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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!

6919 reviews in the archive.

Deering  John Hartford  Banjo Reviews

Submitted by Garyflksngr (see all reviews from this person) on 4/24/2017

Where Purchased: Lance Robinson

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Great tone, easy to play

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Just made few bridge placement adjustments to tune the octave and it was ready to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Beautiful maple dark stain which I really like. Neck is warm curly male and the inlay is fantastic.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dna

Customer Service: not rated

Components

All great.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

Lance was great to work with. No one should have any hesitations about buying something from him.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by psikes (see all reviews from this person) on 5/23/2015

Where Purchased: Elderly

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Absolutely amazing sound from this banjo. The volume and tone from just floored me. I play a mix of a everything from 3 finger to clawhammer to folk and this covers all the bases for me.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Setup was okay but the bridge was just a tad undersize from 5/8 so I ordered a new Nechville Enterprise bridge for it.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

For an almost 30 year old banjo it is a thing of beauty. The finish is in remarkable shape and the hardware looks great.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The tuners are still in great shape and hold tune quite well.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Deering has always been most helpful anytime I have had need of them.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Fit and finish on the John Hartford model are great.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

I have wanted to own a John Hartford model since first seeing John play one. I am not in the least disappointed in this one, in fact I am absolutely elated. There are so many great sounds available on this banjo depending on where you happen to be picking that it is like having multiple banjos in your hands all at once. Down by the bridge it is bright, crisp, dry and clean. Moving towards the neck and it starts getting mellow without getting muddy. I am totally happy with this banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by gharrison (see all reviews from this person) on 2/8/2015

Where Purchased: Private Seller

Year Purchased: 2015
Price Paid: 2,350 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

There's are many Jens Krueger videos on YouTube of him reviewing a variety of the Deering models. Yes.....I know that they "augment" what you actually hear by adding some effects to the recording, but there was something about the Hartford that really caught my attention. The variety of tones he produced were astonishing, and each of the tones were magnificent. Sure enough, the Hartford I just purchased is able to produce the variety of tones I heard in the video.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo came set up extremely well. The action is a bit lower than I'm used to, but there are no buzzes anywhere on the neck - even when capoed.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The Hartford has one of the most unique, and pleasing, appearances of any banjo out there. The inlay pattern is not your standard fare, and the headstock inlay is an absolute work of art! I also appreciate the satin finish on the walnut-color stained maple neck and resonator.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is a well-made, sturdy instrument and should stand the test of time.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

The seller was an absolute pleasure to deal with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

All parts are good - the tuners, the tailpiece, and the zinc flange is nice and level in the resonator.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

The main reason I got this banjo was to have a banjo with reduced weight.  I've grown weary of lugging around 13 - 14 pound banjos, and have found that my (mid-50s) back and shoulder have started to "bark" at me if I play standing up - which I prefer to do when performing.  The Hartford is a woody banjo.  In fact, it has the distinction of being the first woody banjo produced by a major builder.  It only weighs 9 pounds!  In recent years, woody banjos have begun to be seen a lot more due to people like the late/great Tony Pass, who is responsible for making all-wooden rim/tone ring pots that sound incredibly good.  Well.....Greg Deering beat Tony to the punch by about 20 years. The grenadillo wooden tone "ring" is perfectly married to a standard maple rim.  It's really quite beautiful to look at.  Grenadillo is an incredibly hard wood, akin to ebony, and is used in making clarinets, marimbas, and other wooden instruments.  I love the reduced weight, and I really love the tone of this banjo.  If you watch this video, you will get an accurate sense of what the Hartford banjos are capable of.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW9c7rs13FI

For clarification, the one I have is the "original" Hartford design.  It's a 22-fret instrument made in 2008, and does not have the pop-off resonator option that Deering now offers.  If you're the kind of player who likes to do softer, mellow banjo music but also wants to be able to kick some serious ass on full-tilt bluegrass AND you want an attractive, lighter weight banjo.......look no further than a John Hartford model.  You'll be amazed!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by KyletheGreat (see all reviews from this person) on 11/14/2011

Where Purchased: Mass Street Music

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 2100.00 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

This banjo is capable of just about any sound you want to get out of it...I've played around with it plenty...just to see what all it could do. You can make it sound really dark, or extremely pingy. I have mine set with a nice smooth and rich deep end, but it also has a nice crisp *POP* when the strings are plucked. The High end sounds like a pre-war grenada :) One thing that really surprised me on this banjo was the volume. You can get the EXACT same TONE and VOLUME from this banjo as you can from any with a metal tone ring. Why break my back for that tone when I can have a much lighter banjo that sounds just the same if not better?! I've compared it to my RB-4 and Grenada...matches VERY well!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was setup well when I got it, however it had a Fiberskyn head on it. It sounded really good, but the head was holding it back from it's full potential; so I put a frosted remo on it and changed the bridge to get the sound I prefer.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo is very simple, yet elegant. There isn't much inlay up the neck, but the gothic inlay at the top, middle and bottom is very classy and nice on the eyes. The finish is matte and the wood is very dark and beautiful. The one I have is a 93 model...since it's an earlier hartford, it has "John Hartford" on the headstock instead of "Deering" like the newer models. T

This particular model is also a 24 fret model. The scale is the same as any gibson or stelling, however it has two extra frets added to the base of the neck. This moves the bridge closer to the center of the head by maybe 1/2 inch.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is very well made and I'm sure it'll last a LONG time if I take good care of it. I plan to make this my main banjo (over my OME XXX, Gibson Grenada, and Gibson RB-4)

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have not had to contact Deering, but Mass STreet Music was GREAT! They even threw in a free T-Shirt! The only thing I didn't like was that it was advertised as having the original case...but the case I received was not a Deering Case...it was an old, ugly, TKL with nasty pink interior, and rusty latches.

Customer Service: 9

Components

The coolest thing about this banjo is the Grenadillo tone ring and the zinc flange. They make the banjo SO much lighter...it weighs almost the same as a guitar. The tuners have a little play and wouldn't hurt to be replaced...but they've been on there since 1993 and probably haven't been maintained.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This banjo is AWESOME! It's very well made and it sounds and plays incredibly!

Overall Rating: 10

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