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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!

7122 reviews in the archive.

Bishline  Walnut Heirloom Custom Banjo Reviews

Submitted by banjocyborg (see all reviews from this person) on 7/6/2009

Where Purchased: Bishline Banjos

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I am thoroughly impressed with the sound of this banjo. My expectations are greatly exceeded. I've only owned the banjo for a few days and it was just 'born' last week so I'm sure it has some breaking in to do, but every day I find new sounds. It can play sweet and pretty for the jazz standards I'm learning and it can really get a nice crack on the bluegrass tunes. Overall it's got a really nice ringing tone.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was set up perfectly especially given my vague specifications. I basically asked for a low fast action and that is what I got. It frets beautifully and plays just the way I hoped.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

This banjo is a piece of art especially for the money. This is a Walnut banjo with flamed maple binding. It has a 3 piece laminated neck and a tunneled 5th string. It has a leaf inlay design. Pictures don't really do it justice, it's pretty amazing to look at.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The finish is beautiful and looks very strong. The hardware all appears to be very well made, and solid.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

You can't beat the customer service. It's nice to be able to talk directly to the builder, and get questions answered directly. E-mails were always replied to very promptly. I also received frequent pictures during the production of the banjo. The banjo has a lifetime guarantee.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything appears to be of high quality.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I love this banjo. Mine is a custom, but I would have probably been happy with any Bishline. They make some great banjos at a great price. I am especially happy to have a tunneled 5th. I could find much info on tunneled 5th strings, so it was a bit of a gamble but I'm so glad I did it. I thought it would take some getting use to but it really didn't. It's a great look and if feels really nice. Buying the banjo direct is not just a purchase, it is an experience! The e-mails, photos, and conversations truly make it a unique buying experience.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by MrNatch3L (see all reviews from this person) on 11/27/2006

Where Purchased: Bishline Banjos

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 2300 ($US)

Sound

I would describe the sound as rich, balanced, and responsive. The dynamics are excellent, soft to loud, and the response curve is very natural. It's easy to feel just how hard you need to pick to get the response you want. Very even sound response up and down and across the fingerboard, and it will really bark if you punch it. I got a tonering upgrade from the standrard Kulesh to a Hopkins Prewar model (see Customer Service) and this contributes to the great sound, though I'm sure I'd have been quite satisfied with the standard Kleush.

I am not much of a traditional player (cut my teeth on "newgrass") and the sound is great for what I do. But I think traditional Bluegrass players would be quite happy with it too.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Not really knowing what I'd want in my first really good banjo, I had Rob do his "middle-of-the-road" setup. I can only describe the action as "rich and creamy" - I in fact still overplay. It is so much faster and more responsive than my old banjo. I don't have to work nearly as hard, and I'm finding the adjustment a little difficult, but that is A Good Thing. I may raise the action just a bit, though for now I'd rather persist and try to learn how to back off and go with the inherent capabilities of this instrument.

In any case, you can talk with Rob about your preferred setup and he'll deliver it, and help you with any adjustments that might be needed after shipping (I'm assuming buying direct as I did - if you buy thru a dealer, they should handle final setup)

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Traditionalists may not like the appearance of this banjo. Not being one myself, I loved it at first sight. It was exactly what I'd had in mind but had not found anywhere else - simple, almost minimalist, but with just a touch of elegance. Toward the peghead there are just small MoP dots. Then there is a lovely MoP inlay pattern over the top several frets. The pearl is some of the nicest I've ever seen, with lots of pastel hues in direct light. The neck is wider in the high end than most banjos, which some might find unsettling, but which as a long-time bass player suits me just fine.

Rob offers a choice of woods. I went the the walnut. The burl on the resonator is simply stunning! The resonator and neck are bound in maple - so much nicer than the usual plastics. Though not strictly traditional looking, this is a beautiful work of art that I would have expected to cost much more.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hard to say about reliability with a brand new instrument. Certainly all the parts are top quality, so I don't expect reliability problems. Finish seems better than average and I expect it will hold up.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Rob and Frank at Bishline Banjos were both great to work with. Banjo has a lifetime warranty and I'm confident Rob will stand behind it all the way. There were some slght problems out of box, partly the result of shipping (that box had taken some hits), and partly due to changes absolutely to be expected in a brand new wooden instrument coming from dry Oklahoma to a very humid Cleveland Ohio. Rob talked me thru some neck adjustments over the phone that did the job. He's a believer in educating people on basic adjustments, which on a banjo are really pretty simple if you're even halfway handy with simple hand tools. I personally appreciated this, as I'm taking the instrument to Russia where anything that gets done to this instrument will have to be done by me. It's good to know that advice and help are just a phone call or email away.

But the real kicker in this area was the tone ring upgrade. As it turned out, Rob was out of the standard Kulesh ring and he had been backordered on his resupply. A lot of places would have just said sorry, you gotta wait. Rob knew I was on a tight schedule to go back overseas, and rather than miss that, he put on the more expensive Hopkins Prewar ring at no extra charge. Now don't go expecting that every time! But I think it illustrates just how committed Rob is to meeting commitments to his customers.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I'll talk here about the custom stuff I opted for. I went with this model because I loved the look, and I'm sure I could have been happy enough with the standard model - nothing wrong with anything in it's specs. But I found the standard Heirloom so reasonably priced that I decided to explore some customizations that I'd always dreamed of but didn't think I would ever get in the low $2K price range, and these turned out to be affordable.

I'm a believer in laminated necks. In the climate where I live, the added strength of a laminated neck is highly desirable. Rob is one of the few builders that even offers a laminated neck. It's not standard on the Heirloom, but I opted for it. I also opted for ebony in the fingerboard, which I much prefer to rosewood, and for a slightly radiused fingerboard on account of my small hands and short stubby fingers. The result is a neck to die for - really! (I hear they had to pry it out of Frank's hands to ship it!)

I opted for walnut, partly because I love that wood, and partly because I liked the sound of walnut banjos I've played. The fact that it was a no-extra cost option was very attractive (the Heirloom offers a choice of mahogany, maple, or walnut). The walnut burl resonator is nothing short of eye-popping. And I love the binding with wood (in this case maple) instead of plastic. The result is an understated, elegantly beautiful instrument that I still have to occasionally pinch myself to realize it's actually mine.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo compares favorably with banjos costing hundreds if not thousands more. I think the simplicity of the inlay contributes to that. As I said, the price of the standard Heirloom was so reasonable that I was able to afford my dream customizations, which were also very reasonably priced.

My situation necessitated buying this instrument sight unseen, which I have never done with any stringed instrument before and which I normally would avoid. Were anything ever to happen to this one (heaven forefend!) I would have no hesitation about ordering another.

In short, it sounds great, it plays like a dream, it's in tune all over the neck, it's my idea of gorgeous, and the price was right. What else can I say?

Overall Rating: 10

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