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!
6953 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: From the maker
Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1750 ($US)
As far as I'm concerned, this is what a clawhammer banjo is SUPPOSED to sound like. Mellow, plunky, and very well balanced tone.
Normally, it takes me some time to get used to a new banjo. But this baby felt like an old friend after about 30 seconds. Sounds great loud, and sound great soft. No complaints in the sound department.
Sound Rating: 10
I requested a relatively high action. I don't have any precision measuring instruments, so I based it off of my perfectly set-up Romero. I asked him to make the action at the 12th fret equal to the hight of two nickels. And that's how it came.
Brooks included an additional bridge for experimentation. As it turns out, I ended up using a Moon bridge, which corrects the slight intonation problem that always occurs with a non compensated bridge.
I think Brooks should consider supplying a compensated bridge.
Setup Rating: 9
This is a beauty. Absolutely flawless. The metal "silverspun" was nicely polished -- although it won't remain like that for long. I'm not one for wiping down my instruments, so I expect it to get dirty and corroded over time. No problem.
It has a mahogany neck, which has a perfect feel to it. The wood inside the rim is flamed maple. I chose very simple dot inlays for the fretboard. In retrospect, I should have chosen side markers as well, but I'll get used to it.
The head is goat skin, dyed brown. That's the first thing everyone notices, of course, I REALLY like that non-white look. I remember drooling over a Johannes Bonefaas hairy goat skin banjo. Mine is hairless, but it has a similar look. And I think it's catching on. Jason Romero is doing the same thing.
I should point out that the ultimate look was my choice. Brooks sent me a bunch of photos during the construction process so I could see how it was coming along.
Appearance Rating: 10
As far as I can tell, everything on this banjo is top quality. Not sure if it would survive a fall from the Empire State Building, but this thing seems reliable enough form me.
Reliability Rating: 10
Brooks and I exchanged about 50 emails during the course of construction. He seem like a great guy, and will do anything you like. But he also has his own opinions. I inquired about a particular cosmetic thing, and he told me he didn't think it would look good. I accepted that.
The banjo was delivered in a double box, without a case. Because his banjos typically include a case, I asked him about it. Apparently, he confused me with another customer who didn't want a case. So now he's sending me a case.
BTW, this is actually a good thing for me. I'm always looking for shipping boxes for guitars, and now I have two. And I will soon have three.
Customer Service: 10
It's all good. I especially like the 1906 Indian head penny embedded in the peg head. I would have preferred a 1907, but...
Components Rating: 10
When I got my Jason Romero, I thought I had the ultimate in small maker banjos. Now I'm not so sure sure. Brooks is an incredible maker, on par with the best that I've ever experienced. If I were forced to choose between my Romero and my Brooks, I'd be standing there scratching my head for a long time.
If you're in the market for a unique old-time banjo, you owe it to yourself to get in touch with Brooks.
Overall Rating: 10
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