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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.

Doc's Banjos  12 inch fretted Banjo Reviews

Submitted by DH#52 (see all reviews from this person) on 1/14/2010

Where Purchased: Pat

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

Sound

This is a custom made internal resonator open back, made specifically for my style of playing--Old Time two-finger. The combination of woods---black walnut and bubinga pot---coupled with the internal resonator and a walnut and wenge hefty neck with Indian rosewood, fretboard produces the warm, woodier sound I wanted. I describe the sound as dark or smoky even, compared with other open backs I've played. It's rich and full, loud but not trebly the way resonator-tone ring banjos sometimes sound to me. It makes the kind of 'living room' bluegrass/folk sound I've long been searching for.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

This is the third banjo I've purchased from Doc, so I knew what I was going to eventually get based on my previous experiences. He's an absolute wood artisan, and I knew that, so I simply asked if he could do this and do that, and with my ideas and his knowlege of what would sound best, we can up with this unique banjo. Doc makes his own bridges, too, so they 'fit' with the woods he uses to build the banjos. Set-up was for my style of playing, so lower action than you'd expect on a typical old-time instrument, and the set-up was made-to-order. No surprises like I've sometimes experienced on factory models.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Doc's banjos are simply beautiful in their simplicity (no inlay) and quality of woods, which are matched to work together, so to say. He uses quality antiqued brass hardware and I requested Waverly tuners on all three of the banjos I purchased from him.

Everything is exactly like you asked for when you receive his banjos because they are hand made to your specifications, right down to the smallest details.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The woods??????? See above! He's an artist working with wood!

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Doc was willing to send an internal resonator banjo from his collection for me to play while I was deciding just exactly what I wanted mine to look and sound like. Does that sound like a guy you can trust?! I have absolutely no doubt that so long as he's able he'd WANT me to send one of my instruments back to him for tweeks or whatever. I mean, the guy's incredible!

Customer Service: 10

Components

Top quality wood and craftsmanship, the best tuners, hand-made bridge for that particular banjo, set-up exactly to my desires, great tweed case. It's an instrument for posterity, and he built it for me to take into my old age, like a friend I don't want to leave.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I know I'll get a fourth banjo from Doc. 'Nuf said.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by CelticGuitar (see all reviews from this person) on 10/15/2009

Where Purchased: 'On loan from Doc'

Year Purchased: n/a
Price Paid: n/a (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I'm relatively new to playing clawhammer, but have fingerpicked on custom guitars for 45 years. Sound is the second thing I consider in an instrument. It's got to be better than most of what I've heard and inspire me every time I listen to it. This banjo of Doc's has it. Volume and clairity to spare on all strings, up and down the neck. Great separation between notes and the 'pop' I like so much about the banjo. It's a larger than life sound and amazes me each time I play it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Doc is building me my own banjo, but as I live nearby and have spent a little time with him, he offered me one of his earlier builds to take with me until mine is ready. Built in 2005, I don't know what he has done over the years regarding setup, but my guitar luthiers think I'm a pain in the butt when it comes to set-up. This one just works as is. Easy to play, efforless slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, etc. It makes you want to play it.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautifully understated elegance. That sums it up for me. No bling. Nothing it does not really need, and everything it does. The pot is 48 segments of Oregon Black Walnut, grain matched. Joints and seams are all perfect. I can find no flaws however minor. Great attention to detail. The neck appears to be the walnut as well, but obviously from a different part of the tree, and retains some of the character of the tree itself. The tone ring, fingerboard, plate on the headstock, heel cap, laminated strip down the center of the neck, and ring on the bottom of the pot are African Bilinga. The grain appearance reminds me of oak, but its a deep yellow or light orange in color. 14 hooks, antiqued brass, a scoop on the neck, and no inlay anywhere, and Waverlies round it out. One look at this and you think, 'old time.'

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The hardware is first rate and will outlast me. The finish is a polymerized oil that is matte in appearance, really lets the natural beauty of the wood and grain show. This is a 2005 banjo and I can find no signs of wear on the finish. It's definitely build to last a lifetime.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Doc is a one-man shop. I've spent enough time with him at his shop to know that there isn't anything he won't do to get it right and please his customer. Doc is a stand-out nice guy and pleasure to work with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This is a work of art in wood and an heirloom instrument all rolled into one. Highest quality materials throughout.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I couldn't be more please with a banjo, and it excels in my two most important criteria for a stringed instrument; playability and sound. I'm lucky that Doc loaned it to me but that has also created a problem. When he finishes building mine, I am not going to want to give this one back. I could have worse dilemmas to face.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by matchcovers (see all reviews from this person) on 4/9/2007

Where Purchased: Direct

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 2250 ($US)

Sound

Doc's banjos are the quintessential instrument for clawhammer players, as he's thought of everything to incorporate into each instrument he lovingly makes. I read most of the hype and frankly, I wasn't impressed - until I played No. 81 and wanted to marry it. Ease of playing, sweet sound, good looks, strong construction. My next banjo will be from Pat Huff, no doubt.

Sound Rating: not rated

Setup

Doc spends time setting up each banjo he ships and No. 81 was no exception. It is as if I were in his studio/shop and he measured me for a fitting.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The secret to Doc's success is partially the woods he uses for tone and strength, but the sound wants to flow out in even measured sequences as if it were lining up with the well-chosen grain. All Doc's metal is coordinated and visually becomes part of the overall look of the instrument within a few viewings. I still get a thrill every time I open the plush-lined case. There is little frill or fluff in Doc's creations - mostly good, solid looks and excellent tone.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hardware can't be topped. All Doc's expense is in construction, the spartan quality of the woods and the harmony among the various pieces (pot, neck, bridge, nut, etc.). I would be proud to use No. 81 on any gig I got.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Doc's insists on meeting his customers, either on the phone or in person before he sells them a banjo. It is as if he needs to get a feeling for the customer's likes and preferences, further tailoring them into the essence of the banjo. As a relative beginner, it was easy for him to choose a banjo for me - my needs were easy to accommodate.

Customer Service: 10

Components

There is nothing weak or cheap about Doc's banjos. As a big company once said - the quality goes in before the name goes on. You've just got to play one to know what I mean.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

There is little comparison between one of Doc's banjos and what some other non-commercial makers are putting out on the market today. Larger companies spend your money in frill, fluff and advertising - someone's got to pay for it! Not with Doc's banjos. They are ALL banjo, so how can you compare price. I insured No. 81 immediately and know that if it were ever stolen, the thief could go to heaven knowing he's stolen the best there is. I plan on a second Doc's banjo in 2008 and maybe another in 2009.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by banjoho (see all reviews from this person) on 2/16/2007

Where Purchased: Doc's Banjos

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

Sound

a very sweet mellow sound, bottom and high end beautifully balanced

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

perfectly set up for frailing, high enough for drop thumbing, but low enough for ease of playing

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Bottom line, this instrument is as much a piece of wood sculpture as it is a fine instrument. Banjo and non banjo players are blown away by its beauty.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Hand Cast, custom hardware, bronze built like an airplane.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Doc and Florisell Huff are salt of the earth folks. Doc provided great service. He provided personal service. And has been very good about making sure that I'm happy with the instrument.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Components are all top shelf. The wood itself is amazing. I love the fact that I'm playing an instrument that originated from Africa, that actually contains wood from Africa.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I love this banjo. I keep it right by my bed, it is the first thing and last thing I do each day, is play it. Here's the thing, it really helps your banjo playing if you have an instrument that you love. I played other banjos in this price range and they just don't measure up. I know for the amount of work that goes into each handcrafted banjo, the price is more than fair. If you want to buy only one instrument and keep it in your family forever...this is your banjo. Note that this review was send to me (Doc) and I posted it verbatum, as the reviewer had difficulty posting it)

Overall Rating: 10

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