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!
7163 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Quail Creek Website
Year Purchased: 2021
Price Paid: $2500 ($US)
I have two preferences for open back banjos: Ear-splitting Whyte Lady rings on 11" pots for jazzy groups, and Dobson rings on 12" pots for actual old time music and home picking. This banjo is set up with a 12" pot and a Dobson ring, and it is, in my opinion, the quintessential clawhammer banjo tone that I think most people tend to think of.
Despite being almost as loud as my archtop resonator, this banjo has no need for a rag in the pot to tone it down whatsoever. No funky overtones, nothing undesirable lingering in the notes after striking. The Dobson ring is like a bell with every note. Being used to renaissance heads, the hide skin head provides a familiar tone- but unique all its own. I don't think I could go back to the plastic and am already considering a skin head on my other open back.
This banjo sports a semi-fretless design, so you also get the fun microtonal qualities (and learning curve) of playing fretless. Despite not having much fretless experience prior, it's not hard at all to make pretty sounds come from it. I could not ask for a better sounding banjo.
Sound Rating: 10
All I needed to do was tighten two nuts after I opened the box.
The banjo came with a Moon bridge which I have no intention of swapping out. I am constantly tinkering on my other banjos with new bridges, nuts, and strings, and I really don't have a need to do that with this one.
I'm not sure which strings Lindsay sets these banjos up with, but these aren't my favorite. This has no detraction whatsoever from the instrument, I'll swap out to what I prefer when I feel a need to.
The action on the banjo is set up exactly where it needs to be for comfortable playing. If you prefer a super high or a super low action, I would make that known to Lindsay so that he can accommodate you on that. That said, the action on my banjo is right in line with where I want it. No weird buzzes, and still easy to fret up the neck.
Lindsay set the fifth string nut up higher than I'm used to, this seems to be pretty standard on his banjos. In doing so, the fifth string is in line with the rest of the strings, so there's no need to use a bridge with a raised fifth string. I like this, though it does sharpen the fifth string significantly when I capo it on the railroad spike.
If you've held Pisgahs and other dedicated old time banjos, you'll already be familiar with the "chunkier" setup that open back banjos in this class have. My experience until now has been on a bluegrass banjo and on a Gretsch import with a thin neck. The neck on this banjo is way thicker than I'm used to, but that's been an easy adjustment.
Overall, the banjo really couldn't be set up any better than it already is. It's apparent how much Lindsay cares about every banjo he builds.
Setup Rating: 10
This banjo was built to my requests so my own bias is heavily at play here. Lindsay did exactly what I asked for on the inlays (flying kestrel and star on the headstock, and an intricate silhouette of North Carolina at the seventh fret). This banjo is nothing short of gorgeous and catches everyone's eyes. It's a truly unique instrument.
The color of the stain is exactly what I asked for, which unfortunately isn't captured well in any photo I take. The banjo has a deep red hue in a wood stain, and it's absolutely gorgeous. The hardware is all standard stuff with no issues whatsoever. Pisgah tailpiece, Balsam brass hardware, etc.
The brass plates Lindsay sized to the fretboard for the frailing scoop and the fretless portion are perfect. Maintenance of all brass hardware is up to the user, not the builder- I'm already developing some nice wear on the fretless portion and I'm excited to see how that looks in the future.
Appearance Rating: 10
I don't see any reason why this banjo would ever "fail" in the future for any reason beyond my own negligence. The hardware is solid, the brass is harder than my fingers, and I haven't had any luck wiping the finish off with my fingers. Honestly, this banjo is built to be handed down the family line, and that's exactly what I intend for it.
Reliability Rating: 10
Lindsay is friendly and maintained constant communication throughout the entire build. Lindsay sends photos every step of the way and really goes out of his way to make sure your banjo is just that, your banjo.
Customer Service: 10
Honestly, everything is pretty much what I would consider to be "standard" and that's by my own choosing. The option to use Rickard tuners or upgrade beyond what's really necessary is there, at the buyer's discretion. The sky really is limitless for what you want on your own banjo, but everything Lindsay uses is rock solid.
Components Rating: 10
Lindsay builds every banjo according to the customer's request. When I came to him for a banjo to dedicate to my daughter, he gave me exactly what I asked for. I had my choice of builders for this one, but his semi fretless Man In The Moon model is what attracted me most. I knew I couldn't draw the inspiration from it and ask anyone else to make it, this banjo could only be built once and it had to be built by the right person. Lindsay delivered my dream to me, and I know my family will enjoy it for years and years after I do.
I asked Lindsay for my dream banjo, and he made it.
Overall Rating: 10
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