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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!

7113 reviews in the archive.

Magic Fluke: 5 String Firefly

Submitted by Fede (see all reviews from this person) on 7/23/2022

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: 479 ($US)

Sound

The banjo sounds pretty played in clawhammer style. I mostly play it three-finger with picks. I use it as a couch banjo or travel banjo. It sounds ok with picks, but I do not think I would ever perform or jam with it. It has got volume, but is not as loud as a regular banjo

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

The banjo was set up well out of the box. This is a simple instrument, but very thoughtfully made. Head tightening and string changing look very easy, but I have done neither so far. It also has an adjustable coordinator rod to control neck angle. It came in the G tuning, which is what I keep it in.
One issue for me is that the neck has a long heel, so it gets thicker starting at around the 15th fret. Fretting the 5th string with your thumb past that is cumbersome. I've had the issue with one particular tune I play and needed to change the fingering as a consequence.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I think the bare-bones appearance of this banjo is terrific. Simple and functional, with original touches such as the slotted headstock and the flange inside the pot. The only decoration is a firefly on the heel. Neat.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It looks built to last.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I bought it from Elderly and they were great to deal with as usual. I do not know if it comes with a warranty or not.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

Every component on this banjo looks solid and durable. The tuners are slightly stiff to turn.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

A fine looking, in-tune, nice-playing travel banjo. Small, lightweight, and solidly built. A great instrument to just doodle on around the house. I leave it on the couch and it gets quite a bit of play. I also travel with it quite a bit. However, for me in the end it is little more than a toy, although a fun one. Its own special kind of nylon-string sound is not quite good enough for me to want to play it for other people instead of my other banjos. In the light of this, I find its price tag a bit hefty.

Overall Rating: 7

Pisgah: Custom 12" Cherry/Persimmon Tubaphone 5/6 (not a gitjo)

Submitted by ChrisCoelho (see all reviews from this person) on 7/20/2022

Where Purchased: Direct from Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: c. 2000 ($US)

Sound

I find the instrument excellent in every way. As a fellow who only buys luthier instruments, I'd call it a masterpiece. Not merely a thing of beauty with perfect craftsmanship, but as an instrument of music, it's quite an achievement. Here's what I thought:

I wasn't expecting the banjo to be so loud. But it's got a huge sound, even absent a resonator. I've had to cut my nails back and eschew steel picks entirely in this learning phase so as not to blow myself away with the bigness. Likely I'll never use picks on it, though clearly I could, there being ample space for it between and beneath the strings.

I was also amazed at how easy the action was. I was expecting some unpleasantness with the transition (on guitar I play nylon strings on nails mostly) but I was shocked to find a natural, easy, properly spaced action adequate for thumb plus two or thumb plus three, just as natural as water. A great action. Best I've had on anything other than a classical. And quite a lot of dynamic capability nonetheless. Only one tiny blister on the right hand that didn't even hurt, and nothing at all on the left! It's got to be the most forgiving steel-stringed instrument I've ever played, whether of guitar or zither type.

I'd read that one can expect an open-back banjo to have a mellower, more chocolately flavor than one with a resonator, and so it seems. Nevertheless I do find plenty of very characteristic nature-sounds right there whenever one wants them. Oh there's clean, bright melody enough all over the fingerboard. But the hard-hitting, evocative, nature sounds that really give the banjo its unique voice are readily accessed with obvious techniques. Ducks in the water. Bullfrogs at night. The bark of a hound. The chirp of the squirrels. I had never really heard those things in the banjo before, but having an instrument in your hands opens the ears, and I recognize them all now as essential evocations in the banjo. They're all loud and clear on this instrument.

When I first tuned it up and began playing on it, my wife responded to the tone immediately. Her reaction was the equivalent of a crowd whispering "oooooooh..." when a gymnast performs some astonishing feat. What more praise can a luthier demand? Well, over these thirty years, Alice has listened to me play, compose, and arrange for every kind of guitar, autoharp, keyboard instrument, and sax, and she says this banjo's her favorite by far.

I find the additional bass string very natural. No issues adapting there. And it's loud and clear enough all over first position. I guess I was expecting it to be a bit thunky when fretted. It isn't.

The instrument can only be described as a masterwork. Its ease of play, variety of tone, natural ergonomics, characteristic sounds, and visual attracrtiveness draw you in and make you delight in becoming your own first teacher. Crappy instruments just don't do that.

Great banjo, great experience, more fun than you can have at a Baptist picnic.

If the open back's what you need -- and a lot of you out there know you do -- go to Pisgah and get it done. You'll be very, very glad you did.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Perfect setup. Incredibly easy action. Beautiful loud response. Will change nothing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Gorgeous. Cherry and persimmon; there's a bit of gray in the persimmon that gives the banjo a distinctive aura. Never seen that wood on an instrument, looks great. Grains are very fine.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Rugged, well built, well finished, excellent craftsmanship. Seems like it will last forever, and yes, I'd bring it without a backup for sure.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Excellent. Responsive, friendly, helpful, generous with time.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No cheap parts. No weak parts. Even the tuning pegs are of a very high quality. The neck is a thing of beauty and the aged brass is perfect.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Glad I went to Pisgah.  To have an instrument like this for the small price Pete asks is incredibly awesome.  I'll play many thousands of hours on it, I can already tell.

Overall Rating: 10

Quail Creek Banjos: Custom 12" with Dobson

Submitted by flytheblueelephant (see all reviews from this person) on 6/22/2022

Where Purchased: From Quail Creek Banjos

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: 2100 ($US)

Sound

Sounds incredible. Low end response, deliciohus overtones for days, amazing "pop" when finger picked.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up when I got it. Different from what I have been playing but perfect for this banjo.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Dark stained maple, ebony cap on the heel and back of the pot, ebony fretboard, custom gold mother of pearl inlays that look amazing

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I am expecting this to live longer than I will. It makes it's stage debut in a couple of days

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lindsay is a super sweet dude and very easy to work with. He is very obviously excited about building banjos and it shows from the craftsmanship.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything about this banjo says quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I'm still getting to know this new banjo, it's the first custom instrument I've ever had made.  I fell in love with it the moment I picked it up and that is just getting deeper and deeper by the day.  I would absolutely recommend Quail Creek to anyone and may very well have another banjo made by Quail Creek at some point in the future.

Overall Rating: 10

Companion Custom Banjos: Custom

Submitted by Lil king (see all reviews from this person) on 6/17/2022

Where Purchased: Direct buy

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: 2600 ($US)

Sound

Fantastic bluegrass sound. Up the neck notes sound great with very good volume and sustain.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up perfectly from the shop

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The word beautiful doesn't do this banjo justice. Not a flaw in the finish or on the hardware. The neck and resonator are curly maple and look fantastic.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware is perfect

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Chris can make just about any design you have in mind

Customer Service: 10

Components

Wood quality and appearance are second to none

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I could not be more happy with this banjo. The fit and finish are perfect and the sound is amazing. We already working on the plans for an open back I want him to build. 

Overall Rating: 10

Stone Banjo Company: Open Back 5-String Banjo

Submitted by pathassist13 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/6/2022

Where Purchased: direct from builder

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: 1300 ($US)

Sound

ebony fret board and elixir strings give the banjo good reaction with quick sound decay. its not the loudest banjo but its a good balance of mellow bass and brightness from brass tone ring.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

the action was perfect, i just had to adjust the bridge for intonation.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

12in All cherry banjo with nice grain patterns on the neck
Ebony fret board
Man in the moon in lay, with fret board dots
S-scoop
14 hooks, notched brass tension hoop
peg head tuner

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

this thing is solid and lightweight. its my work horse. Nothing overly fancy just a reliable understated banjo

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

this is my 2nd stone banjo and Steve is great to work with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I'm so happy i went with peg head tuners. they look great and function well.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

banjo model 21075x @ stonebanjo.com

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: AC-1 FL Fretless

Submitted by Spikedog (see all reviews from this person) on 6/5/2022

Where Purchased: Factory

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: 249 ($US)

Sound

Sounds great. Always wanted a fretless but did not want to spend big bucks

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

Set up at factory

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Looks nice for an entry level composite

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Basic tuners and materials are adequate for accurate tuning.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Customer Service: 8

Components

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

A really fun banjo to play on.  It is set up with nylon strings for that delicious plunky sliding sound.  Still learning but was inspired to purchase after seeing this video https://youtu.be/4cduex1j33s .   They just were released in April 2022(?).  It is a fun instrument to explore fretless.  It is an inexpensive composite  but it sounds better than you think it should.  I am sold on composite banjos after years of dismissing them.   

Overall Rating: 8

Lemon: L3-00C

Submitted by Nic Pennsylvania (see all reviews from this person) on 6/1/2022

Where Purchased: Direct from Lemon Banjos

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: Refer to Site ($US)

Sound

I was specifically looking for an RB-00 or RB-100 as some of my favourite players (Walter Raleigh Babson, Ola Belle Reed, e.g.) used these. I play a mixed style of bare finger up-picking and frailing and I wanted a banjo that had a distinct sound.

This banjo has a crisp snap when picked near the bridge. Closer to the neck, the tone darkens to a degree which my other banjos do not. In this way, it has a wide range of sound. It is loud, but not piercing. I'm still trying to find the sweet spot when frailing. Right now, I am favouring over the head, about and inch back from where the neck joins the pot. There, it sounds a lot like my tubaphones, but just a little brighter.

This banjo has a thinner rim (5/8") and I feel like this contributes a good deal to its unique sound. It lives somewhere between our expectations for a modern old time banjo and a bluegrass banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Hunter had set the banjo up well. I made some minor tweaks to it after playing it a bit, and to account for the banjo's settling as it is brand new. There was a minor nut issue with one string's spacing, but it was easily resolved and probably not noticeable to many people, but I'm particular.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This banjo's foundation is the Gibson RB-00. It is custom and departs from that foundation in the inlay pattern (diamonds& squares and not just dots) and the volute for additional strength in the neck. The sunburst finish looks great and is a match for some of the 1930/40's examples of RB & TB-00's that I have seen in the wild. The diamond & square inlay makes it stand out a little, but without being garish.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The finish is great and it arrived well set-up. I did some minor tweaking because set-up is a personal thing. This will be my main performance banjo moving forward. Everything is snug and I do not see any issues that would impact the banjo's reliability or sturdiness.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

This was a custom order. It began with an internet form which led to a couple emails and a phone call. From the initial phone call, Hunter estimated a six month period for the banjo to be completed. The banjo was ready within that time period, and may have even been a bit earlier yet were it not for some supply shipping issues. Hunter kept me abreast throughout the entire process and would contact me if there was ever a question. He also emailed pictures of the progress.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Hunter strives to make his banjos the best, and he favours the best parts. I specifically requested a grooved stretcher band and he obliged. At one point, he contact me to ask if I would prefer the high tuning ratio Rickard tuners, but I declined because of my frequent tuning changes.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is still new to me, and it is only Lemon Banjo's fourth build. Hunter will certainly get better with experience and I am happy to have been on the ground floor with one of these early builds. His attention to detail is 20/20 and I appreciate his reevaluating some older make which have been overlooked by others in large part because they lack a heavy tone ring. I see the banjo world as entering a sea-change in the widely held tone ring beliefs, akin to the electric guitar world and the felt need that everyone needed a 4x12" cabinet. I am considering purchasing a Lemon LR-54 rim in the near future. 

I am extremely happy with the banjo's look, feel, and sound. I wish for Lemon Banjo's continued development and success. 

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Custom

Submitted by Dills (see all reviews from this person) on 5/27/2022

Where Purchased: www.pisgahbanjos.com

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: 1818 ($US)

Sound

The sound of this thing is really pleasing to the ear - plunky, warm and woody with plenty of sustain and volume. It has just the right amount of brightness to balance the warmth and woodyness, really versatile. No weird overtones at all, so my habit of putting a big ol' sponge in the pot is now redundant with this banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was shipped from the Pisgah shop to Sweden with the strings tuned down and the bridge flat against the head. The head had markings on it for bridge placement, so when tuned, the setup is fllawless. No string buzz anywhere on the fretboard, no intonation problems, the head set to about 92 throughout, and just the right string height with a 5/8" bridge.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This thing is a beauty! I asked for Pisgah to stain the walnut, which together with the aged brass hardware and a really uniquely figured persimmon fretboard looks really, really nice. I chose to go for a paddle shaped headstock with the quilted star inlay. All in all a clean looking, no frills banjo, which is exactly what I like.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I've only had the banjo for a few days, but just by picking it up for the first time I could instantly feel how well this banjo is built. It's a tank! I can't imagine this thing not lasting for years and years.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The customer service has been very good. I've been making quite a lot of changes to my initial order, and Melissa has been a true gem. I ordered my banjo in late july 2021, and was hoping to get it delivered in time for my vacation in july of 2022. Because of the turnaround being about a year, it was a really tight call though. However, I had the luck to be bumped up to an earlier batch because of a cancelled order, so I was able to get the banjo delivered in may 2022 - about 2-3 months earler than expected.

I would have loved to see some pictures of the banjo during the building process, but since they build about 350 banjos a year, it's totally understandable that it's hard to send cutomers pictures all the time, and Pisgah's instagram lets you in behind the scenes quite a bit too, so it's no biggie.

Customer Service: 9

Components

My custom banjo is a standard sized banjo with a 12" pot, persimmon tone ring, stained walnut on neck and rim, stained cherry rim cap, aged brass hardware, a 5/8" Mulheron bridge, Fiberskyn head, black gotoh tuners and PBCO strings. It all looks and feels really great. Might experiment with changing to a renaissance head just for kicks, but right now I wouldn't change a thing.
I also ordered their banjo strap, a ren head, a banjo adjustment tool and some extra strings, all of which are great quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is a keeper and a true heirloom item. I had read online somewhere that people had issues with the neck being too thick, but to me that is not an issue at all. Coming from a guitar background, this banjo suits me a lot better than my other 2 banjos (Recording King RK35 & Gold Star GE-1 prospector) - and the 1 3/8" nut width creates the perfect space between the strings.  The banjo plays really, really well and it's really difficult putting it down. I usually play my other open back muted to get rid of overtones, but there's really no need for that on this one since there aren't really any overtones to think of. I love everything about it - the sound, the looks, the components - I couldn't be happier. It also feels really good supporting a company like Pisgah because of the sustainability aspects, their political standpoints and of course, their high quality banjos.

 

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: OB3 Twanger

Submitted by BEEFUS (see all reviews from this person) on 5/23/2022

Where Purchased: Banjoteacher.com

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: 1800 - ish ($US)

Sound

This banjo has remarkably good sound. It is extremely responsive, notes clear and true all over the neck, and now that I have the right setup, it is, no exaggeration, the best playing-and-sounding banjo I have ever played. Really surprising from what I had always considered a lower-end manufacturer. You don't have to play hard, but when you do, the Twanger will roar.
The no-hole tone ring is an unusual choice, but it gives a very crisp, crunchy note, with plenty of depth, character, and volume. Action is right about average. Capoing up the neck doesn't reduce the oomph either, and the sound is good all the way to fret 22.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup from Banjoteacher was OK. It came with very heavy strings, and a pretty good Snuffy bridge. I'd say it didn't come into its own until I put light strings on, and found a Sullivan FF bridge that was the perfect height and gave it the sound I was looking for. But that's all I've changed -- tailpiece is good (has that little bit of felt that cuts overtones just a hair), and I have not had to mess with the head tension or the neck at all.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It looks fine. Like a banjo. Clearly a factory nitro finish, which is ok. Resonator doesn't sit perfectly, typical for a cheaper instrument.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

I've gigged with this banjo constantly since February, and it sounds the same every time I pick it up. That's huge -- banjos are very fussy, they go out of whack with the weather, parts shift or come loose. This is my main gigging banjo now, and I have no reservations.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I asked for the banjo, they sent it. That's been the extent of my dealings with the company.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Swap out strings and bridge (you'd do that with almost any new banjo). Everything else is fine out of the box.
One minor issue - the neck is just a hair narrow at the nut. 1st string pulloffs at the second fret bring the string off the edge and give you a pfft note if you're not careful. It might be fixable with a recut nut; so far it only bothers me during "Fireball Mail" and "Dill Pickle Rag."

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I can't recommend this banjo enough, IF you go just a little beyond the out-of-the-box setup and find the strings and bridge that work for you. Every bridge I tried sounded pretty good, and then I found one that was perfect. 

Now the Twanger plays and sounds better than some of my friends' Hubers and Gibsons. It really sounds surprisingly good. Every note comes loud and even,  and it has let me ratchet up my banjo game.

The neck is not as good as my Hatfield (hard to compete with the hand-carved) but it's comfortable, smooth, not the least bit clubby. While we're comparing, the Hatfield is also a great sound, but is much more finicky, and the Twanger makes my RK-80 sound like rubber bands.

For your main gigging workhorse banjo, you can't do better, and it's more than good enough to be your studio axe. 

Overall Rating: 10

Deering Goodtime: Goodtime Americana

Submitted by kd8tzc (see all reviews from this person) on 4/26/2022

Where Purchased: Banjo Studio

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I love the warm sound that it has

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Not really. It looks like it came right from the factory without any setup. The bridge was not even close to where it should have been, but that was easily fixed. It was also not well protected in the shipping, but thankfully it arrived safe.

Setup Rating: 5

Appearance

It is a beautiful, but the blond fretboad was a little hard to get used to at first. With the renaissance head though, everything really works.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

The finish is perfect. I know the guitar tuners are not the best to look at, but they work perfectly and I know they will last.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I sent them an email after the sale, and I have yet to hear from them.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

I love the looks of the head, but I did swap out the strings and the bridge. I added a Snuffy Smith bridge and some light D'Addario Nickel strings, and it sounds really good (not that it sounded bad before).

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This was my first banjo, so I was not sure what to really get, but I liked the looks of the banjo, and a lot of people had favorable things to say about the 12" Goodtime Americana.  I love that this is built in the USA.  I bought an openback, and I questioned my decision to do that after I bought it, and it does not have that nice "twang" that a resonator has, but it is an excellent banjo to learn on.  I am not sorry that I got it, and although I am learning Scruggs style, eventually I will learn Clawhammer on this as well and that will more than likely the open back design will really shine.

I wish I could afford one more intermediate the Deering resonator banjo's at some time, but I feel lucky to have this in openback.

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: OB150

Submitted by Bunyip (see all reviews from this person) on 4/15/2022

Where Purchased: Online

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: 800 (Aussie) (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Playing Scruggs style, acoustic.
On bluegrass tunes it works well.
It’s big n loud, with fast attack and decay.
I think it suits trad bluegrass well.
Less suitable for chords n play n sing stuff imo.
I think is sounds great overall. But there’s always something better sounding, but probably not at this price imo.
I happily play this all day and rest my Eagle n Deluxe.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Second hand, so needed new armrest. Tensioned up head and added string spikes. No problems with adjustments.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

As per Goldtone specs.
Looks well put together. Very acceptable quality. For the money, it easily holds it’s own quality wise vs Deerings Eagle or Deluxe, (at 20% of the price) Not too blingy, not into all the flowery stuff anyway.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Owned for 3 months. Been perfectly stable so far. Satin finish, not all glossy.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I bought it secondhand on Gumtree, without a armrest or spikes.
I bought a new armrest, spikes, and lower zerofret from David at Goldtone who was excellent as usual. (David had helped me with a lower zerofret for my BG150 in 2020).
David gave me a better shipping rate to Australia when I asked nicely, score 10 for looking after your cobbers!. The auto generated webpage quoted shipping costs to Australia are high, as often is our lot in Oz.

Customer Service: 10

Components

It’s very good quality imo

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Excellent bluegrass banjo for the money. Only thing I'd change is I was lead to beleive I was going to inspect a OB150 with radiiused neck. It sounded very good for the money so I bought it anyway, flat fingerboard n all. After I tensioned up the head later it really came alive. If something happened to it, I'd want to replace it, with a radiused neck model. New is $2000 Aussie, so I think I got a good deal.

 

Overall Rating: 9

Gold Tone: WL-250 "White Ladye" Open-Back

Submitted by Wayfaring Stranger 1980 (see all reviews from this person) on 3/29/2022

Where Purchased: Guitar Center

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: 999.99 ($US)

Sound



Clawhammer over the frailing scoop produces a sweet, full and resonant sound. Three-finger bluegrass picking produces a sharp, clear sound that projects well, thanks to the WL steel tone ring.


Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The set-up was perfect. Playable right out of the box, after tuning.
I didn't particularly care for the medium gauge strings that came with it. I've since changed the strings to D'Addario medium gauge banjo strings. I like the feel of these better and the sound is just as good.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Maple rim and ebony fingerboard. Instrument is nice to look at, though I'm not crazy about high-gloss finish. No flaws. Hardware was perfect.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I don't play professionally, but it's sturdy enough to last and stays in tune very well.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I have not dealt directly with Gold Tone, but I appreciate that the instrument came with a high quality case, a torque wrench for head adjustments, and a list of recommended maintenance tasks. For the record, neither of my Deering banjos came with these accessories.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

 

 I have owned two Deering Goodtime banjos, but I was disappointed that they lacked tone rings, and thus projection.  I had heard the Gold Tone banjos were more affordable than Deering and more banjo for the money, so I decided on the WL-250.  I'm learning both Scrugg-style and clawhammer on this banjo, and I find it is well-suited to both.  

I am considering the Gold Tone BC-350, though it is similar.  Given the WL-250's clarity in Scruggs-style, I no longer feel the need to buy another resonating banjo.

Overall Rating: 9

Zachary Hoyt: Custom

Submitted by Boblamoy (see all reviews from this person) on 3/21/2022

Where Purchased:

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: $970 ($US)

Sound

This is the second banjo I have had Zach make. I purchased an 11" laminated red maple rim and had Zach make a3 piece red maple walnut neck with curly walnut on the peghead face and the heel. This is a 17 fret tenor tuned GDAE. I play Irish and Old Time. The open back banjo has no tone ring. The sound is mellow but crisp with good sustain. It is quite loud. The workmanship is impeccable.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was as spcified. The bridge is 11/16", but has room to go down to a . 656". Strings on the bridge are spaced ½".

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The contrast of the straight grain soft maple with dark, highly figured walnut is striking. The hickory fretboard is centered so the grain cathedrals are in the center and face up and down the neck. The simple Tru-Oil finish is even. The overall appearance is simple, but beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Fit and finish of all parts looks good. I'm sure they will outlast me. I had Zach use stainless frets, and the ones on my first banjo show no wear.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Zach is very easy to work with. He is very polite and quite friendly. Whenever I visit, he takes time to show me around and answer all my questions. I wish all young folks today were as friendly, polite, and knowledgeable. I wish there was a 10++ rating.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No tone ring. Zach formed a ring on the end of the rim.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

My first banjo from Zach looks just like this one, but has a Whyte Laydie tone ring.  It sounds wonderful playing Irish tunes.  I wanted something lighter that I could use in campgrounds without angering the neighbors.  

All in all, this is much more banjo than I could hope for.

Overall Rating: 10

Stone Banjo Company: Open Back 5-String Banjo

Submitted by banjered (see all reviews from this person) on 3/6/2022

Where Purchased: Stone Banjo Co.

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: $1100 plus shipping ($US)

Sound

The wood, no-metal-tone-ring, sounds perfect for backing up my singing of folk songs with Minstrel Nylguts tuned down to open D from standard G tuning. It has a warm, mellow sound that can be loud or soft depending upon your right hand technique. It came with metal strings and I did not care for the sound that much – it was too bright, loud, with too many overtones even with stuffing and various bridges. Perhaps with a skin head or other modifications all that could change, just personal preferences at play here.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It was set up wonderfully, the custom armrest along with everything else was superb!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is amazing in its flawless workmanship! Every minute detail is so perfectly done. I was amazed that a newer builder could do such flawless work. The detail of his craftsmanship is way beyond other builders that have been in the business for decades. The banjo has beautiful natural wood, mostly walnut, and very simple/basic features which I appreciate. The dot inlay fret markers could have been a little more fancier/better materials, but Stone Banjo will build you a custom banjo as you prefer.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Brass Gotoh tuners and brass hardware throughout make for a beautiful, dependable, wonderful banjo!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Stone Banjo was very congenial and responsive on the phone. The banjo should last a 100 plus years so I have no concerns about warranty plus I believe Stone Banjo would follow up on any request I might have. Because this banjo is so perfect I expect I will have zero need for any "corrections."

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything about this banjo is outstanding in quality and appearance, there is no need to "upgrade" anything, it is all there!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Stone Banjos are perhaps the best bargain out there for quality and price. Since Steve Gerritsen is a new builder, I'd say his banjos are under-priced by several hundred dollars compared to the competition.  Buy now before he ups his prices! Look at his banjos being offered here at BHO under "other" banjos in the classifieds, all incredible!  My Stone Banjo has a 1&3/8" wide nut, an extremely comfortable just-right-size neck profile, and all the wood is just gorgeous! You can get a customized banjo from Steve but my banjo had 99% of what I was looking for just off the shelf so I went for it. Check his banjos out at https://www.stonebanjo.com/

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Walnut Appalachian

Submitted by Jtimms77 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/15/2022

Where Purchased: Online

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost. When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months. They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year. I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year. I was told it has always been a year. I directed them to the way back machine online that shows there website in April of 2021. It clearly states 8-10 months. They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop. I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no. Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Sound Rating: 1

Setup

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost. When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months. They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year. I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year. I was told it has always been a year. I directed them to the way back machine online that shows there website in April of 2021. It clearly states 8-10 months. They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop. I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no. Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Setup Rating: 1

Appearance

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost. When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months. They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year. I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year. I was told it has always been a year. I directed them to the way back machine online that shows there website in April of 2021. It clearly states 8-10 months. They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop. I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no. Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Appearance Rating: 1

Reliability

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost. When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months. They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year. I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year. I was told it has always been a year. I directed them to the way back machine online that shows there website in April of 2021. It clearly states 8-10 months. They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop. I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no. Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Reliability Rating: 1

Customer Service

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost. When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months. They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year. I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year. I was told it has always been a year. I directed them to the way back machine online that shows there website in April of 2021. It clearly states 8-10 months. They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop. I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no. Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Customer Service: 1

Components

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost. When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months. They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year. I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year. I was told it has always been a year. I directed them to the way back machine online that shows there website in April of 2021. It clearly states 8-10 months. They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop. I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no. Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Components Rating: 1

Overall Comments

I ordered a custom built Pisgah banjo in 2021 and paid the upfront cost.  When I ordered the banjo the completion time was 8 to 10 months.  They changed the timeframe on their website to 1 year.  I asked for my deposit back as this wasn't what I agreed to and do not want to wait a year.  I was told it has always been a year.  I directed them to the way back machine online that shows their website in April of 2021.  It clearly states 8-10 months.  They still wouldn't refund my money and said I could use it to purchase items in their shop.  I asked if they had started building the banjo and they said no.  Crappy customer service if you ask for a refund and impossible to get your money back.

Overall Rating: 1

Pisgah: Dobson

Submitted by Robert in Spokane (see all reviews from this person) on 1/12/2022

Where Purchased: on line

Year Purchased: 2022
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

clawhammer , sounds wonderful nice mellow tone

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

setup was great , all I did was tune it up , ready to go

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

beautiful !

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

beautiful !

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

super helpful , super friendly , life time warranty

Customer Service: 10

Components

the persimmon fret board is really nice and the brass hardware is fantastic the finish on the maple neck & pot is flawless

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would highly recommend a Pisgah Dobson as a " one and done " banjo . So happy with my purchase and a special Thank You to Melissa !!

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: White Ladye Plus WL-250+

Submitted by Scrubbing Monkeys (see all reviews from this person) on 12/24/2021

Where Purchased: Palm Bay Music

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: $650.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Having very limited experience ( on banjo) I can only say that it is inspiring to hear. The set up was fine it had/has the same Remo fiber skin head after 11 years. It also has a no knot tail piece that was installed later. The fret edges were a bit rough but easily buffed down. To describe the sound would be to say....clear and articulate with a warm flavor. It suits me great for my style of claw hammer. I did add a KnK Sound Hot Spot piezo pick up on the under side of the head near but not under the bridge. It sounds nearly the same recorded or amped as it does acoustic.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It was used. It had one fret that wasn't seated. I lived close to Gold Tone in Titusville FL. I took it in and Wayne himself had a tech reseat it and level it out. He also recommended a different bridge and a no knot tail price based on my experience and desires. (True salesman that guy) I haven't really done anything but buff out some fret ends since then. Honestly and the reason I am writing this is that I Am amazed at how stable this thing is. I live in a semi arrid climate near the equator that gets monsoon rains in season. Very different extremes. I have never had to adjust anything!! It holds tuning extremely well. I have Gibson, Martin and Music Man Instruments and this banjo sits proudly among them as far as stability and performance

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

The WL 250+ has the tree of life inlays and is truly spectacular to look at. Way more bling than I would normally choose but is sure is nice to look at. The inlays are done very well. No filler. The Ebony fret board has some faint brown grain but fits in just fine. The chrome work on the hardware is a bit inconsistent but functions perfectly fine. I don't expect nickel at this price point. The gloss poly is unexpectedly smooth on the neck. Better than the satin nitro on my Martin D62. I can't begin to explain that but from start to 2 hrs in my hand never sticks to the neck.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have worn through the chrome where my arm rubs the tension hoop. I am pretty sure I would have worn through anything plated. I think the poly finish on the wood will last forever. It shows no wear. I play alot and sweat all over this banjo. It is sturdy and stable I would take and use this thing anywhere without a back up.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I didn't get a warranty as it was used but see my earlier description on the fine folk at Gold Tone. It's my opinion these guys are in business to stay in business and act accordingly

Customer Service: 10

Components

The inlays work and stability of the neck are amazing at any price point. IfI were to up grade anything it would be to nickel hardware but that is merely a finiky desire not a need. The tuners are a bit touchy but that may be normal for a planetary style tuner.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I truly believe we are in the time where asain made products can compete in quality with products made anywhere else if there is someone at the top that understands the quality expectations of the customer and can demand it from manufacturing.  I learned on this banjo. It is the only one I have ever had. Sure I would buy a custom build if I had the money but I would not sell this and unless something just blows me away ( like this did) for less than $1000.00  it will be the only banjo I ever have. If something happened to it, I would look at some different things but I would probably end up at Gold Tone.

Overall Rating: 9

Stelling: Staghorn

Submitted by damirzanne (see all reviews from this person) on 11/30/2021

Where Purchased: On BHO

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

banjo has that powerful, crystal clear Stelling tone … it will knock you out of your socks if you’re not careful… it is very clear , so it will not cover any mistakes , it’s unforgivable… if you’re looking for clear , powerful , punchy , straight in your face tone , Staghorn has it …

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I got it used , but it plays great straight of the case … very comfortable neck as well

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

gorgeous , beautiful looking instrument … you can’t beat Stelling when it comes to appearance … with this banjo you’ll be the star of every jam you go to …

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

no issues whatsoever … reliable 100% of the time … pick it up , and play it …

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve dealt with Geoff few times in the past , can be cranky at times, but most of the luthiers I know are like that … so no bad feelings here

Customer Service: 10

Components

everything on this banjo is top notch… there was no cutting corners while putting this beauty together…

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

overall I'd say , top of the line , professional instrument , and I'd recommend pretty much any Stelling to anyone, and Staghorn is their top of the line model , so you know you can't go wrong with it...

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Julia Belle

Submitted by OldIron15 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/18/2021

Where Purchased: The Acoustic Shoppe

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: 5399 ($US)

Sound

I enjoy the more mellow tunes and this instrument suits it perfectly. Being built to sound best in D and E (I currently have it set at E like it came from the factory) it SINGS in these lower ranges. It's a warmer tone with great sustain,great for sitting down and just picking away. but is still loud. Not difficult to play at all, the slender radiused neck feels great. You still have a bit of crispness towards the bridge and a very full sound towards the neck.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The banjo was setup perfectly for my taste. Action may feel a touch high to more experienced players but works for me. Bridge in the proper place, intonation is good, tuners could possibly use a touch of tightening to keep the pegs tensioned a little tighter but it hasn't gone out of tune yet. Mine came with a 5/8 bridge (Deering said this was probably an oversight at the factory) so I'd be curious to try an 11/16 but I've typically always used a 5/8 bridge so I feel right at home on it.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Beautiful, one of a kind instrument. It's made of Mahogany with inlays that were drawn by John Hartford. The black binding compliments the simplicity of the banjo. The finish is satin and feels great in the hands, the grain of the wood is beautiful. I found no flaws in the finish or the grain. The black tuning knobs match the binding beautifully. The slight aesthetic uniqueness of this banjo was a major factor in choosing this banjo over more traditional styled instruments. The metal shines beautifully.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware feels great and of excellent quality, doesn't feel cheap. Would rely on this banjo at a gig with no problems. I bought this to last the rest of my years (and I hope to be around for MANY more) and with normal care I have no doubts it will.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I've had some questions with the banjo (mostly proper care on the satin finish and asking about the 5/8 instead of 11/16 bridge) and tech support was friendly and easy to talk to. Have had no warranty claims or repairs.

Customer Service: 9

Components

To me, what stands out are the inlays and the overall simplicity, but uniqueness, of the instrument. It shares many of the same components as other upperline models so nothing extra ordinary there (still great quality). But the satin finish, black knobs, black binding, and Mahogany go great together. The sound is warm and full, a nice change from the normal bright Crack of so many. Not saying that's a problem, the warm nature just suits my style better.
You could definitely do some experimenting with different bridges, tailpiece, etc, but I'm choosing to keep this instrument as it is since it was specifically designed as a low tuned banjo and all the components go together to make it what it is. If I wanted something different I'd have bought something different.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I hesitated at first to buy such an expensive instrument. However I'm extremely happy that I did. This was the only one in the Springfield, MO area and I had been looking anyways, I went in, played for 20 minutes, and was sold. These come with 2 more frets than standard, a radiused fretboard, and 5th string railroad spikes installed. I'm still very much a novice, however this banjo will allow ME to grow into it without having to later upgrade or modify the instrument. It's a little more expensive than say, a Deering Calico, but I guarantee there is fewer Julia Belle's than Calicos, and the uniqueness was worth it.

Overall Rating: 10

Hatfield: Buck Creek

Submitted by CanadianCal (see all reviews from this person) on 11/12/2021

Where Purchased: Arthur Hatfield

Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: 2900 ($US)

Sound

The sound is absolutely incredible. Deep not harsh. It has so much power behind it the volume is so impressive.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was perfect. Action is nice and low. Easiest banjo I’ve ever played.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Gorgeous banjo. The inlays are perfect, the resonator is beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Completely solid, you can tell no expense has been spared.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I contacted Arthur and Beverly on multiple occasions by phone and email. By phone they were both always friendly and kind. When speaking with Arthur about my banjo I never felt rushed or that I was inconveniencing him. It was such a joy to be able to speak with the banjo builder directly in such an informal way.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have wanted a Hatfield for the better part of 10+ years when I first heard of them. I purchased this banjo based on the hangout reviews and Arthur's reputation and I'm glad I did. This is one of the reasons I'm writing a review myself in the hopes that it will encourage others to make the leap.

This banjo is everything and more than I could have ever wanted. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to purchase one of Arthur's banjos. It makes me want to play and it is a work of art.

Thank you Arthur!

Overall Rating: 10

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