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: Online from maker
Year Purchased: 2004
Price Paid: 1650.00 ($US)
This is a clawhammer (open back) banjo I ordered from Jason Romero (www.romerobanjos.com). I asked Jason to make this banjo as bright as he could without a metal tone ring, knowing we could make it more 'woody' if necessary. The fretboard is 'scooped' to the 15th fret. The scoop is in a wave shape that still allows the first and second strings to be fretted at the 16th and 17th frets. It can be played comfortably with the right hand up the neck for a mellower sound, or back by the bridge for a very bright, loud sound. I am a beginner in this style but have played 3 finger style for many years. This banjo was right on target for the sound I was looking for...bright but still retaining the distinctive sound of an all wood, no metal tone ring instrument. I want to play more lead than backup so brightness (but not harshness) is a big plus. This banjo sounds amazing....sweet and mellow up the neck, or loud and clear as a bell when played more aggressively over the center of the pot.
Sound Rating: 10
Once I got the bridge placement exactly on Jason's marks everything was perfect. The banjo is in tune all the way up and down the neck with no dead spots anywhere. The harmonics ring long and just as bell like as my Gibson Mastertone, but they sound even sweeter...none of that metal tone ring harshness. I have not tried to make any set up changes as none have been necessary.
Setup Rating: 9
The pictures on Jason's site don't do this instrument's beauty justice. The fingerboard is wenge (as are the heel and rim caps). It has amazing coloration and grain that jumps out at you. The neck and pot are Chechen. When I look at the neck it is almost like looking into a tiger's eye gem. There is the general grain of the wood which alternates in darker and lighter stripes, but as you turn it in the light you can see flecks of red, burgandy and green....The binding is curly maple. Again, I could not be happier with the outcome of the chosen woods. Jason has a LOT of different woods and samples to choose from and will work with you to find just the right combination. Further, there is the inlay....a star/comet/moon/saturn motif that involved the use of many different types of abalone, black pearl, mother of pearl and gold mother of pearl. As Jason and I emailed ideas back and forth I mentioned that a little inlay on the back pot and heel area might be cool....and he went to town and created the most delightful and unique inlay for me on both front and back. Again, the website does not begin to capture the true colors of the inlay. And finally, the little details of the workmanship, the things he did not have to do honestly, put him right at the top of my list when someone asks me for a recomendation for a builder. A little ridge around the 5th string peg, little groove indentations on the heel of the banjo...the number of layers of different woods from which the peg head is made and the delicacy with which it is carved...perfect inlay work, with no 'oops' filler to cover any errors. Jason's attention to detail was/is superb in every step of the building process.
Appearance Rating: 10
The hardware on this banjo is all top of the line. I had Jason do a polymerized tung oil finish. The banjo looks wonderful and the neck is smooth as silk. My hand does not stick to the finish as I am fretting. I have not asked Jason if I will have to rub it down once in a while in the future....I have no problem with doing that however as I prefer this finish.
Reliability Rating: 9
It is warranted to be free from defects in materials and workmanship to the original owner for life...with the usual exceptions of misuse, leaving it out in the snow, et al.
During the course of building the banjo Jason was in touch with me several times to verify my exact desires, leaving nothing to chance. Jason also responded promptly to any of my inquiries or suggestions.
Customer Service: 10
Jason makes 3 different tone rings for his open back banjos. I have the Honduran Rosewood ring which produces the brightest sound. These rings are interchangable in case I want to dramatically alter the sound of my banjo (beyond loosening the head and using a different bridge).
Jason also makes his own bridges designed to help elicit just the sound a person might be looking for.
The coordinator stick inside the back of the banjo is another example of Jason going above and beyond. It is turned, shaped and eched beautifully, with metal attachments on each end. Many builders just put a rough piece of wood back there as they think no one will look at it I guess...
Jason uses black tuner pegs on his banjos (though white is available). I like the black personally.
Components Rating: 10
I know I sound like I am a paid advertiser gushing about this instrument but I can honestly say there is no area I am less than very pleased with the entire experience of ordering, receiving and playing this banjo. Several of my friends, some who are outstanding clawhammer players, have all loved it's looks, sound and playability.
I would recommend this banjo for hundreds more than I paid honestly...Jason gives you your money's worth and then some.
I must say, I jumped into this clawhammer banjo business rather impulsively, with only some research on the internet and then a couple interactions with Jason. He seemed honest, very able (see his web site for work experience...very impressive as well) and the price was very reasonable. Still, I was very lucky to run across him in researching builders. As I have said before, I certainly would recommend him for clawhammer or regular bluegrass style banjos.
It is apples and oranges comparing this banjo to my Gibson as the sound is so different....I have exactly the sound I want from each...each is easy to fret and pluck....I've always loved my Gibson, but I like the Romero just as well already...I am a very lucky fellow!!
Overall Rating: 10
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