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!
6918 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments
Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 521.00 ($US)
I play primarily two-finger index lead and clawhammer, probably about a 60/40 split. This particular instrument has a sound that I can only describe as a clear but mellow bell-like tone at the higher frets on the first and second string which blends with a less bell-like tone at the lower frets. The sound blends well; there is no place where you play a note and there is an obvious difference.
I knew this going into the purchase, but as a reminder: the Americana will not be as loud as a similarly built tone-ring equipped banjo. I have no problem with this, but if you are being accompanied by more than one or two other instruments, or if you play particularly softly, you may not get the volume you want.
I have had a chance to play Enochs, Pisgahs, and a lone OME openback, and I preferred the sound of the Deering. They all had good tone, but there was something about the Americana that I liked better. Like I have heard said, the Deerings seem to have a particular sound.
There are banjos that I played that sounded somewhat better, but not $900.00 better. This was pretty much exactly the sound that I was looking for.
Sound Rating: 9
I have had to make no setup changes yet, although I will try some different bridges and strings at some point in the future.
The Americana was set up at Elderly Instruments very well. It arrived well packed, and was still almost in tune. There is a little bit of intonation issue above the 12th fret on the dreaded 3rd string, but it is not enough of an issue for anyone but me to notice; it is perhaps 8 to 10 cents off. Certainly, it is not enough for me to bother with fitting a compensated bridge.
The action is perfect for my playing style. I have yet to take the ruler out and measure the action, but it seems to be perfect for me. With that said, I was a bassist for years, so it might be that I would not notice some problems with the action that others might. Still, it seems to be near perfect.
Setup Rating: 10
I prefer a more spartan and plain appearance, having never been a fan of excess inlays. I also like a blonde instrument. To me, this is what an 'Old Time' banjo should look like. A bluegrass instrument should look flashy; it is a stage and performance instrument. An old time instrument should look plainer, but still elegant.
If you do not like a blond instrument, then you should consider the Artisan.
There are no flaws that I have been able to find. The grain of the wood is pretty much perfect, there are no badly finished frets, no tooling marks, and so on.
I actually prefer the guitar style tuners, which go with the look of the Americana quite well. Planetary tuners are more authentic in many ways, but I never have liked them that well.
Appearance Rating: 8
I forsee no reliability issues with the Americana. The tuners seem to be high quality, the nut was cut well, and there are no issues with the wood grain that would lead me to believe that there will be anything prone to failure.
I do not play out, but there would be no question that I would trust this instrument to perform reliably. I have probably played this Deering 20 hours or so in the last 5 days and it has barely needed to be retuned.
Reliability Rating: 10
I have not had to use Deering's customer service, but I had several questions for Elderly leading up to the purchase, and there were no problems at all.
Customer Service: 10
Like many others, I was concerned at first about the lack of a truss-rod supported neck in the Goodtime line. After looking at the construction, I have no doubt that there will be no issues.
The quality of the tuners is more akin [although of a different type] to what was on my last really expensive bass, rather than what I would expect to be on an instrument that is offered at less than $1000.00. The tailpiece seems to be constructed well, although I am not as familiar with the different tailpieces as I am with the rest of the construction of a banjo.
Components Rating: 9
For whatever reason, when I was trying out banjos this summer, the Deering spoke out to me, more so than some of the others that I tried.
It fits my style well; I do not play in public, so a tone ring/additional volume was not necessary.
I also have always liked blonde instruments, so I had no problem with that.
Although there are some nicer fittings on the OMEs, Enochs, and so forth, I am perfectly happy with the Americana. Will I eventually have something custom? Certainly, but I am very happy with this banjo. I would have felt that it was a well constructed and well justified purchase even at $700.00. From what I have had a chance to play over the past year, it seems that I would have had to go into the $850.00 - $1000.00 range to have found something with the same quality and playability, ignoring the difference in appearance.
I would recommend this banjo for what I paid for it. With that said, if you have $800.00+ to spend, you might find something that fits you better if you are willing to consider used.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: CAPO'S MUSIC
Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 345 ($US)
learning clawhammer, love the scooped neck and 12" pot. Best setup (except spikes) ever on any banjo I've ever bought. Rich, full sound with plenty of bass.
Sound Rating: 10
perfect in all respects, though I intend to install a real skin head and gut strings, as I prefer a plunkier tone for my minimal and marginal clawhammer playing. I play Scruggs style well, but have my training wheels on for clawhammer.
Setup Rating: 10
Very nice maple and inlays. I always liked Strats and Tele's, so the one piece maple neck with no dark fingerboard is an interesting change.
Appearance Rating: 10
seems tough enough to me. Not a big fan of flat hooks and thin tension hoops BUT one has to take into consideration this entire rig is designed with weight and price points in mind. More massive tension hoop (notched) with stouter round hooks would increase weight and price points.
Reliability Rating: 10
didn't deal with Deering at all, price was reduced by Capo's due to blemishes and spike install I was dissatisfied about. But, Capos was happy and I ended up happy, so all is well that ends well and that's the nature of a good business transaction, both sides ends content.
Customer Service: 10
As mentioned, I'm not a fan of flat hooks or thinner unnotched tension hoops, BUT considerations must be made to keep price and weight friendly. As long as no one tries to tune the banjo head up to a B or C note, shouldn't be an issue anyhow, expect them to last forever with me as I intend to convert to gut strings anyhow (less tension).
Components Rating: 10
Obviously a heck of a lot of thought went into the perfect combination for a claw hammer banjo at this price point. I wouldn't do a thing different, I think having the neck scoop and ren head as option is good, because maybe not something everyone wants.
This is first Deering product I've ever owned, despite playing other buddies. Based on theirs, I routinely recommended goodtimes for beginner players in the past. I play Scruggs style proficiently and did play professional bluegrass banjo for a living when I was young, yet I'm not much at clawhammer. BUT, I know a great deal about banjos and construction and I'm VERY impressed with the Deering goodtime line. The only one I have ever wanted for myself was this 12" pot with neck scoop and weight and price and tone were all important considerations. With torn and herniated lower discs, there are days at a time when the only way I can suffer though the day is laying flat in bed or nearly flat in my recliner, to keep the pressure of my back. So, having a super light and good playing and sounding 12" pot (that I play over the scoop area) to learn clawhammer on is welcomed. And I like the light and cheap because I can prop it against the couch right beside my recliner for super easy retrieval without much concern of a tap or scratch, and easily lift it over the recliner arm, as it probably only weighs maybe 2-3 pounds. I'm not technically supposed to lift over 8 pounds per Doc, but I routinely do.
I would have no problem installing a stick on pickup in this pot or using a mike and playing this on stage, just for weight savings. It stays in tune, looks good, weight is perfect, plays very easy, etc. No complaints, no faults. In conclusion, if there were ever a musicians war and young folks were drafted to go play banjo in combat, this would be the M-1 carbine. Simple to use and get used to, light to carry, effective for the purpose, inexpensive and has all you need and nothing more. Just like the Fender Telecaster. I love my Gretsch Chet Atkins guitar with all the knobs and bigsby vibrato and gold plating and orange paint, etc, but a basic telecaster has all an electric guitarist truly needs. This banjo is same way for anyone wanting to play folky, old time, styles of banjo and wanting a 12" pot and wanting light weight, good tone and at this price point. All my 10 ratings are based on this consideration, what it's designed for and the weight and price point considerations.
Overall Rating: 10
'Keith D Tuners' 24 min
'Natures Odd Balls' 1 hr