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: Deering Custom Shop
Warm, like a bell, bright with depth, clear and lovely tone on the sustain.
Sounds a little like an Ivanhoe--but better.
Sound Rating: 10
Came set up--sounds perfect to me!
Setup Rating: 10
Takes my breath away! The mermaid/shell inlays of abalone and pearl with etching are exquisite. The heel carving is a deep sea fighting fish. The walnut neck and abalone binding are lovely, as is the gold. It has a snap on resonator and the piece of burl walnut is stunning with a simple abalone trim.
I studied the big Tsumara (spell?) book for over a month before ordering this banjo and I don't think any other banjo in that book is as beautiful as this one! Even my beautiful Gabriella comes in second. :)
Appearance Rating: 10
No cheap parts--it is beautiful to the eye, ear, and soul.
Reliability Rating: 10
Deering went over the top on this banjo! The custom shop was proud of this banjo and it really shows! Carolina called me about every detail for over two years and I was beginning to think of her as a relative--we have talked so many times. Thank you--thank you--all the folks at Deering. Can you believe that it came all the way from California to Tallahassee, Florida in just one day? That was the quickest shipping I have ever seen!
Customer Service: 10
Love the new gears, love the new tailpiece. This is my first walnut banjo and now I am so glad Carolina recommended it.
Everything about this banjo is first class--the tone, the materials, the appearance.
The base model they started with was the GDL. Carolina suggested it because of the walnut and also because the abalone and ivoriod binding would really compliment all the abalone and pearl in the inlay.
The inlay was done by a wonderful artist named Arlene in the custom shop. I had originally ordered the Gabriella heel carving--but Arlene came up with a breathtaking drawing of a deep sea fish that was perfect. Other extras were the scooped fingerboard, 20 hole tonering, engraved truss rod cover, pop on resonator, new tuners and tailpiece, spikes for fifth string.
Components Rating: 10
Yes, I would recommend this banjo to anyone who wants a first class recording or concert banjo.
Please, please--do not steal it--I've waited my whole life for a banjo like this one. I'm not sure it could ever be exactly replaced.
Love it, love it, love it, love it! The inlay, the wood, the heel carving, the tone, the fingerboard--everything is my favorite feature.
I own two other Deering banjos. A Vega Old Time Wunder and a Gabriella. The Vega is lovely and has a very old time plunky tone--a great field banjo--but not in the same category as the "White Shell Laydie." The Gabriella, of course, is one of the finest banjos ever made (IMHO). It is like a golden, Brazilian rosewood museum piece. It is a rainbow of sound and sight. I love it--but my custom was made especially for me and fits my playing the best. :)
I've had a chance to play the following top of the line Deerings:
Gabriella, Ivanhoe, Golden Era, John Hartford and Calico--I think my "White Shell Laydie" is the best!
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: Elderly Instruments
Excellent. Has the fine ring of a tubaphone. As good as the original Vega I have. Fairly lound for an openback. It sounds so good at times I lose my place in playing when I listen to it.
Sound Rating: 10
came with 5th string spikes at10,11,12,13,15,17(remember, it's a long neck). I preferred a premounted skin head and put it on easily--long bracket hooks are supplied. It came with a frosted heas--second best. Unfortunately the 5th string pip had been replaced with a plastic one. This makes the 5th string out of tune when you use the spikes because of it's position just BEHIND the 8th fret (Deering uses a spike normally, and the 8th fret makes the original setting.)
Setup Rating: 9
The wood quality is excellent. Unfortunately, it is covered by a dark finish that makes it hard to see the fine detail of this presentation grade maple neck. Ordinary dot and star inlay with the Vega name above the tuners. Quite plain, but this is a copy of the original Seeger style Vega put out, and it looks pretty much the same.
Appearance Rating: 8
Hardware is heavy. I keep the head tight and it has stayed that way with nothing bending, breaking, or bowing for the last several years. I have an acid skin and there is some tarnishing on the arm rest. They do chrome plating if you ask for it. I sould have. You probably won't need it.
Reliability Rating: 10
Contact through Deering is automatic if you send in the warranty card. They give you an owners' card with s/n and information on how to properly set up and care for a banjo. It's basic; you'll learn more later, but it gets you started. It's best to call Deering. Response for me has been better than e-mail. The seller changed the 5th string pip as mentioned earlier; Deering still uses the spike (best).
Customer Service: 10
The hooks on the rim seem extra heavy. It's solid and heavily made, so don't plan to take it on your next mountain hike.
Components Rating: 10
I have no regrets in buying it. I'd buy one again if it were lost or stolen. While I can't remember the exact cost, I remember it was a pretty good chunk of change (change, heck) but it's a solid, well built banjo with excellent sound.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Steeve's Musique
A good sound. Not as loud as my Washburn B-16, but a great sound. This banjo have a wood tonering, the sound the banjo produce is more a traditional sound, rich and bright. I play any style. This banjo is versatile, whit it you can play everything.
Sound Rating: 8
The banjo was setup well when i buy it. The action on the banjo is perfect.
Setup Rating: 8
The wood seems of excellent quality. The banjo is simple, no flaws. Only mother of pearl dots and the Véga sighn on the banjo. A nice natural finish.
Appearance Rating: 7
Deering built very solid banjo. At the end, it's a quality product that will last.
Reliability Rating: 8
I have a one year warranty. Deeering offer a good customer service.
Customer Service: 7
The rim is three ply maple rim, the neck is hard rock maple, i have a two way ajustable truss rod in the neck, good tuning machines and a perfect finish. An ebony fingerboard. The components seems of good quality. The banjo is very light, you can carry it everywhere.
Components Rating: 8
I recommand this banjo for the price i paid. It have a good sound, it is very light, the playability is excellent and you can bring it everywhere you want. I like it for that. If it was stolen i will buy a Deering Véga No.2 for his better tuning machines and his more advance tonering (Tubaphone tonering).
Overall Rating: 8
Where Purchased: Acoustic Outfitters Music Shop; Stratham NH
Year Purchased: 2000
Price Paid: 2098 ($US)
It has a great sound; more
Sound Rating: 9
Action was too high. Gary, the owner at AOMC helped with that. I replaced all the tuners. The 5th string tuner had a plastic housing, so I installed a 30 year old Kroll I still had. The 4 peghead tuners were sticky, so I replaced with 5 stars. For that kind of money, Deering should provide quality tuners. The presto tailpiece cover came off, and I replaced it with a Kerschner style.
Setup Rating: 4
I was disappointed in the color, and the fact that it was a one-piece neck. Whoever cut the nut slot chipped the peghead veneer and didn't bother to fix it. Gary at AOMC fixed that. Some of the bracket shoes were loose...no excuse for that. I can't believe it got out the door at Deering with these flaws.
Now that I have replaced all 5 tuners, the armrest, and the tailpiece, I'm happy with it.
Reliability Rating: 4
When I e-mailed my complaints to Deering, I was pretty much ignored. They didn't acknowledge my specific complaints. They suggested I
Customer Service: 4
See previous comments. The high price reflects the
Components Rating: 2
If I were to buy another longneck, I'd locate a vintage pot, and have Wyatt Fawley fit it with one of his copy necks, which look great. The other alternative is to buy a 60's Vega original for $2800-$3000, or a '70's Martin/Vega for about $1800.
Overall Rating: 6
'Inopportune opportunity' 30 min
'Just think...' 1 hr
'Blackberry Blossom' 1 hr
'Anchoring Pinky??' 5 hrs
'Good Tuesday Morning' 7 hrs