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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!

6776 reviews in the archive.

Beartown (David Whiting): Travel Banjo

Submitted by Brogan (see all reviews from this person) on 12/7/2018

Where Purchased: Beartown Banjos

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $950 ($US)

Sound

Beautiful short scale banjo (20") with a lovely full sound. Great tonal quality, clarity and sustain. I play mainly clawhammer, but with lots of chords. Was very surprised that a small banjo with a 9 inch pot could sound so good. Thought it was just going to be reserved for travel, but it has become my main instrument. Slightly less loud than an ordinary banjo, but this works very well for me in terms of the balance of voice and instrument volume.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Came packaged in a TKL mandolin case (29" X 12"), with extra foam to ensure it never moved in transit. A quick tune and it was up and running. Very happy with the curved Beartown bridge and the goatskin head has needed no adjustment so far.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The emphasis of this banjo is on the quality of the wood and the brass fittings. The Padauk fretboard is gorgeous. Check out the Beartown site for full details.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All very solid. I can't imagine this banjo breaking before I do.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

David has been a pleasure to deal with, answering all my questions and doing a lot of extra small things free or at a very reasonable cost.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Pretty, much as I described before - the wood, the brass fittings, the curved bridge and the goatskin head. Also really like the block rim build - strong, seamless and seems to provide a great basis for the note clarity and sustain.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I guess it's clear that I like this banjo very much.  Compact, easy to travel with, but still sounds like a proper instrument.

I used to play mainly guitar.  For many years I prided myself on playing the cheapest laminate guitars available. Then I played a slightly better guitar and finally a Martin 000-15m guitar. Unsurprisingly, the Martin seemed an infinitely nicer instrument, with a tonal richness that you just can't get it in a cheap laminate guitar.

I'm having a similar, slightly abbreviated experience with banjos.  I started out a few years ago with a cheap resonator banjo with an aluminum pot.  I straight away liked the abrasive sound and volume, but very hard to tease out anything sweet and melodic.  Then I got full size handmade open back.  Very nice instrument, but still lacks some indefinable element of melodic sweetness.  Then I got this travel banjo and that was it, I'd found my equivalent of the Martin experience.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Woodchuck

Submitted by scalrtn (see all reviews from this person) on 11/30/2018

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjos (Online)

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 1604 ($US)

Sound

It sounds just right, not too muddy, not too bright. Very warm. The standard scoop and tailpiece affords variation of timbre.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I had to reset the bridge slightly to correct intonation

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Gorgeous and rock-solid. I custom-ordered all Brass fittings/hardware, standard scale, plain Richlite fingerboard, Vintage headstock with Star inlay, and a Fiberskyn head. It's flawless in construction and appearance.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Looks like it would last a thousand years.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty, they did everything I requested in my order. Fast, courteous response.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I custom-ordered some components that don't come standard (all brass hardware).

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Some notes on my custom 12" Pisgah "Woodchuck" (no. 1293). I opted for all Brass fittings, a Vintage headstock, Standard scale, a plain Richlite fingerboard (side dots only) and a Fiberskyn head. I had to order it special, because Pisgah's design tool doesn't offer Ash (at time of Review) as a wood choice - and Ash is what I wanted. (Price included shipping, hardshell case, extras).

I first visited Patrick at the shop near Asheville last summer, and he was very gracious and hospitable. I got to play just about every model he had (none were completely finished, so the experience was pretty exciting) but he didn't have a Woodchuck at the time. Not that I was looking for one particularly, but I drove over to Acoustic Corner in Black Mountain the next day, and they had one, as well as a Possum. Not sure why, but there was something about the Woodchuck that completely won me over. I paid extra for the ordered modifications, and I was very specific about what I wanted, including string height off the fretboard, and railroad spikes at frets 7 and 9.

I figured I probably would find something I didn't like about it, because I'm so nitpicky - but the banjo actually exceeded my expectations ! The only problem I had was the need for a slight adjustment of the bridge to set correct intonation (which was easy), and locating the production number on the dowel rod. Again, I absolutely love my Pisgah banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Carver: Bantronic Ultra

Submitted by Kiwi_in_Australia (see all reviews from this person) on 11/25/2018

Where Purchased: Carver Banjos (online)

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 999.95 ($US)

Sound

What an awesome sound! Very different than the Deering banjo I own (and love). It is more a cross between an electric guitar and a banjo. Multiple pickups (three - single coil, double coil and Piezo) allow great optionality for sound. A big change from a more typical banjo, to a more sustained electric guitar sound. Also comes with a dampener rod behind the banjo drum head, which can be switched in or out. Some slight hum with the piezo.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Banjo was shipped to me in the US and I took it home as check-in luggage on the plane. It was extremely well packaged and I am very grateful to Brian Carver for the excellent packing. Setup was easy and just need to apply the bridge and tune it up. The neck is great and while the absence of a 5th string took a bit to get used to, now I love it. The knobs are not in the way at all but the space between the bridge and humbucker coil is tight (but adequate). Due to overall length and embedded neck in the body, it is hard to play beyond the 15th or 16th fret, which is a downside - but you get used to it.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

Fantastic. Really well made and Brian Carver did a superb job. It just looks awesome. I sometimes feel the banjo is put into a box as an instrument only useful for country or bluegrass - but when people see this, they don't see a banjo but an electric guitar - and it just looks and sounds great to people (who just don't know what it is!).

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Have played it daily for about 6 months and it has shown no signs of any wear or problems. Have a few gigs coming up and can't wait to use it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Brian was excellent in accommodating my tricky shipping situation and sent me regular updates and photos as the instrument was being made. He also sent detailed instructions on setup. 100% satisfaction on customer service.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Love the coil pickups - they sound great. Also love the neck of the instrument, and how the instrument looks. No issues with anything.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Brilliant instrument - very different from a typical banjo but sounds excellent.  Have picked it up and played it every day since owning it (~6 months now) and still finding different ways to play it and make it sound.  Exceedingly happy with it.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: RKOS-06 Starlight Open-Back

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

Where Purchased: Zinn Music, Rockbridge, Ohio

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: About $300 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I would describe the sound as bright. Not as loud as some banjos but an attractive and lively sound. I played about 10 used banjos in the shop and picked this one.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Banjo played well as purchased. Only thing I have did was a quick surface cleaning but that’s when I discovered an issue with bracket.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

It looks like a dolled up cheap banjo. The tuners are little guitar tuners. The printing on the head stock looks cheap. The fret board and bindings look nice... kind of a tortoise shell... I liked the yellow enamel... something different.

Appearance Rating: 7

Reliability

Well the tuners just feel cheap! My teacher said they will hold up fine but they feel cheap. The banjo does feel pretty solid.

Reliability Rating: 6

Customer Service

Recording King customer service is bad. One of the brackets came loose and the screw was too short to get the threads to catch to reattach it. Recording King was zero help! Authorized reseller finally got out the Stewart Macdonald catalog and we found what we needed.

Customer Service: 1

Components

I like the paint and bindings... tuners feel and look cheap.

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

I bought the banjo to support that little music store.  I always buy stuff from independent music stores... even if it’s just some picks and a song book not usually an instrument.  The bracket came loose right after I bought it which was disappointing and turned out to be a pain to repair.  It’s a fine front porch banjo, the yellow color is unique but I would not run out and get another.  So nothing to get excited about.  

Overall Rating: 6

Hatfield: Special

Submitted by Chris270 (see all reviews from this person) on 11/4/2018

Where Purchased: At Arthur's shop/Glasgow

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 2900 ($US)

Sound

Awesome flathead sound. Exactly what I was looking for after owning a Gibson RB250 and a1980 Ode style D 6500.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was perfect. No need to change anything!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful walnut banjo. Awesome inlays. The finish Arthur put on the wood is beautiful.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I am sure this banjo will be doing it's thing long after 'm gone!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Excellent. The best!

Customer Service: 10

Components

Top grade. No cheap parts on a Hatfield banjo. Arthur's banjo neck is beautiful and so is the burl walnut resonator. Arthur's 2nd and 3rd string compensated bridge is unbelievable. I highly recommend it.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Arthur is an awesome down to earth man and a joy to hang out with. It was an honor to meet him in person. Arthur had 3 models the day I was at his shop. I must have played each one 3-4 times each. Arthur said play them as long as you need to. Take your time he said. I decided on the Special. It's been about a month or so ago and I am so glad I decided on a Hatfield banjo. I highly recommend a Hatfield banjo. 

Thanks to Arthur for a great sounding banjo and the time you spent with me trying to decide on which model as all three models sounded great.

Overall Rating: 10

Gold Tone: Maple Mountain MM-150

Submitted by BobsBlues (see all reviews from this person) on 10/20/2018

Where Purchased: Gold Tone Showroom

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: About $700 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has bright, lively sound, probably due to the Whyte Laydie-style tone ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup from Gold Tone was perfect. The banjo came with a Zero Glide nut. They also added a spike and removed the neck gloss while I waited.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Looks great--clean, simple, and classy. It's basically the same instrument as the more ornate WL-250, but I like the appearance of the MM-150 much better.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I expect it to hold up for many years with no problems.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer service and courtesy at the Gold Tone showroom were outstanding! They couldn't have been nicer.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I may eventually upgrade the bridge, but since the stock bridge is compensated there's no rush to do this. All other components and construction are top quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I've been playing this banjo for about six month now, and I couldn't be happier. It's not specialized for any particular style of clawhammer playing, but as a first open back banjo, I can't imagine anything better in its price range. Very enthusiastically recommended!

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Golden Wreath in Walnut

Submitted by JohnnyT (see all reviews from this person) on 10/13/2018

Where Purchased: Reverb: Geoff Hohwald's Banjo Warehouse

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: $2900 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This Banjo is awesome it has a very warm sound. Being walnut it is somewhere between mahogany and maple. Loud without being obnoxious and overpowering. Great harmonics and intonation up the neck.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Banjo came set up and was perfect. I like a low action and it was exactly what I wanted.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo is beautiful and the fit is excellent. The only issue is the finish on the neck has started to flake up, at the bottom of the head to be exact and at the neck where it joins the pot. Not sure if this was a factory issue or previous owner had something on their hands when they played.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Ive been playing it for almost a year and the issue mentioned above has not gotten any worse or shown up anywhere else.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I registered it with Deering and found out it was specially made in walnut for a company in Canada in 2013 as the Golden Wreath is typically in mahogany. So far Deering has been great. Haven't tried asking about the finish yet.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The entire banjo is great. The inlay on the neck, the fit, the head inlay, all look to be professionally done. The finish as mentioned above is the only issue and like I said not sure if it was a factory issue or user related and caused.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I was looking for a professional grade instrument not only to play but also pass down to my kids. I would recommend any of the Deering Golden Series. In fact I plan to also get a Golden Era and have even thought about getting a Golden Wreath in mahogany. That is how much I like this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: Woodchuck

Submitted by bmifpg (see all reviews from this person) on 10/11/2018

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $1195 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a wonderful, full and ringing tone. It fills my room and has excellent volume!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came fully set up in my opinion and it is an absolute dream to play! The neck is beautiful and the grip suits me perfectly! Obviously, the only thing I had to do was re-tune it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Although somewhat simplistic in design, it is a true work of art in my eyes! The finish is fantastic!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I believe that the hardware and the finish is outstanding! I don’t believe I will ever require another banjo. I am that pleased! This banjo will last me for my lifetime and will be a wonderful family heirloom to cherish!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I chatted online with at least six different people at Elderly Instruments trying to make the best decision for me and my budget. Each individual provided me with enough feedback and assurance that my decision to purchase the Woodchuck was a no brainer for me! I have utilized them for many years and will continue as the need arises.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I believe that this banjo was designed and built to last a lifetime. I am extremely happy and believe that there are no weaknesses!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I have several members in my family that play the banjo. All of them are “Scruggs” style players.  I have been intrigued by the old time sound and particularly claw hammer style. I spent about two months researching several makers and models and I always came back to the Pisgah models.  I am a veteran and I think there is nothing better than having something handmade with sustainable hardwoods from North Carolina by folks who have a passion for what they do!  I emailed Patrick at Pisgah right after I received my Woodchuck and he responded within minutes to congratulate me on my purchase and to invite me to the shop for a tour and see where my new friend was created! It was fate for me and as corny as that may sound to most, there was a reason that I kept going back to Pisgah and ultimately, the Woodchuck! I am looking forward to many years of making my new friend, my best friend!

Overall Rating: 10

Bart Reiter: Special

Submitted by Penguinche (see all reviews from this person) on 10/10/2018

Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 1295.00 ($US)

Sound

I am still tweaking the setup, and I am sure I will settle into a sound that I prefer more. Outside of needing to tighten the head - shipped from Lansing Mich to Portland OR over 8 days. I have not changed any other aspect of how Elderly has it set up.

To my ear the tone is very open and 'throaty.' pretty solidly in the mid tone range, not super bright or plunky. From what I hear, with some setup changes, I think this will end up being a really nice clawhammer/oldtime banjo.

Update; Had the banjo for a few weeks now. Lord has it settled in! This banjo sounds fantastic. You can really change the sound by varying where you are playing with the right hand. I really love the sound now.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came set up with an Elite Amber head. It was shipped with the bridge upright and set correctly. The action is great and very easy to play. As I mentioned I needed to tighten the head when it arrived, but the weather had everything to do with that.

I am almost surely going to switch out to a fiberskyn head. I will mess around with different strings, likely trying a medium set next.

The bridge seems great. If I do change that, it will be over time as I hone in the setup I want.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is a damn fine banjo. The walnut cap on the rim really sets off the look. The neck is perfect. and the hardware is great. Just a simple, straight ahead banjo made with real experience and craftsmanship. The model I bought has a scooped neck and the transition there is smooth. Just overall great lines and finish.

I think the only thing I would have preferred is black nuts on the tuners rather than white. Totally personal preference.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware is great. Quality components from stewmac. The tuners are great, responsive an hold their place.

The satin finish is gorgeous and seems like it will last a good long time.

This is a banjo made for playing and I have every confidence in taking it to shows, jams and the like.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No experience yet, we will see...

***It made me choose something, so default 10

Customer Service: 10

Components

All the components are good, and I don't see any immediate need to upgrade anything on the banjo. Just might change the head for other tone options.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a fantastic banjo. For the price, I cannot imagine doing any better.

Seriously, if you want a great sounding banjo that will last decades, and don't care much for additionally fancy add ons, buy this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Dean Robinson [dean-o-craft]: 11" Maple Whyte Laydie

Submitted by ddegobeo (see all reviews from this person) on 10/10/2018

Where Purchased: Clifftop

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 1600 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

The sound is ethereal when playing CH in the scoop. I am very pleased. Playing closer to the bridge also satisfies my occasional need for a twanky sound. I play a lot of 2 finger as well and I find this banjo has a very sweet vibrant sound quality.

This banjo sounds best when it is tuned up to D or A. I've experienced a slight decrease in sound quality when I've tuned down to C or G

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The setup was perfect at Clifftop. A month later, I did experience some difficulties with one of the strings buzzing in the nut slot. I've temporarily fixed it by putting a piece of string in it. I must confess that I do not know how to set up a banjo properly. I did play with the bridge position and it was tricky to find the sweet spot where there was no buzzing. Mind you that it was very humid at Clifftop when I bought it and naturally some adjustment is needed.

My current feeling is that this banjo is more sensitive than others I have owned.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

It's a work of art! Wonderful to look at. The tiger and bird's eye maple are striking. I think the wooden flange is a unique and bold feature.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This feels like it will last a lifetime. Dean has used this banjo himself since 2012 and it still looks brand new.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dean was quick to help me out with my string buzzing issues.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All components seem to be of high quality. The tuning pegs look great and function well.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

An overall fantastic banjo. I have the feeling that if I learn a little more about adjusting banjos then I should be able to do away with my temporary fix for the buzzing in the nut. I know this banjo is capable of the highest quality sound.

The banjo came with a Superior case which has thick padding and a sturdy feel. One issue with the case is that it must be put down exactly level or else it will fall over. 

Thank you for the wonderful banjo Dean!

-Dorion

Overall Rating: 9

Pisgah: 12" Walnut Possum

Submitted by gl1031 (see all reviews from this person) on 10/4/2018

Where Purchased: Used

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 850.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I play a variety of styles, but mostly claw hammer and minstrel music. This was a banjo I could afford but I don’t feel that it was a compromise in any way.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The action is well set and it stays in tune.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The hardware is of very good quality. The simplicity of its construction is aesthetically pleasing. I’m particularly pleased with the persimmon wood.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The hardware is of high quality and durable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Patrick was very helpful and kind when I phoned him .

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

A great banjo for the money that will last me for the rest of my life!

Overall Rating: 10

Backyard Music: Basic (assembled)

Submitted by OlJim (see all reviews from this person) on 9/26/2018

Where Purchased: Ebay

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $150 ($US)

Sound

This is a wonderful little instrument that every banjo player should have sitting someplace easy to reach. Lovely mellow tone, quiet enough to play while everyone in the family is in the room watching TV! (Without finger picks on that is) :)

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I purchased it assembled and setup. Tuned it out of the box and haven’t changed a thing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is very utilitarian and durable instrument, no frills! It is pretty wood and instantly attracts questions. “Wow... is that a banjo?”

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I just hauled this little dude in a cloth sack across the Atlantic and on trains through seven countries in Europe. It is extremely durable and lightweight travel companion. Rating 11!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Most helpful, friendly, fast, responsive! TOPS!

Customer Service: 10

Components

It’s just a very simple design. No frills and works perfectly. I have had two very high level players who picked it up, played it and immediately wrote down the the Backyard Music address.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

For the price, quality and durability of this little banjo you should have one sitting in the TV room and one stashed in the car.  Never be without a banjo... this is the perfect travel companion or faithful little chair side player. :)

Overall Rating: 10

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:

Vega #2                                                                                                                                                                                                                               OME North Star 11" Walnut Vintage Brass Ring/Walnut                                                                                                                                                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/Cherry 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

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