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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!

6820 reviews in the archive.

Companion Custom Banjos: Rb-75

Submitted by rb4 (see all reviews from this person) on 3/17/2019

Where Purchased: Companion custom banjos

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 2,000 ($US)

Sound

The banjo sounds amazing very responsive so you can move back and fourth from the bridge position to neck position and everywhere in between and get different tones. It’s also very responsive to touch so the harder or softer you play the more the tone changes like a great banjo should. It’s a mahogany banjo so it has a very full sound with all the volume you would ever need.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It came setup perfectly. There’s nothing about it that I would want to change but if I ever wanted it would be no problem as it’s made with high quality parts that can easily be adjusted.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It’s a very beautiful banjo. It is a mahogany banjo with a flying eagle fret board inlay and leaves and bows headstock inlay. The wood has an open pore type finish so to me it’s shinnier than a satin finish but not glossy so it’s very fast under the fret hand. Absolutely no sticking to the neck.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Every component on the banjo is high quality with no corners cut. There’s no weak spots or components only tried and true components. It is quality enough for anything you could throw at it and would have no problem gigging or jamming without a backup.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The company is great it’s really not like dealing with a company it feels a lot more personal and that’s saying a lot as I only communicated by email due to my busy work schedule and it was still very personalized and it was very hands on and helpful. It comes with a lifetime warranty to the original owner and that’s me. It’s new so I haven’t had to get it repaired or anything but I know without a doubt that there would be no issues getting the repairs done.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The stand out o this banjo is the entire banjo but if I have to magnify one detail it would be the neck. It just has the best profile to it and just feels great while playing.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I love this banjo it has a classic rb75 look and sound. The workmanship is spot on. It’s my first mahogany banjo and it nailed the sound I was looking for perfectly. Companion banjos are super great to deal with they can make what you want but if you aren’t sure on certain things Chris will talk it over with you and help you so that way you get what you want but also can get pro advice on things you are uncertain on. I will not ever need another banjo other than just wanting another and if I ever buy another banjo it’s not coming from anywhere else other than companion custom banjos.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Custom Maple Tubaphone

Submitted by Gerald Rousseau (see all reviews from this person) on 3/11/2019

Where Purchased: Denver Folklore Center

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1895.00 ($US)

Sound

This is my 4th Pisgah banjo and once again I am blown away by the unique characteristics of this particular model banjo.
Clear, bright, balanced with ample volume and projection.
Definitely has its own personality.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It had to travel from Denver to Chicago so a few minor tweaks on the bridge
position were required to perfect the intonation.
Quick and easy and the results were perfect.
I'm an intonation fanatic and I've found that Pisgah banjos are incredibly accurate and easy to maintain.
Great action and a very comfortable banjo to play!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I do love the understated elegance of Pisgah banjos....just the right touch of details and beautiful woods.
Beautiful grain detail on the rim and neck on this one and similar to the Wonder model I have but with a lighter finish.
And I do love the headstock inlay and fret markers.
Aged brass hardware from Balsam Banjo Works is also my favorite

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I've owned Ome, Huss and Dalton, Chuck Lee and Deering banjos over the years..........I still have my Pisgahs and Huss and Dalton.......I think that is a testimony to the quality and consistency of Pisgah Banjos!
Without question a reliable and stout design that is very player friendly!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Patrick and his Team are the best!!
Total professionals, courteous, helpful and friendly.........not to mention talented craftsmen
Lifetime Warranty says it all

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components are beautiful and function perfectly........I do love the BBW hardware and the Gotoh tuners

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Totally pleased with this tubaphone banjo!!

A definite keeper!

Overall Rating: 10

Alvarez: Minstel 4289 5 Star (Wreath Inlay)

Submitted by buckholler (see all reviews from this person) on 3/10/2019

Where Purchased: Personal sale

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 300 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Playing BG, and after a Remo new head (had a clear head on it) fresh sting and presto tailpiece it sounds amazing, for what it is

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The previous owner didn’t know any thing about banjos. She had a handmade pine stick for a bridge. I did a fresh set up, bridge upgrade. I’m really impressed with the coordinator rod setup that allows the neck angle to be moved up or down by the Alvarez designed lower rod. I was able to easily adjust the neck angle to suit my playing and bridge height with out recurring the heel.

Setup Rating: 2

Appearance

Gloss finish, chrome plated hardwear. The only thing I don’t like are the huge timers (60’s Thunderbird style) and the weird inlay on the resonator.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Over all for being about a 40 year old banjo it’s held up well. Light putting on some of the hardwear but it’s to be expected.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Company no longer in Business

Customer Service: 1

Components

I didn’t totally strip the banjo so I don’t know what the time ring is made with. This company used both brass and pot metal over the years. But up to pitch she sounds amazing

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 9

Pisgah: 12" maple dobson, persimon fret board.,brass hardware

Submitted by suebatkin (see all reviews from this person) on 3/2/2019

Where Purchased: Music Emporium - Lexington MA

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1,400 ($US)

Sound

I play clawhammer banjo. This banjo has a beautiful warm yet crisp sound. The dobson tone ring allows sound to project, but it doesn't affect the warmth that I always look for in a clawhammer banjo. Less plunky than without the tone ring, but plenty plunky for me. It's a great banjo. I highly recommend it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The set up was pretty good. I told the folks at the Music Emporium about some buzz and they immediately alleviated the problem by adjusting the bridge and doing a few other things.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is a beautiful banjo. It has a persimmon fretboard and a maple pot. The dobson tone ring gives it a golden appearance, which i love!!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Can't answer this, as the banjo is new. But it certainly is sturdy and seems like it will be reliable over time.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The folks over at Music Emporium in Lexington MA were fantastic. They allowed me to sit in the shop for several hours playing all kinds of different banjos. They were super accommodating and knowlegable about their stock. I would highly recommend this place to anyone in the market for a new banjo. It's one of the few places on the east coast that has such a big selection.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing cheap or weak about it. Patrick -- the founder and owner of Pisgah, takes a great deal of pride in his work. Every detail works.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I was in Asheville NC last week and wanted to see the shop where my banjo was made and meet Patrick.  He was so accommodating.  He gave me a tour of the place and talked a little bit about his journey as a banjo maker. I would really recommend this banjo.   It's great for the price and has a wonderful sound and feel. 

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Sierra Maple

Submitted by vincefewo (see all reviews from this person) on 2/27/2019

Where Purchased: Sevierville Pawn, Sevierville, TN

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1400 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

l play 3 finger bluegrass mostly so this fits pretty well at this price. If I had to describe Deering banjos with the 3-ply maple rim and the 06 tone ring that I've heard/played I would have to say the sound is vanilla. This late model Sierra has good tone bottom to top except the 2nd and 3rd string way up seem a little weaker than the rest. It doesn't really growl but it is clear and deep. Highs are clear and bright but lack a little dry crispness you might hear in an old Gibson or others. Bing maple, it's very responsive and a little clearer than the regular mahogany so to say it's less forgiving is true. A lighter touch immediately turns down and softens the tone.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

So I picked this up in late 2017 from a pawn shop. Original case and original shipping box so I was able to determine that this was made in 2016 and was purchased at a music shop that year. Sometime after it was pawned. This Sierra had been taken apart by a non-qualified someone or at least put together like so. Point being it had no setup when purchased. I had to take it partially apart and get it right from the bottom up. These days it has mostly the Deering set-up tolerances except the tailpiece is just off the tension hoop instead of being right on it. It came with a regular Deering bridge and I switched to a Deering signature which was ok but now I actually have a no name bridge on it that came with a used Stelling I bought and that bridge sounds the best. I use Mapes strings on it and that's where it's at these days.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

it's really nice that Deering upgraded all Sierra's with the inlays in 2014. Other than that, once again it's pretty vanilla. Bound resonator but no neck binding. Sierra's are all matte lacquer which is just fine, nothing too fancy and actually the neck is great with that matte finish. All the hardware looks great. No flash left on, everything is smooth and glossy.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All good materials here sans the lacquer on the headstock which has some slight moisture clouding. Strong and well built mostly. Note that this Sierra came with factory RR spikes, great but the tops were sharp until I removed them and smoothed them down a little.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I've contacted Deering twice about this instrument. This first was to ask when this banjo was built and the second was about the headstock finish. Both times it took about a week for a response and no warranty for the finish for an original owner, so certainly not a second owner. No worries, I picked up a 3000 banjo for 1400, I'm happy.

Customer Service: 7

Components

All together it's a great entry/pro banjo that's make with quality parts right out of the box. While you may not see any headliners with a Sierra, I strongly suspect that there are plenty of pro "practice" banjos with the Sierra name on them and studio banjos as well. I did put Kieth tuners on mine but not necessary.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

It's a good instrument for the $3000 price tag and even better as a good used model for less. It looks good and sounds good overall.

Overall Rating: 9

Stelling: Staghorn

Submitted by vincefewo (see all reviews from this person) on 2/26/2019

Where Purchased: Banjo warehouse

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

Sound

For 5 string bluegrass style the Staghorn by Stelling is not the best choice for the twangy Gibson prewar sound. This banjo is loud, precise, and crystal clean. Full and bright from bottom to top. Of course this causes a couple of problems. One being tuning MUST really be precise. Any variation in tuning is immediately noticeable. Another issue is it really takes a deft and gentle touch to tame the beast so it goes hand in hand with no forgiveness. So these are really not problems if you can handle them. Geoff has a particular tuning sequence he prefers and it helps make tuning easier. Adjusting is pretty simple and the banjo reacts immediately and as expected. I should say that this banjo is maple and has an original 3 ply rim. All adjustments are within Stelling specs.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

When purchased it came with a Deering head and a no name bridge. I replaced them with Stelling parts. The felt washers on the tuners were worn out so I replaced those with leather. The pancake tuners have a touch of slop wear in them but not ready to change yet. I really like the floating tailpiece and of course the wedge fit tone ring is the way all banjos should be made.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

For a 32yr old instrument it’s in great shape. Flamed maple neck and the resonator looks like quilted maple. No horns on this resonator but that’s ok. When it arrived a few spots were dull but a few minutes with Mothers chrome polish on the metal and wood worked wonders. All the inlays, perfling, and binding look great still, no problem whatsoever.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

As expected all hardware and the finish is top quality for its day so it’s difficult to tell from 5 feet away that this banjo is 32yr old. This is not my primary banjo but I do play it 2-3 hrs/week. Holds a tune within reason and I’ve never had any issue with it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Geoff has answered several questions I had about this particular instrument and recommended parts and procedures so I could get the most out of it.

Customer Service: 10

Components

It’s well known that many pickers are also tinkerers. I try to be reasonable with changing things so that’s why I went back to original parts on this. It sounds great and that’s where it’s going to stay.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This Staghorn was beautiful when it was made and  it’s just as beautiful today, and most likely sounds better. This is a professional instrument capable of a vast array of sounds and adjustments to suit the needs. It’s also an investment as outside of old Gibson’s, Stelling holds value, attesting to their quality.

Overall Rating: 10

Cedar Mountain: Jubilo

Submitted by Alanmac01 (see all reviews from this person) on 2/23/2019

Where Purchased: Acoustic Corner

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1500.00 ($US)

Sound

I like the soft mountain old-time sound. I am trying to learn OT/clawhammer and still learning 3-finger. It sounds great to me for both. The notes up the neck are clean, rich, and pure.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I have not messed with the setup. It is easy to change tunings.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

It is beautiful wood and craftsmanship, but it is not fancy. Cedar Mountain does make fancier banjos with nice inlays, but this is a basic model, which is perfect for me.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Very well crafted in my opinion. It will last.
I don't play any gigs per se.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty. I have communicated directly with the owner/builder who is a great musician as well. Very positive experience. I have not required any repairs so far.

Customer Service: 9

Components

All the components are top-notch. There is nothing that looks or feels cheap about my banjo. The tuners and hardware look and feel excellent.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I was looking for the best open-back banjo I could find in the price-range and I believe the Cedar Mountain Jubilo is it.

When I compared it by playing other models, some intangibles came into play.  It was so well balanced and felt so comfortable and easy to play.  The sound was sweet, earthy, and made me feel like I was in the Blue-Ridge mountains on a sunny afternoon playing music with old friends.

The only reason I didn't give it all 10's is just to leave room for an possible upgrade to a fancier Cedar Mountain banjo.  To me, for where I am in my banjo journey, it is a 10.  I could be happy from now on with the Jubilo.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King RK-R20: RK-R20

Submitted by chkland724 (see all reviews from this person) on 2/19/2019

Where Purchased: Hatfield Music

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: $425 ($US)

Sound

This is a nice, crisp sounding banjo. I think it sounds good all the way up the neck. Nice sustain.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Nicely set up. All I had to do was tune it. Action was a little higher than I am used to, but I like it.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This is a very nice looking instrument. Inlay is nice and peghead is ornate and impressive.Looks like a more expensive banjo.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

All components seem high quality. The banjo hold tune very well.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Haven't needed it yet. Hope I don't.

Customer Service: 8

Components

Everything looks good.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This is considered a beginning banjo. I have been playing for a little over 4 years and it suits me just fine so I would consider it a nice intermediate instrument as well. All in all a good banjo at a good price.

Overall Rating: 8

Deering: Artisan Goodtime Openback

Submitted by PacificNW-Picker (see all reviews from this person) on 2/18/2019

Where Purchased: Music Emporium

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: $749.99 ($US)

Sound

I play Clawhammer style, and let me tell you the Artisan Americana fits me playing style perfectly. I also bought the scooped model so it has that old time cluck, while the 12" head give it a wonderful rich warm sound. Plenty of volume without a tone ring too (Which worried me before I got it.) I also love its slender neck, incredibly easy to play up and down the fret board. I also like that the frets are slightly higher making it easier to play your notes without smashing down on your fret board.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came set up very well. The box the music emporium shipped it out to me in couldn't have been better protected. The action was set right, along with the bridge. Drum head also seemed set properly.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I bought this banjo part for its reputation, part for its sound and part for its stunning looks. The maple pot, neck, and head almost have a purplish/brownish stain and the charcoal grey fret board with the inlays are breath taking for this price range! It's honestly what gave it the edge over Gold tones Whyte Lady or MM-150 for me. That and I felt that the Whyte lady tone ring was just a little to blue grassy sounding for me (That's totally my preference though!)

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Everything seems really high quality and sturdy. Not everything is top of the line obviously, but certainly respectable. Only time will tell for sure though. So I'm giving it a very solid 8.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I talked to Deering quite a bit before my purchase and they were always extremly nice, and answered every question I had. All in all they seem like a company that takes pride in their instruments and seem to have a willingness to stand by their banjo's.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I wish it had a truss rod. That worries me a bit, but other than that this is everything I could hope for in a Open back banjo under $1000. Not quite professional grade (I'm no professional nor do I intend to be.) but certainly fantastic banjo for the price! This will last me for the next decade as long as the neck holds up (And I've read hundreds of long term reviews that indicate it will.)

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 9

Deering: Goodtime

Submitted by embrizzle (see all reviews from this person) on 2/10/2019

Where Purchased: Fretted Instrument Workshop

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Sounds great! Nice, mellow tone.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I love the look of this banjo. It's basic and clean-looking.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is banjo best-suited to amateurs and hobbiests, so reliability in gigging is not something I've tried on it. But, for my uses, I've never had a problem with it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Never needed a repair!

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

What I was looking for when I bought this banjo: 

  • Good beginner's instrument
  • Lightweight, as I was traveling with it a lot
  • Nice, round sound
  • Wouldn't need to be repaired often (I was leaving to live abroad for a couple years and wouldn't have access to a repair shop)
  • Wouldn't break the bank

It has fulfilled all of these criteria perfectly!

Overall Rating: 10

Heartland (Robin Smith): Appalachian

Submitted by Ragtimejoe (see all reviews from this person) on 2/9/2019

Where Purchased: Banjo Hangout member

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

Sound

This model was made to sound like a 1930's Kel Kroyden brass hoop model banjo. The seller and I met at Robin Smith's shop. Jim Britton was there with an original Kel Kroyden brass hoop banjo (with a new neck) so I had a chance to compare the Appalachian to the original. Remarkable close, given that the Appalachian only had a month or so of playing time. Given some playing time I have no doubt it's going to sound like the original it was meant to copy.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was great. I would not change a thing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It looks like an old Gibson but new. How can you go wrong with that?

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Robin has been building banjos for many years. I don't have any doubts that the banjo will be around longer than me and in far better shape than me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I live in Nashville and have dealt with Robin a couple of times in the past. His customer service has been top shelve every time.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The banjo is new to me but I don't see anything but top notch components and construction.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Looks great. Sounds like an old Gibson. Great builder and great components.

Loud or sweet as I want it to me.

Weighs about 8 pounds.

Priced remarkably fair as new. 

What more could you ask for?

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Dobson Rambler

Submitted by seanfidheall (see all reviews from this person) on 2/6/2019

Where Purchased: Gryphon Stringed Instruments

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1345 ($US)

Sound

Sound is such a subjective thing. For me, I have yet to find a 12” that gives me the sound I want with the exception of a spun-over Dobson. This is particularly true in tunings that lower the bass strings below standard G tuning. The first time I played Patrick’s Rambler I was amazed at how balanced and civilized it was. And the ethereal qualities of the Dobson tone ring… I knew I’d found best 12” for my taste. I’ve played another by a different maker. A lovely thing, but it has nothing over the PIsgah. And that one was a thousand more.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was spot on. I haven’t changed a thing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

No imperfections. Not one.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have no experience with a Richlite fret board but I have no trepidations about it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Patrick a few times. I really like the guy personally, and respect his abilities. He is a pleasure to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Dobson was spot on with the original spun-over rim/Dobson tone ring combo for my sound preferences. I so glad Patrick is making it. Top quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Well, I’m going to buy more from this maker. I want something in a persimmon fingerboard. It would be quite unique. 

Overall Rating: 10

Dean Robinson [dean-o-craft]: Luna Moth #49

Submitted by oldtimejohn (see all reviews from this person) on 1/19/2019

Where Purchased: deanocraft.com

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: $1800 ($US)

Sound

The banjo is loud, and deep. I would call it plunky. I think it sounds better in a small ensemble, maybe a single fiddle and guitar, not a large jam. I don't know why I feel that way. Its not perfect for all situations, but I don't think one banjo can be PERFECT in all situations.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The set up was spot on for my hand and playing on this banjo right away.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

As I said, I truly enjoy the sound of the banjo, but I think it looks better than it sounds! Dean has included small details that to me just make it look like a quality banjo. This banjo has a Luna moth with the moon phases up the neck. Top quality on the inlay work.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

So, Dean sent the banjo with a skin head and a fiberskin head. I love the look and sound of the skin head, but in KY the humidity will embarrass you every time. On a humid summer night, even with an 1" tall bridge, its unplayable. So I switch my head out seasonally. I put the skin head on in the fall and winter, and fiberskin on in the spring and summer. Really, I would say the banjo is very reliable, you just have to understand the nature of a skin head.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dean is the best. I've had questions and he is always quick with answers. As I previously mentioned, he included 2 heads. He also included 2 straight bridges. I asked him once for a price to make a compensated bridge and he sent me 2 compensated bridges free of charge. The way to a Welsh man's heart is free of charge! And as I said, nice as could be and top quality the whole way.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is a "lightweight model" so its got an Ashborn pot, and a wood tonering. The hardware is brass with Gotoh tuners and a brass No-Knot tailpiece. Everything appears to be of top quality. The wood has not defects, and appears to be of outstanding quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I always recommend Dean's banjos to everyone that I meet. I bring it with me to the festivals and it always gets a lot of compliments. Couldn't ask for a better guy either. 

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Walnut Dobson

Submitted by ironhead (see all reviews from this person) on 1/19/2019

Where Purchased: Purchased directly from Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: Approx $1700.00 ($US)

Sound

Rich, full sound, like a quality 12 inch banjo should produce.This was a custom build and I requested a John Balch goatskin head. I really like this addition as it produces the warm sound I was hoping for, along with the Dobson ring and the rest of the Pisgah build.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came set up perfectly for my style and preference. This isn't a big deal for me personally, as I like to tinker with head tension and various bridges etc. Good to know Pisgah is on top of their game in this respect.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Pisgah has a cool banjo design tool on their website for custom models. You scroll down the page and tick off your preferences. I picked walnut, Dobson, 12 inch rim, richlite fingerboard with dot inlays and side dots, paddle head stock with quilted star, Dobson heel, aged brass hardware, etc. Comprehensive and easy to use feature!! The banjo inlays, workmanship and quality of material used are excellent. I'm very pleased!

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Fit and finish looks great. The walnut is waxed, which looks and feels great. Not sticky at all!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I haven't dealt with customer service post purchase, but I dealt with Patrick during the build and he was always prompt and efficient when answering my questions. I'm sure if I had a problem it would be dealt with quickly.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No weak parts I can identify.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I've been wanting to play a Pisgah since they came on the banjo building scene a few years back. I own Reiter, Deering, Wildwood, Ramsey, and various other open back banjos. This Pisgah is up there with the best for sure. I'm quite impressed with the neck comfort and overall playability. The inlay isn't super fancy, but pleasing to the eye. I'm not a fan of extra fancy inlay anyway. I'm very pleased with the appearance of the banjo and the curved S type brass plated scoop is a nice option.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" maple dobson, persimon fret board.,brass hardware

Submitted by markdriscoll (see all reviews from this person) on 1/17/2019

Where Purchased: from make

Year Purchased: Jan. 2019
Price Paid: 1567 ($US)

Sound

Bright, full sound.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Perfectly setup.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Solid and grounded.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Patrick was amazing; reliable and available.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I'm so glad I went with Pisgah! Half-fretless openback banjos are difficult to get correct, but this came out better than I expected. Just below $1600 it is a good price. For those interested in getting a fretless or half-fretless you can't go wrong with Pisgah. 

Overall Rating: 10

Zachary Hoyt: #99 curly maple 12"

Submitted by john bange (see all reviews from this person) on 1/10/2019

Where Purchased: bho classifieds

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

Sound

very loud with rich full voice with Aquilla nylon strings

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

set up was spot on ...changed to a Stringbean45 bridge for my nylon strings...action need no changes

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

oiled finish is beautiful...don't care for bling...banjo has none

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

top notch components, some made by Zach and some sourced...I think Gotohs are the best

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

very responsive and friendly...banjo got across the country almost overnight

Customer Service: 10

Components

no shortcomings at all...period!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

really nice, well made, professional quality, performance grade banjo...way more banjo than I need but I'll sure take it...

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Stainless Walnut Dobson Rambler

Submitted by DropThumb Rich (see all reviews from this person) on 1/10/2019

Where Purchased: Direct from Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $1469 ($US)

Sound

The sound is different from what I'm used to. I've got a Deering Americana w/ light strings and this banjo is a different animal altogether. It will take me a while to acclimate to it. I wasn't completely sold on the Dobson tone ring at first but it's growing on me. I realize I've got to play cleaner than I'm used to to get the best sound out of it.
Overall I love the sound and I think as time goes by it will get even better.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo plays great right out of the box. Strings are a little lower than I'm used to but then I've been playing my other banjo and the strings are fairly high on that.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is a work of art. It really is flawless. I inspected it closely when I got it and it's pretty close to perfect. The finishes are beautiful and the fit on the parts is precise and clean. It's a thing of beauty. VERY well made

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I think this banjo would survive a nuclear attack. It is solid and built to last. I don't feel like I need to baby it at all. It's built to be played.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Patrick at Pisgah has a reputation as being great with customer service and that's exactly what I experienced. He's on top of emails and is always happy to answer questions. I made a few changes along the way and the banjo was made just the way I wanted it.

Customer Service: 10

Components

What stands out to me most is the neck. It's walnut and it's beautiful. Very smooth, feels good in the hand and solid as a rock. There are no weaknesses that I can see anywhere on the banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall I love this banjo. I'm going to have to up my game to do it justice. Like I said, it will demand more precise playing and that will force me to get better.I still think I want a woody with a persimmon tone ring. If I can swing it, I'll order another banjo from Pisgah. They're a great company to deal with and you can tell they take pride in their work. I highly recommend them!

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Dobson Rambler

Submitted by Paul Forsythe (see all reviews from this person) on 1/9/2019

Where Purchased: Banjo Studio

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 1195.00 ($US)

Sound

this banjo sounds amazing

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

gorgeous a work of art

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I can't imagine finding better value for money anywhere,this is a great banjo in every way,I'm very very happy with my Pisgah Banjo,you could be too!!

Overall Rating: 10

Renan Banjos: #21 'Eagle'

Submitted by jfkeebler (see all reviews from this person) on 1/2/2019

Where Purchased: Direct

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: ($US)

Sound

So very pleased with this nylon-stringed wonder. A piece of art that sounds old-tymey. Just what I was looking for. Very balanced way up the neck with just the right amount of volume. The scoop is perfect: interesting and accessible.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Tyler is a perfectionist. The setup was fine and it's stayed right where he put it through the change of seasons. Very playable and fun to play. ALWAYS the banjo I look for when I only have a moment to play.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is a work of art that happens to be a world-class openback. Why would you buy a mass-produced banjo when Tyler can design and build you something uniquely awesome? His design sensibilities are clever and fantastic. Take a look at www.renanbanjos.com and see for yourself. Post-modern but grounded in tradition.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Tyler hand selects choice materials, incorporating new stuff with old woods. This banjo is not going anywhere. It will play well for a long, long time.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

He'll make it right. I'm looking forward to another Renan...

Customer Service: 10

Components

The American Holly is so interesting and of great quality. Everything else is top-drawer too.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I looked a long time for my next banjo. I got a work of art that happens to be a world-class banjo. Honored to have it hanging on my wall.

--Joel

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Americana

Submitted by C A McClellan (see all reviews from this person) on 12/29/2018

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 521.00 ($US)

Sound

I play primarily two-finger index lead and clawhammer, probably about a 60/40 split. This particular instrument has a sound that I can only describe as a clear but mellow bell-like tone at the higher frets on the first and second string which blends with a less bell-like tone at the lower frets. The sound blends well; there is no place where you play a note and there is an obvious difference.

I knew this going into the purchase, but as a reminder: the Americana will not be as loud as a similarly built tone-ring equipped banjo. I have no problem with this, but if you are being accompanied by more than one or two other instruments, or if you play particularly softly, you may not get the volume you want.

I have had a chance to play Enochs, Pisgahs, and a lone OME openback, and I preferred the sound of the Deering. They all had good tone, but there was something about the Americana that I liked better. Like I have heard said, the Deerings seem to have a particular sound.

There are banjos that I played that sounded somewhat better, but not $900.00 better. This was pretty much exactly the sound that I was looking for.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

I have had to make no setup changes yet, although I will try some different bridges and strings at some point in the future.

The Americana was set up at Elderly Instruments very well. It arrived well packed, and was still almost in tune. There is a little bit of intonation issue above the 12th fret on the dreaded 3rd string, but it is not enough of an issue for anyone but me to notice; it is perhaps 8 to 10 cents off. Certainly, it is not enough for me to bother with fitting a compensated bridge.

The action is perfect for my playing style. I have yet to take the ruler out and measure the action, but it seems to be perfect for me. With that said, I was a bassist for years, so it might be that I would not notice some problems with the action that others might. Still, it seems to be near perfect.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I prefer a more spartan and plain appearance, having never been a fan of excess inlays. I also like a blonde instrument. To me, this is what an 'Old Time' banjo should look like. A bluegrass instrument should look flashy; it is a stage and performance instrument. An old time instrument should look plainer, but still elegant.

If you do not like a blond instrument, then you should consider the Artisan.

There are no flaws that I have been able to find. The grain of the wood is pretty much perfect, there are no badly finished frets, no tooling marks, and so on.

I actually prefer the guitar style tuners, which go with the look of the Americana quite well. Planetary tuners are more authentic in many ways, but I never have liked them that well.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I forsee no reliability issues with the Americana. The tuners seem to be high quality, the nut was cut well, and there are no issues with the wood grain that would lead me to believe that there will be anything prone to failure.

I do not play out, but there would be no question that I would trust this instrument to perform reliably. I have probably played this Deering 20 hours or so in the last 5 days and it has barely needed to be retuned.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have not had to use Deering's customer service, but I had several questions for Elderly leading up to the purchase, and there were no problems at all.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Like many others, I was concerned at first about the lack of a truss-rod supported neck in the Goodtime line. After looking at the construction, I have no doubt that there will be no issues.

The quality of the tuners is more akin [although of a different type] to what was on my last really expensive bass, rather than what I would expect to be on an instrument that is offered at less than $1000.00. The tailpiece seems to be constructed well, although I am not as familiar with the different tailpieces as I am with the rest of the construction of a banjo.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

For whatever reason, when I was trying out banjos this summer, the Deering spoke out to me, more so than some of the others that I tried. 

It fits my style well; I do not play in public, so a tone ring/additional volume was not necessary. 

I also have always liked blonde instruments, so I had no problem with that.

Although there are some nicer fittings on the OMEs, Enochs, and so forth, I am perfectly happy with the Americana.  Will I eventually have something custom?  Certainly, but I am very happy with this banjo.  I would have felt that it was a well constructed and well justified purchase even at $700.00.  From what I have had a chance to play over the past year, it seems that I would have had to go into the $850.00 - $1000.00 range to have found something with the same quality and playability, ignoring the difference in appearance. 

I would recommend this banjo for what I paid for it.  With that said, if you have $800.00+ to spend, you might find something that fits you better if you are willing to consider used. 

Overall Rating: 9

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