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!
6617 reviews in the archive.
Where Purchased: Private Owner
Year Purchased: 2012
Price Paid: 3500 ($US) (bought USED)
Suits my style perfectly--I'm a hard driving bluegrass player and also do some Reno Stuff. It can also handle the melodic stuff very well. It has a very bright sound with the flamed maple and the nickle plating. It cuts through a mic like a dream and records very well. It is rich, full, loud, and bright all at the same time. You can hear it from a mile away. The sound is so unique it can fool you into thinking it is mellow when you are playing behind it. Get in front of it and listen to somebody else play it and you will change your mind in a hurry--you can barely be in the same room as this thing yet it isn't a brash sound--it is very pleasant. Nice even sound up and down the neck. Truly rings like a church bell especially in the higher registries. In a jam it seems like I'm the only banjo in the room. It has a 20 Flathead ring (and a heavy one at that I suspect) but you would swear that it is a solid no hole tone ring.
Sound Rating: 9
Set up like a dream. Sound was kinda lousy at first but I knew what I had in my hands and what I could make it sound like. It came to me as a 10 year closet queen. It had been under the bed. The head was very loose and it came with a cheap newer thick grover bridge which I immediately replaced with a Bart Veerman Archtop Woodie (even though this is a flat head banjo. The tuners haven't really been tested yet but I'm sure that they will be fine as they are five-star tuners. Andy was a small maker so the neck and frets could be a bit better--that's why this gets and 8. It plays fine but now that we have all of the production banjos and the smaller makers that have perfected their game and put out some GREAT necks this one could be slightly better when compared to those. The neck is a nice size though--not small but not bulky.
Setup Rating: 8
Second to none. Intricate, engraved inlays, abalone up and down the side of the neck, eagle carved into the resonator. All of this on top of some gorgeous flamed maple. Beautiful truss rod cover, brass plate inside designating it as a true "Dixie Grand", Andy's signature and initials on the inside as well. The only thing keeping it from a 10 is the fact that the neck doesn't have binding (although it does have abalone going up and down the side of the neck) and it doesn't have engraved hardware. Those things would have really put it over the top. It also looks like the outside of the rim could have used a little better laquer--it looks a little worn. But what a beautiful banjo--I love looking at it while I play and seeing that beautiful abalone--I just can't stop looking at that!
Appearance Rating: 9
Is there a 10 plus? This thing would survive nuclear war, I'm sure of it. It was built in the era of "the heavier the better." The only problem I could see with this banjo would be the frets but that is true of every instrument so I can't fault it there. I can't see why you would need another banjo as a backup (but that won't stop me from having another ;) Andy knew exactly what he was doing and this banjo will outlast me I'm sure.
Reliability Rating: 10
Well Andy is dead and has been for about 15 years. When he was alive you could bank on him--his word was everything to him and he was a fine man. I guess I can't rate this one. If I could have rated it when Andy was alive--it would have been a 10.
Andy was regionally famous in the Mid-Atlantic headed South. Folks like Don Reno, Bill Emerson, and Little Roy Lewis (just to name a few) trusted him without the benefit of a warranty card (I miss the good ole' days.)
Customer Service: not rated
All top quality for the period. Andy used only the best on his Dixie Grand banjos. The hardware is solid and this is one heavy, high quality banjo. Andy spared no expense here. I'm guessing the hardware to be Five Star (Stew Mac) and the tone ring to be a Sullivan. This banjo was apparently put together circa 1979-80 so i think these were the only after market hardware and tone ring options at that time. I guessed Stew Mac for the hardware because it does have five star tuners on it. The resonator has tapered wals and the pot is very deep which contributes to the pre-war type sound that you can get from this banjo.
Components Rating: 10
This actually has the potential to be my lifetime heirloom banjo. I've owned plenty and will be slowing down my banjo consumption so I decided to post a lot of reviews based on the banjos I've owned or played. This one is in the top three no question. The only ones ahead of it are my father's TB-75 pre war conversion and my grandfather's old Bow Tie RB-250 and this one really isn't far behind. The sound is totally unique--bright yet full and resonate. Powerful and loud but not in a brash way. I've never heard or seen another banjo like it. The combination of sound, uniqueness, and quality make this the finest banjo that I have owned overall. If this banjo were stolen I really would cry because there are only about a dozen Dixie Grand models and I'd never find another one like this one anywhere close to this price range. It's a quality American made banjo from a trusted small builder. I really miss Andy.
Overall Rating: 9