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: banjo.com
Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: 589 ($US)
The 13 inch pot sounds really different than any other banjos I've owned. Although, the banjo could really benefit from a better bridge, a better head (renaissance preferred), and some kind of a tone ring, maybe a Whyte Layde tone ring would help.
Sound Rating: 6
I had this banjo custom built. The guys at Gold Tone made a fretless version of the Hoab for me. I also had them to add a frailing scoop, which I later learned was pretty much unnecessary, because the way the banjo is designed, the head is already far enough away from the strings to avoid any unwanted "drumming". They filed the frets away, so I could learn to play fretless styles, and still be able to play close to pitch because I can see where the frets were.
Setup Rating: 8
It's not the prettiest banjo in the world. Nice enough I guess. Pretty run of the mill, plain-Jane. No bindings or fancy inlays (but who needs em?) I do not like the tension hoop, which is about the cheapest looking thing I've ever seen on a banjo. It looks like some sort of weird, black, thin, molded sheet metal trim from an automobile. And there's a big, ugly joint where they didn't even bother to solder it together.
Appearance Rating: 3
The neck joint looks like a gaping wound. Obviously not much time was spent in piecing this one together. I think it'll hold up well enough though.
Reliability Rating: 4
They were super nice, and built the banjo really fast for me.
Customer Service: 9
As I said before, the tension hoop is a hunk of junk. And the tension brackets are super cheapo too. But the wood seems nice enough. The head is a cheap, glossy thing. I wish I could find a 13inch Renaissance Head for this thing.
Components Rating: 3
If you're just starting to learn banjo, and you want to get that old time clawhammer sound, this banjo might be a good starter for you.
Overall Rating: 5
Where Purchased: Janet Davis Music (JDM)
Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: 464 ($US)
The first time I heard the legendary Hoab was via Wayne at Gold Tone, over the phone. It has a nice plunky presence and a wonderful, clear bell -ring ( e.g. Dan Levenson’s Flying Indian on the second part) to each note. Bass is clear and without buzzing, even with light strings (it comes with medium strings).
Sound Rating: 9
I can’t give a fair assessment for the setup because UPS trashed the box so badly, the neck had twisted CCW from the ring. After a few frantic calls to JDM, and to Gold tone, (they were not in the office , Hurricane Francis was coming) I recalled that Zepp music had posted a note on dissembling a banjo, and I had "Banjo Repair" by Sandberg. It was relatively straightforward to align the neck properly to the rim with these guides. I had two RR pegs installed for the fifth string and they seem flawless. The head seemed too tight for clawhammer, and I loosened it about ¾ turn and raised the tail piece to almost ¼ “.
Setup Rating: 8
It is a blond and black banjo with chrome hardware accents, and a very nice walnut insert built into the rim at the tailpiece. This does not show up on web page pics. The rim is a thin, about 3/8” with a double thickness reinforced section at the tailpiece. Finish is flawless, but the tailpiece castings exhibits a porous surface on some of the less visible edges.
Appearance Rating: 9
Brand new, holds tuning well between sessions, too new to rate
Reliability Rating: not rated
I originally was undecided between the Whyte Lady and the Hoab. While I could hear a WL locally, I could not hear the Hoab. Janet returned my call and assured me that if I did not like the sound she would exchange it for a small fee.
Wayne at Gold Tone played the Hoab for me over the phone and provided its colorful history. I was sold.
Customer Service: 10
The Hoab seems like it has good components. Only time will tell.
Components Rating: 9
I am very pleased with the sound and the feel of the Hoab. It is taking a bit of time to get comfortable moving between my 11” and this 13 “ banjo. I use the 11 to learn new songs in different tunings. I keep the Hoab in “G” so I can practice my repertoire with its enchanting sound.
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Appalachian Bluegrass Shoppe, Catonsville, MD
Year Purchased: 2002
Price Paid: $439 ($US)
This a 13 inch open back I use for our old timey and bluegrass jam sessions. I mike only to record or hear vocals. Sound is like they said, loud and plunky, and also round enough to be heard through 2 guitars, mandolin and uke. Very clear and stays in tune in the upper registers (kinda bright as well). Not the White Lady, but pretty close
Sound Rating: 8
I think Wayne sent it set up, but I know ABS made sure it was right. Bridge is not too high, action is real fluid.
Setup Rating: 9
Simply, beautiful blonde maple neck and rim, simple pearl-like inlays, black rim for plastic head is different than I've ever seen. One minor tooling rough edge where neck meets rim - only I've noticed it. Looks a bit big, but not too compared to some of the old timey pix I've seen
Appearance Rating: 8
Silver, almost chrome-like hardware. Bought two extra heads since I couldn't find any 13 inch heads anywhere else. Planetary tuners are sensitive, but stay in tune through many a song.
Reliability Rating: 7
After trying to hook me up with another Hoab owner to hear it, Wayne just played one over the phone for me. Sounded like just what I wanted. Appalachian Bluegrass service stands second to none through this and five other instruments they've set up/revamped for me. I believe the Gold Tone warranty is for life. Hope they stay in business.
Customer Service: 10
One feature I really wanted was its light weight - five pounds, perhaps a little more. When I hit hard clawhammer or even with bg picks, it's pretty doggone loud for an open back. When you listen to it out the back, it's really round and mellow too. Action is smooth, planetary tuners are pretty tight, after 6 months could use some tightenin?
Components Rating: 8
I know there are much better ones out there, especially the OME and the ODE, even Gold Tone's higher end ones. I can afford this. The slightly bigger size took some getting used to, but it's light weight makes it easy to love. The sound can be sweet in the highs, but thunky, not quite bassy in the lows. If it were stolen, I wouldn't settle for anything less as a replacement. It would have been nice to see a review of a Hoab here, but it's a bit obscure I guess. Just a bit funny looking, but one Hell of a Banjo I'd say! Best for the $ I could find!
Overall Rating: 10
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