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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  Standard Banjo Reviews

Submitted by mdthib (see all reviews from this person) on 4/25/2014

Where Purchased: From Builder

Year Purchased: 2013
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play by myself quite a lot, often while singing, but also jam and play with guitarists. This banjo suits these settings wonderfully. The sound is rich and balanced across the spectrum. This banjo has a slightly thicker rim, which seems to contribute in part to a slightly darker tone overall, which I like.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

No setup changes. Arrived in great playing condition.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Absolutely beautiful banjo. The dark finish sets off the chrome and inlays for a strikingly attractive instrument.

The only change I made is to add just a touch of fingerboard oil so that the ebony would appear darker (went from a dark grey appearance to jet black).

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I would put this banjo on a mission to mars without the slightest worry. It feels very ruggedly built, made to last, and I have been able to depend on it for several months of daily play (hours) without the slightest hint of a concern.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Mike was great to deal with. The banjo took longer (three months) to arrive after I ordered than originally promised (several weeks). It was well worth the wait, and I would happily order from Mike again.

Customer Service: 8

Components

Love the walnut neck, the finish, and the overall harmony of color, wood, and componenets. Nothing feels weak, and I can't even conceive of an upgrade that would improve this instrument.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

This banjo, a Ramsey standard 11" with rolled brass tone ring and walnut neck, has been a dream come true for me. I have owned it for four months, during which I have played it every day, often for 2-4 hours. 

My teacher recommended I buy a banjo I could enjoy forever, not one I'd want to upgrade from in six months. This banjo is exactly that. In fact, when I brought it to my teacher, by the end of the lesson he had called Mike and ordered one for himself. He told me, "Yours is a banjo to keep for your whole life. It is truly special."

Taking the banjo out for jams and to play for fun with friends, I always get compliments and questions.

I could not be happier with this purchase.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by tmoneygetpaid (see all reviews from this person) on 8/19/2012

Where Purchased: maker

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Rating sound, and rating anything about an instrument, is a strange thing because it is entirely subjective. That said, when I was looking for a new handmade openback, I played Enochs (tradesman 11 and 12" pot), Chuck Lee, Reiter (Round Peak, Standard), Brown (mesquite), and others. I played about a dozen openbacks at the Music Emporium in Lexington, played everything at the Old Town School in Chicago and at Hogeye in Evanston, IL.

And the Ramseys were my far and away my favorites. They are darker and still loud and full. Clucky but not overly so (that was my main issue with the Reiter Round Peak). I loved the sound of the Woody as well, but the Standard for me hit the sweet spot between dark and woody and clear and ringing. It is loud, but not as loud as the Student that I played (probably the mahogany neck and the head tension and setup are responsible).

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Wonderfully setup by Mike.

I'm pretty sure the Standard neck is just a bit thinner than the Student, still thick and meaty but the Student felt a bit like its thickness got in the way. For some, that size will work better. The Standard is absolutely perfect for me.

I love the wider nut spacing he uses on his banjos. Gives room for left hand pull-offs, and feels right for a guy with big ole hands like me.

The Ramseys I played at the Music Emporium had really loosely-tensioned heads, which is probably a big part of their dark sound I enjoyed. The brackets could be loosened with hand tension, which is pretty much the bare minimum tension you could get away with. I mention that because you can always go brighter and louder by tensioning the head more, but you couldn't go darker from that bare minimum tension.

Love the strings he put on-- whatever they are. And the stock 5/8" bridge (presumably a Stew Mac) sounds good. The nut (even the 5th string nut) was carefully slotted on a diagonal to reduce stress.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful. Love the dark look of the banjo. The pot is maple but is stained dark dark dark. The mahogany neck is stained to match. A cool look that I like a lot. And the inlay is gorgeous.

The standard has just the saturn inlay on the peghead overlay and the shooting star at the 5th fret. On mine, it looks like the Saturn is abalone and the star body is mop with a abalone tail. Anyway, I love the inlay, way more than I expected to. Just the right amount of bling for my taste.

Deducting a point because there are a few small areas where the finish is cloudy or the sanding/ fret file is visible. A tiny detail, but a detail nonetheless.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

I'd depend on it. The hardware is all good ole Made-in-the-USA Stew Mac. 5-star tuners, which I like and find great, but I've heard others complain. The only worry I have on the reliability front is the thinness of the pot. It is a multiply (looks like 8-9 thin plies). But that surely constitutes a big part of the sound I love, so I'm 100% onboard for that trade-off.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Mike is easier to reach over email than phone-- go that route if you need to get ahold of him.

He's a one-man show, which I think is great and wouldn't want him to change, so I sympathize with the long time it takes to get the guy on the phone. Just be patient and you'll get him on the horn.

Customer Service: 7

Components

The only thing I worry about with this banjo is the thinness of the frets. There's no buzz or anything, just anticipate needing a refret in 5-10 years of regular playing, which is to be expected I guess.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

As I said, I played dozens of banjos in my search for an openback that would suit me. I was getting disheartened, and even started hating the tone of everything I'd play, including my old banjo. Found the Standard and it's the instrument I'd been searching for. I'm so excited to have this instrument for the rest of my life.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Stev187 (see all reviews from this person) on 2/1/2007

Where Purchased: from Mike

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

Sound

Great sound. Just excellent. Mike shipped it with a fiberskyn head (that's what I said I wanted). He didn't try to talk me into a Renaissance head, but I bought one from him anyway. I put it on about 2 days after I got the banjo and it's staying on. The Renaissance head really completes this banjo. Also, the 12" pot makes this a "boomy" kind of banjo. I'm still getting used to it. As a former electric bass player, this banjo is my Fender P-Bass, and my Reiter is the Fender Jazz.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was set up very nicely when it arrived. I'm still learning to play fretless, so it's rather difficult for me to tell. Mike set it up with a 5/8" bridge.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

I am a sucker for simplicity. This banjo really does it for me. It has absolutely no inlay whatsoever--by my request. The wood is very nice, and the finish is smooth and shiny. This is an instrument that won't call attention to itself, and that is by design. The peghead shape is beautiful, and I am still getting used to the thickness of the peghead vaneer. It's a stunning banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo looks like it will last forever. Mike shipped it in a TKL hard case, which is equally tough.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Mike is great to deal with. I know he's backed up on the banjos he's making, but this one was really simple. I really appreciate him working on it for me. As others have mentioned, you need to work to get a hold of him sometime, but he's reachable, reliable, and fun to talk with.

Customer Service: 9

Components

Mike uses really good stuff--5 star planet pegs, etc. It has a no-knot tailpiece. I'll probably lose the bridge and get something nicer. I am also going to replace the plastic tuner buttons with ebony. Apart from that, it's your basic banjo parts. I did notice that the 5 star pegs aren't as solid and accurate as the Schallers on my 1984 Reiter. But, as Mike says, those Schallers are "fugly."

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

I've never had an instrument built especially for me. It was cool. This will be my banjo forever, along with my beloved Reiter student. They make a good pair. I would recommend Mike's banjos to anyone. There is a reason he has the reputation he does.

Overall Rating: 10

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