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: Bernuzio, Rochester, NY, via mailorder
I don't particularly care for the sound; I like the sound much better if I stuff a sock in the back under the bridge. I'm going to investigate an alternate head to see if that helps. A friend of mine has a "real" Whyte Laydie (1902) and that sounds wonderful. This reproduction ought to be able to have similar sound. [Edit, a couple of weeks later: I'm liking the sound more than I did initially. I'm getting a better feel for how to play it to best advantage.]
I wasn't too impressed by the factory strings. I replaced them with a set of GHS strings. They may sound slightly better...or it may be my imagination.
Sound Rating: 8
The banjo was shipped with strings slack and the bridge removed. When reassembled, the action was fine. No complaints.
[Edit, a couple of weeks later: The action was a little high, though still quite playable. There was plenty of material on the top of the bridge though, to permit shaving off some height to get the action down.]
Setup Rating: 8
The banjo was "B" stock (a factory second) because of finish imperfections on the back of the rim. One has to look closely to see them; Other than those known flaws , the finish seems excellent.
There is one thing about the appearance I don't care for. To me, the supplied tuners look cheap and out of place on what is supposed to be an elegant banjo.I've replaced the factory tuners with a set of Waverly planetary tuners, which to my eye are much more in keeping with the general appearance of the banjo.
Appearance Rating: 8
All in all, I think it will stand up to prolonged use. My general skepticism of the factory tuners may or may not have a basis in fact. In terms of functionality, the factory tuners worked fine. [Edit: I've replaced the factory tuners with Waverlys, primarily for the sake of appearance. I have no doubt that the Waverlys will perform well for years. I'm not sure about the durability of the finish.]
Reliability Rating: 9
Customer Service: 5
I've discussed the tuners. A set of Waverlys, including the 5th string tuner, will set you back around $140, but I think they add so much to the banjo it's worth it. '
You will probably want to add an arm rest.
A new set of strings won't hurt.
Ditto for a 5th string capo.
A different head may make it sound better, if you don't like the as-is sound.
Components Rating: 8
It's a decent banjo. I think the makers may have cut a few small corners by using inexpensive tuners, perhaps a low-priced head, and cheap strings to shave the price a little. Or not. I may be imagining things.
I think that in general, Gold Tone banjos are better made and a better value [Edit: although the comparison may be somewhat invalid. Gold Tone banjos aren't trying to be reproductions of anything. The Eastman is. Should the Eastman then be criticized because it's built like a 1902 banjo, not a 2017 banjo?]
I think the only reason to get an Estman Whyte Laydie is because you want a Whyte Laydie and can't afford or can't find an original. With a bit of modification, the Eastman can become a pretty close substitute. Just out of the box, however, I think it falls a little short.
Oh -- the case. The case is adequate and reasonably well made, but the banjo is a SNUG fit in the case. On the one hand, that's good. The banjo is well protected. But the downside is that there is NO WAY the banjo will fit in the case with any sort of strap attached larger than a piece of string. [Edit; Yes, it IS possible to get the banjo into the case with a strap on it....at least with a fairly narrow (1-1/2"), fairly flexible, strap.]
I think it would better if they dropped the reproduction case and instead used the Superior CD-1535 case.
Overall Rating: 8
Where Purchased: Bernunzio
It is very well suited for clawhammer style playing . The sound is good although a little on the bright side with the standardsynthetic head (I prefer a skin head). Overall a very versatile instrument. Banjo sounds good whether you are playing alone or with a group.
Sound Rating: 7
Banjo came well setup. It was well packed for shipping.
Setup Rating: 9
It is a very nice looking banjo as it is a faithful rinterpretation of the 1903 Whyte Laydie No. 2. Materials consist of a maple neck and rim and ebony fingerboard. Inlays are very nice.
Appearance Rating: 9
It has been reliable thus far. Stays in tune. It appears built to last.
Reliability Rating: 9
Bernunzio's was very good to deal with - John was very helpful with questions I had during my decision making process
Customer Service: 10
It comes with geared tuners and a carbon fiber rod in the neck. The rim is light weight, 3/8" thick and 10-3/4"in diameter. All the components appear to be high quality,
Components Rating: 9
It is a great value for the money, the banjo is a good player and is built to last. Although my preference is for A scale banjos this one is easy to play and performs well
Overall Rating: 9
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