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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Decisions, Decisions


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/392766

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banjoez - Posted - 09/11/2023:  09:24:20


So you and a buddy go shopping to help him pick out a decent bluegrass banjo. He's fairly new to the banjo world and wants your opinion. Money is not a big issue but he doesn't want to spend more than he has to either. He's interested in tone and playability more than bells and whistles. The name on the peghead is not that important and new or used is fine. He's looking for a traditional punchy Scruggsy sound.



After shopping around, these five banjos were the ones that stood out. Which one would you pick based on tonal characteristics. (And yes, these are five different banjos, not a trick question.)



All banjos were recorded the same way using Audacity on a Windows 10 PC with a Blue Snowball Mic.  


Edited by - banjoez on 09/14/2023 09:55:27


Realbluegrassfan - Posted - 09/11/2023:  10:10:58


Trick question!

KCJones - Posted - 09/11/2023:  10:14:14


This has potential to be one of the best threads in quite a while.



I wonder, if you relabel these sound clips again, and then once more, so you have 3 "lots" of 5 sound clips each, all with different labels for each sound clip. How many people would even be able to tell you which clips were the same sound file from the same banjo? Forget ranking, I don't think many people could even distinguish one from another. 


Edited by - KCJones on 09/11/2023 10:15:19

DRL777 - Posted - 09/11/2023:  10:43:56


1 is brightest/more sustain 2 is dryer less sustain the rest are comparable and minor differences if any to my ear, but it is not a well trained ear...yet

I prefer 1 over all of them...but it's all in the ear of the buyer and what he's looking for.

Texasbanjo - Posted - 09/11/2023:  11:16:09


Which sound does your friend like the best? That would probably be the one he should buy. The better it sounds to him, the more he will practice. If he gets one that doesn't sound good to him, he probably won't stay with it.

Sound, tone, playability, whatever you want to call it, is a personal thing and no one can decide what's right for you.

Mountain Dew - Posted - 09/11/2023:  11:33:37


Sounds like a great day! I'd be lucky to find five banjos, let alone five different banjos, in a 50-mile radius from where I live. My ear was kind of partial to the second clip. Thanks for posting.

Brian Murphy - Posted - 09/11/2023:  11:49:04


4 sounds great from 4th string to 1st and all way up the neck.  My ranking (starting with favorite) 4 - 2 - 1 - 3 - 5.  


Edited by - Brian Murphy on 09/11/2023 11:55:40

airport-security - Posted - 09/11/2023:  11:59:58


I am very curious to see if some sacred cows will be gored here today...

Brian Murphy - Posted - 09/11/2023:  12:18:38


quote:

Originally posted by airport-security

I am very curious to see if some sacred cows will be gored here today...






That is exactly what happened when folks used to run these tests, and it's why you will see a lot of people not ranking them or picking one.  When people did this before and would say that there was a prewar in the group, it often was not the one anyone picked.  But I think this is great.  I don't care if No. 4 is a bakelite banjo.  It has a very full tone and is very even.  My only hesitation with it is that it has a bit more sustain than I like, although it still has good note separation.

Will Frady - Posted - 09/11/2023:  13:05:38


Joe explain to me why every banjo you play sounds awesome . This is really hard and subjective but I’m going. 1-4-2 with 3,5 tied . But what do I know. I’m very Interested in the results of which banjo is which and also the one your friend buys . Thanks for posting.

GrahamHawker - Posted - 09/11/2023:  13:08:43


Speaking hypothetically, as per the OP, in a world that I have a clue about bluegrass banjos the first four sound a bit nasty and in your face (is that punchy in your face) while the 5th one sounds quite nice like a bluegrass banjo.

Bill Rogers - Posted - 09/11/2023:  13:23:00


FWIW—I like 2. Then a coin flip between 1 and 5. All sound fine. Which to pick is the buyer’s taste.

TN Time - Posted - 09/11/2023:  14:05:37


They all sound pretty good to me, but I will rank them 5-4-1-3-2
Robert

Brian Murphy - Posted - 09/11/2023:  14:20:50


quote:

Originally posted by Will Frady

1-4-2 with 3,5 tied 






That's funny, I had 3 & 5 as tied at first also.  Very close.  When this is closed, we also need to know what store this was.  I know much of this is attributed to the picker, but those are good-sounding banjos.  The answer may again illustrate just how much of it is the picker.

GeeBeeThreefinger - Posted - 09/11/2023:  14:24:51


To my beginner, probably mostly deaf, ear- I like 1 the most. Clarity and vibrating tone all the way up the neck.

Would be interested to know the string set up on these.

O.D. - Posted - 09/11/2023:  14:56:41


Do I win a prize if I choose the right one?

Everett

banjoez - Posted - 09/11/2023:  15:40:20


quote:

Originally posted by O.D.

Do I win a prize if I choose the right one?



Everett






Yes, the Golden Ear Award!!

Bridgebuster - Posted - 09/11/2023:  17:00:59


As I already knew, too many years drumming in R&R bands has really fried my sensitivity. #1 has a brighter tone to my damaged ear with #5 a hot second. #2 sounds more mellow to me, but what do I know?

Owen - Posted - 09/11/2023:  19:09:53


I think Steven ^^ is as close as it comes to nailing it.   If my buddy wanted somebody with a good critical ear so as to hear the nuances between them, he sure as hello wouldn't be asking me!!  sad



Fwiw, they all sound fine to me although the ['way??]  up the neck stuff on all of 'em ain't my cup of tea.

banjoman56 - Posted - 09/11/2023:  20:52:11


I like no.1best, with 4 being a close second 3-5 sounds close to the same to me. All of them sound good though.

earlstanleycrowe - Posted - 09/12/2023:  03:55:43


I think 4 is my favorite but they all sound good.

lightgauge - Posted - 09/12/2023:  04:54:58


I am with Banjoman56 on 1 then 4 being a close 2nd.

phb - Posted - 09/12/2023:  05:01:01


I liked 4 and 2 the best. But they all sound good enough.

Eric A - Posted - 09/12/2023:  06:28:05


I'll take door #1

mike gregory - Posted - 09/12/2023:  06:40:35


Back when I ran POSITIVE NOTE MUSIC (The Best Folking Music Store in Town), a pair of lovely young ladies came in, with a similar question about a guitar in a specific price range.



I had the one who was getting the guitar sit on a chair, close her eyes, and her friend handed her two guitars, one at a time, to play.



I told her to play the same chords on both, and buy the one that FELT best and sounded best, to HER.



Unmoved by the paint job or the name on the headstock.



She chose the less expensive of the two, but not to save a few bucks.

banjoez - Posted - 09/12/2023:  15:04:54


Interesting take on things so far and thanks for playing along. I think some will be pleasantly surprised on their picks and some may be a bit disappointed. Stay tuned.

GStump - Posted - 09/12/2023:  18:22:48


Here's my two cents worth - all 5 sound clips sounded fine. To me personally, I thought number 1 might be personally a bit more to my liking. Number 4 was pretty darn strong. I thought number 5 was just a bit on the clangy side. I had nothing against 2 and 3. So once again what it comes down to, and NEEDS to come down to, is whichever suits the buyer best is the one he/she should choose! I tend to think that NO ONE can play any banjo (even very good banjos) much better than the person to whom owns it or plays it almost exclusively. And of course we all know folks who can pull superb tone from a Sears Silvertone or a Kay "plastic resonator" banjo. Most of us also know folks who couldn't pull tone out of a bucket labeled "TONE," if there are other buckets available that are labeled speed, flash, hot licks, etc., they would go for one of those over tone every day of the week!

Paul Roberts - Posted - 09/12/2023:  20:21:34


quote:

Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Which sound does your friend like the best? That would probably be the one he should buy. The better it sounds to him, the more he will practice. If he gets one that doesn't sound good to him, he probably won't stay with it.



Sound, tone, playability, whatever you want to call it, is a personal thing and no one can decide what's right for you.






I agree with Sherry in this. Because. 1. one's audio perception is not necessary the same as another's. 2. The same microphone can favor different instruments differently. 3. We all have different playback systems that will translate the recorded sound differently. 4. It's difficult to exactly replicate microphone placement on different takes, and even minute differences in mic position can dramatically alter recorded tone. 



I'm sure we can come up with other variables, but one that comes to mind is that each instrument, even among those of the same model, have their own tonal characteristics, so it could take some familiarity to get to know it and be able to pull out its best tone; and what you think is it's best tone and your ability to bring it out might be different from how I'd approach it. Each instrument can feel different. In some cultures it is even believed that each instrument actually has its own spirit.  Sherry's response is a lot more succinct than mine, and I think right on the money. It's a direct relationship between the seeker and the sought-after; a decision that must be made by a person's visceral connection to the instrument: an intuitive knowing that lights up and says, "I like this one!" (PS: I liked #3 : )


Edited by - Paul Roberts on 09/12/2023 20:28:30

KCJones - Posted - 09/13/2023:  08:05:50


quote:

Originally posted by banjoez

Interesting take on things so far and thanks for playing along. I think some will be pleasantly surprised on their picks and some may be a bit disappointed. Stay tuned.






The anticipation is killing me. 

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 09/13/2023:  08:29:47


Ill take the reverse approach. You can substitute not as well for "worst". They all sounded swell.



3 was the worst recorded (noisy), worst played intonation wise and sounded quite a bit less physically plucked. It sounded like a worse banjo setup(old strings?)



5 was the second worse only because it was rushed in a few measures.



The other 3 were recorded and played very well.



If I did this, Im almost certain my cheap 150 dollar Jameson would win because its the loudest, records the best with a dampener and most played of my banjos (Im better at playing it than my more expensive jos) .



I think Ill do this next month.  Very fun Thanks for the effort!



 



 


Edited by - NotABanjoYoda on 09/13/2023 08:32:04

Brian Murphy - Posted - 09/13/2023:  08:33:25


Sherry and Paul are right. This boils down to perceptivity and personal preference, which is how it should be. I think we will be surprised by what is on the headstock for each. In terms of polling, No 1 is definitely favored by most who have posted. Otherwise, it looks kind of all over the place, although 4 (my No. 1) probably is in second place. Interestingly, some hear a similarity between 1 and 4 that I don't hear. It really is subjective. But this was a great test, probably the best ever posted here. All five clips sound good, all are excellent and uniform, and the picking is awesome. So all the variables are about as close as you can get.

brutus1999 - Posted - 09/13/2023:  08:58:39


Being over 60 and having lost much of my "high end" hearing (over 8000 cps), what sounds dark to me might sound just right to you and what sounds right to me might sound shrill to someone else. That's the problem with these kinds of comparisons. There are measurable differences that could objectively be measured with machines including tone profile and sustain (both of which are VERY dependent on set up) not to mention how it sounds to the player and how it sounds to the audience.

I'm not saying it is hopeless to expect any sort of accurate answer on a forum like this. It's interesting to read the comments and no doubt some of them are accurate in evaluating sustain, etc. -- but as to "the best?" Does the player want a needle point Dillard sound or Reno with punch and little sustain or 1950's Earl with a touch of mellow or 1960's Earl with SPANG SPANG or a Trischka with clear but not as much sustain or, of course, Bela Fleck , some of which is deep and mellow and some of which is very Scruggs-like?

So try to get objective measures on things like tone profile and sustain and loudness and clarity of the fourth string and up the neck -- understanding that set up is VERY important. Some of that can be figured out. But as to "best?" That is truly in the ear of the beholder!

brutus1999 - Posted - 09/13/2023:  09:02:20


And yeah, it was fun to listen to them all. Thanks for posting!

banjoez - Posted - 09/13/2023:  09:44:14


I’ll give this post another day or so and then I’ll do the reveal. Thanks everyone for giving thoughtful feedback and not turning it into a negative thing. It's just a bunch of banjos and banjos should be fun !!


Edited by - banjoez on 09/13/2023 09:49:54

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 09/13/2023:  11:35:42


Im gonna go ahead and guess 2 and 4 are a Granada and Stelling. 1 is a GT.

I have no idea what you actually own....so total guess.

Emiel - Posted - 09/13/2023:  11:43:30


I liked nr. 4 best…

aaronoble - Posted - 09/13/2023:  15:51:53


To me changes in set up of any of these banjos could vary the sound more than they vary among each other now. I would recommend considering weight, comfort in the hand (neck shape) comfort on the body (thickness and center of mass), intonation when fretting, etc.... playability.

cemdunlop - Posted - 09/13/2023:  18:29:21


Number 1 for me. What is it?

banjoak - Posted - 09/13/2023:  19:21:38


quote:

Originally posted by Paul Roberts

quote:

Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Which sound does your friend like the best? That would probably be the one he should buy. The better it sounds to him, the more he will practice. If he gets one that doesn't sound good to him, he probably won't stay with it.



Sound, tone, playability, whatever you want to call it, is a personal thing and no one can decide what's right for you.






I agree with Sherry in this. Because. 1. one's audio perception is not necessary the same as another's. 2. The same microphone can favor different instruments differently. 3. We all have different playback systems that will translate the recorded sound differently. 4. It's difficult to exactly replicate microphone placement on different takes, and even minute differences in mic position can dramatically alter recorded tone. 



I'm sure we can come up with other variables, but one that comes to mind is that each instrument, even among those of the same model, have their own tonal characteristics, so it could take some familiarity to get to know it and be able to pull out its best tone; and what you think is it's best tone and your ability to bring it out might be different from how I'd approach it. Each instrument can feel different. In some cultures it is even believed that each instrument actually has its own spirit.  Sherry's response is a lot more succinct than mine, and I think right on the money. It's a direct relationship between the seeker and the sought-after; a decision that must be made by a person's visceral connection to the instrument: an intuitive knowing that lights up and says, "I like this one!" (PS: I liked #3 : )






Agree with not really much of a way to compare.  How an instrument comes out in a recording (esp mp3 files), is not only the mic, but the mic placement and the room it's recorded in. All of which can be vastly different experience then how it sounds in the room. In the hands/ears of the player proximity will also be different.  To add complexity, how it will sound in a mix; as in if you are playing in band or jamming; playing with guitar, bass, mando...and then the room/environment (reflections, audience noise); can alter the perceived tonal qualities, whether it punches, forward presence, cuts, blends or gets lost. 



There is other aspect is what the experience of playing that instrument sound and feels to the player, that transcends mp3 files. that is under their ear, and how it feels to play, from setup, neck profile, frets, weight/balance; to what tone they can get out of it and/or control. That is, can pick up some instruments and they just seem to speak to the player, and way they play, and hear. Only get that evaluation from putting in your hands. 



There is a bit of issue with those that are fairly new to an instrument. Something they often don't realize, a lot of the sound is in the hands of that player; technique, hand position; pressures (heavy handed vs lighter), as well their decisions with setup, bridge, head tension, and other ways they might adapt; which they've acquired thru their personal experience, and developed nuanced ear. As beginner, not sure the differences are kind of moot; they all sound fine, probably not a bad choice. Pointing to above, and what Sherry stated, just ask which one naturally feels right, inspires you the most at this point, don't overthink it. It's generally only thru personal journey going to learn what you like, develop an ear for nuance differences, pros/cons and unsurprisingly might decide later what would have been a better fit for you. 


Edited by - banjoak on 09/13/2023 19:25:25

The Old Timer - Posted - 09/13/2023:  19:26:04


I found 1, 3, 4, and 5 to be nearly identical and "better". 2 was rated lower due to a little less sparkle.



I think all five of them sounded a bit "wet", moreso than I like.



Now however I have a question. Are each of these 5 banjos being played in a room full of banjos hanging on the wall? A banjo showroom in other words. Something tickles my mind that I'm hearing resonance from other banjos in the room.



Kudos for playing the same pattern of licks 5 times so well.



I will be very interested to learn what these banjos are, and if they had any particular set up work.


Edited by - The Old Timer on 09/13/2023 19:27:04

Will Frady - Posted - 09/13/2023:  19:40:36


If number 1 is a gold tone I’ll have a whole murder of crows to eat. I picked number one as well as several others. I’ve kinda always been against gold tone. I can’t quite put my finger on why.I know they’re pretty good banjos but if I picked a gold tone over let’s say a.. Granada or a Stelling or another high quality instrument just from sound ??? Which is really the bottom line for me .Then I’ll eat crow .. a lot of it !

5 String - Posted - 09/13/2023:  20:28:30


I agree that there are a lot of factors that go into getting a certain 'sound' out of a banjo, as have been discussed in this topic.  With that being said, as currently set up and played, banjo #1 sounds the best with banjo #4 right on its heels.  Again, just my opinion and what I hear.


Edited by - 5 String on 09/13/2023 20:38:25

John Gribble - Posted - 09/14/2023:  00:16:07


#1, then #4.

phb - Posted - 09/14/2023:  04:01:27


Wouldn't it be funny if they were all the same banjo with different setups? :o)

banjoez - Posted - 09/14/2023:  07:07:31


quote:

Originally posted by phb

Wouldn't it be funny if they were all the same banjo with different setups? :o)






I wouldn't be that cruel LOL!! (But that would be an interesting test)



It's surprising how close the setups ended up being between each banjo to achieve the best results.  


Edited by - banjoez on 09/14/2023 07:19:28

KCJones - Posted - 09/14/2023:  07:22:05


Okay here's me guesses:

First off... #3 is disqualified. The recording quality is bad and the compression noise prevents any type of analysis.

Second... I have difficulty hearing any real differences, at least enough to give a reason comparison. These clips are recorded with a cheap digital USB microphone, compressed as MP3 files, transmitted wirelessly through bluetooth, and I'm listening with a Jabra headset. Especially after listening to them all back and forth several times, with headphones on at high volume, it all blends together. My main takeaway is that digital compression is the worst thing to ever happen to music, and that I've developed temporary tinnitus.

That said...

#1, the low D string played open has more thump than the rest. I have a tendency to place a lot of value on this aspect of a banjo, so that puts it up near the top. I also think the bends up the neck sound better.

For some reason, #2 makes me think it's a Gold Tone.

#4 sounds good too. Bends up the neck are good, but the low D isn't as growly.

#5 sounds good, but I almost wonder if it's a bit of compression that reminds me of JD Crowe on the BAB records.

They all sound good. If I had to make a choice, I'd pick the banjo that had the best neck profile and frets.

KCJones - Posted - 09/14/2023:  07:27:39


quote:

Originally posted by Will Frady

If number 1 is a gold tone I’ll have a whole murder of crows to eat. I picked number one as well as several others. I’ve kinda always been against gold tone. I can’t quite put my finger on why.I know they’re pretty good banjos but if I picked a gold tone over let’s say a.. Granada or a Stelling or another high quality instrument just from sound ??? Which is really the bottom line for me .Then I’ll eat crow .. a lot of it !






The issue with Gold Tones has never been their tone. They make great sounding banjos, always have. Their issue is the uncomfortable baseball bat necks and frets that stick out the edge of the fretboard and catch on your fingers as you slide up the neck. I've never felt a GT neck that was comfortable. 

earlstanleycrowe - Posted - 09/14/2023:  07:52:26


The Twanger and Bela Fleck models I had the opportunity to play in the last couple of years were much better than the Gold Tones I played in the past, none of which impressed me that much.

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 09/14/2023:  08:32:53


quote:

Originally posted by phb

Wouldn't it be funny if they were all the same banjo with different setups? :o)






Or the same banjo picked at different spots from the bridge, that makes a huge difference...I would not call it cruel.  But informative.



Could pick em at different temps and humidity levels too.  Big sound changes there I know personally.


Edited by - NotABanjoYoda on 09/14/2023 08:37:30

banjoez - Posted - 09/14/2023:  09:53:13


Banjos have been revealed. See original post.



Now the question is, if I had revealed the banjos at the beginning would that have swayed your choices ? 



If any of you would like to talk to me about these results offline feel free to message me.  There are setup tricks that make a big difference.  


Edited by - banjoez on 09/14/2023 10:11:12

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