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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.

Brooks Masten  Silverspun Custom Banjo Reviews

Submitted by banjers51 (see all reviews from this person) on 8/2/2009

Where Purchased: From Brooks

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

Sound

Very clear, full sound; quite unlike anything else I own or have owned. This is an 11.5" pot, which Brooks had available when I contacted him. I also asked if he could use his "butterfly" shoes with the Silverspun pot, and he readily complied even though it meant custom drilling since it will only accommodate 18 shoes (his stock Silverspun pots come with either 20 or 30 shoes). This is a loud banjo, but not in the least brash or overly "ringy"--every note is clear and the bass response is amazing.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I asked Brooks to set this up with a thick skin head and medium strings, both of which he took care of. When I picked it up, it had a generic bridge in place to check the action. Once I determined that this was fine, he made me a bridge of his own design while I waited and watched the process. At this point, I really can't imagine changing anything about the setup, particularly since I was there for the final fitting.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Like most of Brooks' banjos this has a walnut neck with a fancy burl peghead overlay, while the interior of the pot is birdseye maple. Have to admit I was a bit dubious when Brooks first proposed this combination, but he sent me photos showing how he matched the pot to the neck by staining it--the results are stunning. The butterfly shoes, hooks, nuts and the tension hoop are all unplated brass, which makes an excellent contrast with the polished nickel of the Silverspun pot. Add to that the slight staining of the head to blend it in with the dark woods, and the overall appearance is striking. I asked for no inlay on the fingerboard, so the only decoration (other than the fancy shoes) is Brooks' trademark Indian head penny in the peghead.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Since Brooks makes his own hardware, the quality is actually a step above the usual. All of the castings are clearly well done and nicely polished. The only possible issue I can perceive is the tuners, which are standard 5 Stars, and obviously beyond the control of the builder. At this point, however, they function fine so perhaps I'm being overly critical--I've just had mixed results with them in the past few years.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Brooks was incredibly helpful through each step of the process. We corresponded both via email and telephone, and in each instance he listened carefully and responded quickly--even sent me some photos as the banjo was being built, which was a very nice touch. Once it became clear that I was going to be able to pick it up myself, Brooks was very accommodating to my schedule. With this experience, I can't imagine ever encountering a problem.

Customer Service: 10

Components

As mentioned above, one of the hallmarks of Brooks' banjos is the hardware, which is of his own design. This is what drew me to him initially (that and the Silverspun option), and I certainly wasn't disappointed with the results. I may end up changing the tailpiece for one of Will Fielding's at some point, but that would be the only thing I can think of swapping out. Wouldn't surprise me if Brooks comes up with his own tailpiece in the future.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I took a real flier with this banjo, having only played one of his instruments in the past, and that was very different than what I had in mind for myself. Nevertheless, I'm thoroughly delighted with the banjo and the whole process of dealing with Brooks. If I didn't already own a few too many instruments, I could easily see ordering another one from him, perhaps one of his half-fretless models or even one of the non-Silverspun pots. If I were somehow to become separated from this, due to theft or irreparable damage, I wouldn't hesitate in the least to call and order another one. Moreover, given the work involved in creating these Silverspun pots, I'd say Brooks' instruments are an unbelievable bargain, particularly if you're looking for something a little different.

Overall Rating: 10

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