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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!

6792 reviews in the archive.

Pisgah  12" Walnut Dobson Banjo Reviews

Submitted by ironhead (see all reviews from this person) on 1/19/2019

Where Purchased: Purchased directly from Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: Approx $1700.00 ($US)

Sound

Rich, full sound, like a quality 12 inch banjo should produce.This was a custom build and I requested a John Balch goatskin head. I really like this addition as it produces the warm sound I was hoping for, along with the Dobson ring and the rest of the Pisgah build.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came set up perfectly for my style and preference. This isn't a big deal for me personally, as I like to tinker with head tension and various bridges etc. Good to know Pisgah is on top of their game in this respect.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Pisgah has a cool banjo design tool on their website for custom models. You scroll down the page and tick off your preferences. I picked walnut, Dobson, 12 inch rim, richlite fingerboard with dot inlays and side dots, paddle head stock with quilted star, Dobson heel, aged brass hardware, etc. Comprehensive and easy to use feature!! The banjo inlays, workmanship and quality of material used are excellent. I'm very pleased!

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Fit and finish looks great. The walnut is waxed, which looks and feels great. Not sticky at all!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I haven't dealt with customer service post purchase, but I dealt with Patrick during the build and he was always prompt and efficient when answering my questions. I'm sure if I had a problem it would be dealt with quickly.

Customer Service: 10

Components

No weak parts I can identify.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I've been wanting to play a Pisgah since they came on the banjo building scene a few years back. I own Reiter, Deering, Wildwood, Ramsey, and various other open back banjos. This Pisgah is up there with the best for sure. I'm quite impressed with the neck comfort and overall playability. The inlay isn't super fancy, but pleasing to the eye. I'm not a fan of extra fancy inlay anyway. I'm very pleased with the appearance of the banjo and the curved S type brass plated scoop is a nice option.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Rumlegs (see all reviews from this person) on 1/30/2017

Where Purchased: pisgahbanjos.com

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1,345 ($US)

Sound

This is the nicest sounding banjo I have played. There's not much variety in available banjos in New Zealand so I done my homework and fell in love with the sound of these banjos in their youtube videos. (It sounds even better in the flesh). So purchased this as a custom order via Patrick Heavner himself. The Dobson tone ring can really make clawhammer playing as murky and haunting or as bright and crisp as ya want it to sound. All with that nice Dobson glow.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It only arrived the other day but everything looks and feels perfect. All I had to do was set the bridge (He'd marked the location) and tune her up. As soon as that happened I pulled a sickie from work because I couldn't put it down. The new string sound Is starting to settle down which is making it sound even better.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo neck and body is made out of Walnut with beautiful visible grain, The rim cap I believe is cherry. The fretboard Is persimmon which feels nice on the fingers. Not at all slippery like some can be. I had Patrick put a custom "S" shaped frailing scoop on it. And the hardware I requested be Brass with black tuning pegs. This really adds to the look. I like how Pisgah's banjos look simple and straight to the point. I'm personally not a fan of fancy fretboard inlay.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I don't see why on earth it won't last. The tuners are Gotoh and the hardware is made by Balsam banjoworks. I intend it to be my go-to banjo for Many many years to come. If it did by some misfortune ever break I'd buy another.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dealt with Patrick through email. He was always friendly and fast to respond. In fact it was finished just before Xmas and my sons birthday and he held it for me until January when I could afford to foot the bill without hesitation.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything appears top quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by CliffHall (see all reviews from this person) on 5/20/2015

Where Purchased: Showed up at their shop.

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1200 ($US)

Sound

Very full and rich tone with unusually good sustain, great projection and clear, bell-like highs.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The nut was slightly rotated in the notch but it still played well. I hadn't notice it when I bought the banjo, at least partly because I was so smitten with the overall appearance, tonal characteristics, and playability of the thing. Patrick reset the nut perfectly and overnight(!) when I called it to his attention on a visit back to Asheville. I replaced the bridge with a slightly lower (.656) Snuffy Smith II compensated - a personal preference item. Also in the personal preference category, I replaced the admittedly attractive Renaissance head witha Sterns calfskin from John Balch. I think the calfskin rounds out the highs just a little bit, a sound that I like. It should be noted that a calfskin head is a selectable preference item available on ordering the banjo from Pisgah. I just fell in love with this banjo that was already in the shop, grabbed it and ran.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

A beautiful banjo. Walnut pot with a cherry cap. Walnut neck with a cherry pinstripe down the middle in the back. Persimmon fretboard and headplate with that killer cool quilted star wood inlay. Soimetimes I just look at it and say "Dayum!" Didn't upload pix because there are already similars on the site.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

American made unfinished brass hardware that's beginning to develop a natural patina that only time, not money, can buy. Tuners are smooth and trouble free. The wood is sealed with satin finish urethane that is virtually invisible, but should assure years of battleship level integrity. Totally reliable. Built like a brick house, only way more elegant.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Amazingly friendly, accomodating and super fast. Patrick also gave me a tour of his shop, machinery and tools. A very impressive operation.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The hardware, including tuners is really excellent. The wood is beautiful and solid. The components I replaced (bridge and head) were adequate but ordinary.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

Can't say enough about the playability of this instrument. The shape of the neck is very comfortable and makes my creaky old hands seem more agile. My favorite banjo. Probably not the only Pisgah Banjo I'll own. The other models are very attractive and have fine and unique tonal qualities. Get you one.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Evan Jungbauer (see all reviews from this person) on 5/4/2015

Where Purchased: The Podium

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 1100 ($US)

Sound

This banjo is extremely responsive to intricate slides and hammers. It has a full sound with a pleasant ring resulting from the dobson tone ring. But my favorite quality is that it has consistent volume between the high and low notes where as my old banjo had diminished lows and harsh highs. It has less volume than I'm used to, but take that with a grain of salt, because I played a resonator with a steel tone ring before this (I didn't know I'd be a frailer at the time).

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was set up and ready to go (I believe by Patrick himself). I did not make any changes to the acoustic aspect of the instrument. I did however install a K&K twin pickup with no luck. With the pickup installed the resonance of the instrument seemed to suffer so I uninstalled it and left it in its original shape.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I personally really enjoy the light shades of the North Carolina wood. It has an artisan appearance that isn't too flashy and draws on classic inspiration which fit the bill for me.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I've only had her for a few months, but shes been reliable so far! I bought this banjo because my old one had issues with losing its tune during live shows, but after playing 5-10 shows with it, this one is definitely more reliable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have not had any issues with the banjo so I don't know for sure. But I have a feeling the guys at Pisgah really care about their customers. I made an excited post on social media after my purchase and Patrick (the owner) commented directly on it to extend positive wishes with my new banjo. Also Jim at the Podium works directly with Patrick and has only good things to say about him.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I believe they use parts from Balsam Banjo Works, which are quality parts from my observation. Plus they're handmade right here in the good ol US of A which is a nice aspect.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

My experience has been a 10 with this one. I was between a Bart Reiter and a Pisgah, and I'm very happy with the decision I made. Nothing against the Reiter banjos, but I don't know if I'd have been as happy with my banjo had I gone the other route. I find myself wanting to play the instrument at least twice as often as with my old banjo (an RK-35). In summary the sound is great, the price is great, it looks great, and I am happy. Would recommend to anyone curious about these banjos.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by CaptainHindstraud (see all reviews from this person) on 1/17/2015

Where Purchased: Direct custom order

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 1360 ($US)

Sound

Set up with nylgut strings and calf skin head. Love the sound. The tone and attack has a huge range from bright, but mellow, to tight, clucky and plunky, depending on where you play the right hand.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Setup a bit high (came with a 3/4" bridge). I put an 11/16" bridge on to suit my playing. That's just a personal preference, though. All other setup was perfect.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Love the appearance, generally. Custom no-inlay fretboard is perfect.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It all looks good/sound; all raw brass.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Ordering process, suggestions from builder, fast email responses, quick shipment, etc., top notch.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The tuners The tuners don't seem to stay in tune from day to day, but not much change while playing for a short while.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I love the overall playability, appearance, and sound.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by jayridge (see all reviews from this person) on 9/1/2014

Where Purchased: Pisgah direct

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1295 ($US)

Sound

This is a loud banjo with lots of sustain. It holds up well against fiddle and my wife's resophic mandolin. The 12" rim puts the pitch in a lower and more pleasing position to my ears.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

This instrument was beautifully setup. Head tension was a little tight but that is a matter of taste. The neck angle adjust is clever.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

I love this banjo. Plain fretboard/headstock help accentuate the wood grain, rim and brass fittings. This instrument is light on the inlay and I think that is great.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

The steel rim is what sold me. I am not worried taking this camping. The wood and metalwork are top notch.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Patrick worked me personally to pick the right banjo. I greatly appreciate his advice and time spent taking photos.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The neck is fantastic. I am a guitarist first and this neck reminds me of an old archtop - a soft V profile with a wider nut. The brass fittings are also really nice.

Components Rating: 8

Overall Comments

I have been playing banjo for a little over a year. This is my first upgrade from a low end mass produced model. The differences are staggering. I wish I had not waited so long.

I am sure that any professional banjo would have been a noticeable improvement. However, between the customer service provided by Patrick, the looks, sound and supremely comfortable neck profile.. I am grateful I made the decision to buy this banjo and support Pisgah.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Banjo Poesy (see all reviews from this person) on 8/7/2014

Where Purchased: direct from Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1,250 ($US)

Sound

Love the sound of the 12" dobson tone ring for stringband clawhammer.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Came from Pisgah just the way i like it, didnt specify what i wanted, assumed they would and they did, i chose this banjo because the tone of you tube videos, those guys are banjo players, they know how to do it !

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Love the beauty of the wood, persimon fret board and head stock, walnut neck & pot with cherry trim. I love the headstock pattern and fret dots are wood, not pearl ! The beauty of this instrument comes from wood, not a bunch of shinny pearl !

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Im sure the hardware will prove to be good.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I think the process from emailing Pat that i wanted a 12" dobson to telling him how much i loved it was 5 or 6 emails and he promply answered every one. It was an easy process to go through.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The components appear to be top notch !

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I began playing bluegrass banjo spring of 2006, i bought 3 resonator banjos along the way, starting with a beginner, and they were all good banjos, but when i began playing claw hammer, bluegrass just disappeared, and though i have wanted an open back banjo for quite awhile now, i could never decide on what to buy until i found the you tube videos of the Pisgah 12" Dobson. Having this banjo for a few days i am so glad i went the years without an open back because it was worth the wait to finally find the Pisgah !  I love this banjo !

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by rmurfield (see all reviews from this person) on 5/14/2014

Where Purchased: From Maker

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1325 ($US)

Sound

I looked all over the internet to find the sound I wanted for my banjo. Listening through other's microphones and my speakers is always a risk, but I was happy to have a sound even better than expected. The banjo has great sustain, a big sound with plenty of volume. I can make a rumbly roar on the low end and the high notes are clear with just enough seperation. I can also get a great variety of tones depending where on the head/scoop I play and how hard I play. The notes ring clear and loud all the way up the fetboard. There is a great, easy cluck over the sweet spot on the scoop. This is a truely wonderful sounding instrument! As said before, it exceed my expectations.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjos was ready to go, there were pencil marks for where the bridge went and that was that. I ordered a moon bridge for it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I chose to have a cherry neck with a walnut rim and a vintage heel. Pat also asked me if I wanted brass hardware which I opted for. I'm happy I did. I tell myself that the sound is the most important part, but even with the great sound, the looks of this banjo add a lot to the pride of owning it.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

No worries. It looks like should last a very long time.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Pat was very quick to respond to any questions or changes in my order. He was super friendly and always happy to help.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything on the banjo seems top or the line to me. It feels very sturdy. The tuners are the same ones that are use on many high end banjos. I was surprised at how light the banjo is, especially for the big sound that it produces.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I am very pleased with this banjo! I could go on, but I'd rather be playing it.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by ahswan (see all reviews from this person) on 12/19/2013

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjo Company

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: 1375 ($US)

Sound

The sound of this banjo is amazing. It has the classic Dobson tone ring sound and the 12" Walnut rim gives it a great, solid low end. And, it really projects. To me, this provides a great sound for old time and folk styles and will certainly hold its own in any kind of setting.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came from Pisgah with a 1/2" bridge, and the setup was perfect with that bridge. I'm experimenting with 5/8" bridges, which brings the action up a bit high, but is still extremely playable. I do prefer a 5/8" bridge, and Patrick has been very helpful in answering questions about how to adjust it to my liking.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is a beautiful instrument. Mine is a walnut neck and rim with a cherry rim cap and persimmon heel cap, and the finish allows the wood's natural beauty to come through. The persimmon fretboard is really unique, and adds a lot of character. Overall, it's very neat and clean.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This appears to be a very solid instrument, and I expect that it will outlive me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I live on the opposite side of the country, so have dealt with Patrick via phone and e-mail, and he has always been very responsive, and always willing to answer questions. I have no doubt that they will stand behind their instruments.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The hardware all seem top quality. I had them add an S-scoop, which was done very well. I am really glad I made the extra investment in the S-scoop, as I tend to play right along the scoop edge. The back of the neck has a v-shape which I was not used to, but find that it allows for a very natural hand position and is a very "fast" neck. I adapted to it in about 30 seconds.... Everything on this banjo is top quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I was a tad nervous about having an instrument built for me when I had never actually seen a Pisgah banjo in person, but relied on the reviews I read. Within moments of opening the box, I was glad I had trusted my instincts.  I like the fact that this is a truly Appalachian-made banjo, from Appalachian hardwoods. and you can talk to the actual builders. It looks and sounds authentic.  And, the fact that it's hand-made in a completely solar-powered shop is a nice touch.

Update: As I've played this banjo for a month or so now, I find that I am still impressed every time I pick it up.  It's just a beautiful sounding instrument.  I am also impressed with the intonation, which is as perfect as a banjo can get. I use compensated or moon bridges on most of my other banjos, but I've found no need on this one. 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Ragtimejoe (see all reviews from this person) on 12/16/2013

Where Purchased: Direct

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The sound is a very good balance between a modern old time banjo sound (now there’s and oxymoron) and an archaic sounding banjo, at least to my ear. I find this to be a very good balance between all the various ranges of sounds, especially given the primitive appearance of their banjos using local woods.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I’ve owned lots of open back banjos. I had tried an early Pisgah and found the action too high for my taste and had passed on the banjo, but had seen lots of potential in Patrick’s work. A few months ago my wife and I were in Ashville and decided to look up Pisgah banjos and check out their current work. Patrick graciously showed us around the shop and how they did things. I noticed a banjo that was set up exactly how I wanted, low with a 5/8’ bridge. I asked Patrick if he could make me a banjo with action just like that. He assured me he could. The banjo came in exactly as promised.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I really like the appreance of the instrument. It has a primative sort of appreance, while still have all the technical advantages of modern techology

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I don't have any doubts about the quailty of the instrument

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I don't know specifically what the length of the warranty is, but I believe Patrick will fix any problems that come up with the banjo

Customer Service: 10

Components

I think the Dobson tone ring is really nice. The only things that I would change are things that I didn't think to ask them to do in the first place. Thant's my fault, not their's.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I really like this banjo and intend for it to be a long term keep for me. I ordered it with an Access III gig bag, a really nice accessory for an open back banjo. Communication has been first rate. I look for these folks to be around a long while and make a real impact on the market

Overall Rating: 10

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