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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!

6919 reviews in the archive.

Wildwood  Minstrel Banjo Reviews

Submitted by greadore (see all reviews from this person) on 8/10/2010

Where Purchased: E-Bay

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: $825 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

Always liked the sound of a tubaphone banjo, and happened across a Wildwood Minstrel on E-Bay one day. I really like the sound. I have a Gold Tone with the Whyte Lady tone ring, but like the tubaphone sound better. Not quite as harsh to my hear. A little mellower. Tried several bridges until I kept the one that sounded best for now. May try other bridges because they do affect the sound.

I tried a regular frosted head, but it was too bright for my liking. The fiberskyn head works well, and is what the Wildwoods are sold with. The banjo also had medium/heavy? gauge strings on it which muted the sound a lot in my opinion. I put some light/med strings on it and it definitely rang more and sounds nice.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The head was loose when I got it, and had to tighten the tuner nuts. Basically had to set it up myself, but wasn't hard. The action is fine and it is easy to play.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I think it 's a nice looking banjo, but will not wow you.

Appearance Rating: 6

Reliability

Definitely. The hardware seems well made and will last a long time. The banjo is very solidly built.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Sent a couple of general questions to the company by E-mail, and got prompt responses. Seems like a very responsive company. Not sure about the warranty since I bought it used and am not the original owner. Don't forsee any problems given the fact it's built solidly.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Really like the tailpiece on the banjo. Is solidly built and seems to work well. The tuners are nice and hold tune. The pot is solidly built and should last years.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I really like this banjo, especially the tubaphone tone ring. Since I got it about $600 below what a new model sells for I'm a happy camper. Even a new model is reasonable if you're in the market for a tubaphone banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by RedZinger (see all reviews from this person) on 12/10/2007

Where Purchased: Elderly

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1345 ($US)

Sound

I fell in love with the tubaphone sound when I played a Fairbanks Vega Tubaphone. I've also been intrigued by Wildwood banjos since the early 80’s when Wildwood was one of the few makers of banjos specifically for clawhammer. So recently I shopped around and decided to buy a Wildwood. This Wildwood has a fantastic tubaphone sound: It’s LOUD, clear and crisp with excellent bass. It has serious sustain for great resonance, a beautiful growl and can make an amazing range of clawhammer sounds. It also plays really well all the way up the neck. If you have a light touch and want to be heard in a string band or in jam sessions, then this would be an excellent banjo for you. You can hear my Wildwood on my BHO page.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I bought this Wildwood from Elderly instruments. The set up out of the box was good, and I played it as is for several months before making some adjustments. The nut at the headstock was not well positioned. It was positioned so that the first string was right on the edge of the fingerboard. A slight adjustment to reposition the nut took care of that in about two minutes.

It came with a fiberskin head that I really like. It had a 5/8 bridge that was fine, but I’ve replaced it with a thicker 5/8 bridge. It also came with medium gauge strings that work well for this banjo.

The action was too low out of the box for the kind of playing I like. (There was no buzz or anything.) After consulting Mark Plotkin and the Elderly repair shop, I made a small adjustment to the single coordinator rod which raised the action just enough. It would be possible to get the action very low for up-the-neck playing for melodic clawhammer if that’s what you’re looking for. I wouldn’t mind a bit higher action so that I could play over the neck sometimes, but I’m afraid to push the limits of coordinator rod adjustment. It would be great if Wildwood offered this banjo without the last five frets so that it would be easier to play over the neck (which I do for a couple of songs I like).

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

It’s beautiful. Mine has natural wood finish that looks great. The Minstrel has really plain inlay, but it’s flawless. Close inspection doesn’t reveal even a hint of a booger.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This Wildwood is a really sturdy banjo. It is not the least bit temperamental (as banjos go) concerning humidity and barometric pressure. Very reliable.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve been in touch with both Mark Platin, the maker, and Elderly, the retailer. Both have been great and speedy with responses to my questions.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The hardware is solid. It comes with a Waverly style tailpiece which is perfect for this banjo. The Gotoh tuners are just fine – easily comparable to Five Star. They work well and look good. The brackets etc. are top notch. The 11 in. pot is MASSIVE and heavy and sounds fantastic. The neck feels great – comparable in feel to my vintage Fairbanks Vega. The fret wire is a bit more robust than I’m used to, but after several months I like it just fine. Again, I think the neck could be offered without the last five frets and perhaps a 1/16 in scoop. It is difficult to play over the neck as is – my only complaint.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a super-high-quality banjo that is probably under-valued. It sounds great, feels great, and looks great. If lost or stolen I would definitely replace it with another Wildwood. I might actually go for one that is a bit fancier than the Minstrel.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by john bange (see all reviews from this person) on 9/9/2007

Where Purchased: buffalo bros

Year Purchased:
Price Paid: 1349.00 ($US)

Sound

my first tubeaphone...just fantastic...sustain,low end, highs...could not ast for more

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

don't mind tinkering with the set-up...did not touch it...just perfect

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

flawless as far as I can see

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

as good as my Vega...gave it a 10 too..........really stays in tune well

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

had a little trouble with a bum on e-bay so my order was a little "on and off" Chris Cooper just rolled with it and gave me the best service possible...I'd hit 12 if I could...no response to e-mails from Wildwood about the bracket nuts...Buffalo bros-10...Wildwood-3

Customer Service: 10

Components

the pot is something to see...good and heavy banjo with beautiful tone ring...very uncomfortable to play with a strap

Components Rating: 7

Overall Comments

SOLD this banjo couple of months ago for the sole reason that the bracket nuts extend down below the pot and make my side sore and bruised...looks like they all do

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by ponty (see all reviews from this person) on 7/23/2006

Where Purchased: buffalo Bros

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The sound is great. It is full and loud, and plenty bright. I play CH and simple two finger style which it is very suited to. I have only my GoldTone MM150 to compare it with though.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up was I believe not good. It came with case and when opended, there was no bridge!! The strings were in poor condition and I replaced them from the beginging. I put in a Snuffy Smith 3 5/8 ' bridge and the action was too low. This was improved by increasing the head tention

Setup Rating: 4

Appearance

It is maple through out, with a dark stain. Simple MOP dots adorn the ebony fingerboard. It is the least fancy of the Wildwoods, but still a very attractive banjo.
the heel cap and headsock facia are ebony, the latter having a star and 'Wildwood' inlaid with MOP. This is without flaw. Unlike earlier Minstrels, there is no white binding around the pot.This I believe adds to its look

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

It looks enirely reliable. Time will of course tell.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

I did call Mark Platin a few time before and after the purchase and got good help each time.
I called Buffalo Bros and they were suprised that there was no bridge. They said thay would post me one.

Customer Service: 9

Components

The hardware seems good quality, and the tuners are certainly an imprvement over my GoldTone. The 5th string tuner is a Gotoh-not sure about the others! The tailpiece is a waverly, a $13 value from Elderly or Stewmac. The tubaphone tone ring however is made by Wildwood.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I spent hours looking at the web comparing all that I could, reading BH reviews.
I bought this never having played it, or any others for that matter, I am sure that I have got a winner, and I am very pleased with it. It does also show that my GoldTone, which is clearly is not the same quality, does represent a vey good buy!! My next banjo is a.......

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by atracksler (see all reviews from this person) on 6/5/2006

Where Purchased: Private Sale

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Loud and sweet. Mine is made o Wenge Wood, and has no tone ring, like the other Minstrels, instead the rim is turned at the top to act as the tone ring.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup perfectly.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

A little sloppy around teh star inlay(nothing a little more filler couldnt fix), but other than that flawless.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I will probably give this to my grandchildren.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

NA

Customer Service: not rated

Components

It was upgraded with Gotoh tuners. I may put a new head on it in a few months.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

One of the most underrated banjos there is. This thing is spectacular!

Overall Rating: 10

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