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S101 Guitars 18-bracket model 778 Banjo Reviews

S101 Guitars 18-bracket model 778
submitted 3/19/2006


chrismcdill (see all reviews from this person)

Where Purchased

Music Unlimited, Hingham MA

Year Purchased


Price Paid

150 ($US) (bought USED)


Gives off a bright, loud sound, nicely resonant. I am really not sure how it compares in richness to high-priced banjos, because I've only heard those in recordings, but it sounds alright to me. This instrument has a resonator that projects strongly and with a tone that leads me to infer that this banjo design was based on classic bluegrass models.
I am attempting to learn a variety of styles, although I am leaning toward melodic and 3-finger playing. I feel as a student that this instrument suits my needs just fine.

Sound Rating



I bought this used from a guitar-oriented store. It was the only banjo there, and the place didn't even sell gig bags or accessories for banjo, so I'll bet that the folks at the shop didn't do anything to it. However, it did appear that the previous owner had gotten it set up (although it didn't look like it had been played much). I'm guessing it was either a backup instrument or else someone got it for lessons and then upgraded shortly thereafter.
I didn't need to do much to it except adjust the bridge distance from the nut, and tune it. The action is fine, and the intonation is good too, although it gets a wee bit sharper as you get way up the neck.
Since I have this for practicing rather than performing, I don't need so much loudness so I stuffed some fleece under the strings between the bridge and tailpiece to make it more muted and mellow.

Setup Rating



It has a simple, straightforward, no-frills banjo shape, with none of the fussy details that would make an instrument this cheap seem tacky.
The fret markers are just dots like one often finds on student model instruments, and the tuners are geared guitar-style tuners.
The resonator seems to be some sort of composite or ply, with a veneer which I'm guessing is mahogany.
Overall, a very functional and generic looking instrument, but all the parts work so I'm not complaining.

Appearance Rating



Haven't had a chance to stress-test it yet, but the hardware seems sturdy enough. This is not a delicate instrument, and I reckon that when I upgrade later I'll keep this one as a beater to leave around the house without a case for picking in my spare moments. I think it will be dependable as long as I don't drop it out any windows.

Reliability Rating


Customer Service

From what I've been able to find out, S101 is some sort of Korean sub-company of a larger company that contracts manufacture to a factory in China, then exports instruments to the West for sale cheaply in music shops. They are a "hidden" company with no website, and the instruments come with no manuals or warranties.
The music shop I bought this from might give me a refund if I keep the receipt, but I don't think they'd do setup, repairs or give technical support, because as I said above, they are more of a guitar shop.

Customer Service



Nothing really stands out. It's all just basically functional and good. I may eventually install an armrest and experiment with other gauges of strings. There is no capo for the 5th string, so I may install one of those too eventually.

Components Rating


Overall Comments

As a student banjo, this may be just dandy for its price. I've seen them sell new online for as low as $129. It's got all the basic elements for getting started in various styles of playing, but especially bluegrass. I will hold on to this as a backup when I upgrade to an expensive model some day, because I wouldn't be afraid to leave this out of its case.
It's my first banjo and I'm not disappointed at all. I've heard enough horror tales about people buying cheap first instruments and finding them unplayable (bad tone, worse intonation, lousy tuning pegs), but this banjo has none of those faults.

Overall Rating


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