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6938 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Ordered from Jason
Year Purchased: 2005
Price Paid: 3150 ($US)
This banjo has a very pleasing tone. It's plenty loud yet has no harshness whatsover. It's easy on the ears. It makes my cat purr. Silky soft but still bell like with lot's of overtones which I consider a good thing. I want those sympathetic notes to ring. The tonal range is huge. I can get a sweet plinky sound to a loud thumping sound. This banjo can hold it's own with my steel strung Reiter with a white lady tone ring. It has a 12 inch block rim pot with a T-45 wooden tone ring with a deerskin head. Jason sands down the inside side of the skin so it's not too thick. The bass response is incredible. It's set up with nylon strings except for the 4th string which is a .24 steel guitar string. With steel strings I imagine this banjo could wake the dead. It sounds so cool though like it is I'm in no hurry to change to steel though to see. The bridge Jason made is made of submerged maple. On the bridge under each string is a hole. I believe this contributes along with the ebony tailpiece to the unique sound of this banjo. Jason beefed up the tailpiece for me so I can change to steel strings if desired.
Sound Rating: 10
The set up was exactly as requested. It's a great banjo for clawhammer with an old time sound. I like my action on the high side. Personally I like the sound of skin heads. Where I live skin heads aren't problematic. But they do take time to settle in. I think this banjo would also sound great with a renaissanse head.
Setup Rating: 10
This banjo is a work of art. Whenever I'm out playing this banjo the comment I get the most from folks is always a variation of,"this banjo is a work of art". Jason is without doubt an extremely talented luthier. This banjo is a testament to that.
It has Jason's all wood 12 inch pot. I love the looks of Jason's all wood pot. It always gets folks attention and it really shows of the wood. The wood is checen. I had never seen this wood before. It's a light chocolate brown color with dark grain running through it. It's highly figured and beautiful. The pot has an ebony cap bound in curly maple with ebony purfling. The neck is also made of the same highly figured checen and is bound in curly maple with ebony purfling including the last inch or so of the neck where it meets the pot which just plain looks cool. The neck is 3 pieces with a quarter inch or so strip of curly maple with ebony purfling down the center of it. The heel is bound in curly maple with ebody purfling and has an ebony lamination on which Jason executed a beatiful morning glory budd with leaves in mother of pearl and paua. The back of the peghead also has an ebony lamination.The peghead itself is bound in the same curly maple/ebony combo like the rest of the banjo with an ebony lamintion on which there is a morning glory flower done in mother of pearl and paua. The binding around the peghead is the first Jason has done on a banjo. It's beautifully done and really adds a nice touch to the banjo. The neck is scooped out forming a gentle curve on the fingerboard which allows one to play a little further up the neck. Another nice and functional touch. The fretboard has morning glory budds and leaves/vines inlayed in it.The neck is carved a bit around the 5th string peg and also is carved around the heel near the fingerboard. It's hard to see on the pictures on Jason's website and it's just another nice touch that Jason does. The head is deerskin and it adds give the banjo kind of an old vibe. The tension hoop has the hooks go into it's sides and not over it's edge. It adds a very clean look to the banjo and is very comfortable to play with it like this. This banjo also has less hooks which looks better to me. I'm not sure if the added wood that the hooks go into are less weight or not then the usual hardware but it sure shows off the wood to greater effect with the all wood pot. The tuners are Gotohs with black knobs. The finish is a "hard oil" finish. I love it. The neck feels smoother to me and I think this finish really shows off the wood.
Appearance Rating: 10
This banjo has a lifetime warranty. It has an adjustable truss rod. Jason makes most everything from scratch. He makes his own pots, necks, tailpieces, bridges and now even the tension hopes. The quality of the parts, the workmanship and the artistry is of the highest order. This banjo will be around for a long time without doubt bringing music and happiness to those who hear and play it for many generations to come. I wish I could take it with me.
Reliability Rating: 10
It was a pleasure dealing with Jason. He's just a nice guy building banjos. I asked for binding around the headstock. Jason said no problem. He had to make the jigs etc for doing this. I think it's great he did this. Like I said he's a skilled luthier. I told him I'd like it set up not with steel but I might end up going to steel. No prob. He customized the tailpiece. Awesome.
I drove from the Bay Area in CA to the northern hinterlands of CA to pick this banjo up and meet the maker. It was my pleasure and Jason was great to meet. I got to see his shop and his stash of wood and the jigs and tools and the cool things these luthiers have. We sat around and played banjo. Not only is Jason a great luthier but he's one hell of a banjo player and musician. He's clawhammerist and also a fingerstyle player. He plays in an old time band and a bluesgrass band. And they both have great names. Devil's Dream is his old time band and the Compost Mountain Boys is his his bluegrass band.
It was wonderful hanging out with Jason. That's truly great customer service.
Customer Service: 10
As mentioned I love the all wood pot. And the tension hoop not only looks great it feels great underneath my arm. Better looking and more comfortable yet just as functional. Wonderful. The inlay is very artistic. Not only can Jason work with wood but he can also draw. This inlay is in perfect proportion. It's art. It's beatifully done. Jason worked for Wildwood banjos. I suspect he'd done a bunch of those vines of life inlays on fretboards.
Components Rating: 10
Jason has done a lot of thinking about banjos I would guess. This banjo seems to me to be well "engineered" I suspose. Everything about it compliments another component of itself. It's fancy looking yet so tasteful. It has modern touches like the adjustable truss rod (with a wooden cover around it so it evokes the look of a dowel stick) but incorporates features seen on older banjos like the hooks going through the wood of the pot and the hooks going into the side of the tension ring instead of over the edge to update the banjo in a modern way yet still keep it looking old time but completely different. Jason's banjos are totally unique. I love it. I think this banjo was actually underpriced. I believe Jason's banjos will be collectable and will only go up in value.
11/17/06 A few months after writing this review I made some set up changes. I put on a Ren Head and put on steel strings. I keep the ren head cranked down very tight. I liked it right off and have had it set up like this ever since. You can see pictures of this banjo at Jason's site at this link:
Overall Rating: 10
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