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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.

Brooks Masten  Silver Spun L30 Banjo Reviews

Submitted by WGE (see all reviews from this person) on 7/5/2011

Where Purchased: from Brooks

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 2300 ($US)

Sound

This is the second banjo that I've had Brooks make for me. My other Brooks is a 12-inch cherry banjo with skin head and rolled brass hoop. I wanted to get something a little different and based on listening to a number of Brooks' sound clips I decided on a 11-inch 30L silverspun with a skin head and an unplated Bacon tone ring. This banjo of course is brighter in tone than my first Brooks but it is at the same time is very sweet, and not harsh like some tu-ba-phone and electric tone-ring banjos can sound. I have been very pleased with it and both the 30L and the 12-incher complement one another in terms of tone.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was very good. The action was a tad lower than that on my other Brooks but I find it very easy to play. I did have to do a few things. The tuners were a little loose and I had to tighten them. One still was loose and I had to shorten the tuner screw a little to fix the problem. I don't know if Brooks put the black tuner knobs on the Five-Star tuners or if they came that way. I've heard that changing tuner buttons can cause a few "issues." I did end up changing the bridge. Brooks made one out of some sort of South American cherry species, but my preference has always been for Sampson walnut ebony topped bridges. I had one on hand of the proper height and tried it out, liked it, and I am now using the Sampson bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Brooks' silverspun banjos are very striking and this one is no exception. The 30 hooks really add to the old-time look. I was able to get him to use an unplated brass Bacon tone ring that really adds to the beauty of the pot. The neck is a very nice walnut with only sides markers and an Indian head penny inalyed in the figured walnut peghead veneer. I also requested that Brooks do some engraving on the brass plate I wanted in the scoop. He came up with a great design based on the lily of the valley. It is a very unique feature and really sets the banjo apart, as if it needed it! I REALLY think this is a cool banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Based on my experience with my first Brooks banjo that is now about 5 years old, I have great faith in my new Brooks banjo. This thing is built like a tank.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have enjoyed a very good working relationship with Brooks through two custom-made banjos. He has always been responsive to e-mails and he was willing to work with me to put together exactly the banjo I was wanting. The 30L banjo had a deposit put down in December, 2010 and it arrived in my hands the middle of May, 2011. That was quick work for a custom banjo!

Customer Service: 10

Components

All the components are first class. I did have one small problem arise, however. I had to tighten the skin head a little for our humid summer conditions in Nashville, and I ended up breaking the tailpiece hanger hook on the cast Brooks tailpiece. It broke right at the upper bend. Brooks promptly sent me a replacement cautioning me to let it stand "proud" on the tension hoop and all is back to normal.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall this is a wonderful banjo. It has some features I have really enjoyed. It was built with a short scale, not a true A-scale, at about 24.5 inches. The shorter scale coupled with a neck that is slightly thinner than that on my other Brooks makes it very easy to fret. It really sounds good tuned to D or A with D'Addario J55 strings. I also asked Brooks to use the gold Evo fretwire which has two great benefits. The gold color matches the brass hardware and it really does last. It was only a $15 option and I highly recommend it. The only downside to this banjo is that it is a little on the heavy side, but that is to be expected on a banjo with a spunover pot and 30 hooks, nuts and shoes. The other down side is that I now have to haul two banjos around with me to jams and gigs, the 12-inch cherry Brooks for G and C tunes and the 30L for D and A tunes. But that really is a small price to pay. I really LIKE Brooks banjos!!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by unclekurty (see all reviews from this person) on 7/10/2009

Where Purchased: ordered from maker

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

Sound

I now have Savarez High Tension nylon strings on this banjo. Forget plunk. This banjo is now all plink. It reminds me of the sound you get when you drop a tortoise shell pick on a hard surface. The full spun pot I suspect contributes mightily to this pleasant sound. At first I had steel strings on this banjo. It had a unique tone that I liked. But I didn’t think it sounded best with steels. I thought it had more potential. So I tried the nylons and bingo! This banjo with these strings is in a much better place than when it had steel strings on it. I don’t think I lost any volume. Well maybe just a bit. I think the strings compliment the sound of the pot. This banjo I imagine is very much like an old Dobson or Buckbee. It has a wonderful bassy sound on the 4th string. In retrospect I don’t know why I was even thinking of going with steel strings on a banjo like this.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

With steel strings the action arrived too high. We thought that was due to the change in locations from a wet Portland to less wet Bay Area. I asked for a 3/4 inch bridge and the bridge was 1/16+ too high. The bridge was 3.3 grams. It sounded better than other bridges I tried. This bridge was like stuffing the pot with a sock. I think this bridge was killing unwanted ringy overtones. The action was easily corrected with a lower bridge. Brooks suggested using Peghead tuners on this banjo. To me they looked strange with steel strings on them. This banjo was shouting out to me to put nylons on it. So I had the nut set up with nylons and put a Romero untopped maple bridge on it. It was getting there. The Romero bridge was 2.9 grams… another heavy bridge. I thinned it down to 1.9 grams and now I was getting this wonderful plinky sound. I asked Brooks to put on the EVO fretwire. These frets are larger than what comes on some banjos. This banjo is extremely easy to play now with nylons. I love it. My fingers sometimes don’t actually touch the fingerboard when I press down. All I need to do is press enough to pull the string down on fret. The neck angle is just right using an 11/16’s bridge. I replaced the thinned down bridge with a untopped cherry Emerson Power Bridge and got an increase in volume and bass response. By the way this bridge also weighed exactly 1.9 grams. I just received a couple of two footed bridges from Bart Veerman I’m going to try. I had Brooks put a cammed no knot tailpiece I had on this banjo. This tailpiece is great for putting on nylon strings. No knot. You just slide the string inside the cam and it works perfectly. Having this tailpiece again I wonder what I was thinking when I had this banjo set up with steel strings.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I ordered this banjo because I liked the looks of a spun over pot. And I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived. Brooks put a veneer of highly figured of birds eye maple stained walnut inside the pot. It looks beautiful. The hardware (his own) is antiqued. It looks like a pristine pot with 30 hooks from the 1890’s. The neck is figured walnut with a clown peg head with burled walnut veneers front and back with a 1906 Indian head penny on the front. No inlay just some dots on the side of the neck. The wood has been treated lightly with tru-oil. The brass colored EVO frets match the hardware. The neck has a scoop with a brass plate. The banjo did look odd at first to me because the neck with a 25.5 scale is placed where it should be with the normal amount of frets. My other banjos have a longer neck (with the same scale) to place the bridge more towards the center of head. This left the scoop a bit on the small size but it wasn’t a problem. Now that I’m used to it I’m glad Brooks didn’t move the bridge more towards the center. It keeps the banjo more like an actual banjo from the 1890’s

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I expect absolutely no problems. This is a well constructed banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brooks has his own hardware. It’s great. I like the Peghead tuners and they look appropriate with this banjo. And the pot is very cool. It’s a full spun over with a rod on the bottom of the rim and the top. I have no idea how this is made. I do know he steam-bends his wood rims himself.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I keep this banjo tuned in G or C. For some reason it sounds better to me not tuned up to A or D. The strings tune up fine to A or D though. I don’t think this banjo would sound as good with nylgut strings. The Savarez’s have much more tension. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me how much a difference a bridge can make. With these strings a thin light bridge works best. I forgot to mention the cool skin head Brooks put on it. The skin has a couple of clear spots on it and he aligned it so there a clear spot on each side of the strings where it meets the neck. The head looks like it’s been played a lot and these are wear spots. It’s stained also. Again it looks great. My only negative criticism concerns the neck. I can feel where the fretboard meets the neck along both sides of the neck. I’ve never encountered this before except on older banjos where the wood has shrunk. I don’t know why this wasn’t sanded flush. It’s barely noticeable and you can’t tell from looking at it but you can feel it. And one the dots on the side of the neck is at the 9th fret instead of the 10th fret. But I play guitar so it makes sense to me. I enjoyed talking with Brooks about this banjo. He’s great to deal with. I think this banjo completes my banjo arsenal.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by PCone (see all reviews from this person) on 9/10/2008

Where Purchased: Portland Oregon

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 2100 ($US)

Sound

I'm a novice to the banjo scene and after using a cheap resonator for a couple of years i really wanted an old time open backed banjo. I chose the Brooks Masten Silver spun L30 purely on the basis of some recomendations and some sound files that Brooks sent to me. The banjo i collected some 5 months later simply took my breath away.
Not only was it the most attractive instrument I had ever seen, with its beautiful brass rim and 30 attractive lugs, flamed walnut neck, scooped fingerboard, clown peghead with commemorative coin embedded it sounded divine.
The banjo plays like a dream with each note being both crystal clear and mellow at the same time. It has that lovely old time plunky sound that i demanded from my new banjo.
I have not heard a nicer instrument.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I took the factory option as Brooks is the builder and i am no expert in this field. However there is absolutely no problem with the banjo set up in this default mode as every note is clear, no resonance exists nor is there any other interfenece of any kind that comes into play

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo is perfect in appearance - its like a modern antique. The dark calf skin head really stands out well against the muted colours of the brass rim and mahogany fingerboard. Its quite simply stunning in an understaetd way. The whole object of this banjo is to reflect simpler times. Therefor the only ornamentation that exists is a period Indian head penny (i think thats what it is). Ornate inlay would detract from its beauty, even though the presence of the marker dots and fretts are pleasing to the eye.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is heavier than my previous resonator banjo which means its a substantial piece of craftsmanship and built to last. Brooks has given me a lifetime guarrantee and i hope something goes wrong so that i have an excuse to go back to Portland (what a wonderful city). However I get the impression I'm never going to get this excuse.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dealing with brooks is a delight. he is a gentleman. I have no woriies about after sales care.

Customer Service: 10

Components

When you pick up a Silverspun L30 , you know that you have got hold of a quality instrument. Everything about the banjo shouts the finest attention to detail. The craftsman ship and the materials are to the highest standard. My only little bugbear was that with everything being brass i got a small steel/chrome tailpiece which to me looks a little odd and i would have preferred it to be the consistent with the other brass fittings. This however is a petty observation and doesnt detract from this fine instrument.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

If you don't have a Brooks Masten silverspun L30 banjo - get one. If you cant get one - try one and im sure you will end up getting one.
If you want to buy mine - FORGET IT. They are going to have to bury me with this

Overall Rating: 10

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