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!
6661 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Tranjo website
Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: around 300 ($US)
Sound is true, tone is clear. A forgiving neck for melodic and classical studies. Not meant for performance as is, never tried to mic the thing. Supports attempts at frailing, Scruggs, Keith melodic (RIP), Bach studies (basic basic), Irish, traditional jazz (no can do fusion).
Sound Rating: 9
Fretted true, great action out of the box.
Setup Rating: 9
Practical finish on the neck, durable, smooth, even color. Armrest area same. Not much else to the instrument.
Appearance Rating: 9
Been seven years, only failure is strap on the bag. Replaced with strap from discarded laptop bag, and no problems with the instrument. None.
Reliability Rating: 9
Was concerned about a flaw in the finish what one would call the pot, a tentative saw cut or somesuch. They offered to repair/replace, but no time to do such back then. Never did take them up on the offer, now don't care, and wouldn't part with the thing long enough to do the fix anyway.
Customer Service: 9
A million dollar neck on a three hundred dollar banjo. Tailpiece is starting to bow up (wood or wood product) as it's only fixed at each end, and am watching it. tuning keys sticking out looked like a weakness but never been a problem. Current production has a new approach I note.
Components Rating: 9
Paid market price, sight unseen. Buyers remorse went away after ten minutes playing. Never any hassle with TSA or flight attendants. Always carried on aircraft. Seven years and many trips so far. Not a stage performance instrument, but the best instrument to perform on I've ever held. This is an older version of current product. The neck makes the instrument, more towards a Fender Bluegrass Artist (narrower feel) than a solid old Gibson, cnc perfect it seems. A good use of my after tax dollars. -30-
Overall Rating: 9
Where Purchased: Sam Farris
Sound Rating: not rated
Setup Rating: not rated
Appearance Rating: not rated
Reliability Rating: not rated
Just a quick shout out and thank you to Sam Farris for his terrific customer support. I was having some issues inflicted by an overzealous Mexican customs agent and Sam was able to help me get it back to playing condition with a phone call. Excellent customer support
Customer Service: 10
Components Rating: not rated
A great travel instrument that allows you to keep playing while on the road.
Overall Rating: 10
Where Purchased: tranjo.com
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 400 ($US)
See my overall comments to understand my rating.
Softer sound than regular banjo, but still very much a banjo sound . I have to watch the tuning more on it, and it is a bit harder to tune with picks on. However, the kind of tuners it has helps a lot. The sound itself is good, just the volume is low.
Sound Rating: 8
The setup is great, and it folds down very easily for travel. The head is a little slick and takes getting used to.
BHO member Arbuthnot gave me this advice before I bought it:
Sound wise, it has got a good tone and a nice action. It's not loud, as you might expect, but I have actually fitted a £9 pickup from eBay which sounds nice through a Vox amp.
Regarding contruction - the fifth string is the only area of concern. The string sits on a little peg in a cutout on the side of the neck, but the peg is not quite big enough and my string tended to slip off under tension. The easy solution is a little wedge of plastic to slip in to hold it down. Also, where the fifth string exits onto the fretboard, it rubs on the wood above the fret, and would quickly saw a groove. The cheap easy fix was to cut a small piece of low amp wire, pull the wire out and slip the insulator over the string (my regular Aria banjo also has this fix.)
Setup Rating: 8
The craftsman ship is very good and the wood grain is great. the head looks a bit less impressive. Overall, the tranjo does look odd and people wonder what it is. Until you play it, then they recognize the banjo sound.
Appearance Rating: 6
I bought it to carry around on plane trips, and it has held up great. I think you can depend on it. It is easy to change the strings, easier than a regular banjo.
Reliability Rating: 8
Sam called me back immediately and was super helpful. He answered all my questions and even expedited shipment at my request. Best customer experience you could have.
Customer Service: 10
Everything seems very solid, especially the wood and tuners. Sam really thought through the design well. How the strings are setup and the ball bearing tuners is quite brilliant. I would like to see a nicer head, although I'm sure that would up the price a lot. I might be worth it though.
Components Rating: 8
Okay, my ratings have to be qualified for my needs and expectations of a Tranjo. They aren't to be compared to a regular banjo per se. I own a Gold Star 100 and it obviously is superior in sound, setup, appearance, etc. by a lot.
However, I previously played a Fender FB-50 something. That was an instrument I put down after a while, and a few years later, got back into the banjo and bought the Gold Star. The difference was night and day, and I have been playing my Gold Star at every opportunity.
Unfortunately, I travel a lot and needed something to carry with me in order not to lose out on practice time. (I started learning banjo in earnest starting in February) So I did a bit of research and decided to buy the Tranjo Express.
My important needs : 1) able to travel with it and often to not have my coworkers see my traveling with a banjo, and 2) it had to be a banjo, so that the practice perfectly translated to a regular banjo.
It met those needs perfectly. It is light and easy to travel with assembled, and it is also easy to fold it up and put in my carry on luggage with my clothes.
The action and playability is a lot better than the Fender (which cost about the same). I would play the tranjo express over the Fender any time. The neck is the same size/spacing as a regular banjo.
The sound is a bit muted, but that is also a plus for me, so I don't get complaints when playing it in hotels. I tried to use a mute on it to further dampen the sound, but that was too muted. I found it easier to just play a bit lighter. When I want more sound, I can use heavier picks and play hard to get a decent volume. Arthubot uses an amp and I can see how that would work pretty good. The sound quality is good, just the volume is a bit low.
All in all, it exceeded my expectations and has allowed me to practice and progress better on the banjo. My only real complaint is that the slick head doesn't anchor my right hand well. Sure, I love getting back to my Gold Star when I get home, but I will gladly play the TE both to practice and play for friends.
Overall Rating: 9