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!
6919 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Direct from Carl
Year Purchased: 2103
Price Paid: 1450.00 ($US)
I play quiet banjo, and this one's perfect. A little loud for playing at night in my apartment, but that's easily cured by stuffing a washcloth between the dowel and the head. I've never heard a calfskin head with a simple brass tone ring with volume that can reach the next county when played with bare fingers.
Sound Rating: 10
Perfect setup. The neck feels like it was made for my hands. Action is low enough for easy slides and round peak hammer ons and pull offs. The frets shine like gold. The string spacing is perfect and Carl marked the spot to put the bridge which was shipped flat against the head.
Setup Rating: 10
The neck is gorgeous in the style of the old Buckbees. Black walnut, one piece. The inlay is simple dots with a fleur de lis inlay on the peghead.
Appearance Rating: not rated
Last? The hardware already has lasted more than 100 years... the pot, anyway. If it hasn't gone out of round by now, nothing I can do to it will make it. There are a million hooks, raw brass like the body. I'm no metalurgist but I suspect it will outlive Carl, me, and the first ten guys combined who read this review.
Reliability Rating: 10
Carl is easy to deal with, responds to emails promptly, answers questions succinctly and clearly, ships promptly, packs as well as he carves, and that's mighty good. Warranty? I have no idea. I'm not going to need one. If something goes wrong, Carl will no doubt tell me how to fix it. But like I said, I'm sure there will never be an issue. This thing is built like Gibraltar.
Customer Service: 10
Are you kidding? Beautiful brass spin-over. Gorgeous walnut neck. Perfect frets. heavy duty tuners. Adjustable trussrod. Even the little thing that holds the neck to the rim is made to defy destruction. The only thing cheap about this thing is the price. And that's not really cheap, it's just inexpensive. This maker could charge double what I paid and his banjos would still sell.
Components Rating: 10
I bought my first banjo in 1953. I think it's a Buckbee. Pricetag was ten bucks. I negotiated it down to nine. It was in bad shape then, and it's in terrible shape now. But I still like it and still play it. I was thinking of trying to restore it or have it restored. Then I stumbled over Carl's ad on banjobuyer.com. I took one look at that restored raw brass pot with a gazillion hooks and said "that''s what I've been looking for!" So I wrote to Carl and boy am glad I did.
It has a loud and full sound, much more than you'd expect from a simple brass tone ring. But I've said all that in the fill-in spaces above. I have or have had all kinds of banjos: Deerings, Gibsons, a Paramount, a Wildwood, a Chanterelle . I've played Whyte Laydies, Tubaphones, Mastertones, Silver Bells and on and on. This is the most playable and to my ears the best sounding I've ever touched.
Shipping: the thing came packed in the postal equivalent of a Sherman Tank. It took three days from Quebec to Pennsylvania. Though I live here now, I'm from New York City. It takes a lot to impress me. This banjo and this maker impress me. You get the picture?
Overall Rating: 10
'Travel Guitar Package' 48 min
'Good Wednesday Morning' 2 hrs
'Fun Day' 3 hrs
'Custom Fretboard Size?' 6 hrs
'John Prine has died' 6 hrs