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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

6634 reviews in the archive.

Submitted by 2BUCKS (see all reviews from this person) on 11/18/2017

Where Purchased: Mike's site

Overall Comments

It works great with my standard 5 string bridge. It works great with my custom 4 1/2" radius compensated bridge.    It works great with my compensated " stepped" bridge. It works great on my Gibson RB-250. It works great on my Bart Reiter Regent. It works great!! Buy it !! Pickin' since the 70's.

Steve

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Paul Bock (see all reviews from this person) on 11/18/2017

Where Purchased: Factory direct

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Excellent tone quality and volume for a banjo of this price! With steel strings, it sounds amazingly loud and solid whether using picks or frailing. With nylon strings it is more subdued but part of that can be adjusted by optimizing the bridge (which I haven't done yet) for bare-finger, nylon-string playing.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The setup was perfect for steel strings as received from the factory. I have changed the tailpiece to a Kerschner, which is what I prefer with the nylon strings I'm now using, and I need to tinker with the bridge a bit, but no complaints on the factory setup at all!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is a very attractive low-end banjo, especially because of the use of diamonds (aka "snowflakes") for position markers instead of just dots. The finish is excellent, and although purchased as having a "factory cosmetic defect" (which is why the price was reduced) I'm darned if I can find the defect. The one thing I don't like is the gaudy engraving on the armrest, which is why I'm giving it a "9"; I'll be replacing it with a plain, non-engraved armrest soon.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware is all chrome-plated and looks very serviceable, and I see no reason why it wouldn't hold up for the long term, especially since I'm only a "casual" player.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have dealt with this company before. Several years ago I needed a rim re-turned to achieve a proper tone ring fit on another banjo (not one of theirs) and they graciously consented to do the work. The job was excellent and they were very easy to deal with. In buying this new banjo from the factory the deal was fantastic (due to the supposed "defect" which I still haven't found) and the salesman was super. This banjo has the Gold Tone standard factory warranty. What's not to like?

Customer Service: 10

Components

I'm VERY impressed with the overall construction (two rimrods!) and especially note that the tuners are excellent quality. The tension hoop and brackets are a small step down (not as heavy) from the more standard "notched" style, but they certainly seem sturdy enough. Except for the gaudy engraving (which I don't care for) the armrest is solid, and the factory tailpiece is very nice, excellent for steel strings although not so good for nylon strings because it has some minor sharp edges that will cut the nylon). All in all, very competent design and execution.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This has got to be a "best buy" in a low-end openback banjo!  If you ever see a Gold Tone "factory-new cosmetic defect" advertised in the BHO classifieds I encourage that you seriously consider it because you'll get a good banjo from a company that takes pride in its products, AND you benefit from a substantial savings!  Why pay more?

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by erat999 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/6/2017

Where Purchased: Online from Mike

Overall Comments

I'm a brand new banjoist and have purchased a Goodtime 2. Whenever I have shown it to anyone, the primary comment is, "It's loud, isn't it?" I just received my new Mike's Mute and installed it on my bridge. One word to describe it, WOW! I was so impressed with the reduction in volume, I decided to measure the difference. I used a handheld sound meter and set it about 18" away from my instruments and then played a single strum on each. The results were:

12 string acoustic - 78db,

6 string acoustic - 79db,

Classical nylon - 81db,

6 string round back acoustic electric (no amp) - 77db,

mandolin - 76db,

and my new banjo - 82db. 

Then I put the mute on the banjo. A single strum on the banjo was 72db. Like I said, WOW!

i know my testing methodology was not very scientific but was enough to prove to me the efficacy of Mike's Banjo Mute and bring peace to the house! Thanks Mike. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by omebanjo4 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/6/2017

Where Purchased: Hatfield

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 4000 ($US)

Sound

The sound is awesome. It is bright with a full rich sound all the way up the neck.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

set up was great with Crowe spacing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's beautiful withe the flying eagle fret board. The maple is beautifully stained stripes and all.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

everything works great! added D tuners to 2nd and 3rd strings.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Arthur and his wife were awesome to deal with!

Customer Service: 10

Components

The gold looks good and no fancy carving to raise the price

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo sounds better than my OME Odyssey and is more comfortable up the neck. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by BanjoJohnT (see all reviews from this person) on 11/4/2017

Where Purchased: BanjoHut Knoxville, TN

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1200 ($US)

Sound

Banjo sounds really good for a Chinese made instrument. Intonation is true throughout the neck. Very loud has no problem projecting sound over other instruments when playing in a group. Have received many compliments on the sound on this instrument.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Set-up was excellent from BanjoHut.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The mahogany is beautiful the finish is great. The banjo does not look cheap at all but expensive.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Have not had any problems.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

n/a

Customer Service: 8

Components

All components seem to e very high quality.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I love this banjo, at the time I needed a good intermediate banjo that sounded and looked great, I definitely got what I was looking for with the RK-80.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Ichiban Jo (see all reviews from this person) on 11/3/2017

Overall Comments

In short, Chris Cioffi is a master luthier.  Contact him now if you are in the market for luthier services and rest assured that your instrument will be in the world’s most capable hands.  I am a recent client and am amazed by the result of Chris’s work on my original Goldstar GF200 every time I play it.  I was initially skeptical that an instrument could be so drastically improved, but after watching a few of the available Youtube videos that addressed his Goldstar improvements and reading reviews about the work that comes out of his shop, I decided to engage him to do the work on my instrument.
This man is a perfectionist and nothing leaves his shop unless it meets his standards; that’s a good thing because as an incredible musician and craftsman, they’re likely a lot higher than yours.  His initial assessment of my 200 pegged it as an average instrument with potential; the result of his expertise is an instrument worthy of the industry’s most respected hands.  I realize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and sound may fall into the same category, and everybody is looking for that pre-war sound (I’m getting a little tired of hearing that term), but if this banjo falls .005% short of whatever perfect is….I’ll save my hard earned dollars and giggle knowing that I get to play a truly phenomenal instrument.  Can you seriously tell yourself that you’re done looking for your “keeper” banjo?  I can…I’m done.  Thank you, Chris.

The work accomplished essentially amounts to the reconstruction of an instrument.  Here’s a list of most the work performed..

Complete disassembly, evaluation, reassembly

New head

New bridge (selected by Chris for optimal tone match to this instrument)

Neck reset for proper fit, angle, etc

Remount lags in neck heel for proper neck-to-pot geometry (I’m a woodworker and his work is impeccable)

Refit rim to tone ring

Refit rim to flange

Repaired several delaminated flaws in binding

Reassembled/rebuilt/lubricated tuners 

Metal parts cleaned/buffed

Planed and Re-fretted neck with stainless.  (a truly masterful piece of work)

New polished bone nut and prewar-style 5th string nut

New spikes

Remounted/installed new L brackets for resonator

Repaired damaged and delaminating resonator

The last item on the list warrants an explanation.  Shortly after I purchased this banjo, I noticed some damage to the resonator.  It had been dropped at some point in its life and wouldn’t seat correctly with the pot.  I wondered for years what may have happened and why the existing fix was so substandard.  After having the instrument for a while, Chris offered his explanation of what probably happened and how someone attempted to repair it.  I’ve no doubt that he’s right on the money in his estimated account of the damage.  I kidded him and said he needs to list his occupation as “Forensic Banjologist”…In actuality, it’s a worthy title.  The resonator now fits perfectly and shows no previous indication of delamination.

I have no doubt that one of the key ingredients which separates an average instrument from a priceless sounding and coveted creation is the heart and soul of the human who created it.  Maybe that’s the “IT” that people are always looking for but can’t explain.  My original Goldstar had all the right ingredients but never had the “IT” that banjo players are perpetually in search of.  After spending some needed time with Chris in Tennessee, this “Goldie” finally has the undeniable “IT”.  My banjo received the same attention as one owned by any professional.  I’ve got an older Goldstar GF100 that will be making the same trip to Chris sometime soon.

In conclusion, if your banjo needs work and you’re looking for a professional luthier, stop looking.  Set up an appointment and get your banjo to Chris for some heart and soul.  I noticed that after reading most of the luthier reviews on this site, scores of “10” are commonplace.  Why can’t I rate my review an “11”?  Please contact me personally if I can offer any further details about my experience or why this is the best place to take your prized possession.  I couldn’t be happier with the service and level of professionalism offered by Chris Cioffi.

 

BJ Williams

bjwilliams1@gmail.com

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by liuto (see all reviews from this person) on 10/23/2017

Where Purchased: Balsam Banjo Works

Overall Comments

        Balsam Banjo Works Grooved 12" Tension Hoop TH-12GN

I recently acquired a Deering, Vega Little Wonder Custom 19 fret tenor. It's a 12" pot with the John Hartford tone ring. It's a great sounding banjo for Irish tunes, and has a lovely rounded quality to the tone with low end growl. I loved everything about the banjo but the tension hoop. It didn't have any heft and was simply a rolled piece of flat stock. If I have any criticism of Deering it would be that the tension hoop seemed like an after thought, certainly not worthy of a banjo in this price category. I called Deering but they didn't have anything to replace it with. Anyway I started searching for a replacement on the internet and came across Balsam Banjo Works 12" grooved hoop, number TH-12GN. The photos looked good so I ordered it. It came well packed and undamaged. Beautifully made 3/16" solid brass, nickel plated with a milled 60 degree groove that will accommodate both flat and round hooks. It has a nice solid heft and mounted perfectly on my banjo, the Deering flat hooks fit the groove exactly. The tonal improvement was immediate, less high partials and a bit, for lack of a better term, more solid sound. Less bite more focused projection. Balsam Banjo Works offers it in raw brass and nickel. I can highly recommend this part and Patrick Heavner is a great person to work with, quick to answer emails and any questions you ask.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by john bange (see all reviews from this person) on 10/19/2017

Where Purchased: Shubb

Overall Comments

this is the best capo I have ever found for my long neck Vega/Martin banjo.  It has rubber bumpers on the sides for protection.  the adjustability is second to none.

I get a clear note from each string without any volume loss.  Mine is a flat fret board but they make one for a radius also.

expensive but worth it...so I bought a spare

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by jeanzjazz (see all reviews from this person) on 10/18/2017

Where Purchased: From Mikes Banjo Mute website

Overall Comments

Wow, we love the mute. We tried a Recording King and well - not even close  to the quality or sound of Mike's Banjo Mute. On the Recording King the little furry stuff shredded off on the banjo. I brushed it off with a soft lens brush. Anyway we love it and think it's the very best!!!We like the full tone yet quieter sound. Actually just a new sound that could be it's own instrument you might say. It's much quieter than the Recording King and I am sure much quieter than the Jim Dunlop cloth capo that Pete Seeger said would work as a mute if need be! ( In his banjo instruction book found in a dark corner of our library). Anyway we think it's just wonderful and our cat even stayed in the same room while we each took a turn playing as we currently own one banjo- a used Deering Goodtime  in excellent condition which is a logical for us as beginner's choice . So kudos and I would recommend to every beginner and anyone else who wants or needs a mute. I work in the travel industry and it's a must have for anyone who travels with a banjo or is considering traveling with a banjo.  With some banjos and maybe all as we have only tried it on ours- you should  be able to play in a motel or hotel room without distrubing other guests!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by davidbanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 10/16/2017

Where Purchased: www.mikesbanjomute.com

Overall Comments

Amazing mute!! It's the best I have tried!! I bought it from Spain, and thanks to Mike I could receive my mute in perfect conditions. Totally recommended!!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by TonyB_1958 (see all reviews from this person) on 10/13/2017

Overall Comments

As a student in his first year of banjo instruction, and looking for a banjo that would be a good upgrade to my first banjo, I settled on a Recording King RK-35.

After much research and consideration, I chose Banjoteacher.com as the store to purchase my RK from for a few reasons:

  1. BanjoTeacher's price was a good as any, and better than most
  2. Instead of receiving an instrument off the rack, I would be getting one setup and customized (if that was what a I needed, and I did want the zero-glide nut and and Snuffy Smith bridge) as upgrades.
  3. And finally, I wanted to be able to contact someone for support, especially in the first days and weeks after receiving the instrument, if I had questions or concerns.

Banjoteacher.com's Ross Nickerson was able and happy to provide all of the above. I couldn't be happier with the RK banjo, and its setup and modification by Ross. I had a couple of questions for him after receiving my banjo which he helped me with right away.

It was a pleasure dealing with Ross at banjoteacher.com. I'm a lifelong customer now, and am so thankful to have come across banjoteacher.com

Thanks Ross! Keep on pluckin'

Tony

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by bluegrassbanjopicker (see all reviews from this person) on 10/10/2017

Where Purchased: Gold Tone

Overall Comments

The JLS #12 Bell Bronze tone ring is exactly what I was looking for, in a tone ring upgrade from a Bell Brass ring, also from Gold Tone.

I had previously installed the Bell Brass ring, but it simply did not give the banjo a vintage sound.

The JLS #12 took care of all that. Loud, vibrant tones and a really nice "cluck" to the notes. I could not be happier. This ring is very close in tonal qualities to the Tennessee 20 ring.  

If you are looking for a ring that will give you "the" sound, look no further and spend no more than you have to, with the JLS tone ring. I would recommend it without hesitation. Hands down the best ring in the $300-$400 price range! 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by maybpickin (see all reviews from this person) on 10/4/2017

Overall Comments

I have been going to Bob for almost 2 years. He is the best banjo teacher I have had and that's been a few. He goes through things in detail and will record on my camera what items I need review on. He has great experience  with groups and jam. He will play guitar along with you to help with timing and getting you where you need to be. Too top that off he is an excellent Luthier. He has taken my 3 banjos and brought new life to all of them. Whether head adjustment, action adjustment or trying different bridges, he wil get the banjo to sound the way you want it to. I really can't say enough about how much he has assisted me.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by jmhauer (see all reviews from this person) on 10/3/2017

Where Purchased: Adorama

Overall Comments

First of all, let me admit the crappy rating I initially gave this bag had to do with RB's customer service...or lack of. I was one of those poor suckers who purchased an RB Continental Midnight Gig Bag, unknowing that it is a discontinued model. I was unknowing, because the discontinuation had not been advertised, and I only found out about it four days after I received the bag and noticed something missing.

So what is my gripe? Because, it certainly is well made...like a tank. It is simply that the advertised sizing for a resonator banjo is incorrect. They state it is sized to fit a 14" diameter resonator. It (the bag is oversized, hovering at 16" ) The advert says there are sizing pads in case your banjo is smaller than the norm. I measured my banjo, and it is just a tad larger than 14" and it swims in the case. But guess what?

No sizing pads. None, despite the Reunion Blues card "keychained" to my case stating the opposite.

I traded emails with customer service who said it was "impossible to sell or give out sizing pads." Nor was a trade offered, or a return. Note: both cases, the new Voyager series and the Continental Midnight series are priced identically. Even though they included with my purchase an advert detailing the glories of my model gig bag WITH interior protector pads, they will not honor the advert because the now discontinued Continental doesn't need them because it is a PERFECT fit for a normally sized resonator. Obviously I cannot be trusted to operate a yard stick...

So. If you see the Midnight model...don't buy it. Buy the new Voyager. However, if you do purchase a Midnight model, you can (in about 30 minutes)make your own sizing pads. Go to Walmart, buy some cheap fabric for $2.00. Buy or beg or borrow some electronics foam, cut to size. Buy Velcro $2.00 or double-sided tape. If you are handy with needle and thread, sew. If not, use fabric glue (for this job it works). 

 

Note: update Oct. One of the managers at Reunion Blues emailed me a message offering me 50% off a new gig bag, plus the vague promise of seeking access to extra sizing pads some time in the future. What the heck. I have two banjos. 

Overall Rating: 7

Submitted by Frailin_Brayden (see all reviews from this person) on 9/30/2017

Where Purchased: Rickard Website

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 3118 (Canadian) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It sounds just like I had hoped it would! It has a bright popping sound but with a lot of warmth and depth due to the 12" pot and calfskin head. It also has a lot of volume which is what I needed. Very old time sounding but with plenty of projection. Simply a lovely sounding banjo!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo arrived directly from Bill Rickard's shop so it was set up before shipping. The action was higher than I am used to but it doesn't feel like it would be any more difficult to play than my previous banjo. I did adjust the head tension somewhat which is expected with the climate difference between Toronto and here in western Canada.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It is truly stunning! A lot prettier in person than the pictures on the Rickard site can suggest. I love the look of the antiqued brass spunover pot contrasting with the stain on the neck and the ebony fretboard. I also really like the headstock design. No fancy inlays just the standard diamond and star markers which I actually prefer to have rather than a lot of inlay, it's already gorgeous enough!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I am confident that this banjo will last. The hardware and contruction are incredibly solid. I wanted to find a lifetime banjo and I think I've found it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Corresponding with Sean was very pleasant and the process was easy. I feel like I could rely on them if ever I have a problem, although I can't imagine having an issue with the banjo!

Customer Service: 10

Components

Bill's spunover banjos are truly something else. They have an amazing tone and an outstanding quality to them. I would highly recommend Rickard Banjos!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by nashvillebanjo (see all reviews from this person) on 9/29/2017

Overall Comments

I sent my main banjo neck to John to do a re fret this week and he installed EVO Gold man its great!

John's workmanship is the best! he has re fretted my necks many times and like I say his work is

just awesome! this EVO wire feels great and will last a long time if you need a re fret hes the man

and hes also a very nice guy.

 

Todd

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by fitch5string (see all reviews from this person) on 9/28/2017

Where Purchased: Directly from Blue Chip

Overall Comments

I chose a medium size Blue chip thumb pick with the Russ Carson shaped blade  and I love it so much, I ordered a second one. The tone is superb! These picks are more comfortable than any pick on the market. No string noise. The very best thumb pick made today.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by jmhauer (see all reviews from this person) on 9/27/2017

Where Purchased: Penny Lane Music Emporium

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Perfect. I was surprised at how responsive it was, far more responsive than previous banjos. I can make this monster shout or sing. The sustain is unreal. I especially had fun doing fast rolls with harmonics...just to see. I can't wait to see how this sounds when I have it broken in.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Everything was set to play out of the case. The action was just right. I did adjust the tail piece. Then set it back the way Mr. Prucha had it originally.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Flawless. Everything is perfect. The finish is perfect, everything-perfect. I'm very obsessive and nitpicking. I actually felt a little disappointed I couldn't find something to bitch about. From the peghead to the bottom of the resonator, there was unreal attention to detail. Not to mention, the walnut grain was unbelievably beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It is early days yet. But the components are top notch, fit and finish precise. I anticipate no problems. I will update this review as time permits.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Best customer service out there. Armando Zuppa and his employees are the best. I hope he gives his csr guy Russell a raise. The kid put up with a grouchy and demanding customer and remained friendly and helpful. Prucha has their std. Lifetime warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I was impressed with the tuners, which were beautifully machined and (of course) precise. The wood used was the nicest I have seen.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I'll add more as time progresses. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by JohnWaters (see all reviews from this person) on 9/26/2017

Overall Comments

Jeff is a great banjo player and is able to teach his skills effectively. He shows great insight into what the student needs. As a plus, one cannot help but like him.

Jeff has mastered drive, nuance, dynamics and technique. I profited greatly from my time with him and hope to again.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by LaurieT (see all reviews from this person) on 9/21/2017

Where Purchased: online

Overall Comments

I'm new to the banjo world, having only been playing a few months. So when I ordered my first mute a few weeks ago, I got the one highly related on Amazon -- the Gold Tone. Not really thrilled with it, I looked further, and found this site and all of the rave reviews about Mike's Mutes, and decided to give it a try.
I love Mike's Mute!! The tone it produces is much sweeter and more pleasant than the Gold Tone. It is also quieter, it doesn't buzz, and I'm not afraid I'm going to pull the bridge off! Really superior in every way IMO. 
Yes, Mike's Mute costs more than others, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Get this one -- it is totally worth it. 

Overall Rating: 10

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