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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!

6975 reviews in the archive.

Pisgah: Custom Dobson

Submitted by scalrtn (see all reviews from this person) on 9/15/2020

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjos (Online)

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 1845 ($US)

Sound

Sweet, great sustain.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was great, much better than the first Pisgah I bought several years prior.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's simply beautiful. The 11 " Pot/Rim is Spun Brass over Cherry. The Cherry neck is blonde (fingerboard dark richlite) with a center stripe. The color of the dots on the fingerboard match the blonde neck. Really cool.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Seems like it will last forever

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty. Service/response has always been top-notch.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I love the fact that Patrick uses sustainable hardwoods. The brass fittings are beautiful.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The only "complaint" I have is that new banjos are shipped with medium-gauge strings only, probably to facilitate production (if you visit the facility, you'll see various PBCO strings hung vertically on small nails).  It would be nice if they'd string banjos with different gauge strings by request.  Even so...while I prefer light-gauge strings, my new banjo is more than playable with the mediums it shipped with. (But there will be lights on it in due time :-)  )

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Custom All Persimmon

Submitted by mckaczowka (see all reviews from this person) on 8/24/2020

Where Purchased: Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 1995 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a great old-time "clucky" tone, which is tempered by the goat skin head. The persimmon tone ring also adds to the "old time" tonal qualities.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I received this directly from Patrick at Pisgah, after seeing an advertisement (complete with eye-popping pictures) on the company's Facebook page that this was available for purchase. It came set up and ready to go. Great setup.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I love the looks of this banjo, with its aged brass hardware, the black nut, and the persimmon is beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have been buying and selling instruments for more than 25 years and have recently gotten into open back banjos. I think the Pisgahs are a great value, solidly built, beautiful and great sounding. They will last a lifetime, and then some. This is an heirloom quality instrument that I'd be more than happy to gig with. If it were my only banjo, it would be more than enough.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The banjo was shipped out the same day. I haven't needed to use their customer service, but I am quite certain they would be extremely attentive if there were any issues.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Great materials. Nothing cheap about this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I am "sold on Pisgah".  I have since purchased an Applachian 12" in walnut.  Love it too.  These folks are also making me a tenor.  Love the quality, the sound, the materials, and the feel of these instruments.

Overall Rating: 10

Helix: cherry blossom

Submitted by Good Buddy (see all reviews from this person) on 8/19/2020

Where Purchased: Online

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 250 ($US)

Sound

The cherry rim with the rolled brass tone ring sounds great on my Deering maple neck. It has a nice rich sound when I pull off the picks and a nice bright sound with them on. It is perfect for Bluegrass and Old time. It is plenty loud without the resonator on and the tone is fantastic.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I didn't send the neck to larry, but all the hardware was installed perfectly. When I stuck the neck back on it played great.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The Rim matches perfectly to the resonator and neck. It has a nice dark, almost chocolate color, and every time I look at it, I want to take a bite. The construction of the Helix rim is very beautiful to look at. It is especially interesting on the inside where the construction is celebrated. The concentric Fresnel rings are very exciting to see and add an extra layer to talk about while describing this beautiful pot.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The Pot is very well made. It looks like it will last a lifetime or longer. I have no plans to buy another. At the same time, It will be hard to find a better sounding banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Larry was a pleasure to work with. He has a way to pull out important information that he needs for construction by asking simple but necessary questions. Larry sent me updates all the time via email with attached photos of the banjo's progress. He got the pot to me in less time than he quoted me. It has a "deep warranty" whatever that means.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This job was a rim change-out. We reused all of the original deering hardware and added a rim and a flat rolled brass tone-ring. The original neck and hardware was attached to the Helix rim.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

     Six months ago I received this banjo from Larry. I wanted to wait to write a review because, I feel, that everyone will be happy and excited about a brand new banjo. I wanted to make sure that I still love it down the road a ways. So I waited to write this review.

      I had a 5-string Deering Boston with a maple neck that I loved playing, but didn't love the sound of. The Cherry wood pot and rolled brass tone ring that Larry crafted adds the missing link to an excellent sounding and playing banjo. I wish I had made this change years ago. This is now a banjo I can play  for the rest of my life and be happy. It sounds great and loud without the resonator and the tone is perfect. 

     The only disappointing thing was not receiving a Helix T-Shirt along with the rim changeout. C'est la vie.

Overall Rating: 10

Hatfield: Aurora

Submitted by vincefewo (see all reviews from this person) on 8/13/2020

Where Purchased: Arthur direct

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 3200 ($US)

Sound

5-string traditional bluegrass is what I play along with a little melodic and the Aurora suits that great. Very dynamic and sensitive instrument here meaning the sound instantly changes with the smallest picking or hand position movement. On the bridge and straight on it produces a fantastic, chiming, clear, somewhat dry sound 1-5 and all the way up. Off the bridge it immediately softens up and gives a little more sustain. I have little doubt that Earl is playing a Hatfield banjo in heaven.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Under these pandemic conditions I did opt to have it shipped to me. Of course the strings were loose a bit but after tuning it up everything was spot on and the action was actually lower with no buzzing than I’ve ever played. I did make some changes and as far as setup goes I changed the Presto tailpiece to a Prucha 2-hump clamshell, reason being I do play some melodic and the clamshell is easier to adjust back and forth.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Really stunning the finish work on this instrument. The hardware and the lacquer are beautiful. I asked Arthur to use black binding instead of white and the result to my eyes is even more than I expected. I wasn’t sure I would love the color of the rosewood fingerboard but it suits the whole package perfectly. There is the slightest finish flaw on the edge of the peghead, not as smooth as glass in the deepest of the cuts but not in anyway am I worried about it.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Of course all the hardware is professional quality and the finish on it is exceptionally beautiful. The Gohto tuners are smooth and everything is just great.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Arthur and Beverly are the entire package at Hatfield banjos and very easy to talk to. I’m confident they would make it right if something ever went wrong.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is a professional instrument and all the components reflect that. Nothing else to say about it.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The Hatfield Aurora is a beautiful instrument and where it matters, the sound, it really comes through. 
I did make some changes for the reasons below;

as stated, the tailpiece from a presto to a clamshell for quicker/easier adjustment.

The bridge, from Hatfield comp bridge to a snuffy peg top because I need to use a mute often and the curve would prevent that. Interestingly, no intonation changes between the two.

Arthurs' standard strings are a medium I believe and first string change I went to my favorites 5-Star lights. This was the only sound changing thing I changed, of course personal preference here these very light strings give a thinner, dryer, sound and are easier to manipulate (which may hinder some players). This is really an exquisite instrument and I count myself very fortunate to have one.

Overall Rating: 10

Washburn: B8

Submitted by movingbrush (see all reviews from this person) on 8/12/2020

Where Purchased: Cherbourg France

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 350 (€) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

x

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

+

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

+

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

+

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

+

Customer Service: 5

Components

+

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I've played banjos for fifty years, small banjos bought in a junk shop in Watford, crap Aria banjo bought in Germany, Gibson mastertone, and my favorite, Ibanez artist reputedly built under directions from Earl Scruggs himself. I saw the great Derroll Adams playing a Framus in England, I've tried a Dering good time and liked it, then when I was travelling in France where I live, I cama accross a Washburn B8 A-K pack in Cherbourg. I was on my way to play in England and needed a light not too loud banjo.

They have a geared 5th string tuner, good workmanlike machine heads, well finished solid wood build.I bought it, took it home took the resonator off and the chrome fittings, put decent light strings on and stuffed some newspaper in the head - I tried a variety of stuff, cloth, paper handkerchiefs, etc but found newspaper the best and bingo I had a beautiful toned 5 string.

The set up was perfect, I didn't need to adjust the string height and the long neck is totally straight. It's a parlour instrument and I've used it on recordings. Very good for the price but needs a little TLC before delivering its best

Overall Rating: 8

Bad River Banjo (Paul Corrigan): Custom

Submitted by Ziradog (see all reviews from this person) on 8/11/2020

Where Purchased: From builder

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Nice woody sound with little sustain. Very nice for faster tunes, and for backing up vocal or fiddle player on slow, minor tunes. Not real loud, would probably not be a great choice for a large jam, but that is the choices I made (thin rim, few hooks, skin head). Paul hit the target I gave him & I like it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Banjo arrived in the middle of a humid North Carolina summer, and the head was looser than it should have been. Two of the hooks were loose as well. Once everything was snugged up and the head dried out a few days in my air conditioned house, set up was fine. Action was just right, custom bridge sounds & looks good.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This thing is flat out beautiful. Simple, classic design in oiled cherry (rim & neck). Beautiful workmanship. Paul doesn't seem to do a lot of inlay, but his aesthetics are impeccable.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Can't really judge but hardware is of good quality, I seen no reason it will not be reliable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Paul was great to work with during the design phase, and answering my questions once the bajo arrived - especially my questions about the skin head, which was a new thing for me.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Gotoh tuners, nice hardware that Paul antiqued. Nothing really custom on my banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

My banjo is 11" rim with maple tone ring, standard length cherry neck, steel strings, skin head.  Paul included a spare nut set up for Nylgut in case I want to switch later.  I love the sound, playability, and aesthetics of the banjo.  The neck is fairly V-shaped, which I really like.  This thing is super light, I can hold & play it for hours.  As noted, if you want an instrument for a large jam, you may want a larger rim, brass tone ring, etc.  Paul can do all that, and you can bet your last dollar that it will look & sound great.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Woodchuck

Submitted by markuru (see all reviews from this person) on 7/27/2020

Where Purchased: Online from banjostudio.com

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I like the full sound which is not too bright and that I can mute it in different ways depending on what and where I play and the possible variety of sounds.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I’m not a specialist, but I preferred a lower distance between strings and fretboard. So on advice from Pisgah I changed the bridge to a lower Mulheron bridge (5/8” height) and now the height is perfect for me and I like the sound even better now.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

A piece of art! Knowing that it is a handmade instrument makes a huge difference to me...

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I’ve been playing it for 9 month almost every day now and everything is still perfect.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I had questions regarding railway spikes and how to mute it and how to change the distance between strings and fingerboard and got quick and best support from Pisgah via email.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything fine...

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I'm from Switzerland, living in Germany, and a few years ago I started playing Banjo on a rather cheap banjo because I was not sure if I would really like to play or not. After some time I discovered clawhammer style playing and this was the perfect way for me to play banjo. In the Internet I found Pisgah Banjos and I got interested in these banjos because I liked the clear design and small things like the paddle headstock and logo and the brass tone ring etc. and, of course, the sound sample.

My wife gave me the Woodchuck banjo as a birthday present (yes, I'm a really really really lucky guy...) and the difference to my old banjo is incredible - a real piece of art, the touch, the sound, I really love to play this banjo. So now I play it almost everyday and enjoy using it to play modern songs together with my daughter, I play swiss folksongs in German and French and like the different sound it gives to these songs. And I'm learning traditional clawhammer songs, too...

I hope I'll be able to join a Pisgah banjo building workshop one day...

Overall Rating: 10

Dogwood Banjos: Dogwood #130

Submitted by Patton in CA (see all reviews from this person) on 7/17/2020

Where Purchased: Direct from builder

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 2100 ($US)

Sound

I had a very specific sound in mind: sad, woody, open and dark. Mike nailed it. It ain't that loud, it doesn't cluck, and I don't care. Perfect!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was a-ok, and I have only tweaked it for recreational purposes.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I wanted an all walnut banjo that was austere and beautiful. Mike went with a grenadillo tonering and sandwiched some holly veneers for accent, but otherwise the rim, neck, fretboard and peghead are all walnut with excellent grain and an oil finish that feels great. He recommended tortoise-buttoned Waverly keys for the slotted headstock and slotted fifth, and they look killer.

But the best touch for me was that he inlayed a family heirloom - a coin of my late father's - into the scoop in a really tasteful and natural way. I felt like I'd known and loved this instrument my whole life when I took it out of the box. Good stuff!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This thing is a tank. The neck is thick and solid.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No idea about the warranty but Mike Chew is a fine human being. He forgot to include the wire armrest at first and was happy to get it to me right away. He was always direct and straight.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is the largest banjo neck I have ever played, which is what I asked for. I threatened a raccoon with this thing and he wanted NO part of me. We spoke over the phone from 1000 miles away but somehow he got my neck-profile thoughts just right.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have played this banjo for 100 days straight now since I took delivery and I am going to play it every day for the rest of my life.

Overall Rating: 10

Quail Creek Banjos: 11" Custom Bent Mtn Bear

Submitted by Quigg (see all reviews from this person) on 6/25/2020

Where Purchased: Bought direct from Quail Creek Banjos

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: $1960 ($US)

Sound

I am a relatively new Scruggs style player and wanted a much lighter banjo than my Gibson Granada which is HEAVY for a 60 year old in long practices. So I opted for a lighter, open back banjo. Lindsey at Quail Creek Banjos has dialed in the sound I wanted for an open back. Clean, warm without being muddy. The wood, Dobson tone ring, goat skin head and other components allow me to play primarily Scruggs style albeit with a nod to the Blue Ridge mountain sound. Lindsey listened carefully to my desires and nailed it. Obviously, fairly quickly I will need to learn the right hand "claw" so I can add a little clawhammer style to my repertoire!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Very well set up (and bubble wrapped and packed I might add). All I had to do was install the bridge post shipping. Action is perfect. The frets on this custom banjo are a bit more robust and higher than my resonator Gibson Granada but I will quickly get use to that. I recommend a wood armrest as open back tension hoops are a bit uncomfortable on my right forearm. I am an unusual customer in that I bought an open back primarily to have a lighter banjo that I could use for three finger "Scruggs style" Bluegrass.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Oh my goodness this banjo is stunning. LOOK AT IT! Beautiful CUSTOM inlay of a bear on the head stock, an outline of Bent Mountain at the 5th fret and a one an only custom inlay of a black bear print at the scoop. Brass dots are classy and subtle. And did I mention the warm, slightly textured goat skin head? The rich, antique brown, custom stain and the aged brass tension hoop and hooks make my new banjo look like it is vintage era

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I requested 10:1 Rickard tuners which are a God-send. All other hardware is top tier stuff. While a light banjo, it is rock solid.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

If I could, I would rate Quail Creek Banjos and Lindsey as a 15!! Seriously, Lindsey is the most attentive and helpful builder I have met. (My daughter is a singer/songwriter in Nashville so I have worked with a good number of top builders and luthiers). Lindsey listens. He has the knowledge and skills to create a custom banjo ANY player would love to have. Bet you won't find many if any used ones for sale because they are too special to give up. Did I mention that the entire process was fun and Lindsey's passion and sharing of update photos and videos made it more more fun?

Customer Service: 10

Components

No cheap parts on this banjo. Lindsey doesn't use second rate material sand parts. While I am relatively new to open back banjos, I have not seen but one or two banjos out of 15 different brands that even come close. Again, my personal taste would be to add an armrest for comfort but that is an easy fix. Here are the specifics: Bent Mountain Banjo

- 25.5" scale
- 11" rim
- Rickard 10:1 tuners
- Dobson tone ring
- Aged brass hardware
- Goat skin head
- Figured maple
- Dobson heel
- Ebony peghead
- Ebony fingerboard
- Dowel stick
- Paddle-shaped peghead
- Carbon fiber rod
- Seeders bridge
- Hawkeye tailpiece
- Frailing scoop
- Bone nut

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

There are many good open back banjos on the market.  Nechville, Ome, Bart Reiter, Pisgah, Rickard, Chuck Lee and others.  I have played a few of these and they are well made,  all great instruments. 

 

That said, the quality, custom design, custom inlay and voicing and tone of Quail Creek Banjos coupled with A++ service and update photos and videos while the banjo was in production was super fun. The price was less than I expected and more than fair

Here is a video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5n_JCuQzBGs

Here are some photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CBvZZe3hJ9b/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

 

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Stelling: Masters Cross Deluxe

Submitted by Banjo_Jake (see all reviews from this person) on 6/14/2020

Where Purchased: Stelling Banjo Works

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 7,268 ($US)

Sound

I absolutely love the way this instrument sounds. It has that sharp and poppy Bluegrass twang that I love. This instrument sounds the way I wish my deering calico sounded. Definitely the loudest sounding banjo I have personally played. You barely pluck the strings and the sound just rings out of it. And if you’re a hard picker Then get ready to be blown away from the vast amount of sound in tone that comes out of a Stelling.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I Drove down to Stelling banjo works and personally pick the banjo up from geoff Stelling. The banjo was finished a few weeks prior to me being able to come down to pick it up so once I was there Goeff personally showed me the banjo and told me about it and answered my questions and also readjusted the neck and head since it had time to settle While waiting on me to pick it up. The only thing I personally changed on the banjo was the bridge. I got a custom bridge made from kat-eyz And I installed that as soon as I got home with the banjo. and I installed that as soon as I got home with the banjo. The only reason I did that was because I like for the notes to be cut short with less sustain so there’s more separation between notes while playing. That’s just a personal preference of mine. Other than that, the set up was amazing

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The walnut that was selected for this banjo turned out to be absolutely beautiful. I was absolutely blown away by that color of the unstained walnut. The hardware engraving was absolutely immaculate. They sent me pictures On the banjo at my request after I was finished and I just have to say, the pictures did not do any justice to ho gorgeous this and Banjo is when seen with your own eyes. It is truly a work of art and proof of amazing craftsmanship

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I’ve only had the banjo for about a week now, but considering the reputation of a Stelling banjo, I’m sure it’s a pretty reliable

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer service was amazing. I dealt with Jeff’s wife, Sherry. She was very helpful and very thorough with anything that I asked about or requested during our emaill. Conversations. Definitely customer driven and you don’t feel like you’re just somebody they want to sell an instrument to use. We even had a few personal conversations while we were at it. Like all sterling banjos, they come with a lifetime warranty as long as whatever Is wrong with it isn’t because of user error. So make sure you take care of your banjo because Stella does not manufacture replacement parts. I do that so the value of their banjos hold overtime as most of you probably realize

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing cheap goes into this banjo that I can tell. The only thing I did was I requested an upgrade on the tuners. I upgraded the second and third string tuners to keith Dtuners. I also wanted the first and fourth string to have the keith tuners also but because of the COVID-19 pandemic the company that produces the keith tuners weren’t manufacturing any during that time frame and there was a pretty big back order on them and I didn’t want to wait another month or so to get the banjo since it was already done, so I opted for the standard tuners that come with the banjo on the first and fourth string

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall, the banjo is top notch. I now understand why selling that are used hold their value on the open market even the ones that are 20+ years old. All Stelling's  are made by hand and most are made to order. Nothing is mass produced in the shop. You truly get a one-of-a-kind custom order when you purchase a brand new Stelling. I have gotten nothing but compliments from people who have seen the banjo themselves. They are absolutely amazed at the quality of work that was put into making this. It took about five months from the day that I ordered it, To the day that I got the message saying that it was complete.  It was well worth the time waiting. All I can say is, if you can afford one of these treasures, I would totally purchase a stelling.  On a sidenote, the great thing about this banjo company is that they make all of their banjos from the lower models all the way up to the top the exact same basically. The only thing extra that you end up paying for is the ornaments and decorations. Other than that, unlike most banjo companies you get the top-of-the-line materials on every model so everybody can enjoy the Stelling  sound

Overall Rating: 10

Nechville: Aries

Submitted by coherent (see all reviews from this person) on 6/8/2020

Where Purchased: Avenue Guitars

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: $3400 ($US)

Sound

Clean and smooth. Very warm and full. I like the sound of a classic bluegrass banjo but to my ears to much "twang" can sound like loose parts with not enough warmth an fullness. The Aries is a walnut banjo which seems to find a happy medium between the brightness of maple and the warmth of mahogany. To my ear a great middle ground.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I relayed to the retailer my preferences and it arrived set up perfectly. Great action and the intonation was spot on with every string. I know the Nechvilles are known for their easy adjustments and ability to tune in the desired sound, but I haven't had the need or desire to change anything so far.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I'm a fairly new banjo player and while I have not played a lot of banjos I have been able to try quite a few and have also held and played a number of guitars over the years. It's fairly easy to recognize quality by not just the look, but feel, fit and finish if an instrument. The Nechville is top notch. I could find no flaws whatsoever in the workmanship. A beautifully made banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I haven't had it long enough to rate reliability, but seems to be made with quality parts and assembled well. The clear coat finish is exceptional in my opinion and expect it to hold up extremely well..

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I have called and email Nechville a few times prior to the purchase and they were helpful and answered my questions promptly. The warranty is lifetime to my understanding and from other buyers feedback they seem to be very responsive to owners if they have issues.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The radius neck is exceptionally smooth and easy playing. Overall feel and "playability" is top notch. I have no negatives as to the quality of parts or workmanship.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I also own a Deering and am a big fan of the Deering necks and the way they feel. I didn't think I'd find a neck that fit my personal preferences more until I played the Nechville. I realize that the feel of any instrument is very subjective to individual preference but it's hard for me to believe that anyone wouldn't be pleased with the Nechville's feel and playability.  Sound is also a very subjective and important quality, but the adjustability of these banjos was an important factor to me as having the ability to easily "fine tune" the sound to personal  preferences is a plus in my opinion.

Overall Rating: 10

Fender: Rustler

Submitted by LzChase (see all reviews from this person) on 6/1/2020

Where Purchased: Andreasson's Musik, Gothenburg, Sweden

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Aprx. 3500 (Swedish Krona) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

For it's price and as an entry level instrument, this banjo has a very good sound to it, but sounds rather tinny compared to higher end banjos. Good response with decent bass.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Setup from the store was almost perfect. it just needed a minor adjustment to get even head tension.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This banjo looks amazing for it's price. It's beautiful inlays are compareable to professional instruments.
The only thing I'm not a fan of with the appearence is the wide hook spacing and the flat type tension hooks. A traditional nothced hoop setup is better in my opinion.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Again, very good for the price, not much to be said. Stays in tune very well. However the 5th string tuner fell out at one point.

Reliability Rating: 7

Customer Service

Customer service couldn't have been better. When I went to the story to get help with reattaching the tuner, they cleaned and overhauled the banjo for free!

Customer Service: 10

Components

I would have prefered planetary tuners today, but back then I prefered guitar style tuners, so no problem there.
Tuners worked flawlessly with the exception of the 5th string tuner falling out once.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

This banjo might not be able to compete with high end banjos, but for it's price it is amazing and probably one of the best entry level banjos. It features a rolled brass tone ring whereas most low end open back banjos (in my experience) lack a tone ring entirely.

Overall Rating: 9

Gold Tone: WL250-LN

Submitted by LzChase (see all reviews from this person) on 6/1/2020

Where Purchased: Imported from Gold Tone Factory in USA on request by dealer Svarén Musik, Sweden.

Year Purchased: Aprx. 2017
Price Paid: Aprx. 15000 (Swedish Krona) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This banjo has an incredible sound that could very well compete with much more expensive banjos.
It is clean, crisp but still warm, and has a nice ring to it.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The set up from the Gold Tone factory was spot on. Just perfect!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is a work of art.The cloud inlay is stunningly beautiful and the headstock veneer really tops it all of.
All inlay work is flawless.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The plastic knob on the 5th string tuner broke after half a year. Other than that, I never had any reliability related problems with this banjo, it always does what it's supposed to without issues.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Since I was not personally in contact with Gold Tone, I cannot rate the customer service accurately. according to the dealer however, it seems to be good, with very friendly personel, So I'm giving it a 9

Customer Service: 9

Components

Gold Tone's planetary tuners are very good. The banjo stays in tune very well.
The holes in the rim seem to be a bit oddly shaped if a bracket shoe is taken off, not being perfectly round. however this is not an issue.

I changed the tailpiece to a Golden Gate Kershner, however this is not because of any issues with the standard one, I simply prefer an adjustable tailpiece over a no-knot.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Long neck banjos tend to be rather expensive. For it's price, this banjo is absolutely perfect. It plays extremely well with good response and always does what it's meant to. A functional work of art with it's beautiful inlays.

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Vega Long Neck

Submitted by LzChase (see all reviews from this person) on 6/1/2020

Where Purchased: Imported from Elderly Instruments, USA on request by dealer Svarén Musik, Sweden.

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 35000 with shipping (Swedish Krona) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The sound produced by this banjo is the definition of what an open back banjo should sound like. It's incredibly clear and crisp, with perfect bass response. It's resembalance to an original Vega Pete Seeger is very close, it seems to have a little more sustain, but is otherwise spot on.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was a little bit off after the banjo had traveled across half the globe with varying humidity and temperatures, but was indescribeably easy to correct, hinting at a very good, professional setup when it left America. It almost fixed itself once the wood got used to the new climate! That is a sign of quality wood if I've ever seen one!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Sometimes, simplicity is best. The look is incredibly clean. Not much to say other than that I absolutely love it.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The finish is beautiful and solid at the same time. I bought the banjo used and the finish looks borderline factory new after almost 20 years of use! just a small imperfection near the heel, otherwise it's flawless. No cheap finish can pull that off! It also proves scratch resistant as a cheap screwdriver once broke on me, causing it to slip. The point of impact showed basically nothing and witha very gentle polish, the very very small dent disappeared.

As of playing, it has never let me down and I know it never will. this instrument just shines of pure quality.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I've not been in contact with Elderly Instruments when it comes to this purchase as it was done for me bya dealer, however they're very friendly and extremely helpful in responding to emails.

Customer Service: 10

Components

At first, I was a bit unsure of the components and their quality, but after fixing them up a bit, that pure quality shines through. With a quick and easy tweak, they became like new and has stayed like that ever since.

The tuners had been changed for some reason. The tuners on it were not that good, however I'm not going to let this have any effect on my review because I've dealt with Deering tuners like it once had and they work flawlessly every single time.

I eventually changed them to Rickard Cyclone because I prefer a higher ratio.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Ok so you can probably tell that this review is a little bit biased.  But I'd say it is still true. I had very high expectations when I bought this banjo and despite being 19 years old, it did everything way better than I had expected. The sound is just pure bliss. It is by far the best sounding open back banjo I've ever played or heard. Deering did an incredible job with this model. It's just absolutely perfect!

Overall Rating: 10

Bacon & Day Silver Bell No. 4 Plectrum Banjo SN20424, All Original and aka B&D: Bacon & Day Silver Bell No. 4 Plectrum Banjo, All Original and aka B&D

Submitted by joellock (see all reviews from this person) on 5/30/2020

Where Purchased: Avenue guiters

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

banjo is the best

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

setting is still very much intact

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

very well

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

very good

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

very good

Customer Service: 9

Components

parts are still very much intact

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

in a good condiction

Overall Rating: 9

Samick: Artist Series Edition

Submitted by Fire-n-Rain (see all reviews from this person) on 5/18/2020

Where Purchased: Private party

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 200 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This banjo was from an estate and had not been played much. Once set up properly it had a full sound that a 5-string resonator banjo should.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

I performed my own setup. Despite adjusting the coordinator rods to lower the strings, I installed a 1/2” bridge to get proper action.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

The fit and finish are good. The flame maple resonator back is particularly nice. Typical ivory binding and fretboard inlays are well done.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Hardware and finishes are very good. I did have some difficulty adjusting the tailpiece, which seemed to be mounted off-center.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

No experience with Samick customer service.

Customer Service: 8

Components

I would replace the bridge and tailpiece as these are inexpensive parts on this model. I also replaced the clear Mylar head with a top frosted Remo Weatherking. The planetary tuners are good and hold pitch well.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This banjo was made in 1999 or 2000 in Korea (no serial number found). It is very suitable for beginners and intermediate players. Mine came with a nice hard shell case. It appears to be the same as Samick's SB-110 model rebadged as Artist Series. 

Overall Rating: 8

Pisgah: Custom 12” Walnut Fretless

Submitted by buckeyeman (see all reviews from this person) on 5/8/2020

Where Purchased: Pisgah Website

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: 1441 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a brass tone ring and a Renaissance head, which help boost the volume even with no frets and nylon strings. The banjo’s tone is outstanding. It’s warm but not muddy, articulate but not thin. Very ‘soulful’ sounding...

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was excellent. Perfect action and no dead spots anywhere on the neck. I did change the nylgut strings from lights to mediums just because I prefer a little more tension.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful instrument. Nicely figured walnut neck and rim. Plain paddle headstock. The aged brass hardware looks great with the walnut and black richlite fingerboard. Overall the banjo could be described as elegantly understated.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The banjo seems very robust and well put together. I expect it will handle travel or anything I throw at it, with basic care, for years to come.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I am very impressed with Pisgah Banjo Co. Patrick and his wife, Molly,
have been a pleasure to deal with throughout the build. They are accessible, responsive, friendly, and clearly put their customers first. The banjo itself has a limited lifetime warranty that expect I will never have to use.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All the components seem of high quality and suit the banjo quite well. There’s nothing I would consider upgrading.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I’m very happy with my experience with Pisgah Banjo Co.   They are extremely down to earth and put their customers first.   The ordering process was simple and the follow-up they provided was excellent.  I got a beautiful, great feeling, and great sounding custom built banjo for a very reasonable price.   I would not hesitate to order again from Pisgah.  Top notch company, great people, great banjos...

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Dobson Rambler

Submitted by johnpatrick307 (see all reviews from this person) on 5/7/2020

Where Purchased: Banjo Studio

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

A lot of the words commonly associated with a 12" banjo apply here, warm, plunky etc. It's quite loud without any sort of stuffing, and can growl a bit if you dig in. I've found that a small washcloth rolled up calms it down just enough to tame the overtones, as with a lot of banjos. I've haven't used it to record with a band as of yet, but I'm very happy with the way it sounds solo.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo was set up well and the intonation is good all the way up the neck. When I first got it I felt the action was too high, but I guess I just got used to it because it's not an issue for me anymore. I only thought this about playing above the fifth fret. It took me a little while to bond with it, but in fairness I hadn't owned a banjo in several years.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Overall it's gorgeous, it looks like my dream banjo. It's very simple but elegant. The neck is a beautiful color, and the brass and steel hardware compliment each other nicely. There's no fretboard inlay, only side dot markers, so be sure you're ok navigating that way. The only issue I have is the hole that was reamed for the 5th string tuner is a bit rough. This is more noticeable because everything else looks so great, it makes me wonder how that slipped past them. Many people probably wouldn't care about this at all, but I have to say it does bother me a little.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Feels very sturdy and reliable, I think these banjos will be around a long time.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I haven't talked to them, but they seem to be present and reachable on social media.

Customer Service: 8

Components

All the parts seem of good quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I like this banjo quite a lot, I don't see myself every parting with it, which is saying something because I don't get overly sentimental about instruments. The only things keeping it from a 10 rating for me are the rough spot I mentioned earlier, and the fact that this banjo is quite heavy. It's a spunover rim, it's obviously going to be heavy, but now playing it everyday there are times when I wish it were lighter. It's currently my only banjo, so I probably just need a second one for when I feel that way. Just something to consider if you're researching this model.

Overall Rating: 9

Ibanez: B300

Submitted by Fire-n-Rain (see all reviews from this person) on 5/6/2020

Where Purchased: Online store

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: $345 ($US)

Sound

After proper set-up this model sounds like a resonator banjo should! The sound is well-balanced, bright and full.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

I performed my own setup. Tensioned the head, placed the bridge, and adjusted the clamshell tailpiece. Although this model has both dual coordinator rods and truss rod, the neck and action required no adjustments.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This is one gorgeous banjo! The finish is smooth with pearloid “vine” inlays on the fretboard and abalone rings on the resonator back that are beautiful. The neck and resonator are mahogany with a block rim. The frets are smooth and well-dressed. Although this was sold as B-stock, I could find no flaws.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware is chrome and nicely plated. The finish on the wood is very nice and should be durable.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Have not had any reason to request service from either the vendor or Ibanez.

Customer Service: 8

Components

This is a mass-produced Chinese banjo in the $500-600 retail price range. Of course the parts are inexpensive, but they should be fine for any beginner and intermediate players.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I love this banjo! It does everything I need as an intermediate player. Ibanez is best known as a maker of guitars. Back in the 70s however, Ibanez made some very good banjos. Today this is their top of the line model. Setup was very easy and the intonation is good all the way up the neck. The sound is great, and for a banjo in this price range the workmanship is exceptional. It does have some nice "bling" but that is something I appreciate about it.  

Overall Rating: 8

Hugh Hunter: Custom Maple 5 string resonator banjo

Submitted by Supertigre (see all reviews from this person) on 4/25/2020

Where Purchased: Direct from Hugh Hunter - Midnight Special Instruments

Year Purchased: April 2020
Price Paid: 2500 (Canadian $) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sound is bright, clear, and loud. Good sustain.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was perfect.
The action is a little higher than I had on my previous banjo but not so much as to make any difference.
Hugh said it can be easily adjusted if needed.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo is perfect. Pictures in my BHO profile.
Maple pot, resonator, and neck (with black Pearwood center lamination).
Ebony fingerboard and peghead overlay
Hearts and Flowers inlay (full set not the Gibson short set)
Brass hardware, Rickard tuners and tailpiece, Bluegrass style tone-ring
Gunstock finish (not Piano or French Polish) a good practical finish for an instrument meant to be used for a long time.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I just received the instrument but I own a Dulcimer built by Hugh and I have no doubts that this is a top quality build.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Hugh is extremely accommodating in the design details and build both in the initial consulting and making tweaks during the build to make the best instrument possible. He even delivered it in person (I do not believe this is normal or even possible with all of his commissions but was very appreciated with this pandemic scare going on - social distancing protocols were observed in the hand off).

I have not had any issues with the banjo but Hugh was very responsive in fixing the nut on my Dulcimer when it cracked - no charge, out of warranty.

Warranty is one year from date of delivery.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything is best quality, Canadian Rock Maple, Rickard hardware, and excellent workmanship.
Any change would be a downgrade.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Thanks Hugh for such a beautiful looking and sounding instrument.

I hope that I can continue to develop my skill in playing to be worthy of such a beautiful banjo.

I would not have any reservations at all in commissioning another instrument from Hugh (maybe a 12" open back Walnut Dobson in open "C"?).

Overall Rating: 10

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