGuires scratch x and found a very nice looking neck underneath the flat poly spray on finish. Really, really helps the overall look of the banjo...pretty easy job on this banjo...hand rubbed, did not need to use the buffer

Appearance Rating

8

Reliability


replaced the original tuners with Goto's..the hooks etc. are OK..not great

Reliability Rating

7

Customer Service


Good website etc....Elderly great as always

Customer Service

9

Components


Love the overall look, feel and playability now....replace the tuners, the head, polish the finish and it goes from looking like a $325 banjo to looking like a great banjo

Components Rating

9

Overall Comments


Went from OK to WOW after some very easy upgrades...I would be very upset if this were stolen and would replace it with the same model and upgrades

Overall Rating

9


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 10/2/2006

Submitter

kdn (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

mail from Elderly

Year Purchased

2005

Price Paid

325. ($US)

Sound


as it came out of the box it was brighter & tinnier than i hoped. heavier guage strings & fyberskin head gave me more of the plunk i was looking for. still thinking about a different bridge to get closer to the sound that i want.
the way it came i would rate it at a 6.

Sound Rating

6

Setup


it had been set up ok out of the box, the head needed tightened a bit, but the action was decent without being too low & there were no buzzes.

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


i love the way it looks, tho the finish seems a bit thick, when i changed the head i was surprised that the tone ring seemed to have been smoothed out-i was expecting it to have been left rough-with the weld spot visible as the only flaw there. i love the inlay, tho you can see the difference in the materials used between the peghead & the fingerboard inlay.
the tension hoop had a small ding where the tailpiece sits, but on the whole it seems decent quality for the price paid

Appearance Rating

7

Reliability


the hardware appears to be good quality, i was surprised at the heft of the tone ring & the tension hoop, the hooks nuts & shoes seem to be averave. the tuners needed tightened a bit, & i expect that theyll need replaced soon. i havent had to mess with the co-rod, so i cant say on that. EDIT: the no-knot tailpiece is rather flimsey-bent under pressure from medium gauge strings. replaced with a better quality (stouter built) no-knot that i had laying around.

Reliability Rating

6

Customer Service


never had to deal with saga. Elderly has been very good every time i had to deal with them (i have bought a few inst. from them)

Customer Service

9

Components


right off i changed the head-the weatherking just didnt help the sound as far as i was concerned. i also installed an armrest just because. the notched tension hoop really didnt need one the tuners needed a bit of tightening, & now they hold the tune better, but feel a touch notchey, soon i expect i will have to replace them. my next project will be to put a bone nut & a different bridge, but on the whole it seems about what i expected for what i paid.

Components Rating

6

Overall Comments


i'll say this right off: this was not my first choice as an upgrade from my goodtime, but as far as im concerned it was a good choice, much better neck feel, miles ahead in hardware & soundcompared to the goodtime that i had, tho the only other 'jo id played was a ramsey fretless & theres no comparison there. i really do love the neck--it just fits, ya know? the basic simplicity is still there. im very happy with it & expect many miles out of this

Overall Rating

8


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 9/29/2005

Submitter

Unknown

Where Purchased

Music Hut

Year Purchased

2005

Price Paid

350.00 ($US)

Sound


This banjo was made for clawhammer. With the factory bridge, it's not too plunky, but is louder, with more plunk than a Goodtime, and also a little less bright than. Of course, this also largely depends upon the set-up, which can be readily altered to suit a variety of tastes. The sound isn't among my favourites, but is perfectly adequate for its intended use, giving more of that "old time" sound than the Goodtime, which is a plus when learning to play. The intonation was only off a little on the second string, and just a bit more on the third. Not noticeable at all, except when playing up the neck.

Sound Rating

8

Setup


The banjo would have come set up, but I requested that it not be, since I intended to do it myself. As it came from the factory though, the head tension was on the loose side of things, but the action was at a comfortable place, though I like things just a bit higher. I did change the action, not by distorting the rim, but by loosening the neck and using the available play in the holes in the rim. This put the end of the fretboard just slightly above the cut-out in the tension hoop. The head was also tightend. As it came from the factory, I'll give it a 7 rating, knowing that it would have come better set up had I not requested otherwise. Also, a Stew-Mac Elite Amber head, or a Remo Rennaisance, greatly improves the sound quality. Use one of these heads, find the right bridge to suit your own ear, and you're well on your way to quality sound.

Setup Rating

7

Appearance


The finish was typical for this quality of instrument, but wasn't overly thick. The inlays were well done, but I thought the plastic truss-rod cover was rather cheesy. The single hole for this was also slightly out of centre of the headstock. There was one tiny blemish in the nickel-plating of the tension hoop, but it was on the lower side, out of notice. There were no flaws in the finish that I've noticed. The mahogany neck is nice, though the stain on part of it, and the rim, are quite dark. Also, the fifth-string tuner was installed at a downward angle to the fretboard. It doesn't look bad, but more like someone got in a hurry at the factory.

Appearance Rating

8

Reliability


I dont see any reason that this banjo shouldn't hold up to years of constant use. I'll be generous and give it an 8 rating.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


No experience with customer service at Saga.

Customer Service

not rated

Components


The tuner buttons needed a slight tightening to get the tuners to hold tune better. As mentioned above, the truss-rod cover could be done better. The coordinator rod was not really long enough, either, with only about 1.5 threads being into the outer nut. This would have made it difficult to raise the action using the rod. The hanger bolts in the neck were both off-centred, and the heel cut was off. Either the end of the fretboard, where it contacts the tension hoop, needed a small amount removed, or the angle of the heel cut should have been a bit more. This, however, did not stop the neck from having a decent fit on the rim. It could just be better. Again, it looks as though someone was in a hurry at the factory. I did pull the head on it to have a look at the brass hoop of a tone ring, since one of the previous reviewers mentioned that theirs was rough. This one was as smooth as could be, with just a barely noticeable weld spot. The tension hoop could be of slightly smaller diameter, too. Taking perhaps an eighth of an inch from the circumference would make for a better fit, with less distortion under tension.

Components Rating

7

Overall Comments


I've no complaints on the banjo for the money paid. The price included a gig bag, and is well below suggested retail. Were this my only banjo, one upon which I intended to learn, then yes, I'd buy another as a replacement were it to be stolen. It is a nice instrument upon which to learn to play, one much better than what I learned on 27 years ago. I would recommend this banjo over a Goodtime, in terms of sound, appearance, and quality of components. The neck is thicker than a Goodtime, but this caused me no problems. It's just a matter of what you get used to playing. I cant think of a better banjo for the money on which to learn to play in the clawhammer style.

Overall Rating

8


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 7/7/2005

Submitter

bluebanjo (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

ebay

Year Purchased

2004

Price Paid

Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


I found the sound quite dissappointing. The banjo is "dead." I tryed several different bridges and tightening the head with only small improvements. I than disassembled the banjo and found the rim slightly out of round and the tone ring rough and unevan and the finger board being too long and jamming the tension hoop. After making these changes I gained more improvement in the sound. At some time, I plan to try a different head and do some more fine tuning. I play a Vega banjo and guess that I am looking for that sound in my Saga...........Guess is am setting my standards a bit high for something that isn't there to be had.

Sound Rating

5

Setup


When I received the banjo the bridge had to be set and the head needed to be tightened. Setup was not a big thing to make it playable.

Setup Rating

8

Appearance


The SS-10 open back banjo is a great copy of the old time banjo and am please with its appearance. Simple but very nice layout of inlay.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


When holding this banjo, you get a feel of a ruged well made instrument. I have been playing it for over a year and a half now and find it a very reliable instrument and although I have hear reports of cheap tuning machines, I have not found any problem with mine yet.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


I have no experience with the company or use of warranty

Customer Service

not rated

Components


I found poor workmanship in finishing the tone ring. Where the end were welded together, it was poorly finished and rough. NIce pearl inlay is used on the peg head.............but imitation fret marker were used. Not sure why imitation material is used for a few fret makers when for a few cents more the real stuff cound have been used. The neck is great and out of several banjos that I have, the neck on my Saga has the best feel and is one of the nicer banjos that I can play.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


Although I have been disappointed in the sound I find that the SS-10 is a great banjo for player looking for the old time sound in this price range and the purchase of the SS-10 would a good investment. If other SS-10 owner have found the same in sound and have made sucessful changes, I would be interested to hear about them.

Overall Rating

8


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 8/6/2003

Submitter

Unknown

Where Purchased

elderly.com

Year Purchased

2002

Price Paid

325 historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound


I bought this as a travel banjo and use it to play 3 finger style when my biggole Gibson inconvenient. The SS-10p (shorter scale pony banjo) was too high pitched for me so I got the full scale model. It's got good a sound for the price. This little banjo is suprisingly loud too. Of course It does not produce the bluegrass tone of my Gibson E.S. Standard but what the hey.

Sound Rating

8

Setup


excellent setup from the factory....low action, no string buzz. Tailpiece is a no-knot which requires no setup

Setup Rating

10

Appearance


very cool old time apperance. not too plain. not too fancy. Nice little mother of pearl ss stewart style peghead inlay and MOB (mother of bowling ball) inlays in the fretboard.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


One of the primary reasons I bought this banjo is because of the solid construction with a nice thick wood pot & metal connecting rod. Steel strings won't pull this banjo apart. The planetary tuners are very cheap, however.

Reliability Rating

7

Customer Service


I never delt with Saga. I don't even speak Korean

Customer Service

not rated

Components


The metel components are supposed to be nickel plated. It came with no armrest so I had a vega style armrest installed. The tuners are the weak link...they wouldn't stay in tune particularily when bending the strings. I have since replaced them with a set of shallers in bought on ebay which are great.

Components Rating

5

Overall Comments


for 325 bucks, this is a great little banjo...uh...plus 10 bucks for the arm rest, $65 for the tuners, $20 for the gigbag....hmm...$420....well, it's still a pretty good banjo, I guess.

Overall Rating

8


Saga SS-10 Open Back
submitted 6/25/2003

Submitter

bdatki (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Folk of the Wood

Year Purchased

2001

Price Paid

325 ($US)

Sound


Sounds very nice in a clawhammer setting. I added a Sosebee bridge and a Fibreskyn Head. It sounds nice and plunky on my good days.

Sound Rating

8

Setup


It was well set-up. The action was to my liking. I haven't made any changes except for the bridge and head.

Setup Rating

9

Appearance


It has a very nice look. The inlay in particular is a nice design for a banjo of this price. It has a nice S.S. Stewart look, which I love.

Appearance Rating

9

Reliability


It seems pretty solid in terms of reliability. I have by accident given it a few whacks and it stands up nicely. It should last a long time.

Reliability Rating

8

Customer Service


Never dealt with Saga. Folk of the Wood did a nice job.

Customer Service

8

Components


The components seem solid. The tuners perhaps are not the best, but they are planetary style.

I really like the feel of the neck too. Just right for me.

Components Rating

8

Overall Comments


I would definately recommend this banjo. It is a reasonable price for a nice instrument. I've had several very good pickers play it and they all complemented its sound and playability (especially the neck's good feel). I love this banjo and it will definately last me until I can afford a nice Ramsey or Reiter.

Overall Rating

9


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