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 maker
Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 800.00 ($US)
This is a BIG banjo purposely designed to be tuned a 4th lower than standard, and fitted with Nylgut minstrel gauge strings. It has an amazingly clear, low voice without being in the least bit muddy--exactly what I was hoping for when I first contacted Jason about this particular project. I am constantly surprised at the subtle tonal variations this banjo can produce: it's very responsive with even the lightest touch, but can also be played quite percussively without losing any distinctiveness.
Sound Rating: 10
The banjo arrived set up exactly as anticipated/requested: high quality skin head, Nylgut strings, and a relatively tall bridge. Additionally, Jason provided an extra bridge of slightly lighter material, and generously offered to make another if neither was sufficient.
Setup Rating: 10
Jason managed to strike a fine balance in its design, so that it doesn't actually appear "large" in any particular dimension, despite the fact that it's obviously a bigger instrument. I specifically requested that it be kept simple in appearance, leaning toward a mid-19th century aesthetic, and Jason hit it right on the mark. The neck is walnut with rosewood peghead overlay, heel cap and fingerboard (no inlays); thin, deep oak rim stained black; brass hardware; and Pegheds 4:1 tuning machines. Nice carving detail around the fifth peg and a slim, squared off peghead.
Appearance Rating: 10
The hardware is all top quality. Brass hooks, nuts and shoes supplied by Bill Rickard; Jason makes his own tension hoops; brass No-Knot reproduction tailpiece. The Pegheds tuning machines were Jason's suggestion, and I'm very happy with both their appearance and their functionality, especially with the Nylgut strings. The finish on the banjo is minimal, just like its overall design--nothing glossy or out of place, very much in keeping with the ideas I had from the beginning.
Reliability Rating: 10
From start to finish, this was a great experience. Jason contacted me regularly with updates and photographs of the whole process. He was open to my input on several different features, and provided excellent advice whenever I asked for his opinion. When it developed that it would take a bit longer to complete than anticipated, Jason contacted me immediately, even though I had made it clear that I was in no hurry, and didn't want him to feel pressured in the least by this project. He clearly cares about keeping his word and maintaining excellent communication with his customers.
Customer Service: 10
As mentioned above, the hardware is all very well made and works well together, both functionally and visually. I really can't imagine changing anything on this banjo other than replacing strings as needed.
Components Rating: 10
I was very impressed with Jason from our first point of contact (email), and this initial impression merely expanded over the few months before I took delivery of the banjo. We had many good email conversations along the way, and it was clear that he was enjoying the challenges with which I presented him in the design and execution of this instrument. I would highly recommend Jason as one of the emerging banjo builders--his work is top notch and he's very open to customer input, a combination that makes for excellent results.
Overall Rating: 10
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