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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!

6918 reviews in the archive.

Ramsey  Fretless Special Banjo Reviews

Submitted by The Old Timer (see all reviews from this person) on 12/18/2011

Where Purchased: BHO Classifieds Want To Buy

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter


Wonderful deep plonky 12" head sound with the steel strings that came on it, also with Nylguts which I installed. Put on a 3/4" tall Morris "minstrel" bridge with the Nylguts so I can get a good "purchase" on the strings with my right hand and really snap them hard. I'm into old stroke style more than Round Peak style.

Sound Rating: 9


Set up fine for steel strings when received. No issues changing it to Nylgut strings after deciding to tie little bowline knots for the "No Knot" tailpiece! Needed a high bridge, so with BHO advice I bought a 3/4" Morris from Elderly. Slid the bridge around to get the 1st string "5th fret" position to be where I like it, right opposite the 5th string tuner.

Setup Rating: 10


Very curly maple in the neck, and BEAUTIFUL stark black ebony fingerboard, Saturn in peghead and "shooting star" at 5th peg area, are beautiful. This is old enough (Appamatox-made) that it has a nice walnut brown cap material on the bottom of the rim, I don't know what it is. A simple but beautifully designed and executed banjo. Even the "cut" under the 5th peg where the neck narrows down, is a beautiful piece of wood carving. Only thing I would desire different or more is white binding on the fingerboard. Oh, it had a Renaissance head on it, someday I may try a Miller pre-mount for a cleaner white look (which I prefer).

Appearance Rating: 9


5 star planet tuners are fine of course, standard geared 5th peg. No Knot tailpiece. I'm not familiar with the sourcing on the pot metal hardware, but it's all perfectly fine, and secure.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Haven't dealt with the maker at all, but the BHO member who offered to sell it to me was excellent to deal with, no issues at all. He answered my Want To Buy classified ad. My research had convinced me I wanted a Ramsey.

Customer Service: not rated


Parts all excellent. Standout features are thin 12" rim, simple rolled brass tone ring, GORGEOUS curly maple, stark black ebony board, the unique Saturn and delicate shooting star inlays.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Delighted with this banjo, my first Ramsey and first fretless. This banjo has facilitated me getting WAY BACK into stroke style and dance pieces. I've got plenty of old Mastertones, it's fun to have such a wonderfully made instrument from the USA that doesn't cost an arm and a leg! I can't imagine a better value.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by WGE (see all reviews from this person) on 10/18/2009

Where Purchased: traded with BHO member

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: 850 ($US)


I was interested in developing my Round Peak style and decided I needed a fretless banjo. The Ramsey (#1270 originally purchased new in 2002) is perfect for what I wanted. It is a nice 12" thin-rim banjo with rolled brass tone ring and a cherry neck with an ebony fretboard with several small inlays. It makes for a great "Round Peak" sound when setup as described below. My "sound" rating is how it works now after my modifications. Prior to those I would have rated it about 6 or 7.

Sound Rating: 10


I traded for this banjo with a BHO member. I traded my 12" fretted Lee Rosehill for it and some cash. It came to me with a Renaissance head and Nylguts strings. I imagine it came originally with the Ren head, but I think it started out life with steel strings. I am NOT a fan or Ren heads. I put a pre-mounted Bill Miller vellum-treated calfskin head on it. These are wonderful heads. I treated this one with waterproofing spray before installation. As a side note, Bill's head was perfectly mounted and fit like a glove; I love his stuff. I also didn't care for the Nylgut strings and replaced them with steel. I completed my set up with my favorite open-back banjo bridge, a Sampson old-growth walnut and ebony bridge. I really like the sound of this banjo now. These setup changes, of course, were very easy to do. My setup rating is based on how it came to me, I would now give it a 9 or 10 after my changes. So, don't blame Mike Ramsey for my preferences

Setup Rating: 7


I like the look of it. I prefer pretty unadorned banjos and the Special is pretty plain. It does have a Saturn peghead inlay and two inlays on the fretboard. The neck is a very nice cherry wood. I much prefer either cherry or walnut for necks. The Special has a multiply rim but with a cherry veneer to match the neck. It also has a nice rosewood rimcap. All in all, it is a very attractive, but not overly done banjo. Mt only complaint is that the inlays have a great deal of fill surrounding them. As I understand, this may be a common Ramsey complaint. However, you have to look closely to see these faults. Fit and finish are good. This banjo came to me with a few minor cosmetic faults, but it is used and I can't blame Ramsey for this sort of wear and tear.

Appearance Rating: 8


Everything looks and feels solid. The hardware is pretty standard stuff but does the job and looks pretty good. I think it is dependable.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

This banjo was warranted for a five-year period to the original owner. So, there is no warranty for me. I have never had cause to contact Mike about this banjo, so I can't really rate this.

Customer Service: not rated


All OK. The components are pretty standard but functional. It might be nice to have custom-cast shoes and hooks, but what the Ramsey has works just fine.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I wanted a nice fretless. I was hoping to get a Brooks fretless, but I needed to either sell or trade my Lee. To get a Brooks meant I would need to sell the Lee, and it was easier to work out a trade. The Ramsey trade came along and I went for it. It worked out great. Playing fretless is very interesting and I love the Round Peak style of Cockerham, Jarrell et al.. The Ramsey is a very nice banjo. Originally I was thinking of something with a brass fretboard plate, but I decided a straight ebony board was the way to go and I am happy with that decision. It has a very nice neck profile and the fretboard is nice and wide; very easy to play. Just a note of thanks to the Hangout for this trade. I am delighted and I understand the member who got the Lee is very happy with it, so the deal worked out great for all involved. We each made a BHO contribution.

Overall Rating: 9

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