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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!

6938 reviews in the archive.

Deering  Sierra Maple Banjo Reviews

Submitted by vincefewo (see all reviews from this person) on 2/27/2019

Where Purchased: Sevierville Pawn, Sevierville, TN

Year Purchased: 2017
Price Paid: 1400 ($US) (bought USED)

Sound

l play 3 finger bluegrass mostly so this fits pretty well at this price. If I had to describe Deering banjos with the 3-ply maple rim and the 06 tone ring that I've heard/played I would have to say the sound is vanilla. This late model Sierra has good tone bottom to top except the 2nd and 3rd string way up seem a little weaker than the rest. It doesn't really growl but it is clear and deep. Highs are clear and bright but lack a little dry crispness you might hear in an old Gibson or others. Bing maple, it's very responsive and a little clearer than the regular mahogany so to say it's less forgiving is true. A lighter touch immediately turns down and softens the tone.

Sound Rating: 8

Setup

So I picked this up in late 2017 from a pawn shop. Original case and original shipping box so I was able to determine that this was made in 2016 and was purchased at a music shop that year. Sometime after it was pawned. This Sierra had been taken apart by a non-qualified someone or at least put together like so. Point being it had no setup when purchased. I had to take it partially apart and get it right from the bottom up. These days it has mostly the Deering set-up tolerances except the tailpiece is just off the tension hoop instead of being right on it. It came with a regular Deering bridge and I switched to a Deering signature which was ok but now I actually have a no name bridge on it that came with a used Stelling I bought and that bridge sounds the best. I use Mapes strings on it and that's where it's at these days.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

it's really nice that Deering upgraded all Sierra's with the inlays in 2014. Other than that, once again it's pretty vanilla. Bound resonator but no neck binding. Sierra's are all matte lacquer which is just fine, nothing too fancy and actually the neck is great with that matte finish. All the hardware looks great. No flash left on, everything is smooth and glossy.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

All good materials here sans the lacquer on the headstock which has some slight moisture clouding. Strong and well built mostly. Note that this Sierra came with factory RR spikes, great but the tops were sharp until I removed them and smoothed them down a little.

Reliability Rating: 8

Customer Service

I've contacted Deering twice about this instrument. This first was to ask when this banjo was built and the second was about the headstock finish. Both times it took about a week for a response and no warranty for the finish for an original owner, so certainly not a second owner. No worries, I picked up a 3000 banjo for 1400, I'm happy.

Customer Service: 7

Components

All together it's a great entry/pro banjo that's make with quality parts right out of the box. While you may not see any headliners with a Sierra, I strongly suspect that there are plenty of pro "practice" banjos with the Sierra name on them and studio banjos as well. I did put Kieth tuners on mine but not necessary.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

It's a good instrument for the $3000 price tag and even better as a good used model for less. It looks good and sounds good overall.

Overall Rating: 9

Submitted by BlueRanchRider (see all reviews from this person) on 3/8/2014

Where Purchased: The Music Outlet

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 1650.00 ($US)

Sound

You get out of this banjo what you want to. Hard driving banjo tunes? Stay close to the bridge. Softer playful tunes? Move up the head toward the neck. The banjo can be played softer or harder and the result is exactly proportional to what you're telling it to do with the right hand. Awesome sound. Clear notes, brilliant tone. I love it.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The only thing I changed was the bridge and that had nothing to do with performance of the Deering 5/8 bridge. The reason I switched is for the Crowe spacing. I put a Gary Sosebee Red Maple bridge on and love it. The action is setup perfectly for me, the head tension was right at 90.5 upon arrival. All I needed to do was set the intonation on the new bridge and pick a tune.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This banjo is the newer version which has the new Victorian inlay pattern which I really love. Some may not but it fits me well. The finish is satin which I love for the playability. The fretboard, headstock and inlays appear much darker than other banjos due to the wood/ebony fretboard. No blemishes or oddities anywhere in the appearance of this banjo. It looks as good as it sounds.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Good solid wood and metal components give all the confidence that this banjo will last me a lifetime. I'm guessing the head and frets will show wear before anything else. But that's true of all banjos in my experience.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty. Had an issue filling out the warranty and accessories and of all people Janet Deering was quick to reply to my email here on the hangout. This is my 3rd Deering banjo and I've had nothing but positive and friendly service from Deering.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Nothing seems cheap or shortcut on this banjo. The ring to rim fit is the best I've ever had on a banjo. The neck angle is very good, exactly where I like the action. Tuners are buttery smooth and hold tune well.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

You can find banjos that sound good for less money, I know, I've owned several.  But the hassles that I had to put up with and the fit and craftsmanship flaws that I had to overlook continually frustrated me.  I wanted a good sounding banjo that I wasn't disgusted about how it fit together or cosmetic/other blemishes.  Yes, you get what you pay for and with this purchase I did exactly that.  This is a banjo untouchable by any other for the price that I paid.  

This pot assembly is the same one used in many of the higher end Deering banjos including the GDL.  You cannot beat the value for this banjo.  With the new 06 20 hole ring, maple rim and Victorian inlays it now looks and sounds incredible.  The Deering deluxe archtop case is a solid case, a perfect fit with plenty of padding inside and a large compartment for storage.  Six latches hold the banjo inside securely.  

Lists at 2749.00 and street is 2199.00.  So for 1650.00 plus shipping (90.00/COD) I am perfectly pleased.  I researched this banjo for years, played both maple and mahogany Sierras and finally pulled the trigger and made the purchase.  A very satisfied customer.  Thanks Deering!  Keep up the good work.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Clay Simmons (see all reviews from this person) on 10/29/2012

Where Purchased: Hangout

Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: Don't Remember (bought USED) historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Bright and ringy with more sustain than my mahogany RK-R80. Not as round and warm. Deering's tone ring definitely has a different sound. They are both great.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

Setup was better than my RK. Capo doesn't make it go quite so far out of tune. The neck is shallower / more slender than the RK and has a faster finish. However, on my RK I was unable to do pull-offs on the 4th string without it slipping off (I ended up changing the way I did pull-offs to accommodate by pulling down instead of up). Don't know if this has to do with string spacing or what . . . The Deering plays a little more smoothly in this regard.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Not as fancy as the RK-R80. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to provide a coat of varnish to protect the headstock from clip-on tuner scuffs and such and the lack of binding definitely makes it look plain. That said, I like the understated appearance and focus on what matters most.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

So far, my Deering Sierra maple has proven to be more reliable than my RK. It holds its tune better. Hardware seems to be comparable with perhaps a slight edge toward the Deering.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

No complaints.

Customer Service: 9

Components

I like the tuners -- very solid. 20-hole 06 tone ring is unique.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

The maple version of the Sierra is an excellent banjo choice. It is comparable to Deering's Maple Blossom, which is several hundred dollars more than the understated Sierra. Having previously owned an RK-R80 and being very impressed with it, I can confidently say that you will not be disappointed with the sound of either -- they are both excellent, professional grade instruments. Overall, the Sierra is a little more of a player's banjo while the RK has a little more panache. You pay a bit more for American-made, so RK wins the "most bang for your buck" title, but for those that insist on American made, Deering is a great choice. Interestingly, the two instruments are very reflective of their respective designers, Greg Deering and Greg Rich, both invaluable contributors to the banjo community.

Overall Rating: 9

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