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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.

Ramsey  Maple Special Banjo Reviews

Submitted by Theresse (see all reviews from this person) on 11/4/2012

Where Purchased: From Mike Ramsey

Year Purchased: June 2011
Price Paid: 1,200 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

I fell in love with this banjo when I met someone who had one and got to see and hear her play it. I looked high and low for another brand that sounded similar but had no luck. So happy to finally have one! Words to describe the sound are - relatively speaking: deep; full; rich; tubby and plunky. Gorgeous sound! My style is old time clawhammer. The scoop offers a whole other dimension of sound (wonderfully rich and clucky). I loosened the head a tad for even more depth.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was set up nicely. Mike had done that just before sending it to me. I've always had the goal of making whatever banjo I have be as non-bright (dark?!) as possible so I *might* have inquired about which strings aid in that sound and might have had the strings replaced. The problem is I don't remember if I did. The sound was fantastic when it arrived so I just don't remember.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Another hobby of mine happens to be amateur astronomy so I LOVED that my favorite planet (to look at through a telescope) is on the peg head, in mother of pearl! I also love the maple seed propeller inlay decoration as well as the mini fir trees for the dots. Back of the neck and inside of the pot have gorgeous tiger stripe maple. The smooth ebony fingerboard is really nice - has a very matte look and feel which I like. The overall look of the banjo is elegant yet simple - very appropriate for an old-fashioned looking openback banjo as opposed to a crazy-ornate blugrass banjo. It also has a thin edge of a darker brown wood at the bottom of the neck and around the rim which gives a nice bit of contrast. - very subtle Nice fiddle-shaped (?) headstock, planetary tuners and nickel hardware.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Oh lordy yes. I've accidentally hit it against something on a couple of occasions (nothing too hard mind you!) and I looked very close for any signs I hurt it and there's absolutely no evidence of anything. It stays in tune - even after longer periods of time when I haven't been able to play it, and no strings have broken yet, even with all my changing of tunings/keys.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I've read that Mike Ramsey's hard to get in touch with but for some lucky reason he actually returned my out-of-the-blue email with a phone call, maybe a couple of weeks after I sent it (ok so that's not exactly fast service - but I didn't really expect to hear back from him after what I'd read - haha - and I wasn't even ordering a banjo at that point). We had a great talk (incredibly kind fellow - and interesting too - and he was more generous than I'm letting on) and while my banjo didn't arrive immediately, the wait wasn't very long. Came in a very sturdy hard case that was also in excellent condition. So while there was perhaps a slight lag compared to a company that's not just a one-man show as he is, his kindness, helpfulness and personality more than made up for any of that. Hence my giving him a score of 10 for customer service.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I wrote most of it above. Everything feels tight and sturdy and very well made and smooth. No upgrading needed other than having a couple of spikes added. I'm guessing Mike would do that for you if you were to ask him to, since he sets it up for you prior to shipping.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

If you can't tell, I love this banjo. Everyone who's heard it or played it has commented on its remarkable sound and action. Those who've been most impressed have been professional banjo players. It's a simple, unassuming, fantastic instrument. It has made me play a lot more than I played on my last banjo because it's such a joy to play.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by jbalch (see all reviews from this person) on 4/17/2006

Where Purchased: Used

Year Purchased: 2003
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This custom 11" Maple Special is great for old time. It is mellow and sweet...not to bright...not too much sustain. It is a bit more "tubby" than my Bart Reiters (see reviews).

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

This banjo was bought used. It was set-up with a standard Grover style maple bridge and Elite Fiberskyn head. I tried several other bridges for comparison and returned to the original. The only adjustment has been to set an even tension on the head with a Drum-torque tool.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Great figured wood! Simple decoration. I really like the style of these banjos.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Very well made! Extremely reliable. This is a great every-day player.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

None required.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All standard professional grade parts. Nice tuners w/grained ivroid buttons.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is a great every day player! I use it in double C or G-modal tuning for a fantastic old-time sound. Check out my other reviews and see www.johnbalchmusic.com for photos and more information.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by jbalch (see all reviews from this person) on 4/17/2006

Where Purchased: The Music Emporium

Year Purchased: 2002
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This banjo sounds great. It is ideal for clawhammer. The 12" pot has a small brass hoop tone ring and very thin maple rim. The sound is less "refined" than my Bart Reiter professional (see review). It is just a little bit "tubby". It is plenty bright to articulate a melody. Perfect for old-time

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I bought this banjo used...so I can't comment on how they come from the maker. But the initial set-up on this instrument failed to bring out its full potential.

UPDATE 7/2002: I changed to an EMERSON POWER BRIDGE The sound is brighter, clearer and louder.

UPDATE 8/2002: I switched from fiberskin to a new REMO RENAISSANCE HEAD. I used a DRUMTORQUE tool to set an even (not too tight) head tension. This banjo has finally found its voice. It is absolutely perfect! Thanks to Zeppmusic.com for the recommendation!

Setup Rating: 7

Appearance

The design is very simple. There is no carving and only a few tastefully engraved inlays. However, the wood is spectacular. The finish is great. Overall a very pleasing instrument.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware is all professional grade. It has: 5-star planetary tuners, no-knot tailpiece, and heavy old-style hooks and nuts. A rare and really cool wire armrest has been added.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have no experience requesting service from the dealer or the maker. Hopefully I won't need any.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is a fantastic old-timey banjo. The construction, materials and all parts are first-class. The neck is nicely proportioned...a bit thicker than my other banjos (by Bart Reiter). The more substantial neck provides much stability and stays in tune better than others.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I recommend this banjo to anyone desiring an authentic old time sound in a modern instrument that is well made and dependable. It is hard to match the quality at this price.

Overall Rating: 10

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