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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!

6752 reviews in the archive.

Backyard Music: Long Neck Light

Submitted by wesrichards (see all reviews from this person) on 9/20/2018

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: 175.00 ($US)

Sound

Long Neck -- Pete Seeger style. Mellow but bright. Not loud.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was perfect. Low action as promised. No way to set this thing up. It's made of strange parts ... a wooden head. some kind of paper-based pot.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's simple. It's undecorated. No inlay. Brass tack markers on the sides. Looks like Pete Seeger's banjo and my D'Angelico/Paramount from 1928.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware? What hardware? The tuners are inexpensive open gears. and they work fine. The 5th string peg is the same kind of tuner but stuck in sideways. These things will outlast me, for sure. But don't take it out in a rainstorm.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I never asked about a warranty. There's nothing on this banjo that can't be fixed with a little duct tape. The company is friendly and helpful. It (he) is a banjo player of many years and knows what beginners and old arthritics need. Delivery was so fast I thought I was dealing with the music shop around the corner.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The standout components all work together to make a standout product the most important of which are good sound, good action, good price and lighter-than-air. It's lighter than anything else I've ever owned or played.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is not something you'll use un-miced  to fill a football stadium. Most of us don't need that.  It will not break your back, weigh you down or fall apart at a critical moment. 

The maker says his banjos weigh two pounds.  The long neck is a little more, but nothing you'd notice.  

I've been playing since 1953.  Where was this beauty when I was just starting out?  If you're old and frail like me or just starting out, this is the banjo for you. You cannot -- repeat -- cannot beat the combination of weight, action, sound and price.

 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: RK-ELITE-85

Submitted by beegee (see all reviews from this person) on 9/19/2018

Where Purchased: Music Link

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 0.00 ($US)

Sound

Sounded good out of the box, sounded better when I tweaked the set-up. Great bluegrass sound, balanced up and down the neck, once set-up

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Banjo was passably set-up when it arrived.
1. Tightened the head 3 rounds
2. Action fine with 5/8" bridge, shimmed neck for 11/16" bridge
3. Changed bridge to a Kat-eyez
4. Slightly slackened the head after installing Kat-Eyez

After tweaking the sound is nearly identical to my RK-75, but ever-so-slightly crisper(brighter?) as might be expected with maple vs. mahogany

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

Beautiful curly maple, antique golden sunburst, flawless finish
Hearts & Flowers with no visible flaws or filler
The binding joint on the resonator is nearly invisible.
The nickel plating is bright and shows no flaws.

I would like to see this banjo in antique gold and with the addition of b/w binding strips below the fingerboard and resonator bindings. It would be a killer...

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have been playing my RK-75 Elite on stage for 8 years and it shows no deterioration of plating. I have no reason to expect less of the RK-85. The nitro finish is easy enough to repair if damaged.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Greg Rich was easy to communicate with and very helpful

Customer Service: 10

Components

The only two concerns I have:
1. The resonator thumbscrews seem slightly smaller than Gibson screws and the knurling ridges are larger and sharper. I'd like to see a slightly domed top on the thumbscrews.
2. The bottom co-rod has a sharp edge where the shaft is machined to accept the threads. I plan to chamfer that shoulder.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If I was looking for a quality fancy maple banjo at an affordable price, this would be my choice. I have owned an RK-Osborne Scout, 3 RK-75s and now the RK-85. I have found no faults in any of them. I have played my RK-75 as my primary banjo for 8 years, even though I have a PW Granada that was my  only banjo for 30 years. I own 2 RK-75s, 2 Harry Lane custom top-tensions, 2 California Fender artists and a Sullivan Festival Deluxe. I choose to play the RK 75 because I like the sound and appearance and playability. The RK-85 will joing the RK 75 as my performance banjos.

Overall Rating: 10

Hatfield: Rocky Hill

Submitted by breck (see all reviews from this person) on 9/9/2018

Where Purchased: Arthur Hatfield

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The Rocky Hill is Arthur’s model archtop we’ll known by Tommy Brown. This banjo is LOUD and CRISP. I love archtops and Arthur’s is absolutely dynamite. Plus it’s got a great deep 4th. So I can’t imagine wanting anything else out a banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was perfect when I got it. I wouldn’t change anything. He’s just the best.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The Rocky Hill is maple and stunning grain on the neck and resonator perfectly finished. I had this Rocky Hill made in nickel but it comes stock in gold. I like gold but prefer nickel. That’s the great thing about Arthur he will accommodate any request you ask for.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo will last way past my life and will be passed to my children. It’s the only banjo I currently own and have no desire for another banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve dealt with Arthur for years and he has made me many banjos and everyone of them have been consistently perfect. If I ever had a problem I have no doubt Arthur would make it right. Lifetime warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All parts are top notch. Arthur uses only the best available. His necks are the best feeling and the ease of playing you could ever want.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Anyone who owns a Hatfield knows what a great person and luthier he is, you just won’t meet a better person. Arthur and Beverly are just the greatest  to work with. He makes phenomenal banjos for the best price. I live 30 minutes from him and he’s has always been their at anytime I’ve needed something from him. If you’ve never played or owned a Hatfield do yourself a favor and order one you be so glad you did. I feel honored to know and play an Hatfield. Thanks Arthur your the best. 

Overall Rating: 10

Eastman: EBJ-WL1

Submitted by KenGL (see all reviews from this person) on 9/5/2018

Where Purchased: Bernunzio Uptown Music, Rochester, New York

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 950.00 ($US)

Sound

Nice punch and volume and brighter than my Bart Reiter Regent Whyte Laydie.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Good setup from Bernunzio Uptown Music

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Just enough bling to be interesting and classy, and it takes me back to 1903. The peghead's Icilio Consalvi-design Mythical Beast Rocks!

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Well-made with my only concern being the brass shim of the dowel-stick/neck-brace assembly being rather spindly. I'm replacing this with a Balsam Banjo Works stainless steel shim for more strength and I'll put the original shim in the case for now.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Low-pressure store and I got to choose from three EBJ-WL1 Whyte Laydies. My banjo didn't have the Certificate Of Authenticity in the case and Bernunzio contacted Eastman and they'll send me my certificate.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Banjo seems rugged enough except for the shim for the dowel-stick/neck-brace assembly.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

A few days ago, I bought a new Eastman Whyte Laydie EBJ-WL1 from Bernunzio Uptown Music, here in Rochester, New York. Mine was listed as a "B-Stock" instrument and I had a total of three B-Stock, cosmetic-issue banjos to choose from. There weren't and currently aren't any "A-Stock" instruments in stock. After playing and examining all three, I chose mine because it had the least cosmetic issues in that it only had some finish blotching on the rim cap and the rest of the instrument was really mint. The other two banjos had finish blotching on the Icilio Consalvi-design Mythical Beast peghead carving. Bernunzio included the installation of railroad spikes at the 7th and 9th frets in the purchase price of $950 which includes a decent hardshell bump case. Even with its B-Stock designation, I give my banjo a 9 overall rating.

After playing it for a few days and, so far, comparing its tone to my Bart Reiter Regent Whyte Laydie, and my Pisgah Appalachian 12" Walnut Tubaphone, the Eastman is no slouch and is worth every dime I paid for it. The Eastman is a bit lighter and has a lower yet buzz-free action compared to the other two, which makes it a fun and easy to play banjo. Its volume is on a par with the others, too.

So how does the Eastman Whyte Laydie's tone and craftsmanship compare to the Bart Reiter Regent Whyte Laydie's? The Bart Reiter, with its larger diameter head and thicker rim, has a bit bassier and darker tone but the Eastman's fundamental notes seem to "pop" more. The Bart Reiter's better overall craftsmanship is most evident in its Whyte Laydie tone ring in that the Bart's is cleaner at the braze joint and the nickel-plating is clean all the way around whereas the Eastman's braze joint is a bit sloppy and there are a few excessive nickel deposits on parts of the lower sleeve.

Summary, even at its regular selling price of $1359 for a new A-Stock rendition, the Eastman Whyte Laydie EBJ-WL1 is a good value banjo but if you can get a new "B-Stock" rendition for several hundred dollars less, it makes buying one of these recreation 1903 A.C. Fairbanks Whyte Laydie No. 2 banjos a no-brainer!

Current banjos in stable:

Eastman EBJ-WL1 Whyte Laydie
Vega 12" Old Tyme Wonder
Rickard 12" Maple Ridge Dobson
Pisgah Custom 12" Walnut Tubaphone
Bart Reiter Regent Whyte Laydie
Deering Sierra Maple Flathead
ON ORDER - Ozark Custom 12" Cherry Rim with Brass Tone Ring/Mahogany Neck

Overall Rating: 9

Huber: VRB-G

Submitted by Banjourner (see all reviews from this person) on 8/21/2018

Where Purchased: Eagle Music Shop

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 4800 (€) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Stating the obvious: Crisp at the bridge and mellow at the neck. Rings like a bell all the way up.
People probably think of the coveted pre-war sound when they read about this banjo. I've never played an actual pre-war banjo so I can't do a qualified comparison but it certainly sounds amazing
I play both Scruggs and melodic style within the confines of my technical limitations and I'm trying to add some single string to the mix. I think it sounds great in any style including classical (sometimes I can't help myself but play some Bach, I'm German after all...), it is astounding how sweet the banjo can sound picking close to the neck.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Perfect setup, relatively low action compared to my other banjos. I didn't make any changes.
The neck shape is the most comfortable I've tried so far. Relatively thin and ultimately playable.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The maple is gorgeous and the gold plating is rich. Perfect craftsmanship all around

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Nothing to say, it feels rock solid and durable

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

When the banjo was built amber tuner buttons weren't available and it came with white ones. Steve Huber promised me to send some when they would be available again, and he did. In fact he even sent me buttons for Keith tuners because I had gotten two of those in the meantime.
No repairs yet. I hope it's going to be a long time before that happens.

“Limited Lifetime Warranty” warranted to the original owner without time limit

Customer Service: 10

Components

The banjo was in tune when I took it out of the case after it arrived from the UK! I fail to see any flaws in any of the components and the parts all feel solid and well crafted.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I hope one of my children will pick up the banjo eventually, because I'd love to pass it on to them. I'll never sell this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Eagle ll

Submitted by crazyace (see all reviews from this person) on 8/11/2018

Where Purchased: Eagle Music Shop

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: £1800 (British pounds) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This 19 fret tenor is nice and loud for Irish sessions and the tone is nice, sweet and mellow, therefore ideal for gigs

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

This is the second banjo I have had from the Eagle music shop the first was a Goodtime II and both were set up by them to perfection. I didn't have to adjust either of them.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is solid with a nice dark red high gloss finish, very attractive inlays on an ebony fretboard and a lovely peghead design, One of the reasons I chose it over the Sierra.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The chromework is of good quality. I can see this lasting my life out without any loss of finish. I use it in gigs and session and I feel confident it will still look good in years to come.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have met the Deering family when they were over in the UK a few times, Greg himself is very helpfull, Eagle music shop over here, is who I deal with for my banjos and accessories, and they too are helpful on the rare occasion you might have a problem, Deering give their banjos a lifetime warranty though I doubt that it will be needed.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The Eagle II to my mind is outstanding in itself with the wonderful tone that comes from the 20-10 tone ring, the ease of playing and overall appearance. I have not found anything that needs improving on this banjo so far and I have owned four banjos before this, and this is the best so far.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I started with a Copeland bottle top banjo, then upgraded to a Goodtime II Which was very good, I have had a Tanglewood ITB Cove Creek and a Barnes & Mullins Empress, both bought for the bling. But this Deering Eagle II is the complete package for any Tenor Banjo Player and one I will never part with.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Woodchuck

Submitted by folkplayer (see all reviews from this person) on 8/11/2018

Where Purchased: Reverb

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This banjo has a great dynamic range. From warm and plunky to bright and sweet. It has a lot of volume, but also sounds heavenly with a t-shirt in the pot. Unsurprisingly I play old-time music in the clawhammer style, and the Woodchuck suits this style perfectly.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I'm no expert, but I am very happy with the action when it came to me. I'm not sure if the factory setup had been altered as it was a used banjo, but it felt comfortable to me.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is pretty subjective, but I very much prefer plain banjos as opposed to those with a lot of ornate inlay. It feels strange to be playing working-class music on a fancy instrument. The woodchuck is plain, yet beautiful. The brass against the black pot adds a touch of class.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The word I would use to describe this banjo is solid. It seems like it could handle gigging without breaking a sweat. I don't feel any need for a backup. The hardware is all very high quality.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Patrick is a pleasure to talk to and I am confident he would do anything within reason to solve any problems I had. I bought the instrument used, so I am unaware of Pisgah's warranty policy.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The rolled brass tone ring sounds killer. There is absolutely no need to upgrade any of the parts on this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall this is a stellar mid-tier banjo that can easily duke it out with the best of them. I previously played a very low-end Epiphone banjo and quickly realized I needed an upgrade. If you are looking to upgrade from your beginner banjo but don't have thousands to spend; this is the banjo for you. The care and passion is evident in the quality of the Pisgah Woodchuck and I could happily play it for the rest of my life. 

Overall Rating: 10

Bart Reiter: 12" Dobaphone

Submitted by Ragtimejoe (see all reviews from this person) on 7/8/2018

Where Purchased: Spruce Tree Music

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It fits the mold of Bart's standard banjos. Feels and plays like a Bart. I couldn't find any Videos or sound clips about this banjos when I got so I it was a bit of a gamble but I've never gone wrong with one of Bart's banjos. The sound is loud with a strong fundamental that is very consistent across the entire fingerboard. I've recorded a couple of very amateurish sound clips I'll post on the Reiter group or on my home page. I do plan on replacing the stock head with a John Balch skin head to take a little of the hard edge of the sound (but that's just me). Overall I am very happy with the banjo

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up is just fine. I may change the bridge down the road, but that's just what any banjo player does

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's a banjo. I bought it to play, not to put on display. It does it's intended function exceeding well

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

What's to say about a Bart Reiter banjo? I've never heard of one going back for a warranty problem

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I send Bart an e-mail asking a question he responds almost before I hit the send button.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I can't imagine how the parts could be any better. We'll I guess I could but certainly not anywhere near the price point on the banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Rover: RB-40

Submitted by GrahamHawker (see all reviews from this person) on 6/30/2018

Where Purchased: Amazon UK

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: £116 (British Pounds) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I guess this proves to me that the Saga aluminium rim with integral tone ring is very different from those cheap and fairly nasty cheap aluminium rings found on cheap banjos. It only has a little of the metallic harshness of these cheaper rims which is easily removed through the setup. I like mellowish open backs and this is surprisingly mellow, certainly not over bright, and also has good volume and a the sound has depth and richness. Not so much as, for instance my Whyte Ladie but as good as my 2ply, rolled brass tone ring banjo and better than my multiply rim with rolled brass tone ring banjos.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

From Amazon so not setup. Saga's quality control could be better. The neck was lose due to an untightened top nut. This came in a soft case which hadn't protected the screw in the back of the tailpiece as this was broken off, probably in the factory by dropping it on the bottom whilst in the bag where I found the rest of the broken screw. I replaced this, attached the bridge and tuned it up and it was fine. Head was well tightened and the action is fine. This is one banjo where stuffing with a sock makes all the difference. If removes any trace of the slight harsh overtones.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

It looks like a banjo with an aluminium rim and basic dot inlay. I don't want to mark this but it appears I have too.

Appearance Rating: 5

Reliability

Everything seems OK. I don't see that anything will break or wear out anytime soon. Saga parts may not be the best but they seem good enough and I've had no trouble with them. I don't want to mark this either because only time will tell so as I have to I'll make a guess.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Not applicable

Customer Service: 5

Components

Saga aluminium rim as used in the Saga SS3, Rover RB-45 and Rover RB-35, Saga Waverley tailpiece, which I like, Mahogany neck, which is quite chunky, Saga planetary tuners, notched tension hoop and high crown head. the slanted supplied bridge is OK but I replaced it with my preferred thicker bridge. This also comes with a soft case, a Superior C-267 Trailpak which is cheap but functional.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This is really the open back version of the Rover RB-45/Saga SS3. Take off the flange and resonator and you end up with a Rover RB-40.

For the price I paid this is quite a bargain. I suppose it competes with the multiply rim, rolled brass tone ring banjos. It's better than any of these I've played.

The sock stuffing really helps. It's a reasonably rich sound and fairly mellow, perhaps surprisingly mellow. These Rover/Saga banjos seem to get overlooked in the recommendations for starter banjos but they deserve consideration. Perhaps not at full price but they are often discounted. I'm very happy considering the price I paid and if it was £300 ($400) then it would be a very sensible option.

Overall Rating: 9

Dean Robinson [dean-o-craft]: Walnut Open Back SN 00055

Submitted by gbisignani (see all reviews from this person) on 6/30/2018

Where Purchased: From Dean

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 1800 ($US)

Sound

Wonderful full but warm tone. Bacon style tone ring provides the sound I was looking for. Somewhat plunky over the scoop.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Action was perfect. Per Dean, I needed to keep on top of the fiberskin head.
I needed to tighten a couple of times but knew that up front.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Banjo looked great. Walnut pot and neck with rosewood fingerboard and peg head overlay. The heel and rim cap are overlayed with padauk. There is a simple star on the peg head, a rose at the 5th fret and a craftsman's rose on the scoop. The metal is all bronze and a lot of it was made by Dean. I did request a metal arm rest and a Waverlay 5th string tuner that match perfectly. This banjo is heavy for an open back but is much lighter than any resonator banjo I've owned. The banjo has no flaws and the quality is first rate !

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Everything about this banjo seems to be built really well. I'm thinking this should be the last banjo I buy. I think it's dependable. I'm also thinking this banjo can be used on a gig without a backup. The Bacon tone ring has a lot to do with that but my plan is to not take this out of the house in the near future !

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I've dealt with Dean and he is very friendly, reliable, and helpful. There is a limited lifetime warranty covering just about everything except metal parts and normal wear and tear. Dean provided me with pictures along the way.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No weak or cheap parts. I would buy another banjo from Dean in a heartbeat. Craftsmanship and materials are all top notch.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Possum

Submitted by map3198 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/21/2018

Where Purchased: Pisgah banjo company

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $1300 ($US)

Sound

Banjo has nice old time sound with plenty of volume and sustain. I went with a fiberskyn head on a 12" pot which sounds and looks nice. I put some damping material behind the pot which improved the sound greatly.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Set up was perfect. I went with a 25.5 scale length which make is very comfortable to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The nicest banjo I've ever laid eyes on. The persimmon fretboard is beautiful. The Walnut looks amazing as well.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It looks like it is well constructed. A banjo to be passed down through the generations.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

My emails were answered with in the hour. I made a change late in the building process by adding a S scoop and was accommodated to the fullest. Was told the banjo would take 2-4 months to build and received it in 3 months.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I upgraded the bridge and tailpiece which is an option directly through Pisgah Banjo Company. There is also a choice for a hard or soft case. I went with the soft case and saved some money. The soft case looks to be very high quality. The banjo plays like a dream.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would highly recommend a Pisgah banjo.  The banjo is simple and beautiful.  It came set up nicely and is easy to play.  

Overall Rating: 10

Hickler : Hickler Std. Frailer (prototype)

Submitted by onewhisper (see all reviews from this person) on 6/20/2018

Where Purchased: direct from Luthier

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

Sound

I play clawhammer. The banjo's best sound is warm and sustained but still plunky enough to be a banjo. I have an easy time changing the voice moving closer to the bridge or up to the neck. As Mark Hickler described the voice during design - it is balanced

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I have become a great fan of the bolt-on-neck. It makes the instrument very portable where needed and simplifies the overall mechanics of the banjo. I did struggle a bit when first setting it up. I had a little fret buzz but believe this was due to my own failure to properly align the neck. I find simple adjustments less intimidating than on other instruments. I

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

The instrument is beautiful. Mark's adjustments to my own inlay design created a very personal design that is well executed. He has an excellent eye for wood and design. His finish work is careful and complete.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

hardware and materials are excellent and I fully expect they will outlast me. I see little to no wear in spite of a lot of play in a lot of environments.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Mr. Hickler was very patient with me in the design process and kept me well informed during the build process. His communication was educational and thorough.

Customer Service: 10

Components

His choices of wood show great care and contribute greatly to the sound and appearance of the instrument. Hardware is very good - I anticipate no problems and have experienced no problems in my first year of using this instrument.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This instrument has brought me more joy than any instrument I have owned in the past 5 decades.Mark Hickler worked in to produce a beautiful instrument including personal inlay and a short 24 inch scale that still produces beautiful tone and is very playable. I would not hesitate recommending a Hickler banjo to anyone.

Overall Rating: 10

Ventura: Unknown 5 string

Submitted by Lake (see all reviews from this person) on 6/20/2018

Where Purchased: Craig's list

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $200.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Nice bright clear tone with what little adjustments I have made so far.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Being 40+ years old, it is not in bad shape. The previous owner claimed that a local guitar shop set it up for him, and who knows what that might have entailed. It had the second worst bridge I have ever seen, which may have been home made from a piece of floor board molding. I tightened the head a little, put a half inch Grover bridge on it and a new set of Martin medium strings on it, and the sound improved. This banjo will receive a full breakdown and reset soon.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

This is a "master-clone" banjo with bow-tie MOP inlay's on the fret board. It has a nice finish on what appears to be a mahogany neck and possibly a walnut resonator. The head stock has a spidery collection of small gold inlays. and a smooth rosewood fret board.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

It has lasted 40+ years so far, and seems to be sturdy.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Apparently this was made by a Japanese company named Kasuga which is no longer in business, so I guess this question is a moot point.

Customer Service: 5

Components

This banjo has 1/1 friction tuners, a heavy tone ring, a good looking zamac flange, a strange, almost kershner styled tailpiece, 24 hooks, and a thick smooth Mylar head which looks original to me. It seems solid and is heavy.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

So yhe Ventura is made by Kasuga instrument company from japan, and is virtually identical to many Alvarez banjos, and a host of others who have rebranded this model.  This seems like a nice, solid intermediate banjo.  I bought it because the price was right, and I wanted a banjo with a flathead tone ring to break down and fix up and did not want to risk taking my RK R-20 out of service.  I intend to replace the head, adjust the action to accommodate a taller and nicer bridge, I am going to replace the tailpiece, and add planetary tuners, and of course, put light strings on it.  Most of what I learned about this brand was from Banjo hangout contributors, but in response to an old forum post, my Recording king RK-R20 currently has a better tone and is considerably louder than the Ventura.  I am going to see if some new additions and setup tricks will make this banjo surpass the RK, as they are close, and if I succeed, I will then try to do the same with the RK.  It is definitely a pleasing banjo at $200.00 so far.

Overall Rating: 8

Washburn: B120

Submitted by jblakey (see all reviews from this person) on 6/18/2018

Where Purchased: Music Store

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 600 (CAD) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I would say this banjo is more old-style than bluegrass. The tone ring is a rolled 1/2" brass ring. Sound is good, but not as bright as my Goodtime Special.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

When i bought this banjo, it had been sitting for 4+ years. The head was loose, the shoes were loose, and the strings were oxidized. When I tightened the head, i discovered the action was too high, so I ended up switching out the bridge for a 1/2" bridge, and now the action is fine. Everything needed a tightening. Strangely, the neck did not require any torsion work. The bend was fine.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

Very nice appearance. Heavy steel engraved rim. All the metal parts are nicely-antiqued bronze. The hooks/shoes look to be good quality. The tailpiece is a little chintzy looking, but I'm planning on replacing it as some point, and it's working fine so far. The fretboard/inlays are very well done.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

So far, so good. Very good pot -> ring fitting. Nice, clean neck -> rim join.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

N/A

Customer Service: 5

Components

The tailpiece is a little chintzy. The "ivory" pegs are a little rough from the casting process. Everything else seems fine.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Nice banjo overall.  Wouldn't have paid 1200 for it, but at 600 taxes in, it's a steal.

Overall Rating: 8

Davis: Vintage Tone Bluegrass (with Wood Ring)

Submitted by camlan (see all reviews from this person) on 6/17/2018

Where Purchased: Davis Banjos

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

It sounds amazingly like a classic bluegrass banjo up and down the neck. Excellent clarity and note separation. I've owned Deering Hartfords and they can sound a bit dark with a slight woody 'wow', but not this Davis banjo. I was not expecting it to sound so much like a great bluegrass banjo and it is almost as loud as my Huber. Up the neck you can hear every note clearly, better than many banjos I have owned. Amazing!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup is perfect and Tim really got the head and action dialled perfectly right out of the box!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I asked Tim to do an early Earl Bowtie and Sunburst maple and the look and quality of construction is far better than any major brand I have owned. It is very authentic and classically beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Time will tell how it wears, but all the finish and hardware is A+. It seems to stay pretty much in tune and the tuners are really smooth and easy to get on the right note fast.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Tim bent over backwards to figure out exactly what I wanted and he absolutely delivered. He have been super easy to deal with and a really nice guy as well. The order taking, check-ins during the build, and shipping logistics were all a breeze.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The biggest question mark and the most amazing outcome or feature of this banjo is how good the Wood Tone Ring is. Davis Banjos had my wood tone ring made by Bill Simpson and man, did he and Tim ever do a good job. This ring really delivers that bluegrass sound and the note clarity and tone is really amazing all the way up the neck. So I have great sound in a light banjo I can stand and play for hours with - Perfect!!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I started this banjo project with Tim Davis to do the seemingly impossible - build a great sounding maple banjo that looks like Earl's Bowtie, that has amazing sound, that is pure quality craftsmanship, and that is light as a feather. Well, Tim totally delivered on all points and I am totally blown away. And I am an experienced player who has owned many (read 10) banjos. Bennett Sullivan recommended Tim to me and I am so happy he did. Tim, you and your banjos are 10 out of 10!! If you have ever considered a lighter banjo for pain-free playing in your bluegrass circle, give Davis Banjos a call. You will not be disappointed.

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: Cripple Creek Tenor

Submitted by matttoadman (see all reviews from this person) on 6/9/2018

Where Purchased: Amazon.com

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: $500ish ($US)

Sound

This Banjo has required several years of tinkering to finally get a sound that I liked. Out of the box it is “set up” for CGDA tuning. It came with light gauge strings that gave it a very bright shrill tone. Now with medium gauge strings it has a mellow tone that I like. The CGDA tuning never suited this banjo. The low C never had enough tension to give a true note. The intonation was dreadful. I played the mandolin for years but I never liked it. Then I through it in the closet for about three years. On a whim I decided to tune it Chicago style, DGBE. It actually sounded great and the intonation improved. Now fastforward and add the medium gauge strings I love it! I can play F shape chords all the way up the neck with good intonation. I have never heard a tenor banjo in person to compare sound however.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

This banjo was unplayable when received. The head was super loose, the neck twisted and the strings on the frets on one side and a quarter inch on the other.. However the adjustable trust rod, coordinating rods etc. allow you to fix this if you know what your doing. Considering I did not know what I was doing it took me years to get it right.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

Beautiful maple banjo with ugly guitar style tuners.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I had to replace the tuners and tailpiece is not
made for this banjo.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

N/A

Customer Service: 6

Components

The tuners need upgrading and the tailpiece needs replacing.

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

If you want to play Chicago style tuned tenor banjo that needs some work this is a good banjo. However it has taken about 100$ to get it playable.

Overall Rating: 6

Recording King RK-R20: RK-R20

Submitted by Lake (see all reviews from this person) on 5/20/2018

Where Purchased: Shem Creek Music Shop

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $270.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

To my ear this sounds bright, full and loud. It is a huge step up from my first two banjos.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Needed some love. I tightened the sagging head, added a scorpion bridge, changed the kershner style tailpiece to a kershner style string set up, put on some medium-lite strings and it worked like a charm.

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

To me this banjo is truly beautiful. It has a bright finish on the mahogany and maple wood, the bonded rosewood fret board and ornate peg head are inlaid with mother of pearl "hearts and flowers"( actually more like clubs and hearts and dots and vines) Nickel plated hardware and ivory colored trim.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I assume from what I have read that one day I may want to upgrade the planetary tuners, probably more as a personal vanity than out of necessitate, but this rig seems solid and well built.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Don't know. I have heard that RK is a good company for backing up their products so I will venture a guess.

Customer Service: 7

Components

I like the wide nut (1 1/16"). the planetary tuners are nice, the kershner styled tail piece is an upgrade and the simple brass tone ring and one piece flange make and project a nice tone. For the price I paid I feel like I got one over on the music shop.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This might not impress the pro's with $1,500.00 - $5,000.00 banjos out there, but as an upgrade or intermediate banjo, or for some, a starter banjo, this is an impressive instrument.  For a guy who plays for fun at home or occasionally in a circle with friends this is a little gem.  It is pretty to look at, cuts the mustard on tone and volume, and feels like a real for sure banjo.  I love it, and I love the Recording King brand and what those guys are doing over there.  Any banjo lover will covet the big dog professional models and dream of a prewar Gibson, but I have found happiness and satisfaction in this one.

Overall Rating: 9

Crestwood: 3061 5 string bluegrass

Submitted by Lake (see all reviews from this person) on 5/20/2018

Where Purchased: Thrift store

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: $80.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Sounds like a $150.00 starter banjo should

Sound Rating: 5

Setup

Sagging head, rusty strings, etc. I tightened the head, moved the bridge, lowered the tailpiece and put on a new set of martin light strings, the tone improved.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

Simple narrow neck, gloss finish, ivory trimmed, plain pegboard. This is a "plain Jane", but like (almost) all banjos, it is beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 5

Reliability

As reliable as a $150.00 starter banjo should be.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

Don't know

Customer Service: 5

Components

It has 24 brackets, an arm rest, thumb screws for the resonator, an ell cheapo tailpiece, a geared fifth string tuner, and simple guitar styled tuning pegs.

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

This is the same inexpensive banjo rebranded by Jameson, ADM and probably a dozen other companies.  It is a fine starter banjo for a young student or for someone who wants to spend minimal money on a new hobby to see if they will stick with it for a couple of months, at which point it can become your camping banjo, pick nick with 20% chance of rain banjo, etc.  I like to play it as well as my better banjo when learning a new song to work my fingers a little. Doing that makes me appreciate the tone and volume of my other banjo just that much more, and I often leave it sitting around in a double "C" tuning to mess around with. All banjos sound good, just some better than others.

Overall Rating: 6

Crestwood: 3061 5 string bluegrass

Submitted by Lake (see all reviews from this person) on 5/20/2018

Where Purchased: Thrift store

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: $80.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Sounds like a $150.00 starter banjo should

Sound Rating: 5

Setup

Sagging head, rusty strings, etc. H tightened the head, moved the bridge, lowered the tailpiece and put on a new set of martin light strings, the tone improved.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

Simple narrow neck, gloss finish, ivory trimmed, plain pegboard. This is a "plane Jane", but like (almost) all banjos, it is beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 5

Reliability

As reliable as a $150.00 starter banjo should be.

Reliability Rating: 5

Customer Service

Don't know

Customer Service: 5

Components

It has 24 brackets, an arm rest, thumb screws for the resonator, an ell cheapo tailpiece, a geared fifth string tuner, and simple guitar styled tuning pegs.

Components Rating: 5

Overall Comments

This is the same inexpensive banjo rebranded by Jameson, ADM and probably a dozen other companies.  It is a fine starter banjo for a young student or for someone who wants to spend minimal money on a new hobby to see if they will stick with it for a couple of months, at which point it can become your camping banjo, pick nick with 20% chance of rain banjo, etc.  I like to play it as well as my better banjo when learning a new song to work my fingers a little. Doing that makes me appreciate the tone and volume of my other banjo just that much more, and I often leave it sitting around in a double "C" tuning to mess around with. All banjos sound good, just some better than others.

Overall Rating: 6

Deering: Eagle ll

Submitted by doryman (see all reviews from this person) on 5/20/2018

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I was looking specifically for a resonator/tone ringed banjo that sounded good playing clawhammer style AND sounded good playing Scruggs style. In fact, it plays very, very good for both styles. A pure clawhammer player might think it too loud and not woodsy enough. A pure Scruggs player might think it too sweet and mellow. Regardless, the sound is sweet, pure and clear.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I personally like the standard Deering set-up. It's an easy banjo to play with a fast neck (not too wide) and good action, and the banjo is made such that you get an easy banjo to play without much fussing. For this reason I rank it a 10. If you try to make this banjo something it's not, I can imagine one would rank it lower.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It's a beautiful banjo. I don't go for overly ornate banjos, preferring simple, understated elegance. In fact, this banjo has the most bling I've had on any of my banjos, but it's not over the top.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

This banjo is rock solid and high quality. I bought it specifically for gigging.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I had a few questions about the banjo when I purchased it and the folks from Deering answered my email the very next day.

Customer Service: 10

Components

There's nothing I would want to add or change other than perhaps the bridge, but that's just because I like to mess around with different bridges on all my banjos. It's an easy and cheap way to make a banjo sound different. In fact, one of my favorite bridges is the Deering 5/8, which I use on most of my banjos.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I first played a Deering Eagle during a wonderful afternoon at Elderly Instruments, where I had a chance to play probably 50 different high-quality banjos of all makes. The Deering Eagle instantly stood out, which surprised me because it was one of the lower priced options. I almost bought it on the spot, but I was traveling and I didn't want to risk flying back home with it.  I couldn't get it out of my mind though and eventually, I found a used one to buy.  It's a great, sweet sounding, versatile banjo. I've heard others say that it's one of Deering's entry level professional banjos but, for me, I can't imagine needing more. 

Overall Rating: 10

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