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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!

6856 reviews in the archive.

Pisgah: Custom

Submitted by The Prarie Frail (see all reviews from this person) on 7/17/2019

Where Purchased: Online

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1860 ($US)

Sound

This Banjo sounds incredible, full stop. The tonal quality is retained all the way up the neck right to my frailing scoop. I chose the persimmon tone ring because I play frailing style. I was searching for a rich but "earthy" tone. After some excellent communication, Patrick and his team guided me towards the wooden tone ring (which was cheaper). One of the distinguishing tonal qualities is the bronze 4th string. It adds such a rich bass sustain that I haven't seen elsewhere.It's something small but the devil is in the details, and this devil can play. I really love the end result which to me sounds like a beautiful instrument made to frail. People take notice of how this banjo sounds.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I loved almost everything about this setup. It shipped internationally and barely needed any tuning. My only complaint is a personal choice. I think the action is a bit too high. Especially for a banjo with the frailing scoop. I haven't endeavored to change this but have treated it as something to get used to. I'm not experienced enough to know if it's something to fix or something to get familiar with. Aside from that I had to adjust the height of the railroad spikes I had them install a little bit. nothing major and very easy. Aside from this it's masterfully setup.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This Banjo is a flat out stunner! I chose a curly maple pot and neck with a vintage head stock (which comes with a standard star inlay). I also chose a goatskin head and aged brass tuners and j hooks. The end result is a dark, sultry, vintage looking banjo that happens to be brand new. It isn't the fanciest banjo I've ever seen but it has class and looks like something that's been made to play. The design is simple, elegant, and exactly what I wanted. I've received numerous compliments and I've only owned it for a month.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I can't speak too much on reliability as I've only owned it for a little over a month. However it is very sturdy and all the parts are very clearly high quality. I really like Pisgah's design for local made hardware and components. It's cool knowing every part of my banjo was made in NA and Patrick and his crew clearly are aware that all components reflect on the end product. I envision myself playing this banjo for the next several decades without a hiccup.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

This is truly where Pisgah Banjo's stand out heads and shoulders above the rest. The customer service I received throughout the entirety of this project was on another level. I changed my mind several times throughout the process. Usually on their recommendation, after I was able to voice my desires more clearly to them. It was an absolute joy to go through the process of getting this build to completion. This was hands down the best shopping experience I've had in my life. AND I never even had the pleasure of meeting the Pisgah crew. They were so fast in response. Let me know certain deadlines for decisions I had to make. Were VERY helpful when it came to helping me make decisions based on my opinion and their expertise.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Build Components: 12" Curly Maple Pot and Neck. Persimmon tone ring. Richlite Neck with dots. Vintage headstock. S - Frialing scoop. Goatskin hide head. Standard tailpiece. Aged Brass Tuners and hardware.

All the Components are very clearly top shelf. The Gotah tuners are perfect and even with the aging process on them. The head is very high quality hide. Even the railroad spikes I had them installed were done to perfection with tone in mind.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The other thing that I found incredibly well done and easy to handle was Pisgah's website. The banjo builder tool is where I started and it was so handy in helping me create my initial vision. It was definitely tweaked and adjusted as time went on but that process was also a delight with the Pisgah banjo teams assistance. It's super helpful for pricing out something that you want.

I would only add some sound bites from each of the different tone ring options as well as maybe a bigger viewing for the wood choices. However they're truly miles ahead of anything else I've seen as far as websites go.

The last thing I would mention is the Pisgah production method. I really admire them for sourcing all of their parts and wood from local and sustainable sources. Also their whole workshop is run on solar and alternative power sources. I doesn't add value to my Banjo but I really applaud them for going the extra mile in this regard.

All in all I'm over the moon delighted with my Pisgah custom banjo. If you're looking for the world's fanciest inlay crazy custom piece. Look elsewhere. But if you need a REALLY high quality sounding instrument that isn't going to break the bank... PISGAH PISGAH PISGAH!!! I added a bunch of choices that increased the price significantly but I would do it again and again. It looks SO freaking nice. I just hope one day I'll be able to do my little beauty justice and really let her sing.

Overall Rating: 10

Recording King: MADISON RK-R35

Submitted by Flatiron53 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/15/2019

Where Purchased: Jim Britton

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 799.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Jim had Robin Smith reset the neck. Jim checked the fit of the tone ring himself.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

These are excellent banjos for the price range.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing needs to be changed.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Jim Britton is the consummate gentleman.  He is a man of the highest integrity and character.  I would never hesitate to do business with him again.

Overall Rating: 10

Companion Custom Banjos: Autumn model

Submitted by Robbie McKee (see all reviews from this person) on 7/13/2019

Where Purchased: Companion custom banjos

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

Sound

The autumn models sound was very powerful. It was maple with a block rim as a five star tone ring so it had that nice concentrated maple sound. It was bright but not overly. It was a responsive instrument.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo had a great setup right from the start. Low action and light gauge strings. A 5/8’ Purcell maple bridge. The tailpiece was angled just right. Frets felt and looked great. Head was at a nice tension as well.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It’s a very beautiful banjo. Flames maple neck and resonator. With a very bright finish. Nice white binding. It had custom. Inlays designed by the companion company. It was a stock model so I didn’t come up with the ideas I just bought it brand new when they put it up for sale.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The finish was in every way great. The parts were not cheap I parts. They all had top quality feel. It had five star tuners and a waverly for the drone string, so no worries in quality there.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The company is great. They take time to answer questions and help you with everything . I no longer own the banjo but own another companion. I sold this because I was wanting a mahogany banjo. And I have dealt with the company several times although not for warranty issues but I have no doubt they would stand behind the warranty and make it easy to get repairs.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The overall stand out on this banjo to me was the block rim. It sounded great looked great and had a lot of lobos in it to make it right.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Buy a companion. They are awesome instruments and awesome people. This all adds up to an awesome company.

Overall Rating: 10

Huber: Kalamazoo (Custom)

Submitted by dupreejan (see all reviews from this person) on 6/14/2019

Where Purchased: Huber Shop

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 4500 ($US)

Sound

It sounds good playing Traditional and Progressive. I had to replace the factory Huber Head with a REMO Weatherking. The Huber head had too much decay, and didn't produce the solid bodied tone I wanted. Sounds better with the REMO head. The tone does'nt change much as you play next at the fingerboard. The strings are too low to the head toward the fingerboard. They barely clear the head. I discovered the 1 3/16th necks are too narrow on the Hubers. I replaced the neck with a 1 5/16th made by Ron Coleman. The new neck rises higher above the head, and sounds better when you play toward the fingerboard. Also, the wider neck allowed me to have a higher and wider 1 7/8th .656 bridge. The wide neck and wider spaced bridge improved my playing a lot. I also replaced the metal armrest with a custom shaped wood banjolit armrest. I would only buy it again if I could only buy the pot, and then have another builder make the neck. Huber only makes narrow 1 3/16th necks that are not even standard width.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The action was good when I bought it. But when I had the new neck made and installed, the action was set up even better. I had to get a new neck, that was the set up change I had done. Also replaced the head.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

The Huber logo was kind of weak looking. Everything else was good.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Hardware appears high quality.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I just went to the shop and bought it. It was the only one they had. It didn't have spikes in it. I didn't realize it until I got back home 35 miles away. They should have offered to install spikes.

Customer Service: 7

Components

Appears to be a solid well made pot and resonator. The neck also was high grade, just too narrow.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

You could probably find a couple of other makes of banjo just as good or better. But with Huber I had to alter it to get what I needed.

Overall Rating: 8

Savannah: SB-080

Submitted by Ausmond15 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/12/2019

Where Purchased: Ernie Williamson Music

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 270 ($US)

Sound

I give this Banjo a 7 for sound relative to the price paid. For an entry level, open back Banjo it is about as good as you can get.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It is what it is, a plain open back banjo.

Appearance Rating: 6

Reliability

For the price it is extremely well mde.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: 10

Components

I would say, all and all, the banjo was very well constructed for the price.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

This is a BEGINNERS BANJO. It is open back. That being said, for the price, it is as good a beginners open back banjo as you can get 

Overall Rating: 8

Recording King RK-R20: RK-R20

Submitted by Ausmond15 (see all reviews from this person) on 6/12/2019

Where Purchased: Village Music Stockton Missouri

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 500 ($US)

Sound

This Banjo really pops for the price. To be honest, it was a little too sharp for me. But man, this thing has volume!

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

The guys at Village Music in Stockton Missouri are absolutely the best. Setup was perfect! Check them out, you won't be disappointed!

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This Banjo is absolutely gorgeous.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Recording King makes some really top notch Banjos. This thing will last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Village Music. Stockton Missouri. Best there is.

Customer Service: 10

Components

There is not a cheap part on this Banjo. It is STURDY.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

All in  all, the Recording King RK-R20 is a phenomenal Banjo for the price. As I said, it was a bit sharp for me, but you just can't beat the volume, playability, looks, and solid construction for the price. Great Banjo.

Overall Rating: 9

Pisgah: 12" Walnut Possum

Submitted by Big Ed (see all reviews from this person) on 5/28/2019

Where Purchased: Spruce Tree Music Madison, WI

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: approx $1300 ($US)

Sound

Long time upright bass player, just getting into clawhammer. Looking to buy an instrument that will last me a long time.

I like a plunky tone. Loud enough, but not too loud. Like a spare, old-time sound - often play just banjo and fiddle. Very different sound in center of pot and over scoop. Mellow - but REALLY projects when I dig in. Will allow me to do whatever I wish as I grow into it.

I set a rough dollar range (under $1350), and was committed to buying the best sounding/feeling banjo in that range.

Being pretty much a beginner, it was a challenge to compare instruments, as my skills - and ability to repeat consistently - are limited.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Seller took this one out of the box - required minimal setup to how it came from the builder.

I had tried just about every 5-string openback under $1500 in the Chicago area. Headed to Spruce Tree in Madison, as they had the greatest variety in stock, to allow me to compare side-to-side.

Spruce Tree Music is an incredible store for anyone into acoustic instruments. Neat old building jampacked with banjos, fiddles, mandos, and guitars. Wonderful staff.

I told them what I was interested in, and they sat me down in a chair, surrounded me with maybe 4-5 instrument stands, and started pulling out instruments. As I rejected one, they'd whisk it away and place another banjo before me.

I think I tried banjos for some 3 hours - and I felt like I could've stayed another 3 if I wanted. Owner happily played them when asked to show what they sounded like when played by someone w/ skill.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Appearance is pretty much what made me end up with the Possum. I narrowed it down to 2 Pisgahs - the Possum, and a Rambler. Kept going back between which I liked better. And both were beautiful - in their own way. The spun over Rambler w/ side dots was much more "industrial" looking.

What decided me was my wife (who is a luthier) said, "That one's prettier - buy it!" I figured if she has to see it sitting in our living room, her opinion was worth something! ;) Plus, she told me to buy the pricier one!

The walnut pot is beautiful, with striking grain. The persimmon fingerboard has a couple of small knots - a look I really like. Just beautiful woodwork.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Pegs seem rock solid, and hold tune very well. I brought it to my regular jam where at least 4 very accomplished pickers tried it out. All were EXTREMELY complimentary - and I LOVED how it sounded when they played it. This banjo is going to last me decades - and likely be handed down to my kids.

The aged brass and black tuning pegs are neat touches. Look VERY rich. I ordered a walnut armrest from Balsam.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

It is a real treat to deal with the owner of a small company like Pisgah, who is so committed to quality and customer service. He responded to my e-mails very promptly and thoroughly.

When I told him I had bought one, he invited me to stop by his shop if I were ever in the area.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The Gotoh tuners are rock solid. All of the other hardware is made by Pisgah's partner/subsidiary Balsam Banjoworks.

Just nice to have an instrument that is entirely handmade in the US out of native wood.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

There are several quality makers in the $1000-1350 range.  I played several very nice banjos, and had a hard time narrowing it down.  The fact that I narrowed it down to 2 Pisgahs says something about how their banjos appeal to me.  

If you like the look of wood, I think the Possum - and Pisgah's other models w/ wood fingerboards - really ought to be near the top of your list.  If you prefer black fingerboards and black/spun pots, you might prefer a different model/make.  For me, the sound and feel was the MOST important.  I feel this Possum gave me incredible appearance as well. 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Stelling: Afton Star

Submitted by rcwright (see all reviews from this person) on 5/27/2019

Where Purchased: BHO

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: $2800.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Sounds great, clear, just bright enough, well balanced.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Purchased used, was not set up to my liking. Disassembled, reassembled, everything went back together easily and precisely.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Fit and finish are perfect.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All hardware very well made should last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Even though bought used from an individual when contacting Stelling, they could have not been more helpful and willing to answer my questions.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All components well made. Best feeling neck I've had the opportunity to play.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Had never heard a Stelling in person, after reading reviews and comments took the chance and purchased. Wouldn't think of returning, extremely happy with the Afton Star. Only downside would now like to have another Stelling.

Overall Rating: 10

Fender: Robert Schmidt Signature Plectrum Irish/Celtic

Submitted by mlawyer (see all reviews from this person) on 5/26/2019

Where Purchased: World music

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: 360 ($US)

Sound

I play quite a few Broadway style shows, sometimes doubling banjo with guitar or upright bass. For banjo I have previously taken the fifth string off of a cheap Korean bj but the results sound nasty. The Schmidt plectrum is a huge step up. Once I got some basic setup taken care of it is pretty loud and sweet.

Sound Rating: 7

Setup

It was ok but it had super heavy strings that Bob Schmidt would like but I didn’t. I tried to get some loop ended singles from the local GC, but the kid working there had no idea what I was talking about. He kept giving me ball ends and asking if it was ok. He was a nice guy, though. I actually already tried using strings with the balls clipped out, but some of the loops were too small. I ended up using a Vega 5 string set (the one with a .010” first)
Other than that, I adjusted the tailpiece so that it wasn’t sitting on the head. The head tension was very low, so I did some tightening. There was too much neck relief, so I tightened the truss rod a little more than a quarter turn. The nut was fine. After all of the other work, the action was fine.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

It’s pretty. The finish is very nice on the visible parts and nonexistent on the parts you see when you take the resonator off. The moto neck inlays look pretty good.
I don’t see any cracks, delaminations, or sloppy glue work on my banjo. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe the distributor has QCed his stock. I’m happy in any case.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I share the concerns of the other reviewer about the resonator mounting nuts. They are iffy. I haven’t tried the pickup yet.
I have had a few instruments fail me at gigs, some quite nice. This one seems solid.

Reliability Rating: 6

Customer Service

They shipped it very quickly

Customer Service: 8

Components

The resonator attachments

Components Rating: 6

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 7

Deering: 12" Goodtime Americana

Submitted by Mudderhen (see all reviews from this person) on 5/6/2019

Where Purchased: Bills Music

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: $700 (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This was my first banjo and I consider it an excellent starting point. I had strummed a few and found the 12" pot produced a fuller and more balanced sound than the smaller option and the Goodtime is easy on the fingers and eyes. There is no tone ring on this model, so the sound is a little subdued, but not extremely plunkie. A good middle of the road option.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup did not need to be touched - perfect just the way it was. The neck is straight and flat - albeit a little narrower than I would optimally prefer - but I have not had a problem playing how I want with it. The string height is low to the fretboard with a 1/2" bridge and there is no buzz. I replaced the light Deering strings that came with it and installed medium weight to suit my own taste and desired feel.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Great looking banjo with a dark finish, nickel hardware, and a fiber skin head.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Plating looks durable and after a year shows no wear even though this has been my main banjo for the past year and has been played 1 to 2 hours per day. The fret wire is still good with most of its life remaining and the fretboard only shows a little wear - but probably would look new again with a good cleaning.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

N/A - I have not needed to contact Deering.

Customer Service: not rated

Components

The dark wood finish and nickel hardware look great. The fiberskin head is good for what it is - simulated skin - and it does produce a nice tone. I changed the nickel tailpiece to a plain, no knot style. I have another banjo that produces a more bright tone, and I will eventually change the Americana's head to real skin and make it my "plunky" option.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The Goodtime Americana is a great option for the price. It is versatile, durable and plays very easily. The action is low and the sound is versatile. Although it was not needed, I tried different heights and different styles of bridges just to experiment with what it does to the sound and found that there were several that were pleasing in various ways. This is a good middle of the road banjo that sounds good and won't break the bank.

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Rambler Special with Dobson Tone Ring

Submitted by Mudderhen (see all reviews from this person) on 5/3/2019

Where Purchased: Spendrift Guitars

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: $1100 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This is the third banjo I have owned and, like many, I started with a Goodtime (12" Americana) and have been in search of that perfect tone. My second was a Deering Deluxe, but I was still searching - until I discovered this gem. The sound is crisp and clear - just bright enough and just deep enough to call it a very well-balanced sound. The Renaissance head and Dobson TR are a great combination for a really responsive result.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup is "nice". It took some getting used to since the action is set a little higher, even with a 1/2" bridge, than either of my other banjos but it didn't take long and now I really like it this way so it is the way it will stay.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is a "looker!" It has an aged-looking copper spun rim with aged brass hardware. The neck is walnut with a beautiful grain and finished to a very smooth luster. It feels great to my hand. I love the plain paddle type peghead with no design and no fret markers on the face of the neck. This is just personal preference, but that plain-jane look is something I was after. The side fret markers are nicely done in brass and it came ready-to-play with RR spikes already installed at #'s 7-9-10.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware on this instrument looks top-notch. I have no reason to doubt that it will last the life of the banjo without having issues. The fret wire is on the large side compared to the others, but I find I'm using an easier touch for fretting and sliding and getting good results.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I did have occasion to deal with the company. There is no armrest on my banjo and I am really more comfortable using one. However, I could not find anything with hardware to match the aged brass or copper and I did not want to add something that looks like it does not belong. So, I sent an email to the company web site to ask where I can source one and within an hour Patrick emailed me back to say that if I purchase one on their web site and add a note regarding exactly what I want, they would make one with aged brass hardware. Additionally, he made a suggestion as to which armrest might be more comfortable. I think that is a portrait of what excellent service should look like.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything about this banjo from the walnut neck and dowel to the aged hardware seems solid. The stock Renaissance head has a great sound and, in fact, I've noticed others in my circle of friends use this same head. There is nothing cheap about the construction and it looks to be done with the utmost craftsmanship.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Perception of excellent tone is very subjective. As I mentioned, I was searching for what I think is ideal for me right now and this Pisgah Rambler Special is it. Will it be my last? Probably not - I'll get the bug and purchase something different at some point in the future that satisfies another type of tonal quality, but I think this one will always be a "keeper".

Overall Rating: 10

Yates: Custom

Submitted by 1961brd (see all reviews from this person) on 5/1/2019

Where Purchased: Mr. Warren Yates

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

Sound

Prewar
Full, strong and balanced

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Received my new banjo set-up, strung-up and playable right out of the box.
The 3rd string was at about an F# but I DID NOT call the Better Business Bureau.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautifully, masterfully crafted.
All hardware aged by Mr. Yates to time period (early 1930's ?)

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I'm kind of old now, but if my parents would have bought this for me when I was young, I'd be able to pass it on to my great grand kids.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Mr. Warren Yates is the most reliable, trustworthy, honest (and funny) guy I've EVER done business with.
And I'm not talking about just "banjo business".

Customer Service: 10

Components

Hard to pick just one standout thing about my new banjo...ITS A YATES!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

To any readers that took the time to read this post, if your saving your money to purchase that one, new, beautiful, five string banjo that has the power of a Howitzer, you REALLY need to call Mr. Warren Yates. Nine and a half times out of ten, he even answers the phone and makes himself available. You will NOT be disappointed!

Overall Rating: 10

Beartown (David Whiting): Banjo #005 – Sapele / Wenge with brass rod tone ring

Submitted by Brogan (see all reviews from this person) on 4/12/2019

Where Purchased: Beartown Banjos

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

Sound

Beautiful block rim tone. Great clarity and sweet, balanced sound. Took a while to get used to, but now my go to banjo - and certainly far and away the best for recording.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Came perfect, but hooks gradually loosened up. Now tighten them every so often. Actually don't mind doing this basic maintenance - another means of tweaking the tone and sustain. Dave very generously threw in an extra bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

See it here: https://beartownbanjo.com/wp/category/banjo-gallery/
A really lovely banjo, with an emphasis on the timber's native qualities.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Absolutely, just be careful to keep a nut wrench with me.
The wood, the hide head, all the metal hardware and the case are all excellent quality.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Dave reset the frets and put on a new hide head for next to nothing. Pleasure to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The sapele block rim and neck, the wenge fretboard and the brass hardware. I also really like the curved bridge.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Purchased this at very reasonable price, because Dave had given it some use, but once Dave reset the frets and added a new hide head, the banjo may as well have been new. It plays much better than my other more reputable and more expensive banjo. Very responsive instrument and lovely sound.

Overall Rating: 10

Bishline: Heirloom

Submitted by wtbryant (see all reviews from this person) on 4/2/2019

Where Purchased: Individual

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

Sound

Outstanding. Better than anticipated, honestly. I knew the reviews of Bishline were good, but this banjo sounds as good as my Stelling which I've always thought was the best sounding banjo I've ever played.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was fine. I didn't like the light strings, but seeing I bought it used, that was probably the preference of the individual I bought it from rather than Bishline.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The Heirloom isn't the fanciest banjo Bishline makes. But, for the money it's hard to beat. I don't see one flaw on this banjo anywhere.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It's hard to believe this banjo is used and has been played as regularly as it has. I don't have to worry as to whether it "seems" it will last, it has lasted!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have interacted with Bishline in trying to ascertain other information about their banjos so I knew about this one (and others I was looking at). They were nothing but outstanding.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is an affordable yet stage-worthy banjo. All parts are top of the line. The only reason it's cheaper is the fretboard and headstock aren't "fancy". But they're beautiful nonetheless.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo replaced a Stelling Virginian that I played for 13 years on stage.  I haven't been playing much on stage lately. So, I sold the Virginian in hopes that the Bishline would replace it well.  I am greatly impressed and quite satisfied.  

Overall Rating: 10

JP (Jim Patten): Whitechapel Archtop tenor banjo

Submitted by ruraltradpunk (see all reviews from this person) on 3/27/2019

Where Purchased: online from friend

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

Sound

I play irish traditional music on the tenor banjo tuned GDAE and this JP Whitechapel suits it down to the ground - clear, crisp, loud, bright for an open back, almost like a cross between an open back and a resonator banjo. The Whitechapel tone ring (made from bell brass from the old Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London) was what attracted me to this model - all examples I've heard of it in the past were awesome.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Everyone I know with a JP says that Jim Patton sends his banjos out with great set-ups. As I'm the third owner of this banjo it needed some attention. New strings were in order as the set on it were two years old. I also tightened the Renaissance head, which had stretched over the years, and needed to tighten the coordinator rods because I think the original owner had tweaked them (they also swapped out the original Kershner tailpiece for an Oettinger style one, and swapped the 5/8 bridge for a half inch one - the action was too low for my liking but rose slightly after I'd made the above adjustments so by happy accident is now at a height that works for me. I'm rating the set up as 6 due to the state the banjo arrived in, not a reflection of the set ups Jim Patton does. All adjustments were easy to make by the way.

Setup Rating: 6

Appearance

The banjo is absolutely gorgeous, the Decaphonic rim has tulipwood inlay, the neck has lovely ornate inlays as well. It's the right balance between simplicity and bling. The banjo is also light and the neck profile is great, very comfortable to play.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Everything about the banjo screams "top quality" - this is an extremely well made, beautiful instrument. I would have no qualms gigging with it without a back up. I already have another lovely tenor banjo (Ome Juniper) but I think the JP is going to leap frog it as my main banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I emailed Jim right after I got the banjo to ask him a question about set up and he got back to me super fast. Lovely guy, and other folks I know with his banjos can attest to the same.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The standout components/features for me would be the Whitechapel tone ring and the Decaphonic rim. No weak/cheap parts as far as I can see, not planning on upgrading anything.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I've been a big fan of Jim Patton's work for several years now and have always wanted one of his Whitechapel archtops. I got lucky in that a friend offered to sell his to me. Many of my favourite tenor banjo players have JP banjos (Angela Usher, Stevie Dunne, John & Maggie Carty, Alan Reid)  - I've been delighted to see how popular Jim's banjos are getting (including in the States) and won't part with this banjo for anything! Ordering a Calton case for it this week!

Overall Rating: 10

Deering: Goodtime Classic Scooped neck open back

Submitted by Ed Banjer (see all reviews from this person) on 3/23/2019

Where Purchased: Strait Music Austin Texas

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: $650 ($US)

Sound

I installed a Schatten B-02 pickup on this banjo and when plugged into my LR Baggs Gigpro preamp, sounds great through a live PA. This banjo makes bad sounds, but in a good way!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I had the banjo setup by a professional banjo technician. I do this automatically every time I buy a new instrument. I put a fiberskin head on it. Also, when I switched to medium strings, the bridge snapped in half so I bought a Bart bridge and it works great. Comes installed with standard planetary tuners. Tuners have a sweet spot, not as smooth as the Gotoh tuners.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I like the mahogany stain. Never was a fan of the blonde look of regular Goodtime banjos. But the reddish mahogany stain has a classic look to it. Also, the tuner pegs are located on the back of the headstock, unlike the standard Goodtimes that have tuners on the sides like a guitar.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The fifth string peg broke one time and I had to have an aftermarket fifth string peg drilled in and installed. My instructor joked that I turned the peg too much but I told him I only turned the knob to tune it and I never took a screwdriver to the screw in the top of the tuning knob. Anyways, this banjo is reliable. I use it onstage for open mics because of the pickup I installed on it. I have a nicer custom banjo but no pickup on that one.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

All of my repairs have been done local. Never shipped banjo to Deering for anything.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Well, considering I have had to change out fifth string peg and bridge as well as putting a new head on it. I would say this is a Frankenstein banjo put together with TLC but out of spare parts and cemetery finds.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Nice little banjo. Despite its shortcomings, I have invested in keeping it playing and onstage as best I can. If I have to buy another gigging banjo, I will probably try to steer towards a company that does not support the NRA.

Overall Rating: 9

Companion Custom Banjos: Rb-75

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

Where Purchased: Companion custom banjos

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

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

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

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

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

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

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

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

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

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

Customer Service: 10

Components

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

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

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

Overall Rating: 10

Pisgah: 12" Custom Maple Tubaphone

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

Where Purchased: Denver Folklore Center

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

Sound

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

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

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

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

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

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

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

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

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

Customer Service: 10

Components

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

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Totally pleased with this tubaphone banjo!!

A definite keeper!

Overall Rating: 10

Alvarez: Minstel 4289 5 Star (Wreath Inlay)

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

Where Purchased: Personal sale

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

Sound

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

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

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

Setup Rating: 2

Appearance

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

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

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

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

Company no longer in Business

Customer Service: 1

Components

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

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 9

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

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

Where Purchased: Music Emporium - Lexington MA

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

Sound

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

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

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

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

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

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

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

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

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

Customer Service: 10

Components

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

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

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

Overall Rating: 10

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