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!
6920 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Directly from Jason
When I asked Jason to make me a banjo, I wanted an A-scale banjo with a 12 inch pot, skin head and Nylgut strings. I wanted a banjo that was loud, but not boomy. I also wanted a banjo that would travel well. This banjo exceeded my expectations. It is light. It is set up with a medium level action. The sound is a good blend of crispness, volume and sustain; the 12 inch pot also brings out the bottom very nicely. I just finished playing for two hours with a fiddler on the street, and the banjo almost over powered the fiddler (which means that I really don't have to work very hard to get the sound I want). Jason put on the classical (lighter guage) Nylguts which are perfect. The wonderful thing about the short scale is that I can play in D and A without a capo, or introducing too much tension by tuning up. It also tunes down and plays effortlessly in G and C. The light gauge strings require a minimal of physical energy, but at the same time bring out a great sound. I am going to have to lighten up on my attack a bit.
One interesting note: it is very easy to give shape and color to individual notes on this banjo. This is probably a combination of the light set up and Nylgut strings.
Sound Rating: 10
When Jason handed the banjo off to me, he indicated that I might want to bring it back to lower the action slighlty on the nut end. I will probably do this after I play it a bit. I really like the way there is a tad more neck angle and thus a slightly higher bridge than it normally found on old time banjos. The slightly higher bridge gives a greater angle of repose as the strings come off the bridge, and this ultimately offers less boom and more crispness on the larger pot banjo. As I said above, I will probably lower the string notches a hair on the nut after I get a few hours on the banjo.
Jason also indicated that he would be very happy to do any adjustments that I found wanting after I spent some time on the banjo. I have several banjos, including one that I made, and it really makes sense to make adjustments on some aspects of the set up after one gets to know a particular instrument. I don't believe in a one size fits all banjos and players.
One other note: the intonation checked out close to perfect all the way up the neck with an uncompensated bridge. It has better intonation than my Bart Reiter (which is also nearly perfect with an uncompensated bridge). For the purist, it might be necessary to have a compensated bridge for the third string. On all instruments lot depends upon the kinds and weight of strings used.
Setup Rating: 10
Elegant in its simplicity. Rosewood fretboard, maple pot, very nicely figured maple neck, brass tension hoop, black knobs on geared tuners. No frills, but very clean. All parts mate well to adjoining parts. Finish is tung oil. Square peg head.
Appearance Rating: 10
The pot looks great, Jason made the tone ring and tension hoop himself. The bracket screws are standard. The tuning pegs are small diameter and delicate looking. The small diameter makes tuning more delicate/easy; as far as durability, I have no experience with these tuners. Time will tell.
The finish is tung oil. I used this on my own home made banjo. I don't know what others makers use. Tung oil finish can show a bit of hand grime over time, but the nice thing about it is that any residual can be wiped off, and additional tung oil can be applied.
Reliability Rating: 10
Jason is awesome. A wonderful human being and musician and craftsman.
Customer Service: 10
Jason delivered exactly what he said he would. If a player wanted different components, I am sure Jason would put them on, and adjust price accordingly.
Components Rating: 10
Obviously, I think this banjo is top notch. This is Jason's #14. I am thinking that in short order, Jason will have a long waiting list of players. I would highly recommend a player to contact Jason if they are interested in an affordable, quality, hand made banjo.
I tend to think of individual banjos as unique, with strengths and in some cases limitations. This banjo is more than I had hoped for. If I had to list a weakness, it might be that it does not play as well when played hard. But this is not really a limitation, as it doesn't require playing hard to get a tremendous amount of tone and volume from it. I am the owner of 5 banjos, and this banjo rates as high as any of them.
Overall Rating: 10
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