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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  Cherry Dobson Banjo Reviews

Submitted by Suzannah (see all reviews from this person) on 6/4/2017

Where Purchased: Gruhn Guitars

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1300 ($US)

Sound

After a couple years of trying to play clawhammer on my husband's bluegrass banjo, we went over to Nashville on a mission to find something that would sound like the banjo I heard in my head. After four days of combing the music stores and pawnshops and talking to makers, the 12" Pisgah open-back was the one I kept returning for. Warm and sustaining enough for a lullaby but responsive to every hammer and pull in a breakdown, it's an instrument that I can sing with--or she can sing just fine for herself.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The action, intonation, and head tension were just fine when I got her. But I'd be surprised if there was any problem, after the Pisgah folks and Gruhn techs got through with a new instrument. I've added spikes for capoing, and the persimmon fretboard didn't seem to make any trouble; but of course that's just my decision.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

She's an absolute beauty. It's a simple look, with straight-sided peghead and wood dots on the fretboard, a light finish that lets the cherrywood show through in its natural tones, and a frailing scoop that's just scooped, not flourished. But it suits me down to the ground! And as a plus, all her hardware is unpolished brass (with black bakelite tuning knobs) ... so she couldn't look any more steampunk without nine gears and a loupe.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This thing will outlive me and probably my daughter too. I can't imagine her /not/ sounding good; being actively on fire, or catching a few bullet holes, would just add to the visual effect.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

After returning home from our pilgrimage to the Nashville music stores, I was able to find PBCO online and read about the company. I am now doubly pleased that I went with them. Their mission is what I would hope all makers would be striving for. I am a bit of a gearhead and when I found they had branded gig bags, I exchanged a few emails with Patrick and was delighted but not actually surprised to find him so gracious and customer friendly. I now have a branded gig bag so it can help me sing their praises by having folks ask me about them.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Well, again, just can't beat that brass hardware.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Their banjos are hand made and you can tell that love and care goes into each one.  This is a lifetime banjo for me (she has found her forever home).  This banjo is beautiful to look at in her simple lines and bright earthy hues.  The tone is warm and inviting.  The action is super sweet.  I love this instrument.  She makes my heart smile.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by dpdevendra (see all reviews from this person) on 2/12/2017

Where Purchased: Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1435 ($US)

Sound

I have always played 3 finger Scruggs style. Over the past3 or 4 months I started playing clawhammer style. I purchased this banjo to replicate some of the old-time sounds I have heard in recordings and at live events.

The banjo has a warm sound with a sweet sustain. Some banjos I listened to had harsh overtone. The Pisgah Dobson has a nice sustain that lingers long after the last string is plucked.
The top of the finger board has a frailing s-scoop that allows easy playing up the neck. This provides me with a variety of sound possibilities. I can get that klucking sound at the top of the neck or a little brighter bluegrass sound close the the bridge. The ren 12 inch head provides a warmer sound as well. The head is a bit tighter than some recommendations for the plunky sound. I’ll let it break in for awhile before I make any adjustments.

I have also replace the bridge with aMoon compensated heavy bridge. I am liking the sound even more.
When I took this banjo to my lesson last week, my instructor stopped me in the middle of the lesson to let me know how nice he liked the sound of the banjo. He then tried it out for himself. It took me awhile to get my banjo back because he was enjoying the sound while playing it for himself.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was setup just right. Tune up the strings and place the bridge at the pencil marks and I was off playing my new banjo. I spoke to Patrick about head tension. He indicated he usually likes a little tighter head to start out with so when the head relaxes a bit, it will be at the right tension and sound. I’ll let it break in before messing with the tension. The action is very good for playing clawhammer. The first 5 or so frets have a lower action. At the higher frets, the action is a little higher allowing easier playing up the neck. The strings are medium guage for the darker sound I suppose.

I have not made any setup changes except swapping out the bridge, I may loosen the head. For now I’ll just enjoy the banjo and let it break in before making any more adjustments.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This one has custom features including a vintage peg head with a star inlay, vintage heel, and s scoop. Its a standard scale and actually has some Curley figure in the neck. It has a walnut rim cap and walnut Vaneer under the fingerboard and center stripe down the neck.

For looks, it is not easy for me since I am blind. When I was looking for a banjo, Patrick sent me pictures of banjos. My wife saw the pictures and indicated it was “pretty”. My banjo instructor without any prompting said that it was a good looking banjo. The feel of the neck seems more natural to me. It does not have the high lacquered smooth finish of some of my other banjos whichI like for this banjo. I wanted a more traditional look and feel just like it came out of the mountains of North Carolina, just like the sound.


Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo seems solid. It is not as heavy as my resonator banjos with the tone rings and everything seems to be well put together. The fit and finish are top notch. It appears to be a sturdy banjo. The tuners are solid in feel and keep the banjo in tune during playing and over night.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I dealt directly with Patrick over the phone and through emails. He has been very responsive in all my questions. He started by asking me what I was looking for in a banjo. After listing the features I was looking for, he made some recommendations. Fortunately he had some banjos already made up and provided me with some discount pricing. I had the banjo in less than a week from the time I started my inquires into his banjos. I had listened to most if not all the models of the Pisgah banjos on youtube, so I had a good idea of how each of the banjos sounded. Once he recommended the Pisgah Dobson banjo, this confirmed what I had thought would be the banjo for me.

I have not had any need for repair questions. I have submitted a few questions on setup and specifications. He has always responded within a day or so. His emails come to me in the middle of the night usually, long after I have gone to bed.

The warranty is a limited life-time warranty for the original owner.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brass hardware, vintage peg head and heel, s-scoop, renn. head, hardshell case.

Some of the standout components for me are the tuners, the shape of the neck, the s-shape frailing scoop, and the action setup. They all seem top notch. I do not see any part that is below average or need replaced.

The only change has been the bridge. Patrick admitted he did not put a high-quality bridge on this panjo. He recommended a couple bridges. This is not a big deal for me since the bridges can be a personal preference and usually run about $30 each. I purchased 2 bridges to try out.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a 12" cherry Dobson custom banjo

I was looking for a good open back banjo that would let me get that old-time sound when playing claw hammer.  I started looking at various makers.  I have a Nechville resonator banjo, that I love.  I looked at the Deerings as well.  I went over to the banjo hangout reviews and found a series of outstanding reviews for the Pisgah banjos and the company.  I read up more and saw that all the wood components are made from local woods.  This all sounded good to me.  Then I started noticing the prices and I was sold that this was the banjo and banjo company I wanted to support.  The more research I did the more I was convinced that I had found my new banjo.  After speaking with Patrick there was no doubt that I was going to get one of their banjos.  I have had my new banjo for a couple weeks now and have played it every day since.  It just keeps getting better. 

 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by wimbollaert (see all reviews from this person) on 5/25/2016

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjo Company (online)

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 1295 ($US)

Sound

The sound is very solid and easy to tune. A very deep resonance, combined with the wooden counterpart gives it something unique. Not to metalsounded, a very enjoyable sound to play with. Especially if you like some oldschool tunes, but even so for classic rock tunes. An allrounder.




Sound Rating: 9

Setup

It had a long journey so the tension and bridge was released. But setup was quick. Easy to tune. Especially with a Snark SN-8 super tight (recommended).

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Fantastic looking handmade model. Cherry model with persimmon fingerboard. All in native wood with very smooth and accurate finish. A bit heavier than the average banjo but good to handle.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It looks like it is ready to survive me.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I orderded it by e-mail via Patrick Heavner. He gave me advice on sound an specs. Communications were superb. Sended it to Belgium without any problems.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Looks all solid. No real upgrade needed. The bridge is maybe the weakest part.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

If you look for an affordable handmade banjo with unique sound and fun to play, check the Pisgah Banjo Company!

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by Beardpicker (see all reviews from this person) on 5/9/2016

Where Purchased: Direct from Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2016
Price Paid: 1300 ($US)

Sound

Amazing sound! Clear crisp top end, and incredible bass! Great note definition..clean and not muddy. Even volume and balance across the strings and up & down the fretboard. The dobson tone ring adds a "perfect substance" to every note played. Great for my style of playing Gospel and Hymns, both modern and old time stuff.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Banjo came with string tension relieved and bridge laying flat. The bridge location was clearly marked on the head. Neck was slightly canted rotationally (most likely from rough handling during shipping even though banjo was expertly packed and protected) but an e-mail to Patrick @ Pisgah and speedy response provided direction for simple quick fix. Intonation was spot on, and action perfect in very aspect for my preferences

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Opted for the brass hardware, paddle headstock, and traditional boat type heel. Headstock inlay work is perfect and the wood selection could not be better. Beautiful grain, clarity and color on rim, neck and persimmon fretboard. This instrument is "old time simple elegance". If you want the "the real deal", you could not ask for a better looking banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is rock solid! Hardware substantial and first class. This instrument will be around in great playing condition long after I'm gone!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Visited Pisgah Banjo shop earlier this year. Patrick and company are first class! Throughout the order and building process any questions I had were quickly answered by e-mail or phone. That's rare these days! As stated above, slight "glitch" with neck upon receiving the banjo was quickly resolved by Patrick via e-mail.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Beautiful native Appalachian woods, heavy duty raw brass parts made in USA, and excellent brass Dobson tone ring.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The guys at Pisgah banjo make great, high quality, unique instruments, that appearance wise and more importantly tonally, will stand up to many others costing way more money. The Pisgah Cherry Dobson is not the only high quality banjo I own, but it is definitely as good, if not better than any I've ever played.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by banjoenzooka (see all reviews from this person) on 1/15/2015

Where Purchased: Pisgah

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1250 ($US)

Sound

Warm and slightly twangy but so much depth. Not used to the amount of richness that's normally lacking in machine made or mass produced banjos.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Everything was set, spare the bridge, which was a piece of cake since its placement was pre-sketched on the head.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Incredibly easy on the eyes. Beautiful, quality wood. Plus, it's all local (and therefore sustianable). The hardware is amazing. Raw brass, everything top-notch quality.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Yes -- this is all quality, American made, handmade goodness. I've only had it for several days but I can see why it wouldn't last for a very, very long time

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

This was the best part. Patrick was incredibly accomodating to everything I wanted (custom finish) and was incredibly knowledgable. Absolutely impeccable service.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nope. There's nothing cheap about this, except the affordability for a banjo of this quality. Rare find nowadays

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Honestly, this was just a great purchase and a great experience. The banjo is beautiful, sounds beautiful and the whole experience, from buying to the customization to the super quick turnaround was awesome.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by abauer (see all reviews from this person) on 1/3/2015

Where Purchased: direct

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1250 ($US)

Sound

The sound is very rich. I'm used to playing clawhammer on a maple open-back with no tone ring. This banjo has substantially more depth of sound and deeper bass response. The strings ring brightly with the Dobson tone ring and it has a great woody, plunky character with great clarity--no muddiness to the sound. To my ear, it's every bit as bright as my other banjo, but with considerably more range and depth.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was shipped to me, but it was all setup and strung--I just had to set the bridge (the proper location was marked on the head already) and tune it. It's great setup as-is with no adjustments needed.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This is a cherry rim and neck with persimmon fretboard. I chose the brass hardware, the folk heel, and the paddle headstock. I love the simple, clean lines of this banjo. The quilted star inlay is understated and beautiful. I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and I really appreciate the tradition that's built into the instrument. I was very impressed with the level of craftsmanship. The finish is perfect and the character of the wood shines through. I'm excited to see how the cherry color develops as the years go by.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I've only owned the banjo for about a week now, so I'll update this if necessary, but to me the banjo hardware and build seem very sturdy. I don't have any concerns with the finish.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I dealt directly with Patrick Heavner at Pisgah. He was very helpful and friendly throughout the process. We corresponded via email and he was always very responsive, polite, and helpful, even sending pictures when the banjo was complete. It was less than a month between the time I initially contacted him, the banjo was built, and I had it delivered to me. The banjo comes with a lifetime warranty on the workmanship and wooden components, but I doubt it will be needed.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The banjo came with Gotoh brass tuners and brass hardware. It sounds great as is and I don't see any reason I'll need to swap out any components. I did consider adding an armrest to the banjo, but now that I've had a chance to play it, I don't think that will be necessary, it's plenty comfortable as-is.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall, I have nothing but positives to say about the banjo and the Pisgah Banjo Company.  I love the look and sound of the banjo and I'm proud to support a small business that's committed to the heritage of Appalachia.  The price is fantastic for the level of quality and service.  I look forward to playing this banjo for many years to come.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Michael Cypret (see all reviews from this person) on 12/1/2014

Where Purchased: Pisgah Banjo Company

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

Sound

This banjo has a nice full warm tone. It suits my goal of playing English folk music (50's, 60's and Morris) and some American old time tunes.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The action was very good. I had to make the typical adjustment to the g string. A very easy instrument to play

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

The appear is immaculate! I can't find any flaws on the entire instrument. The persimmon fretboard has a wonderful medium yellow tone with blackish streaks running up and down it. The finish is very nice. The hardware is of very good quality.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I haven't played it enough to tell of reliability. The workmanship and hardware lead me to believe it will do just fine.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service was absolutely excellent. I saw a Pisgah banjo with a rolled brass ring on a music web site. I wanted the Dobson tonering. I called the company and spoke immediately directly with the owner. He was very polite, courteous, and worked with me through telephone calls and e-mails to get the instrument I wanted to me in a very timely manner.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Componets are all American made and sourced locally (to the company's location). The tuning pegs are very easy to perform fine tuning of the instrument.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

American made, beautiful, made with regional hardwoods (cherry and persimmon, and with great direct owner participation in the making, customer service, and selling and shipping of the instrument.  I'll be ordering another one of their banjos if luck permits.

 

Overall Rating: 10

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