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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!

6832 reviews in the archive.

Pisgah  12" Dobson Rambler Banjo Reviews

Submitted by seanfidheall (see all reviews from this person) on 2/6/2019

Where Purchased: Gryphon Stringed Instruments

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: 1345 ($US)

Sound

Sound is such a subjective thing. For me, I have yet to find a 12” that gives me the sound I want with the exception of a spun-over Dobson. This is particularly true in tunings that lower the bass strings below standard G tuning. The first time I played Patrick’s Rambler I was amazed at how balanced and civilized it was. And the ethereal qualities of the Dobson tone ring… I knew I’d found best 12” for my taste. I’ve played another by a different maker. A lovely thing, but it has nothing over the PIsgah. And that one was a thousand more.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was spot on. I haven’t changed a thing.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

No imperfections. Not one.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I have no experience with a Richlite fret board but I have no trepidations about it.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Patrick a few times. I really like the guy personally, and respect his abilities. He is a pleasure to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Dobson was spot on with the original spun-over rim/Dobson tone ring combo for my sound preferences. I so glad Patrick is making it. Top quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Well, I’m going to buy more from this maker. I want something in a persimmon fingerboard. It would be quite unique. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Paul Forsythe (see all reviews from this person) on 1/9/2019

Where Purchased: Banjo Studio

Year Purchased: 2018
Price Paid: 1195.00 ($US)

Sound

this banjo sounds amazing

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

gorgeous a work of art

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I can't imagine finding better value for money anywhere,this is a great banjo in every way,I'm very very happy with my Pisgah Banjo,you could be too!!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by talknormal (see all reviews from this person) on 12/10/2017

Where Purchased: Elderly

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1500 ($US)

Sound

NB this banjo has a few bonuses, hence the slightly heftier price tag: a John Balch head, and copper rim with brass hardware. This model is walnut.

I got this banjo in the mail from Elderly recently and I have to join the chorus singing Pisgah's praises! This instrument sounds simply amazing--it makes my prior banjos sound like toys. I can't enthuse enough about it. I won't do it justice describing the sound, but it's very warm, rich, full and woody -- a lot of sustain, great deep low end, and crisp (but not overly sharp/bright) ringing high end. As some describe Dobson tone rings, the sound feels really "subtle." At the same time, there's a great punchiness or pop to it (maybe partly due to the spunover rim?), but not in an overwhelming way. The sound is also very focused, a quality I associate more with 11" rims. It's also the quietest banjo I've owned, which for me is the only possible mark against the sound as I often play in loud settings (eg bars) and with other noisy instruments.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was excellent out of the box! The action is perfect (for me), pretty low without fret buzz. Head tension also perfect. Elderly installed railroad spikes for free (that's so cool! I've always had to pay for them when ordering banjos from other stores).

I intend to add an armrest, as it didn't come with one, and will probably experiment with bridges for fun, but I have no plans for significant setup changes -- this is also unusual for me and a testament to the banjo quality (as I typically mess with everything after getting a new instrument)

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is gorgeous, very minimalist (no inlays), understated, excellent craftsmanship. The color scheme with the copper rim, brass hardware, and walnut neck is A+

I have one slightly nitpicky problem, which is appearance-related but actually more substantial than that: I wish the dot markers on the side of the fingerboard were a bit larger/more prominent. Since there are no fret markers on the actual fretboard (which does look cool), those little dots are the only things to help you visually track your hand position, and as someone who plays in dark bars, I think they're just too tiny. Also: I wish there were two dots to distinguish the octave fret -- this only has single dots.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Again, the craftsmanship across the board seems really phenomenal, the tuners and the rest of the hardware look top notch (truthfully, more expensive-looking than banjos I've spent more $ on)--I don't anticipate any problems with it. I expect the main reliability variable is just the fact that the head is skin (obvs not a manufacturer problem). That combined with the quiet volume and not-very-prominently marked fretboard means that this will probably not be a main gigging, workhorse, or travel banjo for me... even if I enjoy playing and listening to it the most.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I dealt with Elderly, which relayed info back and forth to Patrick -- Elderly was great, and I assume Patrick was very responsive too based on how quickly communications went. Elderly and Pisgah worked together to get exactly the specs I wanted (walnut neck, short scale, 12" rim, copper spunover, brass hardware, Balch head, etc).

It took a while to get the banjo from Pisgah! About 6 mos, and about twice as long as they originally estimated. But I have zero qualms about the wait considering the caliber instrument I ended up with, and given that I was essentially getting a custom banjo.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I paid an extra $100 for the rim and hardware, an extra $50 for the head, and I'm really glad I did! Again, not planning to mess with the components much. I'm also fond of the no knot-style tailpiece they use.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I wish there was a "playability" section in this review -- if there were, I'd give it a 10. The banjo feels amazing to play, really a pleasure. The string spacing is wider than my previous banjos (but not unusually wide for an old time banjo), and I love it, the larger margin of error has cleaned up my playing a lot. And the neck feels great (some makers use finish that makes the wood feel sticky/tacky, I hate it). I do wish the neck were a bit slimmer, as my hands are very small but that's a personal preference situation (it's not an unusually clubby neck, not as fat as Rickard or Chuck Lee's I've played, eg).

Overall comments: getting this banjo was practically a religious experience -- again, I really can't enthuse enough about it. I'm especially amazed at how Pisgah can keep the price tag so low -- I've played much more expensive banjos that this one easily holds up to. And I've owned banjos similarly priced or slightly more expensive (including some really decent ones by comparable small manufacturers), and IMO this banjo blows them away in sound, playability, and overall workmanship. This is hands down the best bang-for-buck banjo I've played. And that Pisgah also works to be an ethical/sustainable company is even better. As sometimes happens with great instruments, I can notice it having a subtlely transformative effect on some of my playing techniques (for the better!), and it has kind of a understated elegance that's inciting me to think about banjo music altogether a little differently.

Overall Rating: 10

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