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.
Where Purchased: Directly from Mike Ramsey
The sound is exactly what I was looking for. It's got good bass response, and the tone is warm and dry (not too much sustain or metallic crash). The highs are still quite brilliant though.
Sound Rating: 10
I haven't made any changes to the setup. I don't know the details of the setup, but it was coming from Mike Ramsey directly, so I assume it's just set up for a typical average clawhammer sound. Feels good to me. I like the action (I like to feel some pretty strong resistance from the strings when I'm playing), the string gauges are fine, and there does seem to plenty of string height for clawhammer purposes.
The neck profile on this is quite thick, both in depth and in width, and I love it. I have small but pudgy hands, and this just feels very comfortable to me. It's sort of counterintuitive, because you'd think that a thinner neck would be better for someone with small hands, but not so with me. I love the way it feels in my hands.
I also got mine without a neck scoop. Now that I have it, I'd probably have done that differently. It's still fine to play, but I realize that I will almost never use those frets.
Setup Rating: 10
It's prettier in person than I thought it would be from the pictures online. The student model is designed to be as simple as possible to make it affordable, but it actually looks really nice. The blonde maple neck and rim have nice figured grain, and the ren head with brass tone hoop showing through looks really nice. The dot inlays and single star inlay on the head stock look nice and elegant.
Appearance Rating: 7
I have no reason to think otherwise. The finish is much less glossy than the bluegrass banjos I've played, but I actually like that. It feels much more natural. I don't know what means for durability, though. The tuners are solid. I really don't know enough to comment on this, but as far as I can tell, it looks fine.
Reliability Rating: not rated
I ordered the banjo initially around the holidays and was given a quick build time estimate that turned out to be unrealistic. Mike was not the easiest person to get in touch with early on, but as I said, it was during the holidays. He was much more responsive later on in the process. He was always polite. In general, he seemed to set some unrealistic expectations for the build times. Overall, not the best, certainly not the worst I could imagine.
Customer Service: 6
See above on reliability.
Components Rating: not rated
It's the most affordable American-made 12inch open back on the market. It looks pretty good, sounds great, and feels really comfortable. I love mine, and would recommend it to anybody.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: The Fret Mill, Roanoke, VA
Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 995.00 ($US)
This banjo sounds good to my ear. I have played bluegrass/three finger style for almost 15 years so clawhammer/old time is new to me. I wish I could explain the tone in better words... I wanted the 12" pot for a deeper sound and I would say this banjo has that. It is very resonanant and full sounding. I would say it is balanced all around. Not what I would call bright. Not sure if plunky would describe it as I only have my playing to judge it by. It does sound old timey and is very rich in tone.
Sound Rating: 9
Set up seemed pretty good. There again I am no expert in this area. The head seemed well dialed in when I got it, the action was about right, and the bridge was pretty well placed. I have a feeling it could use some tweaking but not sure how right now...
Setup Rating: 9
Appearance is what you would expect for a banjo in this price range. I don't think it is perfect in any way but it is good. The flame on the maple on the neck seems a little inconsistent back and forth but then I spent less for the student model which is more simple. The flame is lot heavier on one side side of the neck than the other. There are some other minor issues that I suppose are only cosmetic. The banjo is first and foremost a player. Inlay is simple with a star on the peghead and star at fifth fret - I think these instruments vary a bit as it should have had only just dot inlay. The Student model has rosewood fingerboard and overlay in comparison to the rest of Ramsey's banjos which have ebony. It is a dark, rich rosewood that looks nice. The banjo is simple looking, not perfect, but by no means is it subpar. It is a handmade instrument thru and thru.
Appearance Rating: 8
Hardware seems good. Shouldn't run into any problems. All seems solid. Simple rolled brass tone ring and a no knot tailpiece. The tuners are five star tuners and should last a lifetime. I think the hardware is pretty impressive for the price level. I may experiment with some different bridges when I get a chance to see how tone is effected.
Reliability Rating: 10
I bought it from the Fret Mill in Roanoke, VA - they were very friendly and accomodating. They held it for me for 24 hours for pickup. I would do business with them again. Ramsey has a five year warranty period. It is good for the banjo regardless of original owner or not. I am used to lifetime to the original buyer but it seems fair enough. I don't forsee any big issues with it.
Customer Service: 10
Components seem good. My only beef would be with the bone nut. When I first got it I was tuning it and a tiny piece of bone flaked out of the top of the slot on the first string. It didn't seem to affect it because it was on the peghead side and it was a very tiny piece. Of course it bothered me a little that it happened but if I have further problems I will contact Mike about it. I also thought the nut was a littlie crudely made and didn't fit flush in the slot. If you look there is some gap back and forth. As stated above I may see what other birdges can do for it, Hardware is solid as stated above. The banjo came with a hard case which I think may have been an upgrade at the price level I paid. Not sure but I thought they came with a gig bag and for under a grand that seems like a good deal.
Components Rating: 9
You get what you pay for. This is definately made in accordance to the price range. I think it packs a huge amount of value for the money. Especially for a solid made in America instrument. The price range was right for me to see if this style is likeable. I think it has a lot of character and sounds perty down good. The price was pretty fair all in all. I don't know what it costs Mike to make one or how much the dealer mark up is but it has to be pretty conservative. If I lost it or it was stolen I would probably put in a claim on my insurance. I would buy another Ramsey but I think I would buy a Standard in cherry with the saturn inlay. Overall I have no real complaints that would prevent me from buying another. It is hard to find any new Ramseys on the market period and there were only two of these new for sale nation wide. Not as hard to find fretless models but I wanted a fretted model with frailing scoop. This one had what I wanted. I like the way the way the maple looks but would have opted for a cherry or mahogany banjo if I could have found one or afforded one. Pretty cool all in all. I won't make any comparison to any other of banjos I have owned as they have been Masterton style banjos. I'd recommend this to any banjo player who wants to get into a clawhammer or someone who has been playing a while. I didn't want to go out and give full out 10s as it isn't perfect but I think I rated it pretty highly. For just a little more money than a Gold Tone or RK I think this banjo was worth it for mojo alone - it is after all a Ramsey. I'd recommend to the kid down the street. Over all a great deal for the money - I think I already said that but oh well...
Overall Rating: 9
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