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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!

6938 reviews in the archive.

Helix  HeliX Midnight Zephyr Banjo Reviews

Submitted by specs (see all reviews from this person) on 6/11/2013

Where Purchased: From Helix

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 1000 ($US)

Sound

I enjoy hearing my own banjo playing now. It is mellow and smooth but loud with a really deep bass that rattles your eardrum, the tuner and sometimes the windows. Nearly all the sound files as of (6/2013) on my bho page were made on this banjo.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

It was setup just fine when I received it; but I changed mine out to use medium weight nylon strings as I wanted to change my playing style. I was able to speak to larry before changing it out and as usual he was helpful and supportive in answering any questions I had on changing the setup. That and a different bridge for the nylon strings are the only setup changes I have had to make in 6months of ownership.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo is not fancy, but looks more like my personality: simple and straight to the point. The inlays are well done and not gaudy, I appreciate the MOP Dots on the side of the neck. There are some minor "imperfections" in the wood itself and some marks from the woodworking tools but nothing that you can see from more than a foot away, nor any that affect sound or bother me in the least -- in fact they kinda add to the charm/finished product.

This isn't an instrument for hanging at an art gallery but is beautiful in the same manner as a well built and designed machine.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

I have a toddler; in the 6 months I have owned this rig he has splashed it with bathwater a number of times; he has banged the head with his hands (and head) a few times; he has countless times ran his toy cars up and down the fretboard and head while I was playing; pulled on the stings and bridge and played terrorist with the tuners after sneaking up from behind me while picking. After all of that there are no dings or scratches, imperfections or issues.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have no complaints at all. Every time I have had a question about my banjo Larry has been quick to answer and help. When I ordered it he wanted to give me exactly what I wanted and had many a question; BUT I didn't know exactly what I wanted or what type of music I would end up playing. It probably frustrated him more than me and I ended up making it simple (on my part): I wanted banjo that would sound good, wasn't flashy and would last until someday I was ready to hand it down to my kid -- the rest I would leave up to him to decide.

Customer Service: 10

Components

I absolutely love the neck. It slides effortlessly, it does not "stick" to my hand like other instruments I have played. The rim gets all the talk on BHO about helix; but I'm very happy I decided to go all in and get a helix neck at the same time. It might very well be my favorite part of the instrument.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I waited 6 months after purchase to review. I've played this zephyr nearly every day during those 6 months. The unbiased observers in the household have said that my playing ability has increased exponentially since I replaced my cheap first banjo of 3 years with this machine. That could be because it is such a nice instrument or it could be because it is a joy to play -- perhaps a bit of both. I would recommend to anybody that wants a solid playable banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by ltjgcag (see all reviews from this person) on 7/31/2010

Where Purchased: Direct from Larry Hill & HeliX

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: I do not disclose prices paid. historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I play Scruggs style. Currently using GHS PF-150 phosphour bronze strings and Stewmac compensated bridge. The Black Walnut rim gives a deeper, bassier note. Very crisp. Very powerful. Incredible note sustain. You need to look twice when you realize it is an open back. Just what I was looking for. It reaches out and “grabs” you. Holds you too. Hard driving music is full of energy and melodics are truly unique. Every time I play, it seems to me that the note and sound gets better. I’m really looking forward to the sound a year from now.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Initial set-up is very close to what I desire. This was arrived at after several conversations and e-mails with HeliX. The customer defines the bridge height wanted, strings desired, and action. Upon receipt, I have made some minor “tweaks” to what I originally thought I wanted! Nothing out of the ordinary – a change of strings to a tad lighter gauge and an ever so slight lowering of the action was all that was needed. I would have been surprised had I not had to ‘tweak’ a bit. The banjo arrived from the low humidity of Arizona to the absurd 90% humidity of a Michigan summer. I believe this definitely had something to do with it. Banjo holds tune very well. Easy as any banjo to work on.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Wow. That’s the first word that I said when I opened the case on arrival. Beautiful, pretty, work of art – are some of the descriptions I have been told by other banjo players. “Wow” has been the word used most often by others. The black walnut is a wood that just grabs the eye due to its deep coloring. Finish is not overly glossed. The natural beauty of the wood grain is allowed to stand out. The neck finish can be best described by me as a “players neck” if that makes sense. Not overly glossy or dull. Right for me. The neck had a great “feel” to it right out of the case. My hands perspire quite a bit, and I have not had to use any “Fast Fret” or other aids, as I have had to with other high gloss finished necks I’ve owned.
The fret board in-lays are well done and visually pleasing, also adding to the “wow” factor. Larry also gave his own “artistic license” to the peg head and heel inlays. The inlays are truly one of a kind.
Rating – 10 because I can’t give higher!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

There have been no issues since arrival. The banjo holds tune very well. I believe the compensated Stewmac bridge helps with that. Larry stated right from the start he stands behind his work. When he’s as personally invested in every banjo as he is, I have no doubt on reliability. Top notch hardware used. See Components section.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Larry is “second to none” when it comes service. To me “Customer Service” is just not for problems, but for the overall buying experience. I was “interviewed” when I first made contact about possibly purchasing a HeliX. Be prepared to know what kind of sound you want, what you want to do with your music, where you want to go with your music, how you want it set-up, etcetera. His probing questions are sometimes tough to answer, but Larry wants his customers to be happy. Enjoy the education you will receive. Larry took more time with me for this one banjo than the places I purchased my previous 3 banjos combined. I learned more about building and set-up than I ever thought I would. Enjoy the ride. Acquiring my HeliX and dealing with Larry Hill was an immensely enjoyable experience.
Rating – 10 because I can’t give higher.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Major Components are: HeliX rim made of black walnut, HeliX tone ring, Rickard flange, Black walnut neck, fingerboard from First Quality, Stewmac bridge, Renaissance head, No-knot tailpiece, Gold tone tension hoop, hooks, truss/co-rods. All top notch components used.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

My only issue with my HeliX is that I did not order two! I’ve owned and played from an entry level Iida to Deering Goodtime to an Ome Monarch, and have spent time with an RK80 and Stelling owned by others. Many of these were (and are) very fine instruments. Midnight Zephyr #004 is by far the best banjo I have owned. Shhh – don’t tell Larry, but he could easily charge more! Best “bang for the buck” I believe that you can get. HeliX is not for everyone – I am so glad for that! They are unique and are tailored to the uniqueness of the owner. No two are alike, and that’s part of the charm. I consider it a privilege to own one. One day, I hope to do it the justice that this fine instrument deserves.
Rating – 10 because I can’t give higher.

Overall Rating: 10

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