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!
7036 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Larry Hill/Helix Banjos
Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: ~600 ($US)
I'm new to banjo and beginning with clawhammer style playing.
The voice of the bamboo is gorgeous, resonant, springy. Larry's bestowed bamboo banjo name, "Jackrabbit", is hardly arbitrary. It takes off.
I find myself plucking strings and muting them quickly just to bask in the resulting tones. Guitar-playing friends of mine have sat stunned listening to what comes out of this instrument. One friend tried to buy it off me two days after I received it. Offered me $1000, maybe half-jokingly.
I'd call the sound on the brighter side, but not twangy/metallic. More of a balanced, rich bright.
Sound Rating: 10
Larry's communication leaves few surprises. I knew what was coming. Set up to what I preferred exactly.
Comfortable, action is high enough to boom, low enough to be easy as ever to play.
Great neck shape. Natural on the hand.
Setup Rating: 10
Easy on the eyes is an understatement.
Unlike some early Jackrabbits, my #009 is an amber shade of bamboo, with a neck dark enough to match. The abalone inlays I bought and Larry installed sparkle out of the fretboard. These, complimented by the walnut capped peghead and heel, make one pretty -- yet not flashy -- banjo.
Appearance Rating: 10
No reason to believe the banjo won't last forever.
Finishes are perfect. Inlays aren't falling out. Spikes are comfortably positioned at 7, 9, 10, 12, utterly unobtrusive and incredibly useful. Don't believe the "fretboard/banjo-murdered-by-spikes" stuff. Jump keys quickly and easily. Lovely.
I've had $600 Hawaiian ukuleles, mid-expensive factory stuff, that have worried me infinitely more than the Helix ever will. Ultra-sturdy.
Reliability Rating: 10
There just isn't enough to say here.
If you want an instrument that is YOURS, to YOUR specs, to YOUR style, something beautiful, inspiring, talk to Larry. TALK to him. He'll challenge you to think about what you are looking for. I don't mean "challenge" as in "talk down to" or "push" you...it's more of a very enticing invitation. Listen to Larry describe what he can do, what he has done, what he hasn't done and is willing to try, you'll be kept awake mulling over choices, mulling over risks. His dedication and excitement are infectious.
I have NEVER before this had an experience where I have had NO buyer's remorse -- this was the first. And it's mostly due to the feeling that with Larry, you really venture into something of a partnership, crafting your instrument together. If you're a musician already, new to the banjo, you'll especially feel a part of Larry's process. He'll overwhelm you with his knowledge and still make you feel like you KNOW your banjo.
Customer Service: 10
Hardware, I am not qualified to speak too much about.
I think Larry uses Gold Tone hardware, I trust him, all's solid as can be.
Components Rating: 10
I rambled quite a bit. I'm uninhibited online.
If you're interested, feel free to contact me and I'll tell you anything you want to know about the experience. I'll upload soundclips soon that won't sound quite as much like a two week banjo player.
Or, if you're forgiving, I might upload some anyway, give a sense of the voice of the banjo. Pics to come, waiting on the return of my camera.
Overall Rating: 10
'Unidentified Banjo Uke' 3 hrs