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!
6919 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Avenue Music, Milwaukee
Year Purchased: 1989
Price Paid: 1900 ($US)
This banjo now has a Full, crisp sound. Good volume and crack for bluegrass.
Originally, this banjo's sounded "nice", but not real impressive. When I bought it, I didn't know that much about setup, so I just accepted it as "good as it gets." I recently got in touch with Kyle Smith who give it the "once-over." I was considering a Tony Pass rim, but turns out, it wasn't necessary. The Golden Era is capable of a pre-war sound as advertised, but wasn't set up properly by Deering.
Wow. Now this banjo is great, but Kyle had to make some significant modifications to it. Booming 4th string and mid-tones, with strong sustain. Set-up makes a huge difference, and I'm glad I learned that.
Sound Rating: 8
Years after purchase, I learned that the factory setup was horrible. The tone ring was wedged on the rim so tight, it took Kyle a whole day to get it off. The neck was fitted to the pot at a funny angle that negatively effected the action and intonation. Kyle had to do some delicate surgery to reshape the heel. The 12th - 22nd frets were poorly crowned (rough, with sharp edges).
After a $300+ investment w/ Kyle Smith, all these things are fixed. It's a whole new instrument: easy to play, great sound and intonation.
I won't slam Deering's workmanship because I haven't done a head-to-head comparison of their other banjos. However, this banjo snuck thru with poor setup. (maybe they let a new apprentice do the work). I'm rating the factory setup (as poor). It's now set up fantastic!
Setup Rating: 2
This is a Mahogany neck and resonator w/ rosewood fingerboard. Beautiful wood, binding and inlay. When doing the setup, Kyle Smith commented it had "fantastic" wood in the neck.
The only non-stock component I've added is a Scorpion Purple-top bridge (5/8).
I think the Golden Era is now available in maple only.
Appearance Rating: 10
Hardware and finishes are great. The banjo is 15 years old and still looks like new. Some wear on nickel plating, but only as expected.
Reliability Rating: 10
I never needed to deal with them.
Customer Service: not rated
Overall, this banjo is a high quality instrument.
Components Rating: 9
I would definitely recommend this instrument for players who want a "pre-war" type sound. The Deerings are reasonably priced among the pro-level banjos, and they're well made.
If I knew more, when I bought it, I'd work much closer with company to get the setup properly done. It's a personal thing that requires some experience. If you're going to buy a pro level instrument, don't just accept it site unseen. Try to compare, or at least make arrangements for trial period, so you can send it back if you don't like it.
Overall Rating: 10
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