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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!

6880 reviews in the archive.

Brooks Masten Reviews

Submitted by oldtimecorner (see all reviews from this person) on 3/24/2015

Where Purchased: From Brooks

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

The banjo suits my style perfect. I'm using no effects or mics. Just plunking it straight. Deep, rich, recording quality instrument. Goat skin head provides a very unique earthy sound. Has 1/4" brass round as a tone ring

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Set up perfect. No changes made thus far.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Dear lord, are you kidding me? You gotta see this neck. Extremely figure Oregon walnut. Fancy brass shoes and indian head penny inlay.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Heavy duty beautiful brass. This hardware will be around after a nuclear blast.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I dealt with Brooks one on one. Very helpful for a guy who's running the show himself. Matter of fact, with the amount of questions I emailed him, I'd be suprised if he made $5 an hour on my banjo. Very generous with his time.

Customer Service: 10

Components

From the wood to the hardware to the goat skin head, it's all 100% quality. No cheap crap.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

So I've played all types of banjos, from the banjos that I build to china made crap to ome to historic banjos to even a enoch dobson. The brooks is on par or better than anything I just mentioned. Just go to his website. You'll see everything you need to see. If you wanna know about the sound then think, earthy, plunky, sweet spot. The best way I can explain the sound is "recording quality and clarity". And one of the hottest clawhammer players, Gabrielle Macrae plays a Brooks. YouTube "hopping jenny" and watch her play her  Brooks.  Then go buy the Macrae sisters album. 

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Tomasi1949 (see all reviews from this person) on 7/15/2014

Where Purchased: Direct from Brooks

Year Purchased: 2014
Price Paid: 2400.00 ($US)

Sound

The silver spun, plus bacon tone ring plus skin head makes a great combination if you like a deep, fuller sound. The bright treble notes come out well also. Best sounding banjo I own!

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The set up was perfect. No need to touch/adjust anything except the head tension to compensate for Florida's hunidity.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Very beautiful instrument. Siverspun rim andhardware is flawless. The cherry neck with walnut stripe is absolutely beautiiful. Cherry burl peghead is also very nice.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I doubt if I will have any quality issues with this wonderful instrument.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Brooks is a good person. As a one man operation he does his best to keep on top of customer service. However, please be kind to the man. You are dealing with an owner/operator/builder/etc.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Everything was first class.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is the best made and best sounding and the easiest to play banjo that I have owned. To prove my point.  I just ordered another banjo from Brooks. Being a repeat customer is the best compliment one can give.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by WGE (see all reviews from this person) on 7/5/2011

Where Purchased: from Brooks

Year Purchased: 2011
Price Paid: 2300 ($US)

Sound

This is the second banjo that I've had Brooks make for me. My other Brooks is a 12-inch cherry banjo with skin head and rolled brass hoop. I wanted to get something a little different and based on listening to a number of Brooks' sound clips I decided on a 11-inch 30L silverspun with a skin head and an unplated Bacon tone ring. This banjo of course is brighter in tone than my first Brooks but it is at the same time is very sweet, and not harsh like some tu-ba-phone and electric tone-ring banjos can sound. I have been very pleased with it and both the 30L and the 12-incher complement one another in terms of tone.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was very good. The action was a tad lower than that on my other Brooks but I find it very easy to play. I did have to do a few things. The tuners were a little loose and I had to tighten them. One still was loose and I had to shorten the tuner screw a little to fix the problem. I don't know if Brooks put the black tuner knobs on the Five-Star tuners or if they came that way. I've heard that changing tuner buttons can cause a few "issues." I did end up changing the bridge. Brooks made one out of some sort of South American cherry species, but my preference has always been for Sampson walnut ebony topped bridges. I had one on hand of the proper height and tried it out, liked it, and I am now using the Sampson bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Brooks' silverspun banjos are very striking and this one is no exception. The 30 hooks really add to the old-time look. I was able to get him to use an unplated brass Bacon tone ring that really adds to the beauty of the pot. The neck is a very nice walnut with only sides markers and an Indian head penny inalyed in the figured walnut peghead veneer. I also requested that Brooks do some engraving on the brass plate I wanted in the scoop. He came up with a great design based on the lily of the valley. It is a very unique feature and really sets the banjo apart, as if it needed it! I REALLY think this is a cool banjo.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Based on my experience with my first Brooks banjo that is now about 5 years old, I have great faith in my new Brooks banjo. This thing is built like a tank.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have enjoyed a very good working relationship with Brooks through two custom-made banjos. He has always been responsive to e-mails and he was willing to work with me to put together exactly the banjo I was wanting. The 30L banjo had a deposit put down in December, 2010 and it arrived in my hands the middle of May, 2011. That was quick work for a custom banjo!

Customer Service: 10

Components

All the components are first class. I did have one small problem arise, however. I had to tighten the skin head a little for our humid summer conditions in Nashville, and I ended up breaking the tailpiece hanger hook on the cast Brooks tailpiece. It broke right at the upper bend. Brooks promptly sent me a replacement cautioning me to let it stand "proud" on the tension hoop and all is back to normal.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Overall this is a wonderful banjo. It has some features I have really enjoyed. It was built with a short scale, not a true A-scale, at about 24.5 inches. The shorter scale coupled with a neck that is slightly thinner than that on my other Brooks makes it very easy to fret. It really sounds good tuned to D or A with D'Addario J55 strings. I also asked Brooks to use the gold Evo fretwire which has two great benefits. The gold color matches the brass hardware and it really does last. It was only a $15 option and I highly recommend it. The only downside to this banjo is that it is a little on the heavy side, but that is to be expected on a banjo with a spunover pot and 30 hooks, nuts and shoes. The other down side is that I now have to haul two banjos around with me to jams and gigs, the 12-inch cherry Brooks for G and C tunes and the 30L for D and A tunes. But that really is a small price to pay. I really LIKE Brooks banjos!!

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by existential_banjo (see all reviews from this person) on 1/1/2011

Where Purchased: From the maker

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: $1450 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a medium to full sound. It is not as full as my Flesher Promenade, but it has its own color and character that is very nice. It is an open back 5 string built for down picking and frailing. The notes are clear and not blurry. The bass is full, but not booming. The low D string doesn't have quite the sustain as my wood rimmed Flesher or my rolled brass ring Stu-Mac kit banjo. Initially I found the tone a bit dull and muddy, but appealing. I did some adjusting on the instrument (see below) to get what I consider a fuller, more clearly defined tone.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

My instrument came with a fairly high action and I believe excessive bow in the neck. Through e-mail, I discussed this with Brooks, and finally adjusted the neck myself, which was extremely easy to do. I think the 5th string nut is a bit high, and I may adjust that some time.

Setup Rating: 8

Appearance

This is a beautiful banjo and is the polar opposite of my Bob Flesher Promenade banjo. It has a square peg head, no fingerboard inlays (there are pearl side marker dots), and an unplated, notched brass tension hoop. The neck is dark grained walnut with an oiled finish. The maple rim is stained to match the walnut. I had Brooks put a Renaissance head on it, and it looks great. The tuners are 5 Star with black plastic buttons. It has a no-knot tail piece. Brooks uses his own butterfly lugs for the tension bolts which adds to the antique appearance.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This is a solidly built banjo. I would not hesitate to put it in a gig bag and take it as carry -on luggage on an airplane. I have played it for a year and it holds up well. I would take this instrument without a back up any day.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Brooks is very helpful and wants to make the customer happy. I was able to meet him at his workshop in Portland, Ore. before I ordered my Spartan. He was most accommodating. I was also happy to get the banjo in about 4 months after I ordered it. I consider that excellent.
Brooks was also very helpful when I asked him to make a 5th string-only scoop at the end of the fingerboard. That makes it easy to play over the neck, but I can still note up to fret 22 on the 4 higher strings.

Customer Service: 10

Components

This banjo stands out by its simplicity. The components are solid, well built, and well assembled. It has 14 lugs, and that is plenty for the job. The critical fit of the neck to the wood rim was very well done. The 5 Star tuners have functioned well and I have no complaint about them. I noticed that there was some kind of tape on the ends of the brass tone ring where they meet to form the tone ring. It is not soldiered together. I removed this tape and used emory cloth to take the sharp edge off the cut ends of the brass. I then remounted the head over the ring. I feel that that gave the instrument a clearer tone to the notes. Brooks told me he put the tape on to keep the edges of the brass from cutting into the head material. I haven't had a problem yet.
The neck of the banjo is a bit wider than any of my other banjos. It takes a slight technique adjustment when playing this banjo.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

One of the most appealing aspects of this banjo is how light it is. It has a 1/2 in. wood rim, a 1/4 in. brass tone ring, and 14 lugs for the tension hoop. It is my newest instrument, and I still play it more than the other two in my home. It is a great, great instrument. I love it.
You can see and hear my banjo on Brooks web site. It is Spartan model #152.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by countrygent (see all reviews from this person) on 10/28/2010

Where Purchased: From Brooks

Year Purchased: 2010
Price Paid: 1870 ($US)

Sound

This banjo has a very nice balance between warm/smooth and deep and plunky. It has a decent amount of volume. It tends (atleast to my ears) to sound better in the upper registers rather than the lower.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

The setup was perfect when I recieved it. The bridge hieght is great; It is incredibly playable.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It has a curly maple rim with burgandy stain. The neck is walnut. It looks terrific. The only minor appearence flaw, is that it could stand to be sanded a little better where the neck widens at the fifth fret.

Appearance Rating: 8

Reliability

Haven't had it long enough to comment on reliability; however it looks and feels very well built. Also Brooks has a more than fair repair policy, were anything to go wrong.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I have to say I was very dissapointed by customer service. Emails were not responded to. I was charged for a custom feature on the banjo that was never done ( it was resolved when i brought it to his attention however). And the banjo took twice as long as initially estimated. I know others have had much more positive experiences, and by the look of his blog he was very busy. I don't believe my experience was typical.

Customer Service: 2

Components

A lot of the hardware he makes himself and it is both beautiful and functional. The tuners are five star pegs.

Components Rating: 9

Overall Comments

This a wonderful banjo that I will own till I die. Well worth the money and the wait. If it weren't for the customer service problems it would be a 10.

Overall Rating: 8

Submitted by banjers51 (see all reviews from this person) on 8/2/2009

Where Purchased: From Brooks

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Very clear, full sound; quite unlike anything else I own or have owned. This is an 11.5" pot, which Brooks had available when I contacted him. I also asked if he could use his "butterfly" shoes with the Silverspun pot, and he readily complied even though it meant custom drilling since it will only accommodate 18 shoes (his stock Silverspun pots come with either 20 or 30 shoes). This is a loud banjo, but not in the least brash or overly "ringy"--every note is clear and the bass response is amazing.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I asked Brooks to set this up with a thick skin head and medium strings, both of which he took care of. When I picked it up, it had a generic bridge in place to check the action. Once I determined that this was fine, he made me a bridge of his own design while I waited and watched the process. At this point, I really can't imagine changing anything about the setup, particularly since I was there for the final fitting.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Like most of Brooks' banjos this has a walnut neck with a fancy burl peghead overlay, while the interior of the pot is birdseye maple. Have to admit I was a bit dubious when Brooks first proposed this combination, but he sent me photos showing how he matched the pot to the neck by staining it--the results are stunning. The butterfly shoes, hooks, nuts and the tension hoop are all unplated brass, which makes an excellent contrast with the polished nickel of the Silverspun pot. Add to that the slight staining of the head to blend it in with the dark woods, and the overall appearance is striking. I asked for no inlay on the fingerboard, so the only decoration (other than the fancy shoes) is Brooks' trademark Indian head penny in the peghead.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Since Brooks makes his own hardware, the quality is actually a step above the usual. All of the castings are clearly well done and nicely polished. The only possible issue I can perceive is the tuners, which are standard 5 Stars, and obviously beyond the control of the builder. At this point, however, they function fine so perhaps I'm being overly critical--I've just had mixed results with them in the past few years.

Reliability Rating: 9

Customer Service

Brooks was incredibly helpful through each step of the process. We corresponded both via email and telephone, and in each instance he listened carefully and responded quickly--even sent me some photos as the banjo was being built, which was a very nice touch. Once it became clear that I was going to be able to pick it up myself, Brooks was very accommodating to my schedule. With this experience, I can't imagine ever encountering a problem.

Customer Service: 10

Components

As mentioned above, one of the hallmarks of Brooks' banjos is the hardware, which is of his own design. This is what drew me to him initially (that and the Silverspun option), and I certainly wasn't disappointed with the results. I may end up changing the tailpiece for one of Will Fielding's at some point, but that would be the only thing I can think of swapping out. Wouldn't surprise me if Brooks comes up with his own tailpiece in the future.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I took a real flier with this banjo, having only played one of his instruments in the past, and that was very different than what I had in mind for myself. Nevertheless, I'm thoroughly delighted with the banjo and the whole process of dealing with Brooks. If I didn't already own a few too many instruments, I could easily see ordering another one from him, perhaps one of his half-fretless models or even one of the non-Silverspun pots. If I were somehow to become separated from this, due to theft or irreparable damage, I wouldn't hesitate in the least to call and order another one. Moreover, given the work involved in creating these Silverspun pots, I'd say Brooks' instruments are an unbelievable bargain, particularly if you're looking for something a little different.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by unclekurty (see all reviews from this person) on 7/10/2009

Where Purchased: ordered from maker

Year Purchased: 2009
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

I now have Savarez High Tension nylon strings on this banjo. Forget plunk. This banjo is now all plink. It reminds me of the sound you get when you drop a tortoise shell pick on a hard surface. The full spun pot I suspect contributes mightily to this pleasant sound. At first I had steel strings on this banjo. It had a unique tone that I liked. But I didn’t think it sounded best with steels. I thought it had more potential. So I tried the nylons and bingo! This banjo with these strings is in a much better place than when it had steel strings on it. I don’t think I lost any volume. Well maybe just a bit. I think the strings compliment the sound of the pot. This banjo I imagine is very much like an old Dobson or Buckbee. It has a wonderful bassy sound on the 4th string. In retrospect I don’t know why I was even thinking of going with steel strings on a banjo like this.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

With steel strings the action arrived too high. We thought that was due to the change in locations from a wet Portland to less wet Bay Area. I asked for a 3/4 inch bridge and the bridge was 1/16+ too high. The bridge was 3.3 grams. It sounded better than other bridges I tried. This bridge was like stuffing the pot with a sock. I think this bridge was killing unwanted ringy overtones. The action was easily corrected with a lower bridge. Brooks suggested using Peghead tuners on this banjo. To me they looked strange with steel strings on them. This banjo was shouting out to me to put nylons on it. So I had the nut set up with nylons and put a Romero untopped maple bridge on it. It was getting there. The Romero bridge was 2.9 grams… another heavy bridge. I thinned it down to 1.9 grams and now I was getting this wonderful plinky sound. I asked Brooks to put on the EVO fretwire. These frets are larger than what comes on some banjos. This banjo is extremely easy to play now with nylons. I love it. My fingers sometimes don’t actually touch the fingerboard when I press down. All I need to do is press enough to pull the string down on fret. The neck angle is just right using an 11/16’s bridge. I replaced the thinned down bridge with a untopped cherry Emerson Power Bridge and got an increase in volume and bass response. By the way this bridge also weighed exactly 1.9 grams. I just received a couple of two footed bridges from Bart Veerman I’m going to try. I had Brooks put a cammed no knot tailpiece I had on this banjo. This tailpiece is great for putting on nylon strings. No knot. You just slide the string inside the cam and it works perfectly. Having this tailpiece again I wonder what I was thinking when I had this banjo set up with steel strings.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I ordered this banjo because I liked the looks of a spun over pot. And I wasn’t disappointed when it arrived. Brooks put a veneer of highly figured of birds eye maple stained walnut inside the pot. It looks beautiful. The hardware (his own) is antiqued. It looks like a pristine pot with 30 hooks from the 1890’s. The neck is figured walnut with a clown peg head with burled walnut veneers front and back with a 1906 Indian head penny on the front. No inlay just some dots on the side of the neck. The wood has been treated lightly with tru-oil. The brass colored EVO frets match the hardware. The neck has a scoop with a brass plate. The banjo did look odd at first to me because the neck with a 25.5 scale is placed where it should be with the normal amount of frets. My other banjos have a longer neck (with the same scale) to place the bridge more towards the center of head. This left the scoop a bit on the small size but it wasn’t a problem. Now that I’m used to it I’m glad Brooks didn’t move the bridge more towards the center. It keeps the banjo more like an actual banjo from the 1890’s

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

I expect absolutely no problems. This is a well constructed banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Lifetime warranty.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brooks has his own hardware. It’s great. I like the Peghead tuners and they look appropriate with this banjo. And the pot is very cool. It’s a full spun over with a rod on the bottom of the rim and the top. I have no idea how this is made. I do know he steam-bends his wood rims himself.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I keep this banjo tuned in G or C. For some reason it sounds better to me not tuned up to A or D. The strings tune up fine to A or D though. I don’t think this banjo would sound as good with nylgut strings. The Savarez’s have much more tension. It wasn’t much of a surprise to me how much a difference a bridge can make. With these strings a thin light bridge works best. I forgot to mention the cool skin head Brooks put on it. The skin has a couple of clear spots on it and he aligned it so there a clear spot on each side of the strings where it meets the neck. The head looks like it’s been played a lot and these are wear spots. It’s stained also. Again it looks great. My only negative criticism concerns the neck. I can feel where the fretboard meets the neck along both sides of the neck. I’ve never encountered this before except on older banjos where the wood has shrunk. I don’t know why this wasn’t sanded flush. It’s barely noticeable and you can’t tell from looking at it but you can feel it. And one the dots on the side of the neck is at the 9th fret instead of the 10th fret. But I play guitar so it makes sense to me. I enjoyed talking with Brooks about this banjo. He’s great to deal with. I think this banjo completes my banjo arsenal.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Clawhamr (see all reviews from this person) on 11/26/2008

Where Purchased: From the maker

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 2200 ($US)

Sound

I was looking for a sound unlike any of the other banjos in my stable. This unique combination of a spunover rim and a Bacon tone ring provides a full, bell-like quality that recalls the 1890s New York banjos, but with LOTS more power and presence.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The bridge that Brooks made was too mass-y for my tonal preference, so I subbed an 11/16" Moon bridge in the heavy weight. Perfect. The quality of Brooks's self-made hardware, as well as the solidity of his woodcraft make this banjo a pleasure to tweak.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Done up in the style of the turn-of-the-century NY school, this banjo is spartan in a appearance, with small dot inlays in the fretboard and on the side of board facing the player. The only other ornamentation is Brooks's trademark Indian head penny inlaid in the headstock, and the stunning grain of the Oregon walnut neck. Also, the interplay of the unplated brass tension hoop, brackets and nuts against the nickel-plated tone ring and the brushed nickel-silver spunover rim is a delight for the eyes.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

First-class hardware, meticulous fit and superb finishing would seem to ensure decades of reliable use. I would rely on this puppy in any playing situation.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Brooks kept me up to date during the whole construction process with emailed photos of the banjo from its first day to its completion. He built exactly what I asked for and delivered it in just ten months from the date of order. UPDATE: After much discussion with Brooks regarding several issues, he graciously volunteered to make a new neck to address my concerns. The result is perfection. This underscores the benefits of working directly with a maker to achieve the exact result you desire, as well as finding a maker that stands behind his work and is committed to customer satisfaction. Bravo Brooks!

Customer Service: 10

Components

I plan to replace the repro No-Knot tailpiece with one of Will Fielding's new tailpieces; other than that, there are no inferior parts on this instrument. Brooks makes ALL of the hardware used on his banjos except for the tuning machines (Five Star planets and a Waverly fifth string peg, all with black buttons), the tailpiece and the dowel brace.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Since I already own several other banjos of various types (Tu-ba-phone, Whyte Laydie, and Fielding) I was looking to have something made for me that was completely different from anything I have. I heard of Brooks last January and contacted him. After talking my ideas over with him, he enthusiastically took up the challenge of building something he's never attempted: a spunover rim with a Bacon-style tone ring. The result is far more satisfying than I could have imagined. I love it. My favorite feature? The true old-timey vibe coupled with modern precision and superb craftsmanship.
UPDATE: I've replaced the Bacon ring with a Rickard Dobson-style ring, and fitted a beautiful 1920s walnut resonator from a Slingerland tenor. Wow. I'll have it with me at Clifftop 2011 if anyone's interested in trying it...

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by PCone (see all reviews from this person) on 9/10/2008

Where Purchased: Portland Oregon

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 2100 ($US)

Sound

I'm a novice to the banjo scene and after using a cheap resonator for a couple of years i really wanted an old time open backed banjo. I chose the Brooks Masten Silver spun L30 purely on the basis of some recomendations and some sound files that Brooks sent to me. The banjo i collected some 5 months later simply took my breath away.
Not only was it the most attractive instrument I had ever seen, with its beautiful brass rim and 30 attractive lugs, flamed walnut neck, scooped fingerboard, clown peghead with commemorative coin embedded it sounded divine.
The banjo plays like a dream with each note being both crystal clear and mellow at the same time. It has that lovely old time plunky sound that i demanded from my new banjo.
I have not heard a nicer instrument.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I took the factory option as Brooks is the builder and i am no expert in this field. However there is absolutely no problem with the banjo set up in this default mode as every note is clear, no resonance exists nor is there any other interfenece of any kind that comes into play

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

The banjo is perfect in appearance - its like a modern antique. The dark calf skin head really stands out well against the muted colours of the brass rim and mahogany fingerboard. Its quite simply stunning in an understaetd way. The whole object of this banjo is to reflect simpler times. Therefor the only ornamentation that exists is a period Indian head penny (i think thats what it is). Ornate inlay would detract from its beauty, even though the presence of the marker dots and fretts are pleasing to the eye.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is heavier than my previous resonator banjo which means its a substantial piece of craftsmanship and built to last. Brooks has given me a lifetime guarrantee and i hope something goes wrong so that i have an excuse to go back to Portland (what a wonderful city). However I get the impression I'm never going to get this excuse.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Dealing with brooks is a delight. he is a gentleman. I have no woriies about after sales care.

Customer Service: 10

Components

When you pick up a Silverspun L30 , you know that you have got hold of a quality instrument. Everything about the banjo shouts the finest attention to detail. The craftsman ship and the materials are to the highest standard. My only little bugbear was that with everything being brass i got a small steel/chrome tailpiece which to me looks a little odd and i would have preferred it to be the consistent with the other brass fittings. This however is a petty observation and doesnt detract from this fine instrument.

Components Rating: not rated

Overall Comments

If you don't have a Brooks Masten silverspun L30 banjo - get one. If you cant get one - try one and im sure you will end up getting one.
If you want to buy mine - FORGET IT. They are going to have to bury me with this

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by WGE (see all reviews from this person) on 7/25/2008

Where Purchased: from the maker

Year Purchased: 2008
Price Paid: 1975 ($US)

Sound

Lovely tone. Brighter than my Lee 12-inch Rose Hill woody, but with a sweet elegance when played softly. It has a nice bite when played with gusto. It is set up with a rolled brass tone hoop. I toyed with having Brooks put a Dobson ring in it, but I think it turned out just fine. Couldn't be happier with its tonal character and versatility.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The setup was spot on. It came with a custom made bridge that is 11/16ths and which looks pretty beefy. The action is fine for my tastes and playing style. It has a nice wide fingerboard and narrow frets. It has turned out to be the easiest playing banjo I have ever owned; like a knife through hot butter. Update: I have since replaced the original bridge with an 11/16ths Crowe spacing Sampson walnut and ebony bridge. This has really toned down some of the undesireable overtones. This has taken the edge off and really rounded out the tone.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

It really looks great. I wanted the combination of cherry and rosewood which I find is a beautiful contrast and which has wonderful sonic properties. I also wanted a slothead design with a slotted fifth string. Brooks has come up with a nice slotted fifth setup. I had him put the fifth string nut just behind the sixth fret. The neck is nicely carved for the Waverly tuner. The hardware I choose was Brooks butterfly shoes and I specified all the hardware to be antiqued. The tension hoop is raw brass as well. I had Brooks put a stylized cherry blossom at the fifth fret. The entire banjo really exudes "old time" but in a very modern package. There isn't another banjo like it!

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Too soon to judge but I doubt there will be any problems. Update: Brooks uses mandolin fretwire on his banjos. As I understand this duplicates the narrow frets on vintage instruments. The downside is that fret wear is pretty rapid. This banjo will probably need pretty frequent fret work given the heavy play it is getting. NEW UPDATE: I've had this banjo refretted with Evo FWG74 fret wire and I find the wider and slightly taller frets are very comfortable. The Evo wire is supposed to last almost as long as stainless steel frets. I will report back in a year or two.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Brooks was very easy to work with through a number of design changes during the banjo's gestation. He was very quick to answer e-mails and I had a nice time talking with him on the phone a time or two when we discussed the banjo's and features. He was very good about sending photos at various stages of construction.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Most all the components are hand made. The hardware is just fantastic. I also really have grown to like the Waverly tuners. Very precise and they hold tune great. The custom bridge works great with the goatskin head. Update: the bridge got replaced but I really do like that goatskin head!!

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

With any custom project you worry about how it will turn out and if you will like the end result. I had great luck with a really nice Romero banjo I had done up a few years back and my luck has continued with the Brooks. I got exactly what I wanted, it is unique, it is beautiful, it sounds great, and it plays so very easily. The banjo is very light in weight but very responsive. I feel blessed to have really neat banjos from some of the top custom builders; they aren't cheap but they are worth every penny, in fact two pennies for the Brooks, one on each side of the peghead. I will treasure my Brooks and Romero banjos and try my best to have my playing live up to them. If you are looking for something special, give these guys a call. Update: this banjo is a real headturner. Everybody who has played this banjo has really liked its playability and sound.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by J-Walk (see all reviews from this person) on 10/7/2007

Where Purchased: From the maker

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: 1750 ($US)

Sound

As far as I'm concerned, this is what a clawhammer banjo is SUPPOSED to sound like. Mellow, plunky, and very well balanced tone.

Normally, it takes me some time to get used to a new banjo. But this baby felt like an old friend after about 30 seconds. Sounds great loud, and sound great soft. No complaints in the sound department.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I requested a relatively high action. I don't have any precision measuring instruments, so I based it off of my perfectly set-up Romero. I asked him to make the action at the 12th fret equal to the hight of two nickels. And that's how it came.

Brooks included an additional bridge for experimentation. As it turns out, I ended up using a Moon bridge, which corrects the slight intonation problem that always occurs with a non compensated bridge.

I think Brooks should consider supplying a compensated bridge.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

This is a beauty. Absolutely flawless. The metal "silverspun" was nicely polished -- although it won't remain like that for long. I'm not one for wiping down my instruments, so I expect it to get dirty and corroded over time. No problem.

It has a mahogany neck, which has a perfect feel to it. The wood inside the rim is flamed maple. I chose very simple dot inlays for the fretboard. In retrospect, I should have chosen side markers as well, but I'll get used to it.

The head is goat skin, dyed brown. That's the first thing everyone notices, of course, I REALLY like that non-white look. I remember drooling over a Johannes Bonefaas hairy goat skin banjo. Mine is hairless, but it has a similar look. And I think it's catching on. Jason Romero is doing the same thing.

I should point out that the ultimate look was my choice. Brooks sent me a bunch of photos during the construction process so I could see how it was coming along.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

As far as I can tell, everything on this banjo is top quality. Not sure if it would survive a fall from the Empire State Building, but this thing seems reliable enough form me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

Brooks and I exchanged about 50 emails during the course of construction. He seem like a great guy, and will do anything you like. But he also has his own opinions. I inquired about a particular cosmetic thing, and he told me he didn't think it would look good. I accepted that.

The banjo was delivered in a double box, without a case. Because his banjos typically include a case, I asked him about it. Apparently, he confused me with another customer who didn't want a case. So now he's sending me a case.

BTW, this is actually a good thing for me. I'm always looking for shipping boxes for guitars, and now I have two. And I will soon have three.

Customer Service: 10

Components

It's all good. I especially like the 1906 Indian head penny embedded in the peg head. I would have preferred a 1907, but...

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

When I got my Jason Romero, I thought I had the ultimate in small maker banjos. Now I'm not so sure sure. Brooks is an incredible maker, on par with the best that I've ever experienced. If I were forced to choose between my Romero and my Brooks, I'd be standing there scratching my head for a long time.

If you're in the market for a unique old-time banjo, you owe it to yourself to get in touch with Brooks.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by Arcadian (see all reviews from this person) on 5/24/2007

Where Purchased: maker

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

Good volume.This banjo projects well and has a distinctive voice that's very pleasant. I attribute much of that to the tubaphone tone ring. The intonation is spot-on.

Sound Rating: 9

Setup

11 inch Cox Black Walnut rim and 25 + inch scale. Brooks did a fine job of setting it up but I did a lot of experimenting with bridges and strings. Presently it has a Renaissance Head, medium weight DR strings, heavy weight Moon bridge, and Price tail piece. The action is low, and extremely comfortable to play.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

All Black Walnut with brass hardware--except for the tuners. Nice figure in the neck, and a fine piece of burl for the peghead veneer. I don't dislike MOP, I just like it better on somebody else's banjo, so the only inlays are simple round dots in the fingerboard. The rim is capped with ebony, and the tuner buttons are ebony. This is the first black walnut banjo I've owned and I like it. It is warm both to the touch and the eye. The satin finish lets the hand slide down the neck without resistance.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

heirloom prospects.

Reliability Rating: not rated

Customer Service

Can't say enough about Brooks. He was a pleasure to work with and busted his butt to get it right.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Ren Head, Price tail piece, DR strings, Gotoh tuners with ebony buttons. It all looks and works together extremely well.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

A handsome, well-made, and great-sounding banjo at a good price. For me, the shorter scale and tubaphone tone ring were excellent choices. Without doubt, Black Walnut will be my first choice for the next purchase.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by GSFlink (see all reviews from this person) on 2/5/2007

Where Purchased: Maker

Year Purchased: 2007
Price Paid: Don't Remember historic exchange rates / currency converter

Sound

This is a five string with an extra, low bass string. The sound is rich, full, bright in the treble and deep in the bass. I play clawhammer style.
This is my 3rd. current 6 string and it is wonderful.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The strings used are .10, 12.5, 15, .24PB, .36PB, .10. The action is medium high with a 5/8th. KatsEyz custom 6string bridge that I put on. It has a Renaisance head and no knot repro. tailpiece. I also added an adjustable wire arm rest.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Beautiful. Two piece Gun stock walnut neck with center strip of purple heart. Carved behind the 5th. string peg. 12 inch pot with 30 brackets. Rickard, Whyte Latdie tone ring. Brass plate from 17th fret to the pot. All hardware is antiqued. Brooks put his signiture Indian head penny at the top of the peg head. Side dots on ebony figer board. No other inlays.

Appearance Rating: 9

Reliability

Reliability should be top notch. Brooks stands behind his banjos.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I've had good experiences with a number of makers but Brooks is in a class by himself. He keeps in touch, sends pictures during the process and asks good questions.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brooks makes a lot of his own haqrdware. The stretcher band stands out. I will add some real ebony buttons on the tuners just for vanity sake.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

This is now the banjo that I play most. The richness and sustain makes me smile. I would encourage others to try a 6 string for fun.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by bengal (see all reviews from this person) on 11/4/2006

Where Purchased: From maker

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 1700 ($US)

Sound

I have to say, at the outset, that I am a banjo novice, though not new to stringed instruments. I tried several banjos in my local music shops, and the Silver Spun is simply in another class. The sound is wonderfully bright with great sustain. I've no doubt that I will discover further riches in the sound as I progress my playing.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

Since it is my first banjo, I have nothing to compare it with, but everything feels just right and the action is perfect for me.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

I work as a professional woodworker and artist and am happy to say that the craftsmanship and style of this instrument is of the highest order. Brooks is an outstanding maker and has an artist’s eye for style. The Silverspun is a beautiful combination of brass, silver, walnut and ebony. There is no ornamentation other than the natural grace of perfectly finished elements. Absolutely flawless.
As Eric Gill was fond of saying "Look after goodness and truth, and beauty will look after herself" This sums up well the integrity of craftsmanship and the resulting good looks of the Silver Spun

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

Can’t see me ever needing to replace this banjo.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

I’ve long wanted to play banjo and decided to go for an instrument of such quality that I would not feel the need to upgrade in the future. I looked around long and hard, and liked what I saw on Brooks’ website. The result is a banjo I will treasure. Whether my playing will ever do it justice is debatable, but I know I have here a modern masterpiece.
I needed a lefty model and Brooks was happy to do this for me at no extra charge.
Buying from a craftsman like Brooks Masten will always be more satisfying than dealing with larger manufacturers. Furthermore, the price is very fair when one considers that each instrument is custom made.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The components are all of a very high grade, from the quality of the walnut to the goatskin head. Tuners are very smooth. No need to upgrade anything here.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I'd unreservedly recommend this banjo, and the price was a very fair one by any standards. I had previously considered buying an openback lefty from a big name manufacturer, but the spec was nowhere nearly as good as the Silver Spun and the price higher.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by GSFlink (see all reviews from this person) on 9/14/2006

Where Purchased: From the maker

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: 1900 ($US)

Sound

I play clawhammer in a contra dance band. The banjo is bright with lots of volume as well as depth. I like it a lot.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

The banjo was set up well. Brooks supplied 2 bridges and the 1/2 in. was just right. I've added an old style wire arm rest.

Setup Rating: 9

Appearance

Its beautiful in an understated way. The shoes and stretcher band are unplated brass which provides a nice contrast to the silver wrapped pot. The neck is "gun stock" maple with a lovely grain and feel. The"clown"peg head is covered with walnut burl and there is a lovely carved swirl behind the 5th string peg. No inlays, side dots and a brass plate instead of a scoop. Brooks' signiture indian head penny crowns the peghead. It has a lovely Dobson like heel.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

The banjo will out live me. I use it as my band banjo without a backup.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

This has been the nicest experience working with a builder I have had so far of the 6 makers I have worked with.

Customer Service: 10

Components

Brooks makes a lot of his own components including the stretcher band, pot etc. No cheap or shoddy parts here.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

I would definately recommend this maker and this banjo without reservations. I have just asked him to build me a 6 string which I will eventually review.

Overall Rating: 10

Submitted by clawhamper (see all reviews from this person) on 6/19/2006

Where Purchased: from the maker, Brooks Masten

Year Purchased: 2006
Price Paid: call Brooks ($US)

Sound

3" deep open back pot, goat skin head, walnut neck. This is the perfect clawhammer banjo. This banjo can make a wide range of sounds. Everything from a bright ringing tone, to a deep plunk depending on how you hold it and where over the neck you play. The volume is excellent also. This would be a perfect choice for someone playing in a band.

Sound Rating: 10

Setup

I had Brooks set mine up with pretty high action. He'll do what you request with respect to setup. Brooks is also a player, familiar with a variety of playing styles and can help a person choose a good setup depending on what style they're into.

Setup Rating: 10

Appearance

Incredible!! The look is what initially attracted my attention. Brooks has done a masterful job of building a solid banjo that plays great and has the look of a 120 year old classic. The rectanular peghead with Indian head penny inlayed into the headstock (his personal tribute to the late great musician/folklorist Blanton Owen), the walnut neck, the burgundy pot, the striped ebony fingerboard, and the hardware all give the feel of a banjo era of old. This banjo has very cool remanufactured butterfly shoes he found on an old Civil War era banjo U.Utah Phillips gave to a friend of his. Brooks 'antiques' his hardware upon request, which I find very appealing. The goatskin head is beautiful also. Brooks stretches his own. The contrasts in the goatskin and the specs of hair give this banjo an amazing, real, and charming look.

Appearance Rating: 10

Reliability

This banjo is only about 1 month old, but it sure seems like a solid piece of machinery. I believe this will be my 'workhorse' banjo. I have two other 'nice' banjos, but at this point, ths seems like the one I'll take to jams, trips, etc. In fact, a couple of weeks ago my Brooks banjo was my traveling companion when I went to Midwest Banjo Camp up in Michigan. It still plays great after I used it to beat off the mob of wild eyed pickers that tried to take it from me.

Reliability Rating: 10

Customer Service

This is a one-man operation. Brooks Masten is a great guy. Easy to get in touch with, easy to deal with, and one heck of a craftsman. In fact, he rushed it to me so I could take it on the trip to Michigan. He told me that he'd like me to send it back so he could do some more work on the finish. I told him it wasn't necessary - I love the thing just the way it is.

Customer Service: 10

Components

The hardware is beautiful. Brooks uses a variety of hardware from the 1800's that he remanufactures. He can also do custom hardware if you like. Check out his website: www.brooksbanjos.com for pictures of the hardware he uses.

Components Rating: 10

Overall Comments

Buy one. Brooks is an incredible artist. This banjo bridges the gap between the past and present beautifully. This is my third 'nice' banjo. I also have an Enoch 100 and a custom Chuck Lee. All three are amazing instruments...and all have very different personalities. Brooks is newer to the scene (in his 6th year of making banjos) than Kevin Enoch or Chuck Lee, but Brooks Masten's work puts him in their league. This banjo is a handmade work of art by a master in the making.

Please don't hesitate to email me for pictures/sounds of my Brooks banjo.

Overall Rating: 10

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