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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!

6918 reviews in the archive.

Pisgah  12" Rambler Special with Dobson Tone Ring Banjo Reviews

Submitted by Danny D (see all reviews from this person) on 2/18/2020

Where Purchased: From Patrick Heavner Owner

Year Purchased: 2020
Price Paid: $2K historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play Straight Clawhammer, Drop Thumb, some Overhand and fingerpick (not Scruggs). This banjo Shines in all my chosen styles. Its very responsive for my Appalachian style with a great old time cluck.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

This is a banjo Patrick built for himself to keep. It was set up for his personal playing style which the action was a bit too high for me and I wanted my own personal string choice. All it took was for me to replace the bridge with a Gary Sosebee 5/8ths vintage Maple with a compensated 3rd and my personal string choice which was fast and simple.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is simply Gorgeous. The neck is superior Flamed Maple as is the Dowel and stained a beautiful vintage brown color which shows off the flame very well. It has the vintage headstock shape with his custom star inlay. The fret board is black looks like Ebony but may be Richlite, I didn’t ask, with copper dot inlay which he also used for the side dot markers. All work is flawless and the neck shape has a very pleasant V shape which feels perfect in the hand.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The Hardware is Beautiful. It’s the short scale 12” Dobson Special model Which has a rolled Copper over Maple with aged brass hardware through out including the tuners and his Hawk tail piece. Again, all work here is flawless as well and the aesthetic gives the banjo an 1800 / to early 1900s era banjo only its brand new, very sturdy and extremely dependable. A bit heavier than I expected but its weight is very acceptable. It doesn’t feel flimsy, it feels like Quality.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Patrick is a great guy, very helpful with any questions / answers you might have or needs regarding the build.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The craftsmanship of the banjo as a whole from the feel, wood choice, visual and sound are all great components.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is not what I expected.  It far exceeded any preconceived notions I had.  This is an outstanding instrument which would please most any level player or playing style.  I’m giving all 10s in this review because it deserves it.  I have no ties with Patrick and was just lucky to catch him at the right moment to purchase his personal build.  To me, the feel, sound, quality and visual image of this banjo are all standout components.  I’m no newbie to builders either.  Over the last decade in learning to play, acquire, buy, sell and trade banjos, I’ve had the privilege of owning just about all the top end banjos out there which are all premier instruments for the most part.  It took a while for me to make a decision to find a Pisgah for myself but what I found was a banjo that rates right up there with the best.  This is a keeper.  Its a special build he can and may use as a template for some future builds.  I highly recommend it.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Mudderhen (see all reviews from this person) on 5/3/2019

Where Purchased: Spendrift Guitars

Year Purchased: 2019
Price Paid: $1100 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This is the third banjo I have owned and, like many, I started with a Goodtime (12" Americana) and have been in search of that perfect tone. My second was a Deering Deluxe, but I was still searching - until I discovered this gem. The sound is crisp and clear - just bright enough and just deep enough to call it a very well-balanced sound. The Renaissance head and Dobson TR are a great combination for a really responsive result.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup is "nice". It took some getting used to since the action is set a little higher, even with a 1/2" bridge, than either of my other banjos but it didn't take long and now I really like it this way so it is the way it will stay.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is a "looker!" It has an aged-looking copper spun rim with aged brass hardware. The neck is walnut with a beautiful grain and finished to a very smooth luster. It feels great to my hand. I love the plain paddle type peghead with no design and no fret markers on the face of the neck. This is just personal preference, but that plain-jane look is something I was after. The side fret markers are nicely done in brass and it came ready-to-play with RR spikes already installed at #'s 7-9-10.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware on this instrument looks top-notch. I have no reason to doubt that it will last the life of the banjo without having issues. The fret wire is on the large side compared to the others, but I find I'm using an easier touch for fretting and sliding and getting good results.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I did have occasion to deal with the company. There is no armrest on my banjo and I am really more comfortable using one. However, I could not find anything with hardware to match the aged brass or copper and I did not want to add something that looks like it does not belong. So, I sent an email to the company web site to ask where I can source one and within an hour Patrick emailed me back to say that if I purchase one on their web site and add a note regarding exactly what I want, they would make one with aged brass hardware. Additionally, he made a suggestion as to which armrest might be more comfortable. I think that is a portrait of what excellent service should look like.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything about this banjo from the walnut neck and dowel to the aged hardware seems solid. The stock Renaissance head has a great sound and, in fact, I've noticed others in my circle of friends use this same head. There is nothing cheap about the construction and it looks to be done with the utmost craftsmanship.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Perception of excellent tone is very subjective. As I mentioned, I was searching for what I think is ideal for me right now and this Pisgah Rambler Special is it. Will it be my last? Probably not - I'll get the bug and purchase something different at some point in the future that satisfies another type of tonal quality, but I think this one will always be a "keeper".

Overall Rating: 10

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